Teaching refugees to cycle with confidence


How do you teach something that you find instinctive?

That’s the question Leila asked when she started volunteering at our Women’s Project, which teaches refugee women how to ride a bike with confidence.

“When I started helping out, I was struck by how supportive the environment was. But I found as a cyclist that it was quite challenging to break down how to ride.”

Cycle Confident offered The Bike Project a place on a 4 day training course to become an NSI Cycle Instructor. Leila was the perfect candidate.

“As a car driver you have a driving test, but there isn’t really a cycling equivalent. It was quite an exhausting 4 days but it really helped my confidence. As soon as I had completed the course, I could work as a fully qualified instructor.”

Combined with this formal training and her own experiences of gaining confidence in cycling, Leila is now an absolute cycling guru, empathising with the women’s fears and helping nurture their skills.

Leila’s cycling journey

“My own journey began when I learned to ride as a child. As a teenager I rode a bit, but as an adult I wasn’t cycling. About 8 years ago, I got in with a group of friends who rode everywhere, and I was having to catch up with them by bus! They had something good going on and I wanted to be part of it. I grew up in London, but the idea of riding here was quite intimidating to me.”

After taking some cycle sessions provided by her borough, Leila learned how important training is to confidence. “Since those sessions, I’ve cycled everywhere!”

Now that she’s fully qualified, we employ Leila as an instructor. She’s grateful that Cycle Confident gave her the opportunity, and so are we – along with all of the people she helps train.

“The sense of achievement at the Women’s Project is palpable  – the sessions are always rewarding, every week it surprises me when someone starts pedalling.  It reminds me each time why I do it – it’s a privilege to part be part of that.

“Last week, one of the women in our group, who had been quite quiet, said as she left, “It was such a great session, I feel like I’m 16 again.”

The Bike Project - Refugees in the Workshop

More Space Please!

The Bike Project is looking for more space! Ideally a warehouse and an office within London.

Please contact directly if you know of anywhere which fits the brief below. Please give the brief a careful read before contacting us as whilst we are very grateful for any leads, we are a small and busy team and ideally want to prioritise our time with those that best match our needs.


The main space will be used to check the bikes in, assess and repair them, and redistribute them. We will also use some of the property as an office.

What we’re looking for:

  • 2000 – 3000sq ft, with a ceiling height of at least 9ft
  • Clear, open space
  • Minimum 6 month lease
  • Space for small office
  • Toilet facilities
  • Within M25
  • With transit van access/ parking for unloading and loading
  • Good overground/ train links
  • Ideally with some outside space/ access to quiet roads for road-testing bikes
  • Secure (although our best bikes will be stored elsewhere)

We know that this is very specific therefore we will consider properties slightly outside of this brief. We will also consider making renovations to adapt the property to our needs.

We are a charity and our budget is limited but we are prepared to consider reasonable commercial rent prices.

We are ready to move.

More about The Bike Project:

Our mission is simple: to get refugees cycling!

We are a community of refugees, mechanics and volunteers. We receive donations of second- hand bikes, fix them together at our workshop, and then donate them to asylum seeking refugees. A small proportion of the bikes that we receive are sold through The Bike Shop to generate funds, the proceeds of which support The Bike Project, which ensures our long term sustainability.

A message from James

James and his medalIt was a week ago that I lined up at the alarm-clock destroying time of 5.44 a.m to try and complete the Prudential Ride London in 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Since then I’ve had many naps, eaten lots of food and wept every time I had to climb more than three steps in one go.

But now I’m fully recovered and just wanted to let you know what happened on the day and to say a last thank you for your amazing generosity.

Here’s a (not at all) brief insight into my weekend.

The day before the ride I carb loaded like a crazy person (my favourite part of a long distance cycle, eating my own bodyweight in pasta) and went to bed as early as I could manage. Just as I turned my light off, a thumping bass line kicked in. My light switch didn’t normally do that. I flicked it a couple more times to see if it would stop. It didn’t. My heart sank. I had to face the truth. On that night of all nights, my neighbours were having a party.

