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An Idiots Guide Through a Bike Building Odyssey, Blog #3


“Ooooh you work in a bike shop, now you can fix my bike” (when reading that it’s best to imagine a tiny little overly enthusiastic Bristolian lady)… No Nan I can’t… Well I couldn’t. Right up to the point I finished my first Bristol Bicycle.

Before I started here I could do the basics: change my tyres, straighten things up, maybe adjust the brakes if I was feeling adventurous. Having just finished a Bristol Bicycle build for our hire fleet (hire bike number 1 if you’re interested) I feel as though I have learnt a great deal – and tested the patience of the team (sorry Mat for all the stupid questions).

Now if I can build a bike I think you probably can too, it’s like a big Meccano set (sorry again Mat). OK, so there might be a bit more to it. Hopefully I won’t hinder business by saying little jobs here and there I’m sure everyone could do. Indexing gears and replacing brake pads are all jobs that you can quickly learn (and I mean LEARN… please don’t just go into the job blind, but once you know how it’s not hard to do the regular jobs). You never know when having those skills will come in handy.

Some of the bigger jobs do require a professional hand. When building our own bikes we pride ourselves on the detail. Hand-built wheels and properly installed headsets, it’s the little parts that make a difference. Although I would love to say go for it, try it all and who cares in you fail… unfortunately that’s not the best advice. Some things can be dangerous, believe me we’ve seen some disasters waiting to happen in the store. Odds and ends I do think you can learn as long as you put aside some time to researching how it’s done. Bigger jobs such as truing wheels and fitting bottom brackets if not done right can easily break your bike even more or make the bike more dangerous to ride (not that I’m trying scare you).

I’m sure many of you are aware of GCN (the global cycling network). They are a cycling entertainment company mainly posting on Youtube. They have a really good series of “how to” videos where they will explain maintenance tasks from the super easy to the super complex. It’s a good place to start if you are looking at doing a bit of your own work at home.

Back to my bike building odyssey. Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking… “I don’t want a self professed cycling idiot to be building my hire bike” and in all honesty its a fair comment. Its been checked over by Mat (our in-house Bristol Bicycles guru) and he has tightened the loose ends and given it the all clear. And I’ll be keeping a close eye on hire bike 1 so if any of you take it out don’t be surprised if you’re waiting a while for the post-hire check-over. No one is going to mess with my baby!

After riding some of your workshop bikes (most of them we’ve used in our  “bike of the week” Instagram series) and watching nice shiny new bikes coming out of the work shop it makes you begin to question your own bike. I’m lucky enough to have what in my opinion is a very nice bike but I began to pick up on the odd click and creak that I now know were not supposed to be there. So, long story short, I’ve been practicing on my own bike. A new bottom bracket and a full brake and gear service later on a new second hand bike and I was feeling rather smug with myself. Not that it’s impressive, but it’s a small sense of achievement in an other wise mundane set of skills. It was this though that made me realise that the devil is in the detail. After I had fixed my bike up to what I thought was a perfectly good level, Mat checked it over and even the smallest tweaks here and there made the bike a hell of a lot safer and not to mention running even smoother.

In conclusion, if someone like myself can learn to do the odd job on their bike I’m sure you can too. So next time you are watching the 5th episode of cats do funny things or whatever people watch on youtube these days, why not consider watching some bike maintenance videos or doing a bit of a read up. You can pick up the basics pretty quickly, just remember to do your reading! Maybe the big jobs are best done by the professionals. Baby steps is the term that springs to mind! Nothing worse than shearing a bolt on your nice new frame or cross threading a bottom bracket… Believe me we have seen it often enough to know these things are fairly common mistakes.

Mechanic

Lead mechanic for building Bristol Bicycles

Context

Bristol Bicycles and Jake’s Bikes is an independent shop in central Bristol offering servicing & repairs and cycle hire, with a strong focus on excellent customer service. We also design and build practical, reliable bikes under our own Bristol Bicycles brand. Ultimately the aim of our work is to get more people cycling. We believe in making it easy, enjoyable and normal to cycle every day.

We are seeking to appoint a new staff member to our team of five to build new Bristol Bicycles, and to assist with servicing and repairing customers’ bikes, as well as serving customers in the shop.

Values

Our core values are:

  • Honesty and trust
  • Clear, jargon-free, unpatronising advice
  • Consulting the customer and meeting their needs; no hard selling

The Role

This is primarily a workshop role, and will suit someone with excellent attention to detail, strong practical skills, and at least three years of experience as a professional bike mechanic. The work includes building all models of Bristol Bicycles including E-bikes, and servicing and repairing a wide variety of customers’ bikes. You will be responsible for delivering the work on time and to set quality criteria, including meeting productivity targets. You will also assist with the management of Bristol Bicycles stock levels, ordering stock from our suppliers as required.

