Happy birthday.

birthday, business, cheap, did you know, friends, help, recycle, repair

It is not going to work.

Everyone

We could bore you with endless statistics. We could then proceed with some numbers and facts. And then possibly some case studies. We could follow it with an endless list of people and projects we helped. Or just quote the feedback we received. We could complain about the long hours. Or shout about the impact we have made on some folk’s lives. But we will not…

David woke up one day with a dream; call it a vision. A dream that not many understood and certainly not many believed in. He then persevered to make it come true. The Bikes College has started on that day; a small idea that took over David’s life. He has heard it all: ‘it is not going to work‘ followed by ‘are you mad‘ and often accompanied by ‘are you kidding me‘… Now to save you from a lot of jargon and boring detail let us fast forward to April 2017. Today is the 1st anniversary of the TBC shop opening on Copley Hill in Leeds. It has been 12 months which is 52 weeks which is 365 days which is 8760 hours of David’s life committed to something that according to many others had no chance of existing. This is history; still in making.

We have turned over almost 2000 bikes. Yes that is two thousand bikes since we opened our doors; that is on average 39 bicycles every week. We sold some to ensure that we can do what we do with absolutely no financial support from anyone- we still do not receive funding, we still do not ask for grants, we still do not rely on donations. We dismantled some of the above to ensure that our spare parts room is full of shiny bits to make your bikes run smooth. We gave some to different projects in Leeds and beyond to ensure that they can do even more. We also gave some away to ensure that anyone can get a bike without the need to ask for one should they feel no need to do so. And every time we created non salvageable ferrous waste we gave it away to the local small businesses free of charge to ensure that our rubbish can become someone else’s treasure. That is how we started after all…

The journey that you have witnessed is just a beginning and we will grow bigger and bigger; we promise! But we recognise and appreciate some help and support without which David’s dream would have never materialised. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Amelia D.- thank you for joining TBC and thank you for reminding David what is important at the most crucial moments
  • Janice F.- thank your for this life changing chat and a cup of Earl Grey in the middle of Bramley a few years ago, and for bringing Ed W. too
  • Ed W.- thank you for bringing ideas together and brain storming them to explain the bigger picture
  • Kev and Sylvie- thank you for the inspiration and the positive vibes that transformed some dark energy into something so powerful that it still surprises David even after all these years
  • everyone at The Bristol Bike Project- we salute you guys for you have laid the foundations for TBC
  • Nick from The Bristol Pedal Revolution- thank you for the endless chitchat and the wacky ideas
  • Harvey from The Bike Bunker- thank you for showing David what is important in life
  • the Leeds City Council- thank you for everything for without you guys this would have never flourished as much
  • Roger F.- thank you for your help and support, and for your invaluable advice
  • John P.- thank you for your help and support (and all these contacts you have)
  • The Pedallers’ Arms- thank you for opening a few doors that have led to the conception of TBC
  • Bike Mill- thank you for supporting the same cause and making Leeds the cycling capital of the North
  • Tom and  Edna M.- for pointing out how unique David’s idea was
  • Ruth D.- thank you for bringing ideas together and painting even bigger picture
  • Marek S.- for invaluable bespoke business advice
  • Raitis- thank you for keeping the fleet running
  • Conor W.- thank you for another point of view and invaluable advice
  • Pip B.- thank you for everything (period)

 

 

…this is just a beginning!

Please carry on stealing…

cheap, free, inspiration, share, theft

Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.

J. K. Rowling ‘Harry Potter and the Sourcerer’s Stone’

Dear thieves and dodgy individuals,

We, at The Bikes College, would like to officially thank you for your generous input into the lives of all the common folk. We salute you for robbing the kids of their bikes. We take our hats in front of you for stealing from the town and city centres. We bow in half in front of you for getting your greasy fingers on the hard worked for wheels of the working folk. We salute you. For you keep us busy. For you create the void that we can fill. For you deliver the overwhelming tragedy and heartbreaking discoveries. We salute you.

