Cork Community Bikes hits top gear

Cork Community Bikes helps bring the joy of cycling to the city's public through repairing and maintaing bikes. Roisin Burke speaks with members of the organisation about their work.
Cork Community Bikes hits top gear
Matt Jones of Cork Community Bikes at work in their workshop at Assumption Road, Cork.Pic; Larry Cummins

From supplying The Young Offenders with bikes for filming to kitting out Asylum Seekers with a mode of transport, Cork Community Bikes are keeping busy.

Up and running since 2006, the do-it-yourself bicycle workshop has been helping the people of Cork to repair their bikes as well as fixing old bikes that they sell on cheaply to members of the community.

Set up 13 years ago by a Corkman who return to the rebel county after many years travelling and living in America, the bike chop-shop has come a long way.

Matt Jones of Cork Community Bikes at work in their workshop at Assumption Road, Cork.Pic; Larry Cummins
Matt Jones of Cork Community Bikes at work in their workshop at Assumption Road, Cork.Pic; Larry Cummins

Now managed by Matt Jones the garage has a cohort of volunteers, trained up within the scheme, who help people learn about their own bikes through weekly workshops and courses.

“We have about 12 active volunteers, five of them would be very experienced, but would have learned almost everything they know in the workshop.” 

We work on bikes to understand them better, so you can tell when they need a bit of help and solve problems before they become a big thing.

“It’s all about sharing knowledge and problem-solving. We just figure it out as we go along.

Matt said that having an environmental conscious seems to go hand in hand with being a Cork Community Bikes volunteer.

“A couple of the volunteers are making efforts to go carfree. We are all interested in repairing things in general. We try and find a use for our scrap materials and we are careful with the chemicals we use.

Mr Jones, who has been involved with Cork Community Bikes for the past four years, explained how he got involved in the project.

“I heard about it through a friend of a friend and decided to come along. I was attending for a few months before I got involved properly.

“At the moment I give about 12 hours a week to the workshop.” 

Discussing what he enjoys about the bike shed, Matt said he enjoys working on bikes and learning about the mechanics as well as sharing that knowledge with others.

“We are making cycling more accessible. It promotes repair and makes cycling an affordable mode of transport.

Matt said that the workshop gets all sorts of people looking for help with their bikes.

“We get a lot of local people and also many who have just arrived in Cork and need a bike. There is a mixture of people in different situations, getting skills and confidence around the repair of bikes.” 

As well as helping people fix their bikes at the workshop, Cork Community Bikes work with businesses, schools and other organisations.

“We sometimes hold workshops for kids, during bike week we ran some up in Farranree, there were a lot of bikes with a lot of problems that day!

Also, Cork Community Bikes ran a workshop with on how to look after your bike with Johnson Controls employees in the city centre The organisation also helps out at CIT and UCC during the college year, promoting bike use and offering tips on how to look after your bike.

As well as this Matt said they are working with several individuals staying in Direct Provision centres helping them to fix up a bike they can then use to get to work or college.

Matt Jones of Cork Community Bikes at their workshop at Assumption Road, Cork.Pic; Larry Cummins
Matt Jones of Cork Community Bikes at their workshop at Assumption Road, Cork.Pic; Larry Cummins

“They come down one evening a week and work on their bikes, we show them how to fix them and when they are finished they will have an independent transport system.”

The group is also liaising with Cork Community Art Link and will be participating in the Dragon of Shandon this year for the first time with a modified rickshaw.

While involved in all aspects of society here in Cork, Cork Community Bikes also works with The Young Offenders props department and has sold some bikes to the TV show for filming.

“The props manager came in and looked around, we had a few bikes that had the look they were going for and they bought them!” 

Discussing his burning love for bikes and his motivation for volunteering with the centre, Matt said cycling is healthy, environmentally sustainable, cheap, sociable and fun.

“If you can repair your own bike there is great independence in it. It can be very empowering.” The centre accepts old bikes that they then do up and sell on to people who may need them.

“We get a lot of offers of bikes, but a lot of the time they are very neglected, rusty and useless,” Matt said: “We don’t like to throw away a bike, but if it needs more than four or five hours work we generally don’t take them,” Matt said they also help people shop for bikes.

“We do help people shop for bikes and we also do check-ups.

“Some branded bikes can be more trouble than they are worth and we offer advice, based on our experience.” 

Matt said the centre is open on Saturdays for workshops with the community, helping people to learn repair skills and to help them fix their own bikes.

Cork Community Bikes coordinator said they are always looking for more volunteers to join them at the workshop and all you need is a love of bikes, some enthusiasm and just a bit of curiosity.

“No skills are needed to help out and training is offered to all volunteers,” Matt said.

For more information log onto Corkcommunitybikes.com or email info@corkcommunitybikes.com.

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