Give the gift of wheel building knowledge

Need a Christmas present idea that’s perfect for the bike enthusiast who seems to have it all already? Look no further. Our Demystify Wheel Building course is the perfect gift!

wheel-building

Taking City & Guilds standards and our teaching experience, we’ve developed this 2 day course to take students from minimal prior knowledge to being able to build a wheel from scratch. The aim is to give you
the knowledge, resources and confidence to tackle selecting your own components, calculating spoke lengths and building your own wheel to the standard that is expected in the industry.

On Day 1

Working in our accredited, fully equipped training workshop in Oval, you’ll learn first about the materials and components. After this, you’ll go on to rim, hub and frame compatibility, comparing lacing patterns before learning how to calculate spoke lengths for different hubs and rims for any wheel set. We end day 1 with lacing your spokes to hub and rim.

On Day 2

Having dreamt about spokes all night you’ll come in fresh to learn about truing and tensioning. You’ll learn and then practice how to properly tension and pre stress a wheel to prevent damage and reduce problems down the line and you’ll practice tensioning and making the wheel true to the tolerances expected across the bike industry.

Finally, you’ll stand back, marvel at your brilliance and return home basking in the glow of skills learnt having conquered the dark art of wheel building.

Course Dates are Saturday and Sunday 18th-19th Feb.

Cost is £200 for a 2-day course. Here’s the link to book:

http://www.cycleconfident.com/events/f9d17d86-3bf1-4635-af21-bab3a97bf2ce/

Merry Cycling!

Some inspirational thoughts on winter cycling commutes

Let’s face it, going outside in wheel autumn the winter is rarely an exciting prospect unless you’re making a snow angel. Some of you may already be reaping the benefits of commuting by cycling. Here are some thoughts to keep you going during the bleakest months.

No one is sneezing on the back of your neck

Unless you’re driving to work, the chances are you need to use public transport. Travelling en mass is great and relieves some of the strain on your local transport network. But it does also mean personal space can be compromised. The truth is being sneezed on at close proximity is no one’s idea of a pleasant experience and (stereotyping alert), since Brits are so polite, it’s a commuter crime that seldom gets reprimanded. The solution’s simple: get out there on your bike and enjoy the fresh air and personal space.

Arrive warmed up and pumped up

You’ll stand out from your colleagues when you arrive warmed up and ready to start working while everyone else is queueing up for a coffee and waiting for the caffeine to kick in. Ok, may be you will have cold hands and feet but if you’ve worn the appropriate clothing, it shouldn’t be too bad and the body will very quickly take care of them once you’re indoors.

It’s impressive

Don’t be the person to arrive half drenched, shaking the water off your umbrella on your way in and moaning about the rain. Instead, occupy the moral high ground and arrive on your bike, energised and enjoying a discreet boast about how you just braved the elements. Some external motivation is always helpful to keep you going when the weather really gets grim.

Cycling in WinterYou will toughen up

If you continually cycle in the winter then everything you do outdoors will eventually start to feel easier. Be sensible about clothing though; we aren’t recommending braving the cold in a t-shirt and shorts.

 

There’s no need to change those summer routines

Why change your travel routine when you can just carry on cycling to work all year round? There’s a risk of withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop; you may experience phantom cycling on your chair or signalling while walking to the store room. Jokes aside, combining physical activity with travel is how most people keep active in their busy lives so keep calm and carry on.

Catch the sunriseSunrise Over London

Make your morning a magical one. Catch the sunrise on a clear winter’s morning and give yourself a moment to simply enjoy being alive. Set off early enough to factor in a breakfast break somewhere with a great view. London Bridge is a superb spot to stop and admire the sun rising over Tower Bridge. It’s the perfect moment to ponder that novel you haven’t yet written or that dream bike you’re going to build one day…

Tune in to next week’s blog for things to consider to make your winter cycling commute safer and more enjoyable. Have you got any other inspirations you draw from for your winter cycling commutes? Let us know in the comments section.

RCA (Random Cycling Acronyms)

Question

Let’s use an adage to justify this blog: you don’t know what you don’t know. The cycling universe is huge and there’s lots for each of us to discover. So how many of these RCA’s do you know or can you work out?

