A team of cycling enthusiasts came together in 2010 to create an organization that strives to give Winnipeg cycling community a few things to smile about. This team has blossomed into a large number of volunteer cyclists and their impacts are commendable.
The Wrench is a local non-profit organization that makes bicycles readily accessible for cyclists and provides bicycle manufacturing, repair, maintenance, and education.
Geoff Heath, The Wrench’s mechanical director, has worked at the community bicycle shop since its inception and has watched the organization grow into a community cycling resource.
“[At the time] community bike shops were not able to provide programming for schools […] so a group of volunteers got together, wrote some grants and created The Wrench as a non-profit,” Heath told the Manitoban.
“We assist community bike shops that already exist, […] help teach people how to fix their bikes by [providing] advance training from mechanics, helping to purchase tools from distributors, [organizing] various community events […] We do a whole bunch of programing with youths and schools.”
Heath believes the services at The Wrench are vital to Winnipeg’s cycling community. This is evident in the growth the organization has experienced over the years.
“The Wrench has grown by leaps and bounds since . It started with two staff members and we have grown to have a very large volunteer base. There are over 30 schools now that have school bike repairs. That’s due to us promoting bicycling to [them] and providing bicycle programs to teachers who are interested in doing something different with their students.”
A large volunteer community of cyclists has powered The Wrench from the beginning. However, the demand for The Wrench’s services always outstrips the manpower available.
“Winnipeg does have a really great volunteer culture. We have the highest number of community bike shops per capita in North America. We do have a lot of volunteers but the demand is also very high,” said Heath.
“We have a large percentage of people below the poverty line choosing bicycles as their form of transport.”
The volunteering culture fostered at this bicycle shop is an admirable feat. Nevertheless, The Wrench is more than a non-profit or a bicycle repair shop.
“I think of us as an educational organization. We foster an environment of learning,”
Winnipeg has a growing cycling population, and several cycling enthusiasts, like Heath, are aware of the environmental and economic benefits of riding bicycles. But winter cycling may provide a bit of a hurdle for riders. Heath believes this menace can be curbed.
“I have been a winter cyclist for many years and I am very excited to see that many people are getting excited about it,” Heath told the Manitoban.
“It’s making more sense to a lot of people, and with improved biking infrastructure, and the rise of the number of people who are riding their bikes during the winter, it is becoming easier and easier.”
In recent years, Winnipeggers have seen the development of a number of cycling programs such as the Walk Bike Winnipeg program. These promote the significance of cycling and the need to practise cycling safety.
“It’s getting better as a cycling city. Winnipeg has made improvements in our infrastructure, and our bike trails. [However] there is still a lot of needed education [for] drivers as to how they can respect cyclists on the road. There’s a lot of need for educating cyclists, especially young cyclists,” said Heath.
As part of The Wrench’s mandate, the shop organizes community events every so often. The organization just concluded a fundraiser event at the Good Will Social Club on Nov. 24, and will be holding their annual Cycle of Giving event in December.
The Cycle of Giving is a 24-hour bike-building marathon event, during which volunteers come together to build over 350 bikes for Winnipeg children in need.
“This is our fifth annual Cycle of Giving event. We created this event in order to find a way to deal with all the little kids’ bikes that go into the landfill. [It’s also] a fundraiser to support bike programming,” said Heath.
Visit www.thewrench.ca to learn more. The Cycle of Giving event takes place from the 12 p.m. on Dec. 12 to 12 p.m. on Dec. 13 at 1609 Elgin Avenue West.