Riding through the Storm

This guest blog post is particularly special to me. It is written by KJ, whom I met at a local cafe. We were sitting next to each other outside and struck up a conversation, which quickly turned to the topic of bikes. We had a wonderful chat and she told me the amazing story below. I immediately invited her to write a guest post about it, and true to her word, here it is! I love that this story emerged out of two strangers striking up a conversation and that bicycles brought us together. I also think this is a very important story to reflect on and share. Thanks so much to KJ and Ian for telling us their experience – and it goes without saying…if you ride in Brisbane and see Ian out and about – be sure to say hi!! Enjoy! NG.

Riding through the Storm

Riding through the Storm - Bicycles Create Change.com 27th Feb, 2018Image: Ian’s amazing bespoke bikes

Chances are if you frequent north Brisbane bikeways, you’ve encountered Ian. You may not have overtaken him though; arms pumping and metal shining, he keeps quite a pace on his recumbent hand cycle. Ian has hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), a rare disease causing progressive muscle weakness, but that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing the sport he loves with determination and creativity.

Ian fixed up his first scrapheap bike at age 15, in order to be able to “scream around the bush”. With his experience of in-shed tinkering with a neighbour, he found mechanical skills came easily, and these skills were put to use in his work as a panel beater, bus driver and Telstra exchange technician. A car license made him forget his first love until his mid-thirties when the purchase of a $120 bike offered the freedom of a daily ride before work. Before long he was upgrading, tinkering in the shed again, and sharing his joy of riding and repairing with his two children.

However, the signs that he had inherited his mother’s muscular disorder were there from as early as age 10 when he started to develop problems with his feet and knees turning inwards, and his feet dragging. His disease defied diagnosis until he was 52 when genetic testing confirmed he had the rare mutation of HSP. By this stage, Ian had been made redundant and, no longer able to climb ladders and with difficulty walking and the prospect of worsening mobility, he went on the disability pension.

Ian realised it was time for a cycling change when he tried to put his foot down to dismount and crashed. A familiar feeling for many, but this wasn’t the usual inability to clip out; his foot had just remained on the pedal. He bought a recumbent bike from Flying Furniture, and with clip-on shoes keeping his feet on the pedals at the right time, he was able to get enough momentum, despite fellow cyclists’ disparaging shouts of “Get off your bum you lazy…”

With time and progressive weakness, Ian needed to add an electric motor for pedal assist, but ultimately ran into problems with his knees falling inwards. His cycling future seemed over, with hand cycles at $10,000 priced out of his reach. He simply set to building one, and after a year and $300 was back on the bikeway.

Two hand cycles later, Ian relishes the freedom longer rides of 40 km to Woody Point or Sandgate offer, although he’s happy for a lift home from his wife Narelle. He suffers from the endorphin deficiency all cyclists experience when unsuitable weather or injury keep them off the bike – maybe a bit more than most because day to day there is a need for something to lift the spirits. Because of his fluidity and speed on the bike, fellow cyclists may be taken by surprise when he struggles to get into the end of ride coffee shop.

One thing is for sure, this is one cyclist who will not let disability hold him down.

Riding through the Storm - Bicycles Create Change.com 27th Feb, 2018

Further information can be found at the HSP Research Foundation – created in 2005 to find a cure for Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia – an inherited, degenerative disease affecting mainly the legs, causing muscle weakness, spasticity and severely impairing walking.

The HSP Research Foundation is an incorporated, registered Australian charity that facilitates and funds research to find a cure. The Foundation is also the community hub for HSPers in Australia, creating awareness and providing support and education.

World first announced this week: Hydrogen-powered Bikes

This guest blog post is by Greg Beach, who earlier this week reported on the official announcement of the World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Bicycle. Two months ago, DesignBoom reported on this design, however, it was not officially announced until this week that Pragma’s ALPHA hydrogen-powered bicycles have been manufactured and are set to become commercially available in the near future. It will be very interesting to see what impacts and reaction this new announcement will have on cycling communities and city bike share initiatives. NG.

World first announced this week: Hydrogen-powered Bikes

Pragma Industries just became the first company to launch a hydrogen-powered bicycle for commercial and municipal purposes. Based in Biarritz, France, the company has already secured 60 orders for the hydrogen bikes from French municipalities such as Saint Lo, Cherbourg, Chambery and Bayonne.

While the bikes are currently too expensive for the commercial market, costs are expected to eventually drop from 7,500 euros to 5,000 euros, and charging stations cost about 30,000 euros.

World first announced this week: Hydrogen-powered Bikes - Bicycles Create Change.com 22nd Jan 2018

While Pragma is not the only company interested in hydrogen-powered bicycles, they have taken production of such vehicles the farthest — so far.

“Many others have made hydrogen bike prototypes, but we are the first to move to series production,” Pragma founder and chief executive Pierre Forte told Reuters.

Pragma’s Alpha bike is able to travel a distance of 100 kilometers (62 miles) on a two-liter (0.5 gallon) tank of hydrogen.

Although the range is similar to that of a typical electric bike, the recharge time is significantly reduced from hours for a traditional e-bike to merely minutes for the Alpha hydrogen-powered bike.

World first announced this week: Hydrogen-powered Bikes - Bicycles Create Change.com 22nd Jan 2018

Pragma offers two types of recharging stations: one that uses hydrolysis of water to generate hydrogen fuel on-site, and another, more affordable station that relies on tanks of already prepared hydrogen fuel.

