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.

Getting ready for small group rides 😁

Over lockdown we have had to put the rides group on hold due to the restrictions and social distancing. Some of our group have been getting out on Solo missions

We are looking forward to getting out again and enjoying the social side of our rides group. Thank you to the guys that have continued to post and share their routes and experiences.

The group was set up to encourage us all to get as much out of cycling as possible in and around our beautiful area. Of course everyone has different things that they want to get out of cycling. The competitive cyclist, The radonneur, leisure, fitness and family cyclists.

The aim of the group was/is to bring all these guys together and enjoy rides, both on and off-road but with a no drop policy. This is at the heart of out ethos. Cycling is accessible to all!! That’s as true now as it was 29 years ago when I bought my first Mountain bike with my own money. Of course you get out of it what you put in.

Cycles have become more advanced in many ways but the same classic design remains. The cost of such machines has gone up and up and continues to do so. When I bought my first domestique level road bike in 1993/94, I’m old I can’t remember quite which year I was a shock to be spending so much on a bike. As I’m sure many have justified it to themselves, friends and family- including the fibs about how much they spent- Yes, that’s you!!

Anyway, enough of my reminiscing. The important thing is that we all get more active to relieve stress on an overburdened health service. The finest in the world, so we’re told. A conversation that could be expanded on, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog.

Cycling has been part of my life for 35 years or more. It’s made me strong, it’s been a support when I’ve needed it. I’ve gained some really great friends from it. Some are scattered to the four winds, some close by. I’m looking forward to getting out with you all again. Cycling is both a solitary and group activity. I’m passionate about it. I fall in and out of love with it. But I always come back.

When the rides group restarts, I’ll be looking for a few reliable ride leaders. Mostly for the week day evening ride. These would be the same as before 1 1/2 hours using the network of Sustrans cycle routes. I’d hope that these would be suitable for most abilities, but depending on interest and numbers we could divide the group into beginner and intermediate for example The structure will develop over time. The weekend rides will be mostly on road during Spring/Summer. Duration and difficulty will depend on the group and will be tailored on the day. If there’s enough interest in these rides we’ll extend into autumn, weather permitting.

Finally, I want to tell you all that the reason that I started Steel Town Cycles was to be a hub of the local cycling community. A source of advice as well as the shop side of things. The very first bike shop that I went into with my dad as a kid was in Blackhill and years later here I am trying to bring a little tradition back into a fast moving world.

Thanks for reading. This is an ongoing journey for me and it’s cost me more than money. To my customers, friends and family I am truly blessed.

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!