Dublin bicycle shop owner offers free repairs to frontline hospital staff battling Covid-19

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Dozens of bikes, many of which haven’t left the shed since they were purchased in a burst of enthusiastic optimism about the bike-to-work program, found their way to Paul McQuaid’s workshop on Usher’s Island in Dublin in recent weeks.

Paul, who runs River Cycles right next to the James Joyce Bridge, had seen his business abruptly shut down when the first wave of coronavirus restrictions hit.

“I have been working on bikes for 40 years, and overnight business stopped. The whole country had a collective fear and no one had the bikes in mind. “

A former competitive cyclist, and a member of the famous McQuaid cycling family, being idle doesn’t suit him.

“I was reading the newspapers and wondering what, if anything, I could do to help. I realized that a lot of the frontline staff would be from the population where they would probably take buses or other public transport, and they had better ride their bikes.

He emailed the human resources departments at Mater, Beaumont and St James hospitals to ask if they thought staff would be interested in having their bikes repaired for free.

“They all responded and said they thought people would be interested. That was three weeks ago and I had over a hundred bikes in me during that time.

In some cases he collects the bikes on his own cargo bike, in others where the bikes only need minor repairs or refurbishment, people go to the workshop and he gives them a bike to borrow for a while. that theirs is under repair. Two of his nephews also collect and deliver bikes for him.

Family members who are also in the business, especially his brothers Oliver and Kieron, have donated “a mountain of things” in terms of spare parts, he says, and people in general have been “incredibly kind “.

“A gentleman called me and offered to deliver me two bikes as a donation. He was running with my dad in the 1950s! He said he had two folding bikes that he and his “better half” used when they went on vacation. They haven’t used them in years, so they wanted them to go to a good cause, ”he says.

General renovation

“A little over a week ago I received an unexpected call from a lady called Angela in Rathfarnham. Her husband passed away a few years ago and she wanted to donate his bike. The other day one of James’ delivery drivers came in his van and said he was going to pick up the bikes and bring them back, which would be of great help.

Donated bikes will be refurbished and handed over to frontline workers or used for parts for refurbishments, depending on their repair condition.

Repairs typically range from punctures and new brake pads – “everyone neglects their brake pads,” he says – to a general overhaul, although there is one that hasn’t been seen outside of. a garden shed for many years.

“I have one over there right now; everything must be done.

The little blue bike he designates with an old leather spring suspension saddle could very nicely be described as “vintage”, but is perhaps more accurately described as applauded. It’s so old that standard brake cables don’t fit, so Paul had to order specific ones online, again at his expense.

“This one belongs to a nurse from Glasnevin, it’s going to take a while to do, maybe four hours, but we’ll get it going again.” “

However, most repairs are quick, like a patch on an inner tube – and he believes in repairing rather than replacing tubes when possible.

“Why would you want to throw away a tube that only has a pin prick hole?” Look at this patch, it is beautiful. The patch on the tube it is holding is indeed seamless.

Most of the time he says he can do 10-15 bikes a day.

“I spend the morning answering every e-mail I receive, and then I work on the bikes from 12 to 5 or so.”

In recent days it has gone from repairing bicycles for hospital workers to repairs for firefighters and wardens.

“As long as someone on the front lines needs it, I will continue.”

Having this job to do has been uplifting and often moving, he says.

“I’m normally a pretty optimistic person, but in this situation it’s hard not to be pessimistic. You see some of these people come in, doctors, nurses, porters, and consultants, and they look so haggard. But I love what I do and I’m very lucky to be able to fix bikes for these people. There is no comparison between sitting in a car and the pleasure of riding a bicycle. Everyone should have a bicycle in their life.

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Angela Keogh had been looking for accommodation for her late husband’s bicycle for some time.

“Joe died suddenly of a heart attack a little over two years ago now. He has been a cyclist his entire life and he had only retired for three years, so it was very unexpected.

Until his retirement from the Dublin Institute of Technology in Kevin Street, he had cycled to work every day from their home in Rathfarnham.

“He worked at Kevin Street for 50 years, if you can imagine that he was a physics tech. He started working there at the age of 16, but continued to cycle daily after retirement to Rathmines Gymnasium three times a week and to shops.

However, after her death, Angela says, she didn’t know anyone who wanted or needed her bike.

“The poor bike just sat in the garage. I thought I could pass it on to someone who wanted it. I didn’t want to sell it, because I didn’t want to make a profit from it, but I just figured that someone might come up at some point who would really like a bike.

When she learned that Paul McQuaid was reconditioning bikes for frontline workers, she realized it was the perfect fit.

“I was absolutely thrilled to be able to support this and when I told Joe’s brothers and our two daughters about it, they were thrilled as well. It was a poignant moment when Paul came to pick him up, but Joe had a very generous nature and he would have loved that this is where his bike went. “

Emma Gorman, physiotherapist at Mater Hospital, commutes to work by bike from Beaumont every day. She had recently started noticing that the chain on her bike was binding and shaking while she was cycling.

“At first it was just boring, but it got worse and I could feel that I was starting to lose control of the bike and it was getting dangerous. I borrowed my sister’s bike for a while, but hey it’s like wearing someone else’s shoes. I was stuck on the bus for a few days, but I really missed the bike.

Around this time, she saw an internal email with Paul McQuaid’s offer to repair bikes.

“I called Paul and he came to the conclusion that the gears were slipping. I let him down and he did quite a service – the gears, the brakes, everything cleaned up. There was a lot of what you might call “general neglect”.

“I picked him up a few days later and he didn’t accept any payment, I tried to insist that he take the price of a cup of coffee, but he didn’t even do it. “

Based in the hospital’s intensive care unit, she says her daily bike commute gives her time to adjust between work and home.

“Cycling home really helps clear your head, especially right now,” she says. “We’re still preparing, while waiting for the push, it looks like the efforts to flatten the curve are working. But we had a positive patient for Covid-19 who was released from the ICU. It’s wonderful to see someone come home.


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