Bikes for Refugees

[last update: 30Sept 2015]

 Workshop address: The Joinery, 111 Franklin St, Adelaide (old Central Bus Station - opposite the Central Market)

Contact: Mike Brisco, 0435 02 16 81, email

What the Workshop does & who can use it - download info sheet, bottom of page

Need a free bike for someone in need? - download info sheet, bottom of page

Bikes for Refugees SA Incorporated (ABN 20 663 461 735) is a bike recycling scheme, that runs under the supervision of BISA, supplying bikes free of charge, to people in need.  

The scheme meets  the  refugee/asylum seeker community need, for help with transport.

We focus on refugees, but we also help other people in need, eg low income, mental health, etc.

We help people in a friendly way, and without discrimination. We are non-partisan.

The scheme is a registered charity with the Australian Charities & Not-for-Profits Commission. It holds a Licence for Collections for Charitable Purposes in SA (Lic No CCP2132). It is not-for-profit, and run by volunteers.  

Most bikes are donated by  the public, sometimes bike shops and schools. We also accept  helmets, lights, locks, other accessories, and spare bike parts in good condition.

Bikes are given out on the basis of a referral, from a recognised welfare organisation, e g Migrant Resource Centre, Red Cross, Anglicare. We also accept referrals from volunteers working with refugees and others in need; other members of the refugee community.  The client then gets an appointment to visit the workshop, picks a bike they like, and can buy lights / helmets / locks if they wish.

In 2013-14, Bikes for Refugees handled 400 bicycles.  5 bikes in 6  - 340 bikes - were returned to rideable condition, and given to people in need.  Of the remaining 60 bikes -  40 were dismantled for parts,  to repair others bikes; 20 sold to raise funds.

The scheme is now in its 11th year, and has handled over 3700 bicycles.



How Bikes for Refugees started:
In 2002, the sister of a Bicycle Institute member, travelling on a bus, over-heard some African people speaking French. She found they had recently arrived from Congo, were cyclists in Africa, and wondered if they could get bikes here. She asked her brother if The Bicycle Institute could find bikes for them. Institute members responded with 18 bikes: 4 fully equipped, went to four new arrivals. Another 14 to the Australian Refugee Association (ARA) a few months later.


The Need:
Each year Australia accepts 13,000 refugees, a number set by Parliament and not increased for many years. Adelaide is designed around cars, so transport is a major problem. For a new arrival, getting a driving licence and car, takes several months. Lessons can cost several thousand dollars. Refugees don't have relatives / friends with full licences who can  help with practise. (To  get the necessary 75 hours driving experience, they need to pay an instructor)  While waiting, they rely on public transport, lifts, and perhaps bikes to get around.  The bikes help with transport at that time. Children can ride around with friends, play, or run errands. Young people cycle to school, study or library, or sports matches. Adults get to English classes, to work, study, to keep fit, or for recreation. They also use bikes to get to the shops, or to travel to appointments.


What we do: 
Core activity: Bike recycling The scheme  supplies free secondhand bikes, for people in need. The bikes are checked for safety, and are OK for gentle riding round the city. This involves three areas of skill: recycling ; bicycle mechanics ; working with people from non-English speaking background.  This expertise
generates a supply of reliable secondhand bikes, which just about meets current demand.

