Upgrading your bike?…all that glitters is not gold

We all like something shiny and new, be it the latest tech. gadget, new clothes or even that new bike…

So, thinking of upgrading your bike?

We all change and all desire certain material things and, if you’re a keen cyclist, it’s likely that after a few years of riding the same bike, for whatever reason – be it worn, battered, broken or just wanting a change, the ‘need’ for a new bike can be tough to resist.

The need to change bikes is even more relevant to children’s bikes, once they start growing there’s no stopping them. I know of at least two parents who have ended up buying two bikes in a year as the first was outgrown within 6-9 months, now that is expensive and short of stopping feeding children they will grow and the need to increase the size of the bike will exist!

But just to get the latest design of bike, development in components or upgrade for a child can be an expensive business and given that most bikes depreciate faster than a badly built 1970’s Jaguar car, the second hand market isn’t really a viable option to recoup some of the cost of the purchase.

A little forethought when initially buying a bike can certainly reduce the need for large sums of cash being paid out in the future. Most manufacturers will sell a bike with a variety of components not all necessarily the same brand and same group, common practice is to have a variety of components from, for example, Shimano but a mix of say Sora/ Tiagra/ 105 components.

This can mean a bike with a good frame can be bought at a reasonable price, the main areas where ‘savings’ are made by the manufacturers, tend to be wheels, brakes, chainset and handlebars. Over time these can be upgraded as they wear or funds become available!

I believe the best upgrade is by investing in a good set of wheels – there are some excellent offers to be had on lightweight wheelsets that will make an immediate difference to the ride experience on your bike (and unless you are built like the proverbial whippet this will be a massive gain when getting up those hills!). Follow that on with brakes, chainset etc. and an excellent bike will be yours.

Upgrade doesn’t necessarily mean that everything has to be bought new – trying to buy from friends or known contacts will more than likely make the second-hand purchase a pleasant experience. BUT, just a word of caution when buying from the likes of EBay etc; make sure you check the seller out as much as possible, as there are some horror stories out there from people who haven’t exactly got what they thought they were getting…

Investment in components can make any future upgrade far more economical:

The bike below has had all the existing components swapped from the existing bike to the new frame. The only extra cost was new cables and a replacement front brake calliper (to replace a broken original). The upgrade was relatively inexpensive as the frame had been sourced from a reliable seller on EBay.

Upgrading your bike

But what of the ever growing children?

If finances allow, buying the first bike with good quality components can certainly mean that as they grow the need to buy full bikes can be negated and swapping the components to a new frame can be less of an impact on parent’s finances.

There are some amazing offers on frames through the likes of Planet X, which can mean the cost of an upgrade can be very economical indeed. The only other components required may be forks, some bearings or perhaps cabling?

Both of the bikes below were upgraded recently (both bought exactly the same frame in isolation!!), one was a straight swap, the only extras being a new brake cable and a new headset bearing.

Bike upgrade

The second was an upgrade of the groupset from 8 speed to 10 speed and new ‘second-hand’ wheels.

Upgrading your bikeBoth were cost effective use of existing components that can then be swapped onto another bigger frame when they grow.

So, getting that better bike need not cost the earth and can be completed over time, which makes the upgrade or change a far more economical option than a full bike purchase.




Dare to go bare? A guide on what to cycle wear

Cycle wear or not? No this isn’t a ‘call to arms’ for everyone to join in on the London naked bike ride, but if that floats your boat, please carry on!

This is a look at what to wear and when to wear it and some of the science behind the theories, for which I take no credit and have quoted those far more eminent in their field than I.

cycle wearToday is the first day of British Summer Time and true to form the sky is heavy, the wind is brisk and the forecast is for heavy rain………. welcome to summer, but at least it can only get better (can’t it?).

The decision of what to wear today won’t be a problem, rain jacket, winter long sleeve jersey, warm winter tights, winter socks and waterproof winter boots, these are a given and still after 50 miles water will have found its way everywhere.

I have ridden virtually every week throughout the year and during 2014/15 have only been stopped by the weather once, and that was due to snow.

But what I have been amazed by, throughout the winter months are the number of people riding with bare legs and even bare arms, on one occasion just after Christmas my Garmin was indicating a temperature of 1 degree and a group of riders past the opposite direction in shorts and thin jerseys – their legs were bright red from the cold! I know we are used to the cold ‘Up North’, but even being brought up on the North East coast, I know it’s not good to bare that much flesh in those conditions.

So what is the thought behind the effects of cold on, especially, the knee joints?

Well the knee is the pivot point between the two major muscle groups of the thigh and the calf which when you look at it doesn’t have much in the way of protection, and given that we rotate, push and pull the pedals to cycle it is imperative that we keep the knee free from damage. The knee is surrounded by fluid which lubricates during rotation, the effect of cold on lubricants is well known and the knee fluid will also become thicker in the cold making the knee less efficient, which long term may lead to cartilage damage and dreaded ‘knee pain’.

The knees don’t have exclusive rights to being at risk when cycling, the other major joints – elbow, neck etc. will also be affected and also consider general health, especially the chest – it wasn’t that long ago that it was common to see a soigneur at the top of a climb in the Tour de France and other races handing out newspapers for the riders to put down their tops during descents to lessen the effect of extreme sweat on the ascent chilling to such a level that chest complaints were commonplace.

It may be 9-12 degrees at the moment, but take into account any wind will cause a ‘wind chill’ reducing temperature and also if you’re riding along at 15-20 mph the effect will be heightened and even more so on a descent, so the 9-12 degrees could very easily be halved to an ‘actual’ temperature of between 5-7 degrees. Adding rain will also heighten the temperature deficit.