It is you that keep us busy.

Together we can do it better

business, cheap, eco, free, friends, help, learn, repair, share, social

Life is all about just being a good person and helping others.

Unknown

It never gets quiet here. We are constantly busy. If we are not building a bike we are repairing another; if we are done with mending we get busy with something else. But always to do with bikes; that is the way we do it.

We had an amazing opportunity to be a part of a local community centre’s fun day this weekend. We set up a small stall where we welcomed anyone from a fair amount of visitors to get their bikes checked for free; it is like a drop in Dr Bike station- you bring your patient and we do the magic to heal it in no time…

As a result of this amazing day we met a few people who we simply did not know existed; we spoke to local PCSO’s, local police officers, local councillors and a few others. Most importantly we spoke to a few local residents that simply were not aware of our existence despite living literally a stone’s throw from the famous The Bikes College shed. As a result we have given away plenty of leaflets and flyers, we have fixed a few bikes, we have had a few donations and we discussed and most importantly have commenced an amazing partnership. That partnership will create a space where anyone can come down and repair their bikes and learn how to do it for free; does it sound familiar? That is all we do here at TBC- we fix, mend, repair and teach how to do it too.

Starting from September there will be a bike repair space in Moorside TARA Community Centre, manned by TBC, fixing and teaching how to fix. We have finally secured the space that we were looking for for so long. It came as a surprise and we appreciate everyone involved in the birth of our ideal space.

Thank you Bev and Daniel- you are the ones who simply reached out and spotted an opportunity to support us. The most amazing thanks go to the number of others involved- you know who you are and we salute you!

The Bikes College is growing as ever. Let’s talk bikes.

‘…I want to ride my bicycle…’

cheap, consider, free, friends, help, inspiration, recycle, repair, safety, share

The average family earning minimum wage spends 141 percent of their income struggling to meet basic needs – food, shelter, clothing. 

Sherrod Brown

We met Labbonti today. He was a bit late but he said that he has had a busy night last night. We patiently listened to his story. He lived in Wales in a flat belonging to his sister. She passed away and he, unable to meet the financial expectations, had to leave. He came to Leeds a while a go and slept rough since. We met him today but we already met before too.

His person, especially the state of his bike, was brought to our attention by a message on our social media page. A random passer-by was touched and brought to tears by his bicycle. We browsed the area to meet him and arrange the meet up. When we met him his bike was indeed in a bit of a state…

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We talked to him and arranged for the weekend visit to make his ride ride again. His front wheel did not have a tyre on. Nor an inner tube. The brakes did not work, the brake pads were missing, gears did not work, cables and outers were broken. The bottom bracket and the headset were all over the place as well. The bike was a death trap.

Labbonti met us exactly where and when agreed. He came on his bike; you could hear him from the distance- the front rim making the metal grinding against the tarmac sound. We replaced the front wheel, put an inner tube on, put a tyre on, fixed his brakes, adjusted gears, replaced the outers and cables, tightened the bottom bracket, tightened the handlebars, tightened the saddle, tightened the seatpost… All this for a fist pump. And a massive smile.

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When he rode away we saw him grinning like a kid, swerving from one side to another, keeping his feet off the pedals… He enjoyed his bike. He acted like we all did at once- that day when we received a new bike- he enjoyed the ability to travel freely, the happiness, the wind in the hair…

You see this is the time when you give someone something more than a bicycle.

We gave him freedom…

In it all together?

cheap, did you know, eco, free, friends, help, inspiration, recycle, repair, share

Many activities and team play participation will give you a training that will prove invaluable later on in life.

Walter Annenberg

It is busy at The Bikes College. People are calling from as far as Yeadon to donate bikes. Kids need bikes in Pudsey. If we were honest it got slightly overwhelming lately…

But what never changed is the impact of what we do. And we do it everyday. We are also happy to expand our standard services. We swapped bikes with few people recently- they donate theirs and we give them something more suitable or simply what they fancied more. We did that with S. recently- he was desperate for a new bike; he was helping out with J. a lot lately and we promised to keep an eye out for him.