Other activities

  • Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop. We also operate this not for profit community bike workshop. It is  open to the public, Saturdays 9 to 2, Mondays 10 to 5, and most other weekdays. The workshop offers a service to all Adelaide cyclists, to help them keep their bikes on the road. People working/living  in the City are welcome to bring bikes for: maintenance; servicing;  borrow tools; maintenance; advice & suggestions; secondhand parts; diagnosis of problems and repairs. Cost is parts plus donation, funds keep Bikes for Refugees and the Workshop, running.
  • Sale of secondhand bikes to the public.  Prices vary from $50 to $400, depending on quality and condition.  Proceeds pay for tools, workshop expenses, and parts, to repair other bikes. Drop in and see what's available. Bikes of wider interest (e.g lightweight racers, dragsters, unusual bikes) and parts, are  advertised on Gumtree. All Funds go to Bikes for Refugees SA Inc, to help with costs of running the workshop, tools, bike parts.
  • Sale of basic accessories at low cost:  Helmets are a legal requirement and police often stop cyclists who don't have them. Bike theft is a big problem in Adelaide, even from back yards, and locks are essential.  Lights are a legal requirement for riding at night. We get too few donated to meet demand, so offer new items, at low cost, sourced from a local bike shop.  Newly arrived people, can find shopping for them, a bit of a challenge.
  • free bike repairs. People who get bikes from us, can bring them back for help with repair any time. (like all members of the public, they are welcome to attend the Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop).
  • Bike swap for growing  children: We keep bikes of all sizes, from 12 in wheels upwards. If children outgrow bikes, we can swap them.
  • Trailer bikes for young children. We have a small stock of trailer bikes (basically a childs bike with pedals and handlebards but no front wheel), that clip onto your bike seatpost. Kids can ride and pedal too, you can take young children on longer rides.
  •  support for local councils, OPAL, and other organisations to  run bike activities. e.g bike-building events; bikes for cycling education classes; "Bring & Fix" where the public can bring along bikes and have them repaired.
  • In 2009, we organised a one-off collection of 100+ bikes, to assist Aboriginal communities in SA and the NT, and to help schools with Aboriginal students in Whyalla and Port Augusta.
  • sales of second-hand bike part : The Workshop has a large stock of secondhand parts, salvaged or donated, and we can sell these to the public, for repairs, or restorations.
  • Saturday morning jobs, for young people from refugee communities. The jobs provide members of the refugee community with pocket money while they study; an employment reference;  experience of the Australian workplace culture.
  • Environmental protection. Bikes for Refugees aims to improve the environment by (a) diverting unwanted bikes and parts from general refuse, and putting them back into use; (b) encouraging the use of bicycles for transport, thus lowering environmental impact, and reducing carbon pollution.


Resources and funding:
Bikes for Refugees  is funded by  sales, donations, and some payments for repair/maintenance work. To keep costs low, we use secondhand or donated parts, and unpaid volunteers who currently contribute around 80 hours a week. Conservation Council of S Australia generously provides a city centre work-place at low cost (part of The Joinery).  Otherwise, the scheme is self funding, and receives no government grants.


You can help in the following ways:

  •  Donate a bike (from 30 Sept 2015).   If the bike is in good condition and rideable - or can be got rideable easily - we are glad to have it.   We are specially glad of adults/teenagers bikes, including BMX, racers, and road bikes. Even Old bikes (pre 1970) are useful - we sell those to raise funds. If we can't return a bike to service, we can often salvage parts.   
  • Most times someone offers us a bike, the bike turns out to be fine, and we take it. But if you're not sure - please phone Mike (0435 02 16 81) or emaill ( and ask. 
  • Donate bike parts  Good condition parts are useful, to get other bikes going, and keep our costs down.
  • Donate bike helmet, lock, or lights* people need these to operate a bike in Adelaide. Bike theft is a major problem here.
  • Donate racks,  baskets, panniers, small rucksack - people like to fit these, to carry shopping
  • Donate bike clothing do you have any souvenier tops from special bike rides e.g Ride like Crazy? If used only once or twice - and clean- we can hand these on
  • Buy a bike from "Bikes for Refugees"   We offer  economically priced, secondhand bikes for commuting or pleasure. Please contact us to find out what's on hand.
  • Buy bike parts or old bikes for restoration , We also sell old bikes, unusual bikes that come in (single speeds, dragsters), recycled  parts.  If you are looking for a particular type of bike to restore, or for parts - please inquire.
  • Become a volunteer  We're looking for people with: interest and some experience in bike maintenance/repair; able to turn up for 2-3 hours on Saturday mornings; friendly and patient with people from a range of backgrounds. If you want to improve  your skills with bike mechanics - and you don't mind a little dust and grease - please contact us.
  • Become a member of "Bikes for Refugees" - with a low annual subscription, this is  an inexpensive way to support our aims. Membership form available on request.

