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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Charlie's FreeWheels

CANADA - Charlie’s FreeWheels is a bicycle mechanic training program in Toronto which helps youth from Regent Park. The free program mentors and teaches young would-be bicycle mechanics, using donated bicycles from the community.

The program only teaches the basics, but its a solid start for people wanting to learn the essentials of bike repair and maintenance.

The program has being going on for several years now and its turned around the lives of the students involved. They've even launched a new bike shop at 242.5 Queen St East to house all the bicycles they're repairing.

The new Charlie’s Bike Shop will provide repair service, parts, accessories and sales of refurbished bikes to the public. All proceeds will be funneled back into youth programs.

The program's name refers to the late Charles Prinsep, who was struck and killed while on a cross-country bike trip in 2007. He conceived of the idea and following his death, some of Prinsep’s friends wanted to do something in his honour and felt his idea of a bicycle mechanic mentoring program was definitely something he would have wanted to see happen.

Youths involved also receive a free bicycle (which they first fix), a lock and a helmet. Each youth also takes part in CAN-BIKE safety certification.

Since its launch two years ago, 30 youth have gone through Charlie’s Freewheels.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Monowheel that doesn't work

The following is a series of photos of a "Monowheel" contraption which doesn't actually work and was designed by British designer Ben Wilson. Its apparently not very comfortable either.

The concept isn't new and there are working versions out there built by different people, but no one has managed to design one which works "properly" despite many inventors who have tried. There have been motorized versions made also, but likewise there are always design faults.

Still, its amusing.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Cleaning your Bicycle

Its Spring again!

The birds are chirping, the raccoons are frolicking, people are starting to get out their short shorts... and you've just discovered a leak in your garage which caused your bicycle to be snowed/rained on all winter long.

Or maybe you left your bicycle outside in a snowbank all winter long.

Or maybe its just covered in dust, grime and mud because you shoved it away in a corner in November and didn't bother to clean all the mud off it after sloshing through the muddy streets on it.

Well its pretty much guaranteed that you now need a tune up, so here's a checklist for you to go down.


#1. Refill the tires. They're probably looking kinda flat, and even if they don't give them a top-up to the proper PSI. Don't overfill them however, use a pressure gauge, read the PSI requirements on the side of the tire and fill accordingly. Overfilling the tires can cause them to burst at the worst possible moment and have "catastrophic wheel failure"...

#2. Clean all the rust off the chain. Most bicycle shops don't sell stuff for removing rust (too many people are afraid of accidentally removing paint) so you may need to visit a hardware store to buy some CLR to remove the rust. Remember to wear latex gloves and avoid contact with your eyes because its very acidic. I recommend brushing the CLR on with a wire brush.

You may also need to degrease your bicycle chain and then add fresh oil. Be sure to use environmentally friendly bicycle oil. WD40 will only make your chain worse because WD40 collects dirt and the next thing you know your chain is full of grit.

#3. Check the brakes are in perfect working order. I like having perfectly tuned brakes. Check your brake levers too.

#4. Check your shifters are working too. (If they are not working properly I should warn you this isn't a skill normally taught to beginners, so either consult Barnett's Manual or visit your local bicycle mechanic. Note to Self: Make A Comprehensive Guide for Adjusting Shifters.)

#5. If you or your kids are growing, you may need to adjust the handlebars and/or seat height.

#6. Take it for a quick spin and make sure everything else is in working order. ie. The handlebars might be a bit stiff.

You could be extra paranoid and take your bike in for a complete tune up, but I should warn you this is the BUSIEST time of the year for bicycle shops, so be prepared for a long wait. (As in, weeks or even a month before you get the call saying you bike is tuned.)


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Looking for a bicycle mechanic school in Canada? The Quadra Island Bike School in British Columbia is a Canadian bicycle mechanic school that trains professional bicycle mechanics against the backdrop of the beautiful Quadra Island.

About the Author

Charles Moffat is equal parts bicycle mechanic, cyclist, painter, sculptor, fantasy writer, poet, website designer and pun maker. For more details see



Do you own a bike shop and are looking to hire a bicycle mechanic in North America? Just email me with the job posting details and I will post it for you. (Also, please let me know when the job has been filled so I can update the posting.)


If your bicycle is basically junk and you don't know what to do with it then SELL IT TO ME. I will use it for parts. I will give you a fair price ($20 to $30) for your old clunker just so I can rip it apart for parts.

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