Kustom Kruizers: Community bike shop aims for expansion

A COMMUNITY project that teaches children bicycle mechanics for alternative skills has taken its first step towards national expansion.

Kustom Kruizers bike shop in Renfrew was started by owner Dave Neil out of his garage in 2017 with a simple idea: collect abandoned bikes, fix them up and resell them at a discount in the community to inspire locals to ride a bike.

However, when Dave started in his garage, he wanted to help his hometown in many ways.

Suffering from dyslexia and noticing its impact on children, Dave identified another opportunity to help young people succeed.

For the past five years, the 49-year-old has been committed to local schools in Renfrew to offer struggling students a chance to learn in a different way. Local children participated in workshops with the local business owner and learned the ins and outs of bicycle mechanics while gaining formal qualifications.

Now, five years after its inception, the project has grown considerably and has recently moved to a building in Robertson Park in Renfrew after receiving funding through Community Asset Transfers by Renfrewshire Council.

The Scot, who returned to the country 20 years ago after growing up in South Africa, reflected on how far the community business has come and why he started it in the first place.

He said: “I started this with the ambition to only help struggling children as I once did at school.

“I started by going around schools doing workshops, but after receiving funding through the council that gave us this property, we managed to set up the new store and run workshops. all day during the week.

“Schools select children who might have difficulty with mainstream education and send them to our workshops. All of our bikes are donated by the community, council or local dumpsters and other bike shops. We then teach the kids how to diagnose problems and how to fix anything on a bike. After that, they are refurbished and resold to the community at a greatly reduced price.

“I’ve had lots of friends in the past who have struggled in school and other areas of life and I really want to help young people in the area trying to make sure similar things don’t happen to them.”

The local contractor has received praise from the Renfrew community and local councillors. Councilor John Shaw, who represents Renfrew North and Braehead, said Dave’s business has had a hugely positive impact on the area.

He said: “Dave and the Kustom Kruizers team have been a hugely positive addition to the local community doing inspiring work with local schools and providing positive opportunities for young people to develop.

“Their drive and vision shown to transform once abandoned public toilets into a valuable community asset is a shining example of the positive ways in which community asset transfers and working in partnership can contribute to community development.”

To mark the completion of the renovated building, Dave recently commissioned a mural on the project’s new store. The artwork shows Dave’s daughter fixing an old-fashioned rally burner, which he described as the most iconic BMX ever.

The mural was created by Renfrewshire artist Bmoresketchy, who said he was drawn to the project because of the philosophy behind it.

READ MORE: Mural artist brings ideas from Renfrew Elementary students to life in stunning mural project

Bmoresketchy, real name Stephen Blackmore, said, “I love doing orders with a good story behind it. Painting murals that are just to look pretty costs ten cents, but when I get the chance to paint a room with meaning, it really appeals to me.

“I think what Dave is doing for the community is truly commendable. So to be able to portray what Kustom Kruizers is in mural form has been a fulfilling commission for me. The response from the public has been amazing seeing the process also as it was, full of encouragement and compliments along the way.

HeraldScotland: Owner Dave Neil with artist BmoresketchyOwner Dave Neil with artist Bmoresketchy

With the new building comes a new respect for what Dave says is a “hub” for local children. In the six months he’s had the building, there hasn’t been a single incident of vandalism or graffiti.

With the success of the project coming to life in front of Dave, he now has ideas for a bigger future, and national expansion is on his mind.

He said: “I started this to try to help kids stay out of trouble, and I want this to be just the first for Kustom Kruizers. I hope this works successfully for a few years and then I will approach other councils in Scotland and let them know they need it.

“I would love to be a franchise across the country that helps give back to all walks of life and get everyone back into cycling.”