Due to the high cost, Pragma is currently marketing its bikes to larger commercial and municipal operations such as bike-rental operators, delivery companies, and municipal or corporate bicycle fleets.

After producing 100 such bikes last year, Pragma hopes to sell 150 this year to organizations in places such as Norway, the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany.

In addition to developing a bike that is capable of turning water into fuel without the need of a charging station, the company plans to massively expand into the retail market within the next few years.

World first announced this week: Hydrogen-powered Bikes - Bicycles Create Change.com 22nd Jan 2018


This news was reported world-wide through the major news outlets, so unsurprisingly, most of the reporting on this innovation appears to be based on the same publicity brief with articles repeating pretty much the same info. However, there were a few articles that supplied a little more detail about the bike, how it looks and it’s specifications (like this Reuters article).  

Images and original article published in Inhabitat 17/1/2018.

Counterview and Critique of Bicycle Network’s Helmet Survey Results

On Nov 21st, I posted the results of the Bicycle Network’s Helmet Law Survey. I was delighted this week to see some topical debate about the results taking place amongst the wider Australian cycling community.  I was most impressed by the active, critical engagement and points raised by the Freestyle Cyclist Editor, who yesterday posted a very interesting commentary about the Bicycle Network itself and it’s handling of the Helmet Law Survey. If you haven’t see it yet, here it is. Always good to hear differing points of view and advocates pushing for more thoughtful approaches of key issues for further positive action! You can add your voice to the Helmet Law Reform here. Enjoy, NG.

Bicycles Create Change.com Dec 6th, 2017- Counterview of Bicycle Network's Helmet Survey Results

Will Australia’s largest bike riding organisation be influenced by the majority of submitted participation/injury evidence and surveyed public opinion when it decides over the next few months whether to continue supporting Australia’s mandatory bicycle helmet laws?

The Bicycle Network has published the results of its open survey during August and September on public and membership opinion of the helmet laws.
  • The survey was completed by 19,327 respondents
  • Respondents were mostly Bicycle Network members and people who ride bikes with varying regularity.
  • 2.6% of respondents were from overseas, and 1.9% of respondents said they never ride a bike.
  • 58.3% of respondents said there should be a change to helmet laws, while the remaining 41.7% said helmets should be mandatory all the time
  • 40.7% believe helmets should only be mandatory when the risk is high, for example, when racing, on road or for young people
  • 30.4% would ride more if helmets weren’t mandatory
  • If laws changed, almost all people who currently wear a helmet when they ride would continue to do so and the number of people who never wear a helmet when riding would only increase by 3.7%
  • As expressed by the Bicycle Network’s media releaseA survey of almost 20,000 people has found that nearly two-thirds don’t believe you should have to wear a helmet every time you ride a bike in Australia.
Which sounds similar to what Freestyle Cyclists has been saying for the past decade.
Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richard says the network will use the membership and public responses when evaluating its position on helmets, along with literature and expert opinions, with a decision expected in April 2018. “It’s great to get such a large amount of public opinion about bike helmets. It’s something people are clearly passionate about and it’s helpful to see how Australia’s helmet laws may impact people’s decision to ride,” said Mr Richards. “The opinion of our members and people who ride bikes is important and will help inform our policy on Australia’s mandatory helmet law. Along with academic research and information from experts, we will be able to make a fully informed decision.”
The Bicycle Network has about 50,000 members. Its influence could force media and political consideration of the helmet law issue if its policy review objectively considers the mountain of evidence proving Australia’s helmet law failure and if it does the right thing in April by recommending repeal.
A majority of Bicycle Network members are lycra cyclists who always wear helmets and it is interesting that 38.9% wanted some form of repeal in their survey responses. Among the network members, 70.4% would continue to wear a helmet every time they ride.
Bicycles Create Change.com Dec 6th, 2017- Counterview of Bicycle Network's Helmet Survey Results
Among all respondents to the Bicycle Network survey, 17.6% believed that bicycle helmets should never be mandatory, in line with the Freestyle Cyclists opinion that they should be voluntary among all ages. Only 1.9% of survey respondents said they never ride a bike and 30.4% of all respondents said they would cycle more if helmets weren’t mandatory.
Of course, the survey wasn’t measuring the hundreds of thousands of people who would actually ride a bike in the first place if not threatened with police punishment for cycling without a helmet.
The public health and traffic safety benefits would be enormous with both more cyclists and a 30% increase in current cycling duration. All the newly participating riders would otherwise probably be driving a car and the hospital data suggests fewer cyclists will be crashing and injuring some part of their body. 
The Bicycle Network is under pressure from many within its own membership, from Australia’s pro-law academia and from the media to make no change to its long-standing position of support for mandatory bike helmet laws. Most mainstream media such as in Western Australia continue to ignore any reference to the Bicycle Network’s helmet policy review, let alone the survey results. 
The few media outlets that have published stories online or in press about the survey results have highlighted the medical community’s opposition and/or quoted one of the many helmeted cyclists who so frequently crash and are convinced it has saved their life.

It’s likely that well over 99% of Australians are unaware of the review or survey, adding weight to the 19,327 who did know and let their majority helmet law opposition be known in the Bicycle Network survey.

Freestyle Cyclists urges the Bicycle Network to objectively evaluate the real world evidence of Australia’s mandatory helmet law failure and accept that its own pro-repeal survey results support the mountain of submitted evidence that the laws discourage a huge number of people from riding a bike, and with highly questionable injury results.

