Tag Archives: puncture

Basics of bike maintenance

7 Feb Jose helping to fix my bike

One of the things that puts many people off cycling is fear of having a mechanical issue. However, it is easy to learn the basics of bicycle maintenance. I’ve rounded up a few key videos that will help you to learn the skills that you need.

    • fixing a puncture
    • how to do an M check etc
    • checking tyre pressure
    • replacing brake pads
    • wrapping bar tape
    • replacing a broken rear mech hanger
    • adjusting derailleurs
    • fixing a broken spoke
    • repairing a broken chain
    • replacing a brake cable

What’s the best bicycle maintenance tip that anyone has given you?

YMCA Tour de Y

9 Oct
At the station

At the station

Whilst on the Isles of Scilly, I noticed a post on a Breeze Facebook group looking for a ride leader with a first aid certificate to support a 4 day charity bike ride from Ulverston to London (about 360 miles/580km). ‘How convenient that I’ve just completed my first aid certificate’, I thought. It was only after I completed the Scilly Swim Challenge that I realised I had under 3 weeks to train for an event that would be tough. Oops.

Two weeks ago, I thought I should go out on a solo 90km bike ride as I don’t ride alone very often. I enjoyed it and was pleased that I had no mechanicals. Then I volunteered at the Wiggle New Forest 100 sportive, which gave me a free place. It was too late for me to do the 100 mile route, so I set off on my own on the 100km route, which was great fun.

These two rides made me feel slightly more prepared for the adventure, but as I journeyed up north, the doubts started to set in. I’d heard that the riders had all been busy training – would I be able to keep up?

Tamsyn's bike and bag

Waiting for the train at Southampton Central

It was quite a long train journey with a couple of changes to get up north, which gave me plenty of time to get nervous. Fortunately, I was met at Grange over Sands by the lovely Graham Oatridge, who is a brilliant ambassador for YMCA. We had a great chat on the drive to YMCA Lakeside and I started to feel a little calmer.

On arrival, I met Debs and Denise, the two ladies in the group. They were warm and friendly, and instantly put me at ease, which was great. It was then time for the evening meal and a chance to get to know a few other people in the group. After eating, Graham briefed everyone on the ride and I said a few words about group riding and hand signals, which was met with some merriment from some of the lads – I think my ‘jazz hands’ indication of gravel may be something they remember for some time!

Day 1: 23rd September YMCA Lakeside to Warrington – 91 miles and 1207m ascent

Group photo by Lake Windermere before the start of the ride.

Group photo by Lake Windermere before the start of the ride.

After a filling breakfast (and some photos) we set off from YMCA Lakeside. The lads whizzed off whilst I was still faffing with my Garmin. I’d not used it on a route that I didn’t know before and was worried that it would fail on me. If that happened then I would have to rely on some detailed paper instructions, which might be a slow process.

We set off at a steady pace and had a few mishaps in the first leg with a dropped chain and an unplanned dismount on a hill, but eventually made it to the first rest stop at Warton (25 miles in). We stopped for some snacks and then Debs decided to accompany James in the van for a bit.

I’d felt a little cold during the first section, so I was relieved when Denise started to pick up the pace… however, this relief was short-lived as it wasn’t long before it started raining. We put on our waterproof jackets and continued on. A long part of this ride was along a busy main road, with some large lorries going past, which was a little intimidating. Eventually we arrived at Guys Thatched Cottage at Bilsborrow, where Debs and James were waiting for us. We were glad to be able to climb into the van and shelter for the rain whilst we ate our sandwiches – a ploughman’s baguette has never tasted so delicious!

Leaving Bilsborrow felt a little bleak as we knew we still had quite a way to go.

At around 55 miles, Denise called out to me to stop as she had a puncture. We were cycling through a town, so we pulled off the road and onto a pathway that led to a bank. It was still raining, but not quite as heavily as before, which was a relief. Denise checked her bag, but realised that her spare inner tube was in her bag that was in the minibus. We tried calling Debs, but we learnt that James and Debs were quite a way away and that it would take an hour or so for them to get to us. I decided that the best course of action would be to try to tackle the situation ourselves.

