Campaign to Maintain Kennet & Avon Towpath

Here at Spokes, we’ve become increasingly concerned about the sustained lack of maintenance of the Kennet and Avon Towpath, particularly the rural stretches out towards Marsh Benham and to the east of Colthrop. Despite forming part of National Cycle Network Route 4, the path has been left to degrade to such an extent that we now consider it to be inherently unsafe.

When the path was originally constructed it was 1.5 – 2m wide for most of its length, even in the more rural areas. However, the grass has encroached to such an extent that it is now less than 0.3m wide in places, with a pronounced lip on either side. This makes it virtually unusable by anyone on a bike, since it is very easy for a wheel to catch the lip and unseat the rider. We have spoken to several people who indicated that they or a member of their party had fallen off on these sections.

The path also suffers from poor drainage. Given that it is nothing more than a rut in the grassy bank, it is not surprising that it fills with water whenever it rains. This conceals the true extent of the hazard and leaves a muddy, slippery mess as it dries, which makes it even more difficult to navigate on a bike. What’s more, there are several sections where large notches have been eroded in the bank and cut into the path.  If you are not looking for them, then it would be very easy to ride into one and fall straight into the canal.

This is completely unacceptable. If this was a road, it would not be allowed to fall into such disrepair. Cyclists should expect similar maintenance standards of maintenance to be applied to ensure their safety on these sections of the National Cycle Network, which is popular with leisure cyclists and families.

We are aware that developer contributions have just been made available from the Newbury Racecourse development to improve the section of the towpath between Newbury and Thatcham, which is very welcome and we look forward to these sections being repaired and upgraded.  However, this should not be allowed to distract from maintenance liabilities on the other sections of route.

We appreciate that funding and resources may be tight, but the Canal and River Trust still have a duty of care to the users of their towpath, including cyclists. We have contacted the Waterway Manager for the Kennet & Avon to highlight the problem and to ask that they take urgent action. We have also suggested that they could pool resources with Sustrans and West Berkshire Council. The Council has been very responsive with Cllr Ardagh-Walter inviting the Waterway Manager to the next meeting of the Cycle Forum in December and suggesting that we could undertake a more detailed audit of the route to help the Trust.

If you would like to add your voice to the campaign, we would suggest that you contact the Canal & River Trust directly by emailing:


What parents need to know about buying children’s bikes at Christmas

Chidren's bikes

Although sometimes it seems as though every kid just wants the latest games console, tablet or smartphone, bikes are still a popular Christmas present.  At Spokes, we would always recommend that you buy from your local bike shop (remember Spokes members get 10% discount on new bikes). They have the best products, they can advise you about the correct size bike for your child, they will assemble it and carry out safety checks, and they will set up the bike correctly for you. They will also offer a free 6 week check and make any adjustments after the bike has gone through its initial bedding-in period.

However, we recognise that many parents will still look to on-line retailers or places like Argos, Tesco and Halfords to get their bikes. The disadvantage of buying from these places is that the bike will require an element of self-assembly, or at best will have been hastily put together by a harassed shop assistant. As a result, we have seen many bikes that have been assembled incorrectly and in some cases, they have been in a condition that puts the child at risk of serious injury.

Some of the faults that we have seen include:

  • Forks put on back to front.
  • Loose handlebars and stems.
  • Wheels not properly secured.
  • Tyres not properly seated on the rims.
  • Tyres on the wrong way round.
  • Brakes blocks misaligned / rubbing.
  • Brakes not engaging properly when pulled.
  • Brake levers not at the correct angle.
  • Pedals cross-threaded (remember the left pedal has a reverse thread!)
  • Loose / misaligned saddles.
  • Poorly indexed gears.

The good news is that these can easily be checked and sorted before your child gets on the bike. There is a wealth of information, advice and step-by-step videos available on-line at However, if you still have concerns about the safety of your child’s bike, then we would suggest that you take it to your local bike shop. They can check it for you and advise about any repairs / work that needs to be carried out.


Bike Maintenance Workshop

Two people fixing bikes

Do you have a problem with squeaky brakes, slipping gears or noisy chains? Would you like to learn how to change a tyre or mend a puncture? Well get yourself down to our FREE bike maintenance workshop at Ace Space in Newbury on Saturday 4th October between 1pm and 4pm. Ace Space is located at the end of St Nicholas Road, off St Michael’s Road in the West Fields area of Newbury (the postcode is RG14 5PR).

Our friendly, trained mechanics will be on hand to advise and assist you and answer your questions. We will provide all the tools you need together with workstands and a stock of the basic parts that wear out regularly (e.g. brake pads, cables, inner tubes, patches, etc). If you need anything else, then Banjo’s is just rounds the corner and Spokes members get 10% discount on bike parts!

Where possible, we ask that you book a 30 minute slot so we don’t keep people waiting. For further information and to make a booking. contact Caroline on 07712 470405 or email


Northcroft Lane Link Resurfaced

Northcroft LaneAs reported previously, Spokes has given West Berkshire Council a list of priorities for improving local cycling infrastructure. As you would expect, this included several big schemes like constructing a cycle route on the A4 between Lower Way and Turnpike Road.

However, it also included a number of smaller schemes like resurfacing the western end of Northcroft Lane, which links to the cycle track at the side of Goldwell Park. This may not seem important, but this short stretch of road was so riddled with potholes that it had become quite uncomfortable to cycle on, and we are delighted to report that the Council has just resurfaced this section.

This is just one example of small-scale changes that can be implemented quickly and easily and which make a genuine difference to local cycling journeys. If you have any schemes that you would like us to lobby the Council to implement, then please get in touch. We can either raise it through the Cycle Forum or separately with Council officers.


Dr Bike

Spokes are running another Dr Bike session at Newbury Farmers Market on Sunday 5th May, where we will be doing bike checks and carrying out routine maintenance FREE OF CHARGE.

Our bike doctors can check and sort a variety of minor problems such as: punctures; noisy chains; slipping gears; squeaky brakes; and frayed cables.

If we can’t fix it on the spot, then we will tell you what needs doing and point you in the direction of your local bike shop. Remember that Spokes members get 10% discount on parts.