A COMMUNITY project that teaches children bike mechanics for alternative qualifications has made its first step towards national expansion.

Kustom Kruizers bike shop in Renfrew was launched by owner Dave Neil in his garage in 2017 with a simple idea - get a hold of abandoned bikes, fix them up and sell them on for a discounted price in the community to get locals into cycling.

However, when Dave started out in his garage, he wanted to help his hometown in more ways than one.

Suffering from dyslexia and having noticed how it impacts children, Dave identified another opportunity to help youngsters achieve.

For the last five years, the 49-year-old has engaged with local schools in Renfrew to offer struggling students a chance to learn in a different way. Children from the area have participated in workshops with the local business owner and learned the ins and outs of bike mechanics while achieving formal qualifications.

Now, five years on from when he started, the project has expanded significantly and recently moved into a building located in Robertson Park in Renfrew after receiving funding through community asset transfers by Renfrewshire Council.

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

He said: “I started this with the ambition of purely helping kids who struggle like I once did in school.

“I started by going round to the schools to do workshops, but after receiving funding through the council who gave us this property, we managed to get the new shop up and running, and we run workshops all day during the week.

“The schools select the children who may struggle with mainstream education and send them down to our workshops. All our bikes are donated from the community, the council, or local skips and other bike shops. We then teach the kids how to diagnose the problems and how to fix anything on a bike. After that they are refurbished and sold back into the community at a very discounted price.

“I’ve had a lot of friends in the past who have struggled in school and other areas of life and I just really want to help local youngsters to try make sure similar things don’t happen to them.”

HeraldScotland:

The local entrepreneur has received praise from the community in Renfrew and local councillors. Councillor John Shaw who represents Renfrew North and Braehead said Dave’s business has had an extremely positive impact on the area.

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

“Their drive and vision shown in turning the formerly derelict public toilets into a valuable asset for the community is a shining example of how positively community asset transfers and partnership working can aid community development.”

To mark the completion of the renovated building, Dave recently commissioned a mural on the projects new shop. The artwork shows Dave’s daughter fixing an old school rally burner, which he described as the most iconic BMX of all time.

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

READ MORE: Mural artist brings Renfrew primary schoolkids' ideas to life in stunning mural project

Bmoresketchy, whose real name is Stephen Blackmore, said: “I love doing commissions with a good story behind them. Painting murals which are just to look pretty come ten a penny, but when I get the chance to paint a piece with meaning it really draws me in.

"I think what Dave does for the community is really commendable. So, to be able to represent what Kustom Kruizers is all about in mural form was a fulfilling commission for me. The response from the public was incredible seeing the process too as they were full of encouragement and compliments as they passed.”

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

With the new building, comes a newfound respect for what Dave says is a ‘hub’ for local kids. In the six months he has had the building there has been not one incident of vandalising or graffiti.

With the success of the project now 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 help keep kids out of trouble, and I want this to be just the first for Kustom Kruizers. I hope to have this successfully running for a few years, and then approach other councils within Scotland and let them know that they need this.

“I’d love it as a franchise across the country that helps give back to all areas and get everyone back into cycling.”