Night riding London 2019

London Nightrider 2019 gives you the opportunity to explore the city at night by bike.

Registration to join the hundreds of other cyclists taking part in the 2019 London Nightrider is now open. Registration before the 31st of December 2018 is only £29.

london night ride

London Nightrider is celebrating its 10th anniversary!

It is a fun charity event at night in the heart of London, giving you the chance to explore the cities sights, latest attractions and famous landmarks on wheels.

London Nightrider is the perfect time to see the capital through different eyes, cycling down the quiet streets and watching the first glimmers of the sunrise as you complete your ride. The routes are all fully sign posted allowing you to cycle at your chosen pace. GPS is also available to anyone who wants it. Support, back up and regular break stops are provided throughout the night with a breakfast and medal waiting for you at the finish line.

Cycle on your own, with your friends, family or work colleagues for a Saturday night like no other. This is not a timed ride, or a sportive ride but rather all about having fun and cycling together.

The ride starts from the Lee Valley VeloPark with a 1-mile lap of the road circuit before heading out towards north London. You have a choice between a 100km and 50km circular route, both routes will take you past many of London’s famous landmarks, including Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Power Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and the rare chance to cycle along The Mall!

Is it for me?

  • If you want to challenge yourself with friends in an amazing atmosphere, then this is for you!
  • Cycling 100km at night is a challenge, therefore this event is not suitable for beginners.
  • You should be confident at riding a bicycle alongside road traffic.

Join Sustrans Nightrider London team on one of their limited Charity Places securing your place by paying £29 before the 31st of December and raise a minimum of £175 for charity.

Or register for the discounted fee of £75 and you can support any charity of your choice, raising as much money as you would like.

  • You’ll receive a fundraising pack with ideas and tips to help you reach your fundraising target
  • A Sustrans T-shirt and a Nightrider hi-vis vest

How to cycle through the winter

It’s getting to that time of year again, where you wake up to dark mornings and are met with darkening skies at 4pm. This couples with cold, wet, icy and even snowy weather makes cycling seem like a chore.

There are ways to combat the challenges that winter throws your way.

Snowing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always,

Keep your feet warm

There is absolutely nothing worse than wet, icy toes. But, with decent socks and waterproof shoes, or overshoes your feet can stay warm and toasty even in the harshest of weather conditions.

Wear gloves and a hat

Keeping your fingers warm and protected from the cold chills is a life saver. Not only does this make cycling more pleasant but, your hands can still function properly meaning you can break and change gear safely. Covering your ears with a hat makes all the difference to a cycle ride.

Check the weather before you go

We all know that English weather is stubborn and ever changing but, knowing there is a chance of rain means that you can prepare yourself before you go. You don’t ever want to be in the position where you are caught out on the road in a downpour without the right accessories.

Wear lots of thin layers

Of course it is easy to get warm and sweaty while cycling, and yes, even in the winter. So wearing thin layers means that you can take things off and put things on depending on the temperature and how you feel.

Invest in quality waterproofing

Waterproof wear makes all the difference while cycling. We all know how much England likes to rain. Waterproof jackets, gloves and trousers will keep you 100% dry no matter the weather.

Now with these tips you can keep cycling through these next few months unaffected by the weather conditions. You can stay fit and healthy and took after your physical and mental wellbeing.

Bicycle maintenance guide: How to look after your bike over winter

Regular checks (and cleaning!) are a must throughout the year, but even more so during the winter!

Whether you’re a road cyclist or a trail cyclist, winter takes its toll on your bike if not looked after properly. Dirt, grit, salt and even snow all conspire to spoil your winter riding.

Regular ‘preventative’ maintenance during the wet months will help keep your bike running smoothly throughout, so Pete-one of the original pioneers of Cytech training and a trainer/assessor at pjcsonline.co.uk (PJCS)-is here to show you a few things to keep on top of.

Wheels

It’s important to regularly clean the rim of your wheels and inspect for any damage that may occur due to potholes, for example. For bikes with rim brakes, you should also inspect the wear and tear on the braking surface (as well as the brake pads themselves) which are subject to heavier wear rates during the winter months. Most modern rims have some form a wear indicator-if this is no longer visible then it is time to consider replacement to avoid a catastrophic failure of the rim if neglected for too long. For more information on brake pads check our previous articles in the bicycle maintenance series.

