Bikes have been a part of my world for as far back as I can remember. Many memories of returning home caked head to toe in mud as a kid only to do it all again the next day! I think it must be down having a great washing machine and an extremely patient mum that a childhood obsession has turned into a career.
For the last 10 years I’ve worked as a mountain bike, rock climb, kayak and canoe, windsurf, sail and power boat instructor and cycle mechanic. This career has enabled me to meet all sorts of incredible people and I’ve been lucky enough to guide mountain bike groups through the redwoods of New Zealand, bush whack through the Australian outback, rock climb up and over some of the Italian Alps, windsurf around Greek islands and sail across the Atlantic Ocean!
All these adventures led me to a little cottage in Stroud with my fiancée Lucy, where my passion for outdoor education transitioned into youth work and I became involved within running an exciting National Citizen Service residential programme. This programme saw almost 400 young people get involved with elements of outdoor education, independent living, skills development and community action projects. The positive impact that this made to individuals was clear and I knew I wanted to find more work where I can be a part of something that people really valued! I couldn’t be happier to have found The Access Bike Project!! I hope to get stuck in with this incredible project and help it to reach as many people as possible. As well as learning all things bikes, there are some wonderful and weird creations being made daily, so even if you’re not a bike fanatic, come on down and check it out!
I started at Access Bike in February 2019 and immediately loved how free and creative you can be here. Since then I’ve learnt so much about bikes, sharing skills, inclusion, recycling, communal creativity and what can be cooked on a George Foreman Grill.
I’m a musician, mountainboarder, van-builder, and a wild-swimming, vegan-cooking, bike-fixing, upcycling enthusiast. I’ve gone from teaching mountainboarding at 14, to studying music and performing around Europe at 18, to building my own campervan, releasing more music and leading Access Bike’s amazing workshop right now!
Although I knew pretty much nothing about bikes when I first walked through the workshop doors, I’ve been taught so much by the amazingly diverse range of people that I’ve interacted with here at Access Bike. I’m now so excited that I can pass on my new-found knowledge to others.
However, tinkering with bikes is just one facet of Access Bike Project and it’s our emphasis on creative recycling, and our ability to include everyone, of any background or ability, that I’m most passionate about. When we all get together in the workshop, ideas start to flow and some amazing things start getting made from what would otherwise be in the skip: chandeliers, tyre-belts, Christmas trees to name a few. The workshop is a space for everyone to socialise, be creative and learn from friends, with none of the conventional barriers that might be faced in other environments such as school or work, and being lucky enough to be a workshop leader here is such a privilege.
After 23 years as a Royal Air Force engineer my career came to an abrupt end when I had a stroke. I couldn’t carry on in the Air Force but I did benefit from their veteran disability compensation scheme – giving me a pension to live off and grants for training in new areas. I loved cycling and my background as an engineer led me to invest in a few bike mechanic courses at The Cycle Systems Academy in Dorset. I really enjoyed the courses, but when I went to check out getting a job in local shops and projects I didn’t feel they were right for me – the atmosphere was a bit unfriendly or too profit orientated for my needs.
I saw Access Bike in the Waitrose Community Projects scheme, and it’s the opposite – it’s not driven by money, it’s people focused. I was so warmly welcomed and, with my bike skills, quickly felt really useful and part of the team, even though most of the other volunteers are young lads! I really enjoy sharing my skills and knowledge with them, experiences gained whilst traveling the world with the RAF and 40+ years riding and maintaining bikes . On top of that its great to meet new people and stay busy. I get a real buzz out of helping a parent choose a bike for their little one, or to fix a bike for them so that they can continue to use the one they already have. I can choose when I volunteer, fit it around my childcare responsibilities. Anna and Corrine, company managers, pointed me in the direction of a stroke survivors support group which showed just how invested in me as a person they really are.
