The hole in the wall workshop in Port Melbourne, which houses Back2Bikes, is an oasis of calm and order on busy Williamstown Road.
Back2Bikes is a not-for-profit social enterprise providing affordable transport for low-income earners, those in need, assisting local schools and other charities.
The organisation accepts bikes and parts, and volunteers bring the bikes back to life for sale or donation to those in need.
Mobility is vital in a city as large as Melbourne.
For people who don’t have access to a motor vehicle or cannot afford public transport, pedal power is an option.
Caseworkers contact Back2Bikes for assistance for the likes of newly arrived refugees, ex-prisoners who need transport to get to a job, and low-income households.
Mark Bradley, Back2Bikes workshop manager, describes the mainly male volunteers as “members of the habitual older generation, they love a routine, and we love them.”
“We have about 80 volunteers in total with a regular corps of 20,” Mr Bradley says.
“There is a sense of connectivity amongst the people who volunteer as they undergo a training process and then work in our high-quality workshop helping the community.”
Phil Warren, a 66-year-old man in lycra, first heard about Back2Bikes over a coffee at the end of a ride.
Having been forced to retire and looking for something to keep him occupied, volunteering at the Back2Bikes workshop ticked all the boxes.
“I come here two days a week and learn something new every time,” Mr Warren says.
“I knew a bit to start with, and now I pick up subtle differences, and I love it. Socially this place is important to me.”
Mike King started the social enterprise seven years ago after identifying a need for bike training and recycling in the local community.
“Bicycle usage is increasing dramatically, more people are using them for daily transport, and the government is spending money on bike infrastructure,” he says.
“The City of Port Phillip’s department of sustainable transport is a strong supporter of Back2Bikes.”
Selling the recycled good-as-new bikes and providing repairs and servicing to the public raises revenue, which underwrites bikes donations and enables a reduced cost for health care card holders when buying or having a bike serviced.
Running after-hours training sessions to the public, generally keen bike riders who want to know more about their bikes, also raises much-needed funds while giving the participants a sense of achievement and satisfaction.
Mr Bradley says the free 10-minute service they offer to bike owners and riders every Saturday at the South Melbourne Market is good for the community, enhances their reputation, and spreads the word.
Image: Carol Saffer