Beloit couple builds more than 500 bikes for strangers

By: Phil Levin Email
By: Phil Levin Email

POSTED: Thursday, September 18, 2013 --- 10:40 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

After an early-onset Alzheimer's diagnosis, a Beloit man's doctor suggested he stay busy to stay sharp.

Forced to quit work a decade early, Brian Reece said he was sad for months following the news, but agreed to fix up a few bikes in his free time. Since then the requests keep coming, and last week Brian and his wife Anne built their 500th bike in less than two years.

"I try not to think about it, it scares me, so I'm going to just keep marching on," said Brian. "To see a kid jumping up and down, it's crazy. Building these bikes is a bond to these kids. If it gives a kid a little more freedom to get out and about then I think it's all worthwhile. I'll keep going for as long as I possibly can."

The couple doesn't just fix bikes for free, they design and build custom contraptions for those that might have trouble with a traditional setup.

"My left leg is shorter than my right leg so the pedals would be unbalanced, it was really hard to get the proper balance on a regular bike," said Ben Dombek, the recipient of a hand-powered bike that can tow his son on the back. He says not only did Brian and Anne build him two versions of the bike, but even came to pick him up when he had low tires and another time when the footrests needed repair.

"A year ago I did not know how to change a tube, I didn't know how to change a tire," said Anne Reece, who says she went from managing their website to manning the workshop.

"I talked my daughter-in-law into going with me and now we're taking a welding class," she said. "I'll be able to help. I'll be able to maybe know when he can't do this anymore."

Dozens of bikes and parts dominate the Reece's yard, but they say the neighbors are more inclined to lend a hand than a complaint.

If you want to learn more about their projects, you can find Brian Reece Bike Elves on Facebook. The couple welcomes bicycle donations if contributors are able to drop them off in Beloit, particularly kids bikes. They currently have some English ten-speed bikes available for adults but save the newer styles for teens and children.

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