Cycling Santa’s Christmas Shopping Guide 2015

Cycling Shorts unleashes Santa’s Little Helpers.
Yes the panic is setting in, so much to get organised and so little time, so we’ve all got together to give you a list of gift ideas that won’t disappoint the fussiest cyclist or cycling fan in your life.

We’ve split our choices into four perfect price packages, click on the images to be taken to the retailers website.

Wishing you a Merry Festivemas from all at CyclingShorts.cc!

 

Secret Santa – under £30

 

Santa’s Little Helper – under £100

  

 

Something Beneath The Tree – under £500

 

Santa Baby – money is no object!

Just where is the best place to buy a new bike?

Buying a new bike is always an adventure and a joy.

Buying a new bike is always an adventure and a joy.

No matter whether you are spending £200 or £4000 on a new bike and you are a cycling enthusiast, you will probably invest as much time researching, comparing and selecting the best bike you can get for the money you are spending. You will aim to squeeze the absolute best value possible and get the best bike for the buck that you can. Perhaps even more if you budget is tight, because we all know the Velominati is right:

Rule #4

// It’s all about the bike.

It is, absolutely, without question, unequivocally, about the bike. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously a twatwaffle.

Velominati.com

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Talk to the sales person about your riding style.

So what do you do? 

You talk to friends, club mates, read the latest product reviews, match this up to your preferred bike kit, are you a Shimano, Campagnolo SRAM fan or do you want to emulate your favourite pro (to be honest the last is never a good buying decision). Do you have a favourite brand or is there a dream bike, your Porsche, Ferrari or Aston Martin out there. We can all dream and dreams cost nothing.

But bringing things back down to earth, sadly we are all limited by the amount we can afford. Yes the there are ways to stretch your budget and make your money go further, bike to work schemes being a prime example, helped in many cases by a store that is willing to allow you to put more money in at the start so you can get closer to your Holy Grail.

Now the rub is where do you shop and to be honest this is the core of this article. The biggest question out there is where is the best place to buy a new bike?

Perhaps the easiest way to answer this question is to share my most recent bike buying experience and mingle that in with over 30 years bike component and full bike buying experiences. Obviously when I started buying parts and bikes the internet and world wide web did not exist so the driver was what your friends rode and what the local bike shop had in stock or could order. In fact Shimano had not even entered the market in the UK, gosh can you imagine a time BS (that’s Before Shimano!) but the abbreviation has got me thinking!

Back in the day when steel was king and the choice was between Reynolds or Columbus tubing, the dream bike had to be hand built and had to have the most intricate lug work, hand crafted from standard castings. For me, my Ferrari was a hand crafted, red, Colnago with full Campagnolo Record groupset and handbuilt wheels with Mavic rims, who knows maybe one day!

To get close to your dream you had to visit your Local Bike Shop (LBS) search through their brochures of Peugeots, MBK, Raleigh and Vindec to find something that might just allow you to live the dream at your price point. But in your heart of hearts you knew it was going to be a Ford Escort L and not a Ferrari Dino.

Today however the story is very different. Every bike company has a website and the number of bike supermarkets has gone through the roof, offering last years models at amazing discounts and in some cases very attractive deals on the latest models. But where do you go to get the biggest bang for you bucks and the best advice?

I can hear you screaming online! online! buy online! or one of the big stores. Maybe you are right, but I urge you to read on and remember the motto ‘buyer beware’.

I would be lying if I said I did not use the internet and the world wide web, I do and I gain a lot of useful information using this method. I have a lot of bike and product knowledge stored away too. I have a very good BS (no not Before Shimano) filter to sift out the marketing hype from the real facts. I should know I used to walk the talk when I was in technical products sales and marketing!

The decision.

My most recent buying experience was very illuminating and really backs up my gut instinct for where you should also go to get your best advice and bike deal. Actually its not really a gut instinct but rather a rule.

The Velominati has it in a nutshell:

Rule #58

// Support your local bike shop.

