Thursday, 19 February 2015

Punctures around the valve stem? Here's a quick fix

Punctures - the cyclist's worst enemy

Or the wind. Depends on which one you are dealing with at the time!
On Sunday (15/2/15) I was due to have a ride out on my road bike with Spennymoor Cycling Club. So on Saturday, I got my bike out, checked it over to make sure all was well like every diligent cyclist should. The tyres needed a little bit of air in, so I inflated them, anticipating the hum of the tarmac beneath my wheels come the morning.

Sunday morning arrived. Dog walked, breakfast eaten, teeth brushed, gear on. As I was wheeling the bike out down the hall, I noticed the front tyre was pan flat.

It's disheartening finding a flat on the morning of the ride

Preparation is key

I thought that by checking my bike out the day before the ride I would be prepared enough. But no! I didn't have a spare tube. I have tubes for my hybrid and mountain bikes, but not the road bike. If I was to get a puncture out riding, I always have a set of tyre levers and a puncture patch kit at the very least. If I have a spare tube, I'll also take that.

With no replacement, I quickly whipped off the front wheel, removed the tyre and the inner tube with the aim of patching it up and quickly get riding. I inflated it slightly and it was immediately obvious that the hole was at the base of the valve. I don't have any pictures because I threw the tube away in disgust/anger.

I thought "I'll pop down to Halfords, it opens at 9 and it's just down the road", literally 2 minutes away. I got there and it didn't open till 10. Just my luck. In the end I gave up and went to Hamsterley Forest on my mountain bike. I had a great time!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing

On Monday afternoon I was thinking about the whole debacle. I was going to get some tubes: one to go in the tyre, one to take out on rides as a spare and at least one more in the shed for back up. Then it struck me - I'd had a puncture like this on that bike before. "Was it the front wheel? No it was the back. Are you sure?". I wasn't sure. After plenty of reminiscing about fixing punctures, it turned out it was the front and I thought I'd been lumbered with a dodgy tube at that time.

So with new tubes and a new found sense of determination, I got to work.

The problem

Simply, the rim tape around the wheel is slightly oval around the valve hole through the rim. This means that the sharp metal edge cuts the tube as it is inflated and pushed deeper into the rim, or perhaps over-tightening the valve washer had pulled the tube too far down, causing the chafing/rubbing.

The rim tape doesn't cover the edges of the hole

The rim tape is perfectly OK, it's doing it's job of stopping the spokes from piercing the tube. The problem faced is easy to fix and I'll show you how I did it.

The solution

No need to go and buy some new rim tape, I already had the bits necessary. Well, I almost did but the old, useless inner tube was in the bin and taken away by now. That is all you need. Just take some scissors and cut a section out of the old tube, large enough to comfortably fit over the hole in the rim. I'd suggest making it two layers thick. I used an old self adhesive patch. These are quite thick and suit the job well. Then take a screwdriver or other pointed instrument and pierce a hole through the middle of your patch material. Be careful, watch those fingers! Then simply push the patch down over the valve and fit the tube as normal.

Piercing the patch material
Push valve through the stem

Just ride on!

That's it. So simple and it only takes a couple of minutes. The rest is just a normal tube replacement job.

Have you used this fix before? Had this issue but didn't know what caused it? Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading - if you find this tip useful, please consider sharing this post.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

New cycle path at Cockfield

The railways of County Durham

One of the best ways to get into cycling around County Durham is to do it on the miles and miles of reclaimed railway tracks all around the county.

You can start in Bishop Auckland and head east out towards Spennymoor or north out towards Willington and onto Broompark. From there you can then Head northwest on to Lanchester, Consett and beyond. That is a lot of distance to cover through beautiful scenic countryside on paths that, whilst not dedicated to cyclists (remember they are open to walkers, dogs and horse riders), are a perfect surface for a leisurely ride out.

Only north?

In the paragraph above, I mention a number of routes. Based in Bishop Auckland, when I head out along these railways, it’s generally in a northerly direction. But the old railways extend much further than that, south towards West Auckland, (confusing name, I know!), Newton Aycliffe and eventually Darlington. A new section recently opened up between Shildon and Newton Aycliffe, called Locomotion Way.

Not much going on south of Bishop Auckland, but in the north...take your pick!

Future Improvements?

In the spirit of Locomotion Way, a new project has begun at Burnt Houses, near Cockfield, County Durham. Work has begun on turning a disused section of railway into a path suitable for walkers, horse riders and cyclists. It is however, only 500m long. Despite the small length of track being converted, it will in fact link existing pathways, creating a longer route. It seems like a big effort for such a small distance, but the idea behind this work is much bigger.
Image taken from Teesdale Mercury
According to the Teesdale Mercury, the work is costing £30,000, with £8,000 being funded by Teesdale Action Partnership: “Craig Morgan, from the partnership, said the overall aim is to create the "South West Durham Heritage Corridor.”

The idea is that this work, when completed, will show other funding bodies how impressive the project is and then extend the renovations, linking Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle. Currently if you were to cycle to Barnard Castle from Bishop Auckland, you will end up on very fast, main roads. A safer alternative would definitely encourage more people to visit Barnard Castle, and in return, Bishop Auckland.

A waste of money?

The article plays on the idea that this is a waste of money, with some residents, presumably those who don’t like cyclists, voicing concerns. I can only see this having a positive effect. As a regular cyclist and dog walker on these railway lines, I can certainly say how popular they are. I don’t think I've ever ridden or walked one without seeing at least one other person.

I’d like to congratulate Teesdale Action Partnership on going ahead with this project and I hope that they receive the funding they require.
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