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Spring is just around the corner - time to give your bike some TLC

As the days are getting longer and daytime temperatures slowly pick up, it's time to have a look at your bike, clean it and do a bit of routine maintenance. Ping us a message on Facebook if you'd be interested in a short course on bike maintenance.

Start by doing an M-check. Then have a look at your chain and lubricate it (WD-40 is less than ideal). Make sure your tyres are pumped up to the correct pressure – which is not the maximum pressure given on the sidewall!

You may want to spruce up your bike with some new accessories. Bikes can last a lifetime if you buy wisely. The same holds true for accessories. The old adage “Buy cheap, buy twice” could have been coined for bikes and their accessories...

Here is a list of bicycle accessories and components - in no particular order - that we have used and can recommend without hesitation:

  • Blackburn: lights, pumps, racks all excellent and made in USA. Blackburn products come with a lifetime warranty - which the company actually honours if something breaks. I had a titanium bottle cage break and it was replaced without quibble. On my vintage 1982 Bianchi road bike I still use a Blackburn alloy cage transferred from the Bianchi's predecessor. That stuff just lasts. A note of caution: do not buy Blackburn gear off eBay. You will end up with a fake. Don't ask how I know...

  • Ortlieb panniers and bags: they just work - waterproof, well-made, with spare parts readily available.

  • Exposure lights: very expensive but very, very good. A pleasure to use, the lights provide superb visibility. What's more, the company will repair defective lights of any age. 10/10 for sustainability. There are bargains to be had in their outlet store, from where I bought mine about 12 years ago. It's still going strong. While we are on the subject of lights: We recently made the acquaintance of the Newtownards-based company SeeSense. These lights connect to your phone via an app and provide anonymous route data that are used to monitor bicycle journey frequencies in cities. The aim is to provide verifiable data of streets that need better cycling infrastructure. This great idea deserves our support.

  • Schwalbe tyres: The Marathon range is excellent and provides significant puncture protection. Highly recommended for commuters.

  • Continental tubular tyres: old technology that is unjustly forgotten. Forget about tubeless tyres and messy sealant. Newer is not always better.

  • Bicycle GPS units: Garmin hardware is excellent, the PC software less so. Fortunately you do not have to mess around with the latter much. We have no experience of Wahoo or Bryton but web feedback is positive.

  • After-market wheels: wheels are the biggest upgrade you can make to your bike. The easy way is to buy a set from one of the established manufacturers such as Mavic, Shimano, Bontrager, Roval, Zipp etc but if you go to your LBS (Local Bike Shop) and ask them to build a set, you will not only support a local business but you will also have something custom-made for you that will outlive your bike frame.

  • Saddles are a very personal choice. If you don't like riding your bike because the saddle is uncomfortable, try a new saddle.

The best way of choosing one - albeit not the cheapest one - is to go to your LBS and try a demonstrator for a couple of days on your own bike. The cheaper alternative is to go on-line, read reviews, buy one that's recommended by various influencers only to discover after a few rides that it does not suit you. Then you repeat the exercise... A final word of caution on the very personal subject of saddles: many people recommend Brooks saddles. I have two boxed up in our basement. They look lovely but I have other saddles that I can ride all-day without discomfort. The Brooks and my bottom just don't get along.

If you are looking for more information on other types of bike equipment, our website has some helpful tips and links.

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