Friday, 21 November 2014

Maintenance course at Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op

On Saturday 15th November I had a brilliant day in a bike shop, with other cyclists, playing with bikes all day! It was an intensive maintenance course at the Newcastle branch of Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative​.

Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative, Newcastle
A few days before the course, I received this letter, explaining what would happen and what to expect. I found this a nice touch as nobody likes turning up unprepared.


Karl the head mechanic showed us everything we would need to know to keep our bikes running smoothly - but first things first: we had to choose our sandwich for lunch!

With tools, aprons and work stands provided, all you need to provide is a bike and enthusiasm
The five "students" on the course started by giving a brief description of why we were there. I am confident using tools and have worked on my bikes before, using a manual and You Tube. However, nothing can beat the benefit of having someone teach you in person and iron out any wrong habits you may have learnt.

We started easy with puncture repair, then progressed to cassette removal, hub and headset service before breaking for lunch. Karl explained that being able to maintain these bearings meant that just about half of the bike was now easily serviceable in future as the designs and procedure are very similar. We serviced the rear hub and if we wanted to stay back at the end to do the front hub, we were more than welcome. I duly obliged - it makes sense to do them at the same time. My headset spacers were fused to the fork steerer however and I couldn't get them released - neither could Karl in the time we had, so this job needs to be done soon. I learnt a trick to solve this stuck spacer problem that involves vinegar, so I'll have to let you know how I get on with that!


When we started again, we looked at brakes. With the five bikes we brought along, there was just about every type of brake on all of our bikes - V, cantilever, single pivot calliper, and hydraulic disc. We were also shown an example of mechanical disc brake. We learnt how to ensure that brake blocks are set up correctly in all orientations, including across the rim when looking straight at them. This means that the pressure applied by the brakes is even, keeping the wheel running true. I hadn't even considered that this was a potential consequence.

Gear tuning was next, which proved to be surprisingly simple - it's all in the cable tension. If you think about the problem you are facing logically i.e. which way does the chain want to go? Which way should it go? Then the cable can be adjusted by using the barrel adjusters. Karl showed us this and I think it blew our minds.

We then practised breaking and making chains and some people were introduced to power links. There was a demonstration of crank removal and finally wheel truing, which requires patience, but again, when thought out logically about the direction of the buckle and it's position, it becomes quite obvious which spokes need adjusting.

All of the techniques were supplemented with little tips which I'd never even considered when working on my bike before; I mentioned a few above.

Throughout the day, Karl gave us advise on how regularly to do these jobs and recommended at least a monthly clean (on payday so you don't forget) to keep the bike in top condition.

With a lunch included and free tea and coffee all day, plus a handout of all services we covered plus more we would never have had time for, it was definitely worth it and I really recommend doing a course if you are serious on learning the ins and outs of your bike(s). A major incentive should be the money savings - around £25 for a hub service and after you get the know how and the few tools/grease to perform this, you'll be quids in. Another incentive is that hands on practise, guided by an expert can help teach you the skills you might miss from a You Tube video.

You can find out dates of your local courses here. I did the Intensive Maintenance course and at £49, it is extremely reasonable.

Everything covered during the day is in here, plus much more


All topics in the handout:
  • Wheel removal
  • Puncture repair
  • Hub bearings
  • Wheel truing
  • Brake adjustment
  • Gear adjustment
  • Pedal removal/refitting
  • Crank removal/refitting
  • Bottom bracket adjustment
  • Headset bearings
  • Suspension terminology and adjustments

DISCLAIMER: I just really liked this course and feel it is very worthwhile doing it. I do not get paid for this post!
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