Boy Biker inspires the next generation
I have had the pleasure this month to get involved in a totally different world. Rather than blinging cylinder heads and re-vamping vintage shock absorber parts (I Cleenz Macheenz) I have been working part time at the Young Lewisham Project. Boys and girls of all ages go to the project for all sorts of enrichment activities; cooking, gardening, carpentry, motorbike maintenance, music making and bicycle repair.
My involvement (so far) has been in the motorbike workshop. The groups are generally there for an 8 week program (involving a couple of hours a week), which isn’t a very long time to impart years of fixing and bodging experience. You can’t try to cram information into people, if it takes 8 weeks to learn the pros and cons of open ended vs ring spanner, then so be it.
As a self-titled man of some literary talent, I try, where I can to get them to write about their experiences, here are a lovely few words put together by one group,
“Since November we have been attending the Young Lewisham Project every Tuesday evening. We learn about motorbike mechanics. Between us (Jesse, Ollie, Billy & Jordan) we came up with the idea to build a moped and sidecar, showing everything that the Young Lewisham Project does. We made the sidecar from a bicycle frame and built a wooden chicken shed to go on it. Once the frame was together we sanded and painted it. Then the plants were added: cucumbers, strawberries, pansies and tomatoes. We then mounted some gardening tools on the front of the shed.
“On June 28th we went up to Lincoln to the National Youth Bike Awards, a bike show for young people.
“There were various categories and lots of interesting projects. Competition was fierce but we had a secret weapon in the shape of our live chicken that even laid an egg on the way up!
“We won “Best Use of Non Motorcycle Parts”, thanks to Morley our chicken, as well as “Best Newcomers”. The show was great fun and the whole process taught us loads: mechanics, carpentry, gardening and chicken keeping.”
Being involved in this kind of work has really given me my biking bug back. It amazes me how happy a young person can be just being around bikes. Working on them, pushing them, sitting on them, asking questions about them. It reminds me of myself a few years back, so eager to be around them, endless interrogation about what cc means, 2 vs 4 stroke, the merits of different numbers of cylinders and layouts, why different bikes are better at doing different things, why do some have cables and some tubes, why does that one have ‘flat’ tires?
Being able to remember asking them myself, I never get fed up of answering these questions. I try to avoid the old fall back answer of “because it is and that’s that.” but sometimes my mind boggles for a few seconds as I try to recall the information imparted to me by various old boys over the years.
With biking getting harder and harder to get in to, I was lucky to win a Digest competition back in 2009 that provided me with a CBT and some riding gear (last things I ever got from this sacred journal mind…!), which really made it possible for me to get on the road. Young people at the project haven’t often got their own bike, so a CBT wouldn’t help much. Most of the help we give them is in regards to being confidant enough to do things on their own.
One boy in particular turned up recently on his 50cc moped, sporting such a proud look I nearly welled up. After a lap around the block with him I had not only shown him a few key road manners, but also noticed that his exhaust was very loose. Back to the workshop to fix it!
It is a great place to be involved in. If there are any young people who think they might be interested in this type of scheme, find the Young Lewisham Project on Facebook and get in touch.
Enjoy every ride and keep smiling!