Job description

Role: Mechanic (Bristol Bicycles builds)
Hours: Four days per week (normally Wednesday to Saturday). 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year pro rata. Extra hours available March to October.
Place of Work: Jake’s Bikes, 6A Haymarket Walk, Bristol BS1 3LN (between the Bear Pit roundabout and the Bus Station)
Contract: Permanent (subject to successful 3-month probationary review)
Accountable to: Manager
Accountabilities:
Meeting weekly workshop productivity targets (personal and team); assisting with Bristol Bicycles stock management; assisting with development of Bristol Bicycles systems and processes; achieving customer service standards.
Daily Duties: Building Bristol Bicycles to order; servicing and repairing customers’ bikes; liaising with and serving customers; ordering Bristol Bicycles stock.
Wage: £9.00 per hour, plus profit share bonus scheme worth up to £1,500 per year
Benefits: Statutory Pension Scheme

Main Accountabilities and Duties

Bristol Bicycles Building and Stock Control

This part of the role involves building all types of new Bristol Bicycles including hybrids, touring bikes, E-bikes and adventure bikes.

  • Consistently meeting weekly workshop productivity targets
  • Achieving defined quality control standards for bike builds
  • Assisting other staff in building Bristol Bicycles
  • Managing stock and ordering from our suppliers
  • Achieving defined customer service standards, adhering to our core values

Servicing and Repairs

Your time in the workshop will be split between building new bikes (above), and servicing and repairing customers’ bikes. This part of the role requires problem-solving and doing a first class job quickly and efficiently. You will be required to be able to undertake all levels of servicing and repairs on a variety of customers’ bikes.

Serving Customers

You will sometimes serve customers in the shop, e.g. during busy periods or to cover lunch breaks. You will also liaise with customers (usually by phone or email) to discuss options and ensure they are kept up to date with the progress of their work, all in line with our core values.

Person specification

Essential

  • Minimum of 3 years full-time experience (or equivalent) as a professional bike mechanic
  • Up-to-date knowledge of bike component compatibilities and standards
  • Pragmatic – happy to work on all kinds of bikes, happy to learn new ways of working
  • Attention to detail
  • Thorough and methodical, with a safety-first attitude
  • Flexible, able to multi-task, and a fast worker
  • Enjoy working as a member of a small team on a daily basis
  • Able to self-manage and work independently when required
  • Customer service experience with good communication skills
  • Friendly, helpful, positive manner
  • IT literate: able to write emails, use suppliers’ websites, use stock control system

Desirable

  • Cytech level 2 or equivalent qualification

Closing Date

Please send CV and covering letter to [email protected]

Closing date for applications: end of Monday 23rd September 2019

Start date: 1st October (or as soon as possible after this date).

Touring Packing List, What to bring for all levels of bike touring

Every year our minds begin to wonder to cycling camping and those longer weekend adventures. Never been cycling touring? Not really sure where to start? Use this packing list to help you get started.

Essentials – always take on all rides

  • Pump (ideally a universal Presta / Schrader): both puncture repair, and periodic top-up of pressure
  • Spare inner tube of correct size: Quick road-side puncture repair (keep the punctured tube and repair it later), Puncture repair where old inner tube is beyond repair, e.g. broken valve
  • Puncture repair kit, incl. spanner for wheel nuts if required: Puncture repairs where spare inner tube is not available or has already been used
  • Tyre levers: Removal (but not replacement!) of tyre
  • Zip ties (cable ties) of assorted sizes: Emergency road-side repair of pannier racks, mudguards, bags, anything that needs tying together temporarily

Cycle touring+ (for the more adventurous of you)

  • Zip ties (cable ties) of assorted sizes: Emergency road-side repair of pannier racks, mudguards, bags, anything that needs tying together temporarily
  • Small bottle of oil: Periodic chain lubrication
  • Small rag: Chain cleaning
  • Allen keys: Adjustments and repairs
  • Screwdrivers: Adjustment of derailleurs and brakes
  • Chain tool: Repair of broken chain
  • Spoke key: Re-truing of wheels, temporary repair or buckled wheels
  • A good multi-tool will combine all of the above four items – e.g. the Topeak Hexus X does, as well as having built-in tyre levers – www.topeak.com
  • Adjustable spanner (if needed): Wheel nuts (normally 15mm, but sometimes 13, 14 or 16mm – check your bike)

Off-road or remote cycle holiday (when the kitchen sink just wont fit)

  • Two or three M5 allen bolts (maybe 12mm – 16mm lengths) with washers and nyloc nuts: Reattachment or repair of mudguards, luggage racks etc.
  • Sticky tape, e.g. PVC insulation tape: Temporary repair of cables, luggage
  • A small strip of strong but flexible plastic, e.g. a section of old toothpaste tube or milk carton: Temporary use inside a split or ripped tyre to prevent the inner tube from bulging out
  • Spare spokes of correct length(s) + nipples: Replacement of broken spokes, Use on camp fire as barbecue skewers
  • Compact cassette or freewheel removal tool of correct type: Removal of cassette or freewheel to enable replacement of drive-side spoke
  • Gear cable (inner), pre-cut and soldered: Replacement of broken gear cable
  • Brake cable (inner and outer set) with ferrules, pre-cut and soldered: Replacement of broken brake cable, Emergency use as outer gear cable
  • Chain link (tool-free type), e.g. SRAM, KMC Missing Link: Easy replacement of damaged chain link
  • Spare brake blocks or pads: Replacement of worn or damaged brake blocks
  • First aid kit: Emergency repair of rider!

