Farnham bike maintenance workshop
Anne Connolly, bike mechanic Mike McCann and Nickie Brander get to grips with fixing a puncture

CTC's ‘Bike Tweak’ gets you geared up for cycling!

When it comes to changing an inner tube, adjusting a front brake or tweaking the gears, dozens of cyclists in Surrey and Hampshire will now be fixing it themselves…rather than being left in a fix. And that’s all thanks to the bike maintenance sessions organised by CTC Cycling Development Officer Susan Keywood.

Just take Nickie Brander as an example. Nickie was one of nearly 20 cyclists learning the tricks of the trade from three trained mechanics as the hall at Farnham United Reformed Church was turned into a bike workshop for the morning.

Nickie said: “I have been to both of Susan’s CTC workshops so far but have changed from a mountain bike to a road bike since my first visit, so I’m going through some of the basic maintenance skills again. I need to do things more than once to learn them at the best of times!

“I’ve learned how to change an inner tube today. That lack of knowledge is what would stop me going out for a long ride on my own…if I can fix a puncture it would make all the difference. I still need to learn more – things such as adjusting the gears and brakes. You never stop learning.”

Nickie, who lives in The Sands, is one of the organisers with U3A Farnham and was one of several members of the organisation’s CTC-affiliated Cycling Club who attended the workshop.

It’s great to see people learning new skills that will hopefully encourage them to cycle more, and there’s a great social side to it all as well.”

Susan Keywood, CTC Cycling Development Officer

U3A (University of the Third Age) encourages retired and semi-retired people in the ‘third age’ of life to pursue educational, cultural and recreational interests.

Susan (below), CTC Cycling Development Officer for Surrey and Hampshire, also invited members of Age UK Surrey GO50 Cycling to the session, as well as people involved in her Community Cycle Clubs in Ash, Farnborough and North Camp. Anne Connolly was another U3A member learning how to unravel the mysteries of cycle maintenance under the watchful eye of Mike McCann, a retired Fire Service driving instructor who now runs the Guildford Bike Project shop at Sheerwater, Woking, with fellow mechanic Fred Jenkins.

Anne, who lives in Lower Bourne, said: “I used to cycle in my teens and early 20s then got back into it about 20 years ago. I went on a Nile charity ride and haven’t stopped cycling since.

“I joined U3A last September and became involved with the cycle group. I can just about keep up with the faster group but they overtake me up hills!

“It’s a very friendly and supportive group. There are obviously the health and fitness benefits of cycling, but there’s also a social side to it…not to mention compulsory cake eating!”

Anne is training to be an Assistant Ride Leader for the Farnham U3A cycling group. She added: “All my holidays these days are cycling, it’s more fun than lying on the beach, so it’s useful to know about fixing your bike. I try to make sure my bike is in good condition – I occasionally wave some oil at it.

“I’ve certainly learned something about adjusting the brakes and gears at the CTC workshop today. It’s great to be shown how to do something correctly.”

Guy Rhodes, from Farnham, knew his Scott mountain bike needed some serious TLC as the derailleur wasn’t working. A lack of appropriate tools meant it wasn’t possible to fix the bike there and then, so Guy was invited to the Guildford Bike Project shop at Sheerwater to use their tools and mend it himself while being supervised by mechanic Fred Jenkins, a retired nurse.

Janet (who did not want her surname used), another U3A cycling group member, also found a cure for her bike’s ills. She said: “It’s been a great morning, very educational. The mechanics are very knowledgeable, helpful and good at explaining things. The handlebars on my bike were too tight, the saddle was skew-whiff and I wasn’t using the gears quite properly as the rear derailleur was misaligned. I learned a lot!”

The third Guildford Bike Project mechanic sharing his expertise in Farnham was Roland Seber. Lifelong cyclist Roland, who works at the social enterprise’s Guildford workshop as a supervisor, used to be employed in the road safety and sustainable transport team at Surrey County Council.

He said: “Everyone who turns up with a bike at one of these CTC sessions gets it looked at. People definitely get a lot out of it. Rather than us fixing the bikes, we get them to do it and talk them through it. It’s the best way to learn.

“Something as relatively simple as fixing a puncture can be a barrier to people cycling, especially any distance. Helping them to learn these skills will improve their confidence.”

Paul Batten, who lives in Wrecclesham, certainly agreed with that sentiment after being shown the ropes by Roland (left). Paul, who works at the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice in Farnham, said: “I’m very much a learner when it comes to bike maintenance. You can never have enough information and the hints and tips I’ve picked up today have been really useful – not just from the instructors but other cyclists. I mainly learned about gears and will now tinker with renewed confidence!”

Watching on at the Farnham United Reformed Church was David Mullen, who is one of U3A Farnham’s two Ride Leaders, along with Sue Shaw. Their ride leadership training was arranged through CTC by Susan Keywood, our Cycling Development Officer for Surrey and Hampshire.

David, who lives in Upper Hale, said: “We have about 40 cyclists in the U3A Farnham Cycling Club. Twenty turn up on a typical day – two groups of ten.

“We cycle on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, usually from Farnham Maltings – the easier group cover 15-20 miles, moderate 20-25 miles. And there’s always a tea and coffee stop! We welcome new members and you can join a ride as a guest.”

Sue Shaw also leads the Smiles ride. Sue said: “The Smiles group is all about gaining confidence on a bike. We go out on the second and fourth Tuesday each month, cycling a maximum of eight miles at a pace to suit the group. And it involves a cake and coffee stop, obviously!”

CTC’s Susan Keywood will be running a third bike maintenance workshop at Farnham United Reformed Church on Wednesday 23 March.

She said: “The two we’ve held so far have proved a big success. It’s great to see people learning new skills that will hopefully encourage them to cycle more, and there’s a great social side to it all as well.”

Tony Upfold