Never buy bikes, parts or accessories online. Going into your local shop, asking myriad inane questions, tying up the staff’s time, then going online to buy is akin to sleeping with your best friend’s wife, then having a beer with him after. If you do purchase parts online, be prepared to mount and maintain them yourself. If you enter a shop with parts you have bought online and expect them to fit them, be prepared to be told to see your online seller for fitting and warranty help.

velominati.com

Perhaps rule 58 is a little harsh but the sentiment is true, but what is your Local Bike Shop? Halfords, Evans and Decathlon are all on my doorstep, are these my Local Bike Shop or are they bike super markets, we all know how well Tesco’s et al are doing at the moment! For me a LBS is the shop that is an independent one, run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts and potential enthusiasts. It’s the place where you can get great advice, irrespective of whether you are buying a bike for your 5 year old or spending £4000 on yourself. It’s staffed by knowledgeable people, who never look down their noses at you and have ‘the customer is king’ tattooed on their brain.

I was in the market for a new CX bike so I thought I would do a little bit of undercover research as a secret shopper, ‘the name’s Bond James Bond!‘. The first port of call was the world wide web to research the brand and model I would go for (but that’s for another time). After a lot of looking I decided to go for a Cannonade Super X, now to find a supplier.

The Supplier.

My choice obviously ruled out some of the big players, gone was Decathlon and Halfords. To be fair to both of these companies they do, in general, have some good bikes on offer. Decathlon brands get some good write ups for value for money and my experience of the in store staff has always been pretty positive, both in the UK and France. Halfords also have some good product range now, Boardman and Cinelli, but from feedback from others you would need to know what you want and be prepared to rebuild post purchase to ensure all was safely put together. It did leave Leisure Lakes and Evans in the frame, both of whom have stores close to where I live.

Leisure Lakes has been a good store for me in the past. The founders having a great vision for the enthusiast, with good product range. But as the market developed into cycle to work bikes, they seem to have reduced the range available and targeted the ride to work buyers, which is great for core business but has left the specialist side behind a little. So I thought I’d give Evans a go.

A well stocked, knowledgeable Local Bike Shop is a great place to shop.

A well stocked, knowledgeable Local Bike Shop is a great place to shop.

I took a few key measurements off my current CX and road bike and armed with these and my height and inside leg, off I went to the local Evans store at the Trafford Centre. I knew what I was after apart from sizing, on which I need some advice, so what could be easier. Oh how wrong can one be!

The buy.

The shop was fairly busy but not to the level where sales staff would be overwhelmed with work. I took a quick look round to see if they had what I was after in store (was not really expecting they would), the only CX bikes they had where own brand and all below the magic £1000 bike to work price point. Never mind I can always ask them to order in a bike for me to have a look at.

It took me a while but I eventually tracked down a sales person. Quick chat and asked to have some guidance about the Cannonade. “Yes sir what would you like Small, Medium or Large?” a very interesting question I thought, considering the frames are sized in cm from 44cm to 58 cm. This was not inspiring confidence in me. I pointed out to the sales guy that the bikes are sized in cm and to be fair, he said he was not sure about sizing. He said he would look on the Evans system, oh but wait there’s no information. ‘Sorry I can’t help’ came the reply. What you have a customer in front of you who is probably going to spend at least £1500 and you can’t help?!!

Trying to help things along I suggested he look at the bike company website for details of the product. To be fair the the sales guy he did exactly that, not that it really helped as it was clear by now he was well out of his depth. My desire to support the super market round the corner was waning and waning fast.

After a bit of discussion and a review of my road bike sizing we plumped for a 54cm frame. I was a little uneasy as I was really not sure this was the best way to go. But I parted with my £50 refundable deposit (not that he told me that) to bring a bike to the store for testing. Away I went looking forward to getting the call to come in and try to bike for size.

If I said all was well with the world when I left the store I would be a bit like a politician telling you that all is well with the world and you will be much better off after the next budget. I was stewing over the whole experience and after an hour or so at home, cooling off time (rather bubbling and boiling time) I decided to change my mind and cancel the order and, at the same time, vent my frustration about the poor level of service.

