Redondo Union High School senior Justin Pioletti wanted to take part in the Indian Wells Half Ironman in La Quinta last December, but he did not own his own road bike.
But through Bicycle Angels, Pioletti borrowed a bike for almost six months to train and eventually finish the 70.2-mile course, raising $2,800 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“If it hadn’t been for Bicycle Angels there was no way I could do the event,” said Pioletti, who is among more than 1,000 people who have borrowed bikes from the Redondo Beach nonprofit for charity events since 2009.
Dave Gold, who co-founded the nonprofit with two friends, said the idea came out of frustration in 2009 while training people for the 100-mile Solvang Century ride, which took place March 9.
“People would show up with these clunky, heavy city hybrid bikes, some that were literally falling apart,” Gold said from the nonprofit’s North Redondo Beach headquarters on Phelan Lane, which incidentally is the former site of SST Records, which produced the punk band Black Flag.
“We would have to tell people that’s not a great bike to do this ride on. Then they would say they can’t afford a road bike and they would end up dropping out,” Gold said.
Gold said they would have called the group Bicycle Fairy Godmothers, but the name seemed too long.
This year, Bicycle Angels celebrated its 10th anniversary. Free to borrowers, all they ask is the bike receive a professional tune-up when it’s returned. And they, of course, accept donations.
Bikes loaned out have helped riders collect more than $2.5 million for 21 separate charities. For the AIDS/LifeCycle ride alone the nonprofit has helped generate more than $1 million.
It now has 250 bikes available for loan, several of which will be used in the Bike MS: Los Angeles ride March 23 that finishes at the Rose Bowl.
The only criteria is that the bike is not used for charities that discriminate based based on religion or politics.
“I feel great about it,” said Manuel Paliungas, vice president of fleet operations. “I meet wonderful people. Everybody who borrows a bike from us are there because they want to help a charity. They have good hearts.”
The nonprofit is also helping to create more cyclists, introducing people to a sport that might not otherwise have a chance to try, Paliungas said.
“Half of those who borrowed a bike went out and bought their own,” Paliungas said. “So, on top of what we do for the charities we are also helping the bicycle industry.”
For Pioletti, the experience at the Half Ironman has inspired him to compete in even longer events. But recipients can only borrow a bike once from the Bicycle Angels, so they will have to find another ride.
“I’m glad they do it that way so there is more opportunity for people to get started with it,” Pioletti said. “It has opened my eyes to do more events for sure.”
For more information visit BicycleAngels.com.
3/12/19: This article was corrected to reflect Bicycle Angels raised $1 million for the AIDS/LifeCycle ride. The article was also clarified to reflect the Solvang Century ride that prompted the idea of the nonprofit took place in 2009.