I’m sure many of you like myself winced at the idea of spending the foreseeable future locked up inside. I’ve never been one to sit still for long, I lose focus on video games, have to be in the right mood to read a book and can’t stand day time TV. When the lockdown reared its ugly face it seemed that my worst nightmare had come true.
Luckily I had recently acquired an indoor turbo trainer. For some it’s the worst thing in the world, the idea of sweating indoors for the sake of spinning your legs just doesn’t appeal… well, I would normally agree and to some extent, I still do. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Earlier in the year, I had booked a place on the Trans Devon, a 300ish km ride across the south of the UK. The ride is set up much like the longer ultra-endurance events such as the Transcontinental but at a much more accessible distance for those seeking a mini weekend adventure. With checkpoints dotted across Devon (hence the 300ish) you have to match them up and get your brevet card stamped, much like the popular Audax discipline. To me, this seemed to be a gentle way into a summer of big miles and wide smiles.
This is where the turbo trainer comes into play: 300km is not to be sniffed at and I quickly realised I would need to do some training to be in with a chance of completing this event. The indoor trainer has meant I can do fast structured rides and fit them in with day-to-day life. This means an hour or so on weekday evenings paired with longer rides over the weekend. With lockdown it has become a much more indoor affair and the turbo trainer has become a vital part of the daily routine.
I’ll be honest: I’ve grown to love it. Even just an hour can burn enough energy to tie me over, also it keeps me from feeling lazy… or tricks me into thinking I’m not lazy, it’s one or the other. A smart turbo trainer allows you to use apps such as ZWIFT, that way I have something to look at on the screen and at least pretend I’m outside. (It really does amaze me what they can make Smart these days… I saw a smart toothbrush the other day, what makes it smart? Do I need an app for my dental hygiene?)
If I’m riding my turbo most days then I can quickly rack up the miles and before you know it you’ve done 100 miles a week without leaving your house… what’s not to love? I get bored pretty easily (I shaved my head within 24 hours of lockdown!) so I hate to think what would have happened if I didn’t have my turbo trainer. Do you guys use turbo trainers? Let us know what you think of them. They cant replace outdoor cycling but mine has been a great asset for my physical and mental health during these strange times. And if you also use a turbo trainer and ZWIFT, who’s up for a group ride?
It’s all too easy to get swept up in a busy life in the city. Bristol is vibrant, exciting and full of opportunities. Cycling around our parks and green spaces, meeting people who are doing great things to improve them in their free time leaves me feeling pretty grateful. Whatever unfolds, being able to use my Expedition to visit and support those doing positive work feels like a blessing.
These past few weeks, miles have averaged anything from 15 to 30 per day, often leaving my Expedition wet, my legs tired and pannier rack weighed down. But the rides keep me smiling. Visiting some of our amazing spaces; Ashton Court, Greville Smyth, Montpelier Park and Blaise Estate has reminded me of the beauty we are surrounded by and the people who make our communities strong. I couldn’t get around without such a solid set of wheels.
Given the current situation, these wheels are more important than ever as I try to support local people who might need things collecting or dropping off if they’re staying inside. This weekend, we made a conscious effort to cycle for pleasure, something I rarely get to do these days. A visit from two of the siblings meant a good excuse for a daytrip – so we descended on Jake and the team first thing Saturday morning to collect three more Bristol Bicycles. We decided to take a leisurely spin along the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, 13.5 miles of traffic free fun whilst the media spun itself in circles. The escapism of being both alone and in good company whilst cycling has never been more valuable.
The ride took us on a day long adventure of drinking coffee, eating biscuits and remembering how much fun having a big family is. It also reminded me how important spending time outdoors with said family is. Big thanks to Jake and co. for giving us the chance to revert to our teenage sibling silliness. We’re inspired to get together for more rides out in the open countryside once we’ve all gotten through this strange time and used it remember to look out for, love and laugh with one another again.
Are you a budding blog writer, keen photographer or creative video editor?
Bristol Bicycles is on the lookout for people who share our ethos to help spread the word. Whatever your style of cycling, we want to hear from you if you’d like to become a contributor. From the biggest adventure to the smallest commutes, if you are committed to using your bike and able to create engaging content then we’d love to chat.