Buying a new bike and what to look for

Buying a bike can be a minefield. What style? What size? What colour?!! But even once you’ve settled on e.g. a £450 hybrid bike, not all are equal once we get down to details. Manufacturers and (some) bike retailers will be tempted to skimp on components or build quality in areas they think nobody is looking. So here are five crafty questions to sort the good, reliable commuting machines from all the others

Question 1

Is it a freewheel- or a cassette-type rear wheel? The cassette design pretty much eliminates any chance of a bent or broken rear axle. This makes for a good, reliable bike that will cope with pot-holes and cobbles, even if you’ve got a couple of panniers full of shopping.

Freewheels on the other hand are a bit dated now, and are only really used on kids’ bikes and budget adult models. Unless you are a very light rider, never carry luggage, and always manage to avoid bumps and kerbs, I suggest you steer clear of freewheel-type rear wheels.

Surprisingly, some bikes in the £350+ price bracket still come with freewheels. If you don’t want to run the risk of shelling out £80 or £100 to upgrade to a cassette wheel when your axle bends, check that the bike is freewheel-free before buying. (This question applies to all derailleur-geared bikes but can be ignored if you are buying a hub-geared model or a singlespeed or fixie).


Question 2

How many spokes does each wheel have? Racing bikes and mountain bikes typically have 32 spokes (or fewer) per wheel for aerodynamics and lower weight, but for reliability and weight-carrying capability you really want 36.

It’s a subtle detail, but one that should mean fewer broken spokes in the long run. And if a bike has 36-spoke wheels it may show the manufacturer has prioritised strength and longevity over sporting pretensions or insignificant weight saving. (If saving 43g and pretending to be a pro athlete is your thing, you’re probably reading the wrong information sheet here!)

Question 3

Are they double-walled wheel rims? Can you detect a wheel-related theme here? With good reason: the rear wheel is probably the single most oft-broken component of a commuting bike, and one of the most expensive parts to replace.

As with the spokes question above, what we’re trying to establish here is how strong the wheels are and how long they’re likely to last with everyday knocks and bumps. A double-walled rim has much more inherent strength than a single-walled one, in effect being a rigid box-section instead of a flexible flat sheet of metal. Good quality single-walled rims may be acceptable for lighter riders provided they are 36-spoke wheels and properly finished by hand (see 5 below), but they will still bend a lot more easily if you hit a kerb or pot-hole.


Question 4

Can I fit mudguards and a pannier rack? All commuting bikes should be capable of having full-length mudguards and a luggage rack fitted. Mudguards protect not only the rider, but also the bike’s chain and derailleurs from mud and water, reducing corrosion and wear.

Many road bikes have barely enough room to squeeze a mudguard in between the tyre and the frame, thereby guaranteeing that annoying rubbing noises will be a perpetual problem.

Incredibly, a few hybrid bikes have the same issue. If there isn’t room to fit your finger between the tyre and frame or the fork, there isn’t really enough room for a proper mudguard. Likewise, if there aren’t bolt holes for fitting a pannier rack, just walk away. After all, you wouldn’t buy a car without a boot would you?

Question 5

Have you fully stripped, reassembled and serviced the bike? Now this is a nasty little trick question. They’ll probably hate you for asking this. What you are asking is not “have you assembled the bike” or “have you checked the bike” (what in the trade is known as a PDI or Pre-Delivery Inspection).

What you need to ask is “have you fully stripped down and reassembled the bike?”. Unfortunately not many retailers do, but it is an important question that can make a big difference to reliability and longevity. This work should certainly include stress-relieving and retrueing the wheels and adding grease to the wheel bearings and headset, and ideally should include removal, greasing and refitting the cranks and bottom bracket as well.

It’s difficult to tell visually whether this work has been done or not, so it basically comes down to whether you trust the retailer. Of course it is possible to have all this done at a bike shop as a stand-alone job, but that would effectively add approximately £60 to the price of your new bike.

So in summary, your five-point checklist is:

  1. Cassette good, freewheel bad!
  2. At least 36 spokes per wheel
  3. Double-walled rims: yes please
  4. Rackable and mudguardable?
  5. Has the bike been fully stripped and reassembled by the retailer?

Happy shopping!

Bike Locks, What to look for and why you need one

Unfortunately bike theft is still an issue. Locking your bike up is one of the most important aspects of owning a bike, even if you just pop into a shop it’s worth that extra 10 minutes of your time to make sure your bike is safe. Here’s a crash course in all things security.

