When it came down to what he really loved, Andy Quant knew his greatest passion was fixing bikes. Now, the Madison bike mechanic is looking to use his passion to help kids around the county get bikes for free.
Free Bikes 4 Kidz, or FB4K, which is originally a Minnesota-based company, came to Madison thanks to Quant’s efforts.
In 1995, Quant moved from his hometown Lake Mills to Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin. He started to work in local bike shops and continued to volunteer fixing bikes even after getting “a real job.” Quant began The Bike Mobile, which is a bike-repairing business he operates out of his van, in 2016 after deciding his true calling was fixing bikes.
“A year ago, I was looking for work and wondering what to do with my life, and I was like, the only thing I really loved doing was fixing bikes,” Quant said. “So I decided to make a living out of it.”
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Late last year the cold weather prevented him from keeping this business alive, so he decided to start working toward establishing FB4K in Madison.
The program allows interested people to volunteer based on their skill level. There are three categories: cleaners, preppers and “real bike mechanics.” Cleaners ensure the bikes are clean, preppers use more basic mechanical skills to change tires and attach basic gears and the bike mechanics test for quality control.
Quant said response to FB4K has been “great” and attracted attention from several local organizations including the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. FB4K has been able to partner with these organizations and uses them as a way to find potential bike recipients.
There is a special process through which the bikes are allocated to children. In most cases, the local organizations and other community leaders decide who bikes are donated to, Quant said.
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People can also apply to receive a bike, which helps get other members of the community involved. Quant said any person who knows a group of children can apply to have bikes donated to them. FB4K’s management then reaches out to those people and works out logistics to match them with the perfect bike.
The bike drop off portion of the donation process ended Jan. 14. Those bikes are now in “rehab,” or being prepared for giveaway.
The giveaway is scheduled for April 8. The organization has acquired 400 bikes in Madison since it began. Quant said he hopes to have 500 bikes ready by the giveaway.
Quant said the company’s main focus is to get more students involved. While UW students have yet to get involved, Quant said he wants to engage in more outreach to get them interested.
“Even after getting real jobs, I found myself moonlighting to fix bikes,” Quant said. “There’s a lot of work, but there’s not a lot of planning and thinking — it’s just about doing it.”
Interested volunteers can visit the FB4K website to figure out the best fit for them, Quant said.