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East Bay man gives away hundreds of refurbished bikes to those in need

East Bay man gives away hundreds of refurbished bikes to those in need
East Bay man gives away hundreds of refurbished bikes to those in need 03:49

CASTRO VALLEY -- A Castro Valley man who started repairing bicycles in his garage makes "zero dollars and no sense," but he's making a lot of people happy.

Restoring classic bikes is Billy Bradford's passion.

"I enjoy taking a bike that's thrashed and making it pretty," he said. "For me, it's like restoring a painting. It's art in motion."

He would find the old bicycles while visit flea markets, garage sales and estate sales. He noticed a cycle developing in 2015.

"Pretty soon I had a garage full of restored vintage bikes that no one was riding. So I started giving them away to friends, because then I'd have more room for more bikes," Bradford explained.

And that got his wheels spinning. 

"I was spending my money to buy bikes, and spending my money on parts, and spending my time to restore them," he said. "And I thought, 'That's a terrible business model!' And thought, 'Ah, that's funny. Bad Business Model Bikes.'"

His program, Bad Business Model Bikes, has given away more than 700 free bikes to those who can't pay for one to get to work, school, or for fun.

He gets emotional thinking about the people and shops which donate new or used bikes and parts.

"People reach out to me all the time, and they help. They want to be a part ot it," he said with tears in his eyes.

He does not trade, sell, service or fix people's bikes; he doesn't want compete with the bike service shops. But he never tires of giving.

Nwo McGirt is training for the AIDS LifeCycle Ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, thanks to Bradford, who rides every year.

Bradford is providing free, sturdy bikes to participants like McGirt who can't afford one for the 7-day fundraiser.

"This is my first time riding, so it means everything," McGirt said. "He's just the best."

Sarah Cron also came for a bicycle so she'll no longer have to walk two miles to work.

"It means a lot, seeing the kindness of people warms my heart," Cron said.

In exchange for the free wheels, Bradford asks recipients to do something nice for someone else.

"Just keep the positive energy going," he said to Cron.

Now that he retired this year as IT manager of a law firm, the 67-year-old is devoting more time to the bikes and building community through his program.

"There's like this circle of happiness that's happening. People are happy they're helping. I'm happy to work on the bikes, and the people that get the bikes are happy," he said. "There's a whole lot of happy in my driveway. And I'm in the middle of it."

Bradford even met his fiancée through his program. She got a free bike from him, then returned the one he gave her after she bought her own. Now they're riding through life together.

If you'd like a bike or want to donate, the best way to reach Bradford is through the Bad Business Model Bikes Facebook page.

So for giving away free bikes through Bad Business Model Bikes, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Billy Bradford.  

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