By Doug Hallett
College Heights student Jacob Blatch-Blomberg was not only willing, but also able, to help out when a fellow Grade 9 student brought in his ailing BMX bike over the noon hour last week.
For over a month now, he’s belonged to a new club at the secondary school, one that gives students a chance to learn how to repair and assemble BMX bikes. Skylar Embro’s bike had a front wheel that was sticking, and Blatch-Blomberg knew how to get it spinning freely again.
“This is the only club I joined,” says Blatch-Blomberg.
“I like that we get to work hands-on on things . . . And I thought it would be cool to work on BMXs,” he says.
One of his teachers is Ben McCabe, who started the new club in September. It began as a Thursday noon club in a small automotive shop at the school. McCabe quickly decided to expand it. Now it runs Wednesdays for three-quarters of an hour at noon as well.
“The kids were really excited about it, so I realized I had to add some days just to grab onto what was going on,” he says.
College Heights has a lot of extracurricular clubs, but this one is geared to kids who want hands-on experiences, McCabe says. It gives them something interesting to do at noon and perhaps keeps them away from undesirable influences, he said in an interview Thursday.
It’s known as the Bike Club Brigade, and T-shirts bearing this name have been ordered for club members.
The club has more than a dozen steady members, and others drop in. Some students bring in their BMX bikes for repair, and they get immediate attention from the club.
The rest of the time, club members focus on repairing four BMX bikes donated by Guelph Police.
“At the end of the summer, they donated what they had left,” says McCabe, who approached police with the donation request.
He hopes police will be impressed enough by the success of the club that they’ll donate more bikes in the future from their collection of unclaimed lost or stolen bikes.
The club deals only with BMX bikes – smaller, single-gear stunt bikes that are “simple bikes to work on, not too complicated,” he says. They’re also “more appealing to this age group, as opposed to a road bike or a mountain bike.”
McCabe hopes to have a couple of the donated bikes ready before Christmas to raffle off within the school. Through the raffle, “we are hoping to raise enough money to buy parts for the next bikes, so it becomes a self-supporting club.”
McCabe enjoys working on bikes in his spare time, but he’s grateful for assistance that College Heights machine shop teacher Mike Dasilva provides to the club. “He helps me with the technical aspects.”
He’s also grateful to staff at Backpeddling, a bike shop on Crimea Street. “They’ve been really great helping me find used parts and giving advice.”
McCabe didn’t know what to expect when he started the club. “I didn’t know if it would be a total flop,” he says.
But he’s happy to see the students as excited about it as they are, and he likes to see their confidence in taking on repair projects brought in by BMX owners at the school.
“They are already taking on their own projects in here, and it’s fun,” he says.
GUELPHTRIBUNE.CA COMMUNITY IS SPONSORED BY:
By Doug Hallett