A rim that has worn completely through the braking surface.

 

Whilst in this area of the bike it’s also best to check the condition of your tyres which, like most bicycle components, wear over time. They should be inspected for cuts, cracks and splits in the tread or sidewall, as well as any other damage or debris stuck in the tyre that may cause the tyre to fail prematurely and lead to a puncture/deflation. Replacing the tyre (if necessary) at home is much easier than out on the road or trail!

 

  Checking your tyres

If riding tubeless you will need to continue regularly checking fluid levels and top up if necessary-there are brands/tools out there that allow you to be able to do this without ‘popping’ the bead, making the whole process less hassle.

Drivetrain

This time of year is particularly heavy on the drivetrain components such as the chain, cassette, chainrings and derailleurs, so spending some time on keeping these cleaned and lubricated will reduce the wear and tear of these items to the minimum.

Unless you use a power/quick-link or variant, the chain should be cleaned in situ as ‘breaking’ and refitting it by the more traditional methods can add another potential weakness to the chain. There are a number of products available to aid in cleaning your chain in situ, which can be very useful, especially if you have disc brakes. As mentioned in our last article it’s important not to contaminate your disc pads, so removing them and the wheel is sensible when cleaning. With the wheel removed, a ‘dummy hub’ comes in very handy to keep the chain ‘in place’.

Using a dummy hub and a chain cleaning tool

This process of a thorough clean should be a monthly task and, over the winter period, it’s also a good idea to have an additional quick clean and re-lube after every ride, which will help reduce chain wear considerably.

Moving onto the rest of the drivetrain the cassette should be removed and soaked in de-greaser at least monthly and then re-fitted. No additional lubrication required on this item due to transfer from the lubricated chain.

Front and rear derailleurs should be cleaned regularly as well, ensuring that all linkages are thoroughly lubricated by working them through both extremes of travel with fresh lube.

The chainrings should also be wiped clean regularly to keep the levels of dirt and grit to the minimum.

Having cleaned and re-lubricated the drive train, it’s a good time to check gear adjustment, and fine tune if necessary, as clunking gears can also increase the wear rate on these components.

Checking gear adjustment

Below are the processes of properly checking whether your gears are set up correctly;

Standard Rear Derailleur

1. Check that the derailleur is fixed properly to the frame, and tighten if not.

2. ‘Disengage’ the cable. To do this shift you bike into first gear (biggest sprocket) whilst turning the pedals. Then, without turning the pedals, use the lever to shift into your highest gear (i.e. without the chain actually changing gears) to release the cable tension. With the cable tension reduced bring the cable out of the guide (as pictured below), and then turn the pedals to let the chain shift onto the smallest sprocket.

 

 Disengaging the cable

3.With the chain on the highest gear (smallest sprocket), check that it runs smoothly. If not then use the High-End Stop Adjustment screw to adjust.

4. Now, whilst turning the pedals, manually (so without using the shifter) push the derailleur onto the lowest gear (biggest sprocket). Check that the chain runs smoothly in this gear, and if not then use the Low-End Stop Adjustment screw to adjust.

Re-engaging the cable

5. Whilst still pushing the derailleur onto the lowest gear, re-engage the cable. Continuing to pedal, let the derailleur go so that it returns itself to the highest gear.

6. Using the shifter, shift to the 2nd highest gear (so 10th gear on an 11-speed sprocket, 9th on a 10 speed etc.) (for Campagnolo gears you want 7th on 10 and 11-speed sprockets). Whilst pedalling forwards increase cable tension using the micro adjuster until the chain starts to ‘chatter’ against the side of the third sprocket in, and then reduce cable tension until the ‘chatter’ stops. This should result in fully adjusted gears.

7. Run through the gears in both directions. If it does ‘snag’ in either direction, return to the highest gear (smallest sprocket), then shift down one click (or to gear 7 for Campagnolo). Micro adjust 1 notch in either direction. Repeat until you get smooth shifting in both directions.

Making micro adjustments

Front Derailleur

The front derailleur can seem a little trickier to get the hang of, so may be worth seeking some hands-on advice (or booking yourself onto one of our Home mechanic courses!).

