Do the M-check


Thank you to everyone who came along to our Dr Bike in Newbury. We had a steady stream of people bring us bikes with various issues, which ranged from the relatively minor to more serious defects that made the bike unsafe to ride.

The most common faults that we found were:

  • Flat / under-inflated tyres
  • Worn chains
  • Slipping gears
  • Badly adjusted brakes

It is really important to check your bike regularly to ensure that you pick up problems as they occur. This allows you to take corrective action before they get more serious, and extends the useful life of your components. For example, replacing a chain when the ‘stretch’ is 0.75%, means that you only need to replace the chain itself. Wait until it is worn by 1% or more and that could mean a new cassette (rear sprockets) and possibly new chainrings.

Most of us are familiar with the M-bot (respect to Olympic gold medallist Mo Farrah). But how many of you are familiar with the M-check? This is a really useful safety check of all the main working parts on a bike, which traces an ‘M’ shape. This should be performed once a week, or each time you go out if you ride less frequently. You can download a copy of the M-check leaflet here.

If you want advice on how to carry out routine bike maintenance tasks, then we recommend, which has an excellent series of videos that guide you through each process step-by-step.


Dr Bike Comes to Newbury

two people fixing bikes

Just like cars, bikes need regular maintenance in order to keep them running smoothly and keep you safe. However, often people neglect their bikes and only give them some attention when something breaks, or starts making a noise.

Regular maintenance checks can help identify issues as they arise and allow you to carry out timely adjustments or preventative maintenance. This can extend the life of your components and save you money in the long run. Fortunately, most bikes are relatively simple to work on and only require a few basic tools to undertake the most common maintenance tasks.

Spokes has a number of volunteers who have all taken the Cytech Home Mechanics Course and are therefore qualified to make adjustments to bikes and deliver a basic level of tuition to others about routine maintenance. In addition, we have years of experience of tinkering with bikes and even building them from scratch!

So if you have a bike that has squeaky brakes, slipping gears or just want to know how to change a tyre, then bring it down to Newbury Market on Saturday 27 August between 10am and 2pm where our experts will be on hand to carry out checks, make adjustments, or show you how to undertake maintenance checks and carry out basic repairs. The best part is that it is FREE!

If your bike does need new parts, then don’t forget that Spokes members get 10% discount at Banjo Cycles, Bikelux and Specialized Concept Store.


Spokes Guide to Bike Tyres

Bike Tyre

Your tyres are amongst the most important components on your bike, since they provide the contact points between you and the road.  Your choice of tyre can have a big impact on how your bike rides and handles, but there is a bewildering range of tyres available in all sorts of types, sizes and tread patterns, so it can be difficult to know where to begin.

Tyre Types – Broadly speaking, there are three main tyre types: tubular, clinchers and tubeless tyres.  Tubular tyres have an inner tube sewn inside and the tyres have to be bonded to a tubular specific rim. This makes them expensive and / or difficult to replace. They are very lightweight and are aimed at pro road cyclists. Clinchers are the traditional tyre that most of us will be familiar with. They have a ridge or ‘bead’ that keeps the tyre in place by pushing against the hook or ‘bead seat’ on the inside of the wheel rim when the inner tube is inflated. Tubeless tyres are similar to clinchers, but as the name suggests, they don’t have an inner tube. Instead, they have a thicker bead and rely on liquid sealant to form an airtight seal. The main advantage of tubeless tyres is that they are more puncture resistant – the lack of an inner tube eliminates pinch flats and the sealant inside the tyre can fill smaller punctures. There is little weight difference between clinchers and tubeless tyres, so the choice is down to personal preference (and how puncture prone you are).

Valve Types – There are two main types of tyre valve. Shraeder valves are wider and have an internal spring to keep the valve closed. They tend to be fitted to kids bikes and some mountain bikes and hybrids. Presta valves are slimmer and are most often found on road bikes. They have a top section that must be screwed down to close the valve. The difference in the widths means that they are generally not interchangeable, since wheel rims generally have holes designed for one particular valve type.

Tyre sizes – Traditionally tyre sizes are denoted using two numbers – the first is the outer diameter of the tyre and the second is the width, with figures in either inches or millimetres. For example a mountain bike might have 26″ x 1.9″ tyres, while a road bike bike tyre might have 700 x 25 mm tyres. Because of inconsistencies between tyres produced by different manufacturers, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) developed a universal tyre sizing system that uses two numbers – the first is the width of the tyre in millimetres and the second is the diameter of the bead seat on the wheel rim. For example, a 700 x 25 C tyre would be classified as a 25-622 tyre using the ISO system.

So what size tyres should you buy? The diameter of the tyre is determined by the diameter of your wheels and is therefore fixed. However, for any given rim width, there will be a range of tyre widths that will fit. Generally speaking, your tyre width should be 1.4 – 2 times the distance between the inside edges of your wheel rim. For example, a touring bike with a rim width of 19 mm would be capable of taking tyres 28- 38 mm wide.

Wider tyres generally run at lower pressures, which means that they are softer and therefore more comfortable. Intuitively, you might think that wider tyres have higher rolling resistance, but rolling road tests have shown that rolling resistance actually decreases on road bikes as you step up from 23mm to 25mm and again when you step up to 28mm. The reason for this is wider tyres deform less at the same pressures. Real-world tests show that the benefits may be negated by increased wind resistance, but unless you are in a race situation, this shouldn’t be an issue. If you do go for wider tyres, just make sure that the bike frame provides the necessary clearance!

