Stop nodding

consider, council, free, recycle, repair, social

Nothing strengthens the authority so much as silence.

Leonardo da Vinci 

It is extremely difficult to explain certain things to the people who really are not trained; nor prepared for this matter; to use their common sense and a genuine reasoning.

You see it is difficult to realise a potential that lays behind a change. Behavioural, social and economic change never came without effort, sweat and tears. We had an amazing privilege of dealing with the number of authorities in and beyond Leeds; some of them initially extremely eager to help. But what really is a pattern is the general apathy of any services that are simply responsible for a well being of Leeds’ residents.

Take Leeds City Council for starters. Amazed by the fact that someone can actually do what we do and do it for free. As soon there is free involved everyone jumps on the bandwagon, eager to support, keen to mention and willing to plaster the numerous publications with your name. When you wish any additional support requiring someone to do anything apart from smiling and nodding the problems start.

Take the local charities for seconds. Amazed by the fact that we wished to be a part of their summer program; free was the keyword again. Numerous emails later no response, project coordinators ignoring our emails, absolutely no contact. Needless to say that the charity in question is heavily supported by the Leeds City Council.

Take local councillors for laters. Supporting our cause with smiles and nodding (see the pattern there?). Promising contacts and to spread the word. Admiring the project and even visiting us when we were a part of a local community centre fun day. No response to specific requests or applications. Quite frankly working for the Leeds City Council.

Leeds City Council proved to be absolutely useless in whatever they promised. All but one departments (thanks for your visit Janice) we had a chance to deal with were simply a bunch of ignorants unable to connect with anything past the edge of their desks. A local representative who used to pay an extremely regular visits ceased his will to come by and ask about issues. He avoids our door on his ’rounds’. The local housing office is simply uninterested in any of the local issues. The regional office is simply oblivious to any real life issues. Shameful to be perfectly honest.

And then you have a local, small projects that simply care. The previously supporting us Derbyshire local councillors, the currently supporting us local TARA Moorside community centre, the local families supporting us daily, food and clothing projects donating, schools enquiring, further afield charities sending donations, local projects supporting and cooperating and even the Leeds based waste tips lending a helping hand. Leeds City Council still demanding us to jump through their set unrealistically high hoops…

But the children of Leeds are riding our bikes. And that what really makes the change. Thanks everyone!

Louder than words

did you know, free, inspiration, recycle, repair, social

Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.

Dr. Seuss

Leeds is such a big place. It is mentioned as a capital of the North on numerous occasions. With every great story comes an untold tale of things that often get omitted by the mainstream media: the social isolation, the lack of access to alternative transport, transport dependence, etc.

On Saturday 28th June we had a pleasure to be a part of a Swinnow Family Fun Day where we set up our tent and provided bicycle check up service for anyone who felt their bike needed some TLC. The turn out was amazing and we are glad to announce that we serviced almost a dozen of bikes, we replaced a couple of cables, adjusted a few brakes, discussed the tyre pressure on a few occasions and even explained the basic physics behind the bearings once. We discovered exactly the same problems occur wherever we go- the bikes are neglected, the brakes are too spongy, tyres are bold, the bottom brackets are loose… What we are currently discussing with our constantly growing list of friends are opportunities to deliver our services to the wider audience- we want to teach everyone how to look after their bikes.

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What we also did during this amazing day was raffling the donated Kona Hahanna. It was won by Louise from Leeds who bought a lucky pink 38 ticket.

This is how we respond to all these untold stories- this is the only way we can address the issues we mentioned. By actions. Nothing else.

You are a tool too

consider, free, friends, help, inspiration, recycle, repair, social

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…

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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…

You are a tool.

To change the world!

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.

Pay back what you never owed

friends, help, inspiration, share, social

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!

We get bigger

eco, friends, help, inspiration, recycle

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!