Saturday, 19 October 2013

Bike Expert

... ok, so maybe I'm not a bike expert yet, but after spending the full day at the Cycle Hub in Manchester learning all about cycle maintenance I know a lot more than I did when I woke up this morning. 

As I have a old and ramshackle bike that I bought for a tenner in a charity shop, I thought it prudent to do a cycle maintenance course so I can at least have half a go at doing it up. I booked an all-day intensive cycle maintenance course with Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative for £44. Yeah, I know, the maintenance course has cost me nearly five times what the bike cost me, but the idea is that it'll save me money in the long run because I won't have to keep paying someone else when it needs fixing.

The course was held in the Cycle Hub which I hadn't even known existed. It's situated in the basement of Piccadilly Plaza right in the city centre and is a place that provides secure parking for bikes and has showers, toilets and lockers for cyclists to use. Entry is by swipe card and there's CCTV coverage. Prices range from £10 for either 10 individual visits or a one month pass up to £200 for an annual premium membership which includes use of the showers and a personal locker. The downside to it seemed to be the early closing times - 8pm on weekdays and 5pm on the weekend. This wouldn't be much good for anyone wanting to go out after work or working a late shift. Apart from this it did seem impressive and maybe the times will change if there's the demand for it. 

As I wasn't sure how safe my bike was and certainly didn't trust it to be reliable, I chucked it into the back of the van and drove into Manchester. As well as the Cycle Hub there's also a car park underneath Piccadilly Plaza which has cheap(ish) all day parking on the weekend. 

I was first to arrive, but soon after I was buzzed in the other four students arrived. Their bikes all seemed a lot newer and in much better condition than mine. We hoisted our bikes onto tall stands which meant we could work on them without too much bending and contorting. (Note to self: must get one of these stands if I decide I'm going to get seriously into this bicycle maintenance malarkey.) 

We started at 10am and the course ran through till 5.30pm with about 45 minutes break for lunch. We removed tyres, wheels, brakes, gears, pedals, the chain, and a few other bits as well. We then put them all back on again. Successfully. We found out what tools we needed and, as we all had slightly different styles of bikes, we also found out different ways of doing things. At the end of the day we were each given a booklet showing step-by-step instructions for everything we'd covered. 

I'm sure I won't remember any of it by the time I come to actually do the work on my bike, but at least I know that it's actually quite simple and I feel confident that I will soon figure it out. The tutor also told me that I had a pretty good bike and was quite impressed when I told him I'd got it for ten quid. It just needs a bit of TLC and it'll be as good as any posh bike out there!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Bike Maintenance Course

Before we get on with the post here's a musical interlude to get you in the mood:

On my list of things to do before I'm 60 I have the challenge of completing a long-distance bike ride. I have a bike - it cost me £10 from a charity shop. I even have a couple of panniers - they cost a couple of quid each from Lidl in Germany. So I'm all set to go, right? Well, not quite. I know nothing about bike maintenance and as my bike is old and cheap this could be a problem. I've read blogs by long distance cyclists who have experienced all kinds of problems with their top of the range bikes, so I'm sure to experience a few jitters from my super cheap bike.

With this in mind I went in search of a cycle maintenance course that would at least teach me the basics. I found this course run by Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative. They hold various courses in various places, including an all-day intensive cycle maintenance course in Manchester for £49.

The course promises to teach:
  • Puncture repair: wheel removal, locating punctures, fixing punctures, wheel refitting.
  • Wheel truing – essential for better braking.
  • Brake adjustment for powerful, silent stopping.
  • Adjusting hub bearings for maximum life and smooth running.
  • Gear adjustment: including fitting new cables and fine tuning front and rear mechanisms.
  • Bottom bracket and headset adjustment.

I don't even know what most of these things are, but I've booked and so hopefully I'll soon not only know what they are, but will be able to transform my dilapidated ride into a spic and span, smooth-running dream machine.