This made me sad.

I jammed earplugs so far into my ears that I think I actually touched my brain. But it was to no avail. I could still hear the M.C (oh yes, they had an M.C) and the pounding bass. I think I managed to get a bit of sleep, but it was all too soon that my alarm went off at 3 a.m. Which incidentally was the exact time the party stopped and they turned the music off. I’d have found that funny if I wasn’t so weary.

I bet Chris Froome doesn’t have to deal with that kind of action.

Read More

Why I’m pledging my ride

James Webb at Blackrock

James Webb (pictured left)

On the 30th of July I’m taking part in the 2017 Prudential Ride London. A brilliant event that will see thousands of cyclists roll around the closed roads of London, giving it their best impressions of Bradley Wiggins or Laura Trott. (I’m always Laura Trott, just so you know. Not sure why. I just feel I’m more a Trott than a Wiggo).

I’m raising money for The Bike Project which, as you know, is a wonderful charity that refurbishes bikes that have been abandoned, thrown away or left to rust and then donates them to refugees and asylum seekers.

Anyone who cycles will know what owning a bike means to them. For me it’s the feeling of personal freedom. Sitting on a bike gives me the feeling of possibility. That I have the potential to go anywhere. It’s a powerful thing. So being able to give a bike to a refugee or asylum seeker who has faced many hardships and who has very little is not only hugely practical (saving each recipient masses of money in travel costs) but is also a potent symbol of freedom and ownership.

I’ve volunteered for the charity for over a year and now work for them as a freelance mechanic, so I’ve seen first hand the good work it does and what it means to the recipients of the bikes. I’m very proud to be riding for them in this event.

Onto the ride itself. I love riding my bike, and although riding 100 miles is always a challenge, I’m pretty confident that I could take it steady and get around the course and probably have a lovely time doing it.

But where’s the fun in that? I want to earn your money. So, to make sure I don’t take it easy, I’m going to commit to doing the 100 miles in under 4 hours and 15 minutes. To hit that time, I’m going to need to average about 24mph over the whole course. Ouch. I genuinely don’t know if I can do this. But I’m going to give it a go.

And for a little bit of extra motivation and to put my own money where my mouth is, I promise to donate a fiver for every minute I go over my set time, so this could go spectacularly wrong for my bank balance. But if you’re donating some cash, then the least I can do is risk some of my own (On a side note, your donations aren’t affected by me achieving this time or not. It’ll only affect how much I personally throw into the pot.)

Small print, we’ll take the time from my Garmin bike computer, and it’ll be my “moving” time we use, not my “total” time. Basically, my Garmin will not count any time I spend stationary. I don’t intend to stop at all, but this will mean that I won’t go bankrupt if I get held up due to things beyond my control. I hope that’s acceptable to all. 

Right, that’s it. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. If you are able to donate then please click on the link below and it will take you to my fundraising page. Thanks in advance for any donations you can give. It’s hugely appreciated.

James Webb

Find out more:

Refugee women learning to cycle

Refugee women often have hardly any experience of cycling, as it may not be encouraged in their home country. We run a women-only project, where they can learn to ride in a warm, supportive environment. Their confidence grows as they learn to ride safely, while meeting like-minded people and making friends.

Thank you Pooja Puri, author of The Jungle


I’m David and I’m Chair of The Bike Project. Pooja tells you: “For anyone looking for a way to help, The Bike Project is a wonderful charity which donates bikes to refugees and asylum seekers.”

The Jungle and The Bike Project are a tandem. Like the young people in the book, we know the value of a bicycle for unlocking space; access; time; health and sociability. The Bike Project brings more of life within the reach of refugees and asylum-seekers in London.

In 2016, we refurbished and gave away 950 bicycles. This year we want to give away 1,200 bikes to refugees and asylum-seekers. We are supported by lots of people like you – who give bikes and time and money; and we have a brilliant founder and staff team.

