How to save money in cycling

DSC_2210_DxO3I’ve decided to update the blog and publish some of the articles I’ve had sitting in draft format. Over the years, we’ve had to dramatically cut costs in order to survive. So I’m now going to share with you some cheapskate ways to save money.

  • The first area you can save a lot of money is nutrition. The cost of powerbars, powergels and sports drinks really starts to add up when you’re doing lots of miles. If you must buy these things, buy them in bulk. There are also plenty of ways to make your own products.
  • I personally use water now instead of power drinks. Otherwise you’re literally pissing that money away.
  • Chain oil. Yes that’s right, chain oil. What did I use for my rental bikes? Plain old everyday engine oil. I used the lightest oil I could find. In fact it offered way better performance for MTBs (because volcanic dust dries out wax-based lubes). The only difference I find is that wax-based lubes don’t stain your calves quite so much.
  • Repair inner tubes. I used to do this and got really good at it until people started compaining that “it wasn’t safe”. The fact is, if you do it right, it is safe.
  • If you have to read about cycling, don’t buy magazines – read books instead! Magazines are filled with ads. Books are not. Magazines will tempt you to get stuff when you don’t really need it. Books will tend to get you out on the bike more, be more motivated, not less.
  • Buy 105, Ultegra, Deore, SLX, and XT. Beyond that and you’re really not getting a good cost-benefit ratio. Of course, you probably knew this already.
  • If you do want to save up for a bike, buy a good frame. Focus on the frame, as a good frame can easily last you 5 or 10 years. Components on the other hand will wear out and need to be replaced. So invest in a good frame, make the frame the priority and then worry about the rest of the component spec. Buying a good frame will save you money in the long run.
  • Insurance. Do you really need to insure that bicycle? Almost every average car in Spain for example is only insured for 3rd party damage (which is compulsory). Almost no one pays the small premium for fully comprehesive. Because quite frankly it’s a waste of money (except of coure if you have a lot at stake like repaying a mortgage / owning your own home). This is the main reason why poor people are uninsured — they know it’s not a fundamental need and one of the first places to cut costs.

A few bike cleaning tips.

One of the more mundane things I’ve has to do lots of with is cleaning bikes, so I thought I’d share a few secrets on how to clean your bike fast -and more importantly- on the cheap. [Read more →]

Being taken for a ride

bicycle cartoonAs many of you already know, I’m in the business of renting out bikes here in Tenerife. I’ve been a part of the bike industry for the last eight years. I might not repeat this much so I’ll say it now: I am extremely grateful to have been able to do something that I enjoy all of that time. Above all, I thank my customers who have continue to support me over the years! Thanks so much – you’re the best!! 😀

[Apologies for the negative tone of the post. It’s pretty clear that I need a change of direction and all I can say is that I’m already working hard on it] [Read more →]

Questions for the bike industry:

bike industry cartoonMore bikes = less time to ride?
I have 3 MTBs myself. A hardtail with slicks for commuting and easy straight up & straight back rides. A dual suspension “all mountain” with 140mm travel bike for most offroad rides. And a wicked downhill beast. I also have two road bikes. A top-specced one and a still-lovely backup one. But the more bikes I own, the more I have to work for them and the less time I have actually riding them.

Planned obsolescence:
Those in the industry tend to call this ‘progress’. [Read more →]

Cycling safety in Tenerife

Dear Sir/Madam

I am planning a holiday in Tenerife later this year and I would like to do some cycling. I can cycle but I would like to improve my confidence and ability in a relatively safe environment.




Great! What would you like to know?
Tenerife is a safe enough place for cycling regarding other road traffic… nevertheless, there are certain roads to avoid because of high levels of traffic or poor quality road surfaces. Quieter mountain roads are better than coastal routes.

Also, most accidents we have seen are due to rider error (going down around corners too fast and mixing up front/rear brakes for example). Tenerife is also not the best place to learn with clipless pedals due to the abundance of hill starts. The flattest road for beginner cyclists is between Granadilla de Abona and Güímar which undulates along road TF28.

Hope this is of some help.


Reduced reach brake levers for small hands

…I have small hands and a quite weak grip, so please make sure that the brakes of the bike grips good and that the break levers run easy with no effort!
Otherwise i will not make it down the mounatins!…


Yes we have just the bike for you!
It is a 48cm Vitus shuffle ladies bike just been built up a few days ago, photo attached.

It features a compact crankset (in small size 165mm with 34/50T chainrings), low-range cassette (12-27t), full carbon fork, 10 speed components.

The good thing about this bike is that it has narrow, compact reach handlebars, and we have also reduced the reach of the levers for small hands (they’re the new carbon ultegra shifters). Possibly the best thing about this bike is that we have equipped it with our own brand of compressionless cable housing called “vertebrae”, so although the brake levers don’t have much travel, you definitely won’t run out of brakes. (normally f you reduce the reach of brake levers, they will hit the handlebars when you apply them hard)

The brakes are also very easy to apply, because all your hand force goes into working the brake calipers, not compressing the brake lines… have a look at our link below for further info…

We can also mount a short (50mm) stem, ladies saddle and zero-setback seatpost if you prefer.

