Cranks is a DIY bike workshop in Brighton. It’s based in a rented workshop in the Kemptown area, has a full range of tools, recycles old bikes and parts, and is open to the public three times a week. It’s now nearly a year old, run entirely on the time and energy of bike lovin’ volunteers.
Cranks was set up by people involved in grassroots projects, anarchist resistance and community spaces so the spirit of Cranks is all about self organisation. As with other community based bike workshops, this means that there are no paid experts who will fix your bike for you, or anyone trying to make money out of it. What there is is a space with tools and bike stands, parts and books to use, along with people who will help you check over your bike or try to fix it with you. Cycling is a great mode of transport with a much lower environmental impact and is of course good exercise – and bike workshops get people, regardless of age, gender or ability, learning to love their bike, looking after it, understanding how it works, learning to do the smaller and bigger repairs themselves. Lots of bikes get neglected, go rusty, or don’t get parts replaced when needed. And many people might not know how to adjust their brakes or gears and either can’t afford to go to a bike shop or just don’t get round to it. I know I’ve been one of these people! And that I’m guilty of sadly neglecting to take care of my poor bicycle… DIY bike workshops offer access to cheap repairs (use of the workshop and second hand parts is all by donation) and bike care. And bikes that run more smoothly are more fun to ride, in turn hopefully encouraging more cycling!
Cranks also say that “We were particularly interested in creating a helpful and safe environment for women and people on low incomes to come and not feel intimidated about work and knowledge usually only available if you can afford to pay for it. Instead we want to demystify the bicycle and remind people how much fun and empowering cycling can be.”
It isn’t just about maintaining and polishing up fancy brand new bikes, but also about getting old bikes back on the road, and recycling as many parts as possible. The workshop takes donations of old, unwanted bikes that volunteers can then sort out and sell cheaply, practising their skills along the way. In fact, anyone can come in and build themselves a bike from scrap parts. It’s full of boxes labelled ‘rear derailleurs’ or ‘headsets’, and is also well stocked with new parts such as brake cable and inner tubes – everything you need really to fiddle with a bike.
The project got underway with some funding to rent the workshop for a year as well as to buy initial tools, and is now almost financially sustainable from donations for tool use and parts and sales of refurbished bikes. A collective of about 15 people run the space, meet fortnightly and staff a rota to keep it open. One day a week is set aside to work on refurbishing bikes or skillsharing amongst the collective. There’s been a bike film night, and plans to run bike maintenance courses, especially for women. Bike workshops are great, so look out for one near you!