After bike theft, an effort to fix kids’ bikes

Last month, while celebrating his eldest son’s birthday, Jeremy Sartain accidentally left the door to his East Side garage open for about an hour. Just long enough for a couple of thieves to steal two of his bikes that were worth more than a combined $13,000.

And because of that theft, kids in the area are going to get their broken bikes working again.

Sartain didn’t know his bikes were gone until a neighbor noticed two older bikes parked near his garage.

“It’s not uncommon (for thieves) to start out on foot and find a bike to steal. Then they keep trading up,” he says.

A few days later, St. Paul police found one of the bikes had been pawned and gave him the address of whoever pawned it. For several days he checked the neighborhood on his way to and from work, hoping the other bike would turn up.

When he saw a half dozen kids riding riding just two bikes, he asked them if they had any bikes needing fixing, hoping that they’d open the garage and, maybe, his bike would be there.

They did. But it wasn’t.

They had broken bikes, however. So Sartain fixed them. “The oldest kid grabbed a BMX bike that had no chain. That was easy as pie to fix. The others had caliper brakes and the cables were super stretched. So I fixed up four bikes,” he said.

That’s when the idea struck. Why not get volunteers to help repair bikes and teach kids how to fix bikes?

A post on the East St. Paul Facebook page yielded immediate support from the community. “Somebody had complained there wasn’t good stuff going on so I posted this idea,” he said. “It went nuts. I woke up the next day and it had 1200 ‘likes.’”

He started putting the organization to make it happen together.Dan Casebeer at Grand Performance on Grand Ave., was in. So were some non-profits, a bank, and the Parks and Recreation Department.

Several bike shops may hire apprentices to help feed the mobile repair service, and Sartain is hoping more bike shops will join.

As for the second stolen bike. It turned up at another pawn shop recently.

“They got $400 and $300” from the pawn shops, he says. “They didn’t know what they had.”

No matter. Sartain and his colleagues are more concerned with getting their idea running than with the theft that spawned the idea. He hopes to have several events to announce in support of the effort within a week or so.