For me this journey began on 18th October 2010 at the Guildford Book Festival when I had the pleasure of chatting with Rob Penn following a talk about his book 'It's All About the Bike' (a great read). I had previously worked as a bike mechanic and salesperson, and mentioned to him how much I enjoyed giving cycle maintenance classes at my office. He then told me all about 'bicycle kitchens', which he had discovered whilst in the USA, and the collaborative DIY bicycle maintenance ethos that they employed. It sounded great... I must start one immediately... and then life took over and time passed...
Fast forward three years and one week exactly, and I'm cycling to work on a dull and rainy day. I'm not letting that dampen my spirits though and am enjoying the fresh air and freedom the bike offers as my commuting vehicle. I'm as happy as can be until a car joins the roundabout I'm navigating and ploughs right into me. As I lie on the tarmac, with what turns out to be a fractured spine, I'm conscious of just how much worse it could have been.
I'm not going anywhere at speed any time soon and it's both a physically and mentally tough time time over the next few weeks. As I lie in my hospital bed though one thing is for sure: I've never loved cycling more in my entire life than I do right now.
With little more than my smartphone to keep me occupied between visitors an idea grows inside me: could these snippets of time between meals, naps and painkillers be used to do something positive for cycling in Reading? I remember my chat with Rob and start to research other community bike projects in the UK, soon deciding that it is worth a shot.
I got in touch with the nearby London Bike Kitchen, and its founder - the delightfully friendly Jenni Gwiazdowski - informed me that the annual event for such schemes was about to take place in Oxford at the Broken Spoke Bike Coop. Talk about nice timing!
It was the first big day out for me in my Ironman-style back brace, but a tremendously worthwhile excursion where I got to ask lots of questions to others who had already got set up and I felt a wave of inspiration flood over me (followed closely by exhaustion). Massive thanks go out to Cassiope, Elle and Fenn for organising it and to all those who contributed to the event.
Since then I have been trying to get as much done and set up as possible. Twitter, Facebook and now the website are all live, but there is still a fair bit to do and I have a limited amount of time to give before returning to my regular job.
The plan is to launch the bicycle kitchen in 2014, as soon as possible. I anticipate it being held once a week in a rented community space until such a time as a membership is established and a proper home can be found. I will be looking to find a few more bodies to help out with getting the project to that point. If you think you might be one of those people then please sign up via the volunteer page.
There is no reason why this project won't get off the ground, it just needs a bit more time and resource and we'll be off, and I can't wait... it's going to be awesome!