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On your bike

 
January 6th 2018
 

James Blakeley, Jim Little, Hannah Hughes and John Sherlock on bikes. © Caroline McCue

Our Glasgow group of peer reporters report back from their trip to Bike for Good. Here's their piece, written collaboratively by James Blakeley, Karin Goodwin, Jim Little, Caroline McCue, John Sherlock and Ilisa Stack

We never set out to get to the top of that hill. We just seem to get there. It?s not the highest point in Glasgow but it feels like it – the city spread out in front of us, in all its splendour, bright and icy. Celtic Park, Ruchill Spire, Ibrox, Glasgow University, Yorkhill hospital... We pick out the landmarks one by one.

We're visiting Bike for Good, a cycling social enterprise and charity, which is all about encouraging as many people as possible to get on their bikes. It aims to take away the barriers, including financial ones, to help people access bikes and teach people to ride and take care of bikes. Bike for Good offers free maintenance classes, lessons and led rides, and will even loan you bikes for free if you fill in the right paperwork.

It is not the only place like this. All of a sudden bike shops are everywhere. There used to be Halfords, maybe a couple of other local businesses, but now it seems like there are community bike hubs in just about every area in most cities, under the guise of community regeneration. Maybe it started with the city hire bike scheme introduced back in 2014? Certainly the cost of public transport is going up, which is especially tough when benefits are getting cut all the time. It gives you exercise and makes you feel good too, so there are lots of reasons to give cycling a try.

Bike for Good is at the top of Glasgow's Victoria Road; it?s the nice bit of Govanhill, a traditionally tightknit community that is now the most multicultural part of the city. It's part of a small chain – there's another in the west of the city.

Outside the windows are steamed up, but inside it?s immaculate and welcoming – there are cushions, bunting (put up for an event last week) and manager Shgufta Anwar makes us teas and coffees. This is a bike shop mostly run by women.

At the back there?s a tool wall, the shape of each instrument painted so you know what goes where and you can quickly see what's missing. Mechanic Hannah Hughes shows us how to do a basic check on your bike (see below). She bounces the front wheel, testing it is correctly inflated, then moves to the brake blocks to make sure they are safe. She wiggles the handlebars, checks the saddle is straight and inspects the pedals and gears. It seems obvious when she shows us, but it's not really – this is stuff you need to know and may have to learn.

Shgufta explains: “At Bike For Good we do things like cycle training where we teach people to cycle, or help people who?ve maybe not been on a bike for many years, or who want to get out on the roads.

"We do maintenance classes, building up to medium and advanced levels, and we do a fix your own bike session on every second Thursday. This gives you access to stands, tools and parts so you can fix your own bike. You pay for any parts that you need but the rest is all completely free.” There are also after school classes, some aimed at local Roma kids.

If you're thinking of getting a bike, you can borrow one from here if you bring in ID. Shgufta gets it when we explain that's not easy for homeless people – and we find Bike for Good is keen to find solutions. “We want to try to cross as many barriers as possible,” she says. “We are here forever. This isn't a short-term thing.”

It's time to get on the bikes and we set off down the wide pavements of Victoria Road towards the park. Cycling as a group we feel dead gallus (daring). We navigate the icy paths and climb the hill – it's tough going, but it's an event in itself. Finally we arrive and there's that view. Quick fag break to (ironically) catch a breath, then it's downhill all the way.

Back at the shop we're feeling inspired. It turns out that even if you're homeless, or life is hard, it might be worth getting on a bike. In fact Jim and John were so inspired they did just that, cycling to appointments around the city all week long.

 

Find your wheels...

Is there a bike project near you?

LONDON

Bikeworks
A social enterprise based in Bethnal Green. It has community cycling programmes, employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups, cycle training and bike parts reuse centre.

Recycles – Ilford
Based in Redbridge. This is a social enterprise/bike recycling project which assists people who have been homeless or unemployed to get some bike mechanic skills so they can get work in the bike industry, or just have fun with their own bike adventures.

EDINBURGH

Bike Station
Based in Newington, this social enterprise provides all sorts of cycle services including Dr Bike checks. It also runs bike mechanic training workshops in prisons. There are also Bike Stations in Perth and Dundee

GLASGOW

Bike for Good
See above for more information.

Common Wheel
At both Maryhill and Bridgeton. Here you can join a course to build your own bike. The 10-week course, run on half a day a week, is designed for people with mental illness. A good place to rebuild an old bike which you can literally ride away and keep.

Freewheel North
Has two bases – Glasgow Green and Whitehouse. If you've never ridden a bike before then this is the place to start.

Follow these 10 steps to make sure your bike is roadworthy

1. Start with the rear wheel...
and make sure the quick release lever (or the nuts and bolts holding the wheel in place) are secure. Tighten if necessary.

2. Check the wheel spokes are not loose

3. Bump your tyre on the floor...
to check how firm it is, and give it a squeeze with your hand. If the tyre is not firm, pump it up.

4. Check your seat post and saddle...
if they are coming loose, tighten both up with an Allen key.

5. Oil your chain...
if it feels sticky, or is making any strange grinding noises

6. Spin your pedals...
they should go round smoothly. Oil them if they creak.

7. Twist the handlebars...
to make sure the clamp bolts are tight. The front wheel and stem should not move independently from each other. Tighten if they do.

8. Pull both front and rear brakes...
to make sure the cables don't need to be tightened. It is important that your brakes work.

9. Check for any cracks or damage to your bike frame

10. Finally, have a look at your front wheel...
and make sure that the release lever (nuts and bolts) are secure.

 


 
 
 

Jan/Feb 2018

 

Contents

News in brief, January-February 2018

Such a shame

Life change

Mat's Column: Real experts

On your bike

Healing art

Stories of the streets

Improved app

Policy mistake

 

Back Issues

 
 
 
 
 
 
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