1. Check that the height/orientation of the derailleur is OK, and also that the derailleur is fixed properly to the frame.

2. Shift the chain onto the smallest chain ring (at the front) and the largest sprocket (at the back).

3. Either disengage the cable similar to the rear, or slacken the cable using the tension adjuster (remembering how many turns you’ve adjusted it by).

4. You can now check if the chain runs smoothly on the small chainring and if not use the Low-End Stop Adjustment screw to adjust.

5. Reintroduce/retighten the cable and shift into the largest chainring and smallest sprocket.

6. Check if the chain runs smoothly on the large chainring and if not use the High-End Stop Adjustment screw to adjust.

7. Now shift through the gears to make sure they all run smoothly, and if not make small adjustments to the cable tension to fine tune.

If in doubt with either of these processes you can always consult your nearest Cytech qualified mechanic!

Finally…

It can’t be said enough that a clean bike is a happy bike! During the winter it’s even more important that you regularly wash the whole bike using warm soapy water and soft brush to prevent heavy build-up of dirt and mud etc., and rinse off with cold water. Make sure to wipe down and dry the bike and, for extra protection, it’s recommended that you apply polish to the frame to help prevent the corrosive elements attacking your paintwork.

Now you’re bike’s ready for the winter rides, all that’s left is to make sure you’ve wrapped up warm in order to go out and enjoy them!

‘Conflicting messages’ on safety stop children cycling to school

‘Conflicting messages’ on safety are preventing parents from encouraging their children to walk or cycle to school, according to campaigners.

A survey by Sustrans and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) found 42% of parents felt safety was a barrier to travelling actively to school.

The survey asked 1,232 parents, who were engaged with the SPTC, how their children travel to and from school and why they travel in this way.

girl on bikeThe survey showed that just 3% of Scottish children cycle to school and 2% scooter, whilst but almost half walk.
Eileen Prior, executive director of SPTC, said: “Parents often get conflicting messages.”

She added: “They are expected simultaneously to be responsible for keeping their children safe, for ensuring they are fit and active, and very often, for getting to work on time.

“These pressures often lead to a vicious circle of competing imperatives. For instance, we know driving too close to schools to drop off children actually creates danger in many ways.”

Of those questioned, almost half (42%) said safety was a barrier to their child walking or cycling to school, followed by a lack of cycle routes (29%), too much distance (22%) and not enough time (17%).

Parents said safer walking and cycling routes and slower traffic speeds were most likely to encourage active travel but convenience is still the main driver of travel choice.

Lynn Stocks, acting head of behaviour change at Sustrans Scotland, said the survey confirmed what they were already hearing anecdotally from parents and teachers.

“Increasing the number of pupils travelling actively to school is a simple way of providing children with the moderate intensity of exercise required every day,” she said.

“However it is clear that as long as parents feel that these journeys are not safe, they will be unwilling for their children to travel actively.”

Beat the train fare rise!

Average rail ticket prices have risen by 3.4% across the UK, in the biggest increase to fares since 2013.

Commuter routes that are now more expensive include Liverpool to Manchester (up £108 to £3,152), Maidenhead to London (up £104 to £3,092) and Elgin to Inverness (up £100 to £2,904). But there is a way you can beat the rise… get on your bike!

Switching to a bike for your journey to work could save you thousands every year!

Cycling is only second to walking as the cheapest form of transport. Check out the Cycle to Work calculator to see just how much you could save.

If the cost of buying a bike is putting you off, don’t forget you can spread the cost over as long as 48 months with Ride it away. Check out our handy finance calcualtor to see how little it could cost to get the bike of your dreams then find your nearest dealer and get cycling!

Bicycle maintenance guide: How to repair, service and look after your disc brakes

So, you’ve got a nice a new bike that has disc brakes on it, yet you’ve never really known how to maintain them yourself.

Just like their rim braking cousins, disc brakes have dos and don’ts that you should be aware of to get the best out of them.

However, if you end up not doing a “do”, or even more importantly doing a “don’t”, then the consequences can be a lot more costly than your standard rim brakes.

Andrew, Cytech trainer and assessor at Specialized Canada, is on hand to give you the skinny about disc brakes and how to avoid some common pitfalls.