Ruth and Oli @intandemstories (Instagram) rode halfway around the world from Bristol to Bangkok on two fully kitted out Bristol Bicycles. They produced some truly amazing content, and lots of word-of-mouth recommendations for our brand. We want to build on their inspirational story and get more people involved in sharing tales of how you are using your own Bristol Bicycles.
Be able to show a strong interest in cycling
Solid plans in place for a bigger trip (if applicable)
The ability to create content (photos, videos, blogs)
Committed to creating content on a regular basis and ability to work with us to promote the brand.
In return, we will give you a Bristol Bicycles CITY bike of your own (or equivalent discount off any other model)!
We would love to know what you are planning or what you could bring to our brand in a way that only ambassadors can. Here are some ideas:
Everyday commuters that use their bikes in interesting or unusual ways for work (possibly small business owners)
People using their bike for fitness (especially if you are committed to starting an everyday bike commute to help your fitness, and you are happy to share your progress)
Electric bike riders (especially if an E-bike has helped you to start cycling or return to cycling)
Online influencers or accounts with a large following (bonus points if it’s based around cycling)
Please send email to [email protected] with the subject of Brand Ambassadors. Explain why you would be a great fit for Bristol Bicycles and what you can bring to the brand. If you have a specific trip or event planned let us know. And if there is a bike in our range that fits your needs get in contact and we can begin to match up the perfect bike and the perfect ambassador!
Cycling to Boomtown from Bristol has become an important feature of my summer – something I now look forward to just as much as the festival itself.
Over the past few years I’ve led rides with RedFox Cycling along the Bristol Bath Railway Path, by the Kennet and Avon Canal and over some of the more challenging Wessex Downs hills. Summer 2019 was the first time my ‘Expedition’ Bristol Bicycle joined me for the adventure. Some of the riders rode hybrids, others were on old tourers, speedy roadies, even a tandem! The somewhat eclectic mix of people on bikes made the journey all the more enjoyable and, at times, entertaining.
Led on my classic black Expedition, the route was a fairly easy undertaking. Day one especially is generally flat, and we glided along the BBRP and canal path. The highlight of our day was the final gentle descent to Totteridge Farm, where we spent an evening eating pie, drinking home-made cider and getting to know each other beyond the saddle!
Day two started bright and early, although less “bright” and more “early”. A bit of rain didn’t dampen too many spirits though, as we continued on our journey with Boomtown on our minds. Only 45 miles to go! The Expedition didn’t let me down; keeping up with my legs as I cycled up and down the hills, making sure the group stuck together and supported each other. Leading a ride sometimes involves cycling the same hill several times in a bid to encourage those on their heavy old tourers. This of course means earning extra tasty snacks, always a good thing.
Arriving at Boomtown with the satisfied feeling that we’d pedalled all the way from Bristol was once again unbeatable. We’d hoped for a slicker entrance to the festival site, but we’re in close contact with Boomtown to make sure that the 2020 ride has a Boomtown Ch:12 fairytale ending; nothing less than our dedicated group of riders deserves!
All in all, I can’t wait to cycle to Boomtown again in August; the bonus of having a sturdy but speedy Bristol Bicycle made the 95 miles a pleasure. The Expedition and I are now a pretty inseparable team, even when it’s cold and festival season seems a million miles away.
…thanks to taking the leap and buying my nippy new Bristol Bicycle, back in May this year.
I’ve always commuted by bike or on foot in Bristol. After several years of gliding around on my comfy but weighty Dutch-style tank of a bike, I switched to a custom built ‘Expedition’ model from Jake and the team. Since May, I haven’t looked back (apart from all the times I should do as a sensible cyclist(!).
I chose a soft saddle, a sporty drop bar and heavy duty panniers – knowing well the heavy loads I carry around the city and further afield. Much of my working week is spent cycling between Bristol’s Parks and Green Spaces as the Volunteer Coordinator for Bristol’s Parks Service. The Expedition model has made this a total joy and I’ve built a fairly strong reputation now for always arriving at volunteer activities with bike in tow. As well as the bike, I’m usually able to arrive with a smile on my face, as spinning up any of Bristol’s hills (even St Michael’s Hill!) is now satisfying and fun – a lot easier than on my old Dutchy.
