Whenever David Maciel faced struggles in his life, he’d hop on his blue racing bike and let the world’s noise slip away behind him.
“Biking takes your mind off of what’s bothering you, takes you to a happy place,” Maciel said. “Then you can think through things, through all of life’s ‘what ifs.’”
For the retired electronic salesman from Cloverdale, a close-knit town of less than 9,000, cycling helped him through uncertain times — in between jobs, while making major life decisions and in the wake of his father’s death when Maciel was just 19.
Getting on a bike also reminds him of being a kid, of a more carefree time when he rode off on neighborhood adventures and tinkered with bikes outside his family’s house in Tracy, learning how to take apart and reassemble them.
Bike riding has brought him respite and joy, and now Maciel is pouring that joy back into his community through the charity he started this year, Second Life Bicycle Rescue. He collects donations of used bikes in need of some TLC, fixes them up in his garage and gives them for free to kids in need, whose families can’t afford them.
In the last seven months, Maciel has collected nearly 100 bikes and has given away 80 of them to their new owners.
For his generosity and dedication to his community, Maciel has been selected to receive the North Bay Spirit Award for September. A joint project of The Press Democrat and Comcast, the award highlights volunteers who demonstrate exceptional initiative for a cause, often identifying a need in the community and finding an enterprising way to fill it.
“When I watch a young kid hop on a bike that I just fixed and ride away,” Maciel said, “I think of all of the times they’ll have with this bike — the fun, thrills and adventure they’re going to have with it.”
A second life and home
In January, while scrolling through the Community of Cloverdale Facebook page, Maciel stumbled on a post about two bikes someone was giving away for free.
At that moment, he decided to pick up both bikes from the owner, repair them and hand them to kids whose families were weighed down by financial burdens during the pandemic.
“People were depressed, stuck at home and struggling financially. My community was really hurting,” Maciel said. “I wanted to bring some light back into their lives.”
He fixed up the first bike, which he called “Red Rocket,” and gave it to a 4-year-old boy. The second, a white BMX bike, he fixed up and gave to a 7-year-old boy.
Maciel posted photos of the shined-up, newly repaired bikes with the kids on the Facebook page and tagged the original owner.
“I want people to know who their donated bikes are going to,” Maciel said. “I think people want to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.”
The posts got the wheels turning. What came next was a bigger response than Maciel had imagined.
By the time a few weeks had passed since those first two donations, Maciel had received several messages from people wanting to donate bikes and from parents looking for bikes for their kids. Donations kept coming in.
He realized he could use some financial help to keep buying the parts he needed — seats, chains, handlebars — for the refurbishments. So he started a GoFundMe, which only added to the momentum. By March, community members had come pouring in with monetary donations or with their used bikes.
“This community wrapped their arms around me and just started donating bikes to me like crazy,” Maciel said with a chuckle. “It got to the point where the bikes couldn’t fit in my garage. I had to get a storage unit.”
Now he picks up used bikes from owners, repairs them and gives them to the kids at a drop-off spot near the storage unit in Cloverdale.
“My favorite part about handing them to the kids is seeing their faces,” Maciel said.
People love what Maciel is doing, so much so that they are assisting him any way they can.
In March, one Cloverdale resident noticed Maciel’s posts on the community Facebook page and searched through Cloverdale and on Craigslist for free bikes. When he had collected 10 bikes, he reached out to Maciel to donate them.
“I just wanted to be a part of it,” said volunteer Charlie Delfino. “These kids were stuck at home for a year, so seeing the smiles on their faces was something special. David is making a huge impact on this community.