The bicycle boom was one of the most unexpected impacts of COVID-19, but it’s a welcome surprise for Alison Homestead Men’s Shed members, Kerry Braslin and Ken Johnson.
Together they run the rebikes bicycle recycling initiative, which has seen almost 2,000 bikes refurbished and regifted to people in need across the Central Coast and as far afield as Cambodia.
With every donation a story to tell, Braslin said the past seven years had been a fascinating time in his life and the Chronicle sat down with him to talk about rebikes’ humble beginnings, the 2020 cycling renaissance and what’s next for the project.
According to Braslin, the operation came about by accident when he decided to marry his love of cycling and tinkering together.
“I’d been a cyclist forever and always had a bike mechanic course on my list of things to do, so one day I just signed up for one.
“After that, I heard about a bloke at San Remo Men’s Shed that was doing bikes up for Camp Breakaway, but had to stop after having an accident, so I reached out to them and took over the project.
“At that time, Alison Homestead Men’s Shed was just getting started and since I lived in the area, they let me join and use the space as a workshop.
“John joined up a couple years later and we’ve been fixing up bikes together ever since,” Braslin said.
Together, the pair apply their mechanical knowhow to bikes in need of some TLC, refurbishing them for children in need.
On the Coast, their bikes go to local charities, neighbourhood centres and special needs schools, but over the years the pair have also gifted bikes to Aussie kids impacted by natural disasters, remote Indigenous communities and families in Cambodia and East Timor through their international charity partners.
And calls for the duo’s services have only grown, with this year one of rebikes’ busiest yet, following a pandemic fuelled cycling resurgence.
“We had huge demand from February to June, for both incoming and outgoing bikes, and it was just a very interesting time to be doing this.
“I know bike shops across the Coast couldn’t get stock in fast enough and it was the same for us.
“Things have slowed down quite a bit now, but they usually pick up again just before Christmas and I’m hoping the Central Coast community will donate generously, as they’ve done in the past.”
With the duo wanting to keep a special stock of bikes in case of emergency over the summer, locals are encouraged to dig out their old bikes and donate now.
“All of our bikes go out to local organisations in the week before Christmas, but this year we’d like to get enough donations to keep 10 to 15 bikes on hand, in case of a bushfire, to give to a community in need,” Braslin said.
With a big couple of weeks ahead of him, Braslin said he and Johnson had no plans to slow rebikes down.
“We’ve actually gone through a bit of a revamp over the past couple of months.
“My wife Marion has championed it, with new posters, a new donation rack and a new website and social media presence to grow interest in rebikes and get the word out.
“For me, getting to put my mechanical skills to the test is what keeps my interest.
“I love the work that we do and getting to support the community like this is my way of doing something for others,” Braslin said.
Residents can donate to rebikes by dropping off their unwanted serviceable bikes at the Alison Homestead rebikes drop off point, located outside of the Homestead’s front gates.