Let’s face it. These days there’s precious little you can’t get an answer to with a few clicks on your keyboard so you can almost certainly complete this short game very quickly with a search engine’s help. But think of the satisfaction if you get there without! So make like the interweb’s not there and see how you do. Two notes of caution: one of these acronyms is completely made up (just for the sheer thrill of it), and yes, there are two LT’s, it’s not a typo.

In time honoured tradition, the answers are at the very bottom of this blog so be careful with your scrolling if you don’t want to spoil the fun.

Here goes then. Good luck!

 

WOMBATS, ECF, LBS, OEM, VAM, ERD, CV, YACB, CX, LT, ITT, NOS, GC, ASL, LT, OLD, TA

 

Answers in

.

.

.

.

.

3

.

.

.

.

.

2

.

.

.

.

.

1

.

.

.

.

.

WOMBATS – Women’s Mountain Bike & Tea Society
ECF – European Cyclists’ Federation
LBS – Local Bike Shop
OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer
VAM – Velocità Ascensionale Media (in English: average ascent speed)
ERD – Effective Rim Diameter
CV – Classic & Vintage
YACB – Yet Another Cycling Blog [completely made up]
CX – Cyclocross
LT – Lactate Threshold
ITT – Individual Time Trial
NOS – New Old Stock
GC – General Classification
ASL – Advance Stop Line
LT – Left Turn
OLD – Over Locknut Dimension
TA – Through Axle

 

Let us know in the comment section how you got on and if you found out anything interesting on the way!

What to do if you want to ride your bike but can’t

Some days we just can’t ride our bikes. Maybe it’s an injury, maybe the roads are icy, your bike’s in need of repair or you are just resting for a big ride the next day. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of cycling related pastimes to keep you entertained.

bike-balloons

Doodle-a-bike

Doodling is not reserved for boring lessons in school or whilst taking a long phone call. Doodle away with your wildest imagination. Doodle a whacky bike, a bike with too many wheels, a bike that flies, a bike that rides on something that replaces the wheels or just a normal bike; you will be surprised how many people can’t draw a normal bike without one in front of them.

Read our blogs

Well, you’re reading this blog instead of cycling anyway, so why not read our other blogs too? Of course there are also plenty other sources of cycling related material that will quench your cycling thirst.

Plan a routeroute

Perhaps you’re planning your next cycling challenge or thinking of trying a new commuting route. Or maybe you just started cycling and don’t know the most favourable routes to destinations. Plan some routes in your off-bike time. Use a paper map, online resources or discussion with cycling buddies.

Bike maintenance

Your bike needs your TLC or it’ll start crying (or at least making funny noises) before throwing in the towel completely. Don’t be that person who rides around with a squeaky chain. Check out our two previous blogs on how to breathe new life into your bike again and the must haves for home mechanics.

Visualisation

Close your eyes and think about where you could have been cycling. Is it a busy buzz around town, on rolling hills or gentle glide along the seaside? I guess you could call this day dreaming. Call it meditation and you might get away with it at work.

Watch other people cycling

If you can’t do the visualisation thing then why not watch other people cycling? You can do that on the computer, TV, at a race or just standing on the street corner.

Self reflection

What are you even doing not riding your bike? Do a serious evaluation what’s stopping you. If you are injured, think about how to avoid injuries; if the roads are icy, is it time to consider a move to a different country?; if your bike is broken, then I will refer you to point four of this blog; if you are resting for a big ride the next day, then read point three and start packing what you need for the ride.

cat-and-bike

Here’s a cat visualising cycling. What do you get up to when you are desperate to ride your bike but can’t? Let us know in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

How to love riding in the rain

water dropsWe can debate all day whether or not we get more rain in the UK and the whole business of pessimism. Raindrops will fall, we will ride our bikes but it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the two together. There are many ways to make riding in the rain more enjoyable.

Mudguards

They just make sense, they shield the bike from most road grit, you won’t get a trail of dirt up your back and the cyclist behind will silently thank you too. Some bikes are compatible with the traditional full length mudguards and if not, most bikes are catered for by clip on mudguards. Upside down your mudguards make two massive smiles and you’ll be adding your own once you’ve seen the difference they make to riding in the rain!

Enough of summer

There’s no denying summer’s over. But for the cyclist, the heat can be far from ideal. Cycling can be warm work and in many ways the cooler (and even wetter) months can be far better suited to it. And you’ll find the cycle lanes and bike parking suddenly look a whole lot less crowded too.

