How Are Bikes Helping Mentally Challenged People in Glasgow?

Common Wheel is a Scottish charity (SC031798) that is simultaneously providing mental health assistance and bicycle services in Glasgow.

Established in July 2000, Common Wheel provides jobs for people suffering from mental illness, in their bike shops in Glasgow’s Maryhill and Bridgeton areas. Persons referred by their doctor or social worker are welcomed into an organisation that provides natural companionship, a chance to develop self-esteem and offers training in useful skills ranging from customer service to bike maintenance.

As a customer you can walk in with a rickety old bike and have it transformed into your very own dream machine, or donate it and buy one freshly refurbished. The team works incredibly hard to ensure that you get exactly what you need, for those occasions when you have to hit the road.

Common Wheel is improving life in 3 ways:

1. Cycle Therapy

Common Wheel was started simply because its directors love to build and cycle bikes, but the organization has grown into something very special indeed. Director Dr Alistair Wilson, a consultant psychiatrist, was fixing his bike one day when he realized that actively engaging in the bike-fixing process would provide excellent therapy. This idea led to the introduction of mentally challenged patients and has helped Common Wheel develop into what it is today.

What do the attendees have to say about this innovative and helpful project? Consider these responses:

Old Stevie –

We have three people called Steven at Mary Hill, known as Old Stevie, Young Stevie and New Stevie. New Stevie is actually younger than Young Stevie, but we weren’t going to mess about changing and having “middle age Stevie”.

I am fortunate enough to attend the common wheel one day a week and have done so for about three years now. I did suffer from depression and still do but I know what works for me and what makes me feel worse.  The project has made a tremendous difference in my life from being a struggle at first to get up and get washed and attend the project on time. To now looking forward to my one day and that day becoming a hub for my life to revolve around.  I still struggle often to get up get washed and appear out in public but I know I’m guaranteed a nicer day spent doing something at the project than if I did not attend. The project has and is still giving me the necessary confidence to go places and tackle tasks that would have been impossible before.  All I have to do is get to the project at the right time on the right day and the rest of my week falls nice and tidy in behind the lead of that action.


Steven B –

I first found out what Common Wheel was about four years ago, about the start of 2007.Since then my interest and knowledge of bikes has grown and cycling now has become another part of everyday life.

What really impressed me at The Common Wheel was the care and attention by others in repairing and constructing bikes.

Therapeutically, fixing bikes in a safe and structured environment, has helped me immensely. By attending regularly my motivation improved. This has helped me to get involved in other learning activities, which I continue to this day.

What I have learned and in a positive way, is how different components and mechanisms work together on bicycles. How to treat working parts with care. The basic use of tools for removing and repairing components. A little bit of cycling history in years past. All of this and I am still learning.

As for confidence, I mentioned how attending The Common Wheel helped me to get involved in other activities. Also, the more that you cycle, the better your confidence grows which could see you tackling some of the longer runs in and around Glasgow in no time.

Another part of Common Wheel is getting to know those who work with you. We all have an interest in cycling and it is good to share stories of weekend runs and days out.

I think the project promotes a healthy lifestyle and can help people in other areas of their lives.

2. A Satisfying Experience

The reason bikes are so suitable for this project is that they are the perfect size and complexity to allow people of all skill levels (and mental problems) to find satisfaction from working with them. Anyone can learn the basics with assistance from the veterans in the shop. And everyone, including persons suffering from mental illnesses, has the pleasure of giving something back to the community.


3. Community Health

Let’s not forget the main people who benefit from this organisation: the public. Common Wheel gives the community a place to get their bikes fixed, renovated, sprayed luminous orange or turned into something truly mind boggling; like this extra tall bike from John O’Hara:

Having a project like this which provides employment opportunities for the mentally challenged and encourages people in a notoriously unhealthy city to get some exercise is certainly something worth celebrating.


What Can You Do?

Let’s not forget that Common Wheel is a charity so if you want to help, you certainly can. The organization welcomes all donations, whether they are old bikes or cash. You can also keep Common Wheel in mind when you think about buying a new bike or getting your old one fixed.  The projects appeal to the mind, the heart as well as the pocket. Why spend an arm and a leg at expensive sports stores when you can get a freshly refurbished bike for half the price or a touring bike for under $1000?


Harry Chicken is a keen cyclist. He buys and sells Raleigh bikes online and likes to keep his twin boys bikes in top condition.