Tyre Pressures – Grip, rolling resistance, comfort and safety are all affected by tyre pressure, so it is important to get it right. Every tyre will have a recommended range of pressures, which is shown on the side wall. Road bike tyres typically need 80 to 130 psi (pounds per square inch); hybrid tyres run at 50 to 70 psi; and mountain bike tyres just need 30 to 50 psi. The correct tyre pressure is usually determined by the weight of the rider. Heavier riders need more air in their tyres than lighter ones and should therefore aim for the upper end of the recommended range.

Tread – On normal roads, tyre tread has a minimal influence on riding properties. The grip generated by the tyre on the road is almost exclusively down to the rubber compound. Unlike a car, a bicycle will not aquaplane, since the contact area is so small. However, tyre tread is important in off-road situations, where it forms an interlocking connection with the ground to transmit driving, braking and steering forces. Some tyres will have tread patterns that are designed to work in a particular direction. On these tyres, the direction of rotation will be marked on the side wall. Also, some mountain bike tyres are designed with different tread patterns at the back and front, with the rear tyres optimised to transmit drive forces and the front ones optimised for steering forces.

Puncture Resistance & Wear – Most tyre manufacturers have a range of tyres that offer different characteristics in terms of wear and puncture protection. Race tyres are designed to have low weight and rolling resistance and are made with softer compounds that offer improved grip. However, the downsides include quicker wear rates and reduced puncture protection. At the other end of the spectrum are tyres designed for long-distance touring and commuting, which have excellent wear rates and puncture protection, but are much heavier and have higher rolling resistance. Ultimately, your choice depends on how, where and when you ride and how much you want to spend. Remember that Spokes members get 10% off tyres at local bike shops!


Opening Up the Countryside

cycling on public footpath

British Cycling recently launched their “Open Up the Countryside to Cyclists” campaign calling for cyclists in England to be allowed to used all public rights of way, and not just bridleways and byways, which account for less than a third of all public rights of way. In Scotland, cyclists have been given unrestricted access for a number of years and their experience suggests that cyclists can share footpaths with pedestrians with few problems, suggesting that “responsible access by people on bikes is sustainable, manageable and highly beneficial to tourism, health and the economy”.

Although cyclists can use bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic, they do not currently have the legal right to use public footpaths in England, To do so would be an act of trespass against the landowner. The exception is where the landowner has given consent, but these permitted paths have no formal legal status and permission can be rescinded by the landowner. A good rule of thumb is to assume that you aren’t allowed to cycle on a public footpath unless there are signs telling you otherwise.

Often the distinction between the different categories of public rights of way is lost on the average person and it is no wonder that many people are confused about where the can and can’t legally ride their bikes.  A recent poll carried out for British Cycling shows that the majority of the public are unaware that it is illegal for them to cycle on public footpaths in England and many support opening up the network to cyclists.

There are strong arguments for doing this. Research consistently shows that many people want to cycle more, but are put off from doing so by safety concerns associated with cycling on the road. Therefore, making more traffic-free paths available to cyclists has the potential to get many more people out on their bikes. This would have significant health benefits in terms of tackling obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Also, leisure cycling can be a stepping stone to utility cycling (using your bike for everyday journeys), which would help to tackle congestion and air quality issues in our towns and cities.

A recent consultation in Wales showed strong support for changes to public rights of way legislation to provide cyclists with greater access to the network. In fact, the consultation attracted more responses than just about any other survey they had commissioned. British Cycling has since written to the Secretary of State for the Environment asking for a similar review in England.

However, not everyone welcomes the idea. There are regular items in the local and national media highlighting the conflict that can take place between pedestrians and cyclists, particularly on busier paths. Walkers are often quoted as bemoaning the behaviour of irresponsible cyclists who expect them to jump out of the way, or approach from behind without ringing their bell to announce their presence.

The Kennet and Avon towpath is an interesting case in point. This is classified as a public footpath, but the Canal and River Trust permits “considerate cycling on their towpath”.  However, friction between cyclists and other users is all too commonplace, particularly in and around urban areas where usage levels are highest. The Trust has tried to tackle the issue by publishing a towpath code which they have promoted via the “share the space, drop your pace” campaign. Also, signs have been erected along the towpath in Newbury encouraging cyclists to slow down and give way to pedestrians. This has been done in response to complaints from path users.

Much of the problem boils down to the width of the path. Many public footpaths have a designated width of 2m or less and may be bounded by fences on one or both sides. This means that users must pass slowly and carefully to avoid injury or accident, which isn’t a problem if you only have to do this occasionally. However, when you have to slow down every few metres then the usability of the path is inevitably compromised.

We would be interested to know what you think.  Is shared use of public footpaths a good idea, or should the status quo be preserved?  Are there particular routes where you think this could work and if so, should they be upgraded? Please feel free to contact us and let us know, or fill out our online poll below.

Do you think that all public footpaths in England should be opened up to cyclists?



West Berkshire Spokes AGM 2016

Banjo Cycles

The Annual General Meeting of West Berkshire Spokes will take place at 11:30am on Sunday 12 June 2016 at the Café in Banjo Cycles, Unit 4 & 5, Norman House, Hambridge Road, Newbury RG14 5XA.  All members are very welcome to attend the AGM.

Below are links to a draft agenda, the current constitution and the minutes from the last AGM:

The final agenda will be provided at the AGM meeting itself.