My dearest old friend has a new coat. It’s a black coat and it suits him rather well. And he deserves it too. It’s 21 years since his last.

My Webster (a custom-built Columbus Max OR steel cross country bike) was born in 1994, wrought into existence amid the fiery coalpits of Leicester, and forced into reality through a dark hole in my psyche left by the theft of my previous bike. (I’ve nearly gotten over the theft now and consider Leicester a lovely place.)

It was originally painted in British Racing Green. Partly because it looked nice, but mostly so it would blend in along the wooded tracks of Beacon Hill – the only proper hill for miles around, and strictly out of bounds to cyclists. It blended with aplomb, looping up and down the hill regularly, before I forced it to earn it’s keep properly on coast to coast crossings of England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Spain, as well as the weekly blast around the highways and byways of the midlands, and endless stolen weekends in the mountains of mid-Wales.


The frame was built just as V-brakes were appearing on the market, and sports a cantilever mount which made do until I could afford the original Shimano Deore XT parallelagram V’s which have now finally been retired. Some old-skool tech just can’t be beaten though, and so I’ve kept the old square taper BB running (still smooth.)


Straight-taper forks have always been a design favourite of mine. Simple and elegantly beautiful.

Of course, the real beauty of a bike lies in the riding, so for it’s first outing in new colours….


Y Ffordd Ddu (The Black Road) climbs out of Dolgellau along the north face of Cader Idris, passing Llyn Gwernant and the Cregennan Lakes.


Tarmaced for the majority of the climb it’s a steady burner with the steep ridges of the mountain towering above. As you climb higher the road turns steep and rocky, making it a no-go for road bikes.


It rewards one’s efforts with views across the Mawddach Estuary towards Abermaw (Barmouth)


The ride home ends with a wander around Trawsfynydd…


…before a steep descent into Llanfigangel with views along the Dysynni valley and up to the highest peaks of Cader Idris.



In the end, I don’t really think it matters what colour my bike is. I still love it, and it’s proper fun to ride. Everywhere.

New rides on old bikes

I have too many bikes.

I know that that statement shows blatant disregard for the n+1 rule*, but there’s only so much time in the day that can be spared for fettling, and the queue of bikes needing attention never seems to get shorter.

But with winter coming, and my trusty cold-weather steed badly in need of a respray, I made some time to get the old Raleigh 531 rebuilt, with a whole bunch of gears on it to make the local hills a bit easier (my knees will thank me) .

So here it is on its inaugral ride – an early commute through the hills past a mist-covered Llyn Mwyngil. It ain’t too shabby for a 20 year old scrapper.

Llyn Mwyngil with a 531 foreground.
Llyn Mwyngil with a 531 foreground.

* the n+1 rule states that the ideal number of bikes one should own is n + 1 where n is the number of bikes currently owned.


Wheelism Advanced Bike Maintenance – Day 2

Yesterday was all about the bits that create movement – wheels and chains. Today was about the bits that help to control that movement, so we’re talking gears, steering, and brakes. Oh, and bottom brackets of course…

First up, gears – we looked at identifying shifting problems, straightening hangers, replacing cables, adjusting mech stops (front and rear), setting cable tension, barrel adjusters for fine tuning.

Then we moved onto headsets – identifying problems, adjusting to reduce play, stripping. servicing, and replacing. Once the headset is sorted and any play removed, then usually any further looseness in the front end is likely to come from the forks, so we tackled a full fork strip down and service next.

Replacing cables and tuning gears!
Replacing cables and tuning gears!

After forks, we moved onto brakes – looking at different types, and different bleed methods.

Finally, as it began to get dark outside, we went through the process of bottom bracket replacement, looking at issues with different axle lengths, bottom bracket shell sizes, and variations in the designs of chainsets and how these might affect BB choice.

All in all, a good and very busy day, with lots of great learning outcomes for all. Oh, and the chips from Bala chippy were top quality too!

Next week, trailside maintenance!



Advanced Bike Maintenance – Day 1

I had a busy day today running Day 1 of our Advanced Bike Maintenance Course for the guys at Bala Adventure and Watersports.

Mark and Stu got their hands dirty getting to grips with wheels – from removing the tyres and repairing tubes, through to truing the rims and tensioning spokes, all the way to stripping and servicing the hubs. Greasy!

The guys getting to the centre of it all.
The Bala Watersports guys getting to the centre of it all.

After that it was time to look at chains – they make the world go round, don’t you know. Splitting, joining, cleaning, lubing, measuring, and changing – there’s plenty to think about for such an apparently simple bit of kit.

Tomorrow it’s gears, headsets, bottom brackets, brakes, and forks – someone remind me to pack the Swarfega!