Charles “Bike Man” Jenkins has been repairing and building bikes for people in his community for over 50 years. The impact he has had on countless lives on the West Side neighborhood of South Bend, Indiana, can hardly be measured.
Bike Man: South Bend
Charles Jenkins: I started doing bikes for kids when my kids were kids. Then they got friends. Then they got cousins. So that’s how it started.
People see me at the grocery store, “Hey mom, it’s the Bike Man!” They forget my name — but my name is Charles Jenkins, though. They forget that, but Bike Man is fine. I accept that everywhere I go.
It’s amazing. As a matter of fact, that mail lady, she bought a bike from me for her child.
Basically, people bring in flat tires, chain slips, chain breaks, brakes not working, handgrip, seats, sprockets go bad, bearings go bad in the rear end. It’s just everything you can think of almost on a bike. You think of it — if I’ve got it, I’ll help you out.
The kid that I gave a bike to when he was 12 years old, he came back to me later. At that time, I was down and out — I got laid off from work, I hadn’t got my unemployment yet. He came to the house, and the kid — he’s an adult now — he wrote a letter. He said, “When I was 12 years old, you gave me a bike. That meant the world to me.” He said, “I won some money on a lottery scratch-off. First person I thought about was you.” He gave me 500 bucks. I’ll get the letter for you if you wanna see it.
Videographer: Yes, I wanna see it.
Charles: Man, I was on my knees crying. Couldn’t believe it.
I wanna stop doing it, but you know. Someone will come and say, “Hey, you still doing bikes?”
“Well, yeah, I am.”
So I’m stuck now — I probably can’t stop doing it now. Because the kids love it, and I love to make the kids happy, and I just continue to do it. I guess it’s the love of my life.
Charles to boy: Staying out of trouble? How’s the grades?
Charles: You know, I ain’t no preacher, I’m not a great Bible reader, but I know He’s looking on all of us. And if you’re doing good here, He’s got a place for you in Heaven.
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Bike Man Shows Us How to Fix a Flat Tire
Charles “Bike Man” Jenkins shows us how to fix a punctured bicycle tire using simple tools at home.
Charles Jenkins: Let me show you how to fix bikes.
You got a pan of water. You air the tire up. There it is; there’s a hole. You put a pin in the hole to mark it. Scratch the surface around it, make it kind of rough around the hole, dry it off from the water. Grab a patch, cut the size you need. Get the glue out, glue across the hole, blow on it. You gotta peel your patch back, cover it, press down on the corners and let it sit about 10 minutes or so. That’ll do it for that.
That’s how I started, right there. Next day I was fixing flats for everybody in the neighborhood.