Readers are urged to read the expert opinions linked at the bottom of the Bicycle Network’s policy review page.

All 32 opinions are worth reading but we recommend those submitted by Freestyle Cyclists, Professor Chris Rissel,  and researcher Chris Gillham.

Bicycles Create Change.com Dec 6th, 2017- Counterview of Bicycle Network's Helmet Survey Results

 This post was originally posted on Freestyle Cyclist (5th Dec, 2017) and the full text has been reprinted here as per the original. Text emphasis is my own. Images my own sources.

Bike-sharing fiascoes

This post come courtesy of Senior Lecturer in Transport at the University of Huddersfield.  This article is an extension to a previous bike sharing article he wrote last year. A lot has changed since then! Thanks for giving permission to share this article Alexandros!

Bike sharing fiascos - Bicycles Create Change.com

Bike-sharing fiascoes

Bike-sharing schemes are a fast-growing transport trend, with almost 1,500 operating around the world today. To governments, they’re a novel tool to help ease the burden on public transport systems and reduce congestion in cities. To people, they’re an affordable and green way to get from A to B, without having to actually buy a bike.

Inspired by the principles of the “sharing economy”, bike-sharing schemes aim to make efficient use of resources by providing affordable, short-term access to bikes on an “as-needed” basis.

These schemes have been one of the most distinctive and user-friendly means of inspiring people to change their mode of travel, largely because they blend the sustainability of cycling with the speed and convenience of public transport.

But as striking photographs from China reveal, these bold principles don’t always play out in practice. To prevent thousands of bikes literally piling up in need of repair or retirement, cities and bike-sharing businesses need to swerve around a few obvious potholes.

Bike sharing fiascos - Bicycles Create Change.com

An uphill effort

Certain features can make cities hostile places for bike-sharing schemes; for example, overcomplicated planning procedures, strict cycling laws (such as compulsory helmet use) and political friction over giving up parking spaces to bike docks.

Inadequate infrastructure – such as limited bike lanes and unprotected cycle paths – together with traffic safety concerns, bad weather and hilly streets can also put off would-be cyclists. And if schemes suffer from poor promotion or sluggish expansion, the bikes can languish for lack of use.

Traditional bike-sharing schemes enable users to rent and return bikes at special hire stations, but they don’t provide a door-to-door service. So, for them to work, convenience is crucial. Schemes such as Seattle’s Pronto paid the price for having sparse and poorly placed docking stations, ceasing operations in 2017.

Over the last two years, Chinese bike-sharing start-ups such as Mobike and Ofo – funded by internet giants Alibaba and Tencent – have rushed to address this problem, by providing stationless smart bikes, which users can lock and unlock using a mobile app.

With lightning speed, hundreds of door-to-door bike-sharing schemes have spread across China, throughout other Asian countries and finally into Europe – the homeland of conventional public bicycle programmes. This new model has in theory the capacity to transform the world of cycle hire, just as Uber and Lyft have done for cabs.

Fatally flawed?

But amid the rush to embrace this new technology, there have already been a fair few fiascoes. China’s third-biggest bike-sharing company, Bluegogo, has run into financial trouble, despite having 20m users and £226m in deposits at its zenith. With so much competition in the market, there are too many bikes available at very low prices, with insufficient demand from consumers.

Bike sharing fiascos - Bicycles Create Change.com

Of course, some of these mistakes are easily avoidable. Wukong Bicycle, a minor Chinese start-up which placed 1,200 bikes in the notoriously hilly Chinese city of Chongqing, went out of business after only six months in operation, with 90% of its bikes presumed missing or stolen. They made the fatal error of not installing GPS devices in their fleet.

Beijing-based bike-sharing firm 3Vbike also went bankrupt in June 2017, after losing more than 1,000 of its bikes in just four months. The scheme relied on location data from WeChat, rather than building its own app, making its tracking functions ineffective. Worse still, the owner had to purchase the bikes himself, for lack of other investors.

Manchester’s Mobike scheme – the first of its kind in the UK – is still going strong, despite facing teething issues during its first three months. Bikes were vandalised, dumped in canals and bins and stolen outright, leading the company’s spokesperson to suggest that the system has been “misundertood”. Bikes have since been taken in for repair, and will be redistributedacross a smaller area in the city centre. The oBike scheme in Australian cities faced similar problems.

Bike sharing fiascos - Bicycles Create Change.com

Survival guide

So, even with the right technology, dockless schemes are prone to misuse. If this new model of bike-sharing scheme is going to survive, operators will need to take note of these pitfalls, and adapt to the specific needs of their cities. Here are a few measures which can help to ensure the success of a bike-sharing scheme:

  • Stationless bikes might work where traditional bike-sharing schemes have failed, provided there is enough demand for these services. But free-floating bikes must have GPS systems attached – not doing so is a recipe for failure.
  • Fair fares, flexible membership options and ease of access all help to make schemes more user-friendly. And each scheme should have its own purpose-built app – no substitute is good enough.
  • Protection mechanisms and penalties for vandalism and theft should be in place from day one, to help minimise misuse. Market and education campaigns can be used to promote bike-sharing culture, and encourage people to take a positive attitude towards these bikes.
  • Too much competition within a city is a problem – an oversaturated bike-sharing market can be a fatal trap, especially for smaller schemes. Once they’ve assessed the market, operators need to make a city-specific plan for methodical and incremental growth. Rushing things through will lead to disaster.
  • City authorities should enthusiastically support bike-sharing and invest in cycling infrastructure to help schemes succeed; having a champion for the scheme, such as London’s former mayor Boris Johnson, guarantees long-term viability.
  • Very aggressive expansion can doom even the strongest dockless bike-sharing initiatives. Bike-sharing might not be an extremely profitable investment, so it’s important to manage investors’ expectations.

