Chris Dempwolf: Fixing bikes and building community

At Bike York, Chris Dempwolf volunteers his time to keep the bicycling community in York safe.

Presented by: Our York Media
Chris Dempwolf, center, with Andrew Gobel and Craig Walt of Bike York (Our York Media)

Brakes that don’t work, deflated tires, a broken shifter — a lot of the bikes Chris Dempwolf sees people riding on around York aren’t safe.

One bike at a time, he’s trying to change that.

Chris makes up a third of Bike York, a volunteer initiative to help people ride safely. The group, which includes Andrew Gobel and Craig Walt, opens its free pop-up bicycle repair shop at events and festivals like Go Green in the City and York Flea.

The group’s volunteer efforts and collaboration with city officials to add bike lanes, parking and Zagster bike share, contributed to York receiving a Silver Bicycle Friendly Community Designation from the League of American Bicyclists. Philadelphia is the only other city in the state to achieve this level.

While they don’t do major repairs, Chris says a lot of the bikes they see don’t need major work. They just need someone like him who can give them a little love and elbow grease to bring them back to life.

For Chris, a former motorcycle mechanic, it’s satisfying to diagnose what’s wrong with a bike and fix it.

“It may not have a large-scale impact on the world,” he says, “but you impacted someone else’s life in a positive way, and that’s a pretty good feeling.”

It may not have a large-scale impact on the world, but you impacted someone else’s life in a positive way, and that’s a pretty good feeling.

Chris Dempwolf

At York Flea, Chris met a man whose crank arms – the pieces that hold the pedals onto the bike – had been loose for as long as the man could remember. So, Chris adjusted the bearings and tightened the bolts.

It took maybe five minutes, Chris says. In doing so, it improved that man’s main source of transportation. And it was free.

“We get a lot of big smiles and hugs when we tell people that,” Chris says.

Bike York has given him the opportunity to meet new people and come together over this one thing they have in common: bicycles.

“That’s kind of how communities are built,” he says. “You find that common level you can interact on.”

At Bike York, he’s helping to build up the bicycle community, and make it a little safer one bike at a time.

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