The best way is to cover up until such time that the weather is settled and any adverse effects are negated, and the most effective solution is to ‘layer’, it is easier to add or remove layers dependant on the conditions and what you are actually doing at the time.

I have quoted James Hewitt’s guide below as it is the most up to date reference I have found researching the science behind the above and this guide from the paper is an ideal reference for what to wear, when:


  • 19°C-21°C: Base layer; short-sleeved jersey; shorts; racing mitts; socks
  • 17°C-19°C: Add arm warmers
  • 15°C-17°C: Add knee warmers or 3/4 length tights; swap for thicker socks; swap mitts for thin full-finger gloves
  • 13°C-15°C: Swap knee warmers for leg warmers; add gilet
  • 11°C-13°C: Swap warmers for full medium-weight tights, thicker full-finger gloves; add long-sleeved jersey; toe covers or over-socks; head-band
  • 9°C-11°C: Swap to long-sleeved base layer; thin hat, add race-cape/packable water-proof for changeable conditions
  • 7°C-9°C: Swap to full over-shoes or winter shoes; thicker hat
  • 5°C-7°C: Swap for heavier-weight tights; lobster gloves or mittens
  • 3°C-5°C: Add a second long-sleeved jersey; a midlayer sock
  • 1°C-3°C: Add additional base-layer; knee warmers under tights
  • 0°C and below: High-risk of ice on the road so consider an indoor session!

Be positive, get out there but make sure you wear the correct level of clothing to ensure you have a comfortable ride, but also are able to get out long term injury free.


Time for a bit of bike cleaning?

I am penning this tome on bike cleaning after having a mixed week of pristine and not so pristine bikes to deal with. So, in the interest of self-fulfilment I thought a piece on the merits of keeping your bike clean may keep myself and my workshop less gritty!

To those that keep their bikes pristine – thanks and for those that don’t – thanks as well, if your bike ends up with me, at least it may not be showroom condition, but it is being maintained and prolonging it’s life.

This is not a sermon on thou shalt clean your bike at every possible opportunity but about being practical and dealing with keeping your bike on the road, in amongst our busy modern lives.

It doesn’t take long for an untreated chain to become rusty, if it’s been a wet ride it can literally be a couple of hours and the first tinges of rust start to appear, so time is of the essence. The pictures show a chain and cassette after a few days – the chain when removed was solid and didn’t bend at all!

bike cleaning Rusty chain








We all have responsibilities, be it family life, work, homework and numerous other activities before, after and even during our working/school time, and the last thing on your mind when you get back from the commute or leisure ride is… ‘oh I must clean my bike’. A thousand and one other things take priority, so there a few things you can do to ensure that the bike doesn’t fall into a state of disrepair:

  • If the bike is wet, a quick dry down with an old towel will ensure that there is no excess water left on the bike
  • Use an old rag to dry the chain off
  • Use a moisture repellent spray (GT85/ WD40 etc.) on the chain/ cassette/ chain-set
  • Apply a lubricant, ideally with Teflon, to the chain/ cassette/ chain-set – don’t flood these but a liberal coating is more than adequate

Those few tips will keep the bike in working order until such time as time is found to give it the clean it deserves.

In the meantime, here’s a few useful bike cleaning DOs and DON’Ts…

  1. Firstly PLEASE DO NOT use a pressure washer on a bike, they will get it very clean but I guarantee that all the grease will be flushed from the bearings and unless these are stripped and re-greased they will rust and seize very quickly.
  1. Ideally use a specialist cleaner which, when applied, will lift road grime (I am testing a new product at the moment and my findings will be the subject of a future piece). This is not a necessity but it does help with the removal of the road grime before the bike is actually cleaned.
  1. Again, ideally, the bike should be washed down with warm water with a little detergent added. The use of a cassette cleaning brush (an old nylon pan scrubber works just as well) will ensure that any grit is removed from this and the chain. Likewise there are many specific frame-cleaning brushes to help get to those hard to reach areas! (I have seen bikes with the entire area below the front mechanism full of mud and small stone’s to the extent that the front gears didn’t work). Ensure the brake pads are cleaned and the wheel rim as well, as any grit will quickly wear the brake track.
  1. A chain bath is a relatively inexpensive method of getting all the grit out of the chain links and keeping it in excellent condition.
  1. After all the above give the bike a rinse and dry down.
  1. Apply a liberal coating of a good quality lubricant (ideally with a Teflon or similar additive) to the chain and cassette, but not too much. Applying too much lubricant to the chain and cassette will attract grit, especially if it’s wet and will wear these quickly. Again I have some new lubricants that claim that they repel grit – which do actually seem to be holding true, so I feel a further piece with the cleaner may be in order.
  1. Lastly if you’re feeling like treating the bike, a spray of the frame with a silicone spray and a buff with a cloth will have it looking tip-top.

Don’t worry if it all seems too much, nobody is going to stop you riding your bike if it’s dirty, but it may make you feel better and if you do remove all of the dirt and grime – it may go faster!

Click here for further information on Velo-Tech Bike Cleaning Services 

Call Martin on: 07929 892429

As well as helping to keep your bike in tip-top condition, I’m also keen to help you get the most out of your cycling. 

If you’re truly passionate about your bike, why not consider having a bespoke bike built to your exact specifications. See some bikes I’ve build recently on our Bike Builds page, there’s even some stunning Retro bike builds amongst them.