Bikes make you happy!

We’re proud to say we’ve made our way on to Bristol’s Happy List!

Happy Lists were born out of a need to provide an antidote to the rich/celebrity lists which worship at the shrine of the wealthy, the bonus-getters, and the tax avoiders.  In 2008 David Randall decided to create a national Happy List for the Independent on Sunday which would honour a different set of values. As a direct riposte to The Times Rich List, he named  people who, without thought of personal gain or recognition, do so much to make their communities better adjusted places to live, making their cities and thus the country a better and happier place.

Our fabulous founders, James Lucas and Colin Fan, have been named as part of Bristol’s Happy List for 2017 for their work setting up the wonderful BBP. Having a form of affordable transport makes a massive difference both to well-being and opportunity for those marginalised at the edges of society and their vision has inspired hundreds to help out. Over the years a huge number of volunteers have re-built a vast number of unwanted bikes, each one, improving a life.

So here’s to our volunteers, members and supporters – all of whom contribute to the happiness we collectively help spread across Bristol, two wheels at a time!

How to choose the perfect ride!

This month’s guest blog comes from freelance writer and editor, Jane East, who writes with some top tips for selecting your perfect ride! Even when you’ve been cycling for years, like Jane, choosing the right bike isn’t always easy. There are so many different styles, options, and sizes. Even asking advice in a specialist shop can leave you feeling more confused than when you started! Jane’s bike review site devised a fun quiz to help people focus on what they need and want. Read on for her top tips…

What Your Bike Says About You

The UK is developing its cycling-friendly system to be inclusive of all types of people, and Bristol is one of the best locations leading the way, having been named one of the UK’s top 5 cycle-friendly cities. Fast-moving roads, often suitable only for experienced and confident cyclists, are quickly becoming a second option. With the mental and physical benefits of cycling well-established, it’s a hobby anyone can benefit from. What you might want to consider is what you want your bike to do for you.

Restoring and continually maintaining a bike is an enriching experience, but don’t think you aren’t able to tune your bike to your exact needs. Here are the key features for common types of cyclists.

Everyday Cyclists

The reasons people cycle are varied, but most are looking to commute. Especially for disadvantaged people without access to public transport or a car, the humble bicycle offers opportunity and the ability to exercise those aforementioned mental and physical aspects. Cycling has remarkable inclusivity, too, with 25% of Cambridge’s disabled people cycling and similar levels taking to Bristol’s roads. Given the sheer breadth of people looking to establish their must-have features on a bike, it’s helpful to know exactly what goes into the ‘everyday’ bicycle. Generally speaking, you want easily shifted gears that have the ability to traverse fall rises and falls; and effective brakes to deal with adverse circumstances.


Off-roading is another animal altogether when it comes to cycling. The sleek roads of cities (potholes notwithstanding) and towns give way to rugged paths that require concentration, skill and a bit of physicality. Technology has started to step in, however. Electric bikes, previously powered by the pedal-pushing feeding into a battery-like motor, made for casual, sweat-less road travel. Basically, geared towards work commuters. Now, electric mountain bikes are being developed and allow you to use that stored power to make climbs. This allows more energy to be conserved for balancing in tougher tracks.

This technology is certainly compatible with refurbished rigs, too, with the right know-how.


Finally, a nod to the racers. Now, common parlance would have you believe that ultra-light frames, a lack of brakes and one-gear fixies are best for pure speed. Essentially, stripping your bike of non-aerodynamic or weighty fixtures, and even resorting to wooden bike frames. Whilst this can be true for the fastest experience, be wary of removing brakes entirely – and also of the legality of any adjustments you make to your bike.

Bikes can complete any number of different functions for the owner. The adaptability and availability of mechanics means you can twist any design or refurbished bike into a solid bike for your requirements.

