Sunday, 6 April 2014

Bicycle Ambulance in Cambridge, my new LBS

Even for budding do-it-yourself enthusiasts the Local Bike Shop (LBS) plays an important role. When I bought my Cinelli Saetta (see previous blog posts for details of the build) it was reassuring to source the frame and fork through a local dealer and get someone more experienced than me to cut down the fork and fit the headset. That said, for my last build (a clunky winter fixie) I just ordered the bits over the internet, cut the fork and installed the cups myself. Perhaps it was just an excuse to buy a new tool. Anyway, there's one job I have never tackled and frankly probably don't have the time to learn, let alone to get good enough at: wheel building.

The Wheels

Alongside the Cinelli frame, I ordered some Miche primato hubs and some Mavic OpenPro rims and the team at my local bike shop, Howes of Cambridge, built them up for me. This is the second pair of wheels they've built for me. I bought a pair of OpenPro/Ultegra wheels form them in about 2007 and they have never put a spoke wrong. Although I stopped using the rear wheel when I made up the Cinelli the front is still in service on the winter bike.

The new wheels have done almost 2 years now and about 5,000 miles of fair-weather use. Perhaps it is the poor condition of the roads, or perhaps the newer OpenPro rims are not quite as strong as the older ones. Most likely the lightweight fancy black-anodised spokes with alloy nipples just make for a slightly weaker wheel. Whatever the reason, about a month or so ago my Cinelli bike acquired an occasional creak when climbing and I couldn't figure out why until last weekend when it suddenly sounded like someone had attached a badly fitting mud-guard (fender) to it. Something was loose and the culprit was easy to identify: a spoke had come almost completely free.

So Farewell then, Howes of Cambridge

Unfortunately, Michael and Pat Howes packed up business at the end of 2013. The shop had a long history with the local press identifying it as the oldest bike shop in the country. They got a write-up on too. I wish Michael and Pat all the best for their retirement!

My New Local Bike Shop

With Howes gone, I need to find a new bike shop. Of course, in Cambridge I should be spoiled for choice. I'm sure there are lots of great bike mechanics but it is nice to have a recommendation to go on and so I thought I'd give the Bicycle Ambulance a whirl based on a recommendation from my son. For £20 they fixed up both of my wheels and today I rode about 75 miles on them and they are as good as new! With all creaks solved the soundtrack of my Cinelli Saetta is, once again, just the gentle purr of the Campag Centaur equipment.

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