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Bikes: How to keep, maintain and love your bicycle

Getting in to cycling is a great thing. It gives you the opportunity to explore your world and interact with your surroundings in a new way. As a form of transport, the bicycle is the most reliable, fun and, in many cases, fastest way of getting around the city. Last month's article On Yer Bike has hopefully persuaded you to take ownership of a bike - in which case you can just get out and ride - but, like most truly worthy things in life, your bicycle requires attention and respect to get the most out of it in the long term. That's where this article aims to help. When starting cycling, you need to look at the city with a different mindset. A 5-to-45 minute car journey down Ecclesall road transforms into a reliable ten minute pedal regardless of traffic. A 35-minute amble from Walkley to the city centre now takes ten. But your usual routes around the city may no longer be the most effective. It's worth doing a little research on the options available and testing them out. Traffic, safety, road condition, hilliness and cycle parking will impact on the ride, as well as overall distance of route. You'll explore new places and see new sights when looking for the best way to get around. Local organisations like Pedal Ready and Cycle Sheffield can help with route planning. Free cycle maps of the city can be found at most bike shops, or at the online route planning service CycleStreets. Routes planned? The next stage is spending some time on ergonomics. This will help you enjoy your time on the bike, so experiment with saddle and stem height. Having your saddle too low is very inefficient, and is a common cause of back and knee pain, so just spend some time and find what is comfortable. A good rule of thumb is to raise the saddle to the point where the heel of your straightened leg just touches the pedal. Guides are available online, or ask for help from a fellow cyclist. Changing some basic contact points such as pedals, a different saddle or some soft, ergonomic grips will make the most dramatic difference to how your bike feels. Brilliant upgrades for your bike are panniers and mudguards to make life more comfortable. Excellent advice on these items is available from online guides, but here's a free piece of advice: You're not a donkey, so if you need to carry things, put the weight on your bike using panniers, not your back. Fitting mudguards will make your bike an all-weather machine and keep you looking cool at the end of your journey. With our changeable Yorkshire weather, it's important to not let the rain, cold or darkness stop you from riding. For the urban cyclist there is no bad weather, just bad equipment or a lack of preparation. Keeping warm, dry and visible to traffic is essential no matter what the weather is doing. It's worth investing in a quality waterproof, breathable, high visibility jacket. Gloves, lights and a helmet are all important. There are hundreds of options out there, so your best option may be to go to a friendly shop for advice. You'll be so happy with your bike by now that you'll never want to be without it. This is where security becomes paramount. It's worth spending around 15% of your bike's value on a lock. It's an item that you'll use for years and could save money, time and hassle. Be aware of the best places to lock your bike, and make sure that when you leave it, both wheels and the frame are secured. If you can leave it in a secure, insured bike park like the Bike Hub in York or Sheffield's very own Bike Rehab, then even better. Watch this video to see how to lock up your bike properly. If you can keep it indoors at home, or create a safe, covered locking area it will put your mind at ease. Take photos and record your bikes codes, and get it tagged by the police free of charge to aid recovery if it does go missing. In return for all the fun times, cheap transportation and health benefits, your bike really doesn't ask much to keep it going strong. Day to day there are some very simple things that can be done to ensure it stays reliable and healthy. Keeping your bike clean and well lubricated will prolong its life dramatically. Washing it regularly will also give you a chance to identify problems early on, and keep on top of regular safety checks like brake pad wear and tyre pressure. Most outer tires tell you the pounds per square inch (PSI) they like to run at. Learning a few basic maintenance skills like how to fix a puncture will give you the freedom to go further afield, safe in the knowledge you can get home in all situations. If you want to learn more about maintenance, why not try a basic mechanic course, available through ReCycle Bikes and other stores. Otherwise, just about everything you could ever need to know about a bike is available online or by asking your local friendly bike mechanic. Riding your bike is beneficial to everyone. There is a plethora of help and support out there to keep you rolling. People love talking about bikes, and the community is friendly and strong. If you have a problem or concern about riding, just ask someone or write in to Now Then and we'll try to answer in writing. bikerehab.co.uk recyclebikes.co.uk )

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