Family Bike Maintenance for Spring

Do you need to do some family bikes maintenance after a Winter stored in the shed? Are the kids itching to get out on their bikes but you really need to check the brakes and raise the saddle? Never fear, we are here with a definitive guide to sorting out the family bikes ready for the better weather.

Family Bike Maintenance for the Spring

Just keeping the family bikes in great condition is really simple and there are just a few things you need to check to ensure the bikes are safe and road worthy.

Muc off1. Hose Down and Clean Up

If you have managed to get out on your bikes with the kids over the Winter, it’s likely that the bikes are now covered in mud and dirt. That’s to be expected, and the sign of a good outing! You do need to clean this all off though, to ensure the bike stays in tip-top condition. We have a good selection of bike cleaning kits available in the shop.

If you’re really serious about cleaning up your bike, and you have done some pretty serious cycling over the Winter, this video has some great tips.

2. Check for Size

What do we mean here? Well get the children to hop on their bikes and check how much they’ve grown. You’ll be surprised how much the saddle and handlebars need adjusting! When kids are learning to ride, it’s important for them to be able to put their feet flat on the ground to aid balance, but as they get more proficient you can raise the saddle so they just have their tip toes on the floor. If you want more precision, take a look at this saddle height calculator for more information.

3. Puncture Repairs

bicycle-tires-236931_640It’s likely that when you haul the bikes out of the shed, at least one of them will have a puncture. If you’re lucky and they don’t, you still need to check the tyres and pump them up correctly. Invest in a few puncture repair accessories so you always have the correct parts to hand, and for a step by step guide check out this great guide from Rutland cycling. Be careful not to over-inflate the tyres, as this can make the ride uncomfortable and dangerous, in fact. Identify the correct tyre pressure, which is usually written on the side of the tyre or from the manufacturer’s handbook, then removed the dust caps from the valve and attach the pump. Start pumping, and remember to test the tyre pressure once you’ve finished to ensure the correct levels. Then replace the dust caps and make them finger tight.

4. Brakes

Check the brakes pads are properly aligned, and are hitting the bike rim evenly. Inspect the brake pads and ensure there’s nothing embedded in them. Use a knife or sharp object to remove any dust and so prevent the pads becoming unduly worn, or the grit scratching the rims.

5. Oil the Chain

Finally, take a good look at the chain and apply the appropriate lubricant. Use a lightweight oil specially designed for bikes but if you’re not sure, drop us a line and we can help.

So now the bikes are all ready for the Spring! We hope you have a great time out on the bikes with your family.

Do you have any other family bike maintenance tips?


Top Tips for Cycling to School

With the onset of the new Autumn School Term, many of you might be thinking about cycling to school. It’s a great way to stay fit and healthy and keep the kids active. If you’re looking for some tip tips on how to keep cycling to school fun and safe for all the family then check out our suggestions below.

cycling to schoolImage: Steve Vance

Tops Tips for Cycling to School:

Bike Maintenance:

Ensure that everyone’s bike is ready for the trip. Check the tyres, the brakes and overall maintenance. If the bikes haven’t been used in a while maybe take them to your local bike shop and have them checked over.

Cycling Skills:

Whether you will be cycling to school with the children or no, ensure your children are safe on the road. Practise the route with them beforehand so they know where they need to turn, and you’ve prepared them for any traffic lights or cross roads. If you are cycling to school with them, ensure you cycle at the back of the group and that everyone is aware of other road users.

Cycling to School Safely:

As we head into Autumn, don’t forget some mornings might be a little foggy or dull. Make sure everyone is safe with a helmet and high vis jacket.

Stay Hydrated:

Give the children a drink of water before you set off on the school run and take plenty with you too. Better that the children start the school day as hydrated as possible. Cycling to school can be thirsty work!

At School:

Once you’re at school ensure everyone knows what the school policy is for cycles. Know where they need to be stored and if you need a bike lock, practise using one before the first day.

Smaller Children:

Cycling to school is a great way to get younger children going in the morning. If they’re too young to go on the road, ensure they know the rules for cycling on the pavements, to keep them and everyone else safe. Balance bikes and scooters are fantastic for encouraging a speedy and active school run.

Sir Chris Hoy has recently joined forces with Highland Spring to encourage more families to take up the challenge and start cycling to school. The new Cycle to School initiative aims to encourage mums and dads to ditch the car and enjoy the school run on a bike. A great initiative which we at Cycle Centre wholeheartedly support.

