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. Every where 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, this year has been busy.
"This COVID thing has made bicycles kind of explode," Bradley said.
He has fixed about 30 bicycles in the last month, while observing that the stock at retailers is limited. Bicycles are selling. And people are depending on them.
"The hardest thing is someone will be given a bike, and you don’ want to tell someone it is junk and they should get rid of it because there is so much wrong with it. They are counting on it for transportation," Everett said. "I can’t tell them it is junk. I have a lot of spare parts, and I might rebuild the bike for them."
He’s always, it seems, going above and beyond what is needed.
"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."
He feels that the quality of bikes at big box retailers has gone downhill in the past few years, leading to the need of more repair outlets. Right now, in Newton, there are few options. There is a mobile bicycle shop, a trip to Wichita or guys like Everett working out of their garage.
"If a neighborhood kid has a bike, I fix a bike," Bradley said. "... My garage is full of bicycles and I fix anyone’s bike when someone brings it by. ... Right now I am swamped."