To Tube Or Not To Tube… That Is The Question!

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!

ALL PHOTOS ARE FROM MY PHONE AND INSTAGRAM STORY OF MY DAY
(JUST PRE-APOLOGISING FOR THE POOR QUALITY)

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.

 

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.

*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?)

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

The New Kid On The Block, Blog #1

Who?

I’m George the new fresh face at Bristol bicycles, well mainly fresh… depends on what time you catch me in the morning. I’m a fan of fat tyres and casual riding. I’ll often be found riding an unsuitable bike in off-road situations, be that walking it down precarious descents or getting funny looks from mountain bikers as I pass them on the hills (not that I’m particularly good up hill). With a background in film I’m hoping I can capture some pretty images and stories here at Bristol Bicycles.

Bike?

I currently ride a Brothers Kepler Disc frame set, with a few choice parts on it. Big fat tubeless tyres, wide flared bars and all the bosses for touring the world ( not that I am touring the world but I like the idea of it ).

Previous photos from traveling all over the world, on and off the bike (including, Iceland, Morocco and Holland)

Favourite food?

I’m all about the pizza! If you had to make me pick a type I’ll take anchovies and capers any day of the week. Ok, don’t push me, I’ll tell you the best place to get one. Bertha’s Pizza right here in sunny old Bristol. They do the best anchovy pizza this side of Naples.

Favourite place to ride?

Don’t get me wrong I love a good hill but I think Holland takes the top prize when it comes to cycling. It’s flat, the people are friendly and the bike paths are remarkable. After recently touring through Holland and Belgium whilst carrying my camping gear and drinking fine Belgian beer (their equivalent of a coffee stop). It’s amazing to see how friendly people are to those traveling by bike, so my favourite place to ride has to be just that.

What I’m hoping to do ?

I’m hoping to help grow the Bristol Bicycles brand and interact with many of you (the loyal customers). If you’re in store please do say hello! In the words of Billy Bragg “if you stick around I’m sure we can find some common ground”… especially if that ground is bike or pizza based. I think that’s the quote anyway. Please send in photos and stories about your Bristol Bicycles, or even just interesting bikes we have serviced here at Jake’s. I want to re-post and work with our customers as much as possible and continue to grow the Bristol Bicycles Family.

Best cycling accessory?

My new safety Pizza. What’s not to love…? Safety and pizza! For those not in the loop, a safety pizza is a hand-stitched luminous little pizza. It dangles off the back of your bike keeping you safe and highly visible whilst also showing your love for the humble dough.

What’s next?

Watch this space! I’ll be uploading regular blogs and updating Instagram and all other social media platforms daily (if all goes to plan).

My personal Instagram (for my all my previous work), instagram.com/georgedibbs/

The safety Pizza, www.safetypizza.com

Bertha’s Pizza, www.berthas.co.uk