NEWTON – Bicycles have been part of Everett Bradley’s life for as long as he could remember. One of the first things he saved up to buy for himself was a bicycle — he spent about $15.
"My first bike, I bought at 10 years old after mowing lawns," Bradley said. "We had to do what we could to patch them together. Everywhere we went, we went on our bicycles."
One of his first jobs was in a K-Mart, assembling Huffy bicycles. There, the emphasis was on speed and just making sure all the parts were where they were supposed to be.
But Bradley, who now works for Prairie View, liked to tinker.
Later on he went on to work for John Hobbs at a bicycle shop in downtown Newton — a shop that closed several years ago. That, at the time, could have been the end of Bradley’s tinkering with bicycles.
But it was not.
"When it closed, there were people who did not have a place to go to get their bikes fixed," Bradley said.
They asked him if he would take a look when there was a problem. And they have kept on asking — as have the folks who live in his neighborhood.
Bradley just can’t say no.
"My wife would say there are too many in the garage," Bradley said. "... Someone will come by with a 10-speed, and they might not be able to afford what a bike shop is going to charge them. Sometimes they say, ’I have these others, want to swap?’ and I will do that."
He said having about 18 bikes of his own in the garage saves him from buying parts for his own bikes — and offers him a library of parts he can use when a neighbor comes by with a needed repair.
And they keep coming. Bradley said he has fixed about 30 bicycles in the last month.
"Kids will bring me a flat tire. They will take their brakes off because the wheel is bent. I will straighten the wheel, fix the breaks and fix the tire. You can’t have kids running around with no brakes," Bradley said. "... I can’t let well enough alone. I can’t stop with a flat tire. I can’t let people use a bad bike."