On your bike! 5 minutes with Adelaide Bike Kitchen

On your bike! 5 minutes with Adelaide Bike Kitchen

8 July 2024

You’ve probably noticed the bright graffitied warehouse front while sitting over in Bowden Town Park. You’ve probably seen the best doors in Bowden while walking up Third Street, or read the bold words stating ‘Bike Kitchen’ but perhaps not known what that truly means. 

Adelaide Bike Kitchen is now a Bowden institution and the entire volunteer team (vollies) help to bolster our Green Star Bowden ethos, by supporting sustainable transportation for Bowden residents and beyond. So we took 5 minutes with Alfie Lem of ABK to discuss what goes on behind those mighty fine doors and why she travels 14km by bike to service this amazing community. 


What is a Bike Kitchen, and what do you do?

We help you fix your bike! A bike kitchen is a community collective with the aim of making bike riding accessible to everyone and our cities and communities healthy, fun and safe places to move around and enjoy life. In our open workshops, we use a “Do IT Together (DIT)” approach to skilling up community members in bike maintenance skills. Our volunteers share their bike-fixing knowledge with others who want to maintain their own bikes. We keep donated bikes and bike parts out of the waste stream to keep other bikes riding and build second-hand bikes to sell. We also run courses to teach mechanic skills in a more structured way and hold social rides, movie nights, dinners and other events.

We help as many people as possible to learn how to keep their bikes in great rideable condition so it’s easy for them to keep choosing their bike instead of their car for their journeys. We are also a community of friendly bike-loving folk – we hold social rides and know what’s good around Adelaide, so we can really open up a world of fun bike-related culture to people if they’re looking for that sort of community. We want everyone to enjoy all of the amazing benefits that bikes have for personal, environmental, social and economic well-being. We are a values-based organisation and we want everyone to feel comfortable to come and learn and get involved at ABK.

Tell us the history of Adelaide Bike Kitchen.

ABK started in 2012 when two friends saw bike kitchens while travelling overseas and thought Adelaide had the right culture and interest in bikes that a bike kitchen would be good. They were right! And we’ve been leaders in Adelaide’s bike culture ever since. We’ve grown from having a few tubs of spare parts and only one workshop a week to offering a calendar of three workshops and a working bee each week, courses and various social events. We have also started sharing our space with other community groups, meaning we have a school group on Mondays, yoga on Saturday mornings and Duck! Radio – a community radio station live-streaming from ABK on Sundays- drop in to see what they get up to.

ABK came on board with the Bowden project almost from the beginning. What drew you to be part of Bowden? 

It was really different when we moved into Bowden in 2013 but the area has always had great features for biking- the proximity to the city, the Torrens linear path and the Greenway, the train station nearby and the quieter streets. We have always had such supportive people from the Bowden Project with the shared vision of developing Bowden into Adelaide’s active transport hub. Now that the development is well underway, the new local community agree that Bowden is a great place to ride a bike and see the benefit of having a community space like this in their neighbourhood. We’ve also adjusted what we offer to suit community needs a bit more- more social nights and rides- and we are keen to contribute to the next ten years of this thriving place.

How many people are part of the ABK community?

We have approximately 35 regular volunteers, and on a monthly basis, we’ve calculated that approximately 2000 people participate in ABK’s workshops, courses, social rides, online communities, and other activities.

They come from all over Adelaide and ABK is an excellent place for new arrivals to Adelaide to meet new people and seek out an affordable bike for their stay here.

Do people need to be ‘cyclists’ to come along to the weekly workshops?

Definitely not! We are predominantly a social and community space, it just happens that fixing bikes is our reason to get together each week. Our vollies are an even mix of mechanically-minded and non-bike mechanic people who volunteer to do the whole range of different things it takes to keep ABK ticking along. Learning more about bikes happens on purpose (we train you up!) or just by picking up bits along the way. The common thread linking the people who come to use ABK is that they want to contribute to a positive community, learn more, and they think their bike could be better! Otherwise, our customers are so diverse with different needs and experiences.

What additional events (outside of weekly workshops) can people expect?

Our regular social event is the Full Moon Ride. It leaves ABK on the full moon each month to ride together to a place where we can see the moon. There might be a bit of howling involved. They’re good, silly fun.

We also hold movie nights, potlucks, volunteer appreciation events, and a Halloween party ride, which is our major fundraising event for the year.

Can you explain what ‘project bikes’ are?

A Project Bike is a journey along the bumpy road of bike-fixing progress! That’s a bit dramatic, but essentially, a customer can come in and pick a bike from our racks to build it up, and we will help them learn how to fix it along the way. It often takes a month or so, and it can be as easy or as hard a project as they want. For us, we get so many bikes donated to us that need to be built up, and we often can’t keep up with demand. A Project Bike is a cheap way of learning and getting a bike at the end of that.  

What happens in an ABK course (or are these tailored specifically to each individual/group)?

We have a range of courses on offer throughout the year at ABK. They are all focused on bike mechanics teaching people more specialist skills so they can be confident, independent bike mechanics either at the ABK workshop or at home. Our most popular course is the Bike Basics, which is for complete beginners to bike mechanics. Participants leave knowing how to conduct a safety check of any bike, what all the parts are called (and what they do), and they learn how to properly patch a punctured tube. We have a range of intermediate and advanced courses, too, for those who are keen bike mechanics, which is not currently available anywhere else in Adelaide.

We keep our courses accessible and affordable because having as many people in Adelaide confident to maintain their own bikes is the ultimate goal of ABK. We welcome all participants to come back to our Open Workshops to reinforce what they learn in the course and we keep spots open to make sure all ABK volunteers get a chance to do each course. We occasionally host special/ bespoke courses for different school, work or community groups too!

What do you love about Bowden?

I have always appreciated that Bowden embraced ABK. We think a neighbourhood is formed when there is diversity of things on offer for people to do and serve their needs, so Bowden is the ideal home for us. ABK loves that Bowden has its long-term locals and a whole range of people who come to visit this great place. We’ve seen it turn from a dusty collection of car parks into a leafy, walkable neighbourhood, and we love contributing back to that community and making it easy for them to ride more. It’s such a great example of how to turn around city-fringing suburbs to meet the needs of the community.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of bike riding?

It’s hard not to sound preachy in answering this question! Bikes give people reliable and affordable transport, which also happens to keep them healthy, fit and happy, use less fossil fuels and make less pollution, appreciate the environment and our cities on a deeper level, boost our local economy and help to keep our roads safer. Not only are bikes the most efficient form of movement on the planet (it’s true; look it up!), but once you are confident, riding a bike is so much fun!

What do you want Bowden locals to know about ABK that they might not already know?

ABK is an extension of your own garage! You can come in with your bike, and we’ve got all the tools you need. You can simply start working on your bike- low fuss and easy- and if you need guidance, our vollies are there to help. It’s also really cheap! We are open every Wednesday 5:30pm – 8pm, Friday 5:30pm – 8pm and Saturday 1pm – 4pm to help you fix your bike, its so easy to choose active transport as a Bowden local. With our opening hours, you won’t have to worry about taking your bike to a shop to get it fixed. People are also very welcome to just pop in and see what’s happening or join in our community dinner on Wednesday evenings.


Adelaide Bike Kitchen
22 Gibson Street, Bowden

Monday Closed
Tuesday Closed
5:30pm – 8:00pm
Friday 5:30pm – 8:00pm
Saturday 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Sunday Closed


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