The types of disc brakes

Disc brakes can either be hydraulic or mechanical, with hydraulic brakes using brake fluid in either an open or closed system and mechanical systems being cable actuated with either a single piston or dual piston set-up. The information below will be useful no matter which system you have on your bike.

General points and maintenance

Hydraulic brakes work by using brake fluid inside sealed tubing running between the lever and the caliper, normally being either DOT fluid or mineral oil/fluid. Contamination will happen over time with both fluids, meaning that the system should be bled and fluid replaced periodically. The regularity will depend on a few things including the amount of use, however, as a rough guide, a yearly service is advisable.

Bleeding hydraulic brakes can be tricky, especially if you’ve never done so before, and with each brand there normally comes a slightly different process. One thing all disc brakes do have in common, though, is that the pads (and also rotors) are very susceptible to contamination, meaning that care should be taken at all times when considering any work around your disc brakes. Instructions can be found online, however, we would definitely recommend taking your bike to your nearest Cytech technical three qualified technician for a brake bleed and service-if done annually it can be a part of a regular service schedule for your bike.

 

 Brake blocks will keep the pads properly spaced even if the lever is depressed while the wheel is out.

It is also worth noting that whenever your wheel(s) are removed, not just when you’re performing maintenance, that it’s wise to insert your brake block(s) in between the pads. These are usually supplied in the small parts box, along with all instruction manuals, and will keep the pads properly spaced even if the lever is depressed while the wheel is out. Above are examples of different versions of brake blocks supplied by different manufacturers.

 

Bleed blocks are used when the wheel and pads are removed-these keep the pistons properly spaced, even if the lever is depressed while the wheel is out.
As well as brake blocks there are also bleed blocks to use when the wheel and pads are removed-these keep the pistons properly spaced, even if the lever is depressed while the wheel is out. Above are examples of different versions of bleed blocks supplied by different manufacturers.

Pad wear and replacement

Hydraulic systems are self-centring when it comes to pad alignment, which is one of their biggest pros over mechanical disc brakes. This means that even as the pads wear they should keep their alignment and not need much adjustment until fully worn.

Mechanical systems are easier to work on but require more regular maintenance. For example mechanical systems will usually need adjustments over time due to cable stretch, as well as periodic re-adjustment due to pad wear (similar to rubber rim brake pads). Another thing to consider is the model of caliper as it may only have a single moving piston-this means that you will need to adjust the ‘static’ pad to bring it closer to the rotor as it wears. You normally have a knob or screw located on the back of this static side to allow you to do this. The ‘moving’ pad then also needs to be adjusted as appropriate to get the right spacing-this is done in the ‘usual’ way by tightening the cable.

 

 (From left to right) adjuster bolt, single sided caliper – open, single sided caliper – closed.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s time to replace the pads once the pad material (not including the metal backing) abrades to a 0.5mm thickness or lower, however, always check with the manufacturers’ instructions to be sure. Changing your pads in a timely manner will ensure consistent braking without any unwanted surprises-be sure that when buying new pads that they’re either the same as the old ones or compatible with your caliper and rotor as they do come in different shapes and materials.

It is easiest to remove and replace pads when the wheel is removed. The following process of replacing pads is tailored slightly towards hydraulic systems but is very similar to the process for mechanical systems too. In either case, always make sure your hands and surroundings are clean to avoid contaminating the pads or the rotor.

Once the wheel is removed use a brake pad setting tool (or similar) to push the pistons back into their original position. Most pads are held in place with a cotter pin or threaded locking pin along with a clip to keep the pin in place if it comes loose. Remove the clip followed by the pin, then bring the pads out of the caliper. In most, if not all cases there will be a ‘return spring’ that comes out with the pads-make note of the way the spring and both pads come out and their set-up. Insert the bleed block to keep the pistons in place.

 

 (From left to right) examples of the clip, pin and spring, new vs used pad thickness, uneven return springs.

Place the new pads along with the return spring back into the caliper and secure with the locking pin and clip. You will now need to condition the new pads to your rotor, which you should give a thorough clean (away from your new pads!) before re-attaching the wheel to your bike. For this it’s best to use a disc brake cleaner or some isopropyl alcohol.