Cable Locks

Do not use a cable lock as your only anti-theft precaution. Even the thickest cable locks can be cut in a matter of seconds by a thief armed with small bolt croppers. Always use a D-lock or chain as your main lock. Cable locks are useful for securing components such as the front wheel or saddle which could be stolen, but should only be used in conjunction with a D-lock or chain to secure the frame and wheel(s). Also avoid combination locks – these can be forced open much more easily than a proper lock with a key.

D-Locks and Chain Locks

A large, hardened steel chain and really good quality padlock are arguably the best protection available, but are heavy and awkward to carry. A D-lock (also known as a U-lock or shackle lock) is almost as secure, and is much easier to carry around. However, this is not to say that D-locks are invulnerable to attack.

Thieves can sometimes use a car jack to prise open even a good D-lock. To protect yourself against this possibility, try to ‘fill up’ the whole D-lock shackle by locking it around as many parts of the bicycle frame, wheel, and bike stand/lamp post/railings as possible. This way, there will be no space for the thief to get a car jack far enough into the shackle to prise it open.

Not all D-locks and padlocks are equal. If you buy an £11.99 lock from a superstore or discount website you can expect to have your bike stolen. A cheap and nasty lock can be identified by its plasticky cover and easily picked mechanism (which has a key that looks like a conventional house key for a Yale lock). Also, cheap D-locks have a thinner shackle and most have the key hole at one end, whereas on the better D-locks the key is inserted in the middle.

In the UK locks are independently certified by Sold Secure (www.soldsecure.com), with three standards: Gold (which is supposed to withstand 5 minutes of attack from a thief), Silver (3 minutes) or Bronze (1 minute). However, in laboratory conditions some experts have managed to break Gold certified locks in less than 30 seconds so the Sold Secure standards should be treated with a little caution. As a rule, when buying a D-lock or padlock chain you should spend 10% to 15% of the original new value of your bike or £25, whichever is greater.


Where to Lock

Always lock your bike to an immovable object. Do not lock it to a bollard or even a sign post if the top of the post is slim enough for a thief to simply lift the bicycle and lock over. Beware railings: some steel railings are thin enough for a thief to cut through them fairly easily, and old iron railings will crack or shatter if hit with a hammer. Much better to lock your bike to a lamp post, sign post or proper bicycle stand.

Only lock your bike somewhere public and well-lit – and preferably alongside a more expensive-looking bike! There is no way of absolutely preventing theft, but if you can make it difficult for thieves they probably won’t bother, particularly if there is something else nearby which is more attractive and/or easier to steal.


How to Lock

Some locks are vulnerable to being picked. Always place the lock so that the key hole faces downwards and away from easy access, and if possible pass the lock through the bike frame and wheel in such a way that it cannot be turned around to reveal the key hole. This might make it a little more difficult for you to lock and unlock with your key, but it will make it much more difficult for a thief to see what they are doing if they try to pick the lock.

Replace your quick-release wheel skewers with bolted or nutted ones to protect against wheel theft. We have these in stock (from £9 per pair), and they only take 2 minutes to fit. Or go for the home-made solution and use jubilee clips or P-clips to clamp your quick release levers closed against the frame and fork.


How to Carry a Cycle Lock Safely

Do not carry your bike lock dangling from your handlebars. This can damage the brake and gear cables, and could interfere with the operation of the front brake, wheel or steering. Instead use the bracket provided, or securely attach your lock to a pannier rack, or just carry it in a rucksack or pannier. Remember to oil your bike lock once in a while – just drip a bit of oil into the key hole to keep it all working sweetly.


Insurance, Bike Registration and Crime Reporting

If you have house contents insurance, it’s often free or fairly cheap to add your bike to that – but make sure that the cover extends outside the home (normally they add your bike as a “named item” of a specific value). Or if you need cycle insurance, we recommend either www.cycleguard.co.uk or www.eta.co.uk – insurance premiums start at around £25 per year. Many insurers demand a specific quality of bike lock, often one with a Silver rating (see above).

It’s well worth registering your bike (for free) on www.immobilise.com – the database used by the police to track stolen goods, so if your bike gets stolen and then recovered, the police can reunite you with it.

Finally, it is important to report the crime to the police if your bike is stolen, for three reasons: it allows you to make an insurance claim for it; it means that if the police do ever recover it (or if you even spot your bike being ridden by someone else!) it will be much easier to claim it back with a pre-existing crime reference number; and it means that the true level of bike theft will be recorded which should help persuade the authorities that this is a serious crime problem which needs tackling.

Bath

@intandemstories

Home Maintenance

A commonly asked question in the store is how do I know that my bike needs servicing, or how often should I get it checked? Well here you go, a comprehensive list of what to look out for and what you can do to prolong the life of your bike.

