Bike Kitchen offers training, community, new bikes

With one last spin of the bike tires, Kyle Luttgeharm fills out paperwork, confirming that the bike is fit to be ridden. A few seconds later, Luttgeharm is up again, searching among the numerous bicycles in the shop for his next project.

For Luttgeharm, a volunteer mechanic at the Lincoln Bike Kitchen, his job is never really done. There’s always something to be completed in order to prepare a bike for its next potential owner.

“I do everything,” Luttgeharm said. “I do full bike overhauls from the ground up. I help run the Open Shop, and help those out that need it.”

The Lincoln Bike Kitchen, located at 1635 1st St., offers repair services to anyone who owns a bike. However, it serves not only as a bicycle repair shop, but a place for community members to receive a bicycle of their own.

The Lincoln Bike Kitchen offers a variety of services. One of the most popular is the Earn-A-Bike program, which allows individuals to earn a bike free of charge after 10 hours of volunteering at the Bike Kitchen. Through volunteering, individuals learn how to repair and maintain their new bike. Another program, Free Wheels for Kids, provides free bicycles to children, 13 years old and younger, in the community.

“The bike kitchen is essential for helping out the population that relies on cycling for their transportation,” Luttgeharm said. “We also give bikes to kids and a lot of these kids wouldn’t be getting a bike any other way, so it’s a great way to get a kid on a bike that fits them, and works properly.”

Beth Eckles, office manager at the Bike Kitchen, estimates that thus far in 2014, 100 children bikes have been given away, and 80 bikes have been earned through the Earn-A-Bike program.

The recycling of old bikes that would otherwise be thrown away also benefits the community, said Beth Eckles, office manager at the Bike Kitchen.

“It keeps the bike parts out of the landfill because we’re recycling the parts and using them on other bikes,” Eckles said.

Cycling is quickly becoming one of the most popular means of transportation in Lincoln, due in part to Lincoln’s extensive trail system, Luttgeharm said.

All of these services are offered free of charge, and are funded by donations both monetary and bicycle parts, Eckles said.

The volunteers also develop a set of skills that can be used even outside of volunteering, Luttgeharm said.

The group is always looking for volunteers, and with the busy year they have had, are hoping to eventually move into a bigger area.

“We’ve definitely outgrown our spot here,” said Eckles with a laugh, “so if anyone has a bigger building they’re willing to donate, we’d be more than willing to move.”

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