Still not quite there……

A few weeks ago I took the notion to ride 100 miles. As someone who has been very active in the past I was quite certain the miles were still in the legs. The thing about cycling is unless you completely stop the speed and speed is the first to go followed by endurance. If up to this point you’ve ridden fairly consistently over a number of years it’s quite surprising what you can achieve by slowing down a little.

What if you’re not or have rarely been consistent in riding your bike? Set yourself a challenge to ride a distance in a day you think it’s impossible to do. It’s not. Join a group of friends or similarly minded folk and set about training for that challenge distance. Be realistic. We all have other commitments on our time for example Jobs, family or friends. I’ve always found consistency to be key. If you have 3 hours a week but you could spare 6 build up to that. Find yourself with extra use it well.

I made my ride with help from my friends. We stopped a couple of times for refreshments. It doesn’t have to be 100 but the sense of achievement is great. My next challenge will be 200miles in a day, I will have to train for that! It may not be this year, I’m working on a challenging but interesting route. My enjoyment of cycling is now far nearer to the touring ethic. I do still like the comfort of Lycra though. My next bike will far nearer to a touring bike with lots of bags to enable me to take supplies and camping equipment.

When I take some time off in the school summer holidays I want to ride 30-40-miles a day with my 8 year old son and camp somewhere. That’s the plan for now. It may sound like a big ask but he cycled 10 miles last summer and has done that again twice already this year. The answer was snacks and regular stops. With the Derwent Walk on our doorstep it’s quite easy to create some routes without having to ride on the road. I’m not against that in fact quite the opposite. He needs to understand how to ride confidently and safely on a road. Keep calm at all times. Small amounts of experience before they encounter this in Bikeability, at a slightly older age.

The rise of Gravel/Adventure bikes has got us very much closer to a bike that will do most of what the typical cyclist would need. I like to think of them as the natural evolution of touring bikes. Lots of extra frame mounts allowing multiple bags and additional water bottles to be frame fitted. A true multi purpose bike. Touring bikes are very much still around and are a s capable as any adventure bike, particularly Dawes Cycles excellent Galaxy. When I have my Kinesis Tripster AT built I’ll write about our adventures. With a bit of imagination these frame sets can be built into many different bikes.

If you’re after a custom build this season drop us a line or call into our workshop in Blackhill, County Durham.

My Cobbled Classics

It’s the time for the Pros to shine in the hardest races in the Calendar (IMHO). Cycling coverage on TV has improved over the years and we are now able to witness the thrills of the 1-Day Belgian Classics including the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix, although both races have actually been in existence since the early 1900’s.

The reason these races are so close to my heart is the formidably strong riders that win them; the race is incredible to watch, the endurance and suffering is visible in equal measure, the falls excruciating with the most brutal timing – I love it. As fans, we always look forward to a wet/muddy race. It makes these races more challenging for the riders and far more exciting to watch. Flanders runs out today and my personal favourite, the Paris-Roubaix, next Sunday.

As an inconsistent racing cyclist, I always did better in a race when the conditions were a little more challenging; my early motivation would be at its height, with wet, windy, muddy roads in the early season races giving way to the brighter summer races later in the year. This is perhaps why I’m drawn to Cyclocross. Occasionally racing around a muddy field gets the heart pumping, my inner-critic shouts at me a little louder and fires up the motivation to dig-in and finish. For most involved, it seems the the wetter and colder the better. So, I identified a lot with these tough riders, considered 1 day specialists, and a great inspiration to me since I was young.

Going back to the golden era of cycling in the 1950’s Fausto Coppi dominated most races entered. He’s one of the reasons I love Italian bikes and equipment. If you come into the shop, I’ll happily tell you about the benefits of Campagnolo over Shimano – but that’s for another Blog perhaps?

These days I’m getting soft with my advancing years and, like many, find it very easy to put off when the weather is a bit pants. Last year, I did a pitiful 1000 miles (annual mileage). In the past I had ridden 4-5000miles. While being realistic, I have family and work commitments now, I would like to triple this in 2019. At Steel Town Cycles, we hope to build a community of cyclists of all abilities and help you plan, set and achieve your yearly goals. Whether it’s riding 10 miles or 100miles, getting fitter or stepping up to race in whatever discipline you choose, we’d like to help.

So if you have access to Eurosport, book your seat on the sofa for next Sunday and experience “the Hell of the North – Paris-Roubaix”. Be inspired to get out on your bike in any conditions…….. I intend to…… honest.

…….Turbo Trainer Sunday.

As I finished my blog last weekend “Showroom Saturday Turbo Trainer Sunday”, I was reminded that I hadn’t actually written about turbo trainers at all but focussed on our new Showroom Saturday event that we will be running throughout Spring & Summer.

I am a person who thrives on a plan, and a goal, and I am trying, with varying degrees of success, to increase my 1000 mile total ridden in 2018, to the 4-5000miles ridden pre 2016. As a lifelong cyclist I wasn’t too happy with my 2018 achievement.

Over the winter I invested in a JetBlack Whisperdrive Smart trainer with the notion of testing the current crop of training apps, such as Zwift, Sufferfest and TrainerRoad. Having not been an avid gamer for years I was very sceptical about Zwift which feels quite immersive with its 3rd person view as you pass competitors or seeing others riding by.

It’s like being part of a very large, virtual club ride. I didn’t complete their fitness test which would have set training zones for me instead choosing to start on the Bambino Fondo plan – 3 hours a week for 4 weeks. I did notice a significant improvement in my fitness and during the few outdoor rides I did during this time, I felt stronger than for some time.

