We hate free stuff

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I’ll do anything for free stuff.

Sandra Bullock

The Bikes College, since its very first day, was about turning waste and unwanted stuff into something that others can turn into a functional machinery. We get bicycles that feel and look pretty sorry for themselves and turn them into fully functional ‘vehicles’; ‘vehicles’ that power the people so they can go, think and act outside the box. To be free and to be mobile; as the human beings should be.

Number of people, projects and authorities got in touch since the article offering help on so many levels that we struggle to comprehend the extend of TBC’s impact. We got offered bikes, clothes, food, more bikes…

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We receive a lot of kind donations at The Bikes College so we are slowly giving it all away for free!

NB. the recent donation from TRJFP has brought a lot of smiles upto the project. Thank you guys!!!

Pay back what you never owed

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A great accomplishment should never be the end of the road; just a starting point for the next leap forward.

Harvey Mackay

This very rainy day we were featured in Yorkshire Evening Post following an interview with a columnist Neil Hudson. It made us very proud of what we do and we would like to thank everyone involved in The Bikes College.

tbc team

The article, available as an e-version online, has been an astonishing two pages long feature in YEP’s News Focus on page 6.

The article has had an amazing impact on our project already. We have numerous mentions all over the social media and the emails started flooding in. We had local authorities, more press, old friends, current friends, friends’ friends and plenty  more enquiring and sharing the story.

We would like to thank Neil Hudson, Tony Johnson and Simon Hulme for putting this story together. We also send our thanks to Leeds City Council Housing Office, Stonham, Barca LeedsSpeedy Leeds Deliveries Ltd and plenty others- you all know who you are guys. We would like to send our compliments to all our supporters- without you we would never be here!

We will continue to grow much faster now- we promise!

Rumour has it!

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You have reached the pinnacle of success as soon as you become uninterested in money, compliments or publicity.

Thomas Wolfe

Times are always difficult for projects like ours- the austerity measures all across the most important fields to spend more on trivialities- it gets difficult to keep up the good work and stay enthusiastic.

But what gets us going is the same that makes us smile everytime someone leaves the workshop with a grin on their face. That feeling of being appreciated for what we do- not why, not for how much, not who for- it is WHAT we do that gets us going. It delivers the same pleasure every time- it never fails to satisfy the internal need to help the others to get something vital in life- the freedom. The freedom to travel, the freedom to discover, the freedom to learn, the freedom to share, the freedom to teach, the freedom of being free.

What is extremely heart-warming is the fact that this very feeling of satisfaction and achievement upon completion is indeed very contagious. It emanates, it lingers around, it merges with good vibes and the friendly atmosphere. And it is infectious- it spreads faster that a common cold. And it goes beyond our small team, it goes further; it goes beyond the team of our users, it goes further; it goes beyond the boundaries of Bramley, it goes further than that too. It gets so strong and so contagious that people start talking about us- rumour has it that we are getting recognised for what we do. We are getting recognised by local authorities and media. The word about the team of passionate bike fixers spreads like a fever!

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We never suspected that what we do is so recognised. It fills us with pride that we can do this and we would like to thank everyone involved. We will not stop now- the future looks brighter than ever and we will grow bigger and stronger!

Behaviour breeds behaviour

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A teacher affects eternity as he can never tell where his influence stops.

Henry Adams

Remember J. from few days ago; J. who was taught by C. how to repair a puncture? He came back again with a friend of his. S. is 8 years old and he knows J. as they live closeby. This time again we sat back and let J. take initiative and deliver a quick tuition in puncture repairs.

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Initially we were keen to help all the way but shortly realised that J. is a comfortable leader. He took over immediately and explained to S. how to repair a puncture step by step.

TBC always encourages team work and learning together- be it big groups or just a couple of friends. We emphasise the need to work on solutions together, putting age barriers and any other differences aside, to deliver what is simply an astonishing result. It is extremely inspirational where we witness local kids learning one day and teaching what they learnt the day after. Meet J., 11 years old, who was struggling to repair his puncture just a couple of days ago and today he was teaching his own sister A. who is 6 years old. The impact of that kind of interactions, in a family or amongst friends or even strangers, is impossible to explain.

Kids, interacting at the basic social levels, learning and teaching at the same time, looking after each other and each others’ property, understanding the importance of teamwork and helping…

This is the message we want to spread. In Leeds to start with. And beyond…

What would you do with this gift?

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Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

Confucius

We give an astonishing number of bikes away for free. We get them refurbished to safe standards and simply seek kids in the area that need a bicycle. For numerous reasons there are plenty of children around Leeds (and beyond we believe) that simply do not have a bicycle.