Empowerment and activism at BBP

2017 was an eventful year for women at The Bristol Bike Project. In June, coordinators and volunteers from our ever popular Women & Trans* Night welcomed folks from Oxford’s Broken Spoke Co-op, who rode all the way here! We shared food, skills and ideas about how we run these sessions. We were inspired by hearing about Beryl’s Night, the monthly session they run for women and trans folk which was the starting point for Broken Spoke, and to see first-hand what goes on at Beryl’s Night several of us travelled to Oxford in September. These relationships and exchanges with other co-ops are really valuable to us a project because they top up our enthusiasm for the work we do and allow us to reflect on and discuss the way we do things. And of course, to plan more trips to see our rad pals!

Also in September we organised two film events in our Community workshop, using the awesome projector and screen recently installed by one of our coordinators. The first event was Groundswell: Bicycle Culture Rising, which was a series of thought-provoking short documentaries about grassroots bike activism made by Elly Blue and Joe Biel, publishers, writers and filmmakers from Portland, Oregon. In between films Elly and Joe asked the audience questions which elicited moving personal stories and interesting reflections on how bicycling and bike activism are different here in the U.S., and left us all inspired by what we’d seen.

The second screening was part of the Bristol Cycle Festival. Ovarian Psychos is a documentary about a Los Angeles all-female bike gang who are claiming their space on the streets and fighting patriarchy as they go. After the film there was talk about forming a feminist bike gang in Bristol but we need good name: any ideas? Because the Cycle Festival was such a busy week we know lots of folks who wanted to see the film weren’t able to make it, so we’re hoping to arrange another screening in the new year. Watch this space.

Finally, in November Jenni Gwiazdowski, founder of London Bike Kitchen, came to give a talk to a packed crowd before one of our Women&Trans* Nights. Jenni has just written a book called How to Build a Bike (available in the BBP shop!) and spoke about how to get more girls and women into STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and maths (bike mechanics is included here). She rightly pointed out that do so we need three things:

  1. role models
  2. opportunities
  3. smash patriarchy

Can you spot a recurring theme? We’re keen carry on holding more events like these and keep up the dialogue with other bike co-ops and workshops, and it’s awesome that much of the energy for this is coming from women at the Project.

If you have an idea for an event you’d like to run at the Project, please let us know!


Guest blog: British cycling adventures!

This month’s guest blog comes from Danielle Lawson, part of the project which aims to help people build the courage they need to live a more adventurous life. By sharing the exploits of British adventurers and a selection of UK adventures to try, the project hopes to inspire the everyday adventurer in all of us.

Forget the Tour de France, there are far more awe-inspiring long distance rides in the UK than you may have realised. It’s all right here in Britain, from sweeping along rugged cliffs by the coast to exploring the ancient mysteries of castles, snow-capped mountains and legendary lochs. You don’t have to travel far to find an adventure on your bike! Here are the top picks for a long distance challenge.

1) The Tissington Trail in Derbyshire

Running through open limestone country between Ashbourne and Parsley Hay, this route was once a railway line but has since become part of the National Cycle Network (NCN). It’s ideal for beginners, since trains, just like recent cycling converts, can’t manage steep hills, so miles of flat countryside is guaranteed. The trail then connects with the High Peak Trail and other Peak District routes to ease beginners into their first long distance route. Stop whenever you need to!

2) Fakenham to Harwich

Another winner for those who don’t get too excited over hills, is this NCN route through East Anglia, which is delightfully flat for most of its 163 miles. You’ll have a tour of some of the most historic spots in England, so build in a little sightseeing time before you slide up to the Essex Coast.

3) Lon Las Cymru

254-miles, from either Cardiff or Chepstow over to Holyhead, is another ideal route for taking your first steps into long distance cycling. You start out with gentler gradients and can build up to the tougher parts over multiple days. It’ll all be worth it for the route’s breathtaking views over Snowdonia and the luxurious Coed-y-Brenin forest.

