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Free service and bike check? Don’t mind if I do…

9 Oct


photo 3My bike has been lucky enough to visit the brilliant people at Have Bike twice in the last month – once at a pop up at Battersea Power Station and then yesterday at the Financial Times, where I work.

Have Bike are a portable bike safety and servicing organisation that visit different locations and workplaces across London, providing free bike checks. They gave my bike a once over yesterday and returned her freshly oiled with tightened brakes and a cleaner frame, tyres thoroughly checked for glass and wear and some cable ties to streamline askew cords. She rides a dream.

I’ve also got a handy service sheet which tells me what work she’ll need shortly. New rear brake pads, new chain to avoid wearing the cassette, likely new wheel rims after this winter. The best part is they’ll be visiting the FT once a month from now on, so if I do decide to replace these parts all I have to do is cycle to work and leave my bike with them while I tackle my emails. The full service does cost, but there’s no faffing taking the bike to and from the shop. Hurrah!

Have Bike also often team up with the Metropolitan Police, who can tag your bike so it’s registered and easier to track in case of theft. They may also sit you in a huge heavy goods vehicle so you can see what it’s like as the driver and how little visibility you have of the (comparatively¬†little) people on bikes below. ¬†I’ll certainly be hanging well back behind trucks from now on.

If you’d like to organise Have Bike at your office, drop them a line to find out more. Thanks Have Bike team!

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How many girls does it take to change a tyre?

20 Jun
Lady changing tyre

One of the essential skills of any self-respecting female cyclist is the ability to fix a puncture. Yes, it’s one of those jobs that most of the time I’m happy to play damsel in distress for, batting eyelids at the closest lycra-clad, lean, muscled (or not) male cyclist. But I do think that if you’re going to ride a bike you should at least know the basics as inevitably (particularly if you cycle in London), you’ll end up with a puncture at some point.

The first time I changed a tyre it was an agonising 45 minute job, huffing and puffing and alternately swearing at the tyre, bike, myself and closest offending person (my lovely patient boyfriend who was doing his very best to help). It ended exultantly with four bloody knuckles and five broken nails, but a brand new, well fitted inner tube that I did all by myself (well, 99% myself).

Here’s the step by step process:

  1. Take off the tyre by loosening the screw that goes through the middle of your wheel, so you can pull it out of the frame (much easier on the front as you don’t have the chain and back derailer to contend with). You may also need to loosen the quick release lever on your brake pads.
  2. Remove any excess air from inner tube (this step is very important; I know because I missed it out the first time).
  3. Then the hard part, particularly when the tyre is new: remove one side of the tyre from the rim using special little coloured levers purchased from any cycle shop. This step requires a fair amount of brute strength and strong fingers and hands. After hooking one tool under the side of the tyre and onto the spoke below, slide the second little tool under the wheel adjacently, simultaneously pulling the tyre back with one hand, across with the other and gripping the wheel without pulling the tyre down, moving your hand in small fluid movements until the tyre releases from the rim, pops out and slides right the way around. Easy, right? Not really. It seemed to take me forever, was the cause of aforementioned bloody knuckles and broken nails, not to mention seriously blackened hands. But – I got there.
  4. Remove tyre fully, turn it inside out and check thoroughly for any offending glass or other sharp objects that might cause a repeat puncture. (Note, if you check really thoroughly you can give yourself a little break as you prepare for the next bit).
  5. Step five is actually easier: slightly pump up the new inner tube and slot inside the tyre which you’ve replaced back on the wheel, one side only. (If you’re really manly, or experienced, or just want to impress someone, you can blow up the inner tube with your mouth rather than the pump). Also note that OCD cyclists will align the writing on the side of the tyre with the valve hole. Aesthetically pleasing, and easy to find when you later go to pump it up.
  6. Replacing the tyre onto the wheel: the second difficult bit. To do so hook in the side of the tyre into the wheel rim, taking care not to pinch the inner tube as you do so. Then work the tyre back onto the wheel, moving round the rim. This is deceptively easy until you get to the final bit, when you have to find some brute strength again in your fingers to force it back on. If feeling hot, bothered and quite frankly irate that this black rubber tube has got the better of you, don’t worry, you’re nearly there.
  7. Pump up the tyre. Use your pre-prepared track pump to pump the wheel up to 110-120 psi (that stands for pounds per square inch, of course).
  8. Finally, replace the wheel on the bike. Fairly straightforward, align the wheel between the forks and on the skewer. Slot in, push down. Don’t forget to tighten the brake pads if you loosened them to get it off. Twist the skewer to tighten it (make sure you haven’t loosened or tightened it too much) and push back your quick release. Very important: ensure this is aligned in an aerodynamic position, for extra speed.

And that’s it – brush off your hands and give yourself a pat on the back. Now you’ve proved you CAN do it if you need to, next time you can call on one of those lycra-clad men to impress you with how quickly they can do it for you.
If all else fails, it might be worth watching the below video which claims it will teach even six year olds to change a tyre in three minutes.