Student - 15 april 2013

Fixing bikes for free

It's busy in the Forum basement on a Tuesday evening. For the last few months it has been the venue for the Student Bike Workshop: students who volunteer to help repair your bike. Completely free of charge, except for the necessary spare parts that is.

'Have you ever patched a tyre?' Paula from Colombia shakes her head. 'Ok, then you're about to get a crash course in patching tyres.' At the bike workshop you don't just get your bike fixed: you learn how to do it yourself.
Founder Yves Prevoo: 'We provide people with a good, speedy solution for their bike problem. In addition, we try to make sure they learn as much as possible so that next time they can do it themselves.'
The Biosystems Engineering masters student is a born handyman. 'I've been tinkering with bikes from a young age, it comes naturally to me and it's just fun. I did my Bachelor's in electrical engineering in Delft where they are all technically adept and fix their own bikes.' In Wageningen that turned out to be quite different. 'People asked me if I could help them. Then I thought: why not do this on a bigger scale?' Through the international student organization ISOW, Yves got in touch with the WUR department for information and recruitment, where they saw potential in his plan. The starting budget of 50 euros was easily arranged. 'We use that to buy spare parts, which we sell for the cost price. That's how we stay in business,' explains Prevoo.
Success
The first customers soon arrived by way of Facebook, but the team also got volunteers who wanted to help out. Currently there are six active bike mechanics who help about 25 students per day. Three quarters of those students are foreigners, which doesn't surprise Yves. 'Some international students who buy their first bike here aren't entirely sure how to use it, let alone fix it.' He also has some remarkable stories: 'We sometimes see bikes which have no brakes at all. Recently a girl came by with a wheel whose rim was broken in four, it was held together by the spokes,' Yves laughs. 'At that point there isn't much we can do either.'
Yves has big plans for the future. 'We can just about keep up now, but if it gets busier we might think about opening two nights a week. We also want to get in more parts, and in the long term we might even start selling second hand bikes. We'd like to organize that soon - got to keep things challenging.  

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