Since the start of the school year Aubrey Foley has been giving students the gears, in a way.
Foley knows gears well, amongst every other part one will find on a bicycle. He is Port Colborne’s resident bike guy. Most days he can be found out in his garage, covered in grease working away repairing used bikes. Most days he’s out in the shop — The Broken Spoke as he has named it — repairing old bikes that will eventually head for Cuba to help those struggling in that country. He doesn’t do outside repairs, if someone asks him to do a job for profit he sends them over to one of two local bike shops he supports.
Since the beginning of September, he hasn’t been in his shop most mornings however; he’s been down at Port Colborne High School teaching bicycle repair to roughly 30 students.
“I look forward to coming here everyday,” said Foley, who spends half his day teaching at the school, the other in his shop back home. He admitted his wife is probably happy to get him out of the house as well.
“At home the wife is the boss, here I’m in charge,” he said, explaining he got in touch with school principal Ann Kennerly. The pair quickly came up with a plan to have students earn a tech credit through the course, all the while refurbishing bikes to be distributed through Port Cares to clients in need. Foley said he hopes to expand the free bikes outside of Port Colborne to other agencies throughout the region.
“It’s a way for our students and our school to give back and also be a part of the community,” said Kennerly, pointing out with the breadth of cycling enthusiasts in Niagara the course is a way for students to take home skills with a practical end.
In the first five weeks of the semester the students had already restored 100 bikes to road-worthy condition. All of the bikes were donated to Foley through his charity efforts and more are always needed, either for the students or his Bikes for Cuba endeavors.
Foley pointed out he is always looking for old and used bikes for the programs. Anyone interested in donating should call him at 905-834-1250 or drop them off at his 255 Knoll St. home.
Foley said from the ground up the school seems to love biking, if it’s not the repair class it’s the school bike club.
“What we’ve got here is a school with heart and soul,” said Foley.
Thayne McIntee is one student who has signed up for the course, he was already enamored with the sport of cycling, be it road, mountain or BMX.
The Grade 12 cyclist has always had a love for fixing bikes and helping others pick up a passion for pedal-powered two-wheel vehicles. He’ll often help out younger bikers down at the skate park.
When he heard about the bike repair class he was immediately interested, especially when he heard the bikes would be helping the less fortunate.
He just wishes the opportunity had come sooner.
“I wish I knew him (Foley) earlier in my life,” said McIntee, whose passion for pedaling goes beyond school. In the spring he hopes to make an attempt to break the world record for the longest wheelie.
The record is 250 km. McIntee’s longest wheelie to date was 17-minutes long.
“I can keep going,” he said.
Foley said it has been great to work with the students.
“It’s more than likely been one of the highlights of my life,” he said, adding, “they (the students) are true gentlemen.”
Foley noted the program couldn’t have moved forward without the support of the community. While many have donated bikes Foley said special thanks is owed to scrap dealer Denis Bergeron who not only donated tools for the program but dutifully brings in any bikes he comes across.