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

Finding new inspiration



My cycling journey has been a long one.  In the order of 25 years, I’ve been very fortunate to have ridden some great bikes.  Someday, I’ll scan the photos; some that I’ve built from scratch myself, choosing the frame fork and components.  That’s what got me started on the road to being a mechanic.  I’ve had a great deal of help and encouragement over that time from independent bike shops and mechanics.  Some I can still call friends.

Opening Steel Town Cycles started another journey and my hope that we will add to the enjoyment of cycling in our area and beyond.  There is no better place for cycling advice and passion than an independent bike shop.  This will never be replaced by the internet; its often said the internet can’t fix your bike.  I can’t speak for other bike shops but I can say that my inspiration for setting up was to give something of my gained knowledge and experience, to my customers. If I can assist in getting someone back on their bike after many years that is reward indeed. I don’t know everything and I’ll continue to learn. But I will always do my best to answer your question. I find this job fascinating for the problem solving and great people I meet to name but a few aspects.

My own inspiration for cycling has been challenged of late as I find the type of riding changing. I’ve gone from a regular rider/commuter/occasional racer to an more realistic “fit it around running a business and family” I’ve found this very difficult.

My riding inspiration this year has came from a few people I recently met and had a hand in returning their bikes to a useable condition. The Paris – Roubaix cycle race remains my favourite of the year and having just spent the best part of 5 hours watching it live is still as inspiring as ever. The race has a course that strikes fear into the riders that race it but it’s regarded as one of the best races to win. It takes place over a fairly flat course but it’s nickname of Hell of the North is well deserved. 160miles on some very narrow country farm tracks including 35miles of varyingly brutal cobbles.


By comparison the cobbles in this country are both smooth and small.

If you have a little used or forlorn looking bike or the kids bug you to get out with them. Do it. Get out. You’ll  notice more than you ever did driving around. In our area there are loads of routes that are safe and barely touch a road. If road riding is more you thing join a riding group or cycling club. It will improve your fitness and you can benefit from others experience and the social side of cycling.

Springtime at Steel Town Cycles

Steel Town Cycles logo 2 - web large

Heading into spring we’ve got some great developments coming up for for your local bike shop and the local cycling community.  And so we started with the decision last month to put some time aside to give the Steel Town Cycles workshop a fresh coat of paint, sealing the floor to reduce dust in the workshop space, and giving the work and display areas a much brighter and cleaner look. We’ve had a chance to take a step back and evaluate the workshop space at present as we look at the forthcoming plans we have for supplying bikes. Following talks with Tandem Group, we are now also able to supply our valued customers with some great 2018 models from:

Dawes – a quintessential British brand with a background in tandem and touring bikes, Dawes have developed a solid range of road and hybrid bikes.
Claud Butler – long-established, British bike manufacturer now owned by Tandem Group, who have shown a deep regard for the relaunch of the brand, combining a respect for the company’s original ethos, brand and history. The highlights for us were the relaunched Alpina 27.5 & 29er Cape Wrath 27.5″ wheel MTB and the Radical Gravel Bike.

Squish Bike – A premium quality kids bike brand at a surprisingly reasonable price. Their ethos is one of giving kids a good experience with their first bikes, providing a lightweight well thought out design and construction.

We’re happy to discuss and recommend any of these cycles and would be happy to order in for anyone looking for a new bike this season.  Call in email or telephone for further details.

It’s been a busy March and you, our customers and supporters have been putting the poor weather behind you and getting those bikes out of the shed and ready for riding.  We had a fantastic weekend at the Pedal and Bus power event at Beamish.  We talked and demonstrated maintenance tips to better keep your bike running smoothly.  It was fascinating to see that from the Beamish collection and volunteers own vintage machines bike technology has moved on though the basic principles are very similar.  It was clear to see that some recent innovations have also been inspired by the past.

At Steel Town Cycles – your independent bike shop – we are always happy to help and advise with all your cycling needs. Service – Repair – Upgrade – Sales.