The Tale of a Hard Working Bike Mechanic.

Not always as miserable 😁

A little over 5 years ago your intrepid voyager (see above) took a huge risk and left a secure and well paid job……. Why??? It’s a question that I haven’t asked myself in a very long time. There isn’t really an answer other than to follow a dream. Which is a good lead in to say that dreams can also become nightmares too.

I not only gave up a well paid secure job, but I took a chance that I could become a successful business owner.

Success – the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”there is a thin line between success and failure”

In may ways I do think that I’ve achieved my initial goal. Though in doing so a number of further lessons have been learned. Being successful in business is not guaranteed simply because you have a good idea/product or service.

Many other things come to light on that journey. The relationships you damage, the negative impact of those that want you to fail! The joy in helping those that value what you do, your advice and of course skills. But of course that doesn’t pay the bills. The simple day to day struggles of earning a living from something you have a talent and passion for.

During my journey through self employed shop ownership I’ve made more friends than I’ve lost. I still love what I do, but it seems that I will have a decision to make about the future of Steel Town Cycles next year. We have lots of great customers and plans to expand into bike sales, new and good quality second hand, if there’s a demand. We’ll leave the BSO’s to others.

We sell so much more than I think a lot of folks know. But because it seems many don’t want to come to an independent specialist shop and would rather spend online with a faceless company not even owned by cyclists anymore. We aren’t just a normal bike shop and have just as many lady customers as gentlemen. Many of our North East cycle shop institutions have gone. Many in the last few years. The independent bike shops that I knew when I was first starting out as a green cyclist. I hope that I’ve inspired my customers like those shops did for me. No question will ever be a silly one and you might leave us with a new found inspiration to get on your bike. If you have then we are doing our job right.

Plans for 2022

We’ll be starting early bird sales through January and February 2022, on accessories. (Only available in the shop)

In February/March 2022, we’ll be introducing a loyalty scheme to enable our customers to benefit from savings on parts and accessories and get additional offers throughout the year.

This may seem like a bit of a rant but I think I’ve been polite long enough. These online sales platforms are already damaging our high street with many big name brands focusing on out of town or city centres forcing rents up in those smaller towns and leaving many units empty. Leading to the consumer to be often heard to say “ I shop locally where I can” or “there’s nothing in my town centre, so I have to go to the next big town or city” There simply is no incentive for these NAMES to risk putting a store in a town where their research shows they won’t be successful.

The next generation of Steel Town Cycles professional mechanic?

More eBikes more maintenance………

Bikes are not getting simpler by any means at all. Many eBikes have mechanical gear and braking systems. The drive units do break and cannot be fixed by untrained amateurs. There’s a growing number of trained specialists that can repair broken drive units. Like many other things buying an eBike from a dealer ensues that prices come within the realm of the wider population. DIY kits and the sellers of such are not recommended. Many are illegal to use anywhere other than private land and with the land owners permission. This is due to being rated above the 250w motor size limit in the UK. I’ve personally seen machines with 1000W + motors. Though obviously not worked on them. These are designed for use on eCargo bikes and eRickshaws.

Illegal practices such as overriding the speed limiter can and will be detected by professionals. This invalidates warranty, a professional shop/bike mechanic can refuse to work on the bike, which means even routine repairs and by knowingly using a machine in this condition the rider can be fined and be prosecuted for the use of an untaxed and uninsured vehicle on the roads. Oh and Bridleways are public too so it’s illegal to ride there too.

Steel Town Cycles hope to be serving the local community and beyond for many more years to come. To do this we need your support and the support of your friends and family. We aren’t JUST a service and repair shop. We are a real bricks and mortar SHOP. We cater for all types and makes of bike from the kids and family bikes to commuters and racing cyclists on or off road. If we don’t have what you’re looking for in the shop we can usually order it for next day delivery. As I’ve already said though we have much more than many think.

We are trying to educate our friends and customers old, new and beyond that we are open for business and worth looking for. Once you’ve found us you’ll not need to go anywhere else.

Steel Town Cycles can be found at Unit 4, 25-27 Derwent Street, Blackhill. DH8 8LR

phone 01207258270

Thank you for reading Kind Regards Steel Town Cycles.

Steel Town Cycles at 5 🎉🎉

On September 1st STC will be 5 years old. We’ve helped many of you over the years, some that are still riding, some that aren’t. You’re all brilliant for your different reasons. We’re looking forward to another 5 years and for many more folks helped to enjoy their cycling. We aren’t going anywhere forward without you. No rider left behind. So from the bottom of the STC family hearts we salute you. Chapeau!!!

Some pictures of bikes and guys that have called by over the years.

As a former racing cyclist our owner/mechanic Jonathan set up Steel Town Cycles with the vision of giving our passion and experience back. Over a lifetime of riding bicycles of various types and in various disciplines, Mountain bike, Road and cyclocross to name a few we’ve picked up a thing or two. Always happy to have a chat and give advice or simply to repair those bike issues that you have.

