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JP’s Vietnam bikepacking adventure

Setting out in late August, JP, our Geelong store manager and devout adventure cyclist, ditched the morning chills of Melbourne and set forth, bike bag in tow to Vietnam. With a loose plan in mind, JP is currently exploring the south coast of Vietnam aboard his trusty Norco Search XR steel framed flat-bar bike. 

Traversing gaps between fishing villages and local resorts, the beaches, and countryside between Vung Tao and Nha Trang make for some spectacular scenery. Check out some of the pics of his adventure on our blog. You can also follow his journey’s progress on Strava, where he’s racking up the k’s each day.

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6 cycling resources to keep you rolling

1. Melbourne Bike Grid Map (Google Maps)

See all of the continuous paths available around Melbourne and Geelong with Google maps in Cycling mode. The Melbourne Bike Grip Map shows you a visualisation of all of the bike paths available to you so you can max out your 5km bubble.

2. Ride With GPS

One of our favourite tools for planning rides whether short or long. Ride with GPS offers plenty of different map overlays to help you plan your route while also showing other people’s routes that you can take inspiration from.

3. arevo Journey Planner app

Another tool we use to help us plan journeys is arevo. The app uses colour to represent different types of roads or cycling paths, handy when you are looking to use off-road paths only.

Bonus points for it being made here in Victoria!

4. Park Tool’s Repair Help

Park Tool makes workshop grade bike tools, but they also have a handy website, Repair Help, to help you fix your own bike. Park Tool’s Repair Help covers everything from fixing a flat to building a wheel. Useful when you can’t make it into our shop for a service!

5. Sheldon Brown

The late Sheldon Brown was a delightfully eccentric American bicycle mechanic (amongst many other things) and he created this website to help everyone from bike mechanic nerds to everyday cyclists trying to demystify tyre sizing. 

It’s a great resource when fixing up older bikes to check for part sizes and compatibility. The website is very low tech (it’s 20+ years old) but that means it loads fast!

6. Desire Lines

Desire Lines is an Australian website showcasing events, bike touring and bikepacking ride reports/essays and much more. Community driven, it always has great photos and is great for dreaming of future trips!

These are some of our favourite cycling resources and we trust they’ll become some of yours too. If you need some bits or pieces to keep the adventures going head to our online shop, we deliver Australia-wide and 100% of your purchase goes towards our mission.

 

Bike maintenance at home

Still want more? We’re hosting an online bike maintenance session to keep you pedaling through lockdown!

Date: Wednesday 22 September, 2022

Time: 5pm – 6pm

Cost: $25 / FREE for Good Cycles members (check your inbox for the promo code)

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How to carry more on your bike rather than your back

How to carry more on your bike

The rear rack

The most common is a rear rack. Bolted to your frame, rear racks can typically carry 15kgs+ of gear. Once you have the rack you can add a simple and versatile basket bolted to the rack to carry your bag or a bag of shopping, this setup typically costs around $100. 

 

Rear rack and basket to carry gear on your bike
A rear rack and basket with a bag full of shopping

Panniers

If you want a more streamlined solution, then a pannier (or two) that mount to the rear rack can be a good option. Panniers are waterproof and quite easy to fit and remove. Panniers have a lower centre of gravity compared with a basket, making the bike a bit more stable. We stock Ortlieb panniers which are made in Germany and come in a variety of styles, from the simple single pannier which is basically a waterproof roll top bag to a fancy briefcase-style bag that has a padded laptop insert.

Mounted pannier  to carry gear on your bike
The Ortlieb Urban Back-Roller Single Pannier Bag (available online or in-store)

The front basket

A front basket is another option that is becoming more popular. Front baskets can be mounted to almost any bike and have the advantage of suiting bikes that may not have the mount points for a rear rack. They can carry odd-shaped items and you can keep an eye on your gear. Front baskets start at $90.

Front basket to carry gear on your bike
A front basket allows you to keep an eye on your cargo

Bikepacking bags

If your bike has no accommodations for mounting racks or baskets – it may be a carbon fibre road or mountain bike – or you want to keep your bike as light as possible, then bikepacking bags can be a great option. 

