As we all know, during the current lockdown we’re allowed out for once a day for daily exercise. The warm, spring weather has enticed many of us to get our bikes out of the garage and go for a ride which is brilliant. Cycling is so good for you and will definitely help you to blow away the cobwebs.
Tina Walker, a local cycle instructor based in Stevenage, has shared the following bike maintenance and safety tips to help keep you and your family safe.
What to check every time you go cycling
A. Air in tyres. Squeeze the sides of the tyres but make sure you don’t poke the tread. If they are hard like an apple they are probably okay but if they squash like a ripe banana, you need to add more air.
B. Check that the brakes work. If a child is to ride the bike check that the brakes work with their hands not yours (if you need help send a message to Tina via Facebook or email).
C. Check that the chain is on the cogs and has some oil on it.
D. Look at the rider. Make sure that there is nothing dangling that could get caught in the bike such as laces, skirts, jackets etc.
A couple of checks that need doing once in a while
(but definitely before your first ride)
The saddle should be up to a point where you need to stand on your tiptoes when sitting on it. This means that your legs can peddle more efficiently which will make you less tired when cycling, especially uphill (most of the returning cyclists I see around have their saddle too low and are making life harder for themselves.)
Check that the steering isn’t loose. Hold the front wheel still with your knees (facing the bike) and try to turn the handlebars. You shouldn’t be able to move them.
If they do, then you need to tighten the headset bolt – this is usually an allen key (on some bikes you may need a spanner).
Wear layers for protection and keeping warm
It’s best to wear lots of thin layers that can be adjusted to suit the varying weather conditions, and always top off with a windproof layer. I favour merino wool socks and gloves but in my job as an instructor there is a lot of standing around rather than actually cycling! A neck gaiter (buff) is really useful to keep out draughts too.
Even in the warmer weather I wear gloves (fingerless cycling mitts in summer) and if you fall off, you will appreciate the protection.
Don’t forget the sun cream – who knows in this country what the weather will do!
If it’s looking a bit grey outside you could invest in some breathable waterproofs. They can be expensive but if you work out how much you save by not using motorised transport then the cost can be justified.
However, I promise you that getting soaked actually does not happen as often as you might think – perhaps only three to four times a year.
Make sure you can be seen
Wearing bright colours on you and your bike help other road users to see you. And always add reflective items at night.
Check your tyre pressure
Be aware punctures are unpleasant to fix in the cold and/or dark. Keep your tyres pumped up to the recommended levels (written on the side of your tyres), and use a pump with a gauge (track pump) to check every week.
Make sure you carry a spare inner tube (of the correct size), tyre levers and pump to effect a quick replacement at the roadside, then repair the tube in the warm after the ride. If you don’t know how to do this, you could think about investing in a little training.
Use your gears
One observation from watching returning cyclists is that most of them are not using their gears correctly.
If your legs are spinning like a hamster in a wheel try changing up to a higher number gear. If you are really struggling to push the pedals around, then change down to a lower gear. The gears are there to make your life easier so use them!
Remember to change gear while you are peddling. If you need help to do this then get in touch with Tina.
Find out more
If you live in the North Herts area and you would like to chat to Tina about cycle lessons, tried and tested local cycle routes, or training in bicycle maintenance once the lockdown is over, Tina would love to hear from you: email@example.com