Bike donations to benefit Back Alley Bikes

Local cycling group promotes riding

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published September 25, 2018

 Ron Elkus and Rod Brown, co-owners of The Shirt Box in Farmington Hills, stand with a few new bikes that were donated for the bike donation drive.

Ron Elkus and Rod Brown, co-owners of The Shirt Box in Farmington Hills, stand with a few new bikes that were donated for the bike donation drive.

Photo by Donna Agusti

FARMINGTON HILLS/WEST BLOOMFIELD — You could call it a bike race — or a race to get more bikes.

The Farmington Hills-based The Shirt Box announced recently that its third bike drive to benefit the Detroit-based Back Alley Bikes is facing some friendly competition from the Walled Lake-based Kenny’s Lakes Area Auto Experts. 

The two businesses are accepting donations of new bikes and gently used bicycles in working condition through Oct. 20. 

The bikes can be dropped off during business hours at either store: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursdays at The Shirt Box, 32500 Northwestern Highway in Farmington Hills; and 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays at Kenny’s Lakes Area Auto Experts, 490 N. Pontiac Trail in Walled Lake.

Both businesses have collected and donated more than 400 bicycles in the past two years.

Back Alley Bikes is a nonprofit community bike shop that has been operating in Detroit’s Cass Corridor for over 15 years, according to a press release. 

Its mission is to offer cycling education and services pertaining to youth development, sustainable practices and community access, the release states. 

“Back Alley Bikes is funded in many ways, but our main fundraiser is our retail shop, The Hub of Detroit,” Jeff Getten, the shop manager, said in a press release. “The Hub refurbishes and sells a portion of our used bike donations, and 100 percent of the proceeds from those sales and used parts sales benefit Back Alley Bikes and are used to fund our programs.”

Ron Elkus, the co-owner and founder of The Shirt Box, had the idea to donate because of his passion for cycling and his appreciation for Back Alley Bikes’ mission. 

“We started brainstorming about how great it was riding bikes when we were young,” Elkus stated in the press release. “It provided us with a sense of freedom and pride as to how we would customize our bikes.”

He said in a follow-up interview that he heard about Back Alley Bikes and, as a cyclist, was “totally blown away” by the operation.

He said he is part of Team Alex Rides, which is a cycling group that raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The group raises money in honor of Alex Graham, who died from cancer when she was a teenager about 20 years ago.

The group also participates in clothing drives.

“Anything … (any) way to give back to the community,” Elkus said. “We’re over 20 years old, and over 200 people are in that.”    

He said his customers are just as generous. One customer brought in five or six bikes; another bought two new kid bikes and donated them.

The Shirt Box co-owner Rod Brown said that there is “such a sense of pride” of ownership when a kid owns a bike, and there has been an “overwhelming” response from the community.

“As a kid having a bike — whether it was clipping playing cards onto your spokes or a flag on your bike — going to the drugstore … it was freedom and independence,” he said. “Every kid should be able to experience that.”

Kenny’s owner Kenny Walters said people are slowly but surely joining in.

“Right now we only have five or six bikes, but people are starting to call more and more,” he said. Last year he sent off two 30-foot trailer loads of bikes to be donated, and this year will probably be the same.

“We have bikes coming from all over the place,” he said of residents in the West Bloomfield area and beyond. 

Anna Durham, Farmington Hills’ Adults 50 & Better programmer, said that adults looking to ride their bikes with others can join the Cycling for Active Adults-Farmington/Farmington Hills group — members hail from Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield, Wixom and beyond.

“We ride all over the place. (It) is a very active, fun club,” she said. 

Durham, who is a city liaison for the group, said that wherever people want to ride, they tell her and she sends out an email blast.

In the winter, the group goes cross-country skiing or does other winter-related activities, including mall walking.

“They like to stay busy,” Durham said.

Liza Luzod-Chubb, a volunteer ride leader, said in an email that cycling is a great low-impact cardio exercise. 

“Our group is geared toward ages 50 and over and accommodates all skill levels,” she said. Riders are encouraged to have whatever type of bicycle fits their needs. “Some people have recumbent bikes. Some have backrests.”

Luzod-Chubb said volunteer ride leaders create rides of different types, from easy neighborhood rides to more challenging, hilly rides. 

The group rides two to five times a week, depending on the weather and the availability of volunteer ride leaders. 

The distance of their rides ranges from 8 to 20 miles, and some rides are scheduled weeks in advance, but most are scheduled whenever any of their members decide to volunteer to lead. 

“Each week, we try to have at least one ride in Farmington/Farmington Hills and another somewhere further away, such as Kensington Metropark or Belle Isle,” Luzod-Chubb said. “Rides on the West Bloomfield Trail happen at least twice a month.”

The group is in its sixth year and has new members joining all season long. 

“We welcome new members and are always looking for new places to ride,” she said. 

For more information on the group and its events, go to www.facebook.com/cfaa.bikeclub/events.

For more information on the bike donation program, go to thehubofdetroit.org/back-alley-bikes.