Outspoken’s cycle maintenance course

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On a fine Saturday morning at the end of November I was up early to cycle over to Outspoken’s offices. I had booked myself onto their weekend bicycle maintenance course. We initially met Wes and Rob, our instructors for the day. Then we made our own introductions to our fellow students, explaining the type of cycling that we did and what we hoped to get out of the maintenance course. For some it was a desire to keep a commuting bike well maintained. Others wanted the confidence of being able to carry out roadside repairs when taking longer leisure rides. One was preparing a John O’Groats to Land’s End charity ride. For my part I was looking to tackle maintenance at home, knowing a growing family could only mean a growing collection of bikes.

Our first task was to identify the parts of a bike. Did we know our tubes, from our posts, from our stays? In short, no. However, we soon got to know our way around a bike, ideal for describing issues beyond the scope of the course to bike-shop mechanics.

We then learnt to make an M check: a visual mnemonic to work round each main area on a bike frame looking for issues. It was clear this was a great method for appraising the wear on a second-hand bike to avoid a nasty repair bill on top of the purchase. Using our own regular bike for the course came to the fore with examples of many issues apparent for sharing with the group. However, there was no embarrassment as each bike came up with something!

Next up was removing the rear wheel and replacing its inner tube. This was one item many of the students had tackled previously. However, all agreed that methods shown and tips given by the instructors were highly beneficial especially with respect to making the repair roadside during a ride.

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After lunch there was a discussion on cleaning, lubricating and recognising wear issues with the chain. Then the afternoon was rounded off with a session on brakes: adjusting lever reach, setting up the pads and balancing the brake springs.

I, and most of the other students, returned on Sunday for the intermediate course. Wes returned, and was joined by Catherine as our instructors for the day. We started out with a discussion of on-ride tool kits, ideal as we were gaining the knowhow to put one to use!

Gears were the focus for much of the day: learning to replace cables, adjusting the range and shifting of derailleurs. Before the course I would have been off to a bike shop at the first sign of gear problems so it was great to have them demystified.

We wrapped up the day with a demonstration on adjusting a wheel hub, prompted by a wobble identified on my bike during the previous day’s maintenance checks.

The basic and intermediate courses I attended cost £60 for each day, including tools and equipment. You bring your own regular bike to work on during the course. It is likely to leave in an improved condition, especially so if it’s ‘well loved’ like mine. This is really satisfying, and a great confidence boost, for having done the repairs yourself. Cambridge Cycling Campaign members receive a 15% discount. Full details are available on the Outspoken website (http://www.outspokentraining.co.uk)

Tom McKeown

Outspoken now also deliver four-day long professional courses – see below for a full list of upcoming maintenance courses. For details and further courses go to Outspoken Training’s website.

When (in 2015) Event Location Availability
Mon 9 – Thu 12 Feb Velotech Gold Course Cambridge Contact
Sat 21 Feb 10.00-16.00 Basic Bike Maintenance Cambridge Book online
Sun 22 Feb 10.00-16.00 Intermediate Bike Maintenance Cambridge Book online
Mon 16 – Thu 19 Mar Velotech Gold Course Cambridge Contact