I’ve got to admit it’s getting better. It’s a little better all the time.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. But involve me, and I’ll understand.
We were astonished by simplicity of this saying when it was first spotted during our visit to The Bristol Bike Project couple of years ago. It was there, on the wall, printed out across the numerous blank pieces of paper, staring at us constantly yet, ironically, remaining unnoticed.
We have followed the same principle through everything that we did in the last few years, unconsciously agreeing with its clear message. Every time the teaching or learning process occurs it is vital for the recipient to be alert and willing to take on the knowledge in question. When faced with a general verbal tuition the student tends to get distracted and simply bored of the material quite promptly. Although the verbal tuitions accompanied by the additional visual presentation significantly improve the contact and relationship between the student and the tutor it does not deliver any practical experience so valued and so necessary in the process of learning.
We realised that any kind of the tutor/student interaction improves the outcome of any TBC session. We get everyone involved- when working with our members we ensure that we use the industry terminology: we talk about dérailleurs not ‘the gear things’, we talk about cranksets not ‘the pedal thingies’ and so on. Children as little as 6 years old have visited our project and while learning with their parents they promptly picked up the terminology otherwise never used in front of them. The number of 11 years old that worked on their bikes with us told us that the barrel adjusters were sticky on their brake levers- something that would be quite difficult to explain using the same wording to their unaware parents. This is simply proving that when faced with the demand to be in the know our members step upto the challenge and learn much quicker and much more than they would during the standard tuition lessons. We always involve our members in our lessons- they work at their own pace in their own comfort zone as they are using their own bicycle as an experimenting tool and are surrounded by like-minded and like-aged people. This proves to be an extremely effective way of sharing knowledge- regardless of age, sex, background, etc.
Give us a shout if you would like to try this out- you will be surprised how much you did not know about your bike; and how much you can learn in a really short time!
We are surrounded by means of transport that rely on perishable resources. One who needs to travel needs to exchange their resources to obtain the means of travel. In plain English it is money that you pay for travelling by means of transport destined to collapse upon the oil reserves drying out.
You see a bicycle is different. It gives you the only chance to be independent and as transport savy as one can get. It also does not leave you addicted to consumable resources that you cannot replace. It gets you mobile regardless of the political or economical state of affairs. It also gets you smiling and keeps you physically active and fit. When the bad times come you can turn the broken/malfunctioned/faulty bicycle into a smoothly running machine using only handfull of tools and a bit of maintenance knowledge. When the bicycle gives in entirely you can find places that will accept it as a donation and refurbish it to pass it onto the next lucky owner; just like we do.
You see a bicycle is different. Ironically it brings people together despite the fact it is not a form of public transport. It gets people mobile and happy. It supports the transport and mindset revolution that is happening all around the world. You see a bicycle is different- it mobilises that revolution. Hop on your bike and be a part of the mobilised revolution.