New use for rusty old bikes
Matthew SparkesMost sheds and garages are hiding at least one bike that is unloved, unused and taking up valuable space. Inevitably they rust away to nothing or are unceremoniously thrown into a skip.Matthew Sparkes
Most sheds and garages are hiding at least one bike that is unloved, unused and taking up valuable space.
Inevitably they rust away to nothing or are unceremoniously thrown into a skip.
But one cycle mechanic from Norfolk has found a way to raise thousands of pounds for charity by repairing and selling these cycles, and is looking for donations from the public.
Paul Riches, 48, has taken in 10,000 unwanted bikes over the last decade to restore, repair and resell to raise cash for East Anglian Children's Hospices.
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Last year he handed over more than �5,000 to the charity, thanks to his skills with a spanner and talents for a tune-up.
He has run the Bracon Ash Garage for 28 years, and been operating a charity cycle recycling operation for the last ten.
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His charity efforts began by asking the drivers who regularly stopped for directions to make a charity donation.
Mr Riches said most people thought it was a 'great idea' and that it brought in about �50 a year for the hospice, until satellite navigation systems took over.
But now Mr Riches focuses on taking in around 1,000 abandoned or stolen bikes each year from police auctions and from the University of East Anglia in Norwich.
Some are saved to see another day, others are cannibalised for parts and the few that are beyond reusing are passed on to the workshop at Wayland Prison where inmates practice cycle repair skills.
Mr Riches said he has always been mechanically minded, ever since he hand built a tandem at the age of 12.
Tinkering with bikes runs in the family, as his grandfather used to restore bikes during the Second World War to sell on to American soldiers.
Mr Riches sells the bikes from his roadside garage and donates the profit to the charity, which manages a hospice for terminally ill children in Quidenham.
'I just think they need the money and I wholeheartedly support them. You can't take it with you, anyway,' he said.
'I don't think I could do what they do everyday, it astonishes me.'
Mr Riches said that he has noticed more and more people becoming interested in cycling in recent years and that demand for his stock is rising.
'A lot of people are realising that running into Norwich is just as easy on a bike,' he said.
'You keep fit and you don't have to go to the gym.'
'When I first started I was earning a couple of hundred pounds, and it seems to have doubled for each the last three years.'
He said he often saves the best bikes until Easter, when the weather begins to improve, as he can get a better price for them.
To donate unwanted bicycles or to enquire about buying a refurbished model call Mr Riches on 01508 570642.