Part of the function of a small independent bike shop is to be the place you can drop in for advice. We are a cycling community hub, pun intended. We have plenty of that! Though our love is for Road/Gravel riding these days, we are comfortable and proficient at repairs on many different types of bike. What you pay for at Steel Town Cycles is that up to date knowledge and a Cytech Technician. You can be assured that your bike will be treated like our own. We are professional and fully insured, unlike some.

In moving forward we are beginning to stock refurbished bikes, we currently have a small collection, and will buy your old ones too, wether it be trading them in or just wanting someone else to get some use out of a good quality bike.

As some will already know we have moved the shop to Derwent Street. It’s bigger and will allow us to develop what we can offer. New signs will be going up soon to make us easier to find.

We still sell many accessories and commonly needed repair items. We’d love to be celebrating our 10th and 15th anniversary with you guys but we need your help. Spread the word, tell all of your friends and family where we are. If you live in Blackhill tell people who ask there is a bike shop here. We have lots more things that we can offer but only by your continued support.

On Saturday 28th of August, it’s National Bike Shop day. Much like National record shop day it aims to highlight just how vitality important a resource we are. Use it or loose it! It also gives our customers new and existing a chance to celebrate the glory of 2 wheels or 3 if you ride a trike 😁. It’s in its infancy only the 3rd year, so go on support your local community bike shop on August 28th. We’ll be open from 10am – 17:30. We are friendly and not in the slightest bit elitist. Cycling is for everyone can be inexpensive. It’s one of the best ways to appreciate the fabulous countryside that we have. Make a day of it take a picnic.

Freedom Day, Monday 19th July ‘21 – A light at the end of the tunnel?

As many of you know, we have continued to work throughout the Covid pandemic keeping you and your bikes rolling. Often working long hours to get your bike done and you out on the road/trails again. We thank everyone, customers old and new for your continued support. Bikes are our passion and we hope we’ve done our part in inspiring you.

With having the larger premises now we are going to be able to offer more. We’ve dabbled with bike sales over the years. However due to the difficulties regards sourcing them at the moment all our efforts have been towards Service/Repair and custom bike builds. Bikes may not be in stock, but we can preorder. We do also sell many accessories, tyres, tubes and components for different types of bike. All curated by cyclists who still ride. We don’t stock what we wouldn’t use ourselves.

We are professionally trained Cytech) and time served. With nearly 20 years of experience. We are fully insured, to protect your pride and joy. We all make mistakes (rarely😉) and we don’t want you to be disadvantaged in any way. We’ve been insured since day 1. Read our reviews on social media, google or our website. The heart of our ethos is the simple intention to help and inspire our local community and beyond.

Only with your continued support will we be able to continue offering the best independent bike shop services and advice. The pandemic has been tough on us all and continues to challenge businesses all over the north east. Where it is possible please support your local businesses and services. This money often goes back into the local economy. We spend in local shops where possible, supporting and protecting local jobs. Loyalty is a rarity these days but if we can encourage you to keep supporting those local businesses and Services that would be awesome. (Us included-of course)

We are fortunate in our geographical location, so much variety on and off-road Something for everyone. We have some of best and most beautiful countryside in the country on our doorsteps Get out on your bikes and appreciate it at a slower pace. Take in what life normally has you accelerating past.

We have messages coming from many different sources in this Information Age. When I grew up in the seventies there was a community spirit. During the pandemic I think some of these values have returned. That’s a good thing right? Looking after each other, being kind, shopping local. It seems that we are emerging from the restrictions but we still need to be kind and look after our nearest and dearest.

From Monday 21st and due to our concerns for yours and our continued safety.

We’d like to politely ask if you would still; observe wearing face coverings, hand washing, if there are two customers in the shop, please wait outside until at least one person leaves.

Use contactless payment methods or BACS transfer (details are in our emailed invoices).

We’ll continue to wear gloves while working on your bikes and regularly washing our hands.

Please do not come past the counter unless invited to do so by staff.

We respect your right to follow the above rules or choose not to as there will be no legal requirement. If there are other customers in the shop, please respect their right to be safe and well too. By working together in our community and beyond and supporting others we’ll get through this together.

Stay Safe , Stay Active – on 2 wheels of course, Stay Well, get your Vaccine, it really isn’t that bad. Look after yourself and others

Steel Town Cycles – Here to Serve

Steel Town Cycles is small independent bike shop based near Durham in the north east. We set up as a bicycle service and repair shop. Though we are now in our fifth year, our mission has remained very similar. To deliver the best in service and repair County Durham.

We are a small operation, but aim to treat every bike like our own. Due to this we may have longer turnaround times than most shops, however we are not a typical shop.

