Well balanced

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Two things i’ve noticed seeing the bikes out and about this Easter holiday. Firstly kids on bikes too small for them. Plenty of time left in the season for parents to address that one. Secondly kids on bikes with stabilisers, typically leaning over on one of the extra wheels and trundling along happily but not getting any closer to learning how to ride without them.

At first we used stablilisers but soon realised they were holding our eldest daughter back. We switched to a balance bike and the transformation was almost immediate. We started with a cheap job with plastic tyres that slipped from underneath her when she turned on any wet surface. We got a better quality one and never regretted it. The point is to learn how to balance, with your feet flat on the ground to propel you and give you confidence as you learn. There are some great looking Frog balance bikes in the new Run & Ride shop in town to have a look at.

We were donated this bike and because the crank wasn’t great and could do with replacing we have turned it into a balance bike simply by taking the pedals off. If your son or daughter is struggling with their stabilisers you are welcome to try this bike for free. It has working brakes and tyres suitable for any surface. Take it to Beacon Park and start them on a downhill bit of grass. When they have mastered the art of balancing put them back on their pedal bike without the stabilisers and they can then learn how to pedal. Watch them go.

Re:Cycle – a busy day

The change in weather and the imminent holidays are making people think about cycling I reckon. A message came in from someone who was looking for the next size up bike for his daughter and this afternoon 9 year old Beth got a 24 inch wheel Raleigh mountain bike and Dad got some advice about encouraging the family to make the leap to riding together on the road. Sometimes it’s the parents more than the kids who need to be confident enough to give it a go and not use the pavements.

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Then a whizz around town looking for a particular inner tube, not in stock at any of the local bike shops but on display in Halfords. While there I got talking to a Dad and his two sons who were browsing for new bikes as their old ones were too small. Using the height chart they were looking at the 18 inch wheel bikes for the little un, but I butted in and suggested it wouldn’t be big enough. Less than half an hour later we were looking at one of our 24 inch wheel mountain bikes to see if it was a better size for older brother, 9 year old Ryan.

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Turns out it was perfect and was all his for free, for as long as he wants it. Deal with Dad was that if he gets into it he would look into getting a better quality, lighter bike from a good local shop. Ryans younger brother sat on one of my daughters 24 inch wheel bikes but with a much smaller frame and it suited him well (though maybe not the right colour). Again, the advice was to go to a good independent retailer and take advice on correct frame size, you don’t have to buy from them but if you do, for many it’s good to know there is somewhere close to hand should things need to be adjusted or mended. A third bike, a ladies mountain bike, is sat waiting to be collected making room for a few more donations to be turned around and found a new owner.

UPDATE – Got this email overnight and thought I would share it:

Thanks for Beth’s new bike, we had a good couple of hours riding when we left yours, on and off road you will be pleased to hear!

Left yours, went round the estate roads near you several times, then down Purcell avenue (on road) to Nether Stowe Tesco, – I mentioned the speed sign outside the school that you had posted about, she was disappointed that it seemed to be switched off as she was ‘motoring’ by then.

We then went along the cycle way past Nether Stowe School and along the side of Stowe Pool, round Minster Pool into Beacon park, lots of ‘controlled’ riding coping with pedestrians in the park, and riding on grass areas.

We went up to the new skate park (I thought Beth was going to try out the skate bowls!!), back for a quick play park visit, then back round Stowe pool, St Chad’s road and finally up St Michael’s Hill and home (both pedalling the whole way up the hill).

Beth went in exhausted, then came out an hour later saying “can we go out again”.

A Social Cycle Ride this Sunday to Packington Moor

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If you fancy it there is a steady social ride out this Sunday to Packington Moor Farm cafe from Lichfield, meeting at Speakers Corner at 10am. Something between the family friendly pace of the Cycle Rides For All and the quicker road rides of the local clubs and shops. Expect a 10mph average, plenty of chance to chat and no stops longer than to just get your breath back at the top of a hill and a swig of water, before a cuppa and maybe piece of cake at a very good local cafe. All welcome, riding together as a group of friends but your own safety is your responsibility. 20ish miles depending on how the group feels. More rides will be announced over the next few months.

Spring clean

I spotted a bike outside Lichfield library the other day and when the owner came to claim it as I was leaving, I realised we had already spoken once before this week. As we chatted about this and that the topic of cleaning your bike came up and I promised I would write a post about what I use on my families fleet of bikes. I was given some Muc Off and despite being sceptical of things that are heavily marketed it works well, though the litre bottle was never going to last long. I was recommended citrus degreaser as an alternative for cleaning the oil, crud and muck off. I paid less than £2 per litre on line for this stuff and it works really well and is biodegradeable, similiar to Muc Off but orange instead of pink.

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As well as that I also use the excellent Park Tools brush and their chain scrubber, diluting the degreaser for that. Not much more required. When the degreaser has been washed off it dries well and just needs a wipe over with a towel or cloth. Some people I know give it something extra and make it shine, but knowing it’s clean and the chain is running smoothly is enough for my lot. Some other people I know don’t clean their bike at all, waiting for something to go wrong before taking it in for a repair and a full valet. If any one wants a skill sharing demonstration we could organise a spring clean session.

All in good causes

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Late last year I bought a fixie on Ebay from a man called Kevin. He was selling the bike to raise money towards a special ride with his father. This week he sent me an email:

“On 13th June 2014 my dad and me will be undertaking the journey from John O Groats to Lands End by tandem tricycle. My dad – Jim – will be 77 years old when he takes this on. He is a former pitman with innumerable scars, legacies and arthritis of 40 years graft however he is determined he will be pedalling all of the 900 miles (approx). The journey has been officially recognised by Guinness book of records as a world record attempt as the oldest person to cycle the end to end on a Tandem Tricycle. Guinness have refused to recognise my claim that it will be a feat of endurance and patience unsurpassed by humankind to be on a tandem trike with my old man for several days.

We will be completing the ride to raise funds on behalf of the Katharine House Hospice in Stafford. My mum Margaret was a resident there for a short period before her death from stomach cancer in January 2013. The care, assistance and treatment she received there were truly magnificent. The staff were highly trained, knowledgeable and professional even finding time to assist relatives with equally as much compassion. The hospice is run wholly on charitable donations. All of us have been touched by cancer in some way, it doesn’t discriminate and I know my dad and my family were overwhelmed by the care and compassion that the Katharine House Hospice provides at times when we may all be in need.

In accordance with the requirements of the Guinness book of records I am required to provide as many witness testimonies as is possible. I am planning on recruiting any number of persons on the route however if anyone has time to meet us at any point or join us for a little while on the route that would be of great assistance. If you wish to get behind my dad then you can visit my just giving page. The ride will be funded wholly by my dad and myself so every penny raised goes directly to Katharine House Hospice.”

Kevins Just Giving page can be found here.

I came across a flyer for another charity ride raising money and awareness for Diabetes UK to be held on Cannock Chase in May. Closer to home St Giles Hospice are holding fundraising cycle rides in September, date to be confirmed. More details on that when I have it.

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Cheap as chips

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Received an email this afternoon from Bob Cordon Champ, a local old-bicycle enthusiast and published two-wheeler historian who told me he picked this up for just ‘a few pounds’ from the auction at Wintertons on Saturday. He tells me it is a Raleigh Traveller from 1981 and required little more then the tyres reinflating with the pump it came with and years of dust and cobwebs removed with a wash, then oiled. Just look at it, photographed the next working day, back on the road.

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