Each time you cycle it’s worth just giving the brakes a squeeze to check they feel OK before setting off, and spin the pedals backwards to check the bike is in gear and doesn’t have a bent derailleur or other gear issue. Then as you ride if you notice anything rattling, grinding or making a noise it’s always worth investigating for safety’s sake and because a problem discovered early and nipped in the bud is often less costly to fix.

On a regularly used bike, every week or two:

  • Inspect the tyres for damage and give them a squeeze to check the pressure;
  • Check both wheels’ quick releases are tight;
  • Check the condition and position of brake blocks;
  • Check the chain and wipe down and oil if needed (see below).

Every 3 months or so:

  • Check the wheel rims and brake blocks for wear, and make sure they’re not rubbing on the tyre
  • Check and lube gear and brake cables, and adjust if required. There are numerous online videos about how to do basic adjustments to brakes and gears.

It’s important to get the bike professionally serviced at least annually, and more often if it’s used regularly. Any unresolved problems or unusual noises, rattles etc. spotted in the meantime should also be investigated by a mechanic.


Proper lubrication of your bike chain

If your chain squeaks or makes a ‘hissing’ sound as you pedal it probably requires oiling. Several types of oil are available. Conventional ‘wet’ oil is a good choice but attracts dirt if too much is applied. ‘Dry’ oil is thinner and evaporates after it is applied, leaving a low-friction coating (e.g. Teflon) on the chain. This stays clean but is easily washed off so must be reapplied often and is best for summer use. ‘Green Oil’ is an eco-friendly option, but it washes off quite easily, and in the long term it seems to cause a sticky build-up of greasy residue.

Before oiling the chain, wipe off any dirt: hold a rag around the lower length of chain and turn the pedals backwards. Then apply oil sparingly: backpedal whilst continuously applying a small amount of oil to the chain, avoiding the wheel rims and brakes. The aim is to lubricate the entire chain with a minimum of oil. There is no need to oil the cogs. Then take a clean rag and lightly wipe the chain to remove surface oil: lubrication is only required inside the chain links, excess oil is counter-productive as it will attract dirt.

A clean and lubricated chain is easier to pedal, less noisy, and will wear out less quickly. During a service the chain will be professionally cleaned using a degreaser which cleans the inside of each of the chain’s links.


The easy way to deal with punctures

You will need: tyre levers; a pump; a puncture repair kit; a spare inner tube; a spanner to remove wheel.

To fix the puncture:

  1. Remove the wheel from the bike (disconnecting the brakes if necessary to get the tyre past).
  2. Press the valve to deflate the Tyre completely if it is not already flat.
  3. Use two tyre levers to remove one complete bead (side) of the tyre from the wheel rim.
  4. Remove the old inner tube completely, roll it up and keep it for repair later (see below).
  5. Carefully check the inside of the tyre for thorns, glass, nails etc. Check the rim tape is intact.
  6. Slightly inflate the new inner tube and stuff it into the tyre all the way around, and then put the tyre back on the rim, one complete edge first, then the other. Do not use tyre levers as this can puncture the tube or damage the tyre. If the tyre is tight, deflate the tube and push the tyre’s edge downwards and inwards, into the centre of the wheel rim all the way around to gain an extra few millimeters of slack. See www.jakesbikes.co.uk/video-tube
  7. Put the wheel back on the bike, ensuring it is central, and tighten the nuts or quick release. Reconnect the brake and check the brake blocks do not rub on the tyre. Correctly centre the wheel if they do.
  8. When you get home:
  9. Inflate the old inner tube and listen for hissing. To find a slow puncture you may need to place the inner tube in a bucket of water and watch for bubbles.
  10. Dry off the inner tube. Rough up the whole area around the hole with a small piece of sandpaper.
  11. Apply tyre glue to an area larger than the patch and leave it for 10 minutes until it is no longer wet.
  12. Select a patch, remove the foil or plastic backing, and press the patch firmly onto the inner tube, especially around its edges. Leave the backing paper in place for 24hrs to allow the glue to dry fully.
  13. After removing the backing paper, dust chalk on the area to prevent it sticking to the inside of the tyre. You can now keep this inner tube as a spare for next time you have a puncture.

What kind of bike pump is best?

Portable hand-pumps are lightweight and compact, but aren’t really powerful enough to fully inflate a road bike’s tyres, and the modern hose-less designs tend to allow the valve to flex, easily bending it or breaking it off the inner tube. A floor pump or track pump solves these problems and is ideal to keep at home or work, but is too large to carry around. The simplest solution can be a mini track-pump, the best of both worlds!


Do not store your bike outside

Do not leave your bike out of doors on a permanent basis. Cheap bikes have many steel components which will rust within months. All bikes have steel bearings and chains which will rust if exposed to the elements. Other problems include corroded cables, degradation of tyres by sunlight, oil and grease being washed away, and risk of theft. If you do leave your bike outside, it should be protected by a bike shelter or quality tarpaulin.