We provide the best advice that we can to help you get the most out of your cycling, wether it is helping you to choose the right tyres up to helping you to build up your own bespoke bike. We are by no means an elitist experience. All bikes no matter what brand or type are serviced.

We are working towards sourcing sale bikes, though this may not be in 2021 as many of our suppliers are out of stock or have long lead times. Preparation is the key at the moment. If you want a new bike for this year plan ahead and be prepared to wait.

We have a fully equipped workshop and can do most bike servicing and repairs. We are fully insured to work on your bikes. This is critical to ensure that you, the customer, have confidence in leaving your pride and joy with us. We are also members of the trade body; the Association of Cycle Traders and have Cytech Accredited shop status. We have an in-house wheel builder and we can supply all the parts for your perfect custom wheel set, whatever your requirements may be.

One of the services we offer is custom building of a cycle. We help you select the perfect build for yourself, depending on your requirements. It could be the ideal commuter bike, road or gravel/adventure bike. We can build any bikes. Though we specialise in Road, Gravel and Hybrid bikes. Mainly due to the area we live in and the scope of terrain on offer.

This is one our latest projects, a Kinesis Tripster ATR V3.

The customer supplied some well loved Campagnolo parts, a particular favourite of ours. We run Campagnolo on one of our own bikes and have 15 years + experience of working on and repairing this high end manufacturers equipment. This was quite a high budget build, however the spend is entirely up to you. We’ll make our recommendations and then build to your specifications.

So, wether it’s a bell you want, a puncture repair, getting an old treasured bike back in working order, a full refurb or a custom built masterpiece. Steel Town Cycles are here to serve our community and beyond. Go on treat your bike well this year.

More information can be found at our website

Bikes, Commuting, Maintenance and avoiding the rogues

Cycling……. the affordable alternative to car ownership. Discuss

Our infrastructure might not be as good as Holland or even as cycle savvy as York. There’s no denying that bicycles are more popular than ever. But have many of you thought about using your bike as a means of transport to work? For the best part of 17 years I commuted from Consett to Wallsend by bike. It wasn’t always easy, more of a choice. With the right clothes it’s not so bad. My preference was always towards the journey in. I’d mix it up at times by taking a different route back when time allowed.

Now I hear you say it’s too far, I’m not fit enough. But you’re going to get fitter by doing it. Catch 22 right? By no means am I suggesting that you consider doing it every day. A friend of mine who id meet at Derwenthaugh Country Park, near Swalwell, used to drive and park up, then we’d cycle the remaining 9 or so miles together.

However the majority of commutes are much shorter than this. There’s a statistic somewhere that puts it between 3-5 miles. Around 30-45 minutes from the average person. If we replaced 2 journeys of this type a week, we’d be healthier and save money to boot. Cycling with your kids to school or of course persuading the secondary school kids that it’s beneficial would help us all.

The area formally known as Derwentside has the advantage of having many bridleways and quite roads to travel along. When I’m trying to get an idea of what type of riding folks visiting the shop I often ask them for the type of cycling that they do and enjoy. This informs me of the level of service proportional to its future use. There are some exceptions to this. If a bike is in too bad shape I may have to declare it uneconomical to repair.

Because cycling has become so popular, there’s a huge problem with supply and demand. Bikes are still being produced, but lead times are very long. Also some essential service items are also very difficult for us to source too. It’s never been more important to look after your bike. In particular the drivetrain; That is the Chain rings, at the front attached to where you pedal, the chain and finally the cassette or sprockets in the centre of the rear wheel on the right.

The above diagram is a simple bike check. This should take no more than a couple of minutes and should be performed before you ride the machine off down a hill for example.

The chain is the main item that we need you to look after. Keeping it oiled with a good quality bike specific lube, no that doesn’t necessarily mean expensive-our most popular is £6. But realise that the oil that’s keeping everything running smoothly also attracts dirt. Over time this build up, if it’s not removed will form a very effective course paste which will wear out the very things that are difficult to source at the moment.

Chainset- The spiked rings are the chain rings
The rear wheel showing a freewheel/cassette

So what are you to do. At the very least, wipe the chain off once a week. This can be achieved by turning the pedals backwards wiping off the chain with a rag

So, very briefly a warning of sorts. We’ve noticed a rise in the number of home made bikes or Frankenstein’s. These are generally assembled from a collection of parts. On a lot of occasions by people that are trying to cash in on the popularity and low availability of new bikes. Unfortunately in the majority of cases these people have very little if any professional or shop experience. This will almost certainly lead to parts being fitted to a cycle which are not compatible.

What you will get from coming to a independent bike shop is good advice. We are aware of a few of the dubious sellers on Facebook and can save you time, money and heartache. These people don’t care that the bike you just bought isn’t safe. An independent bike shop or Insured professional mechanic will be able to advise you.

We don’t always get it right first time, but we’ll always work together with our customers to provide the best impartial service.