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A Sustainable Cycle

The Transformative Power of Bicycle Recycling and Repair

Up-Cycles Workshop, Central Otago
Geoff Marks

For those unfamiliar with the sketch, it goes something like this:

In a town full of people with the persona of Superman, one man has the secret identity of "Bicycle Repair Man" with the impressive superpower of being able to repair a bicycle with his own hands…

And so, with that image firmly fixed in your mind’s eye, meet Chris “Foggie” Foggin, Central Otago’s very own Bicycle Repair Man!

Foggie has been a cycling ambassador and educator for years, and whilst his Up-Cycles initiative is new to Alexandra, the concept of helping people to get out riding bikes is nothing new. Back in 2003 Foggie was involved with a project in the northwest of England which worked with disadvantaged kids from the city and took them out mountain biking in the countryside. This also included donating bikes and helmets to those children most in need.

Fast forward a few years to 2011 and Foggie was working with Bike NZ, the national sports body, and again supporting families who couldn’t afford bikes for their kids by lending and donating bicycles. Which in a round and about way lead to him being asked by Alexandra Primary School (where his wife Lisa is a teacher) to help build bikes for local kids with special needs.

Alexandra's very own Bicycle Repair Man, Chris "Foggie" Foggin at his home in Alexandra on a foggy morning!

With some local funding support and help from Alexandra bike shop owner James Williamson (Willbike Cycling Central), Foggie’s first project was to build a bespoke trike for one of the pupils with cerebral palsy. That first trike off the production line was the catalyst for more projects – and not least because it made such a difference to a very happy customer who was now able to zoom around with all his mates on their bikes.

Other recipients of Up-Cycles bikes include two more diverse learners who are now up and spinning on two wheels with new-found freedom; a family of five who have struggled financially and are now all riding on the trails together; a homeless person who now has transport; and a young man who lost his driving licence and is trying to get his life back on track and who can now ride to work without relying on others or being tempted to drive illegally.

Foggie works closely with Presbyterian Support and other community groups to help identify those in the most genuine need of help.

Foggie at work 'up-cycling' in his container-based workshop.

Having spent 30-years in law enforcement, Foggie recognises that, “dealing with the aftermath of people’s poor choices has been a common theme in my life and up until now I wouldn’t have invested more time in supporting them. However, I’ve changed my point of view and realised that I’m actually able to help make positive changes for some people. I love encouraging people to ride, tinkering with bikes and so to make a difference through Up-Cycles is a really good feeling”.

Whilst Foggie is currently investing his own money in Up-Cycles, he’s in the process of setting up as a charitable trust and has received great support from the local community with secondhand bikes and parts being donated by fellow cyclists as well as ex-rental bikes provided by local company Trail Journeys, helmets from Bike it Now and other components from the Luxury Trail Company.

Foggie currently builds and repairs the bikes for Up-Cycles from a container behind his garage and next to a paddock full of very mischievous goats.

“Somebody told me that keeping goats was easy”, laughs Foggie. “Well, it’s not! Or at least not with this mob”!

Old bikes and components waiting to be up cycled and distributed to new homes.

The container is full of bike frames of all shapes and sizes, projects at various stages of completion as well as boxes full of old pedals, cassettes and cranks, saddles, tubes, tyres and every other component you can imagine. There are even some old classic bike frames squirreled away in the container, which Foggie intends to either sell or swap for components and other equipment once he’s fixed them up.

Whilst Up-Cycles is mostly about providing bikes for those that can’t afford them, of course the venture has other community benefits. “Recycling and repairing bicycles contributes to sustainable practices, waste reduction, and cost savings”, explains Foggie. “It also helps improve accessibility and encourages active transport. These upcycled bikes are slowly becoming a part of creating a more environmentally conscious and inclusive society”.

“But most importantly, riding a bike is fun”!

Foggie hopes that once Up-Cycles has a charitable status and access to more funding that he’ll be able to up-scale the operation. In addition to repairing bikes, future plans include skills development programmes to teach people how to fix and maintain their own bicycles as well as offering training programmes like Waka Kotahi’s “Bike Ready” road safety course to help improve people’s bike skills.

In the meantime, Alexandra’s Bicycle Repair Man continues to upcycle other people’s old junk into treasure providing freedom and fun to those most in need…. A superpower indeed!

If you’ve been inspired by Foggie’s story and would like to support his work, you can contact him through Facebook – he has quite the list of tools and components which he needs to continue with the project.

Up-Cycles Facebook

Foggie closing up his container / workshop with those mischievous goats in the background...

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