Having my new set of wheels opened up some hugely exciting doors this summer too. She’s become more than just the trusty commuter. Built for the long slog, the Expedition has taken me to Glasto and back, as well as allowing me to lead rides to Boomtown and Shambala, partnering with Red Fox Cycling over the summer. Setting off from Bristol for each festival, we’ve totalled over 300 miles of festival riding together alone, with not so much as a glitch or niggle.
Leading the Boomtown and Shambala rides on the Expedition, I guided a bunch of eco-conscious and fitness-focused festival goers for the Red Fox rides through some gorgeous parts of the English countryside. Arriving at the festivals under our own steam, we cycled across all types of terrain with barely a peep from my hardy Expedition. Admittedly, she’s most suited to the roads or canal surfaces, but still fared well over gravel and the occasional field (even the Boomtown hill, which those of you who know will appreciate).
I’ve been repeatedly impressed by the understated Bristol Bicycle Expedition. Its offering is a robust, speedy ride with just the right balance between weight and responsiveness. If you’re looking for something that will carry your weary legs back from next year’s festivals (plus a lot of post-festival luggage!), look no further. If you need to blast up Bristol’s hills before the rush hour traffic each morning, again, you’re sorted. The best thing for me about biting the bullet back in May has been that I can now do even more of what I love; visit communities and volunteers working in Parks, explore the green spaces our city has to offer and get to festivals sustainably.
The Bristol Bicycle’s Expedition is as reliable as it is sleek. Here’s to another summer of pedal-powered adventures. Bring on 2020 ☺
I’ve started to spot a recurring theme: whenever I end up on holiday, it’s always centred around bikes. Some would argue that I do it on purpose, but I think it’s more of a natural attraction. A week in Copenhagen; I can tell myself it was for the Scandi architecture or the “modern art”… but really it was all about bikes and pastries and, you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The land of pastries, bikes and the ten pound pint (yep, I know, THE TEN POUND PINT ). Now I’m a big fan of all three. Well, maybe I prefer my pints towards the three to four pound mark, but when in Rome… It only ever hits home just how hilly Bristol is after you visit a place like Copenhagen. Not a hill in sight, there was barely a derailleur visible too, but then again why would you bother with gears when the biggest hill is the odd bridge here and there? The first thing that struck me was that, although there are loads of bikes, hardly any of them are any good. It’s not like Bristol in the way that if your bike’s not up to it the roads will eat it up and the hills will destroy your legs. In Copenhagen the cycling infrastructure is so well thought out that you don’t need a brand-new shiny bike. The second thing I noticed is that brands are almost irrelevant. No one cares if you have the new flashy on-trend road bike or a five-year-old banger; even bike shops are in on it. Almost every shop I peered into or went in to peruse the shelves was selling bikes by the gear number. It might be £200 for a single speed and then £250 for a double and so on and so forth. It was like a set menu for bikes, what’s not to love?
Another popular sight on the streets of Copenhagen was the humble cargo bike. I have a weird soft spot for the cargo bike, although I have no practical need for one – I just think they are the coolest. I can see why in a city like that they would be so popular; why pay to insure and service a car when most of your needs can be met by a cargo bike, be that kids in the basket or a week’s shopping loading you down? If it all gets a bit much, just get an electric version and you’ll be laughing. After a quick Google I found that the cargo bike was actually invented in Denmark. Lurpak and cargo bikes: is there anything these Danes can’t throw their minds at?
Now in the UK its probably fair to say we are going through a slight housing crisis. I’m no expert on Denmark’s socioeconomic problems, but they must not be suffering quite so badly as we are. After thinking many of the basement-level apartments seemed a bit empty and run down, I quickly realised that they were actually filled with bikes. It turns out that it’s fairly common to use the bottom floor in apartment buildings for bike storage. This must certainly cut down on bike theft! As I alluded to earlier, I’m not sure how popular it would be to turn perfectly liveable flats into bike storage in the UK but if you’ve got the space, why not?
Now I know you what you’re saying, “Oh George this is all great stuff but where is your obvious and tenuous link to Bristol Bicycles?” It’s coming up, don’t you worry.
