STOCKTON — Steve Snyder has been repairing vehicles most of his life — first it was the four-wheel type and now it’s those with two and even three wheels.
“I fix anything I can get ahold of,” Snyder said.
Snyder lived in Denver, and worked as an auto mechanic for more than 40 years until his retirement five years ago.
“I had my own shop and was getting tired of all the government rules and regulations and government agencies with their fingers in the pie.”
On days off he and his wife, Connie, “traveled around until we found a place we wanted to move to.”
They found Stockton.
“Denver changed. It used to be a friendly town. Now it’s too many people in too big a hurry, and nobody’s happy. I came here to be happy again. I like it here.”
The bicycle repair shop in his garage started out with an old rusted bike he was going to fix for himself.
Then a Plainville bicycle shop had stuff “just sitting around rusting,” so Snyder bought its inventory.
“I raced (bikes) a little bit when I was way back in high school, played with them a bit. Back then if you wanted a really good bike, you sent off to Italy or France, England. They shipped you a box of tubes and pipes, and you (put) them together and fit them and made your own bike.”
His shop is filled with bikes in varying stages of repair and wheels and tires hanging from the ceiling.
Some bikes, such as the two that came from the bike shop, are for sale. He freshened them up so they look like new without the new price.
“It’s a hobby. I didn’t really expect it to be quite what it is.
“Somebody finds out that you fix bikes, and they ask you to fix one.”
That’s what happened with the tricycle he’s repairing for Mary Strutt.
“It was kind of a rusted-up mess, and I took it all apart. Whoever put it together was quite ingenious.”
It started out as one of those paper route specials that Schwinn made specifically for kids to run bicycle routes on, he said.
“Somebody cut the back end off and welded a few bars here and there and made a trike out of it.”
It has a three-speed transmission and a coaster brake with part of an old wheelchair added to the back. Snyder painted it an automotive metallic blue.
“My wife saw it, and wants one like it,” Snyder said.
They live at the top of a hill, so hers will have to be a 10-speed.
The time spent on each project varies.
A small girl’s bike he plans to repair and paint pink with gray trim probably will take four or five hours of work.
Strutt’s trike, which will include a basket and water bottle holder, will take a little longer.
It’s time-consuming, but with some elbow grease and steel wool, usually the tire rims can be polished to look like new.
Those that don’t take a shine get sandblasted and painted.
Some parts such as fenders are hard to find.
“Bearings are pretty universal. That and chains usually are replaced,” Snyder said.
Tires used to be inexpensive, but prices have increased.
The only bike he bought to repair is an Italian racing bike for which he paid $20.
His business is strictly word of mouth.
Most of the bikes “just show up. Everybody just says take it to Steve.”
Recently he picked up an old car to tinker with, and is remodeling his house, as well.
When the weather is warm, he usually spends mornings in the shop, and jumps in the swimming pool to cool off before going inside. He can be found there any time of day during the winter.
He distributes flyers in the spring, and sells the bikes for a nominal price at the citywide garage sale.
“I don’t make a lot of money on it. It’s just something to keep me busy. It’s fun for me.”