C: How does your story about cycling start?
R: I started cycling probably when I was five or six and then quite quickly got into building ramps and jumps out of bits of wood and bricks outside my parents’ house.
I used to do a lot of racing around the area as a child with my friends with bikes that got handed down…I broke my first arm when I was eight due to going around the corner too fast and then always been into cycling with racing BMX, racing downhill mountain bikes, being a cycle courier, mechanic and getting into road cycling.
C: How does that translate into what you do now?
R: Well, currently I work for Re-Cycle and have been on and off for five years as a mechanic and I’ve recently completed various trips to Malawi, Kenya, Zambia. These were fascinating trips, going to see how Re-Cycle works, how beneficial cycling is to people in developing countries and to see the results of the donations we get- whether large or small.
C: So Re-Cycle’s focus is to gather donations or bikes and then ship them over to developing countries?
R: Yeah, we’ve shipped 55 000 bikes to Africa now and we just started a new partnership in Madagascar and are looking at possible starting other new partnerships. The main aim is to get new bikes out to Africa, especially bikes that would probably end up in landfill. But we take anything from old bikes to road bikes…
C: Do you get involved in the process of refurbishing the bikes?
R: In the UK we select a certain amount of bikes that initially can’t be used such as bikes with hydraulics, road bikes and high-end bikes that have more value over here to basically refurbish them and sell them. The bikes we send to Africa, we don’t actually refurbish: we set up workshops with our partners in Africa, we train up the mechanics to quite a high standard, and then the bikes go over with spares and parts so that they can service and refurbish the bikes, which obviously creates employment for them. A percentage of the bikes are then sold to cover the costs of their rent, electricity, etc. A percentage of the bikes go to health workers from various partners and then the remaining of the bikes comes down to each individual partner as to what they would like to do with them.
C: That sounds fantastic, the work you do has such a great impact on who needs it the most. I know that apart from Re-Cycle, you are also part of Chapeau, would you like to talk a little bit about this?
R: Sure, if you want! Most people know that I also run Chapeau, which is Colchester’s only cycling coffee shop, only open on Saturdays. We have just celebrated our second birthday- it’s going from strength to strength! It obviously works in collaboration with Re-Cycle in a lot of things; we’ve now started doing regular weekend rides ranging from 100km up to 220km in a day.
C: For the brave ones!
R: Yeah, we’ve got another 220km ride coming up on Bank Holiday Monday. We’ve just started doing weekly rides and from the beginning of May we’ll start doing three weekly rides. This Saturday we’ve also got a bike sale coming up which is in collaboration with Re-Cycle- at Chapeau.
C: Great! Is there anything else you would like to add?
R: Just that people are welcome to come and check out Chapeau every Saturday and have a cup of coffee. More importantly, Re-Cycle are going to move soon so we are looking for volunteers to help with the process- the more the better really. If anyone would be willing to do so, please get in contact with Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org – your help would be greatly appreciated!