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Six years ago, a group of volunteers from Princeton Freewheelers Bike Club got together and started the Trenton Bike Exchange, which collects and refurbishes donated used bicycles, selling them at affordable prices (to serve low and moderate income families), and raising funds for the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton & Mercer County. The shop is run entirely by volunteers and by student interns in the Club’s Job-Ready program. It’s a great cause, but it’s also a great place to get an inexpensive bike.
I was looking for a bicycle (I haven’t had one since I was a teenager) so that I could commute from my home in Trenton to my work in Princeton. So I grabbed Hidden Trenton’s resident cycle expert (the Millman) and we headed over to the Capitol Plaza Shopping Center to the Bike Exchange’s shop. It’s technically in Ewing, right over the border from Trenton (right near the Trenton Farmer’s Market).
There, we were greeted by some friendly volunteers who helped us comb through the hundreds of cycles available. The shop sells nearly 2,000 bikes a year, all at affordable prices so that they can be available for low-income families. Each bike is carefully repaired and restored. Some are worked on by inmates at the Department of Corrections’ facility in Trenton, and the rest are rehabilitated by the Exchange’s interns, who are learning and applying bike repair skills that can prepare them for future jobs. At least one former intern, Abdel, has gone on to a job in a bicycle shop. The cycles themselves are donated by businesses, individuals, and repair shops throughout the area.
I had been hoping for something affordable, maybe even under $100. And I certainly found many rideable options well below that price. But the Millman is a cycling snob, and also has a keen eye for a bargain. He spotted a gorgeous orange Bianchi cycle–one of the most expensive cycles in the shop, but also one of the biggest bargains. It was priced at $300, but would be sold new for $600-700+. The Bike Exchange lets you take the bikes for a spin in the shopping center parking lot, and the difference between the Bianchi and everything else was immediately apparent–it was certainly worth the premium price. Sure, I could have found a decent cycle for $30-$40, or a nice one for $100-$150, but this one was a dream. And this bike already came with several useful accessories–premium tires, a trunk rack, and a front fender (all of which might have added up to another $50-$80 if I’d bought them new). After getting a lock and a new helmet (they have basic accessories for sale at the Bike Exchange), I was on my way.
The Exchange is particularly a bargain for those who are looking for bikes for their kids. They have an enormous range of choices (for ages 3 and up) and most were in superb condition, and priced to move. If you are trying to keep up with a growing child’s bicycle needs–this is absolutely the place to go.
Since its founding, the Trenton Bicycle Exchange has been so successful (raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Boys & Girls Club and getting tens of thousands of bicycles into the hands of those who need them) that it has opened new locations in Plainfield, Newark, and New Brunswick. You can support this marvelous project by donating a bike, by volunteering your time, or by purchasing a cycle. If you decide on the latter, you can be sure it will have been lovingly restored and refurbished, and be in terrific working order–and for a great price.
I’ll see you on the roads!