AMBUCS Bike Builder Turns Wishes Into Wheels


(Savannah) AMBUCS provides bikes and trikes to kids and adults who can’t ride traditional bicycles and AMBUCS picks up the tab. The man who builds them has been doing it for years. Riders get the bikes and trikes for free, but each one actually costs around $750 dollars- each custom fit to the rider and their specific needs. Team WSAV is proud to once again be part of the Celebrity Bowlapalooza campaign. For the last ten years, The Bicycle Link on Victory Drive has been the assembly headquarters for AMBUCS. John Skiljan is the owner and chief AMBUCS bike builder in Savannah. We wondered how many bikes and trikes he’s built over the last decade. “Honestly, I don’t know. I figure we build at least fifty a year,” said Skiljan. That means at least 500 specialized bikes and trikes have rolled out of his shop and into the lives of children and adults with mobility challenges. Skiljan builds many that do not use leg-power. “We build hand-cycles, pedaling only with their hands. So it’s a wide variety of disabilities that we can cover and take care of.”

The wide variety of configurations available is thanks to AMTRYKES, the non-profit partner with AMBUCS, providing specialty bikes and trikes to overcome challenges to riding a traditional bicycle. “The bike comes in a box. I assemble it…and then fit it to the child. I don’t have to weld things and build wheels. It’s just assembling the parts they send us,” said Skiljan. He then puts it together and makes individual adjustments for each rider. He says he revives his first assembly with each assembly. ” It’s joyful. It’s wonderful. It brings tears to your eyes. You see a young man or a young lady, that’s really not had an opportunity to ride because of issues that they don’t have any control over and all of a sudden, they’re on the bike riding around our parking lot on a trike.”

Recently that experience hit closer to home for Skiljan, after assembling an AMTRYE for the daughter of a couple who attends his church. “And to watch Layla on her trike just brought tears to my eyes. It’s just…it’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s rewarding too! Absolutely a very worthy cause,” said Skiljan. Each bike or trike takes about two hours to assemble, not including the time it takes for individual rider adjustments. Skiljan says when he sees the confidence and sense of independence each rider gets when they hop on, it is worth every second. “One of the things that we like to do is positively change people’s lives with bicycles, and so this was a way for us to give back to the community and just have great impact on young people’s lives through three-wheeled pedaled vehicles.”

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