The 12 days of christmas for cyclists
A guest blog from mobile Glasgow bike mechanic Nick Green of Hammer & Cycle.
On the first day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Always wash your bike
You might be busy and up to your eyes in work, family, Christmas gift buying etc but it’s hard to overstate how aggressive winter conditions are to your bike. If you don’t wash it pretty much every time you ride, it’s going to disintegrate rapidly. (Then again, if you don’t wash your bike and it stops working smoothly you can bring it to Hammer & Cycle for a full clean and service.)
On the second day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Wheels should always go round
But unfortunately in winter they sometimes don’t. Crumbling roads, crashes, grit, salt, water, etc all conspire to give your wheels and tyres a real battering so it makes sense to use stronger, heavier winter wheels and keep them trued. Keep an eye on your tyres too, which can be badly cut up and potentially dangerous. If you strip your wheel of tyre and tube and give it a shake you will find white powder pouring out of the rim. This is from corrosion caused by damp and salt and is slowly eating your rim from the inside. Stick a hose in the valve hole to wash the rim out.
On the third day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Don’t believe that sealed bearings are sealed
Most decent bikes are now fitted with “sealed” or “cartridge” bearings in the hubs, bottom bracket and headset. These replace the traditional loose ball bearings but are more of a convenience for assembly than a significant technical advance. The impression that they are waterproof or sealed for life is entirely misleading, especially in the winter when gritty, salty water will very quickly wash out all the grease. If your bearings feel rough or sticky, get them sorted quickly.
On the fourth day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Nobody can fit mudguards without swearing
Roadies and mountain bikers alike don’t like mudguards but they really make a difference to your comfort and the condition of the bike in winter conditions. Unfortunately they are all an absolute pig to fit and keep straight. It’s the same for everyone so just get on with it. (Or bring them along to Hammer & Cycle and I can fit with less swearing.)
On the fifth day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Buy good lights for darker days
This might seem obvious but I still see riders on the roads without good lights. Bright lights are easy to find and they don’t need to cost the earth. Add red flashing lights and other white lights to your rucksack or wheel spokes or wherever, so other road users see you coming.
On the sixth day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Write your Christmas list like a 10 year old
You know what kit you would like for Christmas, down to the Wiggle catalogue number, but it’s a big risk handing responsibility to your non-cycling relative. The chances are they will find it cheaper in Asda, so adopt the expert techniques of small children and begin pestering in September to make sure there are no surprises on Christmas Day. Emails with specific links to bike parts is all in the spirit of things!
On the seventh day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Use old tyres for turbo-ing
Riding your bike on a turbo trainer is inexplicably popular but it does keep you fit through the winter. Most people will know that turbo riding wrecks your road tyres, which are much softer than proper turbo tyres. Unfortunately these tyres can also be tough to fit as they have less “give” and are a pain if you are swapping to and fro for road riding. An alternative is to use old road tyres which are usually easy to fit and remove.
On the eighth day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Try other stuff
To do any sport outdoors in the Scottish winter means being a bit of an opportunist. Road cycling is often unattractive in frosty or wet weather so it helps to have a range of alternative activities available that might be better suited to conditions. Mountain biking, cyclocross, hill running, mountaineering are all good ways of getting a hard workout in almost any conditions.
On the ninth day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Use UBS
This isn’t a sales pitch but this stuff really seems to work and it’s the only bike spray we sell. Scottoiler in Milngavie have been making products to protect motorbike chains for many years. They are now producing Ultimate Bike Solution for use on bicycles. You clean the bike then spray it all over with the water-based solution and let it dry. It lubricates the moving parts and coats the frame and components. After a ride, a quick hose down will take off all the muck. Easy.
On the 10th day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Dress for the weather
Getting stranded by a mechanical problem or injury at this time of year is a much more serious issue than in summer. Having adequate clothing to keep you warm when you are standing still and not just when you are working hard on the bike is vital.
On the 11th day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Speed up your sportive registrations
It’s great to see how popular cycling has become in recent years (especially if your business is fixing bikes) but that means the cycling events fill up fast. Very, very fast in some cases. To get a place in a popular sportive can mean anxiously monitoring the internet months in advance and being ready with your credit card for the 40 minute window in which spaces are actually on sale. Many of next summer’s events are going on sale now so be alert!
On the 12th day of Christmas the bike mechanic said to you: Discover the best hour of the year to cycle
It’s between 10 and 11 on Christmas morning. The few drivers on the road are in a benevolent mood as they drive to their mum’s for lunch and you are wearing your new Rapha knee warmers. That quick blast in the cold sets you up for the day and isn’t long enough to antagonise your partner left behind making roast potatoes.
* Hammer & Cycle are based in Milngavie, just north of Glasgow. They do all sorts of bike repairs and services and might come in handy when your child’s new bike arrives for Christmas and is still in pieces in the box. The mobile bike mechanics will come to your home and pick up your bike. They then deliver it back to you in perfect condition.