Bikehall founder-member Henry Roe gives us the story of Sheffield’s newest community bike kitchen
Foodhall Project is Sheffield’s multi-award winning public dining room and community kitchen. Its heart-of-the-city eating and event space has been open since 2015 and is dedicated to building community and food security while tackling social isolation, inequality, and food waste.
But what’s that got to do with bikes and cycling?
Foodhall’s open organisational structure means that members of the community are welcome to contribute to the project in many different ways. If you’re into pottery, you can start up pottery workshops. If you’re passionate about film, you can start up a cinema night. And if you’re into riding (and fixing) bicycles and want to share that with others, well, you can do that too.
That’s how Bikehall started in 2018. The plan was to share our (sometimes rusty) bike maintenance knowledge with other people in the Foodhall community who wanted to learn or whose bicycles needed some TLC. The problem was: we had no money and few resources for getting the workshops off the ground. With the help of a bit of funding from Love to Ride and NUS’s UniCycle project, however, we were on our way to having just enough tools and equipment to get moving.
Bikehall began with a series of bike maintenance workshops in autumn, 2018. We invited folks to join us for a two hour class about a specific part of the bicycle (brakes, gears, etc.) followed by a hearty meal cooked by volunteers. The sessions were well-attended and we had some great feedback. Our team of committed volunteers also grew after workshop-attendees wanted to get more involved.
After our initial success, it would be wrong to say it was all plain sailing from there. In 2019 our workshop attendance dropped off and we soon realised we needed to promote the sessions more widely. We also decided we wanted to experiment with different kinds of events, to act as cycling advocates and not just bicycle tinkerers. We ran a film night in collaboration with Foodhall’s TV Dinners project, in which we showcased three short films from a diverse range of film makers.
We also organised our first Bikehall bike ride – a 20km(ish) route out to Damflask reservoir in the foothills of the Peak District. We also changed our workshops to an open bike kitchen-style ‘Build-a-Bike’ workshop format – through which we rejuvenate donated bikes to sell but also help other people fix their own bikes. This gives us more flexibility during the sessions, regardless of how many people turn up.
Running these events and making the change to the workshop format has helped us maintain a more sustainable schedule for us as volunteers and for people who want to join in. Support from other local organisations has also helped a lot. We had 5 bikes donated to us from the University of Sheffield, lots of hardware donated from COMAC Bike Project, and some more bikes given to us from ReCycle Bikes – who run their own well-priced Bike Kitchen with a really supportive team of mechanics.
All of this means that in 2020 we’re planning to do even more. We have another ride (or two) in the works, we’re organising another film/documentary screening (with food!), and we’re running bimonthly build-a-bike workshops (every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, from 5.30-8pm). In addition, we’re building our own permanent bike workshop space in Foodhall’s basement – to give more people access to a fully kitted out workshop at different times of the day. It’s all shaping up to be another great year for Bikehall.
If you want to get involved please check out our webpage or email us at email@example.com. We especially need experienced and/or confident bike mechanics to help supervise workshops. If that sounds like you, then please get in touch!
On a cold but sunny February morning, our Local Project Manager for Derby, Lucy Giuliano, had the pleasure of officially unveiling the new Cyclehoop bike rack at Rolls Royce.
Global winners of our 2019 Cycle September challenge, staff from across the site gathered to enjoy homemade cake, a quick spin on an electric bike courtesy of local bike shop Cyclomonster and encouraging talks from Rolls Royce’s Director of Health, Safety and Environment, as well as their hard working champion Eloise Thatcher, who organised the event.
Kindly provided by Cyclehoop, the bike rack is a much needed addition to the very well used cycle storage and there are already plans to expand the cycle storage provision as a result of the win. The importance of cycling is highlighted on the custom made plaque commissioned by Eloise and hopefully Rolls Royce will continue their winning streak throughout our upcoming challenges in 2020!
Matt Ridely, the Champion for Cycle September winners R&M Electrical, tells us why he registered his workplace and how promoting cycling benefits the business.
I’ve worked at R&M for over 12 years now and have been cycling to work for 6 years. At our Head Office in Sholing (where I work) we have approximately 60 staff. We do have showers and a large shed for storing bikes. At Head Office it is only me who commutes by bike regularly all year-round but there are a handful of others that ride at the weekend and at other sites who also cycle on a regular basis.
I registered R&M because I wanted to encourage others to start cycling to work as it’s a great benefit to our health and to the environment. When I first registered us on Love to Ride I thought it would just be a handful of people getting involved but people I’d never imagined would start riding started getting out in the evenings, or heading out to the local shop in lunch breaks. It’s been amazing to watch.
To get people involved I sent out regular emails to all staff to show how we were doing and asked them to get out and ride. I think the thing that got most people out was my 8 year old son and I doing a 25km charity ride around Portsmouth. I think that inspired people to get out there… if an 8 year old can do it they can too!