4) Coasts and Castles South

The right NCN route for history buffs, this one stretches an incredible 200 miles from Newcastle to Edinburgh, via a host of castles that you’ll recognise from films. The route is mostly by road, with a few gentle climbs, but nothing the average thigh muscle can’t handle, so this sits around moderate difficulty.

5) The West Country Way

An unbeatable slice of the West Country is available here, taking in the Bristol & Bath Railway Path, with the option to finish in whichever of those cities tempts you most. Or, alternatively, wherever you run out of steam and need to re-fuel with a taste of something local. Along the way, you’ll spot the Mendips and some of the wild scenery that makes up Exmoor.

6) Devon Coast to Coast cycle route

You’ll love this one if cars drive you crazy en-route, because most of it is on the remains of past railways, and cars can’t travel near you. You’ll have the chance to roll all the way from beachy sections of North Devon at Ilfracombe to where you hit sea once again, at Plymouth.

7) The Caledonia Way

Scotland doesn’t disappoint with this much-loved, legendary route. Sitting firmly in the more challenging side of the scale, you’ll be tackling much of the Scottish West Coast and you’ll enjoy tantalising brushes with Ben Nevis and Loch Ness. With quiet roads and country tow-paths making up the route, are you ready to take it on?

You can find full details of all these routes, along with maps, tips and everything you need to get started on the National Cycle Network. And, talking of starting, with an average of 60 hours of free time in the typical weekend for adventure, what are you waiting for? See you on two wheels!

Monthly Maintenance: How to adjust your saddle

January’s Monthly Maintenance tip is all about sorting out your saddle and comes from our shop mechanic Grainne, who drew this awesome storyboard to illustrate!

Guest Blog: UK Cycling’s 2017 Story

This month’s guest blog comes from blogger and photographer Richard Anders, whose cycle 365 project aims to create the big picture of the cycling community across the UK from a diversity of photographic images.

Last week, Richard stopped off at The Bristol Bike Project for a visit. Here’s what he had to say…

Now in its 9th year, The Bristol Bike Project was conceived as a community bike project which recognised the importance of disadvantaged and marginalised people to be independently mobile in The City. Many of these people are isolated due to the cost of car ownership and (even) public transport being unaffordable.

During those 9 years, The Project has become a Community Interest Company and has grown into generous sized workshops plus sales space, while its portfolio of offerings has expanded to cover the many pressing social and wellbeing needs of The Community. They partner with over 50 organisations in and around Bristol in order to ensure their services are available to those whose need is greatest. Bristol Bike Project also offers other opportunities to get involved through volunteering, a weekly bike kitchen, a women’s night and various maintenance courses.

The Bike Kitchen occupies a large part of the BBP floor space. It is a drop-in workshop, for members of the public to use the fully equipped workshop which also offers a wide range of new and used parts for sale. There is an experienced mechanic on hand to lend limited advice and guidance. Those needing more learning can enrol on the various Saturday Maintenance Courses.

The weekly women’s night invites women to bring their bike to fix, clean or just do a check over. A sharing of knowledge and skills in a friendly, informal atmosphere with volunteers on hand to assist with learning and fixing, is what it’s about. To be able to fix your own bike and not to have to rely on favours or a relatively expensive bike shop is empowering and provides encouragement for women to take up cycling.

Last herein, but the most important part of The Bristol Bike Project, is ‘Earn a Bike’ scheme. This comprises three, hour long, one-to-one workshop sessions, working with marginalised people from within the community who need affordable and sustainable transport for social and employment mobility. Individuals work with a mechanic to refurbish a bike, donated to them by The Bristol Bike Project, learning basic mechanical skills in the process. Rather than the bike being a handout, the scheme builds empowerment and self-reliance, and fosters a bond between the recipient and their bicycle.

