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!

Spring is approaching.

I’ve been lucky enough this week to get out for a ride out on my own bike, and while servicing and fixing your bikes is important to us, it’s nice to get out into the air sometimes to recharge our batteries. It’s great to see our customers taking the opportunity to enjoy this early spring weather and do the same.

Since we started the Steel Town adventure two and a half years ago, our goal was to find a way to share our passion for cycling and pass on our years of experience.

Cycling is one of those activities that has a wide range of participants – those with a love of the sport, the machine, and the various disciplines; those who just enjoy the level of fitness that cycling has to offer, and then there’s the next generation of cyclists, kids, encouraged by their their families and peers alike. We believe that cycling feels the same for all those involved, and at its heart, it’s a simple and very rewarding activity.

At Steel Town Cycles we hope to become a trusted service to our customers and the wider cycling community. We’d like to encourage you all to take time to appreciate what we have around us in the areas we live.

We really hope you’ll get on your bikes this spring and enjoy some journeys of your own. It’s often not necessary to venture far, especially in County Durham, before you’re away from the main roads and noise. Perfect for getting out with the kids in school holidays and other times. We have a network of disused railway lines and traffic free lanes. For those wanting more of a challenge and altitude we have that too, nestled in between the north Pennines , Weardale and Northumberland; there’s also our local moorland at Blanchland and Stanhope. To me, Stanhope and Bolihope Common have some of the most beautiful scenery in our country. What’s more they’re right on our doorstep and there are plenty of routes in our wonderful county to challenge all abilities.

That’s the fantastic thing about cycling. You don’t have to be a professional or even a race participating amateur to enjoy its straightforward joy.

Steel Town Cycles Repair and Service all types of bicycles but the one thing that joins us all is the love of that simple, perfect, machine.


Indoor Training…….Love or Loathe?

It’s not something that everyone enjoys, but more of a necessary evil. I first started using an Indoor Trainer or Turbo as a winter training tool 20ish years ago. It wasn’t something I took to with any kind of consistency until around 9 years ago; I was Road racing for Activ Cycles at the time and wanted to have a methodical structured program that wouldn’t be weather dependent.

To those that don’t know there are different types of trainer but the most simple is the mag trainer which uses a moving magnet alongside a metal flywheel. The nearer to the flywheel the magnet sits the more resistance there is, so similar to climbing a steep hill rather than more gentle terrain.

Over the years the trainers have become more complex measuring more of the metrics we expect from the Cycle GPS computers that many people use. Apps like Zwift, Sufferfest and TrainerRoad seek to make the experience more realistic. Many of the higher specification trainers have routes with visual representations and adjust your resistance to match the virtual terrain. These are quite good as many of them have training plans that can be followed according to the aim of your training or time that you have a week.

You should always aim to be consistent as one week you may have 4-5 hours but it’s better to do the 2-3 hour plan and top up with some further rides if you have extra time. I’m trying out Zwift and have been happy with it so far, and I’m now on week 2 of a 4 week plan, riding 3 hours a week.

It’s not the easiest thing to ride many hours, so break it down into manageable chunks, such as 30-45 minutes. There are also many good training books. I‘ve used Joe Friel’s “Cyclists Training Bible”, and although I would only suggest this for more experienced cyclists, as it’s really written as a year-long plan for racing cyclists, that’s not to say that good Sportive rider wouldn’t find some useful advice here. The book I really like is called Chris Carmichael’s “Time Crunched Cycle Plan”. It contains plans for Cyclocross/Criterium, 100 milers and racing cyclists and uses a system very similar to HIIT. There are useful plans even if you don’t intend riding an event of 100 miles and it builds on the level of difficulty throughout 10-12 weeks.

So whether you want to keep a high level of race fitness or just something structured to keep you away from dangerous winter conditions, there is something for everyone. An hour or 2 a week spread over x4, 30 min sessions starts to sound not too bad if it protects that good condition you worked hard for in the Spring, Summer and Autumn.