Bike-sharing is still, in many ways, a revelation and a positive addition for many cities which are battling the ill effects of car use. But at the same time it should be realised that not every city is destined to become a paradise for cyclists.

This is most recent article on bike sharing. He has written two previous articles for The Conversation about the (then) burgeoning global bike sharing expansion phenomena (Feb 2016) as well as how cars are killing us and what we can do to wean ourselves off them (from Sept 215). This article and all  images was originally published earlier this week on The Conversation website and then on subsequently on SBS

Helmet Law Survey Results

The results of the Bicycle Network Helmet Law Survey are in! Big ups to all those who responded to the survey online and via my blog post on September 19th.  A summary of the key findings are at the end of this post. Very interesting!

Helmet Law Survey Results - Bicycles Create Change.com

A survey of almost 20,000 people has found that nearly two-thirds don’t believe you should have to wear a helmet every time you ride a bike in Australia.

It also found that if current mandatory helmet laws change to allow Australians to ride a bike without wearing a helmet, more than 30% of people would ride a bike more often.

The survey was conducted in August and September this year as part of Bicycle Network’s mandatory helmet law policy review.

Currently under the law, it is compulsory to wear a helmet whenever riding a bike in Australia, excluding the Northern Territory.

Bicycle Network CEO, Craig Richards, said the responses received from its members and the public will help the organisation evaluate its position on helmets, forming one part of a wider review which also includes a literature review and evaluation of expert opinion.

“It’s great to get such a large amount of public opinion about bike helmets. It’s something people are clearly passionate about and it’s helpful to see how Australia’s helmet laws may impact people’s decision to ride,” said Mr Richards.

“The opinion of our members and people who ride bikes is important and will help inform our policy on Australia’s mandatory helmet law. Along with academic research and information from experts, we will be able to make a fully informed decision.”

When it comes to relaxing laws, it’s not one-size-fits-all

While most people said they don’t support mandatory helmet laws, there was a divide in whether laws should be fully relaxed, or adapted in specific situations.

41% think helmets should still be mandatory in some circumstances, such as riding in ‘high risk’ situations, like racing, riding on roads or under 18 years of age.

“Understandably, there are people that feel safer wearing a helmet. But there are situations where some people have told us they would feel safe without a helmet, like riding on a trail next to the beach,” added Mr Richards.

“If we were to change our policy on Australia’s mandatory helmet laws, it may not be as simple as saying you’ll never have to wear one again.”

Bicycle Network is Australia’s largest bike riding organisation representing 50,000 members.

It’s mandatory helmet law policy review began in August this year and is expected to be completed by April 2018.


Helmet Law Survey Results - Bicycles Create Change.comSummary of Bicycle Network’s mandatory helmet law survey

  • The survey was completed by 19,327 respondents
  • Respondents were mostly Bicycle Network members and people who ride bikes with varying regularity. 2.6% of respondents were from overseas, and 1.9% of respondents said they never ride a bike.
  • 58.3% of respondents said there should be a change to helmet laws, while the remaining 41.7% said helmets should be mandatory all the time
  • 40.7% believe helmets should only be mandatory when the risk is high, for example, when racing, on road or for young people
  • 30.4% would ride more if helmets weren’t mandatory
  • If laws changed, almost all people who currently wear a helmet when they ride would continue to do so and the number of people who never wear a helmet when riding would only increase by 3.7%

This post was first published by Bicycle Network on 21st Nov, 2017.

Don Kuson Community Bike Shop

While looking for community bike projects in Thailand, I came across the Don Kuson Community Bike Shop in Bangkok. It reminded me of a previous post from Cass about Ben’s Bici Cooperativa in Peru. The Don Kuson shop offers a range of bike services and programs as well as hosting live music gigs and other events. This report comes courtesy of Bicycle Thailand. Enjoy! NG.

Don Kuson Community Bike Shop - Bicycles Create Change.com

Possibly the only bike shop in Bangkok running on the support and donations of local bicycle lovers, the Don Kuson Community Bike Shop started as the answer to a need noticed by Alexander Martin. As an avid bicyclist in the US, he was involved in bike co-op organizations for years until he moved to Bangkok and saw that there wasn’t anything similar.

Don Kuson Community Bike Shop - Bicycles Create Change.com

Located deep in Charoen Krung Soi 57, Don Kuson offers the typical services that you would find at most bike shops around the city. They help customers find new or used bikes, they can help fix a bike malfunction, or they can just help beginners understand the basics.

But that’s also the difference between Don Kuson and other bike shops—they want to work with their customers, not just do it for them. It’s this kind of cooperative spirit that Don Kuson is known for and wants to push further into the neighborhood.

Don Kuson Community Bike Shop - Bicycles Create Change.com

Besides maintaining an open shop for the community, Don Kuson also organizes a few other bike-related activities. They host free city night rides, taking cyclists of all skills and ages on a tour around Bangkok after the heat of the day has subsided. They’re happy to help find bikes (and lights) for those who wish to participate but don’t own their own wheels.

