Category Archives: Cycling

Replacing bicycle chain and freewheel

It’s that time of year again. I seem to be repeatedly doing the same thing without learning. Found that the chain on my bike was slipping, replaced with a new set of chain, and then found that it was slipping even more. Sounds familiar. Checked my blog, and this happened just less than four years ago. Because I thought I have “just” replaced my freewheel, I thought it is the front chainset that needed replacing instead. Went to the bike shop, luckily this time it’s just down the road, the shopkeeper told me that every time I replace my chain I should replace the freewheel as well, otherwise the chain will slip. Looks like I have worn out the freewheel once again. Probably should have just replaced the chain every one or two years. As it turns out that it is such an expensive exercise having to replace the chain and the freewheel together every time! But I seem to remember my colleague suggested to me before that a general guideline of his is to replace the chain every 5000 miles. Looks like since I don’t really take care of my bike, and don’t keep track of how many miles I’ve covered, I should just come up with my own rule and replace the chain every one and a half year instead. OK, this post shall mark the day on which and I replaced the chain. Let’s see if I can remember…

The importance of servicing a bicycle

I must have been cycling for 5 years now, on the same bike I bought through the Cycle-2-Work scheme. I have mended punctures numerous times, changed brake pads at least once for both wheels, and replaced freewheel and chain a year and a half ago. But not once have I really serviced my bike. In fact I have not even cleaned my bike before! I mean I have put on the odd lubricants on my chain every now and then, and tightening the brake cables when absolutely need to. But I really haven’t found the need to bring my bike in to a bike shop to get it serviced, until my brake cable got so dodgy that I can hardly brake my rear wheel.Cycled to Halfords about a week ago, looking to buy a fixed lock that I can mount onto external wall to secure W’s bike. Then found out that I can still purchase their one-year bike plan, which includes bike servicing, because my bike was bought from Halford. In fact the bike mechanic can still recall that I bought the bike there! I found this rather unbelievable, but anyway he had a look at my bike to confirm and thought my bike was still in, well, tolerable condition. Fantastic! Because I was toying with the idea of bringing my bike to a local bike shop in Reading town centre instead, as it is easier for me to leave and collect. But at only £18 for a one-year bike plan, it was an easy decision.Collected my bike today. And I honestly could not remember that I can cycle so quickly with my bike! I know my bike has now been pumped up, more than I usually am accustomed to. But it is still incredibly quick. Gear changes are much smoother, and I don’t miss certain gears anymore. The brakes are very responsive as well. Had I known that maintaining my bike in good conditions can make such big differences I would have sent my bike in to the bike shop more frequently, perhaps once a year. Wasted too much energy cycling for too long!

Freewheel and cassette

The freewheel on my bike was worn out and needed replacing. It was worn out by the bicycle chain, which I’ve not replaced after using it for more than 2 and a half years. Initially I thought only the bicycle chain needed replacing, as I could see the chain floating on the front chainring, likely due to the chain being elongated after years of usage and not having been taking care of properly. But after replacing the chain, the chain started to slip on the freewheel. It slipped so badly that I was effectively left with only one useable speed on that heavily worn out freewheel!So I went online to see what I need to get if I want to replace the freewheel myself. At the time I didn’t know the difference between freewheel and cassette. And I didn’t even know that my bike is still using the old threaded hub! Until my colleague told me that the cassette I bought would not fit the threaded hub I’ve got on my bike when he was about to show me how incredibly easy it is to replace a cassette. What a waste of everybody’s time, including my other nosy colleagues who would also like to know how to replace a cassette. :)So for anyone who hasn’t a clue what system they are using, it is definitely worth the effort to take off the rear wheel to find out first before diving straight into buying the parts. Although it is quite rewarding to have understood the difference through the hard way, as I also found out various bits of information about different bicycle parts along the way, I think it’s probably not necessary to go through the process of ordering the wrong parts. Having said that, this online bike store I used is really quite impressive. I returned the cassette on Friday in second class post, and the money was already refunded back into my account on Monday! It costed me about £2 to send the cassette back, but they offer free postage service, using first class Royal Mail, when I buy stuff from them. Makes me wonder how much does it actually cost them to send the stuff. Such cost efficient retailers.