Hire bikes… now a banned word within my family but I’m sorry Mum and Dad, I’m breaking the silence as we really do need to talk about how shoddy those bikes were. After one morning of failed Donkey bike hire (imagine if the Boris bikes had dropped out of school and gotten in with the wrong crowd… Bingo, you have Donkey bikes) we decided to cut our losses and hire bikes properly the next day. After traipsing around multiple hire bike places looking for that special Dibble price (cheap) we found what were to be our hire bikes for the day. Now these bikes were in no real shape to be on the road, but after having looked at multiple other places it seemed to be a recurring theme. We’re a friendly bunch but were not the most confrontational, so after we had picked up our bikes and found that one (Dad’s) was way too small we did the most British thing possible by keeping quiet and pretending it was all fine. Here’s a little check list of what you want to see in a hire bike (and what we pride ourselves at Bristol Bicycles).
What you want from a hire bike:
no signs of rust
trued and straight wheels
brake pads with meat on
a good lock
gears that index.
Now here’s a check list of what you don’t want to see (and what I got):
not a spot left unrusted
a visibly wobbly front wheel
brake pads – what are they?
a lock attached by a zip tie
hub gears that can’t decide what gear they want to stay in.
In the shop every time we have hire bikes come back we do a good check over and test ride of every bike, even if it’s out for half a day. This really does help save the bike from getting any worse. This chap in Copenhagen was probably not checking his bikes very often. After we got back and explained the issues we found we were treated with a casual shrug and, “Well I wasn’t to know was I?” I’m not one to judge, but I think it may be his job to know. In all honesty we did manage to get a small refund, it seemed to change my dad’s mind and what was a terrible hire bike became a bargain day ride. At least one of us was happy.
I must admit I did enjoy my bike by the end of the day. The hub clicks became part of the charm, and I was starting to ease into the mix of upright ride position with a back pedal brake. I must come back to Denmark on my own bike though, maybe that’s the next tour. In conclusion, is Copenhagen the cycling city its cracked up to be? Well yes, of course. The bike paths are amazing, the flat roads are a breeze, and the general acceptance of bicycles makes it perfect. Not all bikes are built equal and Copenhagen seems to be full of some scary and cheap builds. I’m probably just being a bit of a snob, but it seemed that bikes had become so big in their culture that they really aren’t anything special, yet at the moment in the UK it can often feel like you’ve found a life hack when you start enjoying your bike commute. Also, sort your hire bikes out!
Welcome to the first in a series of guest blogs. Michael bought a bike from us three years ago and has previously cycled in India . Here he describes his most recent adventure, a trip across Iran in the summer of 2019.
It’s now just over a week since I came back from my cycling trip in central Iran. When I would say I was planning a trip to Iran most people’s reaction would be ‘Are you mad?’, or ‘Wow! Persia – how amazing’. Well, my 3-week trip totally exceeded my expectations – the landscape, the people and the architecture – all just amazing. Visa requirements for UK passport holders meant that the trip had to be organised by an official Iranian travel company. We decided on our route and the travel company provided a cycling guide, a minibus and all the accommodation.
Before we left we watched the oil tanker hostage issues closely – deciding to go if the political situation looked stable. After a bit of admin, a trip to the Iranian consulate in London, the trip was on – flying with Qatar Airways meant the bikes could be carried free – well within out 30kg hold weight limit. Six of us decided to make the trip – all friends of mine. We arrived at Heathrow with our bikes packed in 2nd-hand cardboard bike boxes. This worked really well with none suffering any damage en route – we just took off the front wheels, pedals and handlebars.
After arriving in Tehran we drove to Qom – a very religious city. The girls were wearing black with their heads covered with scarves and tunics. We reassembled the bikes in the reception lobby, to the amusement of the locals. Not many cycle in Iran, although later in the trip we did meet a cycling club from the south – including some women. There is actually a fatwa against women riding bicycles – but this isn’t really enforced. In Qom we visited the main mosque and had an English-speaking Imam as our guide. He was quite open about the political difficulties.
We were always quite a novelty as not many English people seem to visit Iran. Lunch was had sitting on raised platforms covered with carpets in an upmarket restaurant. The next day we started our cycle ride to the next city on our list – Kashan. Our trip took us from Kashan to Isfahan, Shiraz, Persepolis and Yazd before we returned to Tehran to fly back home. They were all amazing cities with such welcoming people. Highlights included the amazing architecture of the mosques, the winding bazaars, an ancient settlement from 2,500 BCE, beautifully-presented food, the generous people and the adobe city of Yazd.
