Meet Victoria’s second-hand bicycle peddlers

Moving Well | Megan Whitfield | Images: Aaron Francis and Unsplash | Posted on 28 August 2019

In the market for a new second-hand bicycle? These recycled bike dealers are putting a new spin on old wheels.

When bike recycler Bart Sbeghen, aka Dr Cranky, began hearing about the other bike fixer-uppers working in Victoria, he had an idea.

“I thought, why don’t we all get together, magnify our resources?” says Bart. 

There are roughly a dozen bike recycling or sharing programs running in Victoria, each with a specific aim, from redistributing repaired bikes locally to sending them to needy communities overseas.

While not an official union, six organisations met up for the first time a few months ago and others have since got in touch. It didn’t take long to realise they could help each other out. 

Bike recycler Bart Sbeghen and team

There are roughly a dozen bike recycling or sharing programs running in Victoria, each with a specific aim, from redistributing repaired bikes locally to sending them to needy communities overseas.



“[Dr Cranky’s] needs kids’ bikes, some groups need road, some mountain, some adult,” explains Bart. “This way we can share them around.” 

Rather than each group building a backlog of bikes they can’t use, they’re opening up the channels of communication to streamline the process of getting second-hand bikes to where they’re most needed.

“We want to work together. Sometimes we can get too many bikes individually,” says Bart. These can include poor-quality models, or ones that don’t suit the organisation’s needs. “So this was about looking at what we can do to share our resources, and how to manage bikes that can’t be refurbished… we don’t want to become a dumping ground, and become part of the problem.”  

A key take-away from the meeting for Bart, however, was not just what can be done in the future, but recognising how much is being achieved already.

“We’re getting a handle on our impact,” says Bart, estimating that a huge 4000 to 5000 bikes are recycled collectively by these groups each year. “They’re all doing their bit.”

The Dr Cranky’s story

The concept for Dr Cranky’s hit Bart Sbeghen when he volunteered at his children’s Ride2School event at their primary school in 2016. 

“I was looking at some of the bikes around and it was really worrying. Some had front wheels that looked ready to fall off… I was saying ‘you know the brakes don’t work?’ I was worried kids wouldn’t even be able to ride home… but they just wanted to participate.”

He turned to his friend, Peter Hormann, and suggested they do a workshop to help repair some of the bikes, and re-home preloved bicycles to those who needed one.

They set up their first ‘bike hospital’ under a peppercorn tree at Flemington Primary School and grew from there, eventually moving into a bin shed which became the first official ‘bike hospital’. 

Since that first year, the repair workshops have set up at 10 schools around Victoria, and one in Darwin. 

“We’ve helped repair and give away around 1700 bikes,” Bart says. According to the organisation’s statistics, that’s equivalent to around 170,000 extra bike rides by kids.

“You can see the impact. We’re turning kids into active kids… it’s a lifetime habit. When you see [a kid’s] face light up, it’s such an unexpected joy. Magic happens when you hand over a bike.” 

Rather than repairing the bikes themselves, Dr Cranky’s gets parents and their children along to workshops to teach them how to do it themselves and enable the ‘hospitals’ to stay open without them around. Donations of unused and unloved bikes underpin the program, allowing those without access to a bicycle to get involved, and ultimately give them a mode of transport and new-found independence.

“We provide the toolkit, the pump, helmet and locks [the latter two free for kids, along with the bike] but it’s about making the connection. Dr Cranky’s needs the parents, it needs to be self-sustaining.”

Bike recycling programs in Victoria

Victoria hosts a range of bike recycling programs, each aiming to give bicycles a new lease on life. Find out their individual goals and how you can get involved below.

Dr Cranky’s

Teaches parents and kids how to repair bikes, and gives recycled bicycles to disadvantaged children and families. 
drcrankys.com.au

WeCycle 

Repairs and re-home bicycles with refugees and asylum seekers referred by case workers from support agencies.
wecycle-melbourne.com

Bicycles for Humanity

Collects fixable and forgotten bikes and delivers them to communities in need in Namibia. 
bicyclesforhumanity.com

Bikes 4 Life

Re-homes bikes in marginalised communities around the world. 
bikes4life.com.au

Tom’s Bicycle Workshop

Proceeds from sales go towards not-for-profit organisations. 
facebook.com/Tom-Bicycle-Workshop

Back2Bikes

Provides bike training services and bike recycling for the local community. 
back2bikes.com.au

Red Cross

Provides donated bikes to asylum seekers. 
redcross.org.au

 

Second Chance Cycles

Provides free bicycles to low-income earners, asylum seekers and others in need of affordable transport.
vacro.org.au

Mottanai Cycles 

Specialises in building and repairing vintage bikes. 
vintagebikesmelbourne.com

Footscray Community Bike Shed

Repairs bikes for, and with, refugees and others in need. 
facebook.com/footscraycommunitybikeshed

Bike Hut West Heidelberg

Donates bikes to locals in need, and teaches people how to repair their bicycle. 
openhousecic.org.au/bikehut

Coburg High School

High-school bike recycling program. 
coburg.vic.edu.au

Red Cross

Provides donated bikes to asylum seekers. 
redcross.org.au

West Welcome Wagon 

Provides bikes to asylum seekers.
westwelcomewagon.org.au

The Bike Shed CERES

Teaches people how to repair their old bikes. 
thebikeshed.org.au

Did you know we have roadside assistance for bicycles?