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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Repairs + Bicycle Mechanic Cartoon

It is only March, but Spring seems to have come early in Toronto / 2012.

I blame global warming and climate change.

The birds pecking at my window and the light waking me up early on a Saturday... so much for sleeping in!

Kudos to those crazy cyclists who keep cycling all winter long, but for the majority of people Spring is the time to Spring Clean and repair your bicycle.

Especially if you left your bicycle outside in a snowbank all winter long.


#1. Refill the tires. They're probably looking kinda flat, and even if they don't give them a top-up to the proper PSI. Don't overfill them however, use a pressure gauge, read the PSI requirements on the side of the tire and fill accordingly. Overfilling the tires can cause them to burst at the worst possible moment and have "catastrophic wheel failure"...

#2. Clean all the rust off the chain. Most bicycle shops don't sell stuff for removing rust (too many people are afraid of accidentally removing paint) so you may need to visit a hardware store to buy some CLR to remove the rust. Remember to wear latex gloves and avoid contact with your eyes because its very acidic. I recommend brushing the CLR on with a wire brush.

You may also need to degrease your bicycle chain and then add fresh oil. Be sure to use environmentally friendly bicycle oil. WD40 will only make your chain worse because WD40 collects dirt and the next thing you know your chain is full of grit.

#3. Check the brakes are in perfect working order. I like having perfectly tuned brakes. Check your brake levers too.

#4. Check your shifters are working too. (If they are not working properly I should warn you this isn't a skill normally taught to beginners, so either consult Barnett's Manual or visit your local bicycle mechanic. Note to Self: Make A Comprehensive Guide for Adjusting Shifters.)

#5. Adjust the handlebars and/or seat height, especially if you or your kids are growing. It is also possible you may just want to set it to a more comfortable level.

#6. Take it for a quick spin and make sure everything else is in working order. ie. The handlebars might be a bit stiff.

You could be extra paranoid and take your bike in to your local bicycle mechanic for a complete tune up. Spring is the BUSIEST time of the year for bicycle shops, so be prepared for a long wait. As in, weeks or even a month before you get the call saying you bike is tuned. Ask for a time estimate.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show

Yesterday morning hundreds of bicycle mechanics and cycling enthusiasts loading up their gear, their bicycles and drove upteen hundred miles to Sacramento, California for the 2012 North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

NAHBS is the annual event showcasing America's and Canada's growing handmade bike industry. Hundreds of companies will be there to exhibit and to display what is new in the world of bicycle manufacturing.

One such contributor is Ryan King, a mechanic at Weir's Cyclery in St. Johns, Oregon. King and other bicycle mechanics / cyclists will be exploring the aisles of the Sacramento Convention Center with their jaw dropped and their eyes gleaming as they check out handmade products and bikes that redefine the business of cycling.

Handmade bicycles aren't for everyone. Most people prefer to just buy a bicycle off the shelf at their local bike shop, so it is really only the heavy duty enthusiasts who buy the kind of weird bicycles you would find at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

Check out the following photos of some of the weird and interesting bikes from previous shows:

Danny MacAskill's journey from bicycle mechanic to stunt cyclist

It may not look like much but the MacDonald Cycles bicycle mechanic shop on Morrison Street in Edinburgh is more than a humble bike shop, it is the birthplace of a global phenomenon: Stunt cyclist Danny MacAskill.

Since Danny's rise to stardom MacDonald Cycles has become an unlikely tourist attraction, especially for people who like to skid rubber instead of pounding pavement.

The 2009 internet video of bicycle mechanic Danny MacAskill (now an ex-employee) jumping off the roof of the MacDonald Cycles shop, cycling up the side of trees and other stunts went viral in the 10s of millions and defied gravity to the point of disbelief.

The five-minute clip of stunts was shot during his lunch breaks and include such stunts as leaping from the roof of the bike shop across an alleyway to the neighbouring Copy Stop.

Another location, Chuckies Pend, is now an unoffical landmark among local cyclists.

MacDonald Cycles shop manager Liam Dawson says: “You see people turning up all the time to take photos from across the street. It’s like a shrine. Danny was kind enough to give us the bike he used for that jump too, and people regularly come in wishing to have a look and photograph it."

"It’s turned into a nice wee piece of folk memorabilia. It’s good to have the castle and the Old Town and all that but this is where most bike fans make for."

MacAskill worked as a bicycle mechanic at the bike shop for 3 years before his overnight stardom, recently visited Edinburgh earlier this month to shoot another video around some of his favourite haunts (see Danny MacAskill does it again).

26-year-old Danny now has a professional career as a rider for Inspired Bicycles Ltd.

"It’s amazing that folk turn up looking to have photographs taken outside the shop. I’m glad I can repay Macdonald’s in some way for all the long lunches I used to take when I went cycling around the city," - says Danny.

"The video back in 2009 was shot with a load of mates during those lunchbreaks, I never thought it would prove as popular as it has."

“Edinburgh played a big role in my progression as a rider and I’m grateful that I can give something back, however small.”

Danny's video has also made Scotland a mecca for cyclists. According to a spokeswoman for Visit Scotland: “It’s fantastic to see that where Danny MacAskill first became a world-wide star has become a mecca for cycling fans everywhere and further adds to Edinburgh’s portfolio of great things to see and do."

“Edinburgh & Lothians is home to world class attractions and is loved the world over for its exciting programme of year round events that take place."

“However as highlighted here the city and surrounding area is also home to unofficial attractions which can provide people with another compelling reason to visit which can often help to enhance the visitor experience.”

This is all well and good.

But the question we would like to know is... does Danny still build and fix his own bikes?


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Amazing Bicycle Journey Photography

Tourism is a common thing to do on bicycles, and taking photographs of your trips a logical step along the way. Just remember to brush up on your bicycle mechanic skills (bookmark this site and come back for more tips on fixing bicycles) before you go so you don't get stranded somewhere and don't know what to do.

Like the side of a mountain for example...


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About the Author

Charles Moffat is equal parts bicycle mechanic, cyclist, painter, sculptor, fantasy writer, poet, website designer and pun maker. For more details see



Do you own a bike shop and are looking to hire a bicycle mechanic in North America? Just email me with the job posting details and I will post it for you. (Also, please let me know when the job has been filled so I can update the posting.)


If your bicycle is basically junk and you don't know what to do with it then SELL IT TO ME. I will use it for parts. I will give you a fair price ($20 to $30) for your old clunker just so I can rip it apart for parts.

If you need repairs check out my Bicycle Mechanic Services in Banbury-Don Mills.