News

January 20th 2016

The Forces bike shed revs up to celebrate its 1st birthday

Motorbike enthusiasts will ride into Chetwynd Barracks, Chilwell, on Friday, 22 January, to celebrate the first birthday of The Forces’ Bike Shed.

Joining them in their celebrations will be the Mayor of the Borough of Broxtowe Councillor Susan Bagshaw and Member of Parliament for Broxtowe, Anna Soubry.

The project was the brainchild of local bikers Pat Machin (61) and Nigel Atkin (52).The duo approached Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Wiles, who is based at the Barracks, with their idea for the project that brought civilian and military bikers together. The idea was developed and the voluntary non-profit organisation was born.

The aim of The Forces’ Bike Shed is to provide serving and veteran members of the Armed Forces, their families and local civilian communities an opportunity to gain experience, develop transferable skills and broaden their knowledge in the refurbishment, restoration and general maintenance of motorcycles.

Pat from Long Eaton said: “I had the idea after I did The Ride to the Wall. Having remembered those that gave their life for their country,  I wanted to do something for the living. I knew there were a lot of motorbike enthusiasts in the military and I wanted to arrange somewhere where we could all meet up and share our passion. I met with Stuart and here we are a year later.”  The Ride to the Wall is an annual event that sees motorcyclists ride to the Armed Forces Memorial Wall at the Arboretum, Staffordshire.

“It’s a bit like an Army unit. We go for rides out, but that’s not the be all and end all. We also work on the bikes and enjoy getting our hands dirty.”

Tucked away in a hanger inside the barracks the club meets every Wednesday afternoon from midday to 8pm and is open to anyone with an interest in motorbikes. Irrespective of ability The Forces’ Bike Shed provides a safe and supported environment in which individuals can work on motorbike projects and provide the opportunity to gain increased value and worth.  It also provides opportunities for other motorcycle related recreational activities including guest speakers and other associated experiences.

Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Wiles, aged 53, who himself rides a BMW said: “We could not have predicted the interest that has been shown in the project and the support we have had from both the community at large and the motor biking community. We currently have around 50 members, both civilian and military, and our common bond is motorbikes. It’s about bringing military and civilians together to help, support and learn from one another.”

“One person, who has no military connections heard about the project and donated three Gileras and a Yamaha Fazer. We are in the process of refurbishing them to make them road worthy. So not only are people learning new skills but we will sell the bikes once they are completed and the money raised will go back into the project”.

Membership to the project is free and there are plans to extend the opening times to include Saturdays later in the year. “Some people come in for a couple of hours every week; some people come in just once a month. It’s all down to the individual,” said Stuart. If you would like to find out more about the club you can email the team at forcesbikeshed@gmail.com

The project has already attracted significant local interest. Local businesses and individuals have volunteered their time and/or services to contribute to the development of the project. Donations have included tools donated by Derby based Lubrizol and work benches donated by Harley Davidson.

Amongst its members is Craftsman Ryan Redman who is a member of the Army Motorcycle Racing Team and veteran Les Hooley, who at 78 is currently the oldest member. Les served with the Household Cavalry Life Guards and has been riding motorcycles since he was 16-years-old.  His first motorcycle was a BSA350. “I help anyway I can. I like the atmosphere – its good honest company and I enjoy helping to fix the bikes. I’ve been at it a long time; my wife say’s I’ll ride until I drop.”

Last year saw Les ride his Triumph to France. “I did a tour of the Somme on my bike and spent my 78th birthday there. I enjoy the freedom of a bike and its manoeuvrability. It requires a bit of skill.”

Soldier Lance Corporal Mark Wade is rebuilding a Yamaha from scratch. Mark who is a qualified

mechanic bought it for £100 and has spent the last four months lovingly restoring.  Mark said: “I built the engine in my bedroom then I heard about the project and came down and joined. It’s nice to have somewhere to work on the bike that has a roof and electricity.”

Mark aims to have the bike back on the road in the summer. “I expected it to take a year, but this has been reduced to eight months due to the support from the Bike Shed.”

In the 12-months that the project has been running it has benefitted approximately 100 people and as the project continues to develop it is estimated that approximately over 500 people could benefit.  To date, those that have benefited have gained a better understanding of the repair, modification and maintenance of motorcyles.  It has also instilled confidence in serving soldiers to progress and attempt their full motorcycle license and has provided them with opportunties to meet likeminded  indivduals from their local community.

"I knew there were a lot of motorbike enthusiasts in the military and I wanted to arrange somewhere where we could all meet up and share our passion."