Two Bikes expands its community reach
(Editor’s note: Today’s article is the first written by new author Heather Ryerson. She also contributed photographs.)
You never forget your first bike. Mine was a white frame with pink handles, seat, and accessories that I excitedly found next to the Christmas tree one Christmas morning. Maybe yours was a birthday present or a gift from an older brother. However you received it, I bet you remember it fondly. I imagine many of you are like me. You learned to ride a bike as a kid and have taken countless fun and sometimes risky bike rides with friends in your neighborhood. Cycling was a form of play that allowed us to get out and be active and get to our friends quickly and safely.
Two Bikes is a business operated by a group of individuals whose childhood days on bikes led to a passion for fun, camaraderie and a convenient mode of transportation for underserved populations here in Knoxville by donating one bike for each sold, hence the name Two Vélos. And one of their greatest joys is providing that “first bike experience” to kids who haven’t had the opportunity to own their own bike.
They are also a true Covid success story. Mitchell Connell was working at Dream Bikes where he had worked since graduating from UT, when in October 2020 he learned that they would be closing at the end of the year. The Dream Bikes model was one he deemed too good to drop in the Knoxville community and from there, Two Bikes was born. They not only survived the pandemic, but gratefully thrived.
We highlighted Two Bikes just before their grand opening in April 2021, just 6 months after Mitchell found out Dream Bikes would be closing. Their mission statement is: “Two Bikes is dedicated to expanding access to bicycles in Knoxville, TN. We do this by providing access to affordable bicycles, free community work benches, hosting bicycle education courses based on donations and pledging to donate half of our bicycles for free.
Mitchell, its operations developer, Matt Zingg, and services manager, Travis Jolley, opened the doors to Two Bikes in April 2021. They quickly grew to a team of 5, adding Sofie Etienne and Moriah Schrieber to manage programming and development in order to continue fulfilling the mission. statement objectives.
They host bike repair shops throughout the year, offering their equipment and bike racks to the public on a donation basis, reducing reliance on expensive bike repairs. Community rides are very popular and regularly attract over 50 riders. Among other programs, they organize events where you can bring your old bike to be donated, no matter the condition. If the bike can’t be refurbished, they use what parts they can and send the rest to the junkyard for recycling, including the rubber tires.
Sustainability is one of their top priorities. They do this both by recycling to keep bikes out of landfills and by refurbishing donated bikes and giving them back to the community through programs like Boys and Girls Club, Big Brother, Big Sister, Centro and others. . To date, they have distributed over 400 bikes!
In July, they officially started their youth outreach in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, called Two Bikes Bike School. They have now added 2 additional staff, a Sales Instructor and a Mechanic Instructor, to run this program working with teens aged 14-18 through the Boys and Girls Club YouthForce program to provide them with internships. paid to train and certify them as bike mechanics or sales associates. .
When I asked what lessons they had learned over the past year, Mitchell had a few things to say. He believes they have learned to recognize and build on their strengths as an organization and then collaborate with other nonprofits for other assets such as social services. They also strive to surround themselves with smart people and learn from them. They also learned to give themselves grace by learning to remain flexible in their goals and to strive for success.
Partnerships mean a lot to the Two Bikes team and you’ll see that regularly as they partner with groups like The Real Good Kitchen as community bike ride destinations and their upcoming annual First Bike Dinner on September 22 at the Mill and Mine. Click on the link for more information and to purchase a ticket.
If you’re interested in getting involved or buying your own first (or second or third) bike, but are intimidated by bike shop environments, you’re not alone. Even as a seasoned cyclist, Mitchell felt that too. Another goal for them is to help everyone who walks through their doors, whether it’s to buy a bike, get a flat tire fixed, or just see what they’re talking about, feel comfortable and welcome. They have signs in the window and prominently in the shop touting their customer friendliness policy. Walking in myself and meeting some of the staff I can tell you that they have indeed created this culture.
What can you do to support this business? You can drop off your used bikes, buy your bike or accessories from them, tell your friends about it or make a financial donation. You can also get involved in their monthly all-levels friendly bike rides or other events they host by checking out their calendar here. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you there!
From Tuesday to Saturday
10 a.m.–6 p.m.
865 951 2950
118 Central Street S.
Knoxville, TN 37902