Been there, done that! Common cycling conundrums and how to avoid them

Women cycling in stockton

With the right prep, you’ll be happy to know… not a lot! If you’re just starting out in the saddle, we can give you a better idea of what bumps you might hit along the way, as well as how to deal with them.

We’ve spoken to some of our experienced Tees Valley #WheelWomen about some of the less-than-ideal situations they’ve had to deal while out on the bike, in the hopes that you can learn something from their experiences – they certainly did!    

Getting lost: how to plan your bike route or find a group

Cycle map reading

It can happen to the best of us! In the days of using SatNavs to navigate unfamiliar territory, your natural sense of direction may be a tad rusty. But the last thing you want is to find yourself scratching your head in the middle of nowhere, with no signal, no Google Maps and no idea where you are.

Fear not! If you want to get out and explore on your bike, you can plan your own safe and convenient route using our walking and cycling maps for Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton-on-Tees. 

Or, if you’d feel better in a group, you can speak to your local cycle centre or check out the guided group rides across Tees Valley this summer.

We know how exciting it is getting out and exploring the area, and a tiny bit of planning before you set off will make your adventure all the more successful!

Flat tyres: learn how to pump up a bike tyre and repair a puncture

This is the most common problem faced by cyclists out on the road. Any keen cyclist you know will have encountered a flat while out on a ride, so you’re not alone.

But this isn’t something you can ignore and plod on with, however. Riding on a flat tyre can damage the wheel or even cause the tyre to come off the rim completely, leaving you stranded, and nobody wants that.

Before setting off, you should always check your tyres. It’s best to recognise in advance that a tyre is getting soft rather than waiting for it to be fully flat before doing anything about it.

The bike maintenance courses for beginners being held at selected Tees Valley Active Travel Hubs can equip you with the right skills and knowledge to be able to spot these issues and put them to right. Get in touch to find out about upcoming courses in Stockton, Middlesbrough and Darlington.

If you notice your tyre is a little too soft and squishy to take out for a ride, we’ve prepared a video demonstration on how to inflate a tyre using a pump. 

Chain reaction: learn how to put your bicycle chain back on

When the chain comes off, it’s much more noticeable than a flat tyre – it won’t matter what gear you’re in; you could pedal until you’re blue in the face but the bike won’t be going anywhere!

Thankfully, it’s a very quick fix! This short video shows you just how simple it is to pop it back on. 

Be warned: It can be a bit messy, this one if done incorrectly. Knowing the right technique will help you make sure that this isn’t dirty work for you. Having some tissues or wipes handy to wipe off any muck will still go a long way, just in case!

Wrong brakes: don’t go braking my heart, lead with the left

A brake is a brake, is it not? You squeeze, the bike stops. Simple, right? Surely there is no right or wrong brake?

A trip over your handlebars might convince you otherwise! It certainly did for this cyclist from Darlington:

”I was taking part in a family fun ride and had to brake suddenly. I hadn’t realised that the right-hand brake was for the front brake only! To cut a long story short I ended up sitting in the road having gone head over handlebars! Luckily the only thing hurt was my pride and I have never forgotten which brake is which!”

On most British bikes, the right-hand brake slows down the front wheel, and the left-hand brake slows the back wheel.

But, regardless of which hand it is, please, please, PLEASE, always lead with the rear wheel brakes! Trust us on this one.

Forgetting something?

Don’t be caught short and be sure to pack the essentials in case you encounter any mechanical trouble on the ride. A spare inner tube, a pump and a patch kit can never go wrong. A multi-tool could also come in very handy to tighten anything that comes loose on the ride.

Also, in these summer months, you’re in danger of sunburn even when it’s cloudy. Being out for an extended period of time will expose you to plenty of UV rays and, with the breeze on your skin, you won’t feel yourself burning until it’s too late. So, make sure you apply sun cream with a high SPF before setting off. However, that won’t prevent any funny tan lines from developing, unfortunately.

It’s also important to remember that, chances are, there won’t be any plug sockets around if your phone is running low on battery. You should always take your phone out with you in case of emergencies, but you also need to fully charge it if you’re going to be out for a long period of time, as some poor guy learned when he was rescued by this cyclist:

”I was on a cycle path one winter’s morning, when I came across a cyclist who had fallen off his bike and hurt his shoulder. He had his mobile phone with him but the battery was flat! Luckily I had mine and we were able to call for help. In the meantime, I kept him warm with the little silver blanket I always keep in my bike kit.”

For the best advice before heading off, visit one of the Active Travel Hubs across Tees Valley. There, you’ll meet some friendly faces offering bike maintenance tips, you can pick up maps to help plan your route, or you may even find yourself signing up for a group ride.

Whatever you’re after, these hubs are here to keep you on the right track, so you’re not flying by the seat of your saddle!


By Georgina at 31 Jul 2019, 13:50 PM

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By Nicky at 21 Aug 2019, 13:35 PM on How to get back on your bike, whatever life throws at you

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