Rotor wear

While cleaning your rotor it is also a good opportunity to check for wear. Rotors have a minimum thickness that is laser etched on the side of the rotor-in most cases the minimum is 1.5mm. Use digital calipers to determine if you need to replace your rotors, and when replacing your rotors make sure you also buy the correct one for your caliper and the material of the pads that you are running.

 

Bedding in new pads

As is the case with cars, disc brake systems on bikes also require a bed-in process. The goal is to transfer a film of brake pad material to the rotor to ensure that they interact together as expected throughout use. Most manufacturers will have a bed-in process outlined in their instruction manuals or website, but the result is always essentially the same. The process below is an example of how to bed in your new brakes.

Find a quiet street that is long enough for you get up to a decent speed and allow for a gradual slowdown. Focusing on one brake at a time, accelerate to a moderate speed and then apply the brakes with medium pressure until you are going at walking speed. Repeat this about 20 times. Now accelerate to a higher speed and then with firm pressure apply the brakes until you are going walking speed. Repeat this about 10 times. DO NOT LOCK UP THE WHEELS/USE THE BRAKES TO COME TO A FULL STOP during this process.

When you’re done allow the rotors and pads to cool and you are good to go. You should do this every time you change your pads or your rotor.

Things to avoid with disc brakes

Above are some of the “dos” for your disc brakes, however, there are a few things you should definitely avoid doing.

  • Spraying lube or any form of cleaner near your pads or rotor. Contamination will cause loss of braking power and an unholy amount of noise. Once pads are contaminated they need replacing. With the rotor, in a lot of cases if your rotor does come in contact with lube/oils etc. then a thorough clean (along with the caliper) with isopropyl alcohol should solve the issue. In extreme cases though a new rotor will be required.
  • Using the wrong brake pad/rotor compound combination. Disc brake pads come in two common types, organic and metallic. Organic pads wear more quickly but are quieter than metallic. Metallic based pads are longer lasting and are seen more on gravity bikes that endure high intense braking loads in abrasive off-road conditions. Each of these pads bed into the rotor as explained earlier and should you switch pad type without changing/thoroughly cleaning the rotor, braking performance will be compromised along with the likelihood of increased noise.
  • Using the wrong hydraulic fluid. Hydraulic systems are built to take only one type of fluid (either mineral oil or DOT (usually DOT 4 or 5.1) fluid). Each of these fluids have specific chemical makeups and using the wrong fluid will cause catastrophic damage to the seals in the lever and caliper, requiring at least a full rebuild or more likely replacement.
  • Forgetting to clean up after bleeding. If you are able to do your own hydraulic bleed, always wash everything down afterwards. Isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle is best followed by soapy water. DOT fluid is corrosive and will ruin the paint job on your bike or any other part it touches.

As with a lot of cycle maintenance further details can be found in your bike’s owner’s manual or the specific brand instructions, and don’t forget there’s always your nearest Cytech qualified technician who will always be happy to help.

Now you know how your brakes like to be kept, you can enjoy your new stopping power and the consistency no matter what weather you’re riding in!

Bicycle maintenance guide: Chains, wear and replacement

When it comes to the most important parts of a bike, the chain is certainly up there in terms of the most essential. Without it there’s no connection between your human input and the mechanical output of the bike-in simple terms you’re going nowhere fast!

However, like the majority of bike parts, it is not immune to wear so regular maintenance is required to get the most out of your chain. Even with regular maintenance though there will come a time where it is too worn to continue being used on the bike and will need replacing.

Continuing to ride a bike with a worn chain is a sure-fire way of running up a nasty repair bill when you take your bike to your local workshop, so Graeme from Torq Zone Academy is here to share some of his knowledge about chains, how to know if they’re worn and what to look for when replacing them.

The anatomy of a chain

Chains are made up of multiple pairs of outer and inner plates held together with rivets. Rollers space each pair of inner plates with rivets being pressed into place through both outer plates to hold the assembly in place, with the inner plates and rollers pivoting freely on the rivets.

 

A – Outer plates | B – Inner plates | C – Rivet | D – Rollers. Photo: Park Tool

 

Each ‘set’ forms one link (i.e. one of each of the outer and inner plates), which are 1 inch (25.4mm) in length. Chainrings and sprockets are therefore designed to accommodate this length between the teeth.

