C2C,Cyclocross and fixing bikes

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 ( 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 or search North East Cyclocross League on Facebook.



STC on Tour

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.

Getting rolling again…… 1st rides

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!


What’s new at Steel Town Cycles?

Degreasing at Steel Town Cycles

I’d like to tell you a little bit about this big green monster. As it says on the tin, its a bioremediating parts washer.  What does it do?  Well…….. it cleans very dirty, greasy parts and brings them up like new.  Why is that interesting?  Well…………..  for those who have visited the bike workshop in Blackhill, you’ll know how I like a clean drivetrain and am only too happy to do this for you.  This is good for everyone, whether you’re an occasional family, regular commuter /sportive/ or racing cyclist.  Having a clean drive train, put quite simply, reduces wear on those components.  It means you are able to oil the chain – I’ll get onto that later – and keep the rest of the drive components relatively clean.

I am gathering some before and after pictures to demonstrate how impressed am I with this machine, keep an eye out for our posts in the coming weeks.  It makes my job easier, as I do like to return a bike clean.  When we clean a bike, by hand is the best way, we’re removing the soil that, when mixed with oil and general road/track debris, forms a grinding paste which assists in the wear of chains, sprockets (gears at the rear), chainrings (gears at the front),  rims and disc rotors, as well as many other parts of the bicycle.  When we clean and lubricate the bike, we are reducing the speed of that wear.  Where my parts washer excels is cleaning in those hard to reach areas.

Cleaning the bike to a reasonable level after a wet or dusty ride doesn’t have to take a long time – 20-30 minutes is usually enough.  You can go further but I’m trying to encourage you all to give it a go, get the kids involved.  If cleaning your bike isn’t a part of your usual routine after a ride, then bring it to us and we’ll do it for you, and if you want to learn a bit more about keeping your bike in good nick, we can give you some tips about doing it yourself.  There are lots of bike specific cleaners and spray degreasers on the market; I have tried quite a few and have my favourites, so please ask for more information and try them, they do work well.  The main message is that we believe that cleaning your bike, as well as regular service, should be part of your maintenance schedule, and it is an effective and efficient way to keep your bike rolling along for longer.

When the chain is cleaned, lubricate it with a good quality chain lube.  Again there are lots of brands to choose from.  You won’t need to use a lot in one application – a little goes a long way.  Re-apply regularly, especially after washing or a wet ride.  Wipe down your chain after every use by using a sponge or oily rag – this will remove most of the debris that has stuck to the chain.

Of course, as with everything, a bike won’t last forever, but with regular care and maintenance, it will last a bit longer.  I have had to tell a few people that their bikes/components are beyond economic repairs;  we are open and honest and would never recommend keeping the machine if a new one is now the best option.

Steel Town Cycles are at 46 Durham Road, Blackhill, near Consett and very close to the Sustrans cycle routes in and around Consett and of course the C2C as it crosses through our beautiful County.





Its nearly May and I’ve still barely turned a pedal…….


As I’ve said in previous blogs my relationship with cycling started a long time ago, but its not always been a steady committed one.  I’m sure whatever we all enjoy about cycling is different, but there are a fair few crossovers.  From the committed racer on and off for more than 15 years through different disciplines, cross country mtb, a short stint at downhill mtb racing, road racing and Cyclocross.  Now my cycling has changed.  I find myself wanting to get out on those 70-100 mile epics that I still feel I have in my legs.  The simple fact is I don’t.  This doesn’t mean I enjoy the ride any less.  I appreciate that I’m discovering a new love and trying rediscover why it is I pedal around.  Its just that squeezing in a 1 hour ride ride into my day comes down to finding the motivation.

We are very fortunate that in Derwentside we have so many options for terrain, road, off-road or a mix of both.  There are many possibilities riding into Weardale or Northumberland for example.  As I begin to think of what my targets are this year in terms of events etc one thing is clear – just ride more.  Fitting it in is the next challenge, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Riding with a group of whatever standard to suit you is really motivating.  Cycling is one of those curious sports where it may appear very solitary from the outside, but without his or her teams’ support in a big race, the professional rider would struggle; this is no different to the enjoyment of cycling away from the competitive circuits and tracks.

Steel Town Cycles started a small rides group last year and we managed to get 6-8 regulars out.  There is a mix of abilities and we all motivate each other no matter how fast or slow we all just ride and enjoy the company of other like minded folk.  A small group gathered to get some of the kids out on the 2017 NECCL (cyclocross league), and it was great to see the passion for cycling bubbling away in the younger members.  This year I’d really like to see some more coming out.  We only ride 1 evening per week, TBC at this point which day.  I’ve seen some lovely people recently bringing in bikes that have been having a rest for a while.  Whatever motivation brought them to decide to get that bike out, it makes me happy that in some small way, I’ve encouraged that participation and I really do hope to see them in our little rides group.

As I rediscover my motivation I will hope to encourage more people to hop on their bikes.  Set yourself a challenge – to ride with the kids to Rowlands Gill, or ride to Waskerley; start small and build up.  Whether your target is to get a little bit fitter, enjoy rides with the kids or complete a 100 mile ride by the end of the summer (this is my goal)- Chapeau.

Chapeau! is often used as a generic expression of approval and appreciation in France and other parts of Europe: as a sign of admiration or respect, one shall indeed remove their hat.

Join us on a ride – there are two great groups on Facebook ours is @steel town cycles-rides group the other is @Leadgate-Lets get on Our Bikes.

If you don’t have a bike, there is an initiative by Durham County Council to get people fitter @Cycle Durham.

Also in our area, Wellbeing for Life are doing some great things.  Have a look at their Facebook page @CountyDurhamWellbeingForLifeService