RICHMOND — As spring turns to summer, the Richmond Police Department is gearing up for its annual Bike Rodeo.

For three hours on Sunday, children from across Richmond will be able to show off their riding skills, get their bikes tuned up and have a shot at bringing home a new bicycle. 

This Bike Rodeo teaches kids bicycle safety, safe operation, the rules of the road, and the importance of maintaining bicycles in good repair, but it also has another purpose.

“The Bike Rodeo allows the police department to have interactions with the community and families, showing that we are just like other people,” Richmond police Chief James Donnell said.

The event is made possible entirely by donations from organizations and the work of volunteers, including staff from the Richmond Police and Fire departments, as well as people like Sam and Jeff Moore, who cook for the event and provide refreshments, and Mark Wheeler.

Wheeler, who works part-time at Bath Cycle & Ski in Woolwich, has volunteered his time over the past several years to check all the bikes and ensure they are safe to ride.


“I was called because I can fix bikes, but I’m not an expert. I help to make sure the bikes are safe for the kids to ride,” Wheeler said.

RICHMOND, ME – MAY 29: Richmond Police Chief James Donnell demonstrates the Òweb shooterÓ on a Spiderman childrenÕs bike seen Wednesday May 29, 2024 at Richmond Police Department. When one flips the blue switch on handlebars, a red web drops down. (Staff photo by Joe Phelan/Staff Photographer) Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

While Wheeler tunes up the bikes, he also checks the air pressure in the tires and inspects the chains and brakes. These are the most common repairs, and they are what parents should keep an eye on. He recommends annual checkups to make sure bikes are in good repair. 

Generally, Wheeler repairs about 25 bikes a year, depending on how many kids turn out. Most bring their own bikes, many of which have never been tuned up before. According to Wheeler, annual maintenance is important to ride a bike safely. 

Just as important as the tuneups are the skills tests. The parking lot behind the police station at 26 Gardiner St. becomes a riding course, consisting of a rotary, stop signs, crosswalks, wood boards that act as speed bumps, and a radar speed trailer so the kids can see how fast they are going. 

“They learn skills going through the course, but they also learn the importance of helmets and upkeep,” Wheeler said. He notes that there is a lot to learn to ride safely, like riding with traffic, using hand signals, and not hesitating to get off the bike and walk across the street at crosswalks. 

The Bike Rodeo has been instrumental in teaching some children to ride bikes and making others more confident in their abilities.


Richmond police Chief James Donnell stands with some of the bikes that will be given away during Sunday’s bike rodeo. The event teaches kids to ride safely and is a chance to get a free tune up. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Kids who can barely ride show up, we teach them in the course,” Donnell said, “and they ride through it about 40 to 50 times. We not only see kids riding bikes after they were not able to, but they are also applying the rules they learned on the course.”

In some instances, he said, kids who arrive with training wheels have them removed so they can ride faster on the course.  

The Bike Rodeo is capped off with a raffle of the donated bicycles. Each child is given a raffle ticket, and they can drop it into the bags hanging on the handlebars of whatever bikes they like. Donnell said every child went home with a bike last year.  

Donations for the event include bike helmets to ensure young riders have an appropriately sized helmet.

“Throughout the year, we track down kids who may not have helmets and give them spares we have left over from the Bike Rodeo,” Donnell said.  

So far this year, the police department has received 20 bikes and is currently still taking donations. Money is also donated, which is either used to buy more bikes or put toward any supplies needed for the event.

Along with the bike course, there will also be a bounce house and the Darling’s Ice Cream for a Cause truck. The Richmond Fire Department will hold equipment demonstrations. A Maine State Police truck will be on hand and a Sagadahoc County Dispatch table will show 911 operations.  

The Bike Rodeo will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday in the Richmond Police Department parking lot.

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