To be fair to Evans they refunded the money very quickly and within days a store manager was on the phone to discuss the issue, offering nearly the world for me to come back as a customer. Did you know they had a full bike fitting service? Well that was news to me, no body mentioned that and it is not even mentioned on their website. Hmm do they really have a full on bike fitting service. I really feel that although they may dress themselves up as an amazing bike store and that they are a LBS I’m sorry your not, you are just another Halfords but at least Halfords do not try to be anything better!

Its good to talk to someone who knows.

Its good to talk to someone who knows.

 

So back to the drawing board, where was I going to buy from, I needed a truly independent shop, that had the product I was after and had some top flight levels of service. After a bit more research I found Bikechain Ricci in Redruth Cornwall. What a different experience with Richard Pascoe and staff. A quick call with Ricci and it was clear he and his staff are passionate about bikes and that they know their stuff. I sent Ricci my current bike measurements and my key body measurement. He was back within a day with the advice that for the CX I should really be riding a size down from my road bike. This would allow me to move my weight around the bike more easily to deal with a range of surfaces and terrain. This all made perfect sense and matched with the additional research I had done since my Evans experience. Ricci’s product knowledge and riding experience really shone through the whole process, so their it was decision made, deposit paid and estimated delivery date provided, mid November (a bit disappointing but never mind it will be worth the wait).

Time to sit back and reflect on the whole process. I think an online review of Evans I have just found whilst writing this maybe sums up the experience better then I can “Evans cycles – the McDonalds of bicycles?” (http://road.cc/content/forum/92017-evans-cycles-macdonalds-bicycles) I am not sure I would call them the McDonalds but they are a bike supermarket with supermarket service. If its in stock and cheap great, otherwise give them a wide birth.

For me it has to be a local independent bike shop, yes I know Bikechain Ricci is not on my doorstep, but the point is they gave service above and beyond. No other local store to me could provide the product I wanted. Over the phone the guys at Bikechain went the extra mile, talked, listened and discussed needs and really knew their product. That really is what counts and that only comes with passion and experience. I have always had excellent service from the smaller independent guys over the years and sadly a few no longer exist as they get swamped by the big chains.

Stop shopping at the big chains and get yourself down to the local bike shop and talk to them, you might just find you get much better advice and if they can they will give you a bigger bang for your bucks.

If you are looking for an excellent local bike shop I can recommend the following, all based on excellent personal experience.

Bikechain Ricci   Redruth Cornwall

Eddie McGrath Cycles Urmston, Manchester

Geoff Smith Bolton

Wallis Cycles Higher Walton, Lancs

Broadgate Cycles Penwortham, Preston

Cycles Laurent Avrilla Sion sur L’Ocean Vendee France

M Steels Gosforth Tyne and Wear

Cookson Cycles  Whitefield, Manchester

Vulpine Expands to House of Fraser Concession

Cycling apparel brand, Vulpine, are excited to announce from the weekend of 28th June they join the online roster at House of Fraser.

This is a considerable move for the brand, established two years ago with the ethos of producing fashionable yet performance ready cycling apparel. The collection features light-weight merino wool, breathable and technical Dri-Release material, the fabric is tough yet soft and wicks away moisture fast.

With the ever-increasing popularity of cycling, the desire for stylish, fit for purpose apparel for all kinds of cycling and use off the bike becomes more apparent.

Nick Hussey, Founder and CEO of Vulpine had this to say:
“This is a huge move for us. In the two years since we began we’ve always made cycling apparel that works on and off the bike. Stylish enough to be stocked by House of Fraser – home to some of the best-known brands in international fashion – after such a short period is just mind-boggling.

In addition to this we are their exclusive cycling brand as the British public readies itself for the Tour de France in the UK. The reach House of Fraser can offer us is enormous, particularly as they expand into international markets. Perhaps we are the first modern cycling brand to be accepted into the twin temples of both apparel and fashion on this scale.”

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Road Racing : the next steps – Rider Etiquette

Everybody’s bought their licences and they’re raring to go at the start of the season.  This article relates to anybody who wants to have a go at racing on the open roads…

First thing that I want you to take a look at is the first 30 seconds or so of the following clip from Dirty Dancing (yes, I am serious):

You may all think that I have totally lost the plot, but Patrick Swayze makes two important comments:

  1. “Spaghetti arms” – the need to keep your [body’s] frame locked and your head up;
  2. “Dance space” – Jennifer Grey (as the amateur dancer) keeps encroaching on his space, to which he states “I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine”.

