Vintage bikes receive a new lease of life

A new bike restoration and training project near London Bridge is proving a hit with cyclists. Thor Burkard set up I-Bike in a tucked-away unit under Druid Street’s railway arches two months ago.

The aim of the project is to provide excellent bicycle repair service to the local community for affordable prices. The team also restore vintage and working bicycles and are planning to venture into the construction of unusual cycles too.

Thor said his passion for bikes and communities were the reasons he started it up. “I started fixing bikes a few years ago when I re-discovered my passion for cycling and the feeling of independence when riding a bike in London.

“I helped in a few bike projects in Southwark and North London, and then just 10 weeks ago I got lucky and found a place, which I wanted to transfer into a cycle workshop."  After renting the space at 18 Druid St, Thor gained a raft of tools and bikes donated from the local community.

“I started working alone, but soon friends turned up to help me. Because I didn’t have any funding to begin with, I am working with volunteers from different European countries. Currently our team comes from Italy, Spain, France, Malaysia, Scottland, Wales and England. The guys learn a lot of new mechanics and life skills on a daily basis.”

The workshop is open seven days a week for repairs and sales and it's cheaper than many bike shops: a service starts at £30 and the labour for punctures and new brakes is only £5. Being a perfectionist, Thor ensures that bikes go back to the owner spotless.

Along with his team of international volunteers Thor holds bike sales on Saturdays and Sundays with a range of vintage bikes.

In the past two weeks, the team has worked very hard on a restoration project of five old Pashley post office bikes. The assembly of the bikes will be completed tonight and Thor and the team take them out this Sunday to the Thames Festival together with a Latino community group called "Nuevo Generacion".

The ex-fitness instructor added: “At the present stage we our not sure about the future name of our project and thinking of setting up a social enterprise, which is generating funds to further develop and enhance our workshop and support other projects in Bermondsey and Southwark.”

I-Bike is becoming a popular local business, with Southwark Council employees taking in bikes for servicing, and it received the thumbs up from LCC Community Officer Rosie Sharp who put her bike in for a service.

She said on the LCC website: “I don’t think my bike has ever looked so shiny! At such a good price I wasn’t expecting so much attention to detail and was really surprised to find that the frame and rims were sparkling -  my bike looked as good as new in spite of being over 20 years old!”

The project needs more volunteers so if you have a couple of hours or a bike to spare, or some plants or hanging baskets, contact Thor: 07551016380.