The ambiance of Gordon Doak’s residential garage in North Liberty could be labeled “Santa’s workshop meets bicycle junkyard.”
One stall is filled with two dozen used bikes in various stages of refurbishment. Stored on a high shelf above is a rack of 50 wheels with tires. Stacked nearby are several large plastic tubs of salvaged derailers, gear clusters and kick stands.
A long workbench is dominated by a bike wheel truing stand, which in the hands of an expert with a spoke wrench can straighten a bent wheel back to a perfect round.
Doak, a software engineer for Rockwell Collins by day, has become just this kind of self-taught bike repair expert.
And this garage space is hallowed ground to many local residents who have been presented free of charge with a formerly dilapidated bike carefully restored by Doak. In fact, he has refurbished and distributed more than 400 of these bikes in the past 12 years as a volunteer for First United Methodist Church here.
“The chains are greasy, and I usually have blackened hands and fingernails,” he says with a grin. “But I don’t mind. There’s dish soap for that. And I’m just trying in this way, this one small instance, to serve my church and community.”
It started in 2005 when Doak was part of a church group that came up with the idea of a “bicycle ministry.” People who came to the North Liberty Food Pantry on the church grounds needed bikes for transportation to work or just to offer a little fun for their kids.