Yes, I get that the late Lord Patrick of Swayze is going on about doing a rumba; or whatever dance he is teaching her – I have only ever danced a rumba to “Hungry Eyes” (I’m not joking, either), so I don’t want anyone to correct me on the dance please, but it’s an important lesson to anybody who is contemplating racing on the open road in a road race.


Spaghetti Arms

Keeping your arms relaxed but in control of your handlebars is very important, as is keeping your head up.  Time and time again you see riders in a bunch who aren’t in control of their bike properly.  Some think it’s cool to ride either none-handed or with their wrists balancing on their handlebars in the middle of a bunch.  Sorry, my friends, this is not “cool”.  I don’t care if you see Grand Tour riders doing it on Eurosport – that is not appropriate behaviour in a local bike race in the UK, when there is oncoming traffic on the opposite side of the road.

 

“Dance Space”

More often than not, riders think that it is somehow appropriate to move themselves into a gap that is actually non-existent.  If you were driving a car along a dual carriageway and there was a vehicle in each lane, you wouldn’t drive up the middle of the cars, so why ride into a “gap” that doesn’t exist?  And saying “inside” to the rider who is on the left hand side in the gutter isn’t the same as saying  “barleys” – where you can do what you want because it doesn’t matter as you won’t get any bad luck because you’ve crossed your fingers.  Errr.  No. Sorry, that doesn’t work.

Dirty Dancing

Actions have consequences

Okay, you might think that I am having a rant because somebody brought me off on Sunday and that I should just shut up because “crashing is part of racing”.  Fair enough, I understand the risks, having raced (on and off) since 1993, but I am not convinced some people understand the consequences of racing on the open road.  The closed circuits that British Cycling have built are great tools for learning skills and act as an entry into racing, but people seem to apply the same racing rules to the open road as they do to closed road circuits.  There’s a major difference that seems to pass people by – oncoming traffic.  This means that if you push your way into a gap that doesn’t exist, the rider who has to make way for you then has to move elsewhere, which often means that they have to ride on the wrong side of the road, or hit the cats eyes that mark the middle of the road, which can then lead to issues in itself.

 

It’s not just the women…

Historically, women’s racing on a domestic level has been littered with crashes (partly due to the large difference of abilities that you can find when catering for “women” as a whole), but the numbers of crashes in the local men’s races (in the North West at least) is increasing at an alarming rate.  More often than not, crashes occur because people stop concentrating (if only for a nano-second), which leads to a touch of wheels, people braking and then a domino effect occurring behind the culprit.  Or the person on the front decides that they don’t want to be on the front anymore and swings across the front of the bunch, without looking before making the manoeuvre (I saw that happen with my own eyes on Sunday), or just slams on for no apparent reason.

 

(c) http://martinholdenphotography.com

Mutual Respect

If you have ever watched the professionals racing on the TV, for the most part you will see riders giving each other space – they respect each other as riders and as fellow professionals – they will give each other space on descents, especially – and any crashes (except the bizarre like Jonny Hoogerland’s in the Tour de France) tend to happen either in the last few kilometres when teams are jostling for position in the lead up to a sprint finish, or due to street furniture (roundabouts, bollards, etc) when the roads become really narrow.  The latter shouldn’t happen in a domestic race in the UK because of risk assessments being carried out.

Admittedly, there can be potholes and puddles and grids (we live in the UK after all), so let people know if there’s an issue that you can see, including oncoming traffic – communication is the key in these instances.

 

The Moral to the Story

If you only take a few things away from this article, I hope that they are:

  1. Give your fellow competitors room;
  2. Treat everybody with respect;
  3. Remember that every action (however minor it may seem to you) has a consequence;
  4. Never stop concentrating when riding in a bunch.