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So when S. appeared at our door one day with a half a bike to ‘build it’ we made a deal with him- he surrenders whatever he brought (too big, half of it missing, etc.) and we will get him a BMX; 3 days later here he is- with his brand new ride. After a prompt confirmation with his parents that it is all fine to exchange we got another smiling kid. On a bike…

IMG_20140530_154449hhhhhHhhHere is (from right) S., J. and their friend C. C. has heard about us from J. and S. and came around a few times to fix a few minor things on his bike. He is quite obviously too big for his bike and we agreed that when we have something for him we will swap with him too- C. will be back in a couple of days (he does not know yet).

 

They keep coming back. Bringing more friends that are willing to chat, to repair, to learn, to participate. You know- after all we are all in it together, right?

Too much for a few

cheap, consider, free, friends, recycle, repair, safety

Strive not to be a success but rather of a value.

Albert Einstein

We struggle to explain to the majority of people on our way that what we do is not for profit. Despite our soon-to-be legal structure we are not working like a standard company.

When the bikes are being given away we prepare them so they are safe to use. Our target audience are children aged 7-15yo and despite their lack of understanding of safety they do receive bicycles that are built, serviced and maintained to a standard considered as high even at the high street bike stores.

We were contacted by so many people recently- we still cannot believe how many good words were said about what we do. We met people from miles away driving to donate an unwanted bicycle to us (thank you Tom), we had people donating 3 bikes at a time (thank you David)… We attracted some attention and we are simply gob-smacked by the amount of good vibes sent our way. We realised that there must be something right about what we do as we get busier now. Day in day out we have local kids coming down with stuff to fix, tubes to patch up, wheels to pump up, bikes to mend and more. We get the same faces on a regular basis but they also bring friends; and they bring friends. And their friends.

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The Bikes College got as busy as never before and people know who we are and what we do. We also increased our turnover whilst still working as a voluntarily project- we do not get paid for what we do. We would like to be able to create few work spaces soon and we are working towards it but at this time we are still relying only on donations and handful of sales. We do sell approximately 15% of our bikes not for profit but to keep what we do as a free service to all. We repair punctures for free, that would normally cost you at least £5; we replace brake shoes for free, that would normally cost you £3 per set; we replace the old and rusty cables and outers, that would normally cost you £1 per cable. You see all that has to come from somewhere and without your kind donations and few sales these costs would have to be covered by you guys. We also swap bikes- you bring us yours we will give you ours- more suitable, better, bigger, etc. Next time you think we are are not doing enough go to the bike shop and try to buy an inner tube, get it fitted, pumped up, your tyre and rim checked up- for a smile and a handshake.

You see we do it for about that much. And sometimes not even that; for sometimes it is too much to ask for.

Ownership makes it personal

cheap, eco, free, friends, help, inspiration, learn, recycle, repair

Nobody washes a rental car.

Scott J. Simmerman Ph. D.

It takes a lot of bonding to create a possessive relationship known as ownership. The tears, the sweat, the tiredness and the workmanship are required to achieve the end product.

Repairing or building a bike is a great example. It is a process which takes time, commitment and then some more time and commitment. Through these two we learn that love/hate relationship with our own bicycle. We love it as it is like a child of our own- we grew it, we moulded it, we made it what it is. We hate is as it gave us headaches and sleepless nights, it made us bankrupt on numerous occasions and it also jeopardised the future of our relationships with friends, partners, family and the rest of the world… That demanding love/hate relationship creates something that  no money can buy; it is something that is possible to create using only time and attachment.

