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Here’s what to do with all the bike stuff you don’t need

From rusty chains to ancient cassettes and lacklustre lycra, give old cycling gear a new lease of life

Emma Cole
18 Jan 2023

While cycling is a wonderfully efficient mode of transport, the number of spare parts and bits of gear we cyclists can accumulate over time is somewhat staggering.

Often it is with the best intentions – punctured inner tubes waiting to be fixed; tyres with just enough tread left for an emergency; old frames which will, one day, become a whole new bike.

Then there are the various bits and bobs from who-knows-where and rusted fittings from a time gone by, and of course, the copious amounts of cycling clothing and accessories.

Bobbled, torn and lifeless Lycra, crackling elastic and broken zips, cobwebbed covered shoes which have been cast aside for a newer model, and all that stuff which just doesn’t fit anymore.

What can we do about it?

1. Donate it

Charitable organisations

Credit: The Bike Project

A brilliant place to start is by donating your cycling equipment, parts, clothing and accessories. It’s a great way to give your old stuff a new lease of life and help other people.

For bikes, The Bike Project is one charity that takes in second-hand bikes, refurbishes them and donates them to refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK. The project has donated 9,736 bikes so far. If the bike is beyond repair, it will be dismantled, and its various parts will be reused to rebuild other bikes.

If you’re based in the North, try Bikes for Refugees Scotland which is dedicated to providing bikes for refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland.

Credit: Bikes for Refugees Scotland

The Bike Network is another great option. It refurbishes donated bikes and then passes them on to someone affected by cancer and also takes cycling clothing and equipment.

There’s also Capital of Cycling which is based in Bradford and takes bikes and clothing. 

Check your local area for projects like The Community Furniture Project which has points in Newbury and Basingstoke, and not only gives old bikes a new life, but trains people up to be able to fix them too.

Credit: Rodnae Productions

Re-cycle runs a recycling used bikes programme which donates bikes to rural communities in Africa and you can drop your bike off at places including at Halfords stores nationwide.

Alpkit has a similar project where it donates outdoor clothing and equipment to those in need through its Continuum project.

Local cycling clubs

Credit: British Cycling

Chances are there are plenty of things in your cupboard a youngster could really benefit from.

The amount of gear needed for cycling can be overwhelming, not least on the purse strings, so contact your local cycling club to see if you can pass on a few things.

From unworn bib shorts, to hardly worn jackets, to barely used equipment, all these things could really benefit someone getting into cycling.

2. Reuse it

Credit: Matthew Loveridge

Nothing is really junk, is it? If you are feeling creative, you could make something out of your old parts, and the possibilities are endless.

Toe straps can be used to attach bar bags to your bike or as a failsafe for accessories such as baskets (see above) or even just to hold things during repairs. 

Punctured inner tubes can be given a second lease of life. Woven together, they make a strong basket, and chopped up they could become a coin purse, a wallet, or a keyring.

Old chains can become photo frames, cufflinks and keyrings, wheels can become clocks and sprockets can turn into the perfect Christmas tree decoration – sprayed white they look like snowflakes.

Credit: Matthew Loveridge

Website editor Matthew uses bar tape off-cuts as a top tube pad on his own bike and cuts the tops off old bottles to use as a cargo container in a bottle cage.

For more ideas check out the delights of Etsy and Recycle and Bicycle.

The more stuff you can reuse, the better it is for your wallet and the environment.

3. Recycle it

Credit: Specialized

Recycling is a good option if your cycling clothing and gear is beyond repair. 

Many local councils offer textile recycling collections and Recycle Now provides the locations of textile recycling bins in the UK.

Used or broken aluminium, steel or titanium cassettes, chains, chainrings, cranks, handlebars, stems, seatposts, wheels and rims, pedals, brake calipers, brake discs, frames and forks can also be recycled.

Remove any plastic parts, clean them and then take them to a recycling centre or scrap metal dealer.

Credit: Schwalbe

For tubes, Schwalbe has developed a recycling programme, offering bike retailers a tube return system. Anyone can drop off old tubes from any brand to be recycled at participating retailers

Schwalbe Germany is currently recycling tyres but this has not been spread out to the UK yet. The brand is hopeful it will in the future.

A note on carbon fibre

Credit: Cannondale

Ah yes, that old chestnut. Recycling carbon fibre is an issue.

The way carbon fibre is structured and the resins that bind the composite together make it complicated to recycle, and this process is incredibly energy-intensive.

Add in the relatively small size of a bicycle, and thus the amount of carbon fibre, and this recycling process becomes less and less attractive for companies.

Unlike the aviation industry where the sheer amount of carbon fibre waste produced means that a recycling programme is profitable, the numbers don’t stack up for bikes. 

Credit: CompLam

Innovation is happening in the industry however.

Taiwan-based CompLam claims to have devised methods to recycle both manufacturing scrap and end-user carbon waste into usable material.

US company Vartega Carbon Fiber Recycling has a novel chemistry-based recycling process for carbon bicycles.

But widespread and accessible for the consumer? We are watching this space with hope.

For now, it’s worth contacting brands directly to ask if they offer recycling – some may and the more people enquire, the more likely brands are to take the idea seriously.

Featured image credit: Matthew Loveridge

Do you know an organisation or group which needs second-hand cycling gear and clothing? Let us know.

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