Don Kuson Community Bike Shop - Bicycles Create Change.com

Don Kuson also has a volunteer program for the local kids called Earn-A-Bike. Any kid that completes 10 hours of volunteer service for Don Kuson will get their very own refurbished bike. Alex hopes that by working for their bike, it’ll add a level of value and pride to it.

Don Kuson will have been open for a year at the end of August 2017. But in that short time, they’ve been able to repair around 300 bikes, an impressive feat for a shop that’s only open 3 days a week and run only with volunteers.

Don Kuson Community Bike Shop - Bicycles Create Change.com

Generous individuals and supportive bike shops have donated all the bike parts that the shop has. They welcome and work with all bikes and riders of any skill level. It’s also free to use and runs on donations.

Don Kuson Community Bike Shop - Bicycles Create Change.com

In the future, Alex hopes that he’ll eventually be able to work with other organizations to promote bike safety, advocate better bike infrastructure, and, in general, make Bangkok a better place for everyone to bike.

If you want to help Don Kuson and you’re interested in volunteering, donating parts and/or money, or just want to talk to the man himself, the easiest way to contact Alex is through the Don Kuson Community Bike Shop Facebook Page.

Don Kuson Community Bike Shop - Bicycles Create Change.com

However, the best way is to just come by the shop. It’s open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3:30PM – 7PM. You’ll get to see the community and understand, first hand, why this is such an important place to support.

Don Kuson Community Bike Shop - Bicycles Create Change.com

Don Kuson Community Bike Shop
402/33 Soi Don Kuson (Charoen Krung soi 57)
Khwaeng Yan Nawa, Khet Sathon
Bangkok 10120
ภาษาไทย [+] Tel. 087-971-6613
[Bangkok’s First not for profit Bike Co-Op]
GPS – N 13.71443, E 100.5163906

All Images: Don Kuson Community Bike Shop Facebook page & Bicycle Thailand. This post was first published at  Bicycle Thailand on Aug, 17th, 2017.

Ben’s Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

This guest post comes courtesy of the unfailingly intrepid and seemingly inexhaustable Cass from While out Riding. Cass has been riding for many years and started While out Riding to document his massive exploratory backcountry bike tour which began in Alaska, June 2009. His blog chronicles this trip (which concluded in 2014) and many subsequent riding adventures. His blog is filled with all manner of biking interests, insights and inspirations and is an endless source of biking delight.

This post comes from a stop he made while riding South America in 2012. I found Cass’s blog while searching for community bike projects in South America. I contacted Cass to ask if I could reprint this post as I was impressed by the detail, respect and support his writing exuded for Ben’s local grassroots bike operation and the positive impact Ben was creating in his local rural community. Cass was very happy for me to repost this story and I am thrilled to share it here. Find out more about Cass and his adventures at his blog While out Riding.

Thanks Cass! We can’t wait to see more of your work – happy riding!

I recently had the good fortune to meet Ben, a Peace Corps volunteer living in the Cordillera Blanca. I’d heard about the grassroots ‘bike co-op’ he’d set up in his caserio – a pinprick of a village by the name of Shirapucro – from another PC volunteer on the road to Cajamarca, a few weeks back.

Ben lives up in the shadow of mighty Huascaran, some thirty kilometres from Huaraz – half of which are dirt, and steep ones at that. As a member of the Peace Corps, he’s posted to Peru for two years, earning local wages during that time. In Ben’s case, his work involves promoting environmental issues. He lives in a small, adobe house with his wife, Katie, also a Peace Corps volunteer, working in healthcare.

A dedicated believer in bicycle co-ops – a space that provides communities with access to the relevant tools, and knowhow, to keep their bicycles in cheap working order (the antithesis to the exclusive, high end bike shop) – he soon went about setting up his own. The impetus came after noticing the state of disrepair typical to most bikes in the area, and the way kids hurtled down the lumpy dirt roads outside his house, often returning with scrapes and bruises on their way back up.

His idea was a simple one: to encourage the children in his village to look after their bicycles, by learning to spot subtle issues before they became glaring problems, arming them with the knowledge to make the necessary repairs, and eventually the confidence to help others too.

Yet despite its simplicity, it’s a startling project. Humble in its execution but magnificent in its vision, in the last few months he’s set up a tiered bicycle maintenance program (from novice to maestro) that now draws a steady flow of local kids, three times a week in the afternoons, to his makeshift workshop. Under a corrugated roof (protection from the high altitude sun in the dry season and powershower rains in the wet season), he teaches anyone who’s interested to learn: everything from positioning a saddle or repairing, to the finer arts of adjusting derailleurs, truing wheels and maintaining hub bearings. Bicycle safety also plays a part in his courses, with a a small test track nearby to teach bike handling skills. In doing all this, the knock on effect is that he’s encouraging people to bicycle, giving it due importance and respect within the community.

Ben hopes news of this barebones co-op will spread to neighbouring villages – already it seems to be doing just that – so that by the time his two years in Peru are up, he leaves behind a community of children and young adults who know both how to ride their bicycles safely, and maintain them for years to come. Hopefully someone will take over the mantle when he leaves.

His budget is small and resources are limited, so if anyone has anything they’d be happy to put in the post – chainbreaks and other specialist bicycle tools are sought after items (the local versions leave much to be desired) – see below for details. And please forward this link to anyone you think might be interested in helping out.

1 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

2 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

3 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

4 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

5 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

6 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

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8 Bicycles Create Change Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

9 Bicycles Create Change Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

10 Bicycles Create Change Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

11 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

The Need to Know Bit:

Got some spare parts/tools you’re happy to pop in the post? If you can forward this link to anyone who might be interested, that would be great too.