Whilst originally designed for superlight off-road bike touring they can be good in the city too. The most popular style is a seatpost mounted bag. They can’t carry as much as a pannier or basket – think a change of clothes and lunch- but they can be mounted to any bike.

Seatpost mounted bag to carry gear on your bike
The Pro Discover Bikepacking Saddle Bag (available online or in-store)

Choose what’s best for you

If you want to see our range have a browse online and if you have any questions about what will work on your bike drop in and have a chat.

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Bike fit – making your bike more comfortable

While professional racers and really serious cyclists will pay a professional bike fitter or physiotherapist hundreds to tune their bike to fit them perfectly for speed and efficiency, everyday commuters and recreational riders can benefit a lot from small (and cheap) changes to how their bike fits them.

First of all, the below is based on the fact that your bike is the right size for you.

Even though bike manufacturers make bikes in a wide range of sizes, the bike you have, or want to buy might not suit your body proportions (such as legs vs arm length). Additionally, your flexibility may change as you get older so a bike that once fit well and was comfortable may not fit so well anymore.

Saddle height

The easiest and most obvious change to how a bike fits is the saddle height. Tall people have their saddles higher than short people, or more specifically people with long legs have their saddles higher than those with short legs!

 

Adjusted saddle height
An easy adjustment to make is the saddle height

Having your saddle at the right height will make your bike more comfortable and more efficient. The general rule is that you want a slight bend (~10 degrees) in your knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke. A too high saddle will cause your hips to rock side to side over the saddle, and a too low saddle will mean your knees bend more than needed which can cause you to get sore.

Stem length

At the other end of the bike is the handlebars and stem. Changing how they are setup can also have an effect on how comfortable your bike is. You can change the length of the stem (this is the part of the bike that connects the fork to the handlebars) and change the width and shape of the handlebars.

If you have long arms and feel a bit ‘cramped’ on the bike a longer stem may help stretch you out and make the bike more comfortable. Likewise if you have short arms or the bike feels too long and stretched out a shorter stem will shorten the reach on the bike and make it fit better.

flipped bike stem
The stem can be ‘flipped’. Left: a positive rise. Right: a negative drop

If you’re feeling like you are bending too far down to the handlebars then raising the handlebars can really improve the comfort of your bike.

The stem can be ‘flipped’ to either be a positive ‘rise’ to get the bars higher or negative ‘drop’ to get the bars lower, and the good news is that this can be done just by using the parts already on the bike. Likewise, you may be able to swap some headset spacers that are above the stem to below the stem to raise the bars higher without buying any new parts.

Headset spacers
Headset spacers may be moved to create more height

If the bars are still too low after rearranging spacers and flipping the stem then a new stem with a higher rise can make the bike feel better. New stems range in price from $45 and upwards, so not an expensive purchase to make your bike more comfortable!

Handlebars

Finally, handlebar width and shape can affect how your bike fits you. Road bike drop handlebars (like they use on the Tour de France) come in widths from 36cm to 46cm to suit different width shoulders.

3 sets of drop handlebars
Drop handlebars, commonly seen on road bikes

Flat handlebars like on mountain bikes and many commuter bikes come in an even bigger range of widths, rises and shapes. While the width of flat bars is less dependent on shoulder width (you want wide bars on mountain bikes to give you good control on off road trails) changing the sweep or width of your bars can make the bike more comfortable and often alleviate wrist and shoulder pain.

3 sets of flat handlebars
Flat handlebars, commonly seen on mountain and commuter bikes

Want to know more?

Drop into one of our stores if you have any questions about bike fit or would like some advice on making your bike more comfortable.

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Why your drivetrain needs replacing

A chain and cassette with a chain checker tool

Well here we’ll explain what we are measuring with that gauge and why your drivetrain needs replacing. The drivetrain is what most mechanics call the chain, cassette (the rear cogs) and chainrings (the front cogs).

The chain checker tool

The tool we drop into the chain is a chain checker, and it measures how worn a chain is. The tool itself is trying to push the links of the chain apart to check how worn the rollers are. Chain wear is usually expressed in a percentage, i.e 0.75% worn. 