The above are my observations from racing with men and women.  Crashing is an expensive option both economically (I consider myself lucky from the crash I had on Sunday, but practically every item of clothing that I had on was wrecked, including a brand new helmet and a pair of Oakleys, which if I wanted to replace it all would cost in the region of £750 – and that’s not including the cost of fixing my bike) and physically (I headbutted the floor at 22 mph and have injuries to most parts of my body, although they are mostly cuts and bruises – the guys who came off in the men’s race weren’t as lucky and have broken bones and written-off bikes) and therefore, in my humble opinion, should be avoided at all costs – which means looking out for each other.  Incidentally, for the majority of us, we have to get up and go to work the following day (you know, so that you can pay for the bike riding) or go home to look after dependents (whether that’s kids or other halves!) – you can’t do either if you’re smashed to bits.

 

Finally…

Let’s keep the #partyontheroad safe, so that everybody can enjoy the party after the race and remember – nobody puts Baby in a corner…

 

Until next time…

 

On Lubrication

Dirty Bicycle Chain Image by hlaricca

Dirty Bicycle Chain Image by hlaricca

For those of you that don’t know, when I’m not praying or meditating on the meaning and worth of pain, I work in a bike shop. Selling, maintaining, riding.

One of the questions I get asked a lot in the shop is ‘what is the right lube to use on a bike?’

There are as many types of lube as there are applications for it, and with good reason. Most of the time people are using the wrong lube for the wrong application and directly or indirectly bugger everything up.

Who hasn’t seen a chain laden with sludge, with slop dripping off the jockey wheels and cassette?

That’s not lube – it’s dirt. Dirt that’s stuck to the lube.

Who hasn’t seen a completely rusted chain, or a headset so gone that there’s rust dribbling down the fork? That’s caused by water ingress past the grease.

All of these parts have been lubed, but what has gone wrong is either the quantity, the quality or the regularity of the greasing has gone wrong.

I guess I’m going to go over parts of the bike, starting from the inside out and try and explain what each part does, what the function of the grease is in that scenario, and therefore how much lube, and what thickness of lube to use.

Before we start, we need to talk about assembly grease. Most parts on a bike that require a screw thread are made of aluminium alloy. One of the important things to note about aluminium is that similar to iron, when exposed to oxygen it forms an oxide, which unsurprisingly is called aluminium oxide. When alloy and alloy screw or press into each other, in time the separate pieces oxidise, much like rust, and ‘dry weld’ themselves together. Cue new chainset when someone hasn’t put a dash of grease on the pedal screws before fitting them. Cue new frameset when someone hasn’t greased the bottom bracket threads before tightening the cups.

Grease provides a barrier between the alloys, stopping them seizing. It also serves to keep air (and therefore oxygen) and water away from the greased part.

Assembly grease is cheap, and you don’t need much, but whenever you are fitting two pieces of alloy together, you *must* use it. Lecture over.

There is also carbon paste, for putting carbon things together. This contains tiny particles of carbon, which act like a grit and bite into the parts to stop them slipping. If you’re putting a carbon seat post into an alloy or carbon frame, be sure to use carbon paste. Else your seatpost will slip and you’ll find your groin slammed into the top tube. And that’s not pleasant. I can testify.

So, bearings and internal greasing:

First up, my go-to lube for internals and bearings is Finish line Teflon Grease. It comes in a tube to which you can attach a Finish Line grease gun, which makes greasing hubs and bearing internals an absolute doddle. It also works great as an assembly grease. When I say grease, I mean this stuff unless I specify otherwise. The grease is about a fiver, the gun about 20 quid, but should last forever. This stuff shouldn’t be used on rubber seals though. The lithium in it eats rubber. If you’ve got a part with a rubber seal, I’d recommend White Lightning Crystal Grease.

Bottom brackets, like the hubs, are an axle spinning in a ring of bearings. The BB bearings come in three main types – cartridge, threaded cups and press fit sealed bearings.

In a cartridge system (such as Square taper, Octalink, PowerSpline), the axle and bearings are contained in a single unit. The axle sticks out either side to provide space for the cranks to be fastened to. To get to the bearing we must (once the BB is removed) peel back the weather seals and apply the lube directly onto the bearings which are just inside the shell of the BB.

