Getting ready for small group rides 😁

Over lockdown we have had to put the rides group on hold due to the restrictions and social distancing. Some of our group have been getting out on Solo missions

We are looking forward to getting out again and enjoying the social side of our rides group. Thank you to the guys that have continued to post and share their routes and experiences.

The group was set up to encourage us all to get as much out of cycling as possible in and around our beautiful area. Of course everyone has different things that they want to get out of cycling. The competitive cyclist, The radonneur, leisure, fitness and family cyclists.

The aim of the group was/is to bring all these guys together and enjoy rides, both on and off-road but with a no drop policy. This is at the heart of out ethos. Cycling is accessible to all!! That’s as true now as it was 29 years ago when I bought my first Mountain bike with my own money. Of course you get out of it what you put in.

Cycles have become more advanced in many ways but the same classic design remains. The cost of such machines has gone up and up and continues to do so. When I bought my first domestique level road bike in 1993/94, I’m old I can’t remember quite which year I was a shock to be spending so much on a bike. As I’m sure many have justified it to themselves, friends and family- including the fibs about how much they spent- Yes, that’s you!!

Anyway, enough of my reminiscing. The important thing is that we all get more active to relieve stress on an overburdened health service. The finest in the world, so we’re told. A conversation that could be expanded on, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog.

Cycling has been part of my life for 35 years or more. It’s made me strong, it’s been a support when I’ve needed it. I’ve gained some really great friends from it. Some are scattered to the four winds, some close by. I’m looking forward to getting out with you all again. Cycling is both a solitary and group activity. I’m passionate about it. I fall in and out of love with it. But I always come back.

When the rides group restarts, I’ll be looking for a few reliable ride leaders. Mostly for the week day evening ride. These would be the same as before 1 1/2 hours using the network of Sustrans cycle routes. I’d hope that these would be suitable for most abilities, but depending on interest and numbers we could divide the group into beginner and intermediate for example The structure will develop over time. The weekend rides will be mostly on road during Spring/Summer. Duration and difficulty will depend on the group and will be tailored on the day. If there’s enough interest in these rides we’ll extend into autumn, weather permitting.

Finally, I want to tell you all that the reason that I started Steel Town Cycles was to be a hub of the local cycling community. A source of advice as well as the shop side of things. The very first bike shop that I went into with my dad as a kid was in Blackhill and years later here I am trying to bring a little tradition back into a fast moving world.

Thanks for reading. This is an ongoing journey for me and it’s cost me more than money. To my customers, friends and family I am truly blessed.

2021 – Restoration of Healthy Habits

It’s been sometime since I have written, but My hope is write a blog once a month again. As much to inspire myself as give helpful tips and insights on a range of cycling subjects.

My little inspiration

Towards the end of last year, our old workshop, which many of you had been to became unusable due to building work on the house opposite. A move to another workshop space became unviable. We tried running mobile for a little time, but with the setup we have that was very difficult to effectively manage.

A New Chapter

The good news is that with a little bit of help from family and friends we found a shop. Best of all it’s not too far from where we had been based. On Monday 4th January 2021, this next chapter of our story will begin. It’s going to be a bit of a work in progress as we wanted to get the workshop open first. Hopefully by the end of January we’ll be organised. Subject to availability we are looking to expand our offering into more brands.

Being a small independent shop, we need the help of our family, friends and cycling community to continue to support our cyclists of whatever ability. We all have the love of bikes in common. We only ask that you help spread the word and help us to keep providing a good quality service.

200k, you must be mad

Last year, pre COVID-19 myself and a friend of the shop entered the Dirty Reiver 200 gravel event. This takes place in and around Keilder Forrest in Northumberland. We both had a mountain to climb in terms of preparation, but hey we had 6 months at the time we entered. Piece of cake, no problem. Wrong. You see the thing about being immersed in cycling, fixing others bikes, means that we don’t make the time to ride ourselves.

As 2020 started it became apparent that this would not be a normal year. By February we were snowed under. Time was ever more scarce and I lost my mojo. The Covid-19 hit and pretty soon the event was cancelled. Great, more time to train. Well dear reader, the rest is history but enough to say that my mojo didn’t return.


Here we are 2021, Dirty Riever rescheduled for early April. We have just over 3 months to get into something that resembles fitness. Can we do it……..of course we can.

First I need to build my bike……..

A new hope……

The reason for writing this is as much to get me motivated and with a bit of luck it might persuade you to get out on that bike you managed to get your hands on during lockdown and keep up those healthy habits in 2021. Set yourself a goal maybe it’s to cycle a few times a week, maybe it’s to enter your first sportive. Enjoy it, appreciate what a fabulous county we live in.

Whatever it is Steel Town Cycles will be here for you.

Covid-19 – A few changes to what we do

Steel Town Cycles respect the right of people to responsibly ride their bicycles following this guidance. If you are not self isolating and wish to continue getting out in the fresh air please be sensible and ride solo or keep the advised distance of 2 metres in mind.

From Monday 23rd march we’ll be asking you to respect the 2 metre distance at all times. We always wear gloves while handling your bikes. If it is possible please bring your bikes in reasonably clean condition. Please don’t be offended but we’ll disinfect your bike for yours and our safety. We’d ask respectfully if you would wait before entering the workshop. It may be possible to assess your bike outside, weather dependant.

Also from Monday 23rd we’ll be open for drop off/collection between 10-12. Most of our workshop time will be in the evenings to further protect our customers and ourselves. Be assured we are open as long as we are permitted. In these challenging times think about supporting the small independents as the larger shops will get much more in the way of financial support for them and their employees. It is uncertain at this point if the self employed will.

We’d like to thank our customers old and new for your continued support. To you and your families stay safe and look after each other. This will all pass quickly if we stick together as a community. Look out for people you know may be vulnerable. Lastly, if this is the end of our journey we’ve enjoyed every moment of it. Hopefully its not though and we’ll enjoy our bikes all the more when this is over.

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.