Chain width is measured over the rivet length. With the introduction of more sprockets on the cassette, spacing becomes more and more limited and chain, therefore, become narrower and narrower. With width of the chain having a direct relation to the number of sprockets, chains are therefore sized according to their “speed”. For example an 11 sprocket cassette requires an 11 speed chain, a 10 sprocket cassette requires a 10 speed chain and so on. Failing to fit the correct speed chain could result in inaccurate shifting or the chain jamming between the sprockets.

Chain wear

On the inside of the inner plates are bushings which hold the rollers in place and which the rivet is pressed through. At this interface two types of wear take place, namely rivet-on-bushing wear and bushing-on-roller wear. Rivet-on-bushing wear is the primary cause of chain elongation.

NB: You may sometimes hear people saying that a chain will ‘stretch’ over time, however this isn’t technically true. It may appear so, but as mentioned above what is actually happening is the moving parts of the chain are slowly wearing away. Multiply this wear by the number of links in a chain, and the overall wear adds up to ‘elongate’ the length of the chain.

Further, chain lubricant attracts dirt and grime which then forms a grinding paste and leads to additional wear at the rivet-on-bushing and bushing-on-roller interfaces. Cleaning the chain properly therefore prolongs the life of the chain.

Excessive chain elongation can lead to the rollers not seating within the chainring and sprockets correctly, which will in turn lead to premature wear on these components if not replaced. Having to replace your chain, cassette and chainring all in one go isn’t going to be kind on your wallet!

Always clean the chainrings and sprockets with a brush before cleaning the chain. Use a recommended solvent and always follow up with warm, soapy water. A good chain cleaning tool is handy when cleaning the chain while on the bicycle. Always allow the chain to dry before re-applying lubricant.

Checking your chain

 

Photo: Park Tool

 

Chains should be regularly checked for elongation using a chain checking tool. Generally chain checkers indicate either 0.5% or 0.75% percentage of wear. As a general rule of thumb, 9 speed chains and below should be replaced at 0.75% elongation, and 10 speed and above chains replaced at 0.5% elongation.

Sizing a new chain

The easiest way (and just as accurate a method) to size a new chain is to run the chain around the largest sprocket at the back and largest chainring on the front, bypassing the front and rear derailleurs. Make sure the chain seats correctly between the chainring and sprocket teeth, and that at the ends you have an inner and outer plate coming together on the chainring (you may need to add a little slack on the chain to ensure this).

 

Photo: Park Tool

 

If using a connecting rivet then add one link on a hardtail bicycle and break the chain at this point. On a dual suspension bicycle add two links and break the chain at this point.

If using a master link add half a link on a hardtail bicycle and break the chain at this point. On a dual suspension bicycle add one and a half links and break the chain at this point.

When fitting the chain to the bicycle ensure that it runs correctly through the front and rear derailleurs before inserting the connecting rivet or master link. Some chains and master links are directional so check the manufacturer’s specifications. One more thing to note with connecting rivets is that they should be pressed in from the inside of the chain.

Manufacturers design their chains to work as part of the wider system (i.e. with the front and rear derailleurs, cassette sprockets, chainrings, and gear levers). Chains can vary in outer plate design and sizing, where differences can cause inaccurate shifting between brands and models. Chains will also vary in the quality of material used with better quality chains being more durable.

When in doubt about chain selection it’s usually best to stick to the component manufacturer’s own chains as it does get more complex when components become mixed. Don’t forget though that you can also seek advice and recommendations from your nearest Cytech qualified technician!

 

Bicycle maintenance guide: How to set up your mountain bike suspension

It’s not uncommon to find suspension on a mountain bike these days. In fact, you’d have to hunt pretty hard to find a mountain bike without suspension on!

It’s surprising then that most people will be riding a setup that is less than ideal. Maybe they’ll have too much spring preload, perhaps the rebound and compression dials are not set to allow the suspension to track the ground correctly, or maybe the air pressure has not been set properly resulting in a ride that’s either too hard or soft.

Jules is here to help with some of the more common setup errors that people can be unaware of, which work equally as well for a hardtail as a full suspension bike-just omit the rear shock procedures.

