I spend a lot of my time on the road, from week to week I travel through some of the most beautiful and rural locations that Britain has to offer. As a cyclist and keen seeker of adventure I’m always on the lookout for my next challenge and often see others just like myself carrying rucksacks or pedalling bicycles with pannier bags full of their supplies.
Whilst waiting at traffic lights a couple of weeks ago I noticed a cycle tourist pull up to the left side of my van who then came to a gradual stop, I made a mental note of his position and continued to wait for the green light. I’m a bit of a ‘kit junkie’ at heart, I just love checking out what gear others carry with them on their adventures, so I glanced to my left for a closer inspection. It did not take long for me to realise that the cycle tourist was in fact a homeless gentleman carrying his possessions, as I was still stationary I took this photograph using my phone.
As the day went on I thought about the homeless gentleman and what his daily routine may consist of, I thought about how I would cope if I was placed in a similar position and whether he camps out as I do or if he stays at a shelter. It got me thinking of just how much of an asset a bicycle must be to a homeless person; it requires no fuel as it runs on human power, can carry relatively heavy loads and is both cheap and simple to maintain. My neighbour has often asked me if I would have any use for one of his old bicycles as it would free up some space in his shed, but I’ve never needed another bicycle – until now! And so ‘Project: Homeless Bike’ was born! Here is the bicycle, as you can see it was in need of some TLC.
My plan was to give myself just one day to build a ‘home on wheels’ ready to give to a suitable homeless person. The initial idea sounded pretty easy but as always reality soon set in; the bicycle had flat tyres, corroded brake cables, missing bolts/fixings and a drivechain full of years worth of muck. On a more positive note the bicycle had very little rust, a solid build quality, was easy to work with and even had some great accessories such as a rear pannier rack, kickstand and a very comfortable seat. I started by setting my day into quarters, it went as follows:
- Phase 1: Cleaning and test run
- Phase 2: Servicing and repairs
- Phase 3: Shopping (food, water, hygiene products and underwear)
- Phase 4: Loading of gear, final test run and adjustments
Phase 1 was by far the most tedious part of the whole project but after a couple of hours of scrubbing and scraping the mud, oil and grit from the drivechain, I was ready to start some repairs and adjustments. I must say the part I was looking forward to the most was hitting my local supermarket with my £10 budget! Its suprising just how much you can get on such a small budget when you look around carefully. Originally I wanted to include my old hexi-stove and small billy can into this whole package so I could buy some cheap tinned food which could then be heated up, however I decided against this idea for a couple of reasons with the main one being the weight issue. The food was all of the supermarkets own brand and not the healthiest of choices but its high in calories, varied and ideal to snack on between meals elsewhere. Next was to put together a simple ‘hygiene kit’, I included shower gel, roll on deodrant, toothpaste, a twin pack of toothbrushes, wet wipes and I threw in a clean towel from home.
Like many others who appreciate the lure of the great outdoors I have spare kit which has built up over the years, with this in mind I dug out a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and inflatable pillow to be used as the sleep set-up. In regards to road safety, I included a hi-vis vest and a bicycle helmet with an integrated light. The rear pannier bag is what I had lying around from when I first started cycle touring, this is what holds the food and 4 litres of water. The handlebar bag is a German army field bag which I converted to securely fit the handlebars without problems when steering, this contains the hygiene kit, socks and underwear. Having a very low budget I had to make certain sacrifices, if my budget was higher I would have invested in a set of bicycle lights, a pump and some basic tools for maintenance.
When the day came to an end I had finished what I set out to do, the project was completed within the day and had come in £0.04 under budget. More importantly I had put together an entire package which is ready and waiting for the right person. I’m going to be very selective of who I give this package to, I would be extremely disappointed if I saw the bicycle in a second hand shop window or dumped in a street somewhere and I would be equally as disappointed if the person does not take full advantage of this opportunity by using it as a tool to move forward in ther journey to recovery, employment, accomodation etc.