We spent each night either in hotels or home stays. Most were very good with fabulous Iranian food – breakfast was mostly fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, dates, figs, soft cheese and flat breads. The Iranians drink masses of tea (without milk) – and they have masses of sugar. For lunch we usually had a midday stop often in an official picnic area – usually covered concrete platforms near a children’s play area. The Iranians love picnics, so we were often joined by the locals, sitting on a carpet they had brought, brewing tea and cooking kebabs. A few of our other stops were near mosques where we could use the toilets.
Each day we usually tried to set off at about 9am and cover between 35 and 60 miles, depending on the terrain. Over the three weeks we covered about 500 miles on the bikes. The minibus had the capacity to take us all with the bikes if we ran behind schedule. Iran is a very modern country, but it is suffering badly from Trump’s sanctions. The roads were generally excellent – well paved with a good hard shoulder. The cars and trucks were very respectful and gave us plenty of room. As cyclists are not a common sight, drivers often waved and hooted at us. One stopped ahead of us and gave us a huge watermelon and bread. We were often offered tea at the road side, and wherever we stopped we usually drew a small, very friendly crowd. One guy on a motorbike led us out of his town to ensure we knew the route. The sun set at about 5.30 so we usually aimed to finish riding at about 4.
My bike was a 3-year-old Bristol Bicycles touring cycle with Marathon Plus tyres. We did have rain at the start of the trip, so the only maintenance was cleaning the chain. I did carry spare spokes, inner tubes and cables – all rather unnecessary. The bike coped fantastically with the terrain – we were mostly on paved roads but did cycle along a few dirt tracks. Cycling was such a great way to see the Iranian landscape. As we cycled from city to city we crossed the Zargos mountains – we cycled up to about 2,300m with snowy peaks above us at 3,500m. Central Iran is generally very dry with extensive irrigation channels providing water to the extensive rice fields. As we cycled higher we travelled through pomegranate, walnut, pistachio, orange and apple orchards.
Iran is a country with a large young population. The women are very fashionable – their scarves only just cover some hair, and they wear ripped jeans under their stylish tunics and coats. Many Iranians want change in their country and we were told that women will be at the forefront of change. More women (70%) than men go to university. As I write this the government has just doubled the price of fuel and there have been widespread protests against this policy and against the country’s leaders. The internet in Iran has been shut down for the last four days by the government in order to try to quell the issues. Not much of this is being reported in the mainstream media. The Iranian people are some of the kindest and most generous I have ever met – I hope their troubles can be peacefully resolved. I’m planning to go back in the next couple of years as we saw only a tiny part of an amazing and misunderstood country.
There is always that one person at the side of the road saying “you should have gone tubeless” as you’re wrestling with the third inner tube of the ride. Well, I’m ashamed to say that was me… WAS me!
We often get asked ‘should I run tubeless on my bike?’
To be honest it all depends and who you ask and why you’re asking. Tubeless has its place and when it works, boy is it nice!
For your daily commute, you really don’t need the weight saving and possible “protection” that tubeless brings; good strong tyres and a watchful eye on tyre pressure and you’re going to be absolutely fine.
There is no worse feeling than when you’re halfway to work and your tyre has decided to give in on you or you’ve managed to ride over glass from the previous night’s revellers. Now imagine this has happened but you have tubeless tyres. To add to the stress your tyre will now be spurting latex fluid all over your clothes. Don’t take my word for it, come in to the shop and ask Jason how long it takes to wash the sealant off (actually just come into the shop and have any conversation with Jason, he’s bound to tell you anyway).
As for the tried and tested tyre-and-inner-tube combo, we believe we have hit the sweet spot on our Bristol Bicycles. The Continental Contact tyres are the perfect mix of supple and solid (supple being the hipster buzz word when it comes to tyres.)
The big man in the world of commuting tyres is the Schwalbe Marathon or its big brother the Marathon Plus. They might be heavy and pricey but they are built to last and can even roll over a drawing pin without puncturing.
Now, I may seem like a Luddite but you’d be surprised to know I actually run tubeless on my own bike! Before you hang me for hypocrisy I must make it clear that it is not on my commuter bike. My beloved gravel bike has been set up with tubeless and I must admit I love it… sometimes. The reason this blog post has come about is that I happened to find myself with a three day weekend and decided I was going to catch the last of the sun and head to the New Forest for a gravel adventure. This is when I called upon dreaded tubeless to help me out. Having previously put tubes in my wheels after an unfortunate blow out, I had to set the wheels back up as tubeless.
