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Cycling Tips

 
 
A repository of useful cycling-related information

Personal Safety and Bike Security

Wear a helmet! This could save your life. We know someone who keeps a helmet sat on a statue's head in his conservatory. That helmet was worn during a mountain bike jump that went horribly wrong and caused three broken vertebrae. The helmet broke in nine different places but kept the rider's head in one piece. All of the major brands will do a good job. The main differences are price and the amount of ventilation various models provide.

Insurance

  • Personal Liability – take out a Cycling UK membership. The charity is very active in generating political support for cycling and the personal liability insurance that comes with the membership is well worth being a member.

  • For your bicycle: first check check your home contents insurance. It may provide sufficient coverage. If not, you can avail of specialist bicycle insurers such as Bikemo, Laka and Pedalsure. We have not used any of them so cannot make a recommendation.

 

Bicycle Maintenance

DIY

 

Local Bike Shops: Try to support your local bike shop (LBS) as much as possible. The parts may be slightly more expensive than on-line but if you don't know what you're doing the DIY route could get very expensive as you mess up things... Large chains are a bit of a lottery: you may have a mechanic asssembling your bike who knows what he's doing, or he may not!

  • Bike House (Trek Main Dealer, very helpful and knowledgeable)

  • LaRoute E-Bikes Newtownards (good selection of European e-bikes)

  • Dave Kane Cycles (Cannondale and BMC, also have an active club)

  • McConvey Cycles (Giant, Liv, Pinarello, Specialized - wide range of top brands)

  • Decathlon (housebrands BTwin and Triban are good value)

  • Halfords (many different brands, quality of service can be a lottery, depending on who puts your bike together.)

On-Line Bicycle Retailers

  • Chain Reaction Cycles used to be a local NI company until it was  bought out by Wiggle. The two websites and their prices are now identical.

  • Evans Cycles

  • Planet X often offers end-of-line items at attractive discounts

  • Ribble and Planet X offer own-brand bikes and frames.
    Make sure you know how to interpret frame dimensions before you order!

  • Sigma Sports offer a great selection of high-quality brands

  • Spa Cycles specialises in traditional touring bikes and equipment

  • St John Street Cycles should be everyone's first stop for hard-to-find components

  • eBay, Facebook and Gumtree can be good sources of bikes and bike components. However, all three are used to sell stolen goods. If something looks like a bargain and too good to be true, look at the seller and their feedback. Be carful on both eBay and Amazon: fakes are widely offered. Caveat emptor!

 

Local Cycling Clubs: Individual clubs' riding standards can vary significantly - their websites give the reader a good idea of who enforces good riding standards and who doesn't. Make sure you go out on several rides before signing up: some groups will drop riders who cannot keep up without a second thought.

 

 

Bicycle Security

Decades ago, after the theft of my 10-speed Schwinn Traveller at university I purchased a Kryptonite lock. I still have that lock and haven not had another bike stolen, even when commuting daily to my local train station in London. 

 

Get a lock with a key from their High or Ultimate Security ranges. Avoid combination locks! Abus make excellent locks, too. Forget about anything coiled.

 

When it comes to locks and you buy cheap, you will buy twice, guaranteed: a new lock and a new bike. Make sure you lock your bike around something immovable in a way that prevents the bicycle from being carried off when locked.

Cycling Attire

There never is the wrong weather for cycling, only the wrong clothes. Wear clothes that do not restrict movement or flap around in the wind.

 

Always wear a helmet.

 

Ireland can be sunny and very occasionally it rains here. On a utility bike a large bike poncho will keep you dry, although that is not the last word in terms of aerodynamic efficiency. A water-proof top and trousers are probably a better solution. If you wear glasses a cycling cap with a peak tucked under your helmet is a usefull accessory when it rains.

Gloves are useful, especially if you come off: instinctively you will try to break your fall with outstretched hands. To prevent road rash on your palms, wear gloves.

 

Wear shoes with non-slip soles.

In winter, layer up. It's easy to take off a layer if you get too warm but if you underdress you will have a very uncomfortable ride. Wear a scull cap under your helmet. Ski gloves help prevent frozen fingers.

In summer, wearing lycra cycling shorts underneath your shorts will provide extra comfort. Do not insist un wearing underwear underneath your cycling shorts unless you want to be really uncomfortable.

Choosing a bike

Choosing a bicycle can be a lot of fun. It can also be very confusing for the uninitiated as the choice on offer is truly bewildering. While it may sound attractive to ride around on a bicycle that was used to win the Tour de France, we would recommend you pause and take stock of what you actually want from your bicycle. Many MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) spend thousands of pounds on a bike with a slammed stem to cycle 20km to the next café stop to look cool there. After they get home they book an appointment with their physiotherapist for a back & neck massage.

 

Be realistic: you would not buy a Formula 1 bolide to go to Starbucks. Why would you think a £12,000 Tour de France replica race bike is appropriate for a tootle down to Henderson's in Greyabbey - unless it's to impress your mates down at the pub?

  • The most critical decision you will have to make is how much you want to spend.

  1. Budget < £300: a bike at this level will be serviceable but not hugely enjoyable to use.

  2. £300 - £600: a significant step up in terms of quality and enjoyment

  3. £600 - £1,000: something that could be a bike for life

  4. > £1,000: here a bike becomes a specialised tool for a particular job

  5. eBikes are the bike industry's motherlode, enabling it to sell cheap frames, bolt on an electric motor with often dodgy battery packs at hugely elevated prices. Do your research first, then head over your local retailer.

  • Make a list of activities and types of rides for which you want to use your bicycle.

  • Then you will have to decide whether you buy new or used - the latter will stretch your budget to encompass bicycles that would be out of your budget new, but that comes with some compromises. You will have to be able to check out the bicycle yourself:

    • Is it the right size?

    • Is the frame undamaged?

    • Are the wheels true? The tyres ok?

    • Is the drivetrain in good order?

    • Are all bearings in good shape?

    • Is the seller trustworthy? Does the bike have provenance (purchase receipt)?


Unless you know a fair bit about bicycles we would suggest you forget about buying a second-hand bike and instead take your list and head over to your local bike shop (LBS) for advice. The staff will be able to look at your list and recommend something appropriate. Ask them to measure you up for the correct frame size. Please, do not pick their brains and then go buy on-line to save a few pounds!

 

Once you have taken delivery of your bicycle, ask for the saddle to be adjusted correctly. It is not adjusted correctly if you can put both feet on the ground while stationary. While that may feel "safe" to an inexperienced cyclist, in the long term that saddle position will only lead to sore knees and a lot of wasted energy.

Make sure you understand how the gears work. If you don't, ask the shop assitant to explain this to you - that is part of the service your LBS provides and is something that is unavailable when buying on-line.

If you need any accessories such as a lock, a rack, a pump, lights or mudguards, buy them at the time you purchase the bike.  Your LBS will be happy about the additional sales and, if you ask nicely, will probably discount those parts and certainly install them free of charge. À propos discounts: there is nothing wrong with buying last year's model at a discount (anywhere from 20-50%). Often the only difference between bike models from one year to the other is the colour scheme.

Lastly, each new bike bought at your LBS comes with a free 30-day check up. If it doesn't, find a different shop. Do take advantage of this: cables stretch, indexing may suffer as a result, brake pads wear in, bolts may loosen and may need tightening.

Here is a little known fact: clean bikes are faster than dirty ones! Crud will wear chains, brake pads and rims (if your bike has rim brakes) very quickly. A clean bike also endears the owner to his/her LBS as dirty bikes are unpleasant to work on. Why do you think DVA MOT inspectors reserve the right to refuse inspecting a dirty car...?

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