Waterproof / water resistant clothing

You don’t have to spend loads of money on technical clothing. Some sort of waterproof or water resistant jacket will go a long way and waterproof over-trousers are super practical too. To avoid boiling in your jacket, look for one with ventilation features like underarm zips or settle for a water resistant jacket that is more breathable. If it’s a great jacket, you will be glad of the rainy opportunities to wear it.

Your bike will thank you for the wash

Bike maintenance and bike washing should be a regular occurence but if they aren’t then a rain shower might help clean some of the grime off. (Don’t count on it though; a clean bike getting wet is going to attract dirt so perhaps just make sure your bike’s very dirty in the first place!)

Have food waiting for you at the endall gone

No matter how grim your rainy ride may be, looking forward to a warm shower and a filling meal at the end will make it all worthwhile. Have a homemade cottage pie waiting for you or detour to your local fish and chip shop on the last leg of your journey.

 

So if we’ve not managed to convince you with all of the above, consider this: the majority of cyclists looking out at a rainy day may well ditch the bike and head for the tube or bus. Keep the resolve and get on your bike and we guarantee you a sense of achievement (not to mention the moral high ground) when you reach your destination!

How to save money on cycling

Ok, so you’re cycling already and you didn’t know you had to buy all these cycling accessories and gadgets. Next thing you know, your local bike shop tells you that parts need to be replaced and the job will cost you a fortune.broken-piggy-bank
There are ways to save money so you can carry on cycling without breaking the bank.

Sales

Let’s start off with the obvious one. There are bound to be sales on, whether that’s in a bricks and mortar shop or an online retailer. Catch the end of season sales or warehouse clearouts. Some brands do sample sales at pop up shops too. Think twice before passing on signing up to newsletters next time; you might miss the sales or the sizes of clothing you want.

Second hand bike

You might need a new bike. Why not shop for a second hand one instead? You should have some knowledge about bikes to avoid disappointments or surprises and if you don’t, take someone with you who does.

This may sound counter intuitive at first but buying another bike could save you money. If you’re a  recreational cyclist who cycle a lot and commutes by bike, think about buying yourself a second hand bike as your run around town bike or a dedicated bike for the winter. It will bear the brunt of the wear and tear so replacing parts will be cheaper than on your ‘better’ bike to save you money in the long run.

Upcycle

You might be tempted to buy all sorts of cycling accessories but there are many ways to upcycle old bike parts to save you from spending more money. Wheel spokes are the most versatile of the lot, you can bend them to shapes like hooks for hanging your cycling gears to dry, letters/ words/ shapes to go into a handmade card to your cycling friends or file them into picks to pick out bits stuck in your tyres. Old inner tubes can be used to rewrap tool handles or used as elastic cord to fasten loads on your pannier. You can make all sorts of homeware too like wheel shaped clocks, bike chain photo frame and small key rings.

Maintenance skills

I can’t say it often enough: “regularly maintain and clean your bike”. Your bike will work better for longer with regular TLC. Some maintenance jobs tend to be reserved for bike shops but you can do a lot yourself at home! Check out our must haves for home mechanics blog to get your tool box set up.

Meet like minded people

Last but not least, like minded people should be able to point you in the right direction for any of the above points. Sometimes they might be using something you thought you wanted but their honest review will help you avoid a huge disappointment. There’s always something spare they want to sell cheaply or a tool you want to borrow to use just once.

 

Must have’s for home mechanics

Allen keysRegular checks and maintenance of
your bike are highly recommended. And the good news is you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do it yourself. Pick up the necessary skills at our maintenance classes and then all you will need is a set of tools. Here are some must have tools for basic maintenance jobs to keep your bike healthy.

Allen key set

All the other tools will be jealous of a set of allen keys
because they will be the clear favourite. Most components and accessories on your bike are held by bolts. Although the most used sizes are 4 and 5 mm, getting a set instead of buying one allen key at a time will be worth it for that one time when you need the 2 mm one.

Screw drivers (JIS)

You probably refer to your cross head screwdriver as a Phillips screwdriver but it’s not necessarily the one you need. If you’ve cursed at the apparent incompatibility between your Phillips screwdriver and the limit screws on your Shimano derailleurs, then brace yourself for a mind blowing revelation.