Since 2009, over 1500 bikes have been earned from the project in this way. Thereafter, Bike Earner owners can keep things running smoothly by dropping in at a weekly Fix-a-Bike session, which further encourages a long term relationship with their bike. Bike Earners are typically referred to The Earn a Bike Scheme by one of the ‘people in need’ organisations in and around Bristol but individuals can also refer themselves.

Thanks to Krysia at BBP who hosted me during my visit. Enthusiastic and proud of The Project’s social and community achievements, she was also delighted to mention how several of the volunteer mechanics progress to become members of The Project’s ‘Co-operative’ giving them a voice in the shaping of BBP’s future. I stayed longer than I had allowed for, was plied with tea and mince pie, and spent money in support of The Project on a good looking Project T Shirt, a casquette, and a copy of the final ever edition of The Boneshaker (book-like) Magazine, produced by BBP co founder James who writes in the magazine’s final editorial:

“After more than 8 years and 1500 pages of freedom, friendship and adventure, of politics and poetry, ink and dreams, we’re ready to move onto something new……The Boneshaker name, its intentions and the wonderful community that’s grown around it will live on. Thank you to everyone who’s been involved, sharing stories and pictures, riding with us, inspiring us, sharing our enthusiasm for the mystic beauty of life on two wheels.”

Thankfully, with refurbished bikes selling like hot mince pies, continued donations of bikes and funds, and my purchases, The Bristol Bike Project surely has many more years of good work to come.

Araya, Filimon and Girmay’s story

At The Bristol Bike Project we restore and repair donated bicycles before distributing them to underprivileged and marginalised individuals through our “Earn-a-Bike” scheme.

Araya, Filimon and Girmay came to the UK from Eritrea earlier in 2017, finding BBP through Mendip YMCA. Inspired by Eritrean professional road cyclist Daniel Teklehaimanot, Araya and Filimon were excited by the possibility of owning their own road bikes – something we at BBP could make possible. While Girmay also entertained the idea of a road bike to keep up with his peers, his new home in the UK is opposite the road from a local skatepark, so favoured the idea of a sturdier BMX.

Joining us for a 3 hour “Earn-a-Bike” evening session, each of the guys worked with one of the BBP coordinators to repair a donated bicycle. While working on the bicycles Araya, Filimon and Girmay received 1-to-1 guidance on how to maintain and look after a bicycle, as well as repair common mechanical issues such as brake pad replacement and puncture fixing. At the end of the session, the bicycles were theirs to take home, with an accompanying lock and set of lights.

The donated bikes have allowed three individuals to enjoy the simple pleasure of cycling, as well as allow them to save on the bus fare to college.

A few months on, here’s what the guys have to say about their new bikes…

“Having the BMX bike means that I now know more people because there are a group of us who go over to the BMX park. It has been a really good way to meet people and make new friends.” – Girmay

In Eritrea there are four professional cyclists and this has made cycling like a religion in Eritrea. This is the first road bike that I have had and I love the freedom of going where I want when I want. It also helps me to keep fit too which is very important for me.– Filimon

My new bike helps me get to work on time and get home earlier which is good because I work a lot of different shift times. It took time for me to get used to the roads in the UK and to the weather as well. When I first started riding in the UK I was freezing as I was not used to the cold weather! Now though I have water proof cloths and most importantly gloves which means I can now ride in the winter as well. I also like to use my bike to go to the gym which means I can go when I want and not rely on buses or lifts from other people.” – Araya


Filimon and his super speedy Carrera!                Girmay enjoying his BMX!


Monthly Maintenance: Know your wheels!

This month, Lucy gives the low down on how to check your wheel and tyre sizes so that the next time you walk into a bicycle shop to buy an inner tube, you know exactly what to ask for!

✨🌲 Celebrate the festive season with dazzling deals from our shop!🌲✨

‘Tis the season to be jolly and we’re hoping to add some sparkle to your Christmas shopping with some dazzling deals from our shop!

So don’t bother with the high street. Save time and money by getting all your presents from us. Your cycling pals will think you’re a hero, and the money you spend will support our work getting more people out on two wheels. It’s a win-win-win situation!