I’ve reserved this bike for you over your requested dates… total price is 85 Euros including delivery & all necessary equipment. The small merida is also available & will have an upgraded compact crankset, but the Vitus is a much nicer bike, especially with the brakes & gears…

Very much looking forward to your reply,

Thanks very much,
Leslie | Pro bike hire | Precision braking & shifting

How to identify really hard-core cyclists…

Ways to spot a really hard-core cyclist training1) If they don’t stop pedalling. This might sound simple enough, but most recreational cyclists stop pedalling for vast periods of time to rest their legs. Meanwhile, cyclists on a misson keep their cadence constant the whole time.

2) They are riding a bike with double chainrings and not a triple chainring or compact crankset.

3) One way to estimate distance that someone has cycled is by looking at the amount of water they’re carrying. Two 750ml bottles and they’re out for a few hours. Two 750ml bottles + a 2L camelback, and they’re doing some serious training mileage. How can I be so certain? ‘Cause no one carries that extra weight unless they need to. 😉

4) They’ve shaved or waxed their legs. A lot of good cyclists do this for many reasons. Foremost, because it looks good. Second, because it feels good. Third, because if you crash, you don’t create a very painful composite (human hair fibres in a blood matrix). If they’re really good they’ll shave their arms too!

5) They’ve left their leg hairs grow proudly. (that’s right, the presence of leg hairs is never a true indication of the fitness of an individual)

6) They’ve got mis-matched tyres. Why? Because it means they can’t be fussed with th look of their bike. They’d rather be out cycling than waiting or looking around for a new pair of same-brand tires.

7) A far better way to tell if they are a decent rider is to see if they use genuine cycling socks… white for road, black for MTB.

8) They’re out cycle-training in Tenerife… because there are no easy rides here.

9) They’ve got tattoos. Because everyone knows that tats are associated with drug-use and they’re probably taking EPO.

10) They’re passing you as you note all of the above.

Why do bikes cost more to rent than cars?

You get what you pay for.Every now and then, I hear someone comparing the price of hiring a good quality bike to renting a car. Or else they tell me directly to my face that my bikes are too expensive to rent (and those ones are always non-cyclists by the way). I’ve heard it several times in the last two or three years, so I thought I’d offer a little explanation. The reason bikes usually cost more than rental cars is because: [Read more →]

Types of bicycle pedals & shoe compatibility guide

Types of clipless bicycle pedals & compatibility guide.If there’s one thing that causes beginner cyclists anxiety, it’s the overwhelming choice of pedals that are currently available, so I thought I’d write this article about the types of road and MTB pedals and their compatibility in the hopes that someone could learn something from it.

First things first, the good news is that 98% of the pedals you can buy today are interchangeable with standard bicycle cranks. They prety much all use the 9/16″ x 20 tpi (threads per inch). That means you can swap the pedals on everything from a 5 year old childrens bike to a top of the line road racer or downhill bike. [Read more →]

What gives metals their strength?

What gives metals their strength?Doc Brown ~

I ran across your column in my quest to find out more about bicycle frame materials (aluminum, steel, titanium, carbon fiber) on a molecular level. I am a 7th grade teacher and i am putting together a unit about the Science of Cycling. I want my students to understand why these different materials have the properties they do on a molecular level. Why is titanium so strong? Is it that all of the particles are so clumped together? I dont know if that makes complete sense but i am trying to grasp why these materials have these certain characteristics and if we looked at a particle level, what would it look like?

Can you help me??

Common close packed structures.Metallic Atomic Structure:
All metals have a crystalline structure made up of “close packed” atoms. The atomic nuclei are in fixed positions while the electrons can migrate. This gives metals their ability to conduct heat and electricity well. The crystal arrangements are better represented by spheres in what’s called a unit cell. There are three main types of packing in the transition metals: Face-Centred Cubic (FCC), Body-Centred Cubic (BCC) and Hexagonal Close Packed (HCP). The packing densities of BCC, FCC and HCP structures are 68, 74 and 74% respectively. The size of the nuclei vary according to the type of element.

Growth of grains in a metal during nucleation & solidification.Metallic Microstructure:
The atoms in a metallic solid are arranged in close packed crystalline arrangements. However, during solidifaction of a molten metal, different regions are forced to crystallise at the same time. This gives rise to various “grains”. Within each grain, the atoms are arranged regularly; it is the spatial orientation of this ordered array that differs between these grains. The sizes of grains normally vary from microns to inches. Grains can be seen with the naked eye in galvanized metal sheet (zinc plated steel), but they are usually microscopic. Generally speaking, the faster the cooling process, the smaller the grain size. Grains are also highly dependent on the forming processes involved in manufacturing a metal. A smaller grain size increases strength on the premise that it is difficult for dislocations to cross grain boundaries. [Read more →]

Cycling in your thirties; gaining motivation & losing weight.

