For over a decade, the Boys & Girls Club (BGC) Bike Exchange has been building, refurbishing and restoring old bikes into low-cost new rides for the Trenton area while donating 100 percent of the proceeds to The Club. As the weather warms up and the sun begins to shine a bit brighter, the Bike Exchange is in need of your outdated bikes for the springtime influx.

Today, April 10, 2021, from noon to 4:00 p.m., Mercer County and the Park Commission are hosting a Bike Drive at several locations throughout the county. They will take your old bikes – no matter the condition – and donate them to the Bike Exchange.

There will be three locations accepting bike donations. You can stop by The Historic Hunt House at 197 Blackwell Road in Pennington, Ranger Headquarters at Mercer County Park in West Windsor or the Tulpehaking Nature Center at 157 Westcott Avenue in Trenton.

“Normally, these bike drives can produce anywhere from 50 to 150 bikes,” said Ira Saltiel, President of the BGC Bicycle Exchange. “So, we rent a big truck and we bring them down.”

Since 2009, the Bike Exchange’s all volunteer effort has sold over 21,600 bikes and raised close to $1.2 million for BGC after-school programs, which serve more than 1,200 youths daily. The Clubs provide safe havens, academic enrichment, and recreational activities through after-school, weekend and summer programs.

Long line wrapped around the Capital Plaza during last year’s bike demand increase | Photo provided by Ira Saltiel

Around June of last year, the Bike Exchange witnessed a large increase in demand for bikes in the Trenton area. With the social-distancing atmosphere of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems as though more children and families are engaging in outdoor activities like bike riding. This year, as the nation still battles the ongoing pandemic, the bike exchange continues to sell a number of bikes at a high rate.

“In the first quarter of this year, we’ve tripled what we do in what we have done in any of the previous 11 years,” said Saltiel. “If we have enough bikes, we may equal what we did last year.”

In a typical year, the bike exchange sells around 2,000 bicycles to the community, around 90 of them sold in the first quarter, or first three months of operation. During the first quarter of 2021, between January and March, the Bike Exchange sold 136 bicycles. That is 46 more bikes than average.

Over these past two demanding years, the Trenton Bike Exchange has also noticed an increase in demand for adult bikes in particular. The sale of adult bikes add substantial funds to the overall BGC donation.

“Adult bikes are priced higher, so that helps account for increase in total dollar volume,” said Saltiel. “Where as kids bikes can cost anywhere from $15, $20, $30 to $50 or $60, adult bikes are around $100.”

In addition to this Saturday’s bike drive, the community at large has been supporting the Bike Exchange’s effort to refurbish old bicycles. The Trenton Police Depart (TPD) has helped to collect unclaimed bikes in the community for years and donates them directly to the Bike Exchange.

“We just got about 150 bikes serving them last week,” said Saltiel. “It’s very generous of them to do that.”

He continued, “That was done originally through one of the prosecutors who said, ‘we have all these bikes and they’ve done everything to help try to help find who the original owner was.’ Now, they can be released, and so they’ve donated them to us and all the money basically goes back into Trenton in one way or another.”

Volunteers restoring donated bicycles | Photo courtesy of Ira Saltiel

The direct funding to the BGC is not the only community impact the Trenton Bike Exchange has on the locals. Through their efforts, the 50+ volunteer cyclists train both BGC members and inmates through the Department of Corrections on bike repairs. Although those programs are currently at a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bike Exchange is hoping to operate their trainings in the near future.

With the spring weather finally sticking around, Saltiel and the cyclists at the Bike Exchange are hoping to make 2021 another year full of outdoor bike-ride adventures for the Trenton community as they raise funds for BGC.

“I love working here. I love every minute. I wanted to give back to the community and this was just a wonderful way to do it,” said Saltiel, “but the big part of this is not me, it’s the volunteers. We have so many dedicated volunteers. I’m amazed at how well they work and how much they want to work for us.”

For more information about the Boys & Girls Club Bike Exchange, visit https://www.bgcmercer.org/bgc-bike-exchange