A bicycle is a childhood related gift, an attachment to your childhood; when you think about your adolescence there is a bike somewhere, sometime there… You get a bicycle and it changes everything- you discover ‘distant’ lands, be a 4 miles away city centre or 1 mile away next estate. You discover and you travel, you become independent and the bike is responsible for it. It fills us up with a great sadness when people do not treat that privilege with all due respect.

When you get a gift of freedom it is an extreme selfishness to simply let it disappear; to contribute towards is even a greater sin.

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We realised that our gifts are sometimes simply abused and it gets us truly sad. It is an extremely heartbreaking experience; it gets us feeling regretful and low-spirited. We expect the kids we help to simply ride the bikes they have been given and to enjoy themselves; we do not want anyone taking us and our gifts for granted. It is truly a sorrowful happening.

Dear people of Leeds and beyond- this is to make you aware that there are people who care and who are passionate about these little gems you have been given- please look after them for this will make us as happy as we can get. Then we rest assured that what we do is a great cause and is indeed appreciated. Thank you.

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How to talk to strangers

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We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

It was a normal day at The Bikes College– sunny day, a few kids around with typical bike problems: few punctures, few dropped chains… One of the kids C. who has not been for a few days visited to get his hubs serviced and brakes set up. We worked with him for a couple of hours and we got his hubs much better than they have been for at least a couple of weeks. C. finished his hubs and set up his brakes and as he was getting ready to go J. came with a flat back tyre. We asked J. to wait up while getting a drink for all of us. C. mentioned he can help out if he can. We told J. that C. knows how to do the punctures now. What happened next was beyond our expectations…

 

C. jumped onto J.’s bike immediately. They had the back wheel off within seconds. We came out with the drinks and realised that we simply do not need to intervene- what was happening right in front of our very eyes was something we are trying to achieve with everyone who visits TBC- they worked together to resolve an issue with one of the bikes. C. and J. are the same age (12yo), they go to the same school, they live at the same estate however they never met before. They were working side by side and C. was teaching J. what to do, how to do it, what to use, what to avoid and so on.

 

We just sat back and watched them thriving in a new environment- and boy were they enjoying themselves…

Ownership makes it personal

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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.

We get bigger

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I’ve got to admit it’s getting better. It’s a little better all the time.

Paul McCartney

The way we work is quite unique and we tend to surprise few people when they ask what we do. We follow different guidelines, entirely abstract vision in often a very challenging sector. We are not exactly a company and we are not exactly a charity. We work towards a social enterprise status which effectively will give us  a non-for-profit status while allowing us to reinvest our surplus back into the community.

We would work exactly the same way as the majority of businesses in the UK but our mission and vision would focus on the community which we are a part of. And that would never be possible without growing and getting better and bigger. We need to expand, be it in the range of services or in the size of our workshop. And the latter has occurred this week- we expanded our workshop by creating an outdoor space where we can teach more people how to look after their bikes- we have built an extension decking.

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We have created a space when people can stay off the grass and work on a solid surface. We have turned the handrail into a bench where people can sit and watch the others while we carry out our tuitions.

We received the wood needed to build all this as a donation form a very generous gentleman from Morley. We used our good old friends Speedy Leeds Delivery to deliver it and topped it up with our own tools, hardware and time; within 8 hours we had built the best classroom we have seen. Ever. And anywhere.

If that does not get you keen onto coming down to be a part of the project then we give up!

What can you get for a smile?

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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?

Hands-on

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It is never too early to involve kids in giving back. And the more hands-on the experiences are, the better.

Soleil Moon Frye

 

That is what we are trying to do at TBC as much as we can. We support the hands-on experience as much as possible.

Take E., in her early teens, who got a bike from us recently for a fraction of its real price. 2 days in a row she had punctures. On the first day we repaired it for her while talking her through the basics of puncture repairs- we taught the theory so she understood it before showing her more. She was back the very next day with exactly the same problem. You would not guess what’s happened then…

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She understood the basics of punctures: the causes, the reasons, the tools needed, where to start, what to check for and what to expect. She is checking the tyre for stuck thorns and the potential damage to the tyre above.

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She was capable of using the tools and equipment herself to help out actively. Her hands-on attitude was astonishing. She knew how use a pump and what pressures to inflate the tyre to.

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She was keen to listen and follow instructions, willing to do the majority of the work herself. She has even remembered to release the vbrake noodle before taking the wheel off.

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We helped with as few tasks as possible, majority of which were too big or too complicated for her- we loosened the wheelnuts and re-tightened them for her.

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It took us approximately 20 minutes to resolve the issue entirely. Here she is putting the noodle back into its place once we were done. When we spoke about the experience we made E. aware that it is something she can do herself next time- with no supervision and with hardly any help. She even got a complimentary puncture repair kit.

We believe that no other ways would deliver the same result- we got E. involved, we supported her and watched her thriving when the trouble occurred.

This the way we do it here- this is The Bikes College’s way!