Here, in the quieter reaches of our site you find some (hopefully) helpful advice on how to keep you and your bike safe and maybe do a bit of DIY maintenance along the way. We also have some ideas on where you might ride your bike when you're not dealing with the daily drudge of the commute.
The Joy of City Riding
For many people new to cycling in London, there are two key questions they want to answer: Isn't it terribly dangerous? And, won't my bike just get nicked?
People's misgivings are often fired by watching other cyclists behaving stupidly. Running red lights, going the wrong way down one way streets, riding too close to parked cars are all stupid and potentially dangerous. But you don't have to ride that way. Here's our two favourite tips: First, if you obey the Highway Code you have every right to be there and second, don't tell the drivers that bikes are faster than cars.
The key to safe riding is being sensible but assertive. Remember that when you pull away at the lights, at first, you will be going faster than the cars. Get yourself sorted and stable before the cars catch up. Stake your claim to your bit of the road, don't be timid, ride where you can be seen and watch out for parked cars; drivers often don't look before they get out. Finally, tempting though it often is, do not undertake or pass a vehicle on the inside. Trucks and lorries often have a huge blind spot here. If they suddenly decide to turn left, that could easily be the end of you and your bike. Pavement riding? Please don't! it gives us all a bad name.
Almost everyone who has bought a decent bike is terrified of having it nicked. The thought of some low life riding about on the bike you love, is sometimes enough to prevent you buying it in the first place. However, it needn't be that way. Essentially, bike security is about two things, Constant Vigilance and Not Being Stupid. Following these principles should make your bike less attractive to thieves and we don't mean painting it a daft colour or covering it with insulation tape; that doesn't work, OK?
Wherever you leave your bike, leave it locked up. And when we say locked, we mean locked to something, like a bike stand or a set of railings. Allow as little space as possible - so fill that lock up with bike and whatever you've locked it to. Don't lock your bike through the frame alone, as that will mean that while your frame stays there, your wheels may not (average cost to replace two wheels on a typical hybrid bike - £170). We recommend you use two different kinds of lock. Why? Because while most thieves will be tooled up to deal with one kind of lock, they might not be prepared to deal with two. Use a D lock to secure your rear wheel and frame to a stationary object. Use a cable lock to secure your front wheel and frame to the same immoveable object. Ultimately, making your bike less attractive is all about making it look more difficult to steal than someone else's. Bike thieves are essentially lazy bastards, so make stealing your bike hard work and chances are they won't be bothered.
Not Being Stupid
Amazingly, some people still take their bikes down to the newsagent, pop in for a paper and are shocked to find that their unlocked bike is no longer there. When selecting where to lock your bike consider the following. Do not hide it in a dark alley where it can't be seen. The thieves will find it and then they won't be seen breaking your locks. Avoid cast iron railings, they are brittle and a sharp blow with a heavy hammer will often shatter them. Avoid street furniture where it's possible to lift your bike over them. (They'll just fold those titchy signs in half and lift your bike over the top). Do not rely on CCTV or security guards - they're all blind. Remember. It's a fact, a significant proportion of stolen bikes were taken because they just weren't locked up. Always, always, always lock your bike up.
DIY - a clean bike is a happy bike
Cleaning the Frame
An initial rinse is very important, or you will end up swirling round the gritty debris and scratching your frame. Assuming all that rain dancing has worked and the drought is over, you can use a garden hose on a light setting to do this, otherwise it's backwards and forwards to the tap with a bucket. Next spray some diluted degreaser (we really rate Juice Lubes Dirt Juice) onto your frame. Leave for 30 seconds then, using hot water and a sponge, go over the whole frame and wipe clean. Don't use washing-up liquid as this often contains salt, which is not good for your bike. Finish up with some frame polish (Juice Lubes Frame Polish is best), this will leave your bike looking shiny, smelling nice and prevent dirt from sticking to it.
Cleaning the Wheels
A dirty braking surface can decrease the performance of your brakes, increase the wear on your brake pads and make a horrible noise at the same time. Give the rim a quick wipe with some wire wool to take off any oxidation, follow up with a wipe using a clean dry cloth to take off any wire strands left behind. Now spray some brake cleaner (Juice Lubes Brake Juice is great for this job) onto your rag and wipe around the rim to break down any remaining grease. A clean with some light degreaser on the hub and spokes will make your wheels shine and although it may not necessarily to increase performance, it's a good finishing touch. It is always worth checking your brake pads for grit that might be lodged into the rubber, pick anything out and carefully give the pads a wipe with an alcohol-based solvent. This could save you quite a lot of money in the long run.
Bike Health Warning!
Unless you really know what you're doing, we think it's best to avoid all jet or pressure washers. Yes, you may well wind up with a lovely clean bike but you're also quite likely to wash all the grease out of some very important places, where it really needs to be. Those dark hidden recesses of your bike where most of you never go - inside the hubs, headset and bottom bracket - must be well lubricated at all times. If they are not, you could be in for a very expensive visit to the bike shop.