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North Bay Spirit Award winner David Maciel of Cloverdale started his charity, Second Life Bicycle Rescue, to restore old donated bikes for kids in need. Maciel has given new life to about 100 bikes in his home workshop garage. Photo taken on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

North Bay Spirit Award winner giving dozens of free bikes to kids

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.

North Bay Spirit Award winner David Maciel of Cloverdale started his charity, Second Life Bicycle Rescue, to restore old donated bikes for kids in need. Maciel cleans the pedal crank arm of an old bike in his garage on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)
North Bay Spirit Award winner David Maciel of Cloverdale started his charity, Second Life Bicycle Rescue, to restore old donated bikes for kids in need. Maciel cleans the pedal crank arm of an old bike in his garage on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

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.

Community support

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.

“I’m not gonna stop collecting bikes for him ’til he says, ‘I have too many,’” Delfino added, laughing.

North Bay Spirit Award winner David Maciel of Cloverdale started his charity, Second Life Bicycle Rescue, to restore old donated bikes for kids in need. Maciel takes apart a Barbie bike, then cleans and reassembles the bike and adding a new seat and tires on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)
North Bay Spirit Award winner David Maciel of Cloverdale started his charity, Second Life Bicycle Rescue, to restore old donated bikes for kids in need. Maciel takes apart a Barbie bike, then cleans and reassembles the bike and adding a new seat and tires on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Maciel has received recognition and support from local organizations and businesses, too. The Kiwanis Club of Cloverdale, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of local children, is paying part of five months’ rent for Maciel’s storage unit in Cloverdale.

In July, Cloverdale clothing boutique owner Erin Mavis approached Maciel to see how she could help raise money for Second Life Bicycle Rescue. In her store, she displayed a bright blue beach cruiser he had repaired and sold raffle tickets for it.

In February, Cloverdale resident Christina Lepe-Duarte posted about Maciel’s charity on the La Pulguita De Cloverdale Facebook page and then received messages from several families interested in getting bikes for their kids. She translated for Maciel to facilitate the donations to Spanish-speaking families.

“I remember seeing this 8-year-old kid ride a bike for the first time during a drop off,” Lepe-Duarte said. “I will never forget that reaction; he was so excited and in disbelief that he was actually taking off. Those moments are magic.”

Maciel’s effort was already well underway when he got another boost after now-retired Press Democrat columnist Chris Smith wrote about him in March and even more donations came in. Now, with more bikes to fix up and give away, he imagines he’ll need more volunteers.

Some of the kids with their donated bikes from David Maciel of Second Life Bicycle in Cloverdale. (David Maciel)
Some of the kids with their donated bikes from David Maciel of Second Life Bicycle in Cloverdale. (David Maciel)

“It’s going to move forward whether I want it to or not,” he said about Second Life Bicycle Rescue. “The charity found me.”

Maciel said he eventually wants to move into a “one-stop” commercial spot where he can receive, store and hand out bikes. He plans to continue even after the pandemic ends.

‘Biking changed my life’

Maciel comes from the “fix it yourself first before you call someone” era.

The 67-year-old grew up on a huge 5,000-acre family farm in Tracy in the San Joaquin Valley, working alongside his father and uncle.

The tractors and other big equipment on the farm would sometimes break, and he learned how to repair them.

“We fixed things; that’s what you did,” Maciel said.

When he was 8, he’d take apart his bikes just to see how they worked. Sometimes he’d tag along with his mom on errands to visit a store for new bike parts.

The death of his father in 1975, just before Maciel turned 20, forced him to consider his own health. His dad had died suddenly from a heart attack and was just 46 years old. Maciel was overweight and realized that if he wanted a “shot at life,” he needed to make some changes.

So he signed up for the Los Angeles Marathon and ran in it for four years. He dropped weight and shaped up.

North Bay Spirit Award winner David Maciel of Cloverdale started his charity, Second Life Bicycle Rescue, to restore old donated bikes for kids in need. Maciel repairs a Barbie bike, which he says will be very popular, in his garage on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)
North Bay Spirit Award winner David Maciel of Cloverdale started his charity, Second Life Bicycle Rescue, to restore old donated bikes for kids in need. Maciel repairs a Barbie bike, which he says will be very popular, in his garage on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

But when he was 32, he injured his foot, which took him out of running completely. His doctor suggested he take up cycling instead, to stay fit.

He did, and he never looked back.

On his bike, he’s traveled up and down the misty California coast and joined Northern California Colavita, a 40-member bike racing team in Cloverdale.

When Maciel is not repairing bikes, he’s riding his lime green Cannondale 50 to 60 miles every day. His favorite places to cycle are through the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys.

“Biking changed my life,” Maciel said. “I hope these bikes can do the same thing for these kids.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at mya.constantino@pressdemocrat.com. @searchingformya on Twitter.

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