A chain checker tool
Chain checker tool

When a chain is 0.75% worn a new chain should mesh and shift well with the old cassette and chainrings on the bike, the chain wear is used to approximate wear on the cassette also (it can be hard to actually see or measure wear on cassettes until they are really worn out).

So why do you need to replace the chain and possibly cassette and chainrings?

As the rollers of your chain wear, they start wearing into the hollows between the teeth on the cassette and chainring, they also start wearing the teeth on them.

If a chain cassette is really worn – typically well past 1% on the gauge – the fit between the rollers on the chain and the hollows on the cassette is poor and there is a lot of slop between them. When you put some power down, say taking off at the lights or riding up a hill, the chain can jump off the cassette. This is horrible to ride and can be dangerous – think about it happening in the middle of an intersection or pushing hard up a hill out of the saddle!

The smaller cogs on a cassette wear out sooner than the larger cogs simply because there are more teeth to spread the wear across, 11 or 12 teeth vs 20+ teeth. The same goes for chainrings with 40+ teeth.

A worn bicycle cassette
A worn cassette

Over time the chain and cassette become a matched pair, like old friends that get each other’s jokes. If you change one and not the other the drivetrain can perform much worse than if they had been left as a pair! Hence why we mostly recommend changing the chain and cassette together, both being new means they will work well together.

You can just change the chain if the chain is not too worn ~0.5%, this is a good approach on higher end bikes where the cassettes can cost $150+.

While most manufacturers quote 4,000kms as an estimated life of a chain this varies based on how well the chain is cared for (wiped clean and lubed) and how the riders pedals – soft spinning or more powerful efforts. 

If you’re having issues with your chain skipping or want us to check your chain for wear, drop into one of three shops: Melbourne CBD, Docklands and Geelong and we’ll check it out.

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Career development as-it-happens at Good Cycles

The Good Cycles workshop

Abby had some injuries that meant she had to revise her career path as an auto-mechanic. It involved a period of unemployment and it hasn’t been a straightforward process to get back into work. 

Abby is managing disabilities from those past injuries and has had to explain the gap in her resume many times. But that wasn’t all that potential employers wanted her to explain. In Abby’s experience ‘a lot of people hold prejudice about the way queer people present themselves’. 

A stand out attitude and aptitude

According to our Head Mechanic, Mike Dann, attitude and aptitude stood out in Abby. 

‘She is a fast learner and quick to pick up on how things are done in the shop by watching the other staff members. She’s proactive about learning new skills and doing research on new products’. 

Abby is modest about her skills. She says she comes from a ‘bike family’. She finds it rewarding to work on a range of different bikes and to try new jobs. ‘I like problem-solving a lot so when I solve a problem with a bike and a customer is happy that it’s fixed, it makes me feel great’.

Mike takes a lot of care in training mechanics. He says the variety of jobs trainees get to do is important. ‘We have simple to complex repair jobs coming in, but we also expect employees to sell bikes and provide guidance to customers. The variety means employees like Abby can put a lot in their CV’.

Head mechanic, Mike Dann, in the Good Cycles workshop
Mike Dann, Good Cycles Head Mechanic

‘With someone like Abby, who picks things up fast, I will do a quick demo, maybe provide a technical guide online and then let them do it themselves, rather than helicopter them. It is important to have some time to do new jobs and figure out how it all works in your own time rather than someone over your shoulder pointing everything out.’

Abby is currently doing internal cable routing. With skills she already knows, she’s getting more confident, faster, and efficient. She is also honing her skills talking to customers: explaining mechanical concepts to customers with less bicycle know-how, and giving a clear reason why something needs to be replaced or repaired. 

Social and professional connections

Building social networks and professional connections is also part of the experience at Good Cycles. Abby says, ‘I’ve met people through Good Cycle’s social events. Those events have been awesome to connect, and that’s what I look forward to post lockdown’.

‘Honestly, it’s the best job I’ve had and Mike is the best supervisor I’ve ever had’. 