*Helmets and lights are especially useful, every person who gets a bike from us needs them.

NB - The Australian Refugee Association also accepts donations of household goods, in good condition, e.g. furniture, soft furnishings, toys, etc. - to give out, as part of their Settlement program. If you are able to help refugees gain driving experience, by volunteering your time and your car - they would also like to hear from you !   Please contact the ARA directly to discuss (telephone 8354 2951) or see their website.


How good do donated bikes have to be? 

 We take most bikes that are complete, basically in good condition, and we can get them going again quickly.  Most bikes that people offer, are fine. If they've been stored indoors dry, they should be OK. Flat tyres, a little bit of rust, are OK. All bikes get a check & service before we hand them on. And if a bike is good but would take a lot of work to fix - we can generally salvage parts, to get other bikes going. .

We acccept the following in any condition, even if not going or rusty: good BMX bikes; pre 1970s bikes; dragsters. BMX bikes, appearance is not so important, a little more rust than usual, is acceptable. The other two, we can sell to raise funds.

Some frequently asked questions:

Budget brand bikes e.g   Huffy, Cyclops, Dunlop, Kent, Southern Star, Northern Star, Repco - we only accept new or as-new. These wear out quickly, and replacing worn parts is a lot of work. Some parts eg wheels, seatpost, can rust quickly and heavily, even though the paintwork is still good. Once a bike's very rusted, there's no easy way to get it looking good, and even if we clean it, people don't want to take it.

Bikes covered in rust eg stored outside - apart from dragsters, bmx, pre 1960s bikes - we can't accept .  Even if we get it going - people won't want to have it -  they prefer something that looks nice - we can understand that.  Cleaning the rust off a bike takes several hours, and is expensive: we lack time and resources to do it.

We can often use good quality Bikes that are damaged, have missing parts or need extensive repair work - if the bike was otherwise in good condition, eg was in a crash, or developed one fault too expensive to fix - happy to have it, we may be able to fix it, or use parts to get other bikes going.



Other organisations that re-cycle  bicycles in Adelaide:

There is a wide choice available now, to people who have a bike to donate.

If you prefer your bike go to one of those,  that's fine! Different organisations have different aims, and different preferences - so if we can't use your bike, one of these may. As long as your old bike gets recycled somewhere, all is good.

Bicycles for Humanity - local branch of this international organisation, collecting bicycles for overseas aid. Donors deliver bikes to a location in Adelaide, B4H packs them in a large shipping container and covers costs of shipping. Overseas, this gift gets bikes into a local community, and also allows them to set up a bike shop, to repair / service the bikes. B4H sent one shipping container off earlier this year, check their website to see their current plans.

BikeKitchen - a community bike workshop in Bowden, where all  people can meet to rebuild old bikes, share a meal, have a good time.

BikeSA: Best known for promoting recreational cycling - from time to time they appeal for bikes for special purposes, e.g in 2014, BMX bikes to go to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands.

Mens Sheds - there are many of these around South Australia, run by a range of organisations. They are places for older men to meet,  keep up their handyman skills, and contribute to the community. Many can  accept bikes for recycling, to hand on. Use Google to see if there is one near you.

Op shops like Vinnies, Salvos, etc. These may accept bikes, provided the bike is working and in good condition. The bike needs to be working and in good condition, for them to sell it. Op shops dont have bike mechanics on staff - , so if a bike needs work (repair or service or adjustment), usually, they won't accept it. 

 Australian Refugee Association  - not for bicycles (they'll refer you to us!) but  accept furniture, household goods to pass on to refugee families settling in Adelaide.

