The Important Things In Life

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.

Coronavirus Update

Shop Closed; Website Open for Orders

The time has come for us all to do our bit and unfortunately that means the shop will be closed for a little while. This is the first time in 12 years we have had to close our doors and its not a decision we have taken lightly.

We are aware that bike shops have been given exemption from closure but we want to prioritize the health of our customers and staff, remaining opening just doesn’t feel right. In light of the latest data from countries such as Italy where the COVID-19 outbreak is a couple of weeks ahead of the UK, we feel it has become absolutely clear that businesses need to close and everyone except critical workers needs to stay at home. We feel the most socially responsible thing we can do now is to temporarily close the shop.

Bike Repairs for Critical Workers

If you are a critical worker and you need an emergency bike repair to allow you to carry on working, the following bike workshops are currently open:
Alternatively please email [email protected] and we will endeavour to help critical workers wherever we can. We have not yet been able to divert our phone line, so at present the above email address is the only method of reaching us.

Website Orders

We are still taking website orders for new bikes, and these are still available for courier delivery as long as couriers are still operating. Please place your bike order online in the usual way and we will then be in touch to arrange a build date and delivery date for your new bike.

Bristol Bicycles Reopening

We are keeping abreast of PHE guidelines and government policy, and we will reopen as soon as it it safe to do so. Please keep an eye on www.bristolbicycles.co.uk for updates.

Thank you for your support and understanding at this difficult time.



Free Bristol Delivery

To help get bikes to Critical Workers, for a limited time we are offering free delivery anywhere in Bristol when you order a new bike online.

Delivery by van of your new bike, fully assembled and ready to ride, is provided with the support of our delivery partner Van OD, who remain open for business as usual during this difficult time. Simply order your bike online and select Free Bristol Delivery on checkout.

Courier delivery of a boxed bike to almost any other UK address is £35. Simply order your bike and enter your postcode on our website for a delivery quote.

Creative Riders Wanted!

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.

Requirements

  • 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:

  • Touring cyclists
  • 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!

Summer lovin’, happened so fast…


…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 ☺

By Ella Foreman

The land of Pastries, Bikes and the Ten Pound Pint

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:

  • Healthy-looking tyres
  • 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):

  • worn-out tyres
  • 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!

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!

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!

Ten top tips for longevity

On a bike that’s used every day for commuting a certain amount of wear and tear is inevitable, but there’s a lot you can do to slow down the process – and most of these tips will not only save on maintenance costs, they’ll make the bike more efficient and pleasurable to ride too.

1. Keep your tyres inflated

Riding on soft tyres will cause the sidewalls to crack and split, and also makes punctures more likely. All inner tubes are slightly porous and go flat over time, so check your tyre pressures every week, and expect to pump them up at least monthly. Having a good full-size track pump at home or work really helps!

2. Wipe and lube the chain regularly

Every week or two, check to see if the chain seems dry or dirty. If so, lean the bike against a wall and give the chain a wipe with a rag whilst backpedalling, and then apply chain oil sparingly. Then once the oil has had a chance to soak down into all the cracks in the chain, give it a wipe again with a clean bit of rag to remove any surface oil. This way the chain will always be lubricated, but never too dirty or oily. Little and often is the key.

3. Lube your cables

On almost all modern bikes, there are slots in the cable guides on the frame to allow the cables to be removed for cleaning and oiling without having to fully disconnect them or use any tools at all. I suggest you pop the gear and brake cables out every few months and lube them with a little normal chain oil. This not only stops them rusting, it also prevents the plastic liners from getting worn out, and makes the brakes and gears feel nice and slick to use!

4. Lube your mechs

Even easier than lubing the cables – simply put a drip of oil on each pivot of the front and rear derailleurs (mechs). What we’re aiming for is to lube every moving part of both mechs, so if in doubt just watch what moves when you change gear and then oil it. Change gear a few times afterwards to allow the oil to soak in, then wipe down the mech with a rag to clean off any excess oil. This will prevent the mechs from corroding, and will slow the rate of wear right down.

5. Check and adjust your brakes

Brake blocks wear out with use. They are cheap to replace, so no problems there. But if, as they wear, they come into contact with the tyres, very quickly a hole will be worn into the tyre sidewall, meaning that the tyre and probably the tube will have to be replaced. And if the brake blocks completely wear out, or pick up some gravel or debris, they can wear out the rim requiring a whole new wheel. So if you have normal rim brakes and they start making a funny noise, check it immediately (a squeak or squeal doesn’t matter, but a scraping or grinding noise definitely does!)

