A ‘healthy obsession’ with bike maintenance: Meet Ronnie Lee, a volunteer at Leeds Bike Mill

Cycling and being able to fix a bike is empowering, which is why we’re on a mission to make everyone feel like they can – and want to – do it.

Leeds Bike Mill is a community bike recycling and training co-op based near the city centre.

It provides affordable second hand bikes and a range of maintenance courses, providing where possible free or subsidised bikes and training to people who might otherwise be unable to access them.

Funding received in the first round of CityConnect’s community grant scheme has helped fund Leeds Bike Mill Fix it to Ride project, helping people build their maintenance skills while working either on their own bike or while fixing bikes for others.

Naomi Brown, a mechanic and project officer at Leeds Bike Mill, said: “Our Fix it to Ride scheme enables people to develop their mechanics skills whilst also helping others – the bikes we recycle are given to refugees and asylum seekers and can help them to access work, training and education. Meanwhile the subsidised courses we offer are equipping people who couldn’t ordinarily afford it, with the knowledge they need to keep their bikes on the road.

“Among our successes, we’ve recycled over 10 bikes at our volunteer sessions, and we’re working alongside local organisations such as Leeds Refugee Forum to distribute these to people in need of affordable and accessible transport.

“Cycling and being able to fix a bike is empowering, which is why we’re on a mission to make everyone feel like they can – and want to – do it.”

Thanks to funding from CityConnect Leeds Bike Mill volunteer Ronnie Lee received a bursary to attend a two day cycle maintenance course and he attends Fix it to Ride sessions.

He is also a volunteer at the Wakefield-based charity Turning Point, which helps people work through their mental health and substance abuse issues, something Ronnie has first-hand experience of.

He said: “Turning Point also has a bike workshop and I wanted to help people find a constructive way of dealing with their problems, to do something different in an environment where they don’t have to talk about recovery all the time.

“I knew a little about basic bike maintenance before I started volunteering at Leeds Bike Mill, but now I can confidently strip a bike down and put it back together

“I find it a peaceful, calming and rewarding activity, a healthy obsession that not only benefits me but other people too.

“There are lots of opportunities for success, those small victories. You would be surprised how learning just a few basics, fixing a puncture for example, can enhance your daily life and open up new opportunities – you can’t underestimate the freedom being able to travel independently under your own steam brings.

“It’s not just a practical thing, there’s also the social aspect – whether that’s spending time with people at the workshop or getting out and about, cycling for leisure or to the shops.

“And all of this can lead on to other things, not just in cycling. It opens doors to other opportunities too.”