People who took part have also had their attitudes to cycling changed, it’s almost like they’d forgotten what it feels like to ride and how much fun it is. Another benefit is getting people to think about what it is like for people commuting by bike and to pay more care when driving around cyclists. The prizes have been great, a nice mix of prizes for veteran riders, and also great prizes to help people get started riding.
I’m looking to build up a fleet of bikes here at head office for people to use during lunch breaks to get them away from their screens and out in the fresh air. In spring, I’ll be organising some excursions to Mayfield Park just up the road from us to get people out and about. I think that now I know there are people here willing to join in I will ramp up the noise I make prior to Cycle September and get some Bikeability training on site to give people more confidence to head out onto the roads. Maybe have some in-house prizes to get people competing a bit too. My advice to other Champions would be to just keep making noise about it, get people out in the car park having a go on a bike, just watch their faces! It’s amazing, you can see their inner child coming out!
I’d urge other organisations to sign up, especially in Southampton, because we have a responsibility to look after the health of our staff and our environment… and cycling does both of these things! It doesn’t cost much, and it makes people happier, better workers. It’s a no brainer! When I cycle to work, I arrive refreshed and ready for the day, when I drive (which takes longer!) I arrive stressed and in a bad mood! Just get people cycling, and lead by example!
We love hearing from the members of our Love to Ride community about how riding a bike has changed their lives.
One of our Instagram followers, an active Instagrammer herself, published this amazing story as a series of posts on her Instagram account. She tagged @lovetorideglobal, and when we read the story we knew we wanted to share.
Becoming a bike commuter is a journey. There will always be setbacks, but @womanbikecommuter‘s story proves that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I hope that sharing my journey with biking will be helpful or relatable for anyone who bikes or would like to bike more. I took this picture at age 19 when I visited Cambridge, UK. According to Wikipedia: “Cambridge has the highest level of cycle use in the UK. According to the 2001 census, 25% of residents travelled to work by bicycle. Furthermore, a survey in 2013 found that 47% of residents travel by bike at least once a week.”
I visited Cambridge for 3 months to visit my sister who happened to live there, but getting to experience a city where biking is as common as driving had a real impact on me. In Cambridge, everyone bikes. EVERYONE! There’s no stereotype about the “type” of person who bikes because everyone does it. All ages, all classes, all genders, all races. People biking in business suits or high heels is a regular sight. As you can see from this photo showing a traffic light for bikes, the city is full of bike infrastructure as well.
In America, the only people I knew who regularly rode bikes were super decked out with all kinds of fancy gear, or really into fixing up bikes and had all kinds of tools and mechanical knowledge. With the bar set so seemingly high, I felt insecure about biking because I felt like I didn’t measure up. I felt like to start biking I needed to invest in so much stuff, or I should really know more about bikes than I did.
After going to Cambridge I saw that my assumptions about what it took to start biking were all wrong. I saw a world where biking was for anyone who had a working bike and the ability to ride it.
“I saw a world where biking was for anyone who had a working bike and the ability to ride it.”
While I knew America wasn’t as bike friendly and didn’t have quite so much bike infrastructure, seeing Cambridge gave me a new perspective on bikes. When I returned to America, I didn’t have that hesitation about riding a bike any longer. I had no fancy gear and I didn’t have a lot of mechanical bike knowledge, but I had just come from a city where I’d seen tons of other people like me riding bikes, and I was ready to give it a go myself.
This is not the exact bike I had when I was 19, but it’s similar:
After seeing Cambridge, UK where 1/2 the population bikes, I came back to America ready to try urban biking myself. I was lucky and my mom’s friend gave me a bike for free since her son had outgrown it/didn’t want it. It was a very cheap Schwinn and had pegs in the wheels to allow for tricks. I never used the pegs, but it did have gears which was nice in the hilly city I lived in at the time. It also gave itself flat tires every month. There would always be a hole in the same place, the rim side of the tube where the valve was.
Though the constant flats were obnoxious, I learned a lot while figuring out what was causing them. Bike rims have holes in them where the spokes attach. I learned that rim tape is applied to the rim to protect the tube from these holes. Even so, after replacing the rim tape and having a mechanic look at it, it still gave itself flats on the regular. At least it let me get good at fixing flats!
Back then I almost always rode on sidewalks. Nowadays, I wouldn’t recommend this, but back then I had little bike experience and I was too scared to ride in the street. At that time I also lived in a city with minimal bike infrastructure, and there were very few bike lanes. That being said, I believe you should always ride in whatever way you feel most comfortable and safe. It’s better to ride in a way that makes you feel safe than to not ride at all.
When I first started out, I locked my bike with a combination cable lock, though now I know these are the easiest to cut and often lead to stolen bikes.