On line marketplace. The main marketplaces seem to be Gumtree (for most bikes) and Ebay (for higher end ones). Generally only interested in bikes that are going and working.

 What if no one will accept my bike for recycling? We have seen quite a few bikes that on first inspection look OK - but on closer inspection, every component turns out to be worn, damaged. The bike itself would take too much work to repair. Nothing from it is worth salvaging, to repair some other bike. Old bikes were designed to last a long time, and to be repaired if they wore out (They had easily replaceable parts, could be adjusted and tuned precisely; replacements were cheap, worked well, and lasted a long time). Some newer bikes seem designed with limited lifespan. They are difficult to adjust and tune up;  broken or worn parts cannot be repaired; spare parts are expensive and no better quality than the part which failed. Recycling organisations know about these bikes, have often tried recycling them in the past, and from experience, have learned not to take them.  So if no one seems interested in taking on your surplus bike - that's common. Like other products, they're designed with a limited lifespan. When they fail, the only way someone can make use of them  - is as scrap metal.



Our Thanks to all  who donated bikes;  volunteers who restore, check, and repair bikes. Each bike takes overall a couple of hours work, and over the years, many people have helped.

Special thanks  to Kevin Clarke at Clarke's Cycles, 354 Magill Road, Kensington Park (tel. 8332 3083), for long term support.

Other bike shops have also supported us, with discounts, advice, donations of bike boxes, parts, and bikes: These include: Lifecycles; JT Cycles; Plympton Cycles; Stepney Cycles; Bernie Jones Cycles.

Photos  show volunteers, visitors, friends, and others, with bikes donated to the Workshop.  Photo credits: Sandor Horvath, Sam Powrie, Anon.


Workshop Address: The Joinery, 111 Franklin Street Adelaide (old Central Bus Station - opposite the Central Market)

Workshop Opening Hours: Every Saturday 9 to 2, every Monday 10-5, including public holidays.

For Summer 2015-6, we'll also be open most weekdays 11 to 5. NB - weekday opening depends on volunteers being available. ....

Further Information (and requests for bikes): Mike Brisco Te 0435 021 681 or email at



Information sheet for organistions or individuals wanting bikes

Procedure for checking bikes, 2011

Roadworthiness documentation - example

Report on 2009 Bikes for the Outback Scheme

2009 Annual Report, on Bikes for Refugees

Notes on how we recycle old bikes

Notes on how the scheme is organised

 Red Cross booklet - Asylum seekers: 13 things you should  know [coming soon]

"Bikes for Refugees" and "Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop", are  the operating  business names of "Bikes for Refugees SA Inc", ABN 20 663 461 735, a registered charity;  registered as an Incorporated Association in South Australia (A 42240); registered as a Charity with the Australian Charities & Not-for-profits Commission. Licensed under section 6, Collections for Charitable Purposes Act (S Australia) 1939  (Lic No CCP 2132).

 Last up dated 30th Sept 2015.

Bikes for Refugees - how to request a bike - Sept 2015 (pdf)330.26 KB
Bikes for Refugees - how to request a bike - Sept 2015 (MS Office)164.5 KB
Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop-information sheet- Sept 2015 (MS Office)164 KB
Information sheet (Farsi) - about the Bikes for Refugees scheme372.55 KB
Information sheet (Farsi) - Bicycle safety, and protection against theft685.68 KB
Safety checklist for bicycles.pdf57.3 KB
example of letter of roadworthiness.pdf60.93 KB
2009 report Bikes for Refugees.pdf489.88 KB
How to recycle bicycles - notes 2009.pdf118.82 KB
How to recycle bicycles - notes 2005.pdf1.75 MB
Photo - volunteers inspect a bike37.68 KB
Photo - some donated bikes44.64 KB
Photo - working on bikes67.43 KB
Photo - bike and rider 134.08 KB
photo - children's bikes88.48 KB
photo - bike and rider 252.95 KB
photo - bike and rider 344.66 KB
Photo - bikes and riders 457.47 KB