Freewheel and Cassette

Bike tyres

My rear tyre’s tube is leaking air as we speak. But luckily it’s slow enough to last me the journey between office and home with a single pump every time before I ride. Obviously I have thought about changing the tube, rather than wasting my energy pumping everytime I want to ride my bike. But I feel that my rear tyre is almost worn out now after using it for two and a half years, coupled with the fact that it has already suffered numerous punctures during its lifetime, so I thought I might as well replace everything all at one go.

Continental Sport Contact

However, turns out that it was quite a nightmare trying to find the correct tyre for my bike. After spending considerable time on the Internet reading about tyre sizing I still think I’m non the wiser. It really doesn’t help when some on-line bike stores use a combination of different metrics to describe the tyres they sell. Especially the French sizes which I find particularly confusing. So I decided to go back to the bike shop where I bought my bike from to get the tyre I want. But annoyingly they ran out of stock! As a result, I’m back to shopping on-line again. Somehow this time I manage to find a few tyres that are of the exact same size as the one specified on my bike’s tyre. What a relief. This is the rather slick tyre I’ve gone for, with plenty of good reviews, and looks good as well 🙂 Surely it will fit nicely on my rim?!

Cycling in London

I’ve spent the past week commuting to London for a training course. Compared to 10 years ago when I first started living in London, there’s probably 1000% increased in the number of cyclists cycling in London during peak hours. Incredible, considering that London still has the same old narrow roads, with virtually no dedicated cycle lanes. What has improved is probably the traffic load, with the congestion charging scheme having been in place for a number of years now. And of course the public awareness on green issues, and drivers’ attitude to cyclists. I think it does help when some MPs even cycle to work themselves.For me it’s quite pleasing to see as cyclists somehow seem to be able to enliven up a city, making it a bit more friendly. This is what I like most about European cities. People can get to everywhere without having to always go on a car. Plenty of walkways, cycle lanes, parks, good network of public transport etc. Would people like to see cars in the city? I doubt it. I hope less and less people drive in the city, as then there will be more chance that cycle lanes will be built in this old world city.

Trip to New Forest – Day 1

Map of New Forest

I thought it would be nice to share our experience cycling in New Forest last month during the long weekend. It is a lovely place, and is very friendly to cyclists. There are lots of bike hiring shops around if you don’t have your own bike. And the bikes they hire out are quite good quality as well. Think they also have tandem bikes, bikes with kids carriage etc. At least those are the bikes I saw at the shop right next to the railway train, Brockenhurst, we got out of. If we know there are such good bikes for hire in New Forest, we probably would have reconsidered taking our bikes by train. Maybe because there were so many cyclists cycling in New Forest, cars seemed to treat us better by giving us plenty of space than are normally the case in other parts of the country.Anyway, we started our journey from Brockenhurst railway station. The map I’ve included here is a map of New Forest with some added information about the routes we have taken on our bikes during the three days we’ve been. It’s supposedly also a map for cyclist who want to navigate around New Forest. But I find that it’s not a good map. If you do not plan to cycle off-road (gravel path with no traffic, indicated by line with pink and white stripes) then the map is probably okay. But once you are off-road, the map doesn’t show you all the roads. We should have brought a compass with us, and we have thought about doing so, but somehow all four us just, forgot. Another thing is, although it is labelled on the map a number for each route, the actual roads are not properly signposted, if at all. I was surprised actually, perhaps I’ve expected Sustran-like type of signpostings.The B&B accommodation we booked was located in Ringwood, on the edge of New Forest, about 15 miles from Brockenhurst. The first thing we needed to do was to get there and check-in, as we have quite a bit of load on our panniere. It would probably be ideal if the accommodation is somewhere nearer to Brockenhurst. Unfortunately, we left the booking a bit too late, most of the accommodation were fully booked by the time we finally wanted to book. But, we thought, Ringwood is not too shabby either, only just an hour and a half away (assuming that we cycle at 10mph), so that was how we booked to stay there. It turned out to be not a very wise decision. First of all, the terrain is not all flat. Second, we have a lousy map, and the road signs are poor. We were alright on roads, but as soon as we were off road, hoping to take a short-cut, we got lost very quickly. We ended up having to climb over a fence to get back on road. And we scared a few ponies too.The journey we thought we could cover in 1 1/2 hours ended up taking more like 2 1/2 hours. I was still okay when I got to the B&B, but W and my two friends were a bit less okay. At one point, when we were really close to the B&B, one of them almost wanted to threw her bike aside and stop cycling 🙂 That evening we didn’t go anywhere else on bike anymore.