As they’re so close to the surface, and the BB gets a regular dosing of road spray, the lube we use needs to concentrate on keeping water and other solvents out, keeping the bearing running smooth and must be thick enough to stick around for the long term. Even the most die hard of us won’t strip the seals off a BB more than once a year – else we’ll knacker them through our over zealous intrusions.

To perfectly fulfil this purpose must be *thick*. Wayne Rooney thick. Almost solid.

So on your cartridge BB and hub internals, you want to have the thickest, most water resistant grease you can get your paws on. I tend to use lithium grease because it’s thickish, water resistant and messy, and a BB service isn’t a BB service without your clothing being covered in greasy smears.

Threaded cups are a lot more simple. They’re sealed, you can’t get in. When you bugger them because you were careless with where you were spraying degreaser when cleaning your drive train, you chuck them out and replace them. Good thing is they aren’t expensive. Bad thing is, you really need to be taking your bike to a shop to get it changed. However, assuming you have a Hollowtech II tool, a torque wrench and a work stand, you just put a bit of assembly grease on the threads and whack it in.

Press fit bearings (BB30, BB90, PF30 etc) are when the sealed bearing themselves are just pressed into the frame with no cups, either by hand or with a pressing tool. The benefit is that the BB shell (the tube in the frame through which the cranks pass) can be much wider, and therefore stiffer. The bearings are sealed, so once again the internals are ‘fire and forget’. For some ungodly reason, some manufacturers are now fitting these into alloy frames (as if they need improved stiffness) which means that the metal shell and the metal bearing rub against one another causing the whole frame to creak with every stroke. The trick here, to stop the creaking, is not to buy an alloy frame with a BB30. Or a carbon frame with an alloy BB shell and a BB30. Seriously. A thick pasting of grease, applied regularly to the inside of the shell, might help the situation if you’ve already bought said Boardman/Cannondale.

Headsets also come in different types, notably integral (often 1 1/8″, sometimes tapered to 1 1/2″ sealed bearings pushed directly into the frame) or external (usually 1″ cups screwed onto a threaded fork). For integral bearings, just apply a thin coat of grease to the inside of the shell and gently press in with a headset press. For external cups, these should be cleaned and repacked with grease annually, similar to hubs. Lithium grease, again, works wonders.

The only other internal part that springs to mind is the freehub body. There may or may not be another guide on servicing these, but in here we need to ensure that hub, pawls and springs can all operate smoothly. We *have* to have a clean, dirt free environment. I tend to use Shimano Mineral oil in here, because it’s so thin, but then again I service my freehub every couple of months. If you’re not that keen, a wet chain lube or a thin coat of White Lightening Crystal grease can work. Under no circumstances should any thick grease be applied in here. Stuff like ‘tenacious’ chain lube and lithium grease can gum up the whole sensitive apparatus and stick pawls in ratchets/stop star ratchets disengaging from the hub body. It has to be thin. And it HAS to be clean. Remove all the bearings, degrease thoroughly [with a degreaser naturally]. Clean with a clean cloth, remove any remaining degreaser, dry either with cool air or time (don’t use a hairdryer, you risk warping parts), and put a droplet of mineral oil on each pawl. Massage it in to ensure good coverage. Put a couple of drops on the ratchet inside the freehub body, then slip it together. Give it a spin until you can hear each pawl engagement as a distinct ‘click’. If you can’t, take it apart, clean it better, and use decent lube like I just told you to, you numpty!

Cables need lube when putting on. An oil based thin lube, like wet chain lube or mineral oil can smooth cable actuation and keep the outers from rusting. Just put a small amount on when fitting, don’t worry about redoing it. For those of you with high end groupsets, consider a polymer cable system. Shimano’s coated Dura Ace cableset is pretty damn good.

Now, lets talk about Chain lubing:

Use Lube image by Angela Richardson

Use Lube image by Angela Richardson

Whatever you’re doing, chances are you’re doing it wrong. I had one gentleman storm out of my shop giving us all abuse because we suggested that WD40 was not a suitable lube for his chain. He’s been doing it wrong for 35 years, apparently, and got quite attached to doing it wrong, and was enraged when a qualified mechanic thought he should know that there was a better way.