If you would like to know more about cycling to school safely do drop us a line. If you want to updrade your kids’ bikes and ensure the journey is a safe one Cycle Centre can help.

Mini-reviews: TF2 Extreme Lubricant and Altura Progel gloves

Our Family Bike Guy, Henry,  is back with two mini-reviews on some popular products we gave him to test. 

Mini-reviews: Why am I writing mini-reviews all of a sudden I hear you ask. Well the answer my blog reading friends is quite simple: there is only so much I can write about chain lube, gloves and energy bars before I either start to repeat myself or you get bored and go somewhere else.

Mini-review 1: TF2 Extreme Wet synthetic lubricant.

Now, before I delve into that TF2 lube review I want to just clarify some [common] confusion about lubricant, grease and water displacer. A lubricant, either wet or dry (I’ll get to the difference in a minute) is lighter and less ‘sticky’ than grease and is designed to minimise friction in exposed moving parts like a chain. A grease is a ‘heavy’ substance that typically has to be applied directly rather than dripped and is designed to reduce friction in high load high heat moving parts like the bearings in your bottom bracket or hubs. A water displacer or teflon spray, like WD40 or GT85, is aerosol based and lightweight that can be used to clean as well as displace water from moving parts. These sprays are useful but should not be used in place of a proper chain lube and if used excessively can flush out grease and lube from your drive chain and bearings, the results of which aren’t much fun!

Wet vs Dry lube.

This is a very confusing distinction for those new to bike maintenance as both types of lubes are in fact liquid and therefore both wet! What the descriptions are really referring to is what happens after the lube is applied. Basically, a wet lube will stay wet once on your chain. A dry lube utilises a wax component that is supposed protect your chain by preventing dirt from adhering to it and yes, you guessed it, dry lube dries (to an extent) after application.

The right lube to use is entirely dependent upon the type of riding you do and the kind of conditions you normally ride in. Again, in general terms, a wet lube is best for muddy, wet or winter conditions and a dry lube for summer and dusty conditions. Ideally, if you ride all year round in a variety of conditions you should have both in your maintenance kit.

TF2 Extreme wet lube

Wet Lubricant from TF2

TF2’s wet lube does a great job. It goes on easily, stays on in wet conditions and keeps the  drive chain moving nicely. As it is a wet lube, if you ride in dry dusty conditions you’ll find your chain will be very dirty and gloopy after a ride. This would be a good time to switch to a dry lube or get into the habit of cleaning your chain properly after each ride and then re-lubricating. In fact, one thing I did find out was that applying TF2 Extreme to an already dirty chain wasn’t a good idea. The dirt prevented the lube from adhering properly and it then splatters all over your frame and legs when you next ride!

So, as long as you apply TF2 to a clean(ed) chain it works great and I’d definitely recommend it.

Mini-review 2: Altura Progel fingerless gloves. s.r.p £19.99

Altura glove

Cycling fingerless glove from Altura

If you are enjoying a bit of road riding this summer (I use that word in the broadest possible sense) or you are getting into road riding then a decent pair of fingerless gloves is definitely worth investing in. Why, you might ask. Well, there are two main reasons to buy this type of glove. The first is the gel padding on the palm. Road riding is tough on the whole body but especially on the main contact points of the bum, hands and feet. A good pair of padded shorts are essential to protect one’s derrière and likewise good padded gloves help to reduce vibration fatigue in the wrists and arms. The gel pads in these Altura gloves are located on the main load bearing points around the peripheral of the palm and are quite thick without being cumbersome.

Altura Progel gloves

Gel pads on palm of Altura Progel glove

I noticed an instant increase in riding comfort with these gloves. The other benefit, is the fingerless construction. No fingers helps to keep your hands cool and avoid a build up of perspiration. They also mean there’s no interference with brakes or shifter levers, which is something I’ve encountered with a full glove.

The tops of the Altura Progel glove are a single skin of lycra that is both comfortable and cool. I probably shouldn’t have gone for the white version as they are bit trick to keep clean but they matched my bike better so I’ll just have to put up with that!

For the price, I felt these gloves were great value, providing excellent levels of comfort. I’ve ridden around 200 miles wearing these gloves and they are not showing any sign of wear.

