6:43pm Wednesday 7th April 2010
I went to an Oxford Cycle Workshop birthday party last week, half-expecting a bunch of cool single-speeders stirring mochaccinos with eggbeater pedals. How wrong I was. And how far OCW has come, and so quickly.
The ‘old’ OCW operated from oily premises at 39 Magdalen Street with a doggedly punk ethos and a varied and loyal clientele.
OCW recycled abandoned relics, reselling them as street-credible bikes at affordable prices. The star of my own fleet is a 1993 Specialized Rockhopper rescued and rebuilt as a sexy single-speed by OCW.
The staff formed a workers’ co-op three years ago. The new Oxford Cycle Workshop still reconditions and resells bikes, and runs a popular mobile mechanic service, but members Dan Harris and Jonty Semper have realised that OCW can do so much more. Their raison d’être is simple: to get more people involved in cycling – full stop.
A million man-hours later, they have evolved from crusty bike-nuts into the energetic and switched-on proponents of three bicycle enterprises, corralled under the ‘Cycle Oxford’ brand (soon to be a registered charity). There’s the OCW Bike Shop, a training centre and a cycling club.
The shop remains a co-operative at the Magdalen Road premises, but gone is the chaos and clutter.
The training centre is based at smart premises in Glanville Road. One loyal customer is Oxford University. The centre has contracts with the county council’s road safety department and runs the BikeAbility Oxfordshire Partnership (BOP).
BOP co-ordinates on-road cycle training all around Oxfordshire, but they really don’t mind if it’s OCW or someone else in BOP that provides the training, all that matters is that another cyclist gets what he or she needs.
In this cash-obsessed age, OCW is not about empire-building or money-making. Their can-do community spirit is refreshing, inspiring even.
The Training Centre is a community-owned enterprise. Any worker or customer can buy a share in it for as little as £1. That £1 gives you an equal voice in discussing and deciding the direction the enterprise takes.
They work with wayward kids who are learning vital vocational skills. For those kids, the difference between using other people’s tools and using tools they part-own, in a building they also part-own, makes a massive difference to their aptitude and attitude.
The most recent addition to the Cycle Oxford stable is the cycling club. It’s an amateur sports club with the sole aim of championing all things cycling. Whether that’s via an inter-school cyclo-cross championship (won last week by Cherwell School) or via a mountain biking day out, an “alleycat” ride or a game of bike polo – or even the Bicycle Bell Orchestra.
And if none of that’s your saddlebag, they’ll point you towards Cyclox for politicking, the Horspath Hammers cycle speedway for adrenalin junkies, or CTC and Sustrans for weekend jaunts.
The most beautiful thing about Cycle Oxford is that they are doing it for the love of cycling and the community, pure and simple. Their only mission is to get you involved. So visit them at cycleoxford.coop
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