So, if you’re reading this, don’t take offence. Just know that there are a lot of lubes for a lot of riding styles and conditions – and while there are compromises, GT85 and WD40 are not suitable lubes under any conditions.

So as we’re here, lets start with WD40. ‘Water Displacer 40’ was the 40th iteration of it’s inventors (you guessed it) Water displacement formula. In order to push water out of tight spots and prevent it’s reentry, WD40 is very thin and has a deep penetrating effect. It’s highly flammable and a volatile solvent. This thin, solvent property provides its most useful cycle related application – cleaning.

While to remove thick, encrusted dirt (like on old hub bearings) a stronger degreaser is needed, for chains and other minor degreasing jobs WD40/GT85 works a treat. Spray it on a cloth, then grab hold of your chain and watch the gunk wipe away. GT85 is basically the same stuff, but it leaves a teflon coating which does serve to provide a long term lube for things that don’t move a huge amount. Like door hinges. And drawers. That is the limit of it’s usefulness. Is you bike chain a water filled crevice, a door hinge, or a drawer? No? Then don’t use a solvent intended for that, then.

WD40 also serves to help us unseize stuck parts. You know, when you didn’t use assembly grease, like I told you to.

So what lube should you be using?

Wet: Oil based, Wet lube is ideal for wet and muddy conditions where a water based lube would get washed away.

Dry: This is kind of like a talcum powder suspended in solvent. It penetrates deep into the chain, then the solvent evaporates, leaving a layer of slippery solid behind. Ideal for long dry rides or sandy/dusty conditions where wet lube would be turned into a sand paste.

Ceramic: These can be wet or dry, ceramic lube has nanoparticles that leave a protective coating on the chain, enhancing it’s life and making shifting smoother and quieter. It is sometimes branded as ‘Stealth’ lube.

Chain lube usually comes in two containers: a spray can and a bottle.
Spraying lube around tends to cock up brake surfaces, pads, internal greases etc, so stay clear. Buy bottled lube or not at all.

When applying lube to the chain, we don’t just throw it on. To do so would likely overlube, meaning that road debris is more likely to stick to it, and any dirt already on the chain is going to get carried into the rollers and booger them pretty quick. First grab that WD40 that you’ll never need and spray it liberally onto a bit of cloth. Grab hold of the bottom of the chain with the cloth and turn the crank backwards, pulling the chain through the cloth. This should really be done after every wet ride, but compromises exist for a reason. I don’t even bother with my Ultegra 11-speed chain. Do it before every lubing though. While you’re there, just touch the cloth to the jockey wheels of the rear dérailleur as the chain is moving to clean the gunk off there.

When the chain is clean(ish), apply the bottle of lube to the bottom of the chain, just in front of the lower jockey wheel and turn the crank backwards. You want a thin line of lube to form down the centre of the chain – not too much. Turn the crank backwards for a minute or so after you’ve lubed it – this helps the lube sink into the rollers – then wipe of the excess with your rag – again grabbing the bottom of the chain and running the crank back.
Do this every couple of weeks or every 200 miles, whichever is sooner.
Every 600 miles or so, take the chain off and clean it thoroughly. Follow a guide from Sheldon Brown or something on Youtube on how to do this. Dry and lube thoroughly afterwards.

What not to lube:
Tyres. Yes, people can be that silly.

Brake discs. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprise how many people try to resolve a squealing disc brake with a touch of lube. The squealing is caused by glazed pads leading to a lack of friction, not by too much friction. If you have lubed the disc, you’ll need new rotors and new pads.

So there you have it. The right grease, in the right place, in the right amount. Simples.

How to: Buy a Cyclo-Cross Bike with Deniz Erkan

Deniz_Erkan_cyclist_mag

Photo courtesy of ©DenizErkan

During the excitement of GB’s Helen Wyman taking Bronze at the CX World Championships this weekend, I caught up with Deniz Erkan of Hadron Cycles on his tips to buying a cyclo-cross bike. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there, and get muddy!

