Had to put in a fair few hours maintenance this weekend. Drive chain on both bikes gave up the ghost. Totally my fault. I underestimated the deterioration the bikes had suffered over a year where they had each done over a thousand miles. Not during dry summer weekend rides but through all season weather in and out of the city most days. I hadn’t realised just how badly the chain had stretched and how badly the big chainrings in particular had worn. A lot of lessons learned this week. I managed to install everything myself on the roadie over the weekend. The only difficulty was removing the cassette lock ring which had corroded solid. At one point the missus was literally standing with her entire body weight on cassette removal tool while I held the chain whip in place. I gave up in the end and took it to Evans down the road. Unlike most outspoken cyclists I love Evans. Their staff are brilliant, they know their stuff, they will get me anything I want and most times price match too. They stuck it in a vice in their incredibly well equipped workshop, and had the corroded lock ring off in seconds. For free of course as they always do with something quick and simple for regular customers. I swapped the chain for a Shimano N-HG71 8 Speed chain which Halfords price matched to a bargain £6.14. I swapped the chainring like for like for a cheap Shimano Claris 50t. There was no 11-32t version of the Shimano HG-41 or HG-50 cassettes in Halfords, Evans or the local bike shops. I decided to try an SRAM PG 850 road cassette for the first time. I’ve got to say first impressions are good. Smooth changes this morning and it has the longer lasting chrome coating similar to the Shimano HG-50. Only thing wrong with the roadie now is the back brake. Replacement pads are already on order. The mountain bike is next. It is getting a new chain drive and a new wheel which should arrive soon. Have you had any positive experiences or disasters whilst installing your own cassette, chain and chainrings? Any experience of SRAM cassettes and components? If so let me know by commenting below…
I often get asked what gear is needed for cycling to work. Below is my gear list and a few tips for cycling to work. I take a fairly minimalist approach. I have separated the list into what I do each “Weekend”, what I do the “Night” before, what clothes I put on in the “Morning”, and what I grab on my “Way Out”. I also have a list of what is “Already at Work”.
Pack Tools in dry bag in rucksack. ( Multi-tool / Levers / CO2 Inflator & Canisters / Inner Tube / Pump )
Pack Clothes in dry bag in rucksack. ( Boxers / Socks / T-Shirt / Jeans ( Monday Only ) )
Pack Personal items in rucksack. ( Wallet / Keys / Passes / Phone / Prescription Eyewear )
Pack Lunch in rucksack.
Cycling High Viz Soft Shell.
Buff / Balaclava.
Already at work…
Jeans. ( taken Monday )
A few cycle to work tips…
Clean and maintain your bike. Clean your bike, lube the chain and inflate the tires if required every week for efficiency, safety and longevity. Learn how to do basic maintenance on your bike, especially fixing punctures, most cities now have free regular cycle maintenance workshops.
Buy tires with puncture protection. I was averaging a puncture every 200 miles until I swapped to Schwalbe’s Mountain Marathon Plus range. Since then I have done over 1500 miles and still no puncture. The inconvenience of changing punctured tires in bad weather can be demoralising.
Leave stuff at work. Don’t carry a heavy lock to and from work, buy a separate lock to keep at work. If like me you wear the same jeans all week, take them in on Monday and taken them home Friday. Don’t carry cosmetics into work every day, just leave a batch at work. I use a micro fibre towel at work like those from outdoor shops for travelling, it dries quickly and can be washed at work. Leave a pair of shoes or trainers at work too.
Spend wisely. Your hard earned cash is best spent on things like tyres with puncture protection, decent lights, quality tools and of course a bike with longer lasting higher quality components. These things will save you time, your life, and money in the long run.
Weatherproof yourself and the bike. Fit mudguards to your regular commuting bike. Or if that is too uncool try crud catchers. They not only keep you clean but also help keep your bike clean and protect parts from the horrific mixture of water, oil, mud, leaves, grit and corrosive salt that our roads are covered in during the winter months. Decent gloves, balaclavas and buffs keep your commute enjoyable in winter. Overshoes are also worth investing in for winter for the same reasons. Protective glasses both clear and tinted are in my opinion essential at all times of the year. And don’t forget sun cream during the summer if your commute is long and you don’t sun stroke or those lines on your legs.