Shimano uses Japanese Industry Standard (JIS) screws on their derailleurs and Phillips screwdrivers don’t engage with these screws properly and “cam” out. Get yourself a JIS screwdriver and you will thank me for it.

track pump gauge

Tyre levers

Changing tyres should be one of the first maintenance skills you acquire and punctures strike when you are least prepared so have these at the ready.

Track pump

If you are committed to changing tyres yourself at home then treat yourself to a track pump. Get one with a pressure gauge too while you’re at it.

Cable cutter

I’ve tried to cut brake and gear cables with a pair of cutting pliers before; we learn from experience. Use a good quality cable cutter for a clean cut in milliseconds and minimise the fraying on a new cable.

Chain breaker

Changing the chain can breathe new life into your bike and you will need a chain breaker. Here’s a little tip: get an unused, round spoke and cut it to about 6 cm in length. Use a couple of pliers to bend hooks on both ends and you’ve got yourself a device to hold the loose ends of the chain together whilst you connect it back up.

Chain oil and lubricants

Clean your bike often and reapply chain oil and lubricants where appropriate and your bike will love you for it (you’ll know by the lack of squeaking, crunching noise from the drivetrain).

Rags

Sometimes even the charity shops don’t want your old t-shirts. Worry not because your bike does. Use them to clean your bike, wipe off excess chain oil / lubricants, wipe clean the drivetrain or rims. I normally give up washing the rags after a couple of attempts; I’ve got a stack of old t-shirts queueing up to be sacrificed.

Workstand

A workstand can be a bit of a luxury but it you are like me and want to avoid back pain at all cost then it becomes essential. You’ll need to find a balance between cost, sturdiness and portability when shopping for a workstand but it’ll change your whole experience of home mechanics.

 

Do you have a tool at home that you rely on that is not on this list? Let us know in the comment section!

 

How to breathe new life into your bike

We all grow attached to our bikes, sharing some great cycling memories with our trusty steeds, but they can become the worse for wear. Some say the frame is the heart of the bike so without changing the frame, here are some suggestions of how to breathe new life into your bike.

Handlebar tape

This is in front of you all the time and can make a bold style statement. Get yourself some new handlebar tape for a refreshing grip. This is your chance to experiment with a new colour or pattern. Maybe you want to try a different level of cushioning or material too?

Saddle

This is another contact point between you and the bike. If you ride your bike a lot and wear padded shorts, you are probably on a fairly firm saddle which will soften over time so it will need replacing. If you are very much on the side of sitting on plushy saddles then you probably don’t need to replace it for a while.

Tyres

Often overlooked but they can transform your ride quality. Get some new tyres and this is your chance to choose if you want to go for wider tyres for more comfort, more puncture resistant tyres or different tread if you go off road sometimes. This is another place you can add some bling to your bike with different coloured tyres now widely available.

Cablescable stop

Ok, we now have hydraulics to contend with but that generally has longer maintenance intervals. If you are still using cable actuated brakes and gears then replacing them should give you more responsive braking and more accurately indexed gears.

Chain

Old, worn chains present many problems which get worse the longer you ignore them. A new chain will help indexing your gears and reduce wear on the rest of the drivetrain. It should also mean you’ll enjoy a much quieter drivetrain.

Cleaning

You might have noticed that the suggestions so far involve buying something new. Cleaning your bike will surprise you with how different your ride feels afterwards. Shifting cfire hosean become more effortless, the drivetrain should be quieter and braking is more responsive. More regular cleaning intervals will make the job easier and also give you the chance to spot faults on your bike components before they catastrophically fail. Think about using bike specific degreasers to dislodge the more stubborn grime that soapy water is too weak to tackle.

Maintenance

This should go hand in hand with cleaning your bike. If you waited too long before cleaning it then the brakes and derailleurs will probably need adjusting. Replacing the parts mentioned in this blog also requires skill and tools which are essential if you are thinking of going on long rides or touring. If you are not sure about what to do, we run council subsidised maintenance classes regularly that can help you get started; check out our upcoming classes.

Watch out for next week’s blog about the Must have’s for home mechanics; you will need some of these tools to help you with the maintenance jobs we’ve mentioned in this blog. What do you do with your bike to give it a new lease of life? Let us know in the comments section.

 

Tell tale signs of cyclists off their bikes

Cyclists walk among us and here’s how to spot them hiding in plain sight. You may find out one of your friends, family or colleagues next to you right now is a secret cyclist!

