A fair few of us will consider not riding once the clocks go back due to the shorter days. Riding in the dark can be great fun though as long as a little thought is given to what we need to say safe, visible and warm. There are lots of lights and reflectives on the market and Steel Town Cycles will advise you as to what is best for your budget. Clothing is really just about layering. If you use a base layer, short sleeve top with arm warmers on the Autumnal days with a shower proof jacket its covering most situations. Layers can be taken off and put back on also. I prefer cycling tights when the mercury dips into single digits, before this shorts with knee warmers.
As important as making sure you are prepared, your bike needs to be sorted too. The Autumn and Winter are hard on bikes components and your bike is going to need a little more care to get it though, whereas in the Spring/ Summer we may somewhat neglect bike care, so we recommend washing of the frame, components, wheels/tyres and relubrication after this. Again there are many products available to clean, degrease and polish your machine. A dizzying array of lubricants – Wet, Dry & Wax to name some types of chain lube. But don’t worry I am going to explain and try and cut through some of the spin.
Bike cleaners aim to soften up muck and light, greasy deposits, and are best used to clean
the frame and wheels/tyres. Most are designed to be used with the bike already rinsed with water. So, start with a wet bike, and apply whatever wash you use. I don’t recommend the use of Washing-Up liquid as this has salt in it which can scratch frames – it happened to me – pick a bike specific cleaner that suits your budget (Steel Town Cycles can advise). Spray the cleaner on and leave it to work in for 30-60 seconds. Use a Soft brush or sponge to wipe around your frame and components then rinse it off.
In doing this you are washing off not only the dirt but also any salt that has got to the frame and components during use. To put this into perspective, if you only wash your bike once a month during the winter there’s a high chance you’ll need to replace some components come spring.
I like to also use a de-greaser to remove old chain lube and gunk that builds up on your drivetrain – Cassette, Chain, Chainrings and derailleurs – (see pic). If you think about the combination of oil, dust and soil, mixed together they form an abrasive paste which more quickly wears out your cassette, chain and chainrings.
After all this cleaning, which can take 15 minutes, or more depending on how thorough you want to be it is important to drive out the water from your chain. There are several brands here but perhaps the best know is WD-40 Spray. There are others but they do the same thing. They are, in very few circumstances suitable for lubricating a chain, so use of a specific chain lube is advised here. If you use WD-40 or similar the lubricant part is extremely light and will leave your chain dry and running metal to metal, significantly shortening the component and chain life.
Once you’ve driven off the water make sure you lubricate the chain with a good quality chain oil. If in doubt about which type to use speak to your local bike shop who will be pleased to advise and sell you the right oil for your purposes. I prefer the drop bottle type (see picture) and drop the oil onto the chain rollers, working from the rear derailleur forward to the chainrings. Try to avoid the outer plates and move the chain backwards by pedalling backwards. Do this a few times until the chain is visibly coated. Take an old rag (I use old T-shirts or T-Towels) run the chain backward through it with a gentle grip to remove the excess and lightly coat the outer plates of the chain.
Depending on how much your bike is in use repeat this procedure periodically.
If you wish to protect the finish on your bike there are also bike polishes which will protect frame and components between cleans.
Here are some examples of the lubricants I use and sell:
I’ve been a bit quiet of late on the blog here…… the reason…….. lots of bikes to Service -Repair-Upgrade. The shop has been very busy since the beginning of summer. Is it the great weather that’s getting more of you out on bikes, or a renewed interest in just getting a little fitter. I don’t know, but we are very happy to have seen more of you this year; like we have always said, whatever your cycling needs are, Steel Town Cycles are happy to help you all.
We had our first Tandem customers this month and some great restoration projects, like this classic Specialized Stumpjumper that the customer had sitting around needing a little TLC so we stripped the bike, cleaned it up, and serviced the rear shock. We then rebuilt the bike replacing a few worn out parts.
My own efforts to get fitter have slid somewhat. After a great start and good weather to motivate my notion of getting up an hour earlier and out for an hour, better than nothing, reality dawned very quickly and progress has been slow. I’m still determined to keep up some riding though. As the Cyclocross season approaches, 1st September, I am determined to race a full season in our STC Cycling kit. It will be tough as they are fast, punchy events. Racing is typically less than an hour. I am making it sound hard but really anyone with a mountain bike can and should have a go. They are grassroots events and rely on volunteers to organise them. The North East Cyclocross League races (www.neccl.co.uk) are very friendly and everyone is encouraged from kids to adults. I will report on the STC teams progress, which is: me, my son Alex (7 years), Dan (11yrs) and Laurence, whom I have known through racing since he was 14 – a bit older than that now.