Update: Ben can be reached at:  bdmasters at gmail dot com

Postal address is: Ben Masters, PCV. Casilla Postal 277. Serpost. Huaraz, Ancash. Peru.

Ben visits Huaraz every couple of weeks or so to check email; it’s probably best to contact him first before posting anything. I passed the message on and he was stoked there had been interest.


3Plus3 MTB Event

Annette Dexter’s enthusiasm, support and fitness is unquenchable!  Her last race post was on the 2017 Bayview Blast MTB 100km marathon . Here, she gives an overview of the popluar Queensland MTB event – the 3Plus3. Thanks to Annette for her time and energy. We wish her luck on her next amazing adventure! NG.

SEQ 3Plus3 MTB Event

On the weekend of 8-9 July 2017, South East Queensland (SEQ) mountain bikers again made a good showing at the 3Plus3 event at Spicers Hidden Vale. The midwinter 3Plus3 has become a firm part of the local riding calendar, along with Hidden Vale’s 24 h and 4 h events in April, the Dingo Duo in October and the Epic in September.

Originally held as a December event, the 3Plus3 migrated to July on a permanent basis after being cancelled due to rain two years in succession. It now serves as a mountain bikers’ Christmas in July. Like other mountain biking events at Hidden Vale, the event offers an opportunity to camp on the 12,000 acre property, rather than staying in limited cottage accommodation at the resort.


Racing takes the form of 3 h lap events events on Saturday and Sunday, with separate courses of approximately 9 km each day in 2017. Riders can choose to participate on one or both days, either as solo riders or in a team of two.

Age categories in the main event range from under-19 to over-50s, and a separate single-speed category is available. There are also kids’ events run across the weekend, with A, B and C grades riding laps of a 2.2 km course across both days and social riders completing the course on Saturday or Sunday only.

Event Evolution

In 2016, the event for the first time offered a separate social ride, with riders using an alternate course to the racers in an untimed event. For the Saturday social event, riders proceeded through transition to a short fire road descent, then up 007 trail, following Dodgem, Western Creek and Woodworm to the popular Plane Sailing trail, exiting halfway along for a descent to Ladder and a climb back to the main fire road, then turning away from race base to return along Gully.

Sunday racers followed the same course, while the Saturday race (and Sunday social ride) took in a short climb up Buckshot, the last portion of Plane Sailing and a descent through Snake to Juiced, followed by a loop through Airplane, Rock Bottom and Escalator. Escalator has had some much-needed spade work, so it is good to see older trails are not being neglected while Hidden Vale pursues expansion of the trail network further from the homestead.

The 3Plus3 remains a popular event, particularly for families. Participation has been growing from year to year, particularly with the addition of the social ride. A Saturday night Xmas feast is available for limited numbers and many riders appreciate an opportunity to stay on after the first day’s riding and catch up with MTB friends before completing the event on the Sunday.


The 2017 overall win for women went to Imogen Smith, who was returning from serious hip and shoulder injuries sustained in a criterium race earlier this year. Imogen rode 14 laps across Saturday and Sunday in a total time of 6:36.

The men’s overall winner was Trek Racing’s Ethan Kelly, with 16 laps in 6:24.

Overall race results are available here. 

Source: Annette Dexter. 3Plus3 MTB Event 2017.

Melburn Roobaix 2017

This in-depth, insightful interview and event guest post comes coutesy of the every effervescent and thoughtful @BettyLillowaltzen. Betty is an Artist, Educator, Keynote Speaker and all round amazing soul. This is a wonderfully comprehensive and enlightening discussion of one of Melbourne’s most loved (sub)cycle-cultural ‘bumpy’ urban rides – the Melburn Roobaix. Thanks to Betty Lillowaltzen for her time and effort in painstakingly interviewing all the key stakeholders, event organisers, riders and participants that went into producing this post – the extra details make this piece an extra rich and wonderful read! Mwah BL!

A quick survey of the Melburn Roobaix crowd and there is something immediately obvious: women!

Why does this adventure around Melbourne’s laneways enjoy the most gender diversity of all bike events in Australia?

“I’m in!”: my response to Zane Alford’s invite to join him and Wookie in the 2017 Melburn Roobaix. I hadn’t needed to hesitate as I knew that my complete lack of bike fitness was in no way a barrier to fun in the famously costumed ride, nor was my 1980s chevvy heavy stainless steel Malvern Star. Roobaix skills are seemingly more centered around an ability to decorate oneself and bike, eat and drink and look really silly; I’d be a natural.

That Melburn Roobaix was not going to be (in Andy’s words) “a sausagefest” as so many other bike events are, but instead a celebration and a great day out void of competitive elitist vibes I was certain of, but what I wasn’t so sure of was why? Inspired by the rise of women’s sport and, better yet, the rise of women within sport, I wanted to know how the Roobaix has evolved to be the most gender inclusive cycling event in the country (according to a recent survey by Cycling Australia).

Two questions burned: were the organisers conscious about involving women? and if so, how did they go about getting women involved?