*Bivies, *Bevvies and *Oasis. Our Summer Solstice Camp Out

Cycling and camping, can you name a better pair? Go on give it a go, Peanut butter and jelly? black and white?… Ant and Dec? Nothing quite goes together as well as cycling and camping. If you had told me a year ago that I would be organising my own cycle camping mini adventure I wouldn’t have believed you, that’s for the cool bike packing kids on Instagram, not the chubby lad from North Somerset. If you had also told me one hour before that only one other group of people would actually be camping I would have probably cried.

So what’s all the fuss about and was it a success? The summer solstice has become a hot date on any adventure cyclist or bike camping fanatic’s calendar. With this in mind I thought it would be a great opportunity for us at Bristol Bicycles to jump on the band wagon and start running our own little rides and events. The first event I think was a success, and although it was only a father, his son and me that camped, they were super friendly and everyone that came out for the ride was very jealous of our peaceful camping spot in sunny old Bitton. Or so we thought…

After work we all met at the shop and rode out along the Bristol to bath bike path. Picking up a few faces on the way we ended up with a little group of what must of been 8 of us. The sun was out, and everyone was happy just to have a friendly social ride. After all that’s what cycling should be about: forget Strava times (yes I’m talking to you Colin, you may have beat me up Vale Street but who’s the one still smiling?), I don’t care if your new carbon wheels are 0.1 grams lighter than your last ones or that you’ve learnt a new slip streaming method from your cousin’s mate down the pub. Riding bikes is about getting out and about, and what better way to do that then with a group of friends and customers?

After a quick meal at the local pub and a couple of drinks we were ready to hit the hay. Jake claimed to have a cold (a likely story!) and headed back into the big smoke, and I joined my fellow campers on the site. After talking camping stoves and politics it was finally time to bite the bullet and squeeze into my tiny bivvy bag. There are not many times you would look to a tent as a form of luxury, but this was one of those.

I wanted to keep it low key and not too difficult, with mixed weather leading up to the day and my general lateness with organisation, the camping turn-out might not have been what we hoped for but it was a success nonetheless. We stayed at the Stable Campsite in Bitton (5 mins off the Bristol to Bath cycle path). The site was idyllic: just a field, running water and a couple of toilets – what more could you want? Oh yeah, a wedding in the field next us… that’s just what we needed to finish off the peaceful experience. Now I like Oasis as much as the next guy (in fact I’d say I might even like Oasis more than the next guy) but when you’re into your fourth rendition of Wonderwall by yet another drunk bridesmaid, even I can get a bit bored of Oasis.

1AM, Do you know what improves the wonderful display of fire works? Not actually seeing the fireworks, and only being able to hear them from what seems to be metres away from your own head… now that’s the sweet spot!

2AM, Silence fell on camp, finally it’s time to get some rest. My friends next door had another idea though. Reggae Dub-step, Not a genre I’m particularly familiar with. Growing up in rural North Somerset I’m more into The Wurzels than The Wailers. I can see this particular genre being popular in a dark Bristol club late one night… perhaps not in the middle of a country field out in the sticks though. Sure enough the when music stopped I was sound asleep.

5AM, Woke up to a pretty amazing sunrise. Well, I’m not sure this sun rise was particularly remarkable but after spending 20 years previously sleeping-in too long to see many sunrises, it was a pretty sight!

8AM, after a few more hours of “sleep” I was up. A quick coffee and some porridge and I was ready to head home. By the time I was ready to leave my fellow camp mates were rising from their life of luxury in the tent. They had planned to carry on going, and would follow the bike path down to Bradford-on-Avon. I, on the other hand, didn’t have time on my hands and had to head back home ready for work on Tuesday.

I hit the road early and after a longer than expected stop at Bristol’s finest cycling coffee shop Camber I had soon left the city behind and would be sprinting into the hills. Always fun rushing past a group of Lycra clad weekend warriors when your bike is fully loaded up and you’re in the same clothes you slept in. I think I had gravity on my side as well as that caffeine kick. Soon enough I was back home nestled into the Mendip hills. Although it was only going away for one night I think there is real value in these micro adventures. A night away from your phone and the various distractions in life can do us all a lot of good.

One for the tech nerds now. I went for a front loaded bike, a little bivvy bag, a cheap air mat and a sleeping bag (I’ve invested in some nicer bits now) . Always got my nice stove and some good coffee… That’s all you’re getting nerds, this bike touring malarkey shouldn’t be about kit, it’s all about the fun of riding your bike.

So did we have a massive customer turn out? No. Was the camp a success? Yes! We had a great group that came along for the ride out. With Iggy and his son staying with me at the site it made it a fun and interesting night under the stars. Iggy had told me that he was once cycling 400km a week and had not ridden a bike for a few years. He decided that our camp was to be the opportunity and excuse he needed to get back riding his bike. Jake started the company with the idea of that if he could get every customer cycling again or getting a person a day onto a bike then it was a success. That is exactly what we did and Iggy then ventured on from our camp on a weekend tour with his son.