The book is gripping, moving and stormy. It doesn’t comfort you with a happy end; but it does show you many wondrous bonds that make friendship and resilience. And Pooja gives us some brilliant prose. I love this description of Leila and Mico sulking after an argument – “the space between them itching with the prickly silence of remembered words”.

The Jungle is about presence and disappearance; about young people struggling for their place against the greatest odds.

We must take a stand. We cannot accept their disappearance – from the political agenda; from our consciousness; literally from the face of the earth.

Pooja’s novel is a powerful voice and a great read.

Buy the book and as a bonus you’ll find out how to support The Bike Project.

Thank you Pooja – and all of you – for your support.


Saddler well

Beautiful as a dancer’s slipper and just as sturdy, there’s something utterly balletic about a Brooks saddle. They’re also the comfiest place to perch your bum this side of a sofa (and a better fit on your bike, too). 

Invented over 100 years ago by lavishly-bearded John Boultbee Brooks, you can still spot a Brooks saddle by its unique leather design today. John wasn’t always into bikes. He started out as a saddle maker for horses, and it was only when his horse died that he decided to give cycling a go. It’s safe to say that his first ride left him less than impressed and more than a little sore. So, as the Victorians were in the habit of doing, John got down to inventing and created the Brook leather prototype saddle in 1878.

Brooks perfected his saddle, and didn’t stop there – the Brooks company have been responsible for all sorts of weird and wonderful inventions over the years. In their 1926 catalogue alone you can find ‘handlebar muffs’, ‘snap-on leggings’ and a side car screen.

You won’t see any of those in their latest catalogue, but you will spot a few of John’s original seats, almost exactly as he designed them over 100 years ago. Made with top notch leather stretched over a sturdy frame, Brooks saddles have a rep for comfort, longevity and style. And thanks to their sturdiness, we’ve got some fantastic second hand specimens in our shop. They’re still in amazing condition, and are so comfy they’ll have you dancing on your wheels.

Find our second hand Brooks saddles in our shop.


Joh and Ben from Hiplok

Cyclists on a mission

Ben and John from Hiplok have donated a load of their very clever, wearable bike locks to The Bike Project this week. Here’s John from Hiplok with the story of how they came up with such a genius idea and, more importantly, how they made it happen.

“Hiplok was founded by myself and a uni friend, Ben Smith, back in 2011. We used to go mountain biking together and chat about random ideas we had for bikes (or other things). Our background is in product development (we studied industrial product design together at Coventry). Ben was working in the bike industry whist I worked for a product development agency in Windsor.

One day I cycled to a friend’s house, left my bike up the drive outside his house in a quiet suburban street only to return 15 mins later to find it had gone. I’d had bikes stolen before (you’d have thought I would have learned my lesson) but this was the catalyst which got me thinking about a better way to carry a bike lock.

Taking inspiration from the way many bike couriers carried their locks, I approached Ben with the idea and the concept of Hiplok was born. Ben was living in the US so we’d work on prototypes, send them back and forth, and talk on Skype most days for about a year before launch. Five years later the wearable lock idea has now grown into a wide range of bicycle security products and we now sell in over 20 countries worldwide.

I first heard about the Bike Project via a close family friend, Sarah Payne. Sarah is one of the trustees of the charity. She knew I was involved in the bike industry and said I should check them out.

Hiplok is donating a number of bicycle locks for The Bike Project. We will also be supporting the project in a number of other ways over the coming months, so keep an eye out.”


We asked, Blaze answered

We’re always on the look out for new Bike Hubs, places that can accept and hold donations for us to collect later. So a few weeks ago we put a call out for anyone who has room for a bike rack. And in less than a fortnight, six new Hubs have been set up.

One of the wonders who got in touch turned out to be a bit of a blast from the past. Based in Shoreditch, Blaze create clever bits of tech to make cycling safer. You might have spotted green bike symbols projected onto the pavement from the London Santander Cycles – that’s them. We first met them a few years back and, after reconnecting over Bike Hubs last week, Rachel from Blaze tells sent us this lovely email:

“Setting up as a bike hub was as easy as saying the word ‘yes’. It’s really exciting to be involved and we’re looking forward to meeting more of our neighbours as they come to donate their wheels. We’ve even been talking about getting in some treats of the edible kind to sweeten the deal, as many of us will do anything for chocolate!

