Saturday 12 March 2011

Stuff Which Is Not Essential, But Which You May Wish To Consider, Part the Last

With a special focus on maintaining the bike, to round things off.

15. Chain cleaner, solvent and sprocket brush

This is edging towards the “bike maintenance” side of things. A chain cleaner is really two things: a set of brushes that clip over the chain, and a concentrated solvent used to make up the solution in the brush holder that dissolves the grease and muck on the chain. You will need to buy this from a bike shop, or you could look online. No particular mechanical skills are required to do this, but it does take a willingness to spent 15-20 minutes cleaning the bike, then cleaning the chain cleaner brushes. A sprocket brush is used at the same time to get the muck and debris off the sprockets and chainwheels at the back of the bike (this is, of course, assuming you’re riding a bike with derailleur gears!). Most serious cyclists will do this at least once a month as cleaning the muck off helps to stop wear and tear on the chain and sprockets, leading to easier gear shifts and making the parts last longer. If you are going to do this, buy yourself some latex gloves! and you may want to think about getting a bike stand (see below).

16. Latex gloves

Usually available for a couple of quid from Wilkinsons / the pound shop, or anywhere that sells motoring supplies. Few things can stick to your fingers quite like the unique mixture of road muck and cycling oil that the bike chain gets covered in. Latex gloves are great for avoiding this. Pop them on before you do any work on the bike, peel them off and bin them at the end, problem solved. (If you do get cycle grease and muck on your fingers, a nail brush and neat washing up liquid is what’s required!).

17. Bike stand

Again, this is for if you’re getting more into cleaning and maintaining your bike. You will probably need to buy it from a bike shop. A bike stand supports the bike, holding the rear wheel off the ground. This allows you to rotate the pedals freely, which is essential if you’re trying to clean the chain – it is well-nigh impossible to hold the bike off the ground with one hand, hold the chain cleaner on with the other, and rotate the pedals! Also essential for if you get into maintaining your bike and need to adjust the gears. About £15-£20.

18. Multitool

Essentially a cycling Swiss Army knife. They often come in “bike repair kits” from Wilkinsons, etc., or you should be able to get them quite easily online or at the bike shop. They usually consist of a set of Allen keys, and a set of screwdriver heads, the idea being that you keep it with you to help make any adjustments / running repairs to the bike as required (they are best kept in your saddlebag, rack pack or panniers). Well worth getting since, even if you don’t plan on doing any bike repairs, someone else might be able to use it. If you do buy one, bear in mind that they can go rusty if they get soaked in the rain, so it may be wise to keep it in a plastic bag (a sandwich bag is about the right size!). And finally...

19. Trouser clips

You may or may not feel you need these. They do have a rather dorky, businessman-on-a-folding-bike type image, and a lot of people never bother with them. Personally, I tend to avoid the need for them by wearing trousers that fit closely and don’t flap about. Since my usual cycling apparel is a pair of El Cheapo trackie bottoms from Primak, I usually adjust them by using safety pins to pin together any loose fabric at the bottom of the trouser legs. I really don’t like my trousers flapping around when I’d riding; it’s distracting, and the worry that they might get stuck in the chain is one more thing on my mind that I can do without. I’m also not a fan of clips, however, since I’ve yet to find any that don’t feel as through they are about to slip down your leg, no matter how firmly you try to clip them on – another distraction I can do without. However, one thing I have found that works well is trouser bands. These are elasticated fluorescent bands that fasten with Velcro around your calves, and they are a lot more secure. You can buy them from Poundland for a quid each, and if you are lucky you can get the extra-dorky but highly visible ones with flashing lights on. I keep a pair in my panniers just in case!

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