Friday, 21 May 2021

My Own Little Bike Shop

People are very resourceful. The strategies for surviving lockdown have been many and varied. More books were read, more TV was watched and more video games were played. Sales of booze, fags and confectionery grew substantially. Although, as an antidote to being cooped up, many people went out more, going walking and cycling (having first dusted down the old trainers and the old bike from the shed). Plenty of people also got involved in new projects around the house. Whether DIY, writing, painting, knitting or art-journaling, what mattered most was the immersion and the sense of purpose it gave.

Over the past year of lockdowns, I’ve engaged in four big projects. I completed my second collection of poetry and I wrote the first draft of a novel. During the first long lockdown last year, I built a bike from scratch. And during this year’s long lockdown, I built another. I got a great sense of purpose from each of these projects But I gained much more than that. I also developed and extended my skills and abilities. And in each project I ended up with an artefact that I could look at with pride and say, I made this.

I began to learn bike-maintenance because I had to. Some twenty years ago I started to go on solo multi-week cycle-touring trips; at first on this island and then to different parts of Europe. I loved the freedom and flexibility of this type of travelling. But as I discovered, you have to be able to fix basic problems yourself as there may not always be a bike shop around when you need it. So, bit by bit, I learnt how to fix bikes. And through this I gained the confidence to undertake tasks that previously I would have left to a bike shop. Indeed, you can’t always trust a shop mechanic. Some years ago a local shop returned one of my bikes with a dangerous bodge, instead of fixing it properly. When you do the job yourself you can be sure that it’s right. My garage now doubles as a bike workshop; the walls and bench are lined with bike parts, bike tools and bikes.

As a birthday present, I bought myself a Trek Domane SLR frameset. This lightweight carbon frame and forks had the great advantage of built-in shock absorption. For my first new build on a carbon frame I took great care, paying close attention to the torque settings. I fitted Shimano Ultegra components throughout and custom-made lightweight wheels from DCR. I ended up with a splendid carbon endurance bike that weighs just 17 pounds; a whole three pounds lighter than the Granfondo titanium bike that I’d built a year ago.

The Domane is my first full-carbon bike and I am very proud of it. The bike is designed for endurance riding; it is agile and fast. Because I had a bad knee injury, I did little cycling over the winter. So I have only recently started to do some longer rides (the maximum so far has been 53 miles). The bike’s lightness and shock absorption help you to be less fatigued over longer distances on our poorly maintained roads. The Domane now joins my stable of five other bikes in the garage. It also happens to be worth more than my car. In our new Covid-limited world, pastimes and hobbies are more important now than they ever were.


  1. Great stuff Paul . So pleased you’re getting the satisfaction that solving bike maintenance problems brings AND the delight of achieving a self build of such quality.
    I also am thinking about bikes as I get into my seventh decade and wondering why the hills are so much harder than that used to be .Answer = Age + pacemaker + beta blockers = electric bike

    1. Thank you very much Jake. Those hills certainly don't get any easier and the old legs need all the help that they can get. Have you got an electric bike now?