We’ve been following the project from afar via The Bike Project’s newsletter for some years, after Jem came to visit our office when Blaze was in its infancy. We read that you were looking for new Bike Hubs and the timing was perfect – we have just moved from our own tiny ‘bike shed’ in Bethnal Green into a larger ‘home’ where the Kingsland and Hackney Roads join. We have the space, and we heard the call to arms  🙂

Why are we a good match? We are a bike light company, and our workforce is made up of cyclists. We all ride bikes, and in fact it’s probably the one common feature that the 13 of us share. Like all of us we want to do more to help others where we can, and it makes sense to partner with the Bike Project as hopefully we will be able to introduce our customers and stockists to the work that you do as well.”

Thank you Rachel and everyone at Blaze – and to all of our other amazing Bike Hubs.

You can find the Bike Hubs on our Bike Hub map, along with lots of other places you can donate any unwanted bikes.

Want to become a Bike Hub yourself? You can find out how here.

Become a Bike Hub

JRS Bike Hub

Becoming a Bike Hub for The Bike Project is an easy, wonderful way to support refugees and asylum seekers in London.

You can find out how to become a Bike Hub here. And to give you an idea of why it’s so brilliant, have a read of what Bike Hub hosts Jon and Jonathan have to say below.



The Jesuit Refugee Service is one of our bike donation drop off points (or Bike Hubs) and a partner in our Women’s Cycle Training scheme. We caught up with Jonathan from the JRS to hear about his experience of hosting a Bike Hub for The Bike Project.

Why did you decide to become a drop off point for The Bike Project?

“We were very happy to support The Bike Project by becoming a drop off point as we had seen how much they had motivated and encouraged our refugee friends.

The Bike Project is a wonderful initiative which continues to prove that solidarity and hospitality make our lives and communities better and more fun; I’m pretty sure that the refugee friends The Bike Project has made are a big reason for its success.”


What is the best thing about being a drop off point?

“Seeing our refugee friends getting around on the donated bikes, the freedom and excitement cycling uniquely allows, just shows why it is a privilege to act as a drop off point. So do join up and play your part!”


Do you have any advice for other centres thinking of becoming a drop off point?

“Once the racks are installed or the storage arrangements fixed, being a drop off point does not call for too much effort – though, when you’re preoccupied with something else, don’t forget to give a big ‘thank you’ and smile to the donors!”



Jon and the Finchley Reform Synagogue have supported The Bike Project for years, and recently became one of our Bike Hubs.

Why did you decide to become a drop off point for The Bike Project?

“As one of our main charity partners, FRS members have donated money towards The Bike Project for over 3 years. We also wanted to provide practical support to a charity that improves the lives of London’s refugees and asylum seekers in tangible and sustainable ways. Being a drop off point in North London has allowed many more donors to give their unwanted bikes to this valuable cause.”


What’s the best thing about being a drop off point?

“So many bike donors are delighted that their once-loved machines will be put to such good use. When people bring in bikes with wheels falling off, broken brakes and rusty chains, they are amazed that we will still accept the donations, as we explain that their bike could be repaired, used as a training machine, or saved for spare parts.

Most synagogues in London are surrounded by high fences and have regular visible security patrols. Although we wish to be a welcoming place, the necessary security steps sometimes give off a different impression. Many bike donors are stepping into a synagogue for the first time when they bring their bikes, and it is a great chance to have a friendly conversation and ensure those barriers are broken down.”


Do you have any advice for other centres thinking of becoming a drop off point?

“It really is a simple, hassle-free way of making a big difference to the quality of people’s lives in our city. The Bike Project team make it really easy to arrange pick-ups when our bike store is full. We sometimes have to turn away donors because there is no drop-off point near them, and they are unable to bring bikes to Finchley. The more drop-off points there are, the further reaching the project will become.”


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Jem and Silla

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