After the first NECCL round on Saturday I am pleased to report the kids, Dan and Alex were 3rd and 2nd in their respective age groups. Laurence had a good solid start of 25th, and I managed 35th out of a field of 42 riders. Room for improvement for Laurence and I.
What I found in this first round though is that while still having a competitive spirit, I was far happier just riding at my own pace and not pushing too hard. I’d be really happy to see some of you guys give it a try. Its a great day out for all the family and encourages everyone no matter their ability. There are folks that have been riding these events for over 25 years and its great to see them still actively enjoying their riding. Its not really about where you finish as everyone is a winner just for turning up; the kids enjoy the competitive challenge but race with all age groups so at any point in the field, they are simply racing at their own pace, heads down. Cyclocross is definitely a discipline that can be enjoyed at whatever your fitness level is and its one of the most friendly and accessible to a wide age group. Go on……… have a go this season. Further details can be found at www.neccl.co.uk or search North East Cyclocross League on Facebook.
It was great to get away this week with the family for a well earned break from the work-school routine, and escape to one of our favourite English counties for sea-views and cycling. Cornwall delivered again……some great weather and our third visit to a fantastic little cottage which provided an excellent base from which we explored the area. It was great to visit Tintagel again, a great English Heritage site which, with some steep climbs up the castle hills, provides some incredible Atlantic views. We also decided to explore some opportunities for cycle trails, and discovered a ride along a large part of the Camel Trail from Wentford Bridge to Wadebridge and back. Based along a stretch of old railway line, and even passing by the Bodmin Steam railway, winding through a river valley, it’s almost completely flat with a fair few watering holes along the way. I can highly recommend the bike themed Snails Pace Cafe as a starting point, or a mid-point break, with excellent, locally produced food, great cakes, and a warm and friendly service. There is bike hire available, and this stretch of the Camel Valley is really quiet and peaceful compared with the approach further up the trail towards Padstow, but whatever your intention, it’s a great find, and we will all be going back again.
Cornwall has some great roads to ride slightly away from the main drags, and this cyclist will return someday to ride and appreciate a little touring. Cornwall is a county so well suited to this form of cycling and it was encouraging to see cyclists on the roads and trails enjoying the views in the area from the saddle, leading me to thinking about a return to basics and spending some time this year on some short 2-3 day tours in the Lake District and Scotland.
Though I have enjoyed racing and definitely have a competitive nature, the rides I’ve enjoyed recently have been much more sedate. The bike I will be building up for myself next will be much more aimed for adventure riding/bike packing and will be a radical departure from how I came into cycling.
I’d like Steel Town Cycles to be the shop that encourages you all whatever you’re interest and reason for getting on a bike. If I can help you realise your goals then I’m doing my job. As well as helping get our kids onto bikes that aren’t too heavy and they actually want to ride. We highly recommend and can supply the Squish premium bike brand. They get a quality build and a lightweight aluminium frame and from what I’ve seen of them, I can’t recommend them highly enough.
I received a call this morning from some guys hailing from Liverpool doing the C2C who had run into a bit of a mechanical problem with a damaged cleat on his clip-less pedal, so I thought it was worth opening on a Sunday to help sort them out, and get them back on the last stretch of their challenge. Quite a long time ago there was a bike shop in Blackhill. It was oldskool – I remember them mostly servicing and repairing bikes but the chap that owned the shop was so enthusiastic. This is what Steel Town Cycles are all about.
Today was a beautiful day in God’s own County. I was visited by an old friend who is now living in Berkshire, who I’ve been racing and cycling with for over 28 years. We had a great ride up to Park Head cafe above Stanhope. It could not have been a nicer day for being out and about on a bike. Steven and I reminisced about being younger and about how much he missed the brilliant countryside around us in Derwentside.
As we continued on our ride it was great to see so many people taking the opportunity to get out. All manner of folks, all ages from families to those riding the C2C. At times like these it makes you examine your own relationship with cycling and how my own involvement has changed. Speaking to my friend and thinking of the many thousands of miles we must have ridden together over the years was a welcome reminder that although I’m not getting out as much it’s still a great thing to do with your time.
The benefits of improving your health and physical fitness are plain to see, as well as improving your mental health and well-being.
The good weather does help but once you develop a healthy habit it’s amazing how quickly you learn to tolerate less clement conditions. Steven reminded me of some of the long rides we’d done in the past within driving rain on filthy roads, not pleasant at the time. After a hot shower and some food it’s pleasing to know you stayed the course.
The moral of this short tale…… Go on ……….get out on your bike!