THE BICYCLE - Just two wheels and a seat – It provides enjoyment, everyday transport, can take you around the world if you so wish. It provides you with exercise, fresh air, it tones up your physique, gives you a healthy appetite, gets you away from traffic jams, gives you a feeling of well-being, takes you to new places, gives you a sense of satisfaction, a sense of achievement, doesn’t pollute the environment, costs next to nothing if you want it to, doesn’t contribute to global warming and very effectively relaxes stressful living. It puts you in contact with rain and sun. Contact with rain is actually beneficial because the viruses and bacteria which rain contains tones up your immune system. And if you should be so lucky as to cycle in the sun, it promotes the production of vitamin D and a feeling of well-being. If your chosen destination is a pub, you can partake with relative impunity, without worrying about the ‘old bag’, or the old flab. The exercise tones up your ‘appestat’ so that it’s not easy to over-eat when you ride a bike regularly - cyclists’ dietary problems more often relate to how reduce the calorie (or cake) deficit, not the calorie intake. Cycling makes the blood pump round and occasionally some reaches the brain to drive the subconscious - many a tricky problem has been solved on the way. Cycling takes your journey – any journey - away from the hum-drum, the everyday. Often, summoning the motivation to close the door behind you on a dull, damp or cold day is the most difficult thing to do. But once on the bike, with the wind in the face, everything changes for the better. Apart, that is, from the cold feet......
Yes, the humble, great bicycle..... the best invention ever ?
"When I see a person on a bicycle, I have hope for the future of the human race" H.G. Wells
I started this series of short articles, which appear first in the 'Highwayman' magazine, to pass on to CTC members wisdom I've acquired over more years of cycling than I like to contemplate. I'd love it if others would like to contribute to this area, sharing our acquired wisdom to help others. Just let me know if you have a topic or article to include.
I have split the topics into 1) Basic Principles 2) Riding skills, pages are here and 3) 'Maintenance and Technical' articles and tips, are here I hope you find this stuff interesting and a bit of a challenge
Never lose your respect for anything that could kill you. That includes your bike.
Always seek continual improvement of your roadcraft skills and cycling technique. Where it's safe, explore the limits of what you can do with your bike. You will be surprised. Avail yourself of training which CTC organises. All these things will make you much safer, faster, you'll enjoy your cycling more, and you'll be able to cycle further, much further for the same effort. Remember, slower does not mean safer.
Check Your Rims
On wheels with rim brakes, check the wear on the braking surface of your rims frequently - at least every month. Refer to the maintenance page.
Service Your Bike
Your bike needs a complete service at least every 6 months. If you don't do it yourself, then make sure your bike shop properly checks it out, or else...........see 'Respect' above.
I loved Steve Main’s article in December’s (2015) issue of the Highwayman and had already written this little bit......
If you don't like riding in the dark, ask yourself “why not?” Most nights are dry, even in winter. Very good bike lights are now cheap - yes, cheap - and reliable. There is always a lot less traffic. In the winter, of course it gets cold, but you can ‘rug-up’, and once warmed-up 'toastily', you can really enjoy the sights and sounds of the night. Yes, there can be ice about on frosty nights, but it’s more easily seen at night and there are techniques for you to learn to deal with it. Often, the moonlight on a cold still dry frosty night makes the riding nothing short of spectacular. Once you've seen an owl, or lambs standing silhouetted against a moonlit field, or a badger lumbering across your path, or a deer springing out of sight, all in the silence of the night, you realise that this is another phenomenal and thrilling dimension to cycling. Once you’ve seen the stardust twinkling in the beam of your light I challenge you not to be totally, totally, hooked......
Seats and Pads
If you wear padded under or over-shorts all the time, then ask yourself this simple question: “ Have I got the right seat on my bike ?” Why ? Well, if you’re lucky you should be able to get perfectly comfortable without the need to resort to bulky pads in your cycling wear. If you can get the right seat, you’ll stay drier and more comfortable without padding, BUT, if you do get uncomfortable on your bike seat, it can be excruciating and pads are easily the least bad option, then ! You have only to look at the plethora of seats available to know that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’. However, there are a couple of basic rules that you might like to consider when choosing a seat. 1) Ladies usually need wider seats than men. and 2) How you like to ride is very important: if you like to be upright when you ride, then you will need a much wider seat that if you ride much lower down.
It is worth knowing your own ‘dimensions’ – the distance between your ‘sit bones’ when in your normal riding stance. How you do this can be hilarious; some use chalk, others partners (?!), but the best is probably to sit in a childs’ sand-pit, or measure an old seat, measuring the distance between the centres of the maximum pressure points.
Most leather seat manufacturers make seats for a wide variety of uses. Brooks make the narrower B17, popular with men, and the wider B66/67 seats popular with women. However, I have a short sprung-base ladies' seat on my mountain bike and find it very comfy for this use. Just bear in mind that your sit bones must sit well inside the frame of any leather seat – the last thing you want is to be sitting directly on the saddle frame as that will NOT be comfortable. Be careful how you choose your Brooks leather seat, because they vary in width, length, AND softness of leather, as well as frame material, so read the specs for each one very carefully before buying as mistakes can get expensive.
Sprung-base versions are available for some seat patterns, as well as choice of steel or titanium base. Bear in mind that leather can stretch with use. Tension mechanisms are provided and need to be used carefully for best comfort – not too tight and not too slack. Get it all right and you won’t be parted willingly from your leather seat……Oh, and most have to be ‘broken-in’ to be really comfortable, hard ones taking much longer and the hardest leather seats have beaten me – be warned. And, being leather, a natural material, no two seats are exactly the same, so a couple of nice B17s I’ve had have been comfortable from day 1 and a seat I had from a friend is proving very resistive !
Plastic-shell, gel-type seats can be narrower, and therefore much lighter than leather saddles, because you can sit on the whole width. But, I’ve yet to find one that’s comfortable for more than 50 miles…and that includes the Brooks Cambium….. although I know others find themselves very comfortably seated, so take your pick. You can choose covering material, vented / unvented, grooved / ungrooved, soft or hard padded, long or short – again the choice is lengthy and that’s without the colour options!
One final tip is to make sure, by looking underneath, that the rails provide for enough fore / aft movement to give you the reach you need on your bike, otherwise you can be into changing handlebar stem, or seat pillar, which can change your position on the bike relative to the cranks – a whole new story…...Good luck
So have you ever seen a cyclist writhing on the ground with a bike attached to one foot which he (or she) can’t get off because one of the shoe-cleat screws has dropped out ? That’s right, I’m talking about the bike that he can’t get off his foot!! I’ve seen it happen at least three times, so it prompted me to write this tip. How often do you check your shoe cleats? Let’s face it, few of us do. But you need to. Say, every month, or whenever you clean your shoes, take an allen key and check that the cleats are properly tight. Then you find you can’t do that because the bolt heads are full of mud. So clean them, and clean around the cleats, too. Then tighten them as necessary. And while you’re doing that, just check and clean the pedal mechanism, too. Finally just give a quick squeeze of the old ‘maintenance spray’. And you’re done. Now you know you’ll never be in the position of trying to get your foot out of SPDs only to find the cleat rotating and refusing to let go (with the bike still attached !!!!). With this series of articles, what I’m trying to get across, I suppose, is that all your kit needs a little TLC at times. Cleats take barely 5 minutes every couple of months. It’s your comfort and enjoyment, so it’s worth it, isn’t it ?