The helmet hair

This one is no secret. The dreaded helmetmessy hair
hair is particularly noticeable if the helmet goes on wet hair. Not everyone can actually fit a helmet on their head but if they do, there’s a high chance they’ve just molded their hair style for the day. There are some exceptions here: slightly curly, short hair may allow you to go undetected and really messy hair is immune to helmet hair syndrome.

Helmet strap line

This is a seasonal feature and it’s hard to notice if you don’t know what you are looking for. It’s a tan line from the helmet straps running down from in front of the ears to the jaw.

Thigh tan lines

These appears on lycra clad cyclists. When they are in their casual shorts, you should find definitive tan lines somewhere above the knees. These are also a seasonal feature but they can outlast the winter ready to be reinforced again in the next summer. (If you are one of the lycra-clad then you will and know what to do with the gripper placement, and if you don’t, you will be introduced to The Rules in due time.)

Funny walking

No I am not talking about the result of long hours in the saddle. Some cyclists wear shoes that clip into their pedals that makes walking a little difficult and usually noisier (though some manage to be less noticeable). But there’s no mistaking it if you see someone walking like a penguin and sounding like they are tap dancing as they go.

The splash

Your colleagues probably didn’t have a toilet accident on their way into work. The chances are that they cycled into work on a rainy day on a bike without mudguards. They know full well it will happen and generally bear the splash marks on their lower back with a kind of biker’s bravado.

Road Sign

Local geographical knowledge

They will know the names of obscure local villages, shortcuts or only know the names of the hills rather than the road names. If they start making reference to Strava segments then they are just showing off or they have a partner in crime who’s equally Strava obsessed.

Their waterproof jackets

I will leave you with the rarest sign but it’s a sure sign. Most cycling tops (jerseys, gilets, jackets) have pockets on the lower back for easy storage and access to food and other accessories during a ride. While not many cyclists wear these tops with casual clothes, you do occasionally spot them. And if you do, give them a high five because cyclists are awesome!

If you don’t cycle and these don’t put you off then you should probably join us. We will welcome you with open arms one arm because we always keep the other one firmly on the handlebar.

 

Cycle Confident provides Cycle Skills and Family Cycle Skills sessions and are FREE for people who live, work or study in selected boroughs. If you want to go on leisure Led Rides, they are FREE or subsidised.

5 essential cycling documentaries

A Sunday in Hell (1976)

Arguably the best film ever made about professional bike racing, A Sunday in Hell chronicles the 1976 Paris-Roubaix one day classic. The visual equivalent of Tim Krabbe’s The Rider (see our list of great cycling reads) this is about as close as most of us will ever get to riding with the pro-peloton. Riders including Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser suffer heat, dust, cobbles, punctures, crashes and even the disruption of protesters before the final sprint for victory.

Slaying the Badger (2014)

This ESPN documentary tells the story of the 1986 Tour de France, and in particular the rivalry between Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault, aka, the Badger. Hinault had been helped to  victory by teammate LeMond in the previous year’s Tour and was meant to be returning the favour in order to help LeMond become the first American to reach Paris in yellow. Repeated attacks by Hinault in the high mountains betrayed a different motivation and led to one of the most dramatic Tours of all.

(Available on Netflix)

Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (2014)

The extraordinary talents and tragic death of Marco Pantani (Il Pirata, or The Pirate) are laid bare in this feature length documentary which includes thrilling footage of his early years, as well as his victories in the 1998 Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. Pantani was extravagantly gifted as a climber, and battled back from serious injury, only to face allegations of doping which would lead to depression, and his death from cocaine poisoning. Some have accused the filmmakers of being too sympathetic to Pantani in relation to the question of doping, but the doc does reveal the pressures that were felt by the peloton at the time.

Pedaling to Freedom (2007)

This short film provides a startling case study of how bicycles can change lives. A 1993 project in Tamil Nadu, India, helped 230,000 people to read and write, and also provided mobility by teaching over 100,000 women to ride bicycles. Wages increased 1000% over just one year for an investment of less than two dollars per person.

With My Own Two Wheels (2011)

An uplifting look at how individual lives from different parts of the world can be transformed one pedal stroke at time. In Zambia a caregiver rides from village to village visiting AIDS patients; In Guatemala pedal power replaces diesel engines; In California working in the neighborhood bike shop provides an alternative to gangs; In India bicycles open up education by making the journey to school possible. Inspiring stuff.