Everyone wants to belong, or be a part of something bigger than themselves…
This world is a strange place- as a pack animals we simply lost the skill of gathering and resolving issues using the advantage of numbers. We turn to solitarity in whatever we do these days- for reason unknown we are unable to join forces to resolve problems.
This is a picture that shows what The Bikes College does- we join forces, we resolve issues.
This is how 4 people cooperate closely to mend and repair a simple failure. This skill is highly valuable now- interacting and cooperating to find a solution to a problem:
‘…together we work harder…’
These are the very own words of one of them- and the average age between these four is 9 years old. Together it is easier to learn as it also is easier to teach.
We began our journey as a small project that is changing the lives of these who are simply responsible for our future; however unaware they might be. These young brains are the minds that will (and already are) shaping our future; these little minds are responsible for educating the next generations. We need to emphasise to them that it is important to be smart, to be imaginative, to be open-minded, to be sufficient, to be efficient, savy and cunning in whatever we do. We made it difficult to them, we have exploited resources and broken all the ancient rules. We took advantage of something that was set up for a number of generations and destroyed it in less than a century. And now our ignorance takes its toll on us.
We need to relearn the ancient art of cooperation- we promptly must join forces to ensure the future to remain as bright as we tend to paint it for ourselves. We are exploiting our youth, teaching them how to be ignorant and lazy, how to show no interest and to expect everything for nothing, how to take things for granted. And it must change. NOW!
Be a bigger person- teach a kid something new yourself. And do it now.
The remarkable thing is, we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day.
Charles R. Swindoll
It slowly got to the point when we are doing much more than we ever wanted. We not only fix, repair, swap, replace and give bikes. We also get everyone together and get things done.
The other day we had a lovely opportunity to help a couple of kids from a distant estate. Their parents had a few things that they offered to donate to The Bikes College and we accepted these; there was a few of old items of clothing we use as rags, there were a few toys that we gave away straight away… She also brought a couple of old toddlers’ bikes which we offered for free immediately.
We found the new owners within minutes; Benjamin seems quite amused. Benjamin happened to be the youngest ever user of TBC- he just turned 2. He likes Buzz Lightyear and his new wheels will get him rolling now…
It took literally a couple of hours to get the bicycles from one person to another. It is amazing how things like these do not really happen on a daily basis. It is extremely strange that we, as pack animals, do not communicate anymore. We do not talk enough to maintain a basic interpersonal interaction. We are unable to use our own prowess to our own advantage.
You see it feels great to posses all these powers- the powers to change the world starting form our own back yard. Step by step we have the ability to turn things around and ensure that the world is a better place. And just like everyone else…
Many activities and team play participation will give you a training that will prove invaluable later on in life.
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.
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…
Here 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?
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.
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.
A teacher affects eternity as he can never tell where his influence stops.
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.
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.
J. learns how to mend his inner tube
J. teaches his own sister A. how to mend her puncture next day
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…
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.
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…
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.
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 do our stuff all the time. Daily chores, bikes in bikes out. We rely heavily on word of mouth and recommendations. We pride ourselves in what we do as we do it on a small and local scale- we start locally to change the world globally.
But recently it occurred to us that we could do with some serious advertising so we can grow bigger and better; that is beyond the workshop expansion. We realised that people are asking about us and they want to know more. And instead of telling them to contact us on Facebook or Twitter or even WordPress we could simply give them our business card. So we ventured out and got some beauties printed…
We have already given out quite a few and we will carry on handing them out like there is no tomorrow…
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!