Roanoke bike shop providing handups to neighbors in need

Downshift Handcrafted Bikes and Brews collecting used bikes to recycle

ROANOKE, Va. – If you have no car, getting to and from work and around town can be frustrating. But, having a bike can change that, and one Roanoke business is giving away bikes to people who need them to help change the status quo.

Not anyone can just walk up and get a bike however. Downshift Handcrafted Bikes and Brews requires an interview process before you can be considered. And when it comes to bikes, forward motion is something you don't take for granted. It's a lesson Michael Terry knows all too well. He recently confided in a friend about what's holding his forward motion back.

"I said, man, I'm having a hard time and I'm looking for a job, I don't have any money, can you help me with a bike?" Terry recalled asking. "He said come back and see me the next day."

That friend was Stephen Ambruzs, owner of Downshift, and he had just the thing for Terry.

"We call it Community Upshift, it's a little bit of a play on our name, Downshift Bikes," Ambruzs said.

Ambruzs collects used bikes from people willing to donate them and then with his own time and parts makes them road ready. So far, he's gifted 12 bikes through the program, all for free.

"My goal is to have everybody ride a bike, and to have bikes replace vehicles and have bikes be the primary mode of transportation," Ambruzs said. "So if I can help in any way possible, especially people that are in need, it's just a two-for-one for me, and it's really, really important."

Terry's replacement bike for his stolen bike is a former Carilion Clinic EMT bike. While people have given one or two bikes in the past, the hospital is the first corporate donor, saving five bikes for the scrap yard and opting instead to put them in the hands of those that can use a handup.

"It's just great, that's one of the true values of Carilion and if we can pass it on, we're going to pass it on, and really try to make a difference in somebody's life," Carilion Clinic patient transportation director Craig Bryant said.

It's a simple thing, making a huge difference for those who need it.

"I can go look for jobs and do it like I want to now, and trying to improve myself, and I got it all thanks to Steve," Terry said.

Michael's forward motion is now back , and there's no more spinning his wheels, thanks to the kindness of a neighbor looking out for those in need.

Downshift doesn't have a whole lot of storage, but if you have a gently used bike you'd like to donate to the program they're happy to take it. To donate a bike, or to learn more about applying for a bike, contact Downshift for more information.

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