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It is a difficult task to create that kind of attachment amongst the youngsters these days. The process starts when you give them something that can care for; give the man a fish saying springs into our minds again. We give them a bike- refurbished and recycled mean of transport which they need to look after and cherish like their own. It never cost them anything but that is the reason why they appreciate it so much- it is a gift, not a purchase. They learn how to look after it, how to repair it, how it works and how to know when it fails.

The journey starts when a kid gets a bicycle from us. They come over and work with us to make it safe and ready to go. They set the brakes up, they set the gears up, they repair a puncture. That gives them time to appreciate what they initially received and to look after it. This is the beginning of a journey. Within few hours one can tell if the bike someone is working on will be appreciated…

They study; they learn; they build; they appreciate; they love.

What can you get for a smile?

cheap, free, friends, inspiration, recycle, repair, safety, social

No one has ever become poor by giving.

Anne Frank

As it occurs to us more and more often this very universal truth gets constantly omitted.

People do not believe anything is free anymore.

The Bikes College relies on free stuff at all times. We get the majority of our bicycles donated or given to us for free. We then have a look at them from a mechanical point of view; every bike is examined the same way. We ask ourselves if the bicycle is repairable; can we rebuild it or should we use it as a donor for parts and components so we can repair the others; can we give it away or should we charge a highly discounted price to fund the other parts we use on a daily basis. This process occurs everytime we get a bicycle in front of us. We sell approximately 15-20% of our bicycles to fund the remaining 80-85% that we simply give away for free or next to nothing.

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In about 75% of cases the average abandoned bicycle needs the same to be mended to be rideable again: faulty brakes, faulty gears, flat tyres, loose bottom bracket, loose headset or all combined. Where these repairs are quite easy to resolve for a qualified mechanic it might be a challenge to an average folks; a financial and mechanical challenge to be precise. Parts that are involved in a repair like the aforementioned are not expensive but they do all add up quickly- bottom bracket, full set of brake shoes and full set of cables and outers can come up to anything nearing £20 and above. For someone who can buy a bike from us for less than that it is a major expense. That is one of the reason why we give away bikes for free- we get them for free and we give them for free.


We appreciate the donations and we return the favour by simply supplying a safe and a fully functional bicycle to a local community, for free! We expect the smile and a thank you back; and we want to see the bike to be ridden and looked after. That is not too much to ask for, right?

Ghetto repairs series

cheap, learn, recycle, repair

…the cheaper you get it the cheaper it is…

A friend of TBC

Any issues or failures that occur on your bike can quite often be resolved with a set of simple tools. It is however quite difficult to replace the specific parts when they go wrong. It costs a lot at times and can be sometimes can be only done by a qualified mechanic/technician. That is why we introduced a ‘ghetto repair’ series at which we will discuss heavily discounted or free alternatives to some of the expensive parts/repairs.

We will start with, in our opinion, most useful yet the simplest advice we were given long time ago; it will save you plenty of time and will make your life much easier. It is a ‘how-to’ on stopping cables from fraying when storing them.

Bicycle gear/brake cables are one of the most used and/or replaced parts on your bike. They make it possible to translate the shifter/lever pull into the brake arm/dérailleur action. The y are made of the number of thin steel wires twisted together; they are strong and robust while remaining flexible. When they are being replaced some of them are in a good enough condition to be stored and reused where needed.

The problem with a used cable is that you most likely have cut the end of it to trim it to required length and secured with a crimp. When the cable gets removed you remove the crimp making the cut end exposed and quite easy to untangle.

Frayed

There are number of ways to store cables (flat, coiled, etc.) but none of them eradicates the need to protect the end of the cable. The best technique we discovered (so far anyway) is the use of the heat shrink that gets put on the end of the cable and heated up to snugly fit around the wires. The heat shrink will work on any cable, greasy or not, and will stay there forever.

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When the cable is needed you can simply snip the end of it or slide the heat shrink off the end and you are ready to go…

Have you got any ghetto repairs on your bike or in your workshop that save time, money, stress or all combined?