I have another reason for volunteering at the project - working in a technically challenging environment has really helped my short-term memory problems, the major effects left over from my stroke. Having to remember where all the tools are kept, where I’ve stored pieces I’m working on and continuing tasks from day to day and week to week has helped my memory to recover and hopefully will continue! Access Bike has given me a great space to keep busy, meet new people, use my skills as an instructor and has even provided bikes for all three of my children, Florence 4, Alfie 11 and Tabatha 14.
Sticking To His Diet
I didn't know I was interested in bikes. I could ride them but had no idea it was a cool thing to do with friends. I first visited Access Bike with a group of 10 other home- educated friends. One of our parents had arranged the session for us to try out new skills and learn about cycling. I started the day with some doubts, but by the time got home I couldn't wait to go back! I very quickly became a volunteer at Access Bike. And I have been here almost every day since. The guys have been cool and helped me build a fair few bikes. I then went to do a mechanics course and now know everything. I'm now a mentor and teach others who most need my expert help!
Since the age of 16 I have travelled and competed in professional Dirt Jump, Slopestyle mountain bike competitions and raced in both Fourcross and Pummptrack events. I have picked up some awesome sponsorships for my riding and spend my time, learning new stunts on my jump bike and running the Access Bike Project.
In 2014 I finished school and took on the Access Bike Project as my part time job, this was the perfect role to work alongside my aspirations to be a pro mountain biker. But then things took a tumble and while recovering from a sporting Injury. We opened up the Access Bike Workshop and made my part time role, 3 days a week running the Access Bike Project. Its been awesome!
So far we’ve done a charity bike ride, built and raced a raft, as well as helped loads of people build up their own bikes. It has been so good for me as well, learning loads about different peoples understandings and needs. The project has funded me and another friend to complete a L1 cycle instructor course, and has helped me developed my skills in teaching, sharing as well as influenced a huge creative spark I didn’t know I had.
Have a look what I have been teaching the team to make!
And find out more about my MOUNTAIN BIKING here ..
I first visited the project in March 2017 because I needed a bike to join a few of my friends on the 24 mile round trip to my college in Cirencester.
I made the short walk down to the project just to see what it was all about and, after choosing my bike with the help of Alfie and some of the other guys, I payed the very small fee and went home with my new ride.
As it turns out, that would not be my last trip to Access Bike, not by a long shot. Ever since that day I have tried to get to the workshop almost everyday it is open and the people there have become a huge part of my daily life. I now go riding with them regularly and see them all three times a week at the workshop. I really think we are a close group of friends and it’s so cool to see new, awesome people coming down and joining us whether they have an in-depth knowledge of bike mechanics or just love riding.
I love seeing people’s joy for the sport grow within a matter of weeks and I for one have developed a serious passion for the sport of cycling and all the disciplines within it; especially mini bike racing!
First of all, I love mountain biking, this and my interest in engineering drove me in the direction of the workshop, so I decided to visit the workshop. I was very keen in enabling myself to mend my own bike because I broke mine so frequently, and workshop gave me this opportunity. It helped me learn about the different problems from bikes and how to fix it.
Since i started properly volunteering at the workshop it has given me many different opportunities, from raft racing down a canal to bike powered smoothies and running my own micro-business selling upcycled chandeliers! The amazing people that I have met have given me new skills, which I can pass on. But not only skills, the workshop gives a safe space for all, and friendships.
Check out Ralph's very own Chandelier Store!
I really enjoy going mountain which is how I met many of my friends. They then told me about the Access Bike Project and all the good things they have done so far. I thought that the idea was great and that I'd really like to get involved. So I went down with a friend and everyone there was extremely helpful and nice. There was no negativity going around at the workshop.
Everyone was focused on bikes and having fun, which is another great thing about the project. I have been coming down to the workshop for nearly a year down and I enjoy it more and more everyday. The people there have become a huge part of my life. I have been going on many adventures with them and have done many charity events. We're all close friends at the project and we love seeing new people come down to learn new things or to simply hangout with us.