Ever since I got into cycling, I’ve been aware that I’ve enjoyed tinkering and fettling bikes as much as riding them. I’m never satisfied with stock bikes, and love to customise and try out different parts where I can. Like Arthur Weasley, I’m happiest in the shed.
So far, I’ve picked up what I can from manuals, guides on the internet and just trying things, but there are an awful lot of holes in my education. I also want to be able to setup and service my bikes as much as I can, which is where a new co-operative in Oxford called The Broken Spoke comes in.
The Co-op door
Setup in 2012 by Cassiope Sydoriak, Elle Smith and Will McCallum, and based in workshops that are part of the Oxford Story Museum , they have laudable aims:
- Teach bicycle maintenance classes that are fairly-priced, convenient, and accessible to everyone
- Bring people together to ride and repair bicycles
- Provide specific activities and training for vulnerable members of our community and those under-represented in cycling
- Create training, volunteer, and employment opportunities for a new generation of bicycle mechanics
- Support the growth of a “fix it, don’t throw it away” mentality within the cycling community
- Do business in a sustainable way that strengthens our community
I’ve now completed two bike workshops there and can highly recommend them! The first course was Wheel Building back in February (Flickr Set here), where we learned how to lace and true a wheel. Topics like dishing and spoke length were also covered, and after spending 2 hours trying to true a wheel, I appreciate the skill involved even more.
Hubs, spokes and nipples
It was hard work, but I’ve now been able to true the rear wheel ‘enough’. I went with Cyclox Chairman, James Styring who wrote about the experience for The Oxford Times. Tech geek? I’ll have words…
I then went back for a second course, the two-part External Mechanics Intensive (Wheels, Brakes, Chains and Gears) with chum Matt Hamm. In both courses, the workshop leaders were fantastic, and numbers are kept low so that there is enough one-on-one time. This means you can get specific instructions on your particular bike and its components, rather than just generic instructions. I’ve learnt a lot and keen to go back for more.
Matt and I removing sprockets
As well as the specific bike courses, they run an open workshop every Saturday from 12–6pm. You can come and use their extensive tool collection, and get advice and help from volunteer experts hanging around.
The co-op is a triumph!
Sorry, couldn’t resist a photo of my singlespeed outside the Pembroke Street entrance…