Jeremy Ford is a trustee of Qhubeka UK and has been cycling since he was a young child. He decided to put his bicycle knowledge and tools to good use with his #FreeBikeFix for Qhubeka initiative. Jeremy offers bike services and repairs to people in his neighbourhood in Islington, London, in exchange for a donation to Qhubeka Charity. So far, he’s raised more than 5 000GBP (over 100 000ZAR)! On top of this, long-term Qhubeka supporter Ruth Duke has committed to donating a bicycle for every 10 bicycles funded through Jeremy’s initiative.
We chatted to Jeremy to find out more about how it got started and how he’s fundraising while social distancing:
Where does your passion for cycling come from?
I have been on and around bikes for as long as I can remember. My dad is a big cyclist and used to ride Devon to Provence every summer when I was a child. I was never a big roadie, as mountain bikes were appearing as I hit 10/11 and I got hooked. I started racing downhill around 14 and competed to a pretty decent level in races across the UK, France and Germany until I was about 23 when real life, getting a job and London came calling. Since then, I have become more of an ‘enduro’ racer and also hit the tarmac on the road bike. I think the bicycle is truly one of man’s greatest inventions and the impact it can have is incredible. This is why working with Qhubeka gives me a lot of joy!
What was the inspiration/motivation/reason for the idea to start this fundraising campaign to service bicycles in return for a donation to Qhubeka?
I have been fortunate in that my ‘day job’ (working in business development and marketing in the corporate world) has given me a very substantial network of connections across most business sectors. The level of philanthropy in the business world is actually incredible and although global corporations sometimes get negative media attention, the amount they give back/donate/offer through pro bono or corporate social responsibility activities is impressive. Cycling, especially in the last 5-6 years, has become a huge focus for the executives in these businesses, somewhat due to the decline of golf, and this helps secure donors and support for bicycle-related charities and events.
The inspiration for #FreeBikeFix for #Qhubeka came about due to the postponement of the London Revolution, London Marathon, the Tour de France and other events that are sources of donations for Qhubeka. I was thinking about how one can raise funds when movement is restricted to being at home. With no sport or social life to fill in the gaps in the days, I realised I have 30 years+ of tools, parts and knowledge of how to fix bikes and I wondered if I could monetise, this so I launched the campaign to my neighbourhood using the NextDoor app.
How does your ‘workshop’/setup operate?
I live on a pretty quiet street, so I set up my Park Tool work-stand outside my house and folk bring their bikes to me as they do their essential shopping or exercise journey. Due to social distancing rules, I am not offering any kind of mobile service. As I am still working full time, this is something I generally do on mornings, evenings or weekends. I aim to turn the bikes around within 1-2 hours. The #FreeBikeFix for #Qhubeka initiative has now been sponsored by Park Tools and Muc-Off UK who have provided a huge amount of their awesome products and tools to us. This has improved both the quality of the servicing and the longevity of the fixes!
How many bicycle services have you completed to date?
Early this morning I completed jobs #106 and #107 – a ladies shopper bike and very cool kids 14″ wheeler!
Which bicycle/job has been your favourite to service?
That’s a hard one. I have had every type of bike imaginable come through here, and in most states too. Luckily no hydraulic disks or electronic transmissions yet, I am sending jobs like that to the specialist bike shops! I did have an old Raleigh folding bike come to me from a lovely 70+ year old lady who was desperate to get out of the house. She didn’t have a lot of money to buy a new bike and asked me if there was anything I could do with it. I got a little obsessed and racked up 7-8 hours, stripping it entirely and rebuilding it. I lubed and cleaned every single part with Muc-Off products and it was like new. She almost cried. I almost cried. It was a lovely human moment.
What is your favourite tool/product in your toolbox?
Ha! I don’t want to jinx things by claiming a favourite. I have a 40-year-old Brooks spoke key which has got me out of a few problems true-ing wheels on the older bikes but I have to say that the fantastic collection of tools I have just received from Park Tool are incredible. My dad is an engineer and he always told me never to buy average tools and they really are the best!
In London you are allowed to ride your bicycle for exercise and commuting to/from work during lockdown. Are many of your customers people who never before really used a bicycle for commuting? How has the commuting culture changed during this time?
Yup. One hour a day is okay on the bike and a lot of key workers are using bikes to avoid using the Underground at the moment. Many of the 100+ bikes I have fixed have not been used in a while so it’s been really cool to get folk back on bikes! Commuting culture has definitely changed and both the London Mayor and UK Prime Minister have talked about this in the last 24 hours.
What does the bicycle mean for your clients/donors during this time of disaster?
It is clearly a big thing. Mental health is a big issue at the moment and the freedom and relative safety of using a bike is definitely giving people a buzz! Outside of donations to Qhubeka, I am also offering free servicing to any National Health Service (NHS) staff and have now fixed several bikes for doctors and nurses, which hopefully makes a difference.
Quotes from donors who have had their bicycles fixed by Jeremy
“Big thanks to Jeremy for fixing my bike brake, went above and beyond. Good work, great charity!”
“Having a bike means not having to rely on limited public transport. Best wishes for your continued success!”
“Thank you so much to Jeremy Ford who has fixed my bike in exchange for a donation to this fabulous charity. Delighted to contribute. Jeremy – what a star!”
“My bike is like brand new! So grateful for Jeremy’s expertise at this trying time for us all. Wish I could donate much more.”
Huge thanks to Jeremy from Qhubeka for fixing bikes so people can get their biking fix! And for the funds you’re raising that will help us change more lives with bicycles.