At the end of the programme I tried to complete a medio fondo. It has to be said – these are not as their friendly title would suggest “Fondos” or “Sportive” events, and having raced in different disciplines over 15 or more years, my experience with the Zwift Fondo was quickly more race-like. I found myself at the back straight away! I had not experienced this since racing the Tour of the Derwent Reservoir in 2009 – l finished 2 off last!

I gradually moved up the field until I was in the top half, somewhat due to finding my pace and sticking with it. It wasn’t the best 2 and 3/4 hrs I’d ever spent on a bike and I bailed 3 kilometres from the top of the finish 15 kilometre climb.

Zwift engages you in a game-like atmosphere and did work to encourage me to do the workouts which I managed just fine. In that sense, it does what we at Steel Town Cycles are encouraging you all to #getoutonyabike. What I feel it lacks is a logical progressive structure – build phase, consolidation phase, rest/recovery. It’s a scientific approach and there are already other apps and many books on the subject. For most users, that won’t be the end of the world and it will rapidly improve your fitness. The workouts are short – typically 45-60 minutes – and after the initial trial period it will cost £12.99 per month. I would recommend it to novices as it will improve your fitness and it’s possible to ride alongside your friends using the companion app, though I would suggest using a short training plan, rather than just free riding, as it will keep your interest. This approach also fits in well with our modern time-crunched lives. We have other commitments, families, work and friends.

More details can be found at http://Zwift.com

I’m trying Sufferfest next and if this topic is of interest I’ll give my impression on that when I’ve spent a month or so using it. Zwift wasn’t for me, but if you give it a go drop in to the workshop or drop me a message to let me know what you think. I encourage all of you to use an indoor trainer when it’s not practical or just not safe to ride outdoors; a cheap magnetic resistance trainer might be all you need to get started.



Showroom Saturday/Turbo Trainer Sunday.

Showroom Saturday is our new weekend event.

Introducing the new Lightweight Children’s Bikes – Squish.

Our son has had two Isla bikes and they are very good bikes for the discerning kid and the adult cyclist that wants the best for their child. However that does come at a premium price too, and we were keen to explore the market to find other bikes that met our expectations on quality, build and components.

As an experienced cyclist, and from the first tentative circuits he took in our back garden, I wanted to provide my son with the best bike I could find to encourage him to love cycling and come further with me. His taste of freedom on the Derwent Walk sent him speeding down the tracks close to home, and holiday bike rides have seen him increase his confidence and ability over the last 2-3 years and I’m now hoping to extend our rides up to 15-20 miles over the summer. The parents we have talked to all understand that children vary in their ability and confidence on their bikes, but above all we really believe in making sure the bike is not too heavy, and has components that are specially designed for young children. A heavy bike will not encourage a child to want to ride their bike as often as we did as kids; they are harder to manoeuvre around tighter bends, harder to cycle uphill, and when you fall off – which is all part of the journey – it’s a harder knock. The Shimano and Tektro gears and brakes are straightforward and function well. The saddles are great, there’s a nifty touch with the colour co-ordinated outer cable which looks cool, and with a mechanic’s eye I can see that there is room to customise and make the bike even more individual without breaking the bank too, like adding junior grips to match up to the bike. So, Steel Town Boy is now ready to move up to his next bike and we have made the decision to get him a Squish 24″ wheel model in Orange.

Showroom Saturday offers our customers a face-to-face Squish experience, while we also open up the workshop to those drop in jobs: Puncture repair – Gear adjustments – Brake adjustments – so you guys can either continue on your journey or get out on Sunday.

The range is suitable for 3 yrs to 11-12 yrs with more models being added to the range. More information on Squish can be found at www.squish.bike

Continuing the Journey.

When Steel Town Cycles came into being I started to remember the bike shops I first went to as a kid. What I remember, although a little more hazily now, was the care that every customer was given.

As an independent bicycle shop we choose bikes and accessories that we regard as good quality and at a reasonable cost for the majority of our customers. Recently we have made the decision after some considerable deliberation, 18 months worth, to stock a small selection of the excellent Squish lightweight children’s range. This is a very good alternative to Isla and Frog premium brands. To those that have visited the workshop in the last 2 1/2 years you know we don’t have the space for a full showroom with various sizes and colours. We can, however, guide you in your next bike purchase and offer support throughout your new journeys with ongoing service & repair to help you get the most from your bike.

We are also proud to supply bikes from Dawes, Claud Butler, Tifosi, Cinelli, and Orro; frames from Kinesis for those wanting to have a bike custom built. Other bikes/framesets may be available. It would be our pleasure to help you select a bike from our suppliers and order in that bike, assemble, fit you to it and advise you on accessories and the essentials to get you started. As always we advise on servicing to keep the bike in good condition. Above all, we’re local, so we can collect your bike and return it in the event that you are unable to get in to the shop. We’ll work with you to arrange things to be as easy as possible.

Further information can be found at www.squish.bike, dawescycles.com & claudbutler.co.uk

The workshop continues to get busier and we are delighted to see returning customers as well as those discovering us for the first time. Your bike is as important to us as our own. We don’t swamp the workshop with lots of jobs every week as we’d rather take the time and have fewer bikes to service to get yours right first time. Due to this we will on occasion have longer lead times. Thank you for your patience at these times and understanding that your bike needs to be done correctly and that takes time.

We hope to help you continue to get the most out of cycling and your bike for the years to come. Regular servicing is an important part of that, as well as cleaning and lubrication which is another aspect of bicycle care that we are happy to talk about – just ask the next time you are in the workshop. As we roll towards Spring we hope to see more of you getting out and enjoying the great countryside we have around us. To those already out and braving the cold, wind and rain – Chapeau!