Bikes (and People) Get Second Chances At Second Life Bikes

Lester rides into the bike store on a Saturday afternoon in May. Leaning over his handlebars, he asks employee Pete Leather how much he owes him for a recent flat tire repair.

Immersed in another repair, Pete doesn’t answer immediately. With the frames and innards of bicycles surrounding him and wrench in one hand, he pauses his work.

Owner Kerri Martin, a former investment banker, looks over. She knows Lester is looking for work. She tells him this one’s on the house.

Second Life Bikes in Asbury Park is not just a business.

Owner Kerri Martin has a passion for teaching kids about bikes. . .and life.

Owner Kerri Martin has a passion for teaching kids about bikes. . . and life.

It’s been featured in Family Circle, the Star-Ledger and on national TV. Kerri runs the shop as well as a nonprofit whose mission is to impart life and job skills to local youth.

Kids older than age 11 can sign up to earn their own secondhand bikes by completing 15 hours of bike repair. More than 1,000 bikes crowd the former warehouse where Second Life is housed, near the Asbury Park train station on 21 Main Street.

What do you call a herd of bikes?

More than 1,000 bikes live at Second Life Bikes.

“It’s never boring here,” says the “Bike Lady” about the last four years. “We see real life happening.”

Kerri’s goal by the end of 2014 is to be a partial owner of the 7,500-square-foot building Second Life leases. Her efforts, including crowdfunding, have raised $50,000. She’ll be buying it as part of a real estate development corporation with other investors.

“It’ll be a smart business move,” she notes. Nobody on Second Life’s board knows much about biking except herself, she says. But “they liked that this is a grassroots effort.”

She points out the cruiser Bruce Springsteen bought and then donated, which hangs on the wall. Another cruiser (pictured) is being raffled off at RiverFest in Red Bank on the last weekend in May by Musicians on a Mission (MOAM), a local group of musicians who donate their talents to raising money for local charities.

To go home with a lucky winner at Red Bank's Riverfest this weekend, with raffle proceeds for Second Life Bikes.

Soon to go home with a lucky winner at Red Bank’s RiverFest –raffle proceeds to Second Life.

Last month MOAM raised money for Second Life Bikes with a music festival in Farmingdale, known as MOAM-A-PALOOZA.

The cruiser being raffled off has a partially functioning guitar, a Silvertone electric, permanently affixed to it, an idea Kerri and her small staff thought would be fun to build.

“Originally we were going to do a fake guitar, but a local musican donated this one,” Kerri says. The winning ticket for the raffle will be drawn Sunday June 1 at Marine Park in Red Bank.

Pete started as a volunteer but after being laid off asked Kerri if his volunteer work could be transformed into a permanent role at Second Life. Now he’s a happy corporate refugee.

“It’s less stress and less bucks,” he says.

Kerri, raised in Freehold, appreciates the kids’ enthusiasm for learning. Mainly 12 to 14-year-olds participate but also a few eager 11-year-olds who Kerri makes exceptions for, and dedicated older teens. They come in after school to fix their flats, while their elders can be “a little hesitant.”

“It’s not brain surgery,” she says, “It’s pretty intuitive to learn. If you can turn a wrench, you can do it.”

Kerri hopes to start a girls’ bike club. “The goal is to try to draw them in, especially the girls. We often lose them as teenagers. There’s nothing girls can’t do. The girls who come in are wonderful.”

Kerri has always loved cycling, and she rides all year long, using studded tires for riding in snow and ice. For her, it’s about enjoying being outside and not “trapped in a steel automobile sitting in traffic.”

“It’s not about being an environmentalist,” she adds, “I’m glad if it helps, but for me it’s fun.”




Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial