Bike to the Future

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I've been toying with the idea of getting a bike for some time now and recently I happened upon an article that Small City had done on The Bike Station a couple of years ago.  The Bike Station is a Scottish non-profit that offers recycled, donated bikes at affordable prices and then uses the proceeds to help people across Scotland get into cycling.

With this in mind, I went into the Perth store and ended up test-riding a couple of second-hand bikes. Before I knew it, I was cycling away on a brilliant hybrid bike for just over £100!  My interest in cycling then grew exponentially, and about a month later I ended up buying an additional second-hand bike, this time an electric one that I picked up on Gumtree.

Since then I've been cycling everywhere, making the most of what was a decent summer and gradually increasing both the distances I've been cycling, and my fitness levels.  I now love cycling so much that when I recently went on a week's holiday to Austria I was getting withdrawal symptoms so bad that we hired bikes for the day!

What soon became clear though, was that I didn't have a scoobie when it came to upgrading and maintaining my new favoured mode of transport.  Every time I purchased an accessory I shelled out for either Halfords or The Bike Station to fit it, and my attempt to degrease my drive chainThe Bike Station offers one-on-one sessions with a trained mechanic where you can learn to maintain and upgrade your bike. was woefully inadequate.  

Then I heard that The Bike Station offers one-on-one sessions with a trained mechanic where you can learn to maintain and upgrade your bike.  These sessions take place in a newly developed area at The Bike Station called The Zero Waste Space and you can do whatever you want with the one hour you are appointed. 

You could use it to learn general maintenance like puncture repair and gear adjustments, or you could take the opportunity to upgrade your bike by fitting panniers or mudguards.  Best of all, because it's subsidised by Zero Waste Perth, you only pay £10 for the privilege.

I popped into the shop, paid my £10 and booked my slot.  All that was left to do was to decide what I was going to spend my hour doing.  My chain was a state so I wanted to use at least some of the time learning how to thoroughly degrease that drive chain.  There was also a weird noise coming from my front wheel, particularly when I built up speed going downhill - it was really irritating me and so I reckoned that had to be on the list.  

Finally, I'd not had to deal with a puncture yet, but with farmers and the council due to start trimming the hawthorn hedges I reckoned it was inevitable I'd get one soon, so I wanted to know how to fix it when I did.

I arrived at The Bike Station and the mechanic that would be helping me out, John, showed me over to the Zero Waste Space where we hung my bike on a stand so we could work on it.  John has just joined The Bike Station team this summer but he has years of experience and as he sets about trying to figure out Bike to the Future - Bike Station Dudethe source of my noisy wheel I can tell he really knows what he is doing. 

He soon got rid of the noise by realigning my disc brakes and we moved onto the task of cleaning the drivetrain.  He asked me if my chain had a master link, but to be honest it is currently so caked in oil and dirt that it is difficult to tell. 

John took the chain off my bike and took it to The Bike Station's cleaning station, which is a big industrial sink that has a tap that produces heavy-duty degreaser.  Obviously, I don't have one of these at home so John suggests that I use an ice cream tub full of petrol or kerosene in its place.  It is very important to thoroughly rinse the chain in water That's what I love about this place, they don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk (or should that be they cycle the cycle?). as if there is any degreaser left on the chain the oil that we are about to put on it won't bond.

As we worked, John told me a little bit about the shop's preparations for the climate strike that was about to happen in Perth the next day.  The Bike Station was offering a free safety check to anyone in attendance.  That's what I love about this company, they don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk (or should that be they cycle the cycle?). 

The Bike Station gets out into the local community and effectively communicates the environmental, health and mental health benefits of cycling.  They also recently started a project offering Perth residents loans of their bikes to try and get them out of their cars.  This is well worth considering if you want to shed some pounds while saving some money and cutting down on your carbon footprint.

John and I then repeated the degreasing and rinsing process with the bike's cassette (basically its gears). John shows me how to put everything back on the bike and, handily, he puts a master link in place which will allow me to more easily remove my chain in future. 

He then shows me how to re-index the gears which isn't as daunting as it sounds, it's basically just adjusting the tension in the gear cable so the gear shifts are as smooth as can be.  Doing a relatively minor thing like cleaning your drive chain regularly can double its life and save you a small fortune on repair costs.


Finally, we moved on to the best way to deal with a puncture and John offers some game-changing advice.  'The best way to fix a puncture is to not fix the puncture,' he laughs.  Instead of struggling with a puncture repair kit at the side of the road while lorries zoom past you, John suggests it's much more sensible to just carry a spare inner tube.  'That way you can just quickly swap the tubes, replace the tyre and deal with the puncture when you're home safe and sound.'  He showed me how to do this and it was indeed incredibly easy.

At that stage, we ran out of time.  Fortunately, there is no limit to the number of sessions you can book so I'm going to book another one to fit some mudguards to my bike (mud-flecked trousers aren't in this season) and to learn how to remove friction from the gear cable.  If you want to learn how to look after your bike then pop into The Bike Station and book a Zero Waste session, I can't recommend them enough and they are only available until the end of October.

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