CLINTON – Nearly every inch of Frank Riddick’s workshop is covered in bicycles. Every color. Every brand. Every size.
Hundreds of them lean on kickstands or hang from rafters. And dozens that have been carefully refurbished have been loaded onto a trailer, ready to be delivered to needy children whose parents simply can’t stretch their money far enough to go buy one.
It’s the toothy grins of these children and their shrieks of sheer delight when they get free bikes that keep the 78-year-old Southern Baptist motivated. He has been gathering used bicycles, making needed repairs, adorning them with “Jesus Loves You” license plates, and giving them away for nearly two decades.
“I didn’t have a bike growing up,” Riddick said, a serious tone reflecting the void he had felt as a child. “Because of that, I don’t want any child who wants a bicycle to be without one.”
Riddick, known among children in government housing projects across Kentucky and beyond as “The Bike Man,” has quietly pursued his mission from the tiny western Kentucky town of Clinton since he retired from farming in 1997. As a Christian ministry, the bicycles have been the catalyst that has allowed Riddick to share the gospel with multitudes of kids.
“He’s an example of the impact Southern Baptists have in communities all over Kentucky, across the U.S., and around the world,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention. “Our men and women are working behind the scenes in every community, town and city, loving their neighbors. And the world is a better place because of it.”
Riddick’s refurbished bikes, which typically are given to Kentucky children, have on occasion been shipped as far away as Africa. One shipment went to missionaries who needed them to ride from village to village in Ghana. Others have gone to central Appalachia, one of the poorest regions of the U.S.
Kevin Clark, pastor of First Baptist Church in Clinton, describes Riddick as “a hardworking, humble man” who is “passionate about that bike ministry like you wouldn’t believe.” Clark said Riddick lets every child know they’re getting a bike because God loves them.
Riddick hasn’t kept count of the bikes he’s given away, though he’s certain they number in the thousands.
“We don’t just wait for the children to come and get a bike,” he said. “We go to where they are. The Bible tells us to go. And, if we didn’t go, the really poor kids would never get one.”
Riddick’s wife, Glenda, thumbs through a scrapbook filled with photos of grinning kids sitting atop bikes. Thank you notes, obviously penned by kids just learning to write, are displayed like treasures.
“We have been blessed more than the children have,” Glenda said. “There’s no greater joy than to give a bike to a kid.”
Riddick said collecting bicycles to give away hasn’t been difficult. “If you let people know you give bikes away, you’ll get bikes. I get so many. If I didn’t give so many away, they’d pile up here.”
One of his top providers is a salvage company that pulls bikes aside. Sometimes, they need new tires or tubes or a simple sprocket chain repair. Sometimes, they call for tape on torn seats. Sometimes they simply need a good scrubbing.
Riddick said God used his childhood yearning for a bicycle to start the ministry and to continue it into his senior years. He encourages others not to use age as an excuse for not serving the Lord.
“If these people sitting at home bored to death knew what a joy this is, they’d be doing it,” he said.