I was a little concerned about using my road bike inner tube in Denise’s hybrid bike, but there wasn’t any other option. A mum and her young son passed on their way home from school and asked if we needed any help, but there wasn’t much they could do and an elderly chap told us that he had recently bought an inner tube, but that it was at home somewhere, so that wasn’t much help either. Although I’ve practised replacing an inner tube in controlled situations before (i.e. at home on the sofa), this was the first time that I’ve ever been completely responsible in a real situation – eek! I’ve only had one puncture on my bike in over two years and I was out with Donna and Stu then so they helped me fix it. Fortunately, I was able to locate the hole in Denise’s punctured inner tube and then found the problem spot in the tyre – a sharp piece of stone had lodge in the tyre. I removed it, fixed everything up and we were on our way again ūüėÄ

At one point, we passed a large Evans Cycle store and I considered stopping to buy an inner tube, but I decided to keep my fingers crossed that Denise wouldn’t have any further problems until we got to the rest stop.

Well, Denise was fine, but at some stage I must have cycled over some glass as at about 65 miles, in the centre of Preston, I got a puncture. Aaarrgghh! I’ve never gone out without an inner tube and now, in my moment of need, I didn’t have one. There was no option but to shelter in a bus stop and wait for James.

Eventually, James and Debs arrived, we loaded our bikes into teh minibus and headed off for Warrington. Denise did ask me whether I wanted to repair my bike and then cycle on, but I knew I would never catch up with the boys and cycling another 25 miles or so on my own in the rain just wasn’t appealing. It was a little disappointing to have to quit on the first day, but it was teh right decision.

I was so grateful to get to the Villagio Hotel in Warrington. We unloaded the minbus, checked in and I went for a lovely shower, before draping wet cycling attire around my hotel room.

Debs and Denise

The lovely ladies: Debs and Denise

The whole team enjoying our hard-earned dinner

The whole team enjoying our hard-earned dinner

Day 2: 24th September Warrington to Bridgnorth – 86 miles and 931m ascent

We had breakfast early and Denise and I decided that we would leave at around 8am to give us a better chance of completing the ride in daylight. The forecast had suggested that it would rain until 9am, but we were lucky that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Our first stop was 26 miles in at the Little Man Inn in Wettenhall. Denise and I had expected the lads to come cycling past us at any moment, but were quite pleased to make it to the rest stop first. The route wasn’t quite what I had been expecting with long sections of it being off-road¬† – it was definitely a cyclocross adventure.

A selfie with Denise by a canal in Cheshire

A selfie with Denise by a canal in Cheshire

We refuelled and as we were getting ready to leave, the lads arrived. There was a bit of banter and then Debs and I set off on the next leg towards the Raven Hotel at Prees. It was nice to see the lads when they eventually passed us.

Debs battling her way up yet another hill.

Debs battling her way up yet another hill.

IMG_6420 IMG_6421

We were really pleased that the weather was holding out… however, this caused me a bit of disorganisation. I had been wearing my sunglasses and when we stopped at the pub, I draped my sunglasses over the handlebars of Denise’s bike. However, I completely forgot about them until we had cycled a kilometre down the road – oops! Fortunately, they were exactly where I left them on Denise’s bike and she hadn’t even noticed!

We had another rest stop at the Haughmond Country Pub in Upton Magna. I was feeling good as teh weather was lovely and Debs and Denise (who had been alternating) were doing well. We didn’t stop for too long and then Denise and I set off on the last leg towards Bridgnorth. There were some stunning views, so I couldn’t resist stopping to take some photos.

The views of the Shropshire countryside were stunning

The views of the Shropshire countryside were stunning

IMG_6423 IMG_6424 IMG_6425

The views of the Shropshire countryside were stunning

Denise and I admiring the views

Denise and I admiring the views

Our final pass through before Bridgnorth was Ironbridge. It looks like a beautiful town and I indicated at the sign for Denise. Unfortunately, Denise misinterpreted my excitement to mean that we had reached our destination, so we had a tiny break before setting off again, little realising that this was to be the toughest section of the day. It seems that the road from Ironbridge to Bridgnorth is entirely uphill.

