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  • Amy Scaife

BIG NEWS! We have wheels!

In un-shocking news, it turns out that sturdy second-hand cargo bikes are quite expensive. With the end of the funding period drawing near, my (admittedly optimistic) prototype plan pivoted to a more affordable bike trailer as the base for the mobile hub. Brexit stymied the ordering of a decently sized and priced one from the Netherlands, so in an attempt to stretch the remaining budget as far as possible, along with stretching my own learning and skills, I started looking into designing and building the trailer myself.

Lines of enquiry were thrown out and drawn in, a particularly helpful one leading me towards CarryFreedom and their brilliant, free pdf plan for a low cost yet solid bike trailer. The plan is flexible enough to allow for building out of whatever materials are locally available, whether that be bamboo, wood or scrap metal.

I had fully convinced myself that 'YES, I can build this!', (wholly encouraged by new lead buddy, long time rad activist and creator - Stig) when another enquiry line jangled to life via a chat in a Leyton brewery with another new pal Chris, then on to Public Works R-Urban Poplar, an absolutely amazing community garden and experimental maker space, with it's very own biodigestor, hydroponics and a huge, insulated barrel composter that allows you to regularly turn it thus speeding up the process. If you are into composting this was incredibly impressive and I may of lovingly laid my cheek upon it while stroking it's warm, insulated surface. Composting is cool ok?

A man is bent down repairing a cargo bike, it is up on blocks in front of a green garage door and there is abundant green growth above them.
Magician Chris bringing the bike back to life.

Patiently reposed amongst all this abundant amazingness was a Christiania Cargo bike, Mad Leap's beast of burden. It would trundle about Kings Cross, collecting food waste to be fed into a bio-digestor to create gas, compost and liquid fuel. The collecting part of that project on pause, the bike was currently idle and after having hubRen's aims explained to the bike's owners, they were happy to allow it back on the road (on loan) as hubRen's new wheels. Thrilled would be an understatement.

Christiania bikes are incredibly well designed and built, they are the OG of cargo bikes. Thanks to it being stored undercover, Chris's mechanical skills and a new set of tubes and tires, we were road ready in no time. But was I road ready? These things are heavy, move very differently to a regular bike and it was a 6 mile cycle back to its new home.

Fortunately it was a beautiful, blue sky September day, I managed to navigate it mainly off road, up through the Olympic park and along the River Lea to home with only a little back-tracking and minimal disruption to other road users. And it was FUN!

The bike definitely uses different muscles and I felt it the next day, along with a lot of joy. The bike is eye catching, people look and often smile as it slowly trundles past. There is ample space on its box for beautiful, visual messaging. Two side wood panels have degraded and need replacing, I look forward to commissioning gorgeous Solar Punk style art to be painted on the new sides. The lid hinges up into a perfectly sized display board, with space to fit two A2 posters side by side, potentially on both sides.

The bike may go back into Mad Leap's use in the future so its refit has to be light-touch and reversible. Inspired by collapsible camping tables, a roll up surface (wood slats) can be slotted into the top of the open box to make a surface for books and other materials. I'm also thinking of bringing in the seat post as the solid base for an upright pole stand to support hanging display space. It's time to crack out the old pencil, watercolours and pen...

It's a start, and will most definitely evolve as we go on. Not entirely sure what form the awning will take, but I have an old tent I plan to put into use for that in some way. Tent poles and mechanics make sense as everything has to be collapsible and light. Embodying circular economy thinking, I'd like as much of the materials as possible to be repurposed. The pesky algorithm was obviously paying attention as it has just flung an online course my way that looks to be the cornucopia of knowledge and inspiration I need for this - Eco Friendly Architecture with Architect Izaskun Chinchilla, all for the bargainous price of £16.90. I might have to do one of their watercolour classes too.

So that's where we are at! Didn't quite get a wheeled structure out and about for Summer 2021, but I do hope to have something ready to participate in local events around COP26 in November, and will be documenting the process here on the blog so be sure to check back if this kind of thing floats your boat or pushes your pedals. If it really pushes your pedals hard, so much so that you were inclines to donate or buy me a coffee, you can do that via our new Ko-Fi account! It's as smooth an oat milk latte and I'd be ever so very grateful. Cheers, Amy

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