6. Fit mudguards

How does this effect the longevity of the bike? As well as protecting you from mud and water, mudguards will prevent the chain, gears and brakes from getting so dirty too. Less grit and water means less wear and corrosion, which the chain will definitely appreciate in the long term.

7. Get your hubs and headset serviced

Every year or two on more expensive bikes it makes sense to have your bike’s main bearing systems disassembled and re-greased instead of having to replace them when they rust or dry out, potentially at a cost of a couple of hundred pounds. Just give us a call if you’d like to book your bike in for a bearings service.

8. Don’t store your bike outside

Even the most expensive bikes have a steel chain and bearings which will rust if exposed to rain or moisture. Keeping your bike indoors if at all possible is ideal; if not then a shed or bike store is sufficient, or get a good quality bike cover as a bare minimum.

9. Don’t stomp on the pedals

Getting into a high gear and standing up on the pedals is not only a good way to wear our your knees, it also wears your chain much more quickly too. Much better to get used to shifting into a lower gear and then spinning the pedals faster but with less force. This is biomechanically more efficient, and is also kinder on the bike’s gear system too.

10. Change into a larger rear sprocket

As above, it’s better to spin the pedals fast than stomp on them slowly. To achieve this you could change into the smallest chainring on the front. But this would mean a higher chain tension, and could easily lead to over-use of the smaller sprockets on the rear. A much better way of achieving exactly the same gear ratio is to change into a larger sprocket on the rear. This means lower chain tension, less wear on the chain and teeth, and more efficient power transfer.

What is the best frame material for your bike?


“The best frame material really depends on what you’re going to use the bike for, and what you want to prioritise” says Jake Voelcker, designer of Bristol Bicycles’ frames and forks. “Is it low weight? Or is it strength and durability? Or is it the appearance of the bike?”

Is steel real?

“A lot of people talk about steel frames being comfortable. They say there’s an inherent springiness or suspension in a steel frame, and that aluminium frames are too harsh or too rigid.” Perhaps controversially, Jake disagrees: “That’s completely not true” he says. “It’s a bit of a myth that’s built up around the whole ‘steel is real’ and ‘steel is better’ and ‘steel bikes are much more comfortable’ thing, but it’s not true and I’ll show you exactly why.” For a frame to be comfortable or to have any degree of suspension, it has to be able to flex in a vertical direction, and the only way that a frame can actually do this is if it’s broken. “That sounds surprising, but because the front and the rear triangles of the bike frame are completely triangulated, there’s no way that they can flex. There’s no way that they can absorb a vertical bump from the road unless the frame is actually broken.” Jake goes on to explain that the supposed comfort of a steel frame is actually entirely in the fork. Because the fork is only attached at the top, it’s effectively a long lever and so there’s a lot of flex possible (in both the fork and the steerer tube). “That gives a high degree of vertical flex exactly where you want it for suspension” says Jake. “So a steel frame isn’t any more comfortable. What you want from the frame is stiffness and strength to be able to carry luggage and to resist pedalling forces particularly when you’re accelerating or going uphill.”

Why do Bristol Bicycles use aluminium frames?

The advantages of an aluminium frame are twofold. The first is that aluminium is a much lighter material. The second advantage of an aluminium frame is that when it’s correctly designed it’s a lot stiffer than a steel frame.

Are there any disadvantages?

“I’ve heard people say that for a expedition bike or for a touring bike there’s going to be used for a round-the-world trip they would always choose steel because at least if the worst comes to the worst, steel can be repaired” says Jake. “Aluminium, because it needs expensive industrial heat-treating after it’s been welded, basically can’t be repaired if it ever breaks.” The problem is that a steel bike frame of any quality is going to be very thin walled tubing and a pretty specialised alloy of steel which is very difficult to weld. “Anybody who’s used to working on farmyard equipment (or welding car chassis, or that sort of place where you would take the bike to be repaired if you were stuck in the middle of nowhere) isn’t going to have any more luck welding steel than they are welding aluminium because the type of steel that quality bike frames are made from needs very skilled, pretty low temperature brazing rather than agricultural welding technologies.”

Conclusion

For Bristol Bicycles we’ve gone for the best of both worlds. On the one hand we use an aluminium frame which is both lighter and stiffer, but on the other hand we use a steel fork which gives a nice degree of built-in suspension through its inherent flexibility.