This took a bit of work but wasn’t too bad and wasn’t terribly messy. Luckily the wheels and tyres I have are a famously good match and are made with this combo in mind. But, now comes the reason why we don’t recommend the everyday commuter gets this set up. Not only do you need the correct tyres but also the correct wheels this can often mean you have a rather large investment for something that’s not going to give you many advantages over a good pair of commuting tyres. I wasn’t commuting so I wanted nice soft tyres that I could run at quite low pressures, and with the New Forest being famous for flint and sharp rock I didn’t fancy taking my chances with tubes.
Whilst at the New Forest I stayed in a little local campsite just outside Lyndhurst. After arrival and set-up I decided it was time to get some grub and check out the local area. I headed into Lyndhurst and got myself a couple of local Thai take away dishes and some bevvies (see previous blog posts). After enjoying the sunset over the forest and the ever-growing excitement of riding the gravel tracks the next day I headed back to camp. To my horror, the rear tyre had decided to deflate itself after I had spent a good hour trying to set it up earlier that week. A long dark walk back and some angry Instagram stories later, I hedged my bets and decided to pump the tyre back up. After doing this it seemed to then pop itself onto the rim and then stay inflated. After a good night’s sleep (and I mean good, I sleep like a log in a tent) the tubeless gods had worked their magic and the tyre had sealed itself overnight.
For any fellow gravel seekers, or just someone looking for a ride that’s a little bit different, get yourself down the New Forest, you will not be disappointed. The ride I was doing was designed by bikepacking.com with help from the Woods Cyclery; it’s a two-day ride with campsites dotted along the route but I didn’t have two days so thought I could bang it out in one. It’s 90% off-road on wide forest tracks that are interspersed with wooded singletrack, hike-bike through marshland and a few road sections (to boost that average speed). The whole route is around 63 miles but add on the time for getting lost here and there and then the extra loop back to my car and I would say I could have been knocking on 70 by the end of the day. Not huge miles, but enough when most of it is through wooded tracks with a few river crossings chucked in for good measure.
Doing it in one day, although a fun challenge and a good day ride, did mean that I had less time to relax and enjoy the surroundings. You pass plenty of pubs to stop in and little tea rooms for a sugar boost, so perhaps doing it in the recommended two days means you have more chance to appreciate the soundings (that’s what its all about after all). A few places to note are Brockenhurst as a perfect lunch stop or fuelling station. It’s the perfect spot to grab a coffee, cake or anything that’s going to get you through the next section of the day. Whilst in Lyndhurst you must stop at the Woods Cyclery, if there is anything about gravel bikes and bikepacking they don’t know its probably not worth knowing. If you’re looking for a full range of kit to strap to your bike or even just to go in and pick their brains for route ideas it’s a must stop for ALL cyclists. I probably spent too long there in the morning discussing last night’s tubeless mishap and sipping some of their amazing local coffee (dirty dirty hipster I know).
So the moral of the story is: tubeless is worth it… when necessary.
For most, tubeless is another thing to go wrong. You have to remember to top the tyre up with sealant every once in a while. This is easy to forget no matter how much of a bike lover you are (trust me I learned this the hard way). Get yourself some puncture-resistant tyres (Schwalbe Marathons or Marathon Plus if you fancy forking out) and for that everyday commute, you will be absolutely fine.
If you start to push the boat out and fancy getting off the beaten track then tubeless can be your saving grace, especially if you want to have the option of running lower pressures on rough terrain, but for the day-to-day commuter or even the roadies among you… don’t bother. Find another trend to get into, like spokey dokeys.
Here is the route… have fun and let me know what you think.
“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.
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!
ONLINE STORE OPEN FOR BUSINESS - BRISTOL DELIVERY AVAILABLE
OR MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO BUY A BIKE IN-STORE
Delivery to the rest of the UK is currently unavailable, sorry.
We are currently only open by appointment, and we are not able to undertake any servicing or repairs, sorry.
Are you a Critical Worker who relies on your bike for transport? Some bike repair shops are still open
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