If you’re a complete indoor training novice and think this would suit you, Steel Town Cycles can help you find the equipment – and plan – suitable for your aims.

The Lost Art of the Group Ride

I often find myself reminiscing about these times and while I absolutely advocate joining a cycling club for the meeting of like minds a cycling group is also great for getting you out on those days where you’re struggling.
Search out your local bike shop they may have regular rides. You’ll learn new routes, get riding tips from real people- not the internet and make friends that will support your riding as you gain in experience and confidence.
Here’s the article.

Every so often, I’ll ride a recreational group ride. I love the camaraderie of cyclists, the talk, the last minute pumps of air, the clicking in, and the easy drifting out as a peloton. “I miss riding in a group,” I’ll think to myself.

The magic ends by mile 10. The group will surge, gap, and separate, only to regroup at every stop sign. I’ll hear fifteen repeated screams of “HOLE!” for every minor road imperfection. And then no mention of the actual hole. Some guy in front will set a PR for his 30 second pull. Wheels overlap, brakes are tapped, and some guy in the back will go across the yellow line and speed past the peloton for no apparent reason. A breakaway?!

I curse under my breath, remembering why I always ride with only a few friends. Doesn’t anyone else realize how dangerous this ride is? How bad it is for our reputation on the road? There are clear rules of ride etiquette, safety, and common sense. Does anyone here know the rules? Who is in charge?

But no one is in charge, and the chaotic group has no idea of how to ride together. As a bike crash (not “accident”) lawyer, I get the complaints from irritated drivers, concerned police, controversy-seeking journalists, and injured cyclists. It needs to get better, but the obstacles are real:

First, everyone is an expert these days. The internet and a power meter do not replace 50,000 miles of experience but try telling that to a fit forty-year-old, new to cycling, on a $5000 bike. No one wants to be told what to do.

Second, the more experienced riders just want to drop the others and not be bothered. It is all about the workout, the ego boost, or riding with a subset of friends. But a group ride is neither a race nor cycling Darwinism. As riders get better, they seek to distinguish themselves by riding faster on more trendy bikes; but as riders get better they need to realize two things: 1) there is always someone faster, and 2) they have obligations as leaders. Cycling is not a never-ending ladder, each step aspiring upwards, casting aspersions down. It is a club, and we should want to expand and improve our membership.

Third, different rides are advertised by average speed, but speed is only one part of the equation. This approach makes speed the sole metric for judging a cyclist, and creates the false impression that a fit rider is a good one. Almost anyone can be somewhat fast on a bike, but few learn to be elegant, graceful cyclists.

Fourth, riding a bike well requires technique training. Good swimmers, for example, constantly work on form and drills; so should cyclists. Anyone remember the C.O.N.I. Manual or Eddie Borysewicz’s book? They are out-of-print, but their traditional approach to bike technique should not be lost. More emphasis was given on fluid pedaling and bike handling.

Before the internet, before custom bikes, and before Lance, it was done better. Learning to ride was an apprenticeship. The goal was to become a member of the peloton, not merely a guy who is sort of fast on a bike. Membership was the point, not to be the local Cat. 5 champ. You were invited to go ona  group ride if you showed an interest and a willingness to learn. You were uninvited if you did not. You learned the skills from directly from the leader, who took an interest in riding next to you on your first rides (and not next to his friends, like better riders do today). Here is some of what you learned:

To take your cycling shorts off immediately after a ride.
To start with a humble bike, probably used.
To pull without surging.
To run rotating pace line drills and flick others through.
To form an echelon.
To ride through the top of a climb.
To hold your line in a corner.
To stand up smoothly and not throw your bike back.
To give the person ahead of you on a climb a little more room to stand up.
To respect the yellow line rule.
To point out significant road problems.
To brake less, especially in a pace line.
To follow the wheel in front and not overlap.

The ride leader and his lieutenants were serious about their roles, because the safety of the group depended on you, the weakest link. If you did not follow the rules, you were chastised. Harshly. If you did, you became a member of something spectacular. The Peloton.