Simple Cycle, located at 4455 N. Sixth St., offers the community affordable used bikes to cruise through the neighborhood streets and around the 87 acres of open space in Hunting Park.
Shop owner Daniel Helms said he based his organization on his passion for bicycles and his devotion to his religion – primarily the service aspect of Christianity and helping others.
“A lot of what we’re doing in intercity work is the redemption of the community,” Helms said. “We see that through the bicycle class.”
This nonprofit operates in two components: an ordinary bike shop where residents can come for repairs and replacements parts and an after-school program to teach children bike skills and maintenance.
Children who participate in the skills program can join the earn-a-bike class which allows them to work toward owning a bike. In order to reach that ownership goal, children must complete 20 hours of service where they learn and practice biking skills. They’re also asked to take a safety quiz to examine their knowledge of helmets and locks.
So how can this shop afford to give bikes away?
Helms said that’s one of the trickiest parts for his nonprofit business.
“The sales only account for maybe 15 to 20 percent of our total budget,” Helms said. “Everything else we raise funds for.”
Repaired bikes in Helms shop that are ready for sale include a tandem bike, some machines with banana seats and even a few adult tricycles. Despite bikes for sale, Helms said he relies mostly on personal donations and grants to keep the shop running because selling bikes does not bring the shop a lot of money.
During busier months, Helms said he hopes he can sell between 20 and 30 bikes a month. When things were slow during the winter, he said he was happy to see sales of three to four bikes a month – sometimes even just one bike. But, Helms added, as the season heats up, he hopes business will start up.
Sales aside, Helms said the opportunity to help others overrides revenue.
Jenna Bryant met Helms through their mutual church and has him help her tune up her bike as she rides around Philadelphia like re-taping new grips to her bike’s handlebars.
“I knew that if I asked [Helms] to be a part of putting my bike together, he’d be like, ‘yeah,’” Bryant said. “I want to understand the mechanics of it so that I can eventually fix it myself instead of having to come here.”
During April, Simple Cycle’s shop will celebrate its one-year anniversary since its opening. For now, Helms said he’s not exactly sure if there will be a party involved, but the shop will offer various specials on its merchandise.