Bike Maintenance Classes with Gear Up

James at Work Medium

Following the successful cycling courses last autumn, this March Gear Up are running classes on simple bike maintenance— essential knowledge to keep cycling long term. Open to staff and students, novices and experienced cyclists alike, the classes will be led by Stewart and James. We find out more from James, who joined Gear Up in September and is now manning the shop four days a week. 

What can staff and students expect from the classes?

The idea is to build up a basic knowledge of how to maintain your bike to keep you going on a day to day to basis. The classes will be hands-on: we’ll show you how to do each step of the maintenance task, and then you will have a go with a test bike and basic tool kit. We’re both laid back and friendly, so expect a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all. We can’t wait to share our passion for fixing bikes.

There will be three different levels, right?

Yes, they are designed to be sequential but can still stand alone, so you can come to all three levels, or pick and choose. In the first level we’ll start with a basic understanding of how the fundamental systems of a bike work—wheels, drivetrain, brakes, steering—and how to diagnose common issues.

In the second workshop, we’ll go more in depth into the tyres and drivetrain—that’s the chain and gears. One of the most common questions I get is ‘what is this annoying click’. Well, those funny clicks are often solved by minor adjustments you can literally do with your bare hands, no tools needed. We’ll also replace and repair an inner tube, which is an essential cycling skill.

The third one is about tuning the brakes and adjusting the steering.

If there was one thing you could teach someone else about bike maintenance, what would it be?

Correct tyre pressure! We’ll do that in the first class. It is crazy but many of us don’t realise how important tyre pressure is, what pressure their own tyres should be, and how to inflate tyres to that pressure. And it is really simple once you know how.

Tyre pressure is important because it is more efficient: you sap your energy with every turn of a deflated tyre. At low pressures you are also at risk of a pinch puncture, which is when you ride over a bump and the inner tube is pinched between the rim of the wheel. The right amount of air in the tyre cushions the impact and prevents this common fault.

Bike Mechanic Medium

You are keen rider yourself—how did you start cycling and start working as a bike mechanic?

As an adult, I started cycling for practical reasons. I have commuted by bike for over a decade, rain and shine. My current commute is a just under ten miles, so it keeps me fit, healthy and happy. I miss the ride the days I have to take the train.  After getting the cycling bug I took up group riding, racing and time trialling. My most memorable cycling event was actually my first: a two-day four-stage race organised, coincidentally, by UoB’s student cycling club. I’d bitten off more than I could chew! I then got the chance to work as bike mechanic and took formal training to do it professionally, and haven’t looked back.  

But it all started when I was a kid. My uncle taught me the basics of fixing my own bike. He was a racer himself, and the ‘bike man’ in the family. His passion and expertise really shone through, and I remember how empowering it felt to actually do something for myself, particularly something practical. When you have someone who knows something and wants you to understand it too, it is really infectious, and that’s my goal when I teach other people.


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