A cycle ride to Turkey sent two e-bike entrepreneurs on a journey to a more impactful and inclusive way of life
Bethan Ward from Drosi Bikes tells us how they began converting unloved pedal bikes and the massive environmental, physical, social and emotional benefits their communities have seen as a result of the increase in bike use in recent times.
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Drosi Bikes – turning waste into a solution
With Climate Change becoming more and more real, and day to day life in the UK becoming increasingly fast paced in 2019 my partner and I decided to leave our jobs and explore what a simpler, less impactful way of life could look like. We figured that there was no better tool for exploration than a bike!
Bikes and electric bikes (e-bikes) are incredible machines capable of transforming their riders physically, socially and emotionally, as well as having a positive impact on the world around them. We realised this first hand during our ride to Istanbul (and back again!), reaping the benefits of fresh air, exercise and the small interactions with locals that other modes of transport do not permit.
Each year, around 15 million bikes worldwide are discarded and road transport contributes to around a fifth of the carbon emissions in the UK. We decided that it was about time we started turning waste into a solution giving individuals a more affordable and environmentally friendly option for transport.
"The sole purpose of this social enterprise is to promote bikes and electric-bikes as a fun, accessible and low impact option for travel, reducing the overall number of car journeys made and creating communities that are safer, more cohesive and full of healthy, happy individuals."
Inspired by other community bike projects we’ve seen along the way, (particularly Bristol Bike Project) we decided to set up our own in North Wales – Drosi Bikes.
The sole purpose of this social enterprise is to promote bikes and electric-bikes as a fun, accessible and low impact option for travel, reducing the overall number of car journeys made and creating communities that are safer, more cohesive and full of healthy, happy individuals. We are doing this by converting bikes to e-bikes, making them a more affordable and appealing transport option and refurbishing discarded old bikes, reducing waste going to landfill. In addition we’re connecting with other local groups and networks to explore opportunities for collaboration, we’re raising awareness of cycling and of Drosi bikes online through our website (drosibikes.org) and social media platforms. We have also joined a local group to promote and support active travel in Denbighshire.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone in the UK to stay local. With restrictions on car journeys and more spare time on our hands we have seen the popularity of cycling soar. Although this is incredible news for the environment (and for Drosi Bikes) the pandemic has posed some specific challenges to us and others in the industry. Our reliance on the global supply chain, coupled with the new popularity of bikes has meant sourcing reliable parts has become a daily challenge. Lead times are longer and delivery is less dependable, which has restricted the number of bikes we’re able to convert.
Over the next 12 months as we emerge from lockdown we want to focus our energy on how Drosi Bikes can best serve our local community. The cycling culture in the UK is largely dominated by white males who view cycling as a hobby and not a way of life, this can also be seen in North Wales.
We want to play a part in changing the attitude towards cycling making it more inclusive and acceptable playing an important part in everyday life. Working with local organisations and services we’re planning to target underrepresented groups and offer a supported drop-in workshop to empower people to maintain their own bikes and run maintenance and cycle training courses to help people gain confidence when cycling.
When getting started as a social enterprise the most useful source of support has been from a network of like-minded peers, both locally and nationally. Working in collaboration or sharing stories, ideas and solutions can be a hugely beneficial way to stay motivated and focused. The Social Business Wales ‘Start up with a cuppa’ peer support network for social enterprise start-ups like us to connect is a great way to connect to other people on similar journeys. I would advise everyone, regardless of how big, small, or developed their idea, is to reach out and build a network around them to guide and support along the way.
Drosi Bikes has received business consultancy support and advice from Social Business Wales New Start, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre.
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