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Extending bikes’ life cycle

Five volunteers at The Bike Shed on a sunny Saturday afternoon. They are working on two road bicycles - checking the tires and the gears.
At The Bike Shed, volunteers work together to repair and maintain all kinds of bicycles. Photo credit: The Bike Shed.

A band of loyal volunteers at The Bike Shed, located within CERES environmental park in Brunswick, are preventing bikes ending up in landfill. They refurbish the bikes to sell to the community at a fraction of the cost of a new bike, or donate them to those in need.

Bike mechanic and Manager of The Bike Shed, Andrew Stark says the public donates a wide variety of bikes that they are not currently using, some requiring more repairs than others.

‘Then they are fixed up by our volunteers and me and are sold on Saturdays at relatively affordable prices with a 25 per cent discounts for student and healthcare cardholders.

‘Absolutely everything that gets worked on by any volunteers is checked by me before it's sold to the public. So, I'm super confident that it all goes out to really high standards.’

Bikes that are beyond repair are used for parts and then recycled.

Apart from keeping the shed running, the bike sales monies are donated to other not-for profits and charities.

‘We donate a lot of bikes to individuals when they reach out to us and when we get requests from care workers or social workers or refuges that are looking for bikes for their houses or for low-income families,’ Andrew says.

Bicycles are lined up outside The Bike Shed at CERES ready for sale. There are road bikes, mountain bikes, cruisers. Some have baskets on the front.
An array of bicycles ready for sale outside The Bike Shed at CERES. Photo credit: The Bike Shed.

The Bike Shed also runs large fundraisers. They donate proceeds from an entire day’s sales to a charity, like Pay the Rent, and donate bikes and parts to help other bike sheds.

But there is more to the Bike Shed than saving bikes, with volunteers from all walks of life making new friends whilst learning new skills.

‘It's a sort of skill sharing platform where a lot of people come down to learn how to fix bikes because they've been riding for years, and they want to learn how to do some repairs themselves; even things as small as knowing how to fix a flat tyre.’

The volunteers are a diverse group ranging from students to retirees.

‘People come for so many different reasons. You get some who are just born tinkerers, they just like dissembling things and putting them back together, and then you get people that are maybe coming down more for the social aspect of it since we'll take a little break and have some lunch and have a bit of a chat. There’re always nice conversations happening.’

No prior mechanical knowledge is required.

‘You can be completely fresh – have never handled a spanner in your life. The idea is to learn, and the hope is they stay long enough to pass on that knowledge to the next group of people,’ Andrew says.

‘It's a fairly low-pressure environment to learn these skills — if anything breaks, it's not a problem. We can fix it together or, if it's past fixing, then that's okay. It gets recycled anyway.’

(The shed recently recycled two tonnes of tyres and tubes and has recycled more than 21 tonnes of metal over the past two years.)

A bonus is that bike repair skills are transferable, Andrew says.

‘I think once you start feeling a bit more comfortable working on bikes, you definitely feel that spread to other aspects of your life. Like something might break in your house and all of a sudden you're like, “I reckon I could tackle this. What's the worst that can happen? I’ll give it a go. It will probably be fine”.’

Reviewed 25 August 2023