Norman moved to Minnesota from Indianapolis in 2014 and would travel the Green Line just to check out what was on University Avenue in St. Paul. “When I rode past [Cycles for Change] one day, I didn’t even know it was bike shop,” he said. “I thought it was a place for therapy, like a place for someone to change their life.”
So one day he decided to stop in and see what the place was all about. “I bought my very first bike from here when I moved to Minnesota,” he said. “Bought it from Jeff, my buddy. Came back a few weeks later and bought some new tires and gadgets. Now I come to Jeff not to purchase things, but to ask questions because he knows the bike community, gets on the computer, and finds me resources. He’s very adamant about giving me help.”
Norman, who went to school for CADD (Computer-Aided Design and Drafting), has always been interested in the aerodynamics and design of motorcycles and bicycles. After getting hit by a car while riding his bike a little over a year ago, he made the most of his down time. “While I was on sick leave from work, I kept looking at the frame of my bike,” he said. “So I decided instead of just drawing bikes I would make them. I turned it into a small business last February: ACD (Anti-Conventional Cycle Design). I’m an artist by nature; it’s my truest passion. I love having something in my mind and being able to put it on paper exactly how I see it in my mind, and then being able to build it.”
And once he had a few creations, he knew how he wanted to give back to the organization that has helped him become a better, safer, more knowledgeable Minnesota biker. “One time I was watching the news and saw you guys on there and it gave me more of an idea of what you do for the community,” he said. “It’s not just about the money for you. I fell in love with the concept. People who put passion and integrity behind the dollar bill. I don’t have a bunch of money, so I thought ‘How can I give back to you guys?’ I made a little tricycle. Since you are Cycles for Change, I thought I’d put change (pennies) on it.”
And this “penny tricycle” will be one of the featured items at the upcoming Youth Apprenticeship Silent Auction on April 1, 2017. Just as Norman is grateful to be a part of Cycles for Change, we are grateful to have him be a part of our community, too. “It’s actually in the name,” he said. “You guys have the potential to change a person’s life. A lot of nonprofits kind of just get money and give stuff away, but you guys are actually interacting with people. You encompass all the different areas that a nonprofit can reach. Even outside of working in the community, you also put the thought of bicycling back in a person’s mind. Less driving, more cycling. The health benefits, the environmental benefits. This is my go-to place for cycling therapy.”
In our community, Cycles for Change works to connect bicycles to other social issues, which is something Norman has picked up on. “I see the demographic of people that come in here (to the shop),” he said. “You cross racial boundaries, ages, genders. I’ve seen homeless people that come in here. You provide an atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome. There was a guy that was so happy to donate bikes to you. I’ve never seen someone so happy to donate a bike in my life. You have a way of making it where it’s not restricting; the doors are open to everybody.”
And because Norman wandered into those doors one day, he found a bicycling community in which he could be a part. “You give people skills, not just a bike, which is a gift that keeps on giving,” he said.