This story is part of "We Care Montclair," a special celebration of groups and individuals working to help the Montclair community. See more stories in the special "We Care Montclair" section inserted into the April 29 edition of Montclair Local.

for Montclair Local

“Bring a bike, take a bike, or both! It’s free!” said the flyer advertising Bnai Keshet’s first bike swap.

The sun shone brightly as over 40 people lined the sidewalk outside the temple at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 18, waiting to choose a prized bicycle. 

Despite rain during donation drop-off days on March 28 and April 16, residents donated more than 40 bicycles.

Montclair High School junior Tobias Fried, who has a passion for mountain biking and newly acquired repair skills from working at Montclair Bikery, organized the swap.

With help from friends, Fried looked over each donated bike. They inflated tires, cleaned frames, lubed chains, adjusted gear shifts, trued wheels and replaced handlebar grips and one rusty chain.

Fried said it was “sad” to see so many bikes out on bulk waste days.

As a congregant of Bnai Keshet, he thought the synagogue's parking lot would make a great hosting location. Rabbi Ariann Weitzman agreed. 

“They [temple members] put a lot of importance on being conscientious with the environment, and I think they do a fair amount there to try and be respectful to nature,” Fried said. 

He was also inspired by the ever-popular Montclair Swap. Started in 2006 by resident Jane Marcus, the free community-wide event is usually held three times a year at Hillside School. It collects and offers an array of donated items, including clothing, baby equipment and sports gear. 

In 2013, Marcus added bikes to the swap. Fried had helped her over the years.

But because it’s primarily held indoors, it’s been on pause during the pandemic. 

“In response, I figured that it would be sort of sad to let that tradition of the swap die,” Fried said. 

When he approached Marcus to get her input on a potential bike swap, Marcus was thrilled. She had been heartbroken, she said, to put the swaps on pause, although she plans to resume them in the fall.

She gave Fried a few tips on running a swap and helped spread the word by emailing her list of friends, family and folks who have attended Montclair Swaps over the years. 

“He [Fried] was one of the many gracious volunteers who helped at the events, and I guess he caught the bug,” Marcus said.

Many of the attendees at Fried’s bike swap received word of it through Marcus’ email. Dana Hunter was one of them. 

Hunter, first in line on Sunday, had arrived three hours early. She hadn’t ridden a bike in years, she said, but was looking for an additional way to exercise. 

Bikes were offered on a first-come basis, and though the majority of bikes were child-sized, Hunter’s position in line gave her a good chance at finding what she needed.

“I’ve been walking and walking and walking,” she said, referring to her exercise routine. “This is perfect,” she said as she chose her bike.

Maya Arad, almost 7 years old, was also in line. She had recently outgrown her bike, and knew what she was looking for: “Well, I want a two-wheeler, pink, purple or red,” she said. “Maybe magenta or blue, a little bigger than my old bike, definitely with gears. I’m the only one in my family without gears.” 

Maya found a pink bike.

Ousmane Tooler of Newark was in line with his 8-year-old son, Nyabh. Although Nyabh owns a bike, it’s too big, and he hasn’t learned to ride yet. With everything shut down during the pandemic, finding a better-sized bike was difficult, Tooler said. 

So when his wife told him about the bike swap, they made sure to come a little early. Nyabh didn’t have any specific bikes in mind, but he hoped he might find a light green one. Instead, he went home with a multicolored bike.

Yosneloy Dominguez of Bloomfield, 17, found a vintage turquoise bike in good working condition except for a fender that rubbed against the back wheel. Fried worked with his friend and volunteer, Jim Sellers, to remove the fender.  

Dominguez planned to put a basket on the bicycle, which reminded her of bikes she has seen on Pinterest. She hopes that her dog will sit in the basket and ride around the park with her.

“We’ll see, because sometimes he gets scared of things,” she said.

Cinthya Guallpa and Cristian Munoz, with their two children, found bikes well-sized for them. 

“Mommy, I discovered something,” Allison Munoz said, pointing to the basket on her bike. They discussed how Princess, Allison’s teddy bear, could ride in the basket.

“This is such a nice initiative for the little ones, especially because they grow so fast,” Guallpa said. “When you want to get a decent bike they can be pretty costly.” 

Although he wished he had more adult-size bikes to offer, Fried was pleased with how the bike swap went.  

“It was pretty rewarding,” he said. “People were more happy about getting bikes than I expected.”