This article was published in 2021, in Magazine 152.
Building skills, improving confidence, repairing and rehoming cycles, recycling parts and supporting the community: TAG Bikes is a very special educational project. Anna Williams spoke to Rob Bierton to find out more.
Did you know that tucked inside Huntingdon Community Centre on Ambury Road is a project that illustrates just how much the humble bicycle can change lives? From the trainee mechanics to those they serve with low-cost refurbished cycles and repairs, TAG Bikes has been spreading pedal power throughout the local community since 2015 and has risen to all the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown at it.
The project is run by Employment Skills Worker Robert Bierton as part of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Supporting into Work programme. Through TAG Bikes, adults with learning disabilities and special educational needs are learning how to become bicycle mechanics. The programme offers training on how to service, repair and refurbish second-hand bikes and aims to help learners develop a wide range of employability and life skills whilst improving their levels of independence and confidence. The programme has grown year on year and the mechanics now support dozens of customers’ cycle needs each week: face-to-face, by telephone and through their informative Facebook page.
An important part of the learners’ mission is to take donations of dusty cycles that are no longer used or wanted, carry out servicing and repairs and recondition them so they can get back on the road. Once lovingly repaired, made road safe and signed off by qualified bike mechanics, the cycles are placed back into the community for sale at a low price. The TAG Bikes project also supports housing associations, other local charities and those who have had their bicycle stolen by supplying free cycles which can help people get back to education and employment.
Adapting to the pandemic
TAG Bikes closed its doors in March 2020 but soon adapted to the challenges of the pandemic, running daily virtual teaching sessions throughout the year. Each session saw around 5-10 learners taking part online, adding several new technical skills to their capabilities as they embraced a new way of learning. The workshop opened again with limited capacity in September 2020 but continues to run virtual sessions three days a week for learners who are still unable to access the project.
During the pandemic, TAG Bikes also launched a new service for key workers and NHS staff, supporting those on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus.The programme gives key workers who need to use a cycle (to travel to work or stay fit and healthy) access to free services, repairs, and maintenance. It’s proved very popular and will remain an ongoing commitment. The TAG Bikes team also offers a free bicycle to those under seven years old and a free cycle helmet with all bicycle sales. They can do this thanks to funds raised through sales, servicing and repairs undertaken in the workshop.
Re-opening the doors
The TAG Bikes workshop reopened to the public on 14 June 2021 after being closed for over a year. Councillor Richard Howitt, Chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Adults and Health Committee, said: ‘I am so pleased to see that the TAG Bikes workshop has fully reopened. It is an excellent service that provides individuals with vital experience and skills to help them have a bright future. It’s excellent that the team are also offering free bike services to NHS staff and key workers, which is just one way of saying thank you for their brilliant work over the last year’. Robert Bierton of TAG Bikes added: ‘We are exceptionally proud of how well the project has grown over the years. While it has been challenging throughout the pandemic for staff and our learners, we’ve adapted and thrived. We are now seeing the benefits as we open our doors once again. Our community has been very supportive. Customers keep coming back, which is a tribute to our quality of work and the services we offer. The donations we receive are incredible: without this support we wouldn’t be able to make such positive impacts. The learners of TAG gain so much from the project, which builds their self-confidence and improves their wellbeing. We have grown into a fully operational bicycle shop in Huntingdon, but the main emphasis is still on our learners’ development. It is extremely satisfying to be a part of this project and watch everyone grow and gain new skills’.
TAG Bikes has grown into a fully operational bicycle shop in Huntingdon, but the main emphasis is still on learners’ development
TAG Bikes has been exceptionally well supported by the public, Huntingdon District Council, Govia Thameslink, and other partnerships for bicycle donations over the years. On average, they rehome 85% of the cycles they receive, stripping down the remainder for spare parts.
- Get in touch with the TAG Bikes team
To book your cycle in for a service, and for all general enquiries, please call the TAG Bikes workshop on 01480 377697 to speak to the team between 9am and 4pm Monday to Friday, or email Rob direct at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Find TAG on Facebook
For the latest news and photos from TAG Bikes, visit their Facebook page: facebook.com/TagBikesHuntingdonCommunity