by Aaron Burns

HUNTERSVILLE – Edward Winter has loved bicycles for as long as the 75-year-old Huntersville resident can remember.

Whether riding or repairing them, bikes are Winter’s passion. But he’s never made a major impact on peoples’ lives with the two-wheeled vehicles until this year.

Winter repaired and donated three bicycles to Sandy Tilley and the Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen in Huntersville last year. He’ll give out more than 90 bikes to the kitchen on Dec. 24. All will go to underprivileged children.

“Ed has done an outstanding job with our bicycle program this year,” Tilley said. “We are very grateful for his diligence and hard work to provide that special gift to our neighbors in need.”

Winter said the response his donations received last year motivated him to ramp up the job this time around.

“There was a little guy who was standing next to one of the bikes (last year), and he asked, ‘Are you giving these bikes away?’” Winter said. “Sandy told him they were, and he just lit up. Then he asked if his sister could have one. That’s when I knew I had to do more.”

They’re strewn all over his property off Dogwood Lane: in his garage, his house and his shed. Brands including Schwinn, Raleigh, Murray and Roadmaster populate Winter’s collection, which he said continues to grow. Winter finished renovating his 84th bike in early December.

“My biggest supplier has been Spirited Cyclists of Huntersville,” Winter said. “They gave 14 bikes. Most of the people who have donated gave 1-3. As long as they can be fixed, I’ll fix them. I was in a truck-selling business for 48-50 years. I can’t play a musical instrument, but give me a wrench and see what I can do.”

It takes Winter between two and four hours to restore a bike to proper working order. This holiday season, Winter is adding other items to his giveaways.

When Winter drove to Statesville to pick up a couple of donations, he found out the donor had more to offer. She had worked for NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. for years and had some extra memorabilia.

“So this year, we’ll have a bunch of shirts, hats and posters of Dale Jr. to give out, as well,” he said. “That was a pleasant surprise.”

Winter will continue to renovate bikes as his health allows, he said, noting that he keeps up a steady biking habit of his own. Winter pedals a 40-year-old Raleigh that he bought brand-new for a race in Rochester, N.Y. He won it on his first try.

That win doesn’t compare, however, to the satisfaction Winter gets when he is using the two 13-foot trailers to donate the renovated bicycles.

“I can’t wait for Christmas Eve,” Winter said. “It’s going to be great.”