Tyre Pressures

We’ll start with a very obvious point (which doesn’t even involve any fiddling with suspension)-tyre pressures. The tyre is the first point of contact with the trail and will determine the overall amount of grip you have. Over-inflate the tyre and you’ll lose traction, slide out in the turns and have a much firmer ride than is ideal, under-inflate the tyre and it’ll squirm about underneath you in the corners forcing you to make unnecessary steering corrections mid-corner. Again, not ideal.

To cure this you’ll need a floor pump with an accurate pressure gauge, using the manufacturers’ recommended pressures (usually found on the sidewalls of the tyre) as a guide. A good rule of thumb is to press down with your palm on the top of the tread using your full body weight to get an idea of the pressure you have in the tyre. You should be able to press the tyre to about half of its overall volume, but not so much that you can feel the rim. Adjust the pressure accordingly.

Checking the sag

Now that the tyre pressures are set correctly we can look at the suspension. The first thing here is to ensure that the sag is set correctly. Sag is the amount the suspension compresses under the weight of the rider and allows the suspension to support the weight of the rider whilst absorbing impacts from the terrain. If the suspension sag is not set correctly the bike will feel too soft (reaching full travel too easily), or too firm (being unable to reach full travel).

If the suspension uses a coil spring then you’ll need a range of different springs of different rates to adjust the sag (spring rate is essentially the firmness of the spring-sometimes referred to as spring ‘weight’). It’s easier if the suspension uses air as a spring medium as this can be easily adjusted using a suspension specific shock pump.

Most suspension forks and air sprung rear shocks will have a sag indicator o-ring on the stanchion of the fork or rear shock making it easier to set the sag. Get the rider (if you’re the rider you’ll probably need a friend to help out with this) to wear all of the kit they’d usually take for a ride (i.e. hydration pack, tools, water bottle, lights, helmet, any body armour etc.) and get them to sit on the bike with the bike next to a wall so that the rider can support themselves. Ask the rider bounce up and down on the suspension a few times, and then carefully push the sag o-rings against the wiper seals of the suspension. Next, ask the rider to carefully step off of the bike ensuring they do not push down on the suspension when they do so.

Next measure the gap from the top of the wiper seal to the bottom of the o-ring and refer to the manufacturers manual which will often quote the recommended sag in millimetres or as a percentage of total available travel (from 15-20% for forks and between 25-35% for rear shocks).

If the rear suspension uses a coil spring then, as mentioned, it’s more difficult to use the o-ring to measure sag. Instead, first measure the exposed shock shaft length through the coils.

 

Then measure the distance between the two shock mounting bolts (commonly referred to as the ‘Eye to Eye’ measurement), first without the rider on the bike then re-measure with the rider on the bike.

Take these measurements in inches and subtract the compressed eye to eye measurement from the uncompressed eye to eye measurement before dividing the number you get by the shock shaft length to get an overall sag percentage.

As an example, if the shock shaft measured 3″, the uncompressed eye to eye 9.5″ and the compressed eye to eye 8.8″ then the formula would be (9.5-8.8)/3, which equals 0.23 or 23% sag.

A good quality air sprung suspension will come with a further adjustment by way of volume spacers that can be fitted to increase the progressiveness or ‘final firmness’ of the suspension. The best way to test whether you need to fit (or remove) a volume spacer is to ride the bike on a smooth flat piece of trail and push as hard as you can down on the suspension. If the suspension reaches more than 90% of its travel you may want to fit a volume spacer, if it feels unduly firm and you struggle to get past 70% travel you may want to remove a volume spacer.

These are not very difficult jobs but do require specific tools and a bit of suspension knowledge. We’d recommend seeking advice from your nearest Cytech Accredited Shop using the shop search on our website-knowing what’s wrong with your bike will save the shop time and you money!

The external dials

Let’s now look at making adjustments to the external dials of the suspension. These are usually located on the right hand (as viewed by the rider) leg of the fork and are mostly coloured blue and red. It’s good to remember the adage ‘red for rebound’ as the rebound adjuster is usually red and the compression adjuster blue. We are going to focus on the rebound adjuster as it has a profound effect on the way your suspension behaves.