Backup Lights. Buy yourself a pair of Knog Frog Strobe lights and leave them on your bike, they are tiny, discreet, surprisingly effective and cheap. One day you will forget your lights or run out of power and these will save you.
Use Common Sense. Wear a helmet. Use decent lights. Make yourself seen. Always be ready for anything to happen at any time. Don’t run red lights. Don’t cycle down the side of vehicles as approaching junctions, instead slow until you are between them. The vehicle that is now just behind you can see you and if the one that is now just in front of you makes a sudden manoeuvre you will be ready. Don’t listen to music.
Finally had enough of my Topeak Headlux helmet light this week. I bought the Topeak Headlux Helmet Light a few years ago. I was on my second one. I only had to replace the first one because the original one understandably broke when I landed on my helmet. They are good for the price, effective, lightweight and simple to use. They do however seem to have one fundamental flaw. The two I’ve had do not seem to work properly in temperatures under five degrees celsius. I have read other reviews and comments from cyclists having the same issue. If you don’t believe me, turn one on then put it in a fridge for half an hour. When you get it out you’ll find the light has almost completely faded. I started noticing this last winter when I would get home after a half hour commute in cold weather. I would take my helmet off my head to find the front light in particular had almost completely faded. At first I thought it was just the batteries affected by the cold. I went through a fair few batteries. I eventually realised when I left the light on a table for ten minutes to warm up then turned it on again it was back to full performance. I need my helmet light to be trust worthy and work in all conditions. I buy a helmet light in the hope that it helps save my life. I don’t need it failing on me at the time I need it most, cold dark winter commutes. A helmet light that fails every time the temperate drops below five degrees is just not good enough. I saw Evans Cycles were selling the Lezyne Femto Drive Duo Y10 helmet light for just £14.99 so purchased one as a replacement. Like other Lezyne lights I own the Femto Drive Duo built quality is second to none. At the end of this winter season I will let you know how I got on with it. Do you have any experience of the Topeak Headlux, Lezyne Femto Drive Duo or any other helmet light? If so let me know or suggest other products by commenting below…
Had a bit of a nightmare with both bikes on Friday. Several weeks ago I stupidly left my mountain bike unwashed for a fortnight. After riding it every day for a week on salted roads. I will never do it again. A lesson learnt the hard way. I was shocked at how badly my chain, cassette and chain ring were all corroded. The chain was so bad it was a complete write off. I was using dry lube and it looked like the dry lube had actually attracted the salt out of the splash and accelerated its corrosion properties. I bought a new chain this week and fitted it Thursday night. I used my mountain bike for my commute Friday morning and soon realised I wasn’t going to get away with changing just the chain. I had to return home as the chain constantly slipped off the old and corroded cassette. I took my adventure road bike instead which had also been giving me some slippage in the week. Its cheap chain drive components have needed replacing for months. I had stupidly and lazily ignored that fact. On my way home Friday night it finally gave up the ghost. I couldn’t even ride the bike and had to get my girlfriend to come pick me up. You can see from the photo above just how badly worn the big chain ring is compared to the smaller one. I always ride the big ring and never use the small one. I live in a flat region with very few hills. My next bike will definitely be a single chain ring for this reason and easier maintenance. I went to my local bike shop on Saturday morning and ordered new big chain rings for both bikes. I also purchased a new cassette on the mountain bike to replace the old corroded one. The chain rings will take a few days to arrive but for now luckily the mountain bike with its new chain, new cassette and lesser worn chain ring is rideable. It felt brand new this morning. I never realised until this week the importance of replacing the entire chain drive. Chain, cassette and chain ring instead of just individual singular parts. Its not the cheapest thing to replace all at once but its not the most expensive either. It is by far the best way to give your bike the feel of brand new efficiency. Have you had any good or bad experiences when it comes to your chain drive or replacing it. If so let me know by commenting below…
