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Rebuilding bikes, lives in Petaluma

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Tim Nicholls, a bike mechanic at Petaluma’s Bruce Gordon Cycles, has launched a “Mending the Wheel” project, cranking out refurbished kids and adult bikes to donate to a local nonprofit this holiday season.

The 35-year-old Los Angeles native has so far repaired eight bikes to be donated to Petaluma’s Committee on the Shelterless, which provides a variety of services to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. He’s waiting for parts for four more bikes he plans to repair, and he’s placed a Craigslist ad to gather more cycles before Christmas, with high hopes to revamp as many as 50 cycles in the coming weeks.

“I pretty much strip the bikes down completely, even if they don’t need it, but I like to be super thorough and make sure everything is safe and sound,” said Nicholls, who lives in Cotati with his wife and 3-year-old son.

COTS, which runs a celebrated homeless shelter and offers a medley of food, housing and work programs, will make the donated bikes available to its general membership by reservation, according to Volunteer Coordinator Indigo Perry.

“If a COTS member needs a bike for work or school, or even exercise or pleasure, we will be able to give them one,” she said.

Nicholls has been refurbishing bikes and donating them to community organizations intermittently since 2003. The initial inspiration for his efforts came from a former job at a “do all” bike shop, where he worked to repair and rebuild cycles from Craigslist.

Nicholls said the reach of his holiday project, which he launched this October, is limited this year because he’s busy at his new post at Gordon’s company. Since Aug. 1, he’s run a full-service bicycle repair business in the space that also houses Gordon’s frame shop and retail storefront.

“I’m trying to get a business going and trying to get established in the community, so I’m probably putting way too much on my plate, but that’s kind of my thing,” Nicholls said. “It feels good to help people out and know that you made a difference, especially around the holidays.”

Nicholls’ love for cycling grew tremendously because of his older brother, who raced BMX and mountain bikes. Around the age of 6 or 7, Nicholls’ brother taught him how to ride BMX bikes, and at 18, he got his first job at a bicycle shop.

He said his passion for cycling and repairing bikes has only grown stronger through the years.

“It’s this simple human-powered machinery that so many different people can kind of get along with and have the same appreciation for, so I think that would be my favorite part,” Nicholls said. “That and playing with stuff, getting dirty, fixing things and trying to bring things back that aren’t supposed to work anymore.”

Moving forward, Nicholls hopes to expand his bike repair and donation project to be a year-round effort to help the Petaluma community.

“I don’t want to make Mending the Wheel just a holiday thing,” he said. “It’d be nice to just do it all the time and be involved as much as I can.”

Perry said Nicholls will also have the opportunity to set up shop outside the COTS’ Mary Isaak Center, repairing bikes for the residents of the shelter and for others in the community who utilize the organization’s services.

To donate bikes to the Mending the Wheel project, contact Nicholls at 707-762-5601.

(Contact Nicole Santos at argus@arguscourier.com)