By Antoinetta DeWit / Photo Credit: Jessica Nicklen Smart
When I think of celebrating citizenship, I think of Steve Nicklen.
Steve is a Maple Ridge guy who has been instrumental in finding used bicycles and fixing them up for our local migrant farm workers. He saw a need and knew he could help.
But who is Steve Nicklen and what motivated him to do this?
Steve and his wife have lived in Maple Ridge since 2000. He has always been interested in bicycles and his interest in repairing them stayed with him over the years. When he was a kid, he would make custom builds with whatever parts he could find. In his teens, he discovered road cycling and his bike was his main mode of transportation to get to work, to meet up with friends and to go on trips such as the Gulf Islands. In his early 20s, Steve discovered mountain biking and that has been a passion for him ever since.
Steve’s father was a big influence on his enjoyment of bikes. He always made sure his kids had a working bike to ride. He cherishes his memories of riding with his dad around the campground in Harrison where they would spend many summers. When his father was really sick with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, Steve asked him one day what he would like to do. He answered: ‘go for a bike ride’.
In 2018, Steve faced burnout with his 24-year corporate job. He knew he had to make a life change, so he turned to servicing bikes as a hobby and collecting the specialized tools that are required. Although he ultimately decided to continue a career in technology, servicing bikes became his main hobby to relieve stress.
Around that time Steve saw an advertisement asking for bikes for migrant farm workers. He learned that there are about 200 of them who have come here from Mexico, South America and the Caribbean with only their clothing. He called the number and delivered two bikes. Shortly after, he was introduced to 88-year-old Dr. Roger Page. Dr. Page spends his evenings visiting farm workers and writing their needs in a little notebook. During the day he shops at thrift stores for deals on whatever the workers need; work gloves, shoes, back packs, etc. Steve
agreed to help him fulfill the demand for bikes.
The more he learned about the life of a migrant farm worker, the more his heart was moved to do more. They are hard working men and women who leave their families for 6-month to 2-year periods and send their wages back home. They are mostly here from April to October. Conditions at the various farms vary greatly. Covid has been a difficult time since fewer workers came into Canada or arrived late in the season. The first to arrive had to cover the shortage by working extremely long days, some for 16 hours. Workers use the donated bikes to commute between the plots of farmland, to go shopping and to enjoy their free time.
In the short time that Steve has been refurbishing bicycles, he has personally supplied 37 refurbished bikes and repaired nine that were already on the farms. Donated bikes that do not need any repairs are often delivered directly to the farms.
Steve’s favourite memory of delivering a bike was an old Kuwahara cruiser that was donated and in very poor condition. He rebuilt it from the ground up and fully accessorized it. He will never forget the older gentleman that received it. He smiled and laughed as he rang the bell and rode circles around Steve. It reminded him of how excited he was the year he got a brand new bike for Christmas. We can be sure that special moments like that make the hard work and effort Steve puts into acquiring bicycles and fixing them up all worthwhile.
Steve loves his hobby and hopes to continue for a long time coming. He puts out calls to the community for bicycles in any state of repair, as well as any accessories people might have lying around. The repairs are all done in his home garage. His brother on Vancouver Island often ships over dozens of helmets, lights, kickstands, and water bottles. He also gets a lot of help from other family and friends. If anyone would like to contribute a bicycle in any condition and any accessories, please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations Steve and thank you for going above and beyond. You have touched the lives of many with your thoughtfulness, generosity and kindness. You, your family, your buddies, donors and volunteers should all stand tall and proud.