Fixing children’s bikes is a heartwarming experience, by Tom Howard

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What’s the best way to put a smile on a kid’s face? Fixing a flat tire, restoring a dodgy set of brakes, tightening a loose headset or fixing a misadjusted derailleur usually does the trick. Typically, the grin breaks out with the first pedal stroke as the rider zips around the playground on that newly spiffed bike.

On April 26, I had the pleasure of participating in a Kids in Motion bike repair clinic at Meadowlark Elementary. Chris Crow, a mechanic at The Bike Shop on Grand, joined me in manning the bike stands. I’ve done a fair amount of bike wrenching over the years, but it was really great to have Chris help me out whenever I ran into unfamiliar territory. We had help from a Meadowlark parent, Jo Clark, and Bert Reyes of Billings Public Schools.

Kids in Motion is an active transportation program that encourages kids to ride their bikes. Volunteers host repair clinics and bike safety programs at Billings area schools. St. Vincent Healthcare is the main sponsor of this collaborative effort. Billings Public Schools, the city of Billings, the Billings Education Foundation, Billings TrailNet, The Spoke Shop and the Bike Shop on Grand are partners. Americorps and Vista volunteers have also provided assistance.

The inclement weather that plagued Billings earlier in the week was just a memory when the Kids in Motion van rolled up to Meadowlark Elementary. With the sun out and temperatures in the 70s, it was perfect weather for outdoor bike repairs.

The trailer is well stocked with tools, repair stands, parts and most importantly, a wide variety of tires and inner tubes. Goatheads, those diabolical tire-piercing thorns that crop up in Billings each summer, were the source of most repair requests.

Kids and parents waited patiently as we installed inner tubes, swapped out worn tires and added a squirt of tire sealant to each new inner tube.

I was humbled by some of the stories shared by parents and students.

A woman explained that she’s raising her two granddaughters, and she thanked us profusely after seeing them zip around on their newly repaired bikes.

One student said her single mom didn’t know a lot about fixing bikes. But I assured her that we were happy to help her out.

One boy wheeled up a mountain bike that was missing brakes, brake levers and shifters. “I really need some brakes,” he said. Although the van is stocked with a variety of parts, there were no shifters or cantilever brake calipers available. Chris invited the boy to stop by the Bike Shop on Grand to have the work done.

More Kids in Motion bike clinics are scheduled this spring, and volunteers are always needed. Contact the Billings TrailNet office,, 406-281-1244. Or contact Kathy Aragon at You can also give her a call at 406-698-2992.