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Karson McLean picked out the blue and black Raleigh from a rack outside the Bozeman Bike Kitchen on Saturday. He raced around the parking lot, popping wheelies. It fit him perfectly.

It’s not the first time Karson’s family has visited the Bozeman Bike Kitchen, according to Jeni McLean, his mom. Over the years, the McLeans have donated bicycles to the shop. This year, the family decided to pick one up.

It’s all part of a Christmas Kids Bike Giveaway that shop manager Art Schwaller hosts annually.

Throughout most of the year, Schwaller collects children’s bicycles from donors, fixing them up and selling them. But during the month of December, Schwaller gives children’s bicycles away for free.

He got the idea seven years ago after he visited a bike shop in Boise with a similar program. He’s put on a holiday giveaway ever since.

“It’s a good way to give back to the community,” Schwaller said. “Lots of families can’t afford bikes for their kids.”

This December, parents could collect children’s bikes in the parking lot outside the Bozeman Bike Kitchen three days a week. Schwaller said he normally lets families look for their special bicycle in the shop, but he opted not to have any contact with visitors this month because of COVID-19.

Saturday was the last day of the holiday event. About a dozen free bikes sat on a rack in the parking lot, and kids and adults stopped by occasionally to check them out. Options ranged from bicycles with training wheels to a plastic, multicolored tricycle.

Parents often donate bikes that their kids have outgrown, Schwaller said. More than 50 bikes were given away this year. The shop typically gives away 75 to 100 bikes per holiday season.

After someone donates a bike, Schwaller checks to make sure it isn’t too damaged. He’ll often fix flat tires or make mechanical adjustments. If it’s too far gone, he’ll use its parts on other bikes.

Putting parts from different bikes together sometimes results in a multi-colored “Frankenbike,” he said. To Schwaller, those are the most interesting ones.

In addition to the annual giveaway, the Bozeman Bike Kitchen has programs that help people learn how to fix or build their own bikes. Volunteers can even earn a free bicycle if they put in enough hours.

The shop is operating by appointment only due to the pandemic. There’s a spot outside the shop for people to drop off donations.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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