Go to Town, Make a Bike November 2016

Whare Bike Founder Ash Holwell

Whare Bike Whangarei is not your typical bike shop. Run entirely by volunteers and with parts and funding coming from mostly donations, this is a place that with a little time and effort turns fantasies to reality, part of a revolutionary co-op known as a ‘bike kitchen.’ It’s a not-for-profit, bicycle cooperative focused on making cycling and bike repair accessible to everyone.

30 year old cycle enthusiast and entrepreneur Ash Holwell is at the forefront of the Whare Bike recent re-emergence and blossoming success.

“I guess I had no idea at the beginning, it was just opening up and seeing what happens, then we had a whole lot of bicycle enthusiasts come through and a whole lot of people donating bikes. People tend to think it’s a shame to send old bikes to the land fill. Within the second week of re-opening we got 9 bikes on the road, so there is definitely a demand” Ash also points out how Whare Bike provides the regular volunteers a home and a purpose.

Whare bike is located next to Chipmunks on Woods Road Whangarei and opens Thursday evenings from 5:30- 7:30pm, and is also on Facebook as Whare Bike. Ash is keen to grow and welcomes everyone; those in need of a bike, to new volunteers and special interest groups.

“Just come down to this space and see how it is in its rebuilt state and find out how easy it is to make a bike and how easy it is to volunteer” Whare Bike is currently working on getting systems sorted out to the point of being a sustainable organisation that can support itself and the volunteers into the future. “It’s a hands on way of learning which fits better than school for a whole lot of people. It is a useful skill you can use for yourself, and has a whole lot of applications into the future”.

Ash got the idea of recycling cycles from his travels in Vienna and the Netherlands where he discovered bicycles as a key mode of transport there. “I started cycling in the Netherlands where everyone bicycles. I think there is 19 million bicycles there and only 17 million people”.

Shortly after Ash moved to Vienna he discovered a couple of community bike workshops. “I was a poor student and had no money so I went there to build bikes and I really loved just putting the bikes together… There was one that had a great culture around young kids that were helping out other people. The cycle couriers would also come in after work and have a beer and then everyone would work on their bikes for a while and then have food together, it was a really cool biking community. It seemed to make so much sense that there were a whole lot of bikes that were rusty, lying in sheds and back yards potentially going to the rubbish dump to get them to a place where people can come together and work on them to keep them moving.”

Overall it was refreshing and inspirational to meet someone so young and passionate, willing to give back to the community. I encourage you to see for yourself what Whare Bike is all about on a Thursday.


Tim Schmidt