The best way to set your rebound on the forks is to start by winding the rebound adjuster to the full slow (‘+’) position, push the fork down into about a third of its travel and quickly release the bars. The fork will take too long to extend back to its resting position so wind a click off of the rebound adjuster and repeat the process until the front wheel starts to lift off of the ground. At this point wind the adjuster back towards the slow one click for your ideal rebound speed.

On a rear shock finding the perfect rebound setting takes a bit more doing. Find a kerb that you can ride off of sat in the saddle and wind the rebound to the fully slow (‘+’) setting before winding back to the fast (‘-‘) setting by two clicks (the extreme ranges of the adjusters are usually unusable). Next ride off of the kerb with your weight firmly on the saddle. The bike should return to sag slowly.

The goal here is to get the rear shock to ‘overshoot’ the initial sag position before returning to rest at sag. If it does this more than once before returning to sag then you have the rebound set too fast. Wind the adjuster back towards the slow position a click until it overshoots just once.

Balancing the shocks

Finally if the bike you have is a full suspension one, then make sure both shocks feel balanced. This can be done by again riding on a smooth flat piece of trail, centring your weight on the bike and pushing down on the bars and pedals. The goal is for both shocks to return to the sag point at the same speed. If the rear shock feels faster or slower than the forks do then (assuming you have adjusted the forks rebound correctly) make adjustments to the rear shocks rebound until the bike feels balanced.

Following these tips will make the bike feel balanced, planted and predictable when the going gets tough on your favourite trail.

World Car Free Day

People are being encouraged to walk and cycle to work and school instead of driving in aid of World Car Free Day – a global initiative to lower carbon emissions.

trafficThe initiative on Friday (September 22) will see people across the globe ditching their cars in favour of walking, cycling or public transport.

The average UK commute increased from 27 to 29 minutes between 2011 and 2016, adding a total of 14 hours of commuting time for drivers each year, according to research from Company Car Today.

Unnecessary carbon emissions, wasted time and loss of productivity are just a few of the negatives associated with a lengthy car journey to the office or school.

Cycling to work can significantly lower your stress levels, shows study

A recent study suggests cycling to the office can help reduce stress and improve your work performance.

Specialist cycle insurance from CycleguardResearchers Stephane Brutus, Roshan Javadian and Alexandra Panaccio compared how different modes of commuting – cycling, driving a car and taking public transport – affected stress and mood at work.

Its results indicate that cycling to work is a good way to have a good day, says Brutus, the lead author. “Employees who cycled to work showed significantly lower levels of stress within the first 45 minutes of work than those who travelled by car,” he says. The study did not, however, find any difference in the effect on mood. The research team collected data from employees at an information technology company in Old Montreal, using a web-based survey. Respondents replied to questions about their mood, perceived commuting stress and mode of travel.

The survey differentiated between perceived stress and mood, a more transient state affected by personality traits and emotions. The study only assessed answers from respondents who had completed the questionnaire within 45 minutes of arriving at work.

This was done to get a more ‘in-the-moment’ assessment of employees’ stress and mood. Brutus notes that this time specification was the study’s major innovation. “Recent research has shown that early morning stress and mood are strong predictors of their effect later in the day,” he explains. “They can shape how subsequent events are perceived, interpreted and acted upon for the rest of the day.”

He adds that the time specification ensured a more precise picture of stress upon arrival at work. Retrospective assessments can be coloured by stressors that occur later in the workday. “There are relatively few studies that compare the affective experiences of cyclists with those of car and public transport users,” says Brutus, an avid cyclist himself. “Our study was an attempt to address that gap.” At the same time, the team confirmed previous research that found that cyclists perceived their commute as being less stressful than those who travelled by car.

Cycling has been shown to be a relatively inexpensive mode of transportation and a good form of physical activity. A 2015 study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy found that cycling could help reduce CO2 emissions from urban passenger transportation by 11% by 2050. Brutus points out that 6% of Canadians cycled to work in 2011 and the number is only growing. There is potential for public policy makers to seize on this, he adds. “With growing concerns about traffic congestion and pollution, governments are increasingly promoting non-motorized alternative modes of transport, such as walking and cycling.

I can only hope that further studies will follow our lead and develop more precise and deliberate research into this phenomenon.” The study was published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.