SANTA ANA, Calif. — Bicycle parts crowd out all but the washer and dryer and Christmas ornaments packed on a few shelves in Randy Kiefer’s garage.Overhead, dozens of tires and tire tubes — tied together in bunches by size, 26- and 27-inch — hang like long, skinny pieces of black rubbery fruit. Bicycle forks straddle a narrow beam. Frames are tucked up in the rafters; rims hooked to the walls. Smaller parts fill crates, bins and tackle boxes — drive chains, crank arms, derailleurs, hubs, spokes, lugs, clamps, bolts, spacers, washers…
Need cable for a mountain bike or a road bike, for brake levers or shifters? Kiefer has miles of it. Spokes? He figures there’s about 50 pounds worth.
"It’s a lot of parts," Kiefer admits, leaving the overturned bike in front of him to dig around for a skewer, a quick-release device that secures wheel to frame.
All of it, with the exception of one bin packed with new tire tubes, has been salvaged from places Kiefer says aren’t usually top of mind when looking for bicycle parts.
"A lot of Dumpster diving."
Kiefer, with help from friends, pieces together bicycles from secondhand frames and parts just to give them away.
What started from scratch at Keifer’s Irvine, Calif., home ended up in the hands of needy strangers after the 50-mile Rosarito to Ensenada Bike Ride. It’s a movable fiesta down Mexico’s Highway 1 that attracts thousands of riders from all over the world.
Kiefer calls his garage headquarters for the "OC/LB Bike Liberation Front." That’s where he and friend Zack Menke of Long Beach are building eight bikes that they and six friends were riding last weekend.
"We try to live it as much as we can," Kiefer says of the moniker. "Give stuff away and re-use it."
Ever since he began doing the biannual ride in 2001, Kiefer, 63, has donated his bike to someone at the end. That first year, it was as simple as Kiefer and riding partner Hank Williamson spotting two teenagers at the finish and saying to them, "Hey, you want our bikes?"
The teens didn’t speak any English, but they got the idea.
Now the bikes are distributed through Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, a relief agency in Mexico for single moms and poor families. Known as the One-Way Ride, the charity is a ride within the ride for cyclists who ask nothing more than a ride back up the highway in return for giving their bikes away.
The One-Way riders do get certificates. Kiefer has one stuck on a bulletin board in his garage, right above where a growler-size bottle of India Pale Ale sits on the work bench. It’s a hot afternoon, weeks before the ride, and Kiefer and Menke are spending a few hours wrenching a couple of bikes into shape.
It’s not hard work, but it can be frustrating, says a barefoot Kiefer, who learned to work on bikes in his youth and is known by kids in the neighborhood as the go-to guy when their wheels need fixing.
Menke, 48, is an electrician by trade and didn’t really start working on bicycles until he met Kiefer seven years ago. He says it could take him two hours to do what his friend accomplishes in half that time.
Fiddling with finicky bike parts -- not to mention trying to find the right one you need -- is something that takes a bit of enjoying to stick with, says Kiefer, who is retired from a job dealing with military base closures.
Part of the enjoyment is the beer and snacks he’s put out for himself and Menke -- olives, cheese, strawberries, flat bread, and tomatoes from his garden. They munch with fingers black from bike grease, preferring to do the work with their bare hands, only occasionally picking up a wrench.
Says Menke, dressed in a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops: "It’s a guys’ good time."
That includes the Dumpster diving, side trips Kiefer makes while out on early morning runs. Kiefer figures he’s pulled about 10 frames along with other parts from the trash bin behind a bike shop near his house.
But lately the haul isn’t as plentiful.
"They’ve kind of caught on to it, and changed their ways," Keifer says, explaining how the shopkeepers started cutting and sawing discarded tires and frames to make them unusable.
Kiefer understands the sabotage. "They’re in business and I’m looking for free stuff. The two don’t mix."
Besides, he still manages to fish out usable tubes and tires. The shop is more than willing to toss out cables, he says, adding: "because who pulls cables out?"
Only one person he knows: "I do."
Other parts are found pitched with the trash in front of people’s homes around Orange County and Long Beach, Calif., or discarded alongside the road.
"You see a bike chained against a pole for months and it’s all rusting," Menke says, "it’s just a frame, already stripped …"
Kiefer finishes the sentence for him: "You liberate it."
Why not just give away a new bike?
"Part of the deal is fixing them and spending time together," Kiefer says. "We feel pretty good about it."
Kiefer likes to leave the day before the ride, pedaling south from Irvine on his rebuilt bike. He and Menke left at 4:30 a.m. Friday and were in San Diego about five hours later, munching on burritos before heading to Puerto Nuevo, where the Rosarito Ensenada Bike Ride begins on Saturday.
The ride itself is a fairly easy trip, pretty much downhill except for one 800-foot climb that stretches over two miles. Riders decorate their bikes or don costumes, toss candy to spectators, and stop for beer at one of the numerous bars along the way.
Kiefer also stops at an orphanage near the end to drop off tennis balls, trinkets, and toothbrushes and toothpaste donated by his dentist -- to counteract all that candy, he says. Then he fills the emptied bag with beer for the celebration at the end.
Kiefer wishes more people he knows would join the One-Way Ride effort. Some folks give him their used bicycles, but don’t do the ride in Mexico.
"Usually the people I ride with are riding $3,000 to $5,000 bikes," he says of the cyclists he knows from clubs in Orange County, Calif.
"It takes a certain person to want to ride an old bike and give it away."