Melburn Roobaix

Melburn Roobaix is a creation of Fyxo, the family company run by Melodie and Andy White. I knew Andy from back in the ol’ days when I worked for messenger bag company, Crumpler. I met him 15 years ago after an Ally Cat at The Public Bar: two years after the lock on the womens’ toilet door broke and at least nine years before it would get fixed; in the days of $1 pots of Geelong Bitter on a Monday, Punk bands and bestickered fixies piled along O’Connell Street. Andy was fancy dressed but still sporting his ‘Ask me about the weather’ badge, and talking with some couriers and female riders – even back in 2003 he was recruiting women to ride. He suggested that I ride in the next Ally Cat and I felt momentarily convinced that this would be a good idea but didn’t think I was up to splitting traffic on a fixie to keep up with Melbourne’s maddest riders.

Melburn Roobaix 2017


Melburn Roobaix 2017

Encouraging people to get on a bike has always been a talent of Andy’s, as is having a yarn, so I felt comfortable picking up the phone, not having seen each other in 8 years, to ask him some pretty pointed questions about women in cycling, race, LGBTIQ+ inclusion, men’s clubs and elitism in sport. He answered all my questions with grace, humour, references to anti-establishment, mutual outrage and added some radical plans.

Melburn Roobaix 2017

I was not surprised at all that encouraging the participation of women in the Roobaix was intentional, or that this year’s event also took place during World Pride – though this was underplayed, Andy reflected on being really quite chuffed that there was a turnout of transgender people this year and that as the ride becomes more community oriented it increasingly represents our whole community (though the lack of racial diversity is still quite apparent at all bike events and a challenge for the future).

So how did they do it? Andy reflected on the first year of the Roobaix, explaining how “a guy showed up with all the gear, he had a Garmin and had worked out the fastest route which was mainly on roads and which was pretty unsafe.” He and Melodie wanted to make it less of a race and move away from the tricked out, almost exclusively male lycra crew, so they just eliminated a first place prize. “We are more excited about the costumes and the turnout and having someone show up dressed as a banana”, he explained.

Melburn Roobaix 2017

It’s important that everyone is safe. A sad reality of bike events around the globe is the inherent risk of traffic and obstacles, though organisers are always looking for ways to make cycling safer for everybody: as Andy says, “every event where no one dies is a good event”. The dangers of riding are all too familiar to the White family, as in 2007 Andy suffered a broken neck. Though he was lucky to be able to be back on the bike within a week of removing the halo, they had developed a new appreciation of the risks of riding. Andy was emphatic that making an event less competitive did help to attract a broader demographic, but that he in no way considered female riders to be non-competitive. While for many people the Roobaix is the first organised ride that they participate in, there are plenty of female riders who go on to compete in timed events and women who are already riding competitively.

Melburn Roobaix 2017

Bike racer, writer and blogger Verita Stewart is one such rider. Verita had been a regular bike commuter, but it wasn’t until moving to Melbourne from country Victoria a few years ago that she joined other riders and started to compete. Verita was able to identify other reasons that the participation in the Roobaix was so high and diverse: “You can ride on any bike. This weekend is the Grand Fondo and you can’t just rock up on a mountain bike or a cruiser or BMX or tandem or recumbent or folding or narrow bar fixie or adult trike or city bike or hybrid. Each event requires a really specific bike and kit and for many people that’s a barrier. Wearing lycra is also enough for some people to say ‘that’s not for me’, and I know that some of my friends have not participated in other events because of that”. Melburn Roobaix was one of the first events that Verita rode in and each year she met more people in the cycling community and brought more friends along, many of whom wouldn’t identify as bike riders. “I know that tennis isn’t for me. I can’t hit a ball to save my life. Cycling as a sport isn’t for everybody either. The Roobaix is more of a community event than a race though, it’s more about being in a big community and maybe putting on a cossie and exploring places you haven’t been before, and that’s why so many people say ‘I could do that’.“

The types of costumes that people wear are usually naive and silly and we don’t see the kinds of sexualised costumes that people wear to other fancy dress events. I asked Verita how she thinks the Melbourne Roobaix has developed its particular style? “Well, it’s a really family and community event so I think that if you showed up dressed in a French maid’s costume you’d just feel like a bit of a twat”. Not many of the other bike scenes have been as progressive, and we spoke for some time on what we thought caused some of the costs, perceptions and gender inequality that are still so prevalent at other events and which form real barriers for people entering cycling as a sport in all its various forms.

Personally, now in my mid-thirties, I’m more active than ever: not the most fit that I’ve ever been necessarily, but I find myself enjoying a greater variety of sports than I ever have before and participating with less and less trepidation. I regularly surf with other women and it’s been exciting to paddle out each weekend and see sisters lined up along a break. It’s more than just exciting, it’s inspiring and exhilarating. We often joke about approaching middle age and just starting to have the childhood we wished we’d had if we hadn’t felt so discouraged from having a go. Imbued with the excitement of events like the Roobaix, WAFL, surfing and the power of staunch advocates and idols such as Serena Williams, I am excited for a new generation of women.

Melburn Roobaix 2017

We still have such a long way to go but already the surge of excitement around women in sport has had a distinct effect upon me.

Where I may once have said “I’ll get back to you”, I now say “I’m in”.


Melburn Roobaix 2017

Melburn Roobaix 2017

For a great collection of event pictures see FYXo’s Melburn Roobaix Flickr Album.

Or see up to 342 great images from event photographers Michael Christofas / Peter Tsipas 2017 Melburn Roobaix Flickr.

Thanks for the invite @ZaneAlford. See you all at #MelburnRoobaix2018 !!

*All images coutesy of photographers as per watermarks. All pictures included with Fyxo permission.

