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Olympia Nonprofit Group Refurbishing Bikes For Veterans

As Wesley Taylor explains it, a piece of his brain is dead.

He got injured in the Army, and while recovering at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, he noticed a group of veterans setting out for a morning ride each day. Taylor decided he wanted to give it a try, and started out on a reclined bike made to accommodate disabilities.

But the desire for speed motivated him to overcome balance problems left over from his injury.

“And I eventually worked myself up into an upright bike, and I'm starting to race a little bit now, too,” he said.

Last summer, Taylor received a bicycle from Vetbikes, an Olympia-based nonprofit. It wasn’t just any bike, but a racing bike custom-built to carry his large frame on carbon fiber wheels.

Vetbikes vice president Alex Young and a team of volunteers take donated bikes and refurbish them for veterans — some who need to commute to job training or classes, and others who are about to be medically discharged from active duty and want to get into racing.

“Thankfully, I think we're seeing fewer and fewer combat-wounded and combat-injured men and women," saidsYoung. "But what we are seeing is other wounds that stay with people for a long time, like PTSD. Biking is one thing that for some people has been a really positive experience. They're getting exersise, they're outside, and they've got a group of new friends who are supportive of a healthy lifestyle.”

Taylor, who was deployed twice in Iraq, is now studying software engineering at North Seattle Community College. He says racing has helped him to get over feelings of isolation and confusion.

“Everything that goes on in the day, it all goes away when race time comes along," Taylor said. "Everybody's in the peloton, and it's just amazing. It clears my head and it allows me to focus better ... it's a place for all my problems to go.”

In the past year and a half, Vetbikes has delivered about 125 bicycles to veterans. This spring, a new branch opened in Denver.