Pastime comes with purpose

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July 3, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Bill Asher, 77, has a goal in his retirement — to stay busy and reach 101.
The first is easy. And he thinks it may help with the latter.
When he reaches 101, Bill and wife Diana will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, an event for which Bill is eager.
He worked full time until a little over a year ago, when fluid near a hip joint ended his mowing career for Iola after three weeks, and since then Bill has turned his attention to reconditioning bicycles. Close to 100 have rolled out of his shop, Bill estimated late Wednesday morning.
For a while he gave bicycles away and still does if it’s obvious someone stopping by the Ashers’ well-kept place south of Iola, 1065 1400 St., is in need.
When the Register reported about a homeless couple a while back, Bill dropped by a bicycle for the man to ride to work.
“I’m happy to help out when I can,” Bill said, although he allowed the cost of parts to put bicycles back in good running order can get expensive. He charges just enough — bikes ready to roll are priced from $20 and up — to recover what he spends, occasionally including a smidgen for labor and gasoline since he often has to drive to bike shops in Coffeyville or Pittsburg to get specific parts.
Even locally parts don’t come on the cheap, with a seat costing $20 or more, a cable set $35 and tires $25.
“I try to find used parts,” from bikes that aren’t worth repairing, Bill said.
Today he has six bicycles sitting outside his shop waiting for someone to stop by.
While time to time he may buy an old bicycle, most are given to him by someone who has neither the time or expertise to make repairs.
“Diana knows just about everyone in town and every once in a while someone will mention to her a bicycle that no one wants,” he said, with it ending up in his shop.
Currently he is working on three bicycles, including one for a woman who wants the handle bars made wider.
“You can’t bend them,” Bill said, “but I’ll figure out something.”
He also took a correspondence course in small engine repair and does accept a few push mowers for repair, but fixing up bicycles is his favorite avocation.
“You have to know what you’re doing” and he feels more comfortable with bicycles. “I sure don’t know everything there is to know,” and if he needs advice Bill isn’t reluctant to talk to someone with more experience.

WHILE HIS part-time bike repair business meets a need, it also provides an opportunity for Bill to keep busy.
“I’ve always thought it was good to stay busy, and I’d go back to work today if something came up I wanted to do,” he said. “I can’t stand sitting around. “
Bill has worked full time since his teenage years. He spent about 50 years in printing, including three years in the Register’s back shop. More recently he worked for Gates Manufacturing and nine years for Allen County at its quarry before retiring at age 76.
“People used to ask why I didn’t retire sooner,” Bill said. “I just like to work.”
Thrive Allen County has explored establishing a bike repair shop in Iola, partly to support bicyclists using the Southwind Rail Trail, between here and Humboldt, and Prairie Spirit Trail running north to Ottawa.
“I have volunteered some for David (Toland, Thrive director) at the old theater and I’ve talked to him about a bike repair shop. I’d love a chance to work with it,” he said.
Toland was out of pocket this week, but at last conversation he said a bike repair shop was still in the mix, though no definite plans are on the table.
Bill and Diana also are bike riders.
“We like to ride on the (Southwind) trail,” he said, “but we haven’t gone all the way to Humboldt yet. It’s really pretty and we enjoy being on it.”

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