Reflections on bicycles from a ‘non-rider’

How can bicycles impact the lives of Non-riders?

Reflections from a Colombian ‘non-rider’.


This guest post is by Diana Vallejo. Diana works at Griffith University as a Client Services Officer. She is originally from Colombia, but she and her husband have been in Australia for a number of years now. I met Diana through work and adore her Latino spunkiness, honesty and vibrant approach to life. I asked Diana to write a blog post about her experience with bicycles after she had described herself very resolutely as ‘NOT a bike rider at all’. I was intrigued. In what way are bicycles represented in the life of a non-rider? Are there ‘invisible’ bicycle connections that non-riders are just not as conscious of, and how far/deep do you have to go before these links are excavated and made ‘visible’. I am always keen to explore a variety of voices and experiences regarding how different people relate to bicycles –and not just bike riders. So I asked her to contribute her thoughts considering her identity ‘as a non-rider’ and challenged her to see how, if at all, bicycles had impacted her life. Following is an excerpt of what she found. – Nina.

Bicycles? I haven’t really thought about them that much…

For me, bicycles are so mundane, so common and simple.

I was not able to see what the great deal is about a mundane bicycle. Until one day I was talking to Nina about how much she loves bicycles and then I found myself very excited just talking about it from some different perspectives.  I would not necessarily have recognised my own connections to bikes (out of sight, out of mind), but during our conversation I was presented with questions like: ‘Well, even though you don’t ride a bike now, you must have some experience with bikes in the past or growing up – what is/was it and how do you feel about them now? How do you remember bikes featuring in your life? How are they being used in your home country?’ I was surprised to be excited about how much I actually had in common with bicycles, despite the fact that I am not at all a ‘cyclist’.

So, to my surprise, I was able to very quickly make three very immediate and reaffirming associations with how bicycles have been linked to me personally, or through my identity – a revelation which surprised me.

  1. My first bike.

Even though I am not crazy about bikes, I can tell you everything about my first bicycle. Funny that! Was it a present from Santa Claus…(or in my case, because of where I come from – a staunchly Catholic community) – was it a Baby Jesus present? Don’t even try to make me explain to you how new born babies bring all the Christmas presents to all those homes! But nonetheless, there was my present – and I remember it vividly.

It is unbelievable how I can still remember every detail of that first bike. I can remember it better that my first doll or my first kiss! It had a green frame and white wheels. It was so beautiful – and fast! I spent some many afternoons on it. I made many friends riding it, and that bike holds for me some of my best memories from my childhood. My first, personal and immediate connection with bicycles.

  1. One bike, one dream, more than one life changed.

But for some other people, this may only be a wish, or even a dream. The second association I can make is through my national identity. I am from Colombia and we have one of the best cyclists in the world, Nairo Quintana. He was raised in a family with economic difficulties where a bicycle was a luxury.  He lived in a small village 16 kilometres from the nearest school. His father saved $30 USD to buy him a used mountain bike. He said once “I treasured it and every time I rode it, I pictured myself racing and winning” – and he did! His best career results are winning the 2014 Giro d’Italia, 2016 Vuelta a España, and 2nd place overall in the Tour de France of 2013 and in 2015. Nairo changed his world thanks to a bicycle. His story and fame gives hope to Colombians and some any others. As an individual he is a national hero, and internationally, he is known and respected. We are proud that cyclists and non-cyclists alike know of his achievements on the humble bicycle.

Nairo Quintana
Source: BBC Onesport
  1. Rough tracks and new beginnings with bicycles for Colombia students

 Postobon partnership Bike Program

On a national level, bicycles are well known in Colombia as being an instrument of social transformation. Another beautiful way Colombians utilise bicycles is through a very well-known bicycle donation program that gets more rural poor children to go to school. This program is via a partnership with Postobon (#1 Soft drink company in Columbia) and World Bicycle Relief – called Mi Bici. I have heard the CEO of Postobon saying that “bicycles are an engine for social transformation, impacting in a positive way”.

This program gives kids bicycles designed especially for the rough Colombian terrain. In some parts of rural Colombia, kids can spend between 45 minutes and two hours travelling to and from school. Sometimes the students cannot afford buses, and the walk can be dangerous and exhausting. Bicycles can reduce most of these trips to about 20 to 30 minutes. But for many of these kids, it is more than just time that is improved by having these bicycles.

More about WBR’s Mi Bici Bike

Why do I believe this is a great program? This is a great program because it is a sustainable program and it allows the kids to have time to rest, exercise, study. This will increase their possibility for a better future. But most importantly for me, this program allows recipients to have more free time to be kids and play!

The Mi Bici Project was WBR’s first foray into Latin America. Just like WBR’s African Buffalo Bicycles, the Latin American bicycles also have a high resistance to environmental forces and tough terrain and a capacity to carry 100 kgs. Also, the seats are ergonomic, frames are reinforced, the wheels are protected, and the breaks are resistant to the weather. This makes the bikes very durable and they are easy to change.

The program also generated jobs for local small businesses and mechanics who are trained to service the bicycles. This has opened up a new employment stream in areas where bikes are distributed, where there is a need for maintenance services and repairs. All this has also been possible thanks to World Bicycle Relief (WBR). WBR were invited to be part of this program because of their experience with similar programs in Africa through their Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Programs (BEEP).

So yes there is no doubt in my mind that bicycles can change the world! Or at least they are for these kids that are receiving them!

This video introduces a girls who has received a Mi Bici Project bike.