First things first, set a budget, and stick to it.
You can buy a very good quality bike anywhere from £600 upwards. Between £800 and £1500 gets you a fantastic aluminum frame with high quality components, whilst upwards of £1500 can get a nice carbon frame and top end components. Decide how much you want to spend and get the best bike you can for the money.

Pick a frame material
Carbon is light, stiff and can be moulded into some very interesting shapes. However, it is more fragile, meaning an awkward crash into something hard can mean a new frame is required.

Aluminum technology has moved a long way since the earliest frames. These days you can get some really space age aluminum for very little money. It’s lighter than steel, and a lot stiffer too. It can also take a bit of punishment, so the odd crash is unlikely to destroy your pride and joy.

Steel frames are wonderfully resilient, forgiving to ride but a touch on the heavy side. There are some newer (more expensive) options like stainless steel which ride very well and are closing in on the weight of aluminum bikes, but generally good quality steel frames are heavier than other counterparts.

Titanium frames are expensive. It’s a difficult material to work with. However, they are wonderfully light, responsive and undeniably beautiful. They don’t need to be painted, and are very, very strong, meaning all but the worst of crashes are unlikely to even leave a scratch on your frame.

Component choice
Disc or cantilever? As a general rule, correctly set-up cantilever brakes are going to work just as well as poorly set up cable-actuated disc brakes. For modest budgets, don’t be afraid to go for cantilever brakes, as their stopping power is immense. If you are looking for disc brakes, then where possible, stretch to hydraulic models as these provide the full benefits of disc brake systems (minimal servicing, excellent modulation, unparalleled stopping power.) Cable driven disc systems still need cables replaced every now and then (more frequently on cross bikes) and carry the risk of cables snapping or snagging, rendering the brake useless. Some models are very good, such as the Avid BB7, however, given the choice I’d recommend an upgrade to hydraulics.

Tyres
Most new bikes sadly come with rubbish tyres. Factor in the intended use of your new cyclocross bike and set aside a budget for some good quality, puncture resistant and suitably constructed (size, tread depth, compound) tyres.

The Eastway CX2.0 in action. Photo courtesy of ©DenizErkan

The Eastway CX2.0 in action. Photo courtesy of ©DenizErkan

Groupset
A very personal thing, choose groupset based on ergonomics and usability. Shimano offers shims to adjust lever reach for small hands, whilst SRAMs levers are all independently reach adjustable, making exact, fine-tuned set up. Campagnolo offers something similar, but the ergonomics of having to use your thumb can be off putting for some people. Try each of them out and decide what you like using the most. It’s only really at the shifters where you’ll notice a discernible difference in each of the three brands. The rest is aesthetics and specification. SRAM is usually lighter for the money, whilst Campagnolo is almost always more expensive, and difficult to get hold of. Shimano is ubiquitous, priced in the middle and performs there too.

Pedals
Whilst its entirely possible to ride off road, on road pedals, if you want to get serious about the sport, you’ll need to invest in some MTB style pedals. The difference here is that the cleat (the part of the pedal system attached to your shoe) is a lot smaller than a typical road cleat, allowing it to fit in a recessed part of your shoe. This means the shoe can have plenty of tread and walking surface to get you through the mud safely, with the cleat free of the debris.

Shimano leads the way here with the best value for money in its SPD range of pedals. Alternatives include LOOK, TIME, Crankbrothers. Pick one based on price, weight and aesthetic. They all function in a very similar way.

Accesories
What else do you need to have fun on a cross bike?

Bright lights to light up the trail, spare tubes and a pump are a must, but CO2 inflators are a big bonus when you are cold, wet and just want to get home. Take a tyre boot too (piece of old tyre cut into 1-2 inch strip) for emergency tyre repairs, or buy a set of tyre boots like the Park TB-2. It’s always surprising how much an errant branch can damage even the finest rubber. Other than that, get out there and have fun!

 

Hadron CyclesHadron Cycles is a local bike shop based in Islington who aim to cater for all types of cyclists and run regular weekly rides. Contact them for help in buying you CX bike.

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

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