I’ll be honest. Since I got this bike for free and it always got flats, I often left it for days on bike racks because I kind of resented it. Sure enough, after leaving it on a grocery store bike rack for 3 days, I came back to get it and it had been cut loose and stolen. I didn’t report it, I knew it was my fault and I just shrugged and moved on.
After my first bike was stolen I started dating someone. He and his roommate were both regular cyclists. My boyfriend did have a car, but his roommate used a bike for all transportation. They had tons of bike knowledge. A close friend of mine had also just finished building his own custom bike. Seeing these bike commuters made me miss having a bike myself. I wanted to be like them!
I reached out to the friend and asked him to keep an eye out for a good bike for me. Since I had only ever had my free bike, I had no idea what to look for when buying a bike and I wanted help. He soon reached out with a Craigslist link for a used version of the Jamis pictured here:
I bought it without even riding it first. Again, I had never done this before. But the bike was all wrong for me. It was too big, and the length from the seat to the handlebars was off even after adjustments. My back would start aching 5 minutes into riding it.
My friend had done his best to find me a bike. He just didn’t know the best bike for a short woman as he was a tall man and had no experience with what I needed. I didn’t even know myself.
Intentional or not, my boyfriend and his roommate really discouraged me from riding. They would tell me how dangerous biking was and focus on the negative even though they biked just fine themselves. They gave me directions for a hidden bike path to get to my university but suggested I not try it until one of them went with me first.
When I tried it alone and got lost it felt like an “I told you so” moment. I never tried it again. I felt underestimated. Instead of supporting me through missteps and giving guidance to continue, I felt missteps were used to reinforce feelings of inadequacy. They didn’t believe in me, and I sadly believed they were right. After all of this, I regressed to mostly using a car to get around. I sold the Jamis and I was bike-less.
This was a low point in my bike story. All the steam I had from seeing the bike capital of the UK was gone, I got an ill-fitting bike that made riding painful, and then I was swayed to think that if I could even manage to ride I’d probably get in an accident. At this point biking just felt overwhelming.
No surprise, the boyfriend who undermined my desire to bike didn’t stick, and we broke up, but the damage was done. I had been convinced that commuting by bike was a mountain I couldn’t climb.
“I had been convinced that commuting by bike was a mountain I couldn’t climb.”
One day soon after the break-up, my mom called me from a garage sale to tell me a woman about my height was selling her old Nishiki bike for $60. Buying a bike from another woman made me feel more confident the fit would be right, and at $60 I didn’t have much to lose so I said yes. Once again without riding the bike first – when will I learn?!
Luckily, this time it worked out. The bike was a little bit too tall, but not enough that it was a problem. I owned and rode this bike for years! As I’d had some stumbling blocks prior to getting this bike, it took me a while to be comfortable riding again. For years I only rode it for leisure and to very close-by places, like a coffee shop less than a mile away that I could get to using quiet back streets and a bike lane. Slowly over the years I built my bike confidence back up on this bike.
This Nishiki was a tank. It was pretty heavy, but it was so reliable and sturdy. I definitely used and abused it and it took it all in stride. I loved this bike!
When I moved into a new house that was a 10 minute ride from my job, I began to commute by bike again for real. I was bartending at the time and would ride home around 3 or 4 in the morning.
One night, I took my bike up my long driveway to my fenced in backyard. The back door wasn’t visible from the street, and though I usually brought the bike inside with me, this night I left it outside since I planned to ride it again first thing the next day. It was tucked behind a fence and not visible from the street and I thought it’d be fine.
Sadly it was stolen; I must have been followed. I filed a police report and looked for it online for years with no luck. I was super bummed out about losing it, especially because at that point I had become very reliant on it for transportation.
The silver lining: I had my bike commuter mojo back.
Let’s talk about driving a car. I’ve only ever owned one car. It was a gas guzzling, oil leaking classic my mom’s friend sold us for $800 for my 16th birthday. It was the first car he’d ever fixed up, and he had used it to learn on. It was full of quirks, rust, and left me smelling like exhaust everywhere I went. I won’t lie, for a while I loved that car. Most people with cars of that age don’t actually drive them around too much, but that’s all I had and I drove it everywhere.
When I went to college, I couldn’t afford to pay for a campus parking permit. My student ID gave me free rides on the city bus so I began to use public transport instead. While in college I took the bus more than I drove, and this was my first taste of what not using a car was like.
While I did love that car, it also stressed me out to no end. Parts could be hard to find, and the mechanics who would work on it were specialists and therefore, expensive. As a person who suffers from an anxiety related disorder (BFRD, please look it up, it’s very common but rarely talked about!) the stress of this car made my disorder harder to manage.