Here’s what deals we’ve got in store…

BBP merch bundle – £24 (usually £30)

One of our illustrious BBP tees*, BBP cycling cap and a copy of the latest (and final…*sob*!) Boneshaker magazine (mechanic not included!).

*Tees come in women’s slim fit or universal: S, M, L & XL

Basic bicycle maintenance bundle – £23 (usually £29)

For all the essential on-the-go repairs: Lezyne Rap-6 multitool, Truflo hand pump, puncture repair kit and tyre levers.


Advanced bicycle maintenance bundle – £43 (usually £54)

All you need to keep your ride running smoothly: Lezyne Rap-14 multitool, Lezyne hand pump, puncture repair kit and tyre levers.


Wheeelie great gifts with bells on! 🔔

As well as those top deals, here’s some more great gift ideas from The Bristol Bike Project shop.

Bicycle maintenance course vouchers:£30 – £60

What greater present than the gift of knowledge! Learn great skills and save money by building self-sufficiency in bicycle mechanics. Afterwards, you can tell the lucky recipient to make use of our drop-in workshops to keep their bike on the road with their knew found skills.

We currently run two maintenance courses with tip top reviews! A Bicycle Basic Introductory Course and an Intensive Practical Course.

Lock & light bundles

Ever bought your bicycle a Christmas present? No, didn’t think so. And just think of the gift it gives to you every day with the joy of free, fast and fun travel! So why not give your bicycle a gift this Christmas by keeping it safe and sound with one of our lock and light bundles?

The essential set offers a sturdy Onguard lock and ETC lights for just £29 (usually £33)

Or show your trusty steed just how much you love it and invest in one of our advanced bundles with a Kryptonite lock and Lezyne USB rechargeable lights (this one’s good for the planet too!) for just £66 (usually £73)

How to Build a Bike, by Jenni Gwiazdowski – NOT YET AVAILABLE IN STORE: TAKING PRE-ORDERS.

Jenni is the founder of the London Bike Kitchen, an education space that encourages people to fix and build their own bikes. Her foray into book writing has seen her publish this brilliantly demystifying book – the complete guide to building your own ride! As a special treat this December, we’re selling them for £12 (usually £15)!

Boneshaker, adieu!

As always, we are looking forward to the forthcoming issue of Boneshaker magazine (in our shop next week!), but were sorry to hear that their next issue will also be their last. Only one year after kickstarting The Bristol Bike Project with his pal Colin, James took the inspiration he was feeling from BBP and the community that was quickly beginning to emerge around it and decided to revisit his love of print and storytelling by creating Boneshaker magazine. He was clear from the outset that he wanted the magazine to be about the real human experience of being on a bike and the myriad possibilities that that can facilitate and that it should be accessible to everyone, even to those people who may never even have cycled – and to actually help inspire them into giving it a go! Keeping it grassroots, honest and playful, and featuring a wide range of voices (and artists) from all over the globe, was always a key part of the magazine’s ethos and we’re sorry to see it finish.

The Boneshaker team posted the following on their social media earlier today…

After more than 8 years and 1500 pages of freedom, friendship and adventure, of politics and poetry, ink and dreams, we’re ready to move onto something new. We’ve loved the journey so far. The Boneshaker name, its intentions and the wonderful community that’s grown around it will live on. Thank you to everyone who’s been involved, sharing stories and pictures, riding with us, inspiring us, sharing our enthusiasm for the mystic beauty of life on two wheels.

Boneshaker has consciously tried not to be like mainstream bike mags, eschewing kit and machismo and focussing instead on the human, emotional and experiential pleasures of life on two wheels.
It’s been stocked in the Tate in London, MoMA in New York, and in bookshops, galleries and bike shops from Singapore to Slovenia, from Bratislava to Bogota and featured two Turner prize-winning artists and one poet laureate.