Bring and Fix was an idea that we borrowed from England, where bicycles were brought in from the community, to have some basic maintenance performed on them by skilled people, and at the same time, pass some of those skills on to the bicycle owners. We liked the sound of it, so a number of us from Council, including the OPAL (Obesity Prevention And Lifestyle) team, Environmental and myself got together to start planning one of our own.
We already had access to our Council volunteer register, so we had it searched for anyone with bicycle maintenance skills, or even mechanical skills, listed against their names. Sadly, we struck out on the bicycle maintenance, but there were a few likely candidates in the database. So a number of volunteers were sent an email from Council, asking if they would like to be trained in bicycle maintenance. We received a few interested responses, including from Staff, willing to give up their time, but we needed more, as we had some pretty big ideas. Word was sent out through the Bike Kitchen network, and suddenly we had all of the volunteers we could provide training for, plus a few extra who sadly we could not cater for at the time.
We organised for BikeSA to come out and provide the training course to the team two weeks before the event, so that there was less time for the knowledge gained to leak out, as it so easily can! Darren and David from BikeSA came out to the Council Offices to run the basic maintenance course for the team, and show them some of the various tools they would be using. They also brought along some bikes for the team to work on, and set them loose on some maintenance tasks, under instruction from the professionals of course! The day was an awesome success, with excellent feedback from both the trainers, and the volunteers!
We knew that we would need bike maintenance tools, and a whole heap of spares, plus of course some more intimate knowledge of bicycle maintenance, so we invited Mike from Bikes for Refugees to become involved in the project, and he approached BISA on our behalf to borrow tools from the Bicycle Co-op in Plympton. This was a massive benefit to us, as it meant we did not have to buy multiple sets of tools, and we also would have on site someone who really knows their way around bike maintenance.
Mike also prepared a shopping list for us, based on what we told him we wanted to achieve on the day. Our aim originally was just to perform the bare basic maintenance, fix punctures, change a couple of cables possibly, and had a target of fifty quick bike fixes. So, armed with Mike’s shopping list of essentails, plus an extra list of “can we borrow these, then buy them if we use them”, it was time to hit up the bike shops in the Charles Sturt area. I got responses from them all, thankfully, but it was Standish Cycles West Lakes who ended up being the selected suppier of our spares. This was not based just on their price, but also on the fact that they addressed every item on my shopping list, and priced all of them, so that I knew how much I would be up for.
I went down to West Lakes on the Friday before the event, and Dave, (one of the two Daves who work for Standish West Lakes!), had already put together every item I had requested, and had a shopping receipt for me that stood almost as tall as me! I, of course, being like a kid in a candy shop when set loose in a bike shop, checked out all of their bikes, and all of their spares etc. They have an excellent range, and some novel pieces that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, including some Knog patch kits and Tacx tyre lever sets that I just had to buy as give-aways. When I left, my car looked like a mobile bike shop, and had the overwhelming smell of tyre rubber!
Opal had also purcahsed a couple of bike blender kits, so that on the day, we could set up a couple of smoothie bikes, and the kids could churn out their own banana smoothies. I had grabbed a couple of bikes from the Bike Co-op, but as luck would have it, neither of them were suitable for what we needed, so it was into my own bike collection I ventured. With a little bit of McGyvering, I managed to fit one of them to my West Coast Chopper, and jacked it up onto my bike trainer. It did look rather cool, a chopper bike smoothie maker.
So, the big day. After many contingency plan discussions should the weather turn pear shape, we had a glorious Spring day to work in, absolutely perfect conditions for outdoor bike maintenance. We had 27 bikes brought in to the volunteers to be “fixed”, with some of them not even rideable before they were brought in. There was a great assortment of bikes needing some love, from brand new poorly assembled ones, to old clunkers that had been left out in the rain for far too long. We had folding bikes, kids bikes, mountain bikes, old roadies, and even a brand new fixie, that just needed some muscle power to loosen the pedals.
We had ten very keen and enthusiastic volunteers from the community and staff on the day, plus a couple of partners who turned up wanting to join in on all of the fun. It was fantastic result that most of the volunteers were young people from the Adelaide Bike Kitchen, wanting to learn new skills that they could share with others. We also had seven volunteers from YAC helping with the bbq, smoothie making and the booking in of the customers.
Some of the bikes took a couple of hours each, because they needed just so much work to be done to them. We had one that the chain was so rusted, that no amount of oil was going to free it. Thankfully for the owner, another bike had been donated to the event, so the chain was quickly taken off the donated bike, and put onto the other bike. One had a buckled wheel, which none of us were really prepared  for, but Mike broke out a spoke key, and proceeded to true it for the owner.
We also had some of the Bike Polo Crew come along, and play some polo out in the carpark, and a few of the customers and a couple of the volunteers even had a try at it. It was greatly appreciated that the guys gave up their Sunday morning to come and do this for us.
It turned out to be more than just a Bring & Fix event though, as some of the customers were with us for some time, also had the chance to share their stories with the volunteers. The stories were in some cases the history of their bikes, or where they had travelled on their bikes, or where they originally hailed from. Charles Sturt is a massively culturally diverse area, so we had customers from all over the world. One customer could not believe that it was a girl who fixed his bike, as this would not happen in the Congo where he came from.
The smoothie bike also worked out well, apart from a few minor technical issues at the beginning, such as tightening the base onto the jug BEFORE pouring the milk in, and positioning the spindle into just the right spot. Being a chopper bike, it certainly gave them a whole lot more fun to be riding it and making smoothies, with various songs being sung whilst “riding” the bike!
A massive thanks to the OPAL Team for funding the parts for the repairs, Youth Central Team for partnering the event and for providing the excellent facilities to operate from, Mike Brisco from BISA for being the “Bike Brain” of the group, the boys from BikeSA who trained the volunteers two weeks ago, the guys from Bike Polo who came along to demonstrate their skills, Standish Cycles West Lakes for the supply of spare parts, and of course our amazing team of volunteers.
We were all so happy with the outcomes of the event, that we will start planning the next one soon, as well as planning some further training for the volunteers with some advanced bike maintenance skills. We learned a few valuable lessons from this one, that will only make the next one so much better for the volunteers and the customers. One of the lessons was that we needed to set up the repair stations closer to the bike polo so that there would be more interaction, and the most important one, a few frothies to celebrate the end of an incredible day!
Thanks superstars, it was an awesome way to spend Fathers Day, and you were all amazing!!!!