I was getting worried as it was getting dark, but I kept believing that every corner would be the top of the hill. Denise was doing brilliantly. Despite her bike being so heavy, she didn’t get off and kept chugging up the relentless hill.

When we eventually got to Bridgnorth, we couldn’t find the hotel and probably put in an extra mile or two just cycling around in the town. We agreed to have a very quick shower before heading out to a pub for some more well-earned food.

Day 3: 25th September Bridgnorth to Oxford 102 miles and 1594m ascent

Yet again, Denise and I set off as early as possible to try to get a head start on the boys. We took a couple of slightly wrong turns as we were heading out of the town, but weren’t caught up by the boys until we were by a canal path. We cycled along with them for a litle while before they picked up the pace again.

The first rest stop was The Crown Inn at Hallow Heath. We had a short break before heading off towards Chipping Campden, the 57 mile point. When we got there, Kev had staked a claim to a parking space. He even backed it up by paying for a parking ticket for the space. Some of the team were starting to struggle, especially as they knew that had over 40 miles still to go.

Kev staking out the territory in Chipping Camden

Kev staking out the territory in Chipping Camden

Denise decided to hop into the minibus with Debs and James and I agreed that I would cycle the next leg with the boys, which was fun.

We were aiming for Charlbury for our next rest stop. unfortunately, our Garmins let us down and led us into a one way street. We dismounted and then saw the relevant pub car park, so we pedaled over, not realising that it was located on another one way street. This led to a slight altercation with a member of the public, who refused to believe that it was an innocent mistake.

79 miles in, we stopped at Charlbury

79 miles in, we stopped at Charlbury

 Kev and Ian were a little further behind the group, so Denise and I set off in the direction of Oxford. It was starting to get dark, so I switched on my lights and removed my sunglasses. sadly, I lost them somewhere along the way, which is a little frustrating.
Oxford has a reputation as a city for cyclists, but I have to say that I didn’t particularly enjoy cycling there and was grateful when the bright lights of the Premier Inn came into view. We made it just ahead of the lads and were glad to have time for a wash before heading off for another hearty meal. I clocked it as being 102 miles, which is the longest ride I’ve ever done. I really enjoyed it, but can’t say that I think I could have run a marathon afterwards, so I’m definitely not Ironman ready yet!

Day 4: 26th September Oxford to London 60 miles and 768m ascent

Ready to set off from Oxford

Ready to set off from Oxford

Last day's instructions

Last day’s instructions

Spirits were high as we set off from the Premier Inn in Oxford. The day had started out chilly, but most of us decided to strip off some layers before the ride started. We knew we only had to do 20 miles before the first rest stop, which felt quite short.

There were some steep hills on this section of the course, and unluckily for me there were some steep, gravelly, leafy descents. At one stage I managed to knock my bento box open with my knee and something fell out. I figured that I could live without a snack and then realised that it was my inhaler, so I had to stop and head back for it. To be honest, I was a little relieved to have a break as I HATE going downhill.

When we got to The Chequers Inn at Fingest we encountered a very angry pub landlord who would not let us eat snacks in the car park. Whilst I have some sympathy with his point of view, his method of delivering it (when his pub was closed) was not the best. I felt really embarrassed as the northerners all pointed it out as another example of how people in the south are less welcoming.

A great selfie by Kev

A great selfie by Kev

We then cycled on for another 20 or so miles until we got to the Black Horse Inn at Slough Corner. Some of the other decided to order food from in the pub, but I was happy jus to eat a sandwich and a chocolate biscuit.

Debs and Denise had agreed that they would both do the final 25 mile section into central London, so we arranged to meet up with the lads and do the very last bit together. There was a mixture of cycle paths and roads, but in the end, we abandoned the cycle paths as they kep stopping abruptly and were more hassle than helpful.