*Bivies- a bivi is a protective outter lining for your sleeping bag. You would put your bag and mat into your chosen bivi bag. Think of it as a half way house from sleeping bag to tent. An outdoor sleeping sock if you will.

*Bevvie- A bevvy is the slang term for a beer. The term would often be used by the laddy types. Often in conjunction with cracking open a cold one with the boys. We have to remember George (me) is technically part of the youth bracket (although you wouldn’t guess this from his actions or possessions!)

*Oasis- a Little know Indie rock band from Manchester. Fronted by brothers Noel Gallagher and our kid Liam. They are known for classic tunes such as Wonderwall … or that other one they did. Not to be confused with the tropical squash drink Oasis, an often easy mistake to make.

Pizza, Camping and Lycra Clad Jealousy, Blog #4


Sun, beaches, bottomless drinks, relaxing by the pool… Nah I’ll take cycle camping around France for a week in the cold and the wet any day. That is exactly what I did. Some of you may of heard of the Avenue Verte connecting London to Paris via cycle paths and secluded country lanes ( many of you may have done it as well). Well, we missed out the UK part, after many recommendations from friends, we decided that the UK bit sounded stressful and, well, just a bit boring compared to France.

Friday night we left for Newhaven (by car) and spent the night living it up in a premier inn. The next morning it was straight into the ferry on our fully loaded bikes. We weren’t the only ones though, there seemed to be a couple of fully supported trips heading off on the same route as us. Of course, they were in full Lycra gear and were making us feel lazy when they boasted that they would be in Paris within a couple of days. We, on the other hand, hadn’t planned on getting to Paris until Tuesday.


Once off the boat fueled up with a veggie breakfast and lots of coffee (gave up on the veganism over that week) the fun really started. One thing I will say about the trail is although on the most part it’s well signposted, it was easy to lose track of where you’re going when you get into the towns and villages. Sure enough, this happened from the get-go. After 40 minutes winding around Deipe off we went. The first day was a smooth 30 miles of old railway track. After our first night in the tent, a pizza in town and one puncture we were ready for the next day and the inevitable hills. Not that the hills were massive – it’s no Alps, but when you’re fully loaded and unprepared the rolling French countryside hits you pretty hard. I now fully understand why we build our Bristol Bicycles with triple chainrings for when the going gets tough.

The whole route was really varied from railway tracks to muddy fields. Within the same day, we could be following a river and then pootling through woodland. This makes it feel as though you have traveled a long way even though it was only a measly (by other people’s standards) 300ish miles there and back.

Little top tip with bike touring: never look forward to an easy day. On the final ride into Paris we had done a long trip the day before so it was in our heads that it was an easy spin into Paris. So, confident in this we decided to have a celebratory beer halfway through… Biggest mistake of the trip! The rest of the ride was hard work. We had to follow the River Seine into the center of Paris. When God created the Seine I believe he went a bit over the top with the bends. It’s fair to say that when we got to our air B&B (I know it’s cheating) we were knackered and after eating yet more pizza we slept like a log (or is it slept like logs? Both sound wrong)

When cycle touring as a holiday it is not all about speed and miles, so take a day off! And where better to do that than in Paris. You will thank your self for the day off, it gives you time to recover and have fresh legs for the trip back. Fully “refreshed” after 20,000 steps around Paris we hit the road yet again. Well, technically we hit the train but that’s not got as good of a ring to it. Another top tip for touring is don’t feel guilty about cheating. After the headache of cycling into Paris, we made a very quick decision to get the train out of Paris. I must remember to learn the French for elevator as hauling your fully loaded touring bike down an escalator is not fun!


Once back on our bikes the riding started to get interesting. Rolling country roads soon turned to rutted tracks which quickly escalated into muddy fields. My bike was made for these kinds of tracks and with plenty of clearance and no mudguards I had no issues and the wheels kept spinning. On the other hand, my dad’s bike, although it’s a lovely Temple Cycles touring bike, has mudguards meaning he was forever stopping to scrape mud off his bike to allow the wheels to spin freely.

(For this you have to know my dads name is Paul…)


One more night in the tent and yet more rain, so we decided to treat ourselves to a hotel on the final night… it’s a holiday after all! Having pizza in a restaurant is great, but I’m not sure it beats pasta from a camping stove. One of the best new gadgets I bought for this trip was my Jet boil stove (well, a cheaper Planet X one). They’re great for quickly boiling water for that post-ride cuppa. Or even making everyone’s favorite camping convenience food: pasta.

Back on the ferry and the holiday was nearly over. It’s always a sad time as the end of a trip draws near. I had plans for future bike trips spinning in my head. Determined to make this summer the summer of bike tours the trip had fueled me even more. Getting this tour under my belt gave me a bit more experience to talk to some of you more hardened tourers in the store. It was only a week but it felt like much longer. Being greeted by rain and wind felt like a true British homecoming. Here’s to a summer full of smaller and perhaps bigger adventures on my bike!