Mike sees Abby rapidly expanding her mechanical repertoire and selling high-value items in the shop. ‘I can see her in a permanent job as a bike mechanic in a shop, for sure’.

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4 tips to get the most out of your eBike

ebikes

Many of the young people we employ ride a range of eBikes and eCargo bikes to assist with their jobs, so we are no strangers to eBikes. While simple to use we want to share our top tips to using an e-Bike, (some of which can also be good practice on a regular bike.)

1. Change down gears when slowing down

As you come to a stop, try and get into the habit of changing down into an easier gear. This helps in many ways, firstly it will make it easier to accelerate off again, as the motor will be able to give you the most assistance straight away. Secondly it will protect the moving parts. Once up to speed then change up to the gear which will allow you to cruise best at the 25km/hr limit.

Focus Paralane Square 6.7 eBike
The Focus Paralane Square 6.7 eBike

2. Back off a little when changing gears

eBike systems put a lot of strain on bicycle chains and gears, in many ways they have not yet evolved to handle the amount of energy the motor puts through them. With eBikes, when you need to change to an easier gear, just pushing the shifter, without decreasing the amount of energy you are pushing through the pedals, causes the chain to crunch across the gears. So even though you need to keep pedalling to change gears, do it gently. Pedal gently, so that they are still turning gently, but not applying power. This gives time for the chain to move to the new gear before you start pedalling normally again.

3. Slow down earlier

Because eBikes give you more speed and power, braking becomes all the more important. Even at the lightest assisted gear, an eBike can add around 50 watts to your pedal stroke. This means you’ll want to slow down well ahead of stop signs and road crossings, and far earlier than you would on a slower-moving bike. It’s important to get to know your brakes and their relative power, so you can assess the safest time to start slowing down.

eBike battery on charge
An eBike battery on charge

4. Don’t forget to recharge

While you can ride an eBike without a battery they have a reinforced frame to accommodate the battery and motor, so they are much heavier than a regular bike. To keep you moving efficiently, remember to charge your battery regularly so you don’t get caught out. If you can’t park your bike near an electrical outlet, look for the instructions to remove the battery so you can charge it separately from the bike.

Following these tips will make your travels on an eBike easier, safer and help protect the gears so they don’t wear out too quickly and start slipping.

Are your eBike gears seeming a little off? Bring it in for a service at one of our three service centres. We can service the mechanical parts of all eBikes and can work on the electrics of Shimano and Bosch eBike systems.

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Gravel bikes – the hot new thing?

Norco Search XR S2 gravel bike

Basically, gravel bikes are great for doing a lot of things. They make a good bike for exploring gravel roads and dirt tracks obviously, but they also make great commuters, light touring bikes and, at a pinch, do a decent impersonation of a road bike.

While they look superficially like a traditional road bike from a distance – drop handlebars, 700c wheels and a slightly sloping top tube – up close they are quite different. 

On a gravel bike you’ll find:

  • wider tyres, typically 32-45mm wide
  • lower gearing making them better for riding up steep hills
  • a longer wheelbase compared to a road bike making them more stable
  • the frames often have the capacity to mount racks, mudguards and extra drink bottles.
Focus Atlas 6.7 gravel bike
Focus Atlas 6.7

Changing the tyres on a gravel bike can really change its personality. Equip some 42mm knobby tyres and you can tackle some fire roads and smooth easy mountain bike trails if that’s your thing, tough 35mm tyres and they make a good commuter, or light, supple 32mm slick tyres and they won’t feel too out of place on the road. Some gravel bikes will even have tyre clearance for 27.5×2.1″ mountain bike tyres to let you really go off-road.

Norco Search XR A Flat Bar gravel bike
Norco Search XR A Flat Bar

Even if you have no intention of riding off-road a Gravel bike could be a great commuter bike. They’re faster than a traditional hybrid but more comfortable and stable than a road bike.

There’s a good reason they’re often called “quiver killers” because they can replace multiple bikes; a commuter, road bike and touring bike all in one.

Want to see what all the fuss is for yourself? Drop into our Goldsbrough Lane store to take a look at our gravel bike range.