Yet another Kev selfie... this time in central London

Yet another Kev selfie… this time in central London

Eventually, we met up with minibus driver James (on a Boris bike) at Marble Arch. We cycled en masse to Buckingham Palace where we posed for photos and were serenaded by tourists singing the Village People hit.

The team in front of Buckingham Palace

The team in front of Buckingham Palace

After a short while we were joined by the south-west crew, which made for an impressive looking team.
We then cycled to the YMCA to meet up with the amazing Graham who organised the entire event.
Our final stop in front of the world's first YMCA

Our final stop in front of the world’s first YMCA

Overall, this was a totally amazing experience. I had so much fun and was really inspired by other people’s stories. Denise has overcome so many hardships and is a truly amazing lady. She really did herself proud and Debs also gave it her all. If the YMCA organise this challenge again next year, I would urge you to sign up and help raise money for a very worthy cause whilst having an amazing time.





Evans Rideit! Sportive

12 Feb

My first big cycling event of the year was scheduled to be Evans RideIt! Sportive in Newbury. Three distances were offered:

  • Short: 30 miles/48km
  • Medium: 50 miles/80km
  • Long: 70 miles/112km

I’ve not been doing a lot of cycle training, but the plan was to do the long course with Stuart, Suzanne, Donna and Jules, whilst Liz was going to cycle part way with us before splitting off for a shorter distance… and then we were all going to go to the pub afterwards to celebrate our achievements and Liz’s birthday.

Unfortunately, the day didn’t start as planned – just five miles away from our house, Stuart’s new car flashed on a warning light to alert us to a flat tyre. We pulled off the motorway and stopped on a garage forecourt to call the AA.

We had to wait a while for a mechanic to come to our aid, and realised at that point that we would not arrive in time to start the long course, which had a final start time of 9:45am. This was a real disappointment as I had psyched myself up for that distance.

The mechanic was a jolly chap who clearly thought we were mad to go out cycling on such a cold day with just some lycra clothing on. He soon discovered the cause of our woes – a large nail embedded in the rear tyre – and was able to fix it, so that we could be on our way.

Finally, we arrived at the school where the event was due to start. There were still a few cyclists milling around, including a large contingent from Oxford University.

We found our way to registration, which is where the second problem occurred – I was not on the list of entrants. This meant that I had to fill in some additional paperwork and also further delayed our start.

We then made our way to the start arch where we were able to start immediately as there were no other cyclists around by that point. We passed an older chap and his grandson (who I’m guessing had received his road bike as a Christmas present). We then saw another cyclist returning to the school who waved at us and warned us that there was ice on the first turn.

We cautiously proceeded around the bend and realised that there was plenty of ice (and slush), as well as quite a broken road surface… and a reasonably steep descent. Aaarrgghh! All of the things that make me nervous at once. I was also in a grumpy mood, so this did not cheer me up.

After descending very slowly, there was an incline, where some more cyclists had stopped to repair a puncture.

It wasn’t long before we were on a more attractive country road… and we even managed to start [passing a few people. We then came to a pretty village, and our ride came very close to finishing there, thanks to a female driver who decide that she only needed to look left before pulling out for a side road. Stuart and I both braked sharply and managed to avoid going into the driver, who just gave us a smile and a wave. Why is it that drivers do this?!

I started to warm up and the road surfaces improved, so my mood started to lighten. It was a crisp day, but there wasn’t a lot of wind and there was no rain.

We went down a hill and towards the bottom, I saw a sign pointing off to our right. I called to Stuart, but we had both passed it and were nearly up the next hill. Stu was sure we were going the right way, so we kept cycling until we came to a main road. We were then convinced we had gone the wrong way, so we retraced our pedal-strokes and, sure enough, there was a sign just tucked down a side road. We followed it for a while and encountered a few other cyclists.

After a while, we came to a T-junction and noticed a sign off to our left pointing down a country lane. It was quite gravelly, but seemed quiet and wasn’t too much of a steep descent, so I thought it would be OK.

Part-way down, Stuart shouted to me that he had a puncture. We pulled over and whilst Stuart replaced his inner tube, I helpfully took a photo and had a snack break.