Cheers, George.

PS, the French for escalator is espalier mechanique (who would have guessed?)

Electric bike versus car or van

If you are anything like me you will find that driving in a city is a stressful affair. Too many lanes, too many cars, and let’s not even think about the parking nightmare. I’m sure many of you are leasing or hiring vans to do run around jobs, be that contract cleaning, handy work, or door-to-door sales.

Now imagine doing your job without having to drive an overly big van around, imagine cheaper running costs, imagine a more enjoyable commuting experience. This is exactly what an electric bike can offer. Bristol Bicycles E-bikes have all the options you could ever need to carry panniers and racks for all your equipment.

The cost of running a car is massive compared to just having a bike. From a quick google search I’ve found that leasing a basic Citroen Berlingo will cost you around £130 a month, and that’s excluding the running costs and insurance. Buying a E-bike on the other hand comes at a cost as low as £80 per month, with the added bonus that after a year you will own the bike outright!

OK fine… a bike does have a few extra costs such as servicing (at a cost of £60… nothing compared to servicing a car). We would also recommend (especially if you’re riding in the city a lot) some sort of cycling insurance, but this can start from as little as £20 per year.

As well as the obvious cost benefits of riding a bike, the health benefits are huge – both physically and mentally. The E-bike is a great way to get fit whilst also not giving you strenuous activity before arriving at your job. The electric motor will assist you with hills and carrying a heavy load, yet you still get a good level of exercise. Cycling has been proven in many studies to help with mental health, whereas sitting in your car with bumper to bumper traffic can often put a downer on even the most jolly of us. Cycling also allows you more freedom to take the scenic route through your city. We are lucky here in Bristol to have so many parks to cycle through. You will never beat the feeling of casually cruising past traffic whilst others are stuck in their cars.

Don’t take my word for it, The Guardian have written an article about the health benefits to us and the world of not having cars and looking at other forms of transport e.g. cycling.

Or this article from Road cc about business owner Jimmy Cregan from Jimmy’s Coffee, who has swapped his dream car for the E-bike.

With the roads getting busier and the air quality getting worse, I think it’s about time we found a new way to get around. E-bikes just seem to make sense, especially if you are driving an almost-empty car when you don’t really need to. Much kinder on the pocket and a lot nicer to the environment.

Pop into Bristol Bicycles to try one out. Even if you don’t think its for you… I guarantee your first go on hill will put a smile on your face!

Bikeporn 101, Blog #2

Well, that went quick. A month in already, met a few of you but I’m sure there are lots out there I’m yet to chat to. What have I been up to? Month one has been information overload so sorry if your booking took slightly longer than normal.

You may have noticed a few new snaps of the Bristol Bicycles. I hope you have enjoyed them, please do let us know what you think. If you see me out getting photos don’t be afraid to say hello.

Working in a bike shop is 20% dealing with you the customer and then the other 80% taking photos of nice bikes. Ok, there might be a bit more to it, but a nice chunk of my time so far has been spent taking the bikes out and finding good locations to take photos. I’m not pretending to be an expert, I’m not even pretending to be a novice… but I thought I would share some ideas of what works for me.

A quick scroll through Instagram and you will see the trends and styles most used. You don’t have to stick by them, by any means, break the rules but there is a tried and tested way of taking a nice bike photo.

George’s Bike Photo Checklist

  • Drive side (the side with all the gears on) facing the camera
  • Pedals and cranks straight (parallel with the ground)
  • Good background (not too much going on)
  • Pick a good time (golden hour)
  • Get photos of the key parts (branded bits and bike graphics)

Taking your photos at the right time can be key. I tend to avoid the busy times of day as I know I will have to stop-start and there may be too many people in the background. Time also effects the light. Avoid midday as it will be very strong light especially on the rare sunny days we get. My favourite time is known as the golden hour. This happens for about an hour every day before the sun sets or if you’re up early enough just after the sun rises.

If you’re showing off all the swanky new parts make sure you get some close-ups. If you’re taking your photos on a nice camera, bomb the aperture right down (also known as the F-number) and get a nice blurry effect behind the component.

So you have your nice photos… what’s next? Maybe you suffer from a certain bike based vanity like me and you crave the attention of other bike fans online (no judgment here). My go-to social media platform for cycling is Instagram. It’s crawling with fellow bike geeks all eager to show off their trusty steed. When uploading to a platform like Instagram I will lead with the main bike photo, and then on the same posting add edition photos showing off the parts. Then to optimise your likes and interactions do some research into what other people tag and hashtag with similar photos, and just copy what seems to be popular. DON’T FORGET TO TAG bristol_bicycles IN YOUR PHOTOS!!!! That way we can repost your images on our own account. This goes for branded products too: tagging the brand into your photo will allow them to see the parts and they might use your photos on their own accounts ( crediting you of course).

I hope this helps you take some good photos! We look forward to seeing what you can come up with.

Instagram: @bristol_bicycles