Even if it wasn’t broken down, the upkeep of a car was too much for me. Oil changes, tire rotations, new tires, registration, inspection, insurance– I found it all overwhelming. Additionally, it was emotionally exhausting as a young woman to insert myself into the world of classic cars which often is full of older men who made me feel uncomfortable in one way or another. Slowly, over time, owning this car felt like a fight rather than fun.
After a while, when my car would need attention and taking it to the mechanic was too much, I would just use the bus or bike instead for a few days. The next time, it would be a few weeks. Then months. Finally, I realized my car had sat for over a year, and I thought to myself, “Why am I holding onto this car that causes me so much stress and costs me so much money when obviously I don’t even need it?”
And that was that. I said goodbye to car ownership.
I knew I wanted another bike, but wasn’t sure where to start. I had an email alert set up on Craigslist to send me any posts that might have been related to my stolen Nishiki in case someone tried to sell it. Through this, I was sent an email about someone selling a 90s Cannondale for, as the listing put it, a small woman or child. That’s me!
I test rode the bike this time! The seller wanted $400 for it, which was the most I’d ever spent on a bike. It fits me better than any other bike I’d ever ridden, and it was super light. It’s nothing compared to new bikes nowadays but it’s the fanciest bike I’ve ever had!
This is the bike I still ride. Now that I’ve had it a few years, I’d say it’s just a smidge small for me. I’ve made some adjustments, such as putting a riser on the headset, which have helped. When I’ve taken it on super long rides it can get uncomfortable so the fit isn’t 100%, but for day-to-day commuting it does great.
Although having a lightweight bike is cool, after dealing with having a carbon fibre fork that got a ding in it after a fall, I miss my old steel frame bike that was a little more impervious to damage. That’s just my personal opinion, there are good and bad aspects to all bikes. A lot of what works or doesn’t work has to do with what you’re using your bike for. Since I’m not racing or riding super long distances, weight isn’t as important to me.
After getting this bike I began bike commuting again, and this time it stuck hard. I was still bartending in Texas, and it was so fun riding home at 4am when there were no cars on the road. I often took it with me on the bus too, which made commuting longer distances more achievable.
At this point, I was regularly commuting by bike, so when I decided to move to a new city it was easy to get rid of my car and fully commit to using a bike as my primary mode of transport.
When I moved, I got a new job that offered perks to employees who bike to work. My job has profiles on Love to Ride and Strava that I use to log rides to and from work to qualify for benefits. I had never even heard of Love to Ride or Strava before starting at my current job. These profiles have been a gateway to seeing how many others are out there commuting by bike!
I began seeking out more bike resources, and specifically I wanted to follow other women bike commuters on social media. I had a really hard time finding any! Now that I’ve had Instagram for a while I’ve found quite a few, but my initial searches turned up very little. I found some businesses geared towards women on bikes, and many professional athletes who bike for sport; both of which are great and much needed! But it was harder to find accounts about women commuting day-to-day on a bike for going to work, running errands, or riding out to meet friends.
A big part of why I want to share my story is to show others that it doesn’t take anything special to be a bike commuter.
When I couldn’t easily find exactly what I was looking for, I figured I’d start an account myself. A big part of why I want to share my story is to show others that it doesn’t take anything special to be a bike commuter. I got into it very gradually, starting with short easy trips on weekends and slowly getting comfortable riding. I’m figuring it out as I go along, and anyone else who wants to try can figure it out too. If you have a working bike and the ability to ride it, that is all it takes to get started.
We hope you enjoyed reading this guest post as much as we enjoyed sharing it. Please share your story at lovetoride.net/mysite/stories to tell us about your bike journey!
Phew! That was an epic Cycle September. This year we stepped things up, turning our flagship Workplace Cycle Challenge into the Global Bike Challenge for the first time.
And the results were spectacular: 57,162 people from 1,965 workplaces logged a ride, including 3,780 people who hadn’t ridden a bike at all – or only a few times – in the last twelve months. Altogether, Cycle September participants clocked up over 9.5 MILLION miles, saving more than 325,000kg of CO2 (that’s the equivalent of twenty-five return flights from Edinburgh to Auckland).
We had 757 prizewinners who were rewarded for riding or encouraging others to ride and thousands of people helped to build a real buzz for biking by sharing their stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our new – and very, very popular – Stories feature:
We’ll be sending out surveys to everyone who took part during the week commencing Monday 21 October. Please look out for this in your inbox – our members’ responses will help us to run even bigger and better events in 2020 and after! (Plus you can win some amazing prizes for responding…).
If you missed out on the Global Bike Challenge this year, make sure you hear about our exciting plans for 2020 by signing up with Love to Ride today at lovetoride.net.
*To mark the clocks going back in the UK, we’ll be giving away a Beryl Laserlight to one lucky winner each day Monday to Thursday (21-24th October) next week. One survey respondent will also win a Laserlight (we’ll also be giving away 5x Loffi Gloves and a £600 Ribble voucher)