Do you remember your first bike? It may be thirty five years ago but I’ll never forget mine. Father Christmas left me a BMX. Not just any BMX, a red and yellow 1982 MK1.2 Raleigh Burner BMX. The MK1.2 version was also known as the Model B. It had the metal wheels, plastic pedals and two tone rubber grips. It was my pride and joy for many years. I wanted a Raleigh Grifter after the Burner but I sadly ended up with a Raleigh Strika instead. The Raleigh Strika were built like tanks but were awful things to ride. They had a bizarre almost Harley Davidson like uncomfortable seating position. The seat was huge and the front of the bike had this bizarre imitation suspension system. Do you remember your first bike and all the bikes you had as a child? If so let me know by commenting below…
Need ideas of a way to stop my my guards bracket rattling. I have SKS mud guards on my bike which Evans Cycles did a good job of installing for free when I bought my bike a few years ago. They have been excellent, especially during the last two winters. When I first saw them on the bike I was convinced they would come loose and not withstand the harsh conditions, only as they are so light and minimal. They have far exceeded my expectations and even survived knocks and crashes. However one slight niggle I have with them is this metal bracket which attaches them to the brake bridge on the seat stays. The bracket is never truly permanently attached the mud guard the mud guard instead just sits loosely on the bracket. Therefore the mudguard constantly rattles in the bracket which is quite annoying. Looking at the Evans website I can see that on the newer versions the bracket has been replaced with a permanently fixed bracket which won’t rattle. Any any simple and discreet ideas of how I could stop this bracket rattling? If so let me know by commenting below…
I think I may have finally find the bike lube that works best for me. Over the past few years I have ridden over three thousand miles cycling to work and tested dozens of different bike lubes. Ranging from basic pound shop bike oils and wet lubes to the top selling brand ceramic dry lubes. Weather conditions, terrain and application know how can all be a factors but for overall general usage I have finally found the perfect bike lube. Best thing is, it is one of the cheapest too! Wilkos £2.49 All weather lube with Teflon surface protector. This excellent product has been by a mile the best performing, most consistent and easiest to use bike lube. I clean my chain as normal with the rest of my bike. Put my bike up against something or on its stand. Reverse the pedals to move the chain and drop the oil over the rollers of a dozen or so inches of the chain at a time, using a cloth underneath to catch excess and wipe along the chain. The oil does its job perfectly, dropping into the rollers and on to the pins where it cleanly and effectively lubricates for days. The lube does not seem to attract dust or mud from the road like most other wet and dry lubes that I have used and is not weakened or removed by the rain. I have been massively impressed by what is a relatively cheap product. I think some other retailers sell the exact same product just branded slightly differently. For example I think it is the same product as Decathlon’s £2.99 B’Twin Teflon All Weather Bike Oil. Have you used this product or have any other recommendations? If so let me know by commenting below…
Locking your bike to a tree branch isn’t the best idea. In fact locking your tree to any object that can be easily removed, knocked down or sawn off is not the best idea. A few years ago I took my Kona Caldera hard tail mountain bike on a a train to the Lake District. I cycled from Windermere to the bike friendly Thorney How youth hostel near Grasmere. On the way I took a quick hike up Loughrigg Fell. That time I could lock my bike up against a bike lockup area behind the toilets in the public car park at the foot of the hill. The next day I got up at 5am and cycled back to Windermere. On my way I stopped at the small hamlet of Rydal where I needed to park the bike for a hike up the Fairfield Horseshoe. There was nowhere to lock the bike at all. I thought about leaving it deep in the woodland out of view from the main road unlocked. In the end I found this tree with a fairly thick branch and hung the locked bike on it. It was a lame deterrent that I would not have trusted elsewhere but decided in the quiet setting of a Cumbrian woodland at 6am on a Sunday morning I could probably get away with it. I certainly wouldn’t recommend doing it elsewhere. Have you ever had to lock your bike somewhere daft? If so let me know by commenting below…