Written by Henry Aarvold, Family Bike Guy

No monetary payment was received for this review. Both products tested were kept by the  reviewer.

Mechanical Advice for You and Your Bike(s)

We asked our master mechanics to come up with a top five list of basic skills that every cyclist should be able to learn that would help keep them rolling through the summer.

1. Got a Puncture? Learn to refit the tyre without using a tyre lever. Often cyclists will unwittingly pinch a new inner tube with their tyre lever causing another flat or increasing the chance of one a further down the road. It is possible to fit a tyre back on by hand:- Start at the valve with one side of the tyre already seated onto the rim. Work your way around the rim, manipulating the tyre using both hands to push the tyre onto the rim and then working it back and forth to ensure it’s firmly in place. When you get to the last part, where often the tyre lever is used, the tyre should slot into place relatively easily.

2. What is that noise? Squeaking brakes can be caused by many things but all of them are easy to fix if you know what to look for. Check your rims are smooth and clean, but do not apply any lube to the pads or rims! Worn rims should be replaced. Check and clean the pads, again if they are worn down they should be replaced. Most pads have a wear indicator that tell you when they need to be changed. If either of these two issues aren’t the problem then it’s probably just a case of setup. Most pads should be adjusted so the top edge is about 1mm closer to the rim, known as toeing in. Don’t forget to ensure your pads are the correct compound for the rims you have.

3. Hanging on: Avoid riding with your contact points badly setup or worn. Handle bar tape must be wrapped properly, any that is hanging off can cause an accident by getting caught in something or by your hand slipping off the bars. It’s not as tricky as it look to apply bar tape properly. Practice makes perfect here. As far as setup goes, the thing to avoid is over tightening bars and stems. A torque wrench is a wise investment as all modern bikes use lightweight bolts that need as little as 5Nm to secure them. Over-tightening bolts can either snap them off, make it impossible to remove them if they seize up or in the event of a crash can actually result in more damage to your bike.

4. The chain gang: the chain is often an overlooked component and yet it is the single most hard working element in the whole drivetrain. As a chain reaches a certain wear point it begins to wear down the cassette and chainrings. A chain checking tool is a useful guide for beginners, telling you when your chain has reached 0.75% wear, which simply means that it has actually stretched. If you replaced a chain at this point you will probably avoid having to replace the cassette which is always costly. Changing your chain at this point can mean you’ll go through three or more before the cassette actually needs to be replaced. Don’t forget to regularly degrease, clean, dry and lubricate your chain if you want to keep it in top working condition. A dirty, clogged up chain will have an impact on gear changing and pedalling efficiency.

5. What’s that other noise? Don’t ignore creaking noises from your bike. Creaking noises from your knees are less worrying but it may be worth asking your GP about them. Creaks are often a sign that something isn’t right with your bike. It could simply be something just needs to be tightened up, like the seat-post clamp, stem or a pedal. It could also be a loose or worn bottom bracket, which would be worth getting checked by a professional mechanic.

Keeping your bike clean, lubricated and following the above tips will help to prolong it’s working life and minimise hassle for you. It is also a good idea to get your bike properly serviced by a mechanic. How often you do this does depend upon usage. If you ride regularly, do a lot of miles or ride in wet and muddy conditions then an annual service is definitely a good idea.

If you’re at all concerned about your bike then please do bring in to the Cycle Centre for an appraisal. If you know something is wrong and needs fixing or replacing then give us a ring to book it in.

Winter Bike Care

With freezing temperatures, wet conditions and an accumulation of dirt and salt on the roads, looking after your bike this winter will help keep you going.

Keeping your bike clean and dry in an indoor or covered area, and keeping all mechanical parts clean and well lubricated will help maintain your bike’s life span.

We have our winter bike kits on special offer right now to help you do just that.

  • Normally retailing at £30 and £40, we have a 50% off offer on our Fenwicks Bike Kits now at £15 and £20.

Fenwicks Bike Kits Now £15 and £20 in our 50% Off Offer.

We are always here to help with advice on maintenance and repairs. 

Our mechanics are all road bike, off road, and bmx enthusiasts with years of experience to help guide you in the right direction.

Just call us on 0191 2651472, or drop in with your bike to ask our advice or to book your bike in. 

  • All bikes purchased from us come with a free service within the first 3 months, a half price service within a year, and reduced rates on future services as well as 10% off accessories.

Keep your bike going this winter with the right advice and maintenance.