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.
The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.
It sometimes occurs to us suddenly that we have undertaken the most difficult job around. We are willing to make sure that kids surrounding us feel motivated to learn and to do things that noone has ever told them are possible. When one gets faced by a problem one faces a choice- a puzzling dilemma between the creativity and procrastination. We get surrounded by local kids on a regular basis- kids with simple problems with their bikes; there are punctures, worn tyres, broken brakes; there are boys, girls, children and kids.
There is one special kid, a boy aged 7, who managed to learn to ride his bike properly less than 2 years ago. He went on a long journey from a small bike with stabilisers to a geared mountain bicycle. And a BMX should he fancy a simpler ride. His name is Luka and he constantly stays around. He watches and he learns. He learns to ride every day. But what he learnt without us noticing is to watch and remember. A few days ago a couple of local teens came along; older than Luka and visiting us regularly too; they had a puncture.
Luka took initiative; he put whatever he has learnt to use immediately; he taught too; he explained and showed the techniques. He knew specific spanner size for the wheel nuts, he knew how to check for punctures and how to repair it. We realise that Luka was watching- he has taken notes and he has put to use all that he has learnt. He is constantly around. And he never stops learning.
My name is David and I am one of the co-founders of The Bikes College. Luka is my son.
…there is no such a thing like free…
We have had a busy time at The Bikes College in the last few weeks. We had a few interesting conversations that can lead to more good things- keep your eyes peeled so you can be upto date.
Some new faces appeared in our workshop; some old faces returned to our workshop. The bicycles are in and out of the workshop keeping us busy at all times. We also started teaching kids how to ride bicycles too. As you can tell we have been busy…
J. and S. have visited us recently too.
S.’s bike suddenly gave in and he simply needed a ride so we built this bike with him within a couple of hours so he can carry on riding. J. on the other hand has had a chance to get a new bike which went missing shortly after. It was also found within couple of days which is amazing. It appeared that people responsible for theft were not strangers either. Since then he invested in a good quality D-lock that we provided for approximately half of the high street price.
J. is one of these who pay attention; he learns and he is keen to teach too. he helps out on a regular basis and we are glad we can work together. We also worked on his other bike- a beloved MTB bike that needs new tyres occasionally. J. has received a Continental Baron tyre from us so he can try it out on some serious trails.
These two are identified with TBC around our closest area. They are helpful; they learn; they teach. Although they do not qualify to be one of our directors they surely deserve it and we would like to welcome them to our board as soon as they turn 16. Individuals like these two are what drives us to remain productive; people like them are we believe capable of changing the way the future generation looks at the world around them. They do understand the issues surrounding them and they are working towards the change. They recognise the impact of crime; they see the education gap; they understand different needs; they go riding (with us sometimes too); they look after and help maintain riding trails in the area; they address issues accordingly and they never stop to learn. When we look at them we realise that what we do is working and it is working well…
That is why we do not plan on stopping any time soon.
You cannot buy happiness but you can get a bike and that is pretty damn close.
It gets you sentimental sometimes. It does. That sad and overwhelming feeling of powerlessness and inability to help. It is enslaving.
But what comes following the days filled with powerlessness and pessimism is empowering and euphoric awakening. Those days when you close the door to the workshop and think to yourself ‘that was a hell of a day’. Those days keep you going and these days motivate us to do more and more here at The Bikes College.
This is T., 10 years old, from a nearby estate. He has been seen riding a bike that was far too small for him for a couple of weeks. He received a mountain bike from The Bikes College, 18 gears to make it easier to get uphill to school.
Too shy to smile properly. Too quick to get caught on his new wheels now. That is what gets us through those under the weather days. That smile. Ride on!
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…
You are a tool.
To change the world!
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?
Strive not to be a success but rather of a value.
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.
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
It was a bit of a busy bank holiday weekend at The Bikes College. We had some familiar faces visiting with the typical “My tyre’s popped!” and some new faces too. K. popped in one day to ask if we could swap a frame and wheels for him on his BMX. He brought T. with him, his BMX riding buddy, cheerful and keen to help. We set the time and the date, and got prepared for a bike strip/bike build. The fun begun…
T. and K. worked together from the very beginning, supporting and helping each other with various tasks; i.e. tyre replacement, inflating the tubes, etc. They worked hard together and the old BMX was disassembled, new frame assembled, new wheels put on, tyres pumped and the bike ready to go within 3 hours. When questioned about the spare frame and the wheels that K. had left from his original BMX he stated that he might (quote: ‘possibly’) donate them to T. so he can upgrade his own BMX shortly. It is a great example of how the local kids start working together and share things amongst each other for the benefit of all. K. and T. live nearby, they do not go to the same school and know each other only by the means of riding together. They have also built a bike together as of today.
Another sideline story that gives us the reason to be proud of K. is the fact that he had a free bicycle he got from us initially. He then got his bmx given to him by his parents. He gave his old bicycle, then surplus to requirements, away for free to someone on his street. Then he came to us to upgrade his frame and wheels. The old bmx will most likely be given away. For free. Again.
There is that amazing feeling of accomplishment that accompanies our sessions recently. That amazing feeling of fulfilment and ability to change mindsets. To breed behaviours. To inspire. To initiate change. That is what we do you see, we change them. Without them knowing. And it feels great!
A great accomplishment should never be the end of the road; just a starting point for the next leap forward.
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.
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 Leeds, Speedy 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!