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Mechanic raises thousands for charity giving unwanted bikes new lease of life

£5,000 raised in 2009 alone with proceeds benefitting children's hospice...

A Norfolk man has put his bike maintenance skills to good use over the last decade, recycling more than 10,000 bikes to raise thousands of pounds for charity in the process, and he is eager to get his hands on more unwanted machines for which he can find new homes.

Paul Riches, aged 48, who has operated the Bracon Ash Garage, three miles outside Norwich, for the past 28 years, began collecting money for East Anglian Children’s Hospices by suggesting that drivers who stopped at the garage to ask for direction make a donation. That raised around £50 a year, although donations have unsurprisingly dropped off since sat-nav devices were introduced.

Ten years ago, he decided to put his mechanical skills to good use by repairing stolen or abandoned bicycles, which he sources from police auctions and from the University of East Anglia. Bicycles that are able to be salvaged are sold on once they have been refurbished, while others are broken up for parts, with those beyond rescue donated to Wayland Prison to allow inmates to try out their bike repair skills.

Mr Riches, who put together his first tandem at the age of 12, told the Wymondham and Attleborough Mercury that being handy around a bicycle runs in the family – during World War 2, his grandfather used to refurbish bikes to sell on to US servicemen stationed nearby.

Last year, his bike salvage operation netted £5,000 for te charity, which runs a hospice at Quidenham. 
“I just think they need the money and I wholeheartedly support them,” said Mr Riches. “You can't take it with you, anyway,” he added, saying, “I don't think I could do what they do everyday, it astonishes me.”

Mr Riches claimed heightened interest in cycling has led to growth in demand for his reconditioned bicycles. 
“A lot of people are realising that running into Norwich is just as easy on a bike,” he explained. “You keep fit and you don't have to go to the gym.”

As time has gone by, the money raised for the hospice has risen year on year. “When I first started I was earning a couple of hundred pounds, and it seems to have doubled for each the last three years,”
he said, adding that the best bicycles are usually held back until Easter, when better weather means he can raise more money by selling them,

Anyone with an unwanted bike that they’d like to donate, or who is interested in picking one up from Mr Riches, can contact him on 01508 570642.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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