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A bike will go where you take it.

After getting my first road bike I was really concious about where I took it. I wouldn’t take it anywhere apart from roads, I’d avoid potholes religiously and I would never dream of hoping a kerb, but why. Every one has taken the mountain bike on the road at one point so why not take the road bike off road. I’m not talking about very sticky mud down hill trails but a bit of cycle paths or off road coastal paths shouldn’t hurt it. ‘Aw but my wheelset couldn’t handle it’ Probably not if your running 500g 12 spoked wheels but most road bikes are on alloy rims with 20 to 40 spokes, and carbon wheels will handle lots of jumps, if you haven’t seen Bike Party you need to, those wheel handle a battering and they are the same ones Wiggins used in the TDF. ‘So your wheels my wheels can handle it but my tires are skinny’ Yup so are mine but they have been through mud, puddles, loose gravel, grass and anything you’ll find on un-kept cycle paths. Even 23c tire will handle quite a lot of muck of course they are not going to have they same grip as tread riddled mountain bike tires, but you will be surprised. ‘Well yeah even so, my brakes have no clearance’ They don’t need clearance, the off road I’m talking about involves minimal sticky mud and even then they still do have some clearance. ‘My carbon frame will snap’ Yeah it probably will, It’s not that I distrust carbon, it’s just I don’t trust it. So I would keep your carbon race bike off road, I’m sure they will handle it I’m just carbon-sceptical. So if you have a steel, aluminium or titanium your all set. My steel bike has been off road a lot, it was supposed to end up a cyclocross but it is still on 25c tires on my road bikes wheels (32 spoked) . I have had no problem on moderately off road conditions, maybe some wheels spin when on a gravel hill but that’s it. I’m not saying take your road bike off road all the time, just don’t be scared to take it off ‘the road’ once in a while, it ain’t gonna hurt it. And if your lucky enough to have a cyclocross bike, then darn you, jammy.

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Why you shouldn’t by cheap tools.

When I began fixing my bikes I soon found out that there were many tools needed specifically for bike fixing, tools such as; Chain splitter, bottom bracket tools, headset tools etc.  I was always drawn, when looking to buy these tools, to the cheapest I could find. The chain tool I first  bought was about £3, which isn’t bad. I have had the same model of chain splitter break in exactly the same way 3 times on me. I’ve checked and checked that I’m doing it right and this time I get to legitimately ‘blame the tools’ but I suppose I should really blame myself. The pin that pushed the chain pin through is too brittle, it snaps after about 4 goes. But for some reason every time it breaks I just think that it will just be this one, it will work next time, better buy another, then it breaks, then I buy another and that breaks. so now I’m £12 down and 4 chain tools down. Unfortunately I don’t think I can recoup my losses by selling them for scrap metal either. So with this £12 I could have bought a reasonably good one that would last much longer, I would have initially spent more but probably saved more in the long run. I had a similar situation with a sealed bottom bracket tool, I naturally went to find the cheapest, it was cheap for a reason. It was a poor design, the teeth couldn’t engage with the bottom bracket as the spindle got in the way, If I had spent 3 or 4 pounds more I would have a tool I could use for life, but instead I now have a piece of useless metal, albeit shiny. The tools that have never failed me; Campagnolo pedal, headset and bottom bracket spanner, I inherited these. They are expensive yes, but they have never bent or failed in any other way, my spanner I paid a bit more for some nice chrome vanadium spanners along with Allen keys, these have not failed me either. The cheap tools always seem to cost more in the long-term, be it rounded Allen key heads or snapped chain tools. You get what you pay for.

Now I would rather wait a bit longer and pay a bit more for a quality tool that will last me. There is nothing worse than taking the chain of your bike and trying to put it back on then your tool breaks. so the moral of the story, if this has one, is to pay a bit more for tools that will last you, especially if your building up your first tool kit.  With bikes you do need the right tool for the right job and the wrong right tool is no use at all.

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My obsolete tool pile, there’s more but I lost ’em