Back2Bikes: From a toolbox to a well-oiled machine

Back2Bikes: From a toolbox to a well-oiled machine
Kaylah Joelle Baker

While owning a bike is simply just another mode of transport for many, for some people it is a luxury they cannot afford.

Witnessing people who so desperately needed bikes for transport struggle without due to their cost, Mike King saw the potential for more to be done and started to put his toolbox to use and establish not-for-profit community bike workshop Back2Bikes.

Creating the workshop with a sole mission to help people in need through refurbishing donated bikes, Back2Bikes is now a well-oiled machine running with the help of paid workshop managers alongside volunteers.

Finding out about Back2Bikes when his neighbour Mike saw him working on his own bike in his garage, Mark Bradley started volunteering at the workshop for six months before taking on his current role as a workshop manager full-time.

“The workshop has been going for about 10 years now and it was started out of altruistic motivations. Our mission is to help people through transportation with bicycles,” Mr Bradley said.

“We recycle bikes as our main service, and with those bikes we donate to people in need, such as healthcare holders, refugees and asylum seekers.”

Through setting aside Sundays for volunteers to come in and help refurbish the bikes, Back2Bikes has continued to donate “15 to 20 bikes a month to people in need.”

In addition, the not-for-profit also sells refurbished bikes as a way to generate cash to run the business and offers service and repairs.

Considering bicycles “very enabling machines”, Mark has seen the business help many people in more ways than one.

“We have people who come to us who have been released from prison and have been offered a job, but they need transport and have no money. To have a bike it suddenly means they can fulfil that want of theirs and get to a job, make some money and get back on their feet,” he said.

As well as helping with providing people much needed transport, Back2Bikes also provides Buddy Bikes for people who are usually unable to enjoy cycling on their own.

“Buddy bikes are for people who want to give their kids the opportunity of enjoying riding. Their kids are disabled to the extent that they can’t ride by themselves, but they can still enjoy the sensation of riding in what is essentially a tandem bike,” Mr Bradley said.

With bicycle usage increasing, Back2Bikes also ensures people have an understanding of how to repair their own bike through providing training courses in bike maintenance.

“The biggest thing with Back2Bikes is we take on a challenge and help people get their bike going. We prefer to help people stay mobile rather than put them in a situation where their only option is to get a new bike, which is quite often beyond people’s means,” Mr Bradley said.

“We will use second hand parts, will be resourceful and implement that way of thinking to get bikes repaired and working again.”

Citing the main two successful ingredients of Back2Bikes as their “volunteer workforce” and “donations”, Mark is quick to encourage anyone wanting to get involved to come in and have a chat with a workshop manager.

“We are very easy going. And with regards to donations, we will take anything and then that way we can decide what is usable on the bike,” he said.

“We can decide whether it is suitable for restoration or for certain parts, or failing that in the worst situation we can thoroughly recycle the bike for scrap metal. Nothing goes to waste and it’s a really good way for people to contribute.”

“It also often motivates people to go to a lot of trouble to bring bikes into us, because they want to see the bike properly or best utilised.”

Back2Bikes workshop can be found at 525 Williamstown Rd, Port Melbourne with opening hours 10am to 4pm Monday through to Saturday. To be a part of Sunday Volunteer Sessions, reach out to Back2Bikes on their website •

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