One of the reasons why I was looking forward to this event was that I had decided it would be when I would try out some new training fuel: honey stinger strawberry waffle.

Honey stinger strawberry waffle

The lovely people at ProBikeKit sent me some samples earlier this year and I’ve been eager to try them out. I’ve read a lot of positive reviews of honey stinger products, but they’ve mostly been on American blogs and I’ve not seen honey stinger products in any UK shops, so it’s great to find a supplier.

I have several simple criteria for training food:

  • It needs to be easy to carry and eat on the go
  • It needs to be a reasonable price
  • It needs to taste good

So, my first criteria. It’s a flat package that is about 8cmx10cm, so it will easily fit in a jersey pocket or a bento box. It is also easy to rip open. (This might seem like a strange criteria, but it’s based on my experience with a PowerBar product that tasted great, but was so sticky after an hour in a jersey pocket that I could barely peel the wrapping off it, which is not ideal when you’re trying to fuel on the go!)

Honey Stinger waffles come in a box of 16 from ProBikeKit and the cost per box is £18.99, so each waffle is just under £1.19 each. This seems to me to be a reasonable price when compared with similar nutrition products.

So, the product was winning on two counts, but the make or break criteria is tasting good. I will admit that I have a bit of a weakness for stroopwafels, you know those delicious Dutch waffles that are sandwiched together with caramel:



So, how did the honey stinger waffle measure up to a stroopwafel? It was surprisingly similar. It was a lovely, slightly crumbly waffle that was held together by a delicious strawberry honey centre. It smelled quite sweet, but was neither too sweet nor too chewy. I was also pleasantly surprised that the centre of the waffle was a natural colour – I had expected it to be pink like the wrapper! There is also clear nutritional information on the wrapper, which explained a key selling point of the product: most of the ingredients are organic.

So, my final verdict was that I LOVE THIS PRODUCT! If you’re out cycling, hiking or ultrarunning, I think it would be the ideal product to take with you.

So, back to the ride. Whilst I was munching, Stu was busy replacing his innertube. At one point, a group of cyclists came up the hill towards us. They explained that they had followed the signs, but at the bottom of the long hill, there were three possible routes and they couldn’t identify where they should be going. They realised that they had gone the wrong way and were turning back.

A cyclo cross guy then came down the hill, so we stopped him and explained the problem, so he turned back. Finally, the older chap and his grandson came down the hill. We said that we thought we had gone the wrong way. The older man said that they were just ahead of the tail cyclist who was removing signs. We cycled up the hill together and encountered the back marker who was removing signs. He acknowledge that the sign was pointing the wrong way… and seemed to believe that it had been set up wrongly that way, rather than being sabotaged by someone.

It wasn’t long before we were at the feed station. I ate a couple of pieces of flap jack and had a bit of my water and then we were ready to go again. Although we were on the short route by this time, we had the option of the short or the medium route back, with one being about 5 miles longer than the other. I figured that we might as well do the medium route, so that the event was slightly better value for money.

It didn’t take long before we were on a fast and flat open road. My mood had lightened and I started to pick the pace up a bit. I could see a group of three cyclists up ahead and felt a little frustrated as they were spread out across the road. Fortunately, they pulled in a bit, so that Stu and I were able to pass them.

It didn’t take long before we could see where the event had started, and there, waiting in the gateway, was Liz. I shouted and waved, but it took her a few seconds (minutes?) to recognise Stu and I. She explained that it wouldn’t be long before Suzanne, Donna and Jules arrived. Soon we spotted them – oops, they were the cyclists that I had struggled to pass on the open road.

Despite the rubbish start to the day, this is how I’m feeling about cycling right now:

hrm bike

I’m working hard on being more positive this year. I’m not doing brilliantly, but I’m trying to bear this in mind:

Cycling motivation

I’ve been reading some interesting things online this month, including:

I’ve also learned that I’ve been rejected (yet again) for the Prudential London Ride 100 :’-( (Actually, I’ve got so many challenges on this year, that it’s not a bad thing!)