Carrying bicycles by train in the UK

The train services in the UK are hopeless. We recently went on a biking trip in New Forest. Apart from the dreadful train journey, where we were turned down twice to board the train with our bikes, it was a really great outing. Not knowing that we need to reserve places for our bikes in the bicycle carriage, we were denied access to the Virgin train direct to Brockenhurst as there were only two available spaces. There were four of us. Fair enough, we have not done our research properly. But it’s really petty that the train has only got one bicycle carriage, with only just four spaces. The demand definitely outstripped the supply on a few occasions during our trip. We later found out that the bicycle carriage can technically fit more than four bicycles, albeit only securely for four. Anyway some of the personnels working at the train stations or on the trains have very low awareness of how they are supposed to deal with people who want to take bicycles onto trains. Worst of all, their attitude towards bikers are really terrible, as if we are pests. Particularly this “train manager” from Southwest train at Basingstoke railway station. He was just plain rude. What a contrast to the services and facilities I found in some other European countries like Holland, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. It’s little coincidence that the British have so much to moan about their country.

Bike thief

Someone tried to steal W’s bike while we were watching tele yesterday, at around 12 midnight! It was quite an unpleasant experience to be honest. I was first alerted by the knocking sound of the chain that is used to chain the bike around the metal rail. But I quickly dismissed it as I thought it was just strong wind that caused the long chain to swing, which happened quite often. However, the longer I heard the more it sounded like someone was pulling the chain. So I nervously opened the front window blinds to see what actually happened, almost certain that someone was outside. To my horror, he was still there, as he didn’t know we opened the blinds. After a quick second of hesitation, as I thought perhaps I should also call the police, I opened the door and shouted at him. Under this kind of circumstances, which I had no experience of, I wondered if I should chase out, as he very quickly sprinted away. I had a look around from the front door, but still not confident enough to walk out to check on the bike, as I feared that he might be still around. It was all very nervy. I ended up holding an umbrella, and was reassured that W would close the front door after I walked out, before I actually went out to examine the damage. I was surprised to see that the whole bike lock was gone. Think he might have successfully picked the lock, in this short period time. Incredible. I thought the lock I bought was quite a good one. Anyway both of us become very paranoid after this incident. We even thought someone might have entered our flat, as W found that our kitchen door was left opened. W even passed me a knife as she thought someone might be hiding behind the toilet door. That was scary moment, although I didn’t think that could be possible. Anyway I was relieved to see no one in the toilet. Damn, this is really no good to our nerves!

Let it snow, let it snow

This is definitely the heaviest snowfall I’ve seen in the UK, in almost 10 years I’ve been here! We have experienced one of the warmest month in January not that long ago. And today we have heavy snowfall all around the UK. Isn’t it interesting how global warming is affecting the weather pattern?

Snow Reading
This was taken using my new camera phone outside my flat before I head off work at around 08:45. Very pleased with the Sony Ericsson K800i phone so far, very handy.
Snow River Kennet
This is River Kennet, when I was on my way to work, where I also scared off a heron 🙂
Cycle path
This is a stretch of the cycle path that was still pretty untouched with snow. Really quite an experience cycling through fresh thick snows.


It was such a surreal experience cycling for the past few days! Thick heavy fog reduced my visibility down to just tens of meters. In the morning, it got so cold that the fields were covered in frost. So was my jacket, slowly covered with thin lines of frost on the edges, the more time I spent cycling! I wonder how the ducks and geese that are still around can survive this kind of temperature. Should they not have migrated down south?Foggy pathI don’t suppose I’ll enjoy cycling under such condition everyday. But I really have no complaints for the past few days. Quite the opposite, I enjoyed every minute of it. I wanted to capture a good photo along my way to work to show the extent of the fog. But I suppose it’s always going to be difficult to capture such details, especially with just my camera phone…