You know the feeling when the road in front of you starts to ramp up, and you jump off the saddle and dance on those pedals a bit like Marco Pantani climbing in the French Alps? Well that feeling had completely vanished. Hell, even my own sweat reaked of somebody else. Realising this only made me more determined - I wasn’t going to permit myself turn into yet another fat bastard quite so easily!I admit that only a few months ago I did not have the physical energy required for cycling long distances. Just getting out on my bike required a huge mental effort. Every time I went out and came back, I never seemed to improve and there were very few rewards. Normally, after a little break of a few months, it’d take me three, four or at most five rides before my fitness level returned to ‘normal’. That was when I was in my twenties. But last summer I turned 31. I’d gone out regularly more than a dozen times and I was still finding it rather difficult. I guess that’s what it means to be in your thirties!

I no longer had that lively spring in my pedalling stroke. You know the feeling when the road in front of you starts to ramp up, and you jump off the saddle and dance on those pedals a bit like Marco Pantani climbing in the French Alps? Well that feeling had completely vanished. Hell, even my own sweat reaked of somebody else. Realising this only made me more determined – I wasn’t going to permit myself turn into yet another fat bastard quite so easily! [Read more →]

Got a question about materials used in bikes?

materials, bikes, bicycles, science, frame, steel, aluminium, aluminum, carbon, boron, fibre, fiber, magnesium, titanium, beryllium, questions, manufacturing, components, ask, answerHello fellow cyclists,

For a long time I’ve been meaning to start my own column dedicated to answering questions about the multitude of materials used in bicycle frame and components. I’ve decided to write this article after reading several questions directly related to materials posted on online bike forums.

Materials and bikes go hand in hand so it’s great to see many riders already have a basic understanding of the general properties of materials. The thing is, most people are simply not qualified to answer detailed questions about the nature of materials. And it seems that some people would rather promptly give an answer -any answer- sooner than get the real facts. They give the wrong information. Mis-information.

You see the same old stuff which has been regurgitated by bicycle magazines and cyclists for the last decade. Eventually the bicycle industry catches onto something new and a buzz word is formed. There are equally as many myths floating about. I suspect that the majority of bicycle companies and component manufacturers only talk about materials to increase their sales. Yes I believe a lot of it is marketing hype. Some of it is not. I’m here to introduce you to some important but little-known concepts about Materials.

What so great about Materials Science?
It’s basically study of the physical & mechanical properties of all Materials including metals, ceramics, polymers, composites, semiconductors and superconductors. We research and test materials’ strength, stiffness, density, corrosion and a whole host of other important properties. More than any other field, Materials Science tries to seek out what is actually happening at the atomic, molecular and microstructural level.

Chemists tend to stick to atoms and molecules. Physicists tend to look more at the subatomic. Engineers lean towards the macroscopic. This leaves Materials Science to fill a truly gaping void. It is an underappreciated scale – one which you can’t see but gives rise to almost all physical properties of materials. [Read more →]

Saying no to electronic bikes! Cycling without an odometer…

“It gives readouts for speed, maximum speed, time, distance, cadence and number of dog turds you’ve run over.”About 5 years ago I used to train with a campagnolo ergobrain cycling computer as well as a S-710 polar HRM (with the additional power unit). That gave me every imaginable readout including: speed, distance, heart rate, estimated calories burned, power output, cadence (pedalling rate), pedalling index (or efficiency), digital gear indicator, current temperature & altitude …

This setup was great for long and boring rides but before long, I found myself looking at both LCD displays more and more and more. Eventually I felt that it was just information overload. I constantly aimed to beat my own times, lower my resting heart rate and burn the most calories possible. While I thought of this as part of training, I had unknowingly become a slave to the bicycle computer (or in this case computers).

After a while, I met a guy in the South of Sydney (Como bridge to be exact) who caught up to me from behind. He was obviously significantly faster than I was. I was suprised to see that there were no electronics at all on his bike at all. When I asked the inevitable “why” question, he said to me that he’d just be worrying about the readouts too much and not concentrating on riding the actual bike. Now being a techno-geek back then, I just couldn’t understand that mentality at the time. I used to think like this: “if a new technology is available, you have to have it”. Plain and simple. He didn’t change me on the spot, but his philosophy nevertheless made me think twice about what I was doing. Was I nothing more than a consumer victim? He certainly opened my mind to the idea of cycling without any electronics equipment. [Read more →]

Road Riding in the Mountains.

What road bikers seek. Road riding in the mountains. In search of the perfect bicycle ride.I think I have an idea of what road riders seek.

What they are looking for more than anything is to be as far away from civilisation as possible (just like mountainbikers), but with the knowledge that if they need anything, they can have access to it. That might mean that extra water, mechanical backup, etc is only a phone call away. It’s kind of impossible, but there you have it. [Read more →]

How to get back into cycling.

Middle aged weight gain, and how to lose it.How to lose fitness:
I don’t know what happened to me in the last year. I seemed to lose all motivation for riding my road bike. It’s the same old story: you turn 30 and your belly starts to accrete fat molecules like an asteroid belt orbiting a big planet. So here’s a little spur-of-the-moment article I’ve put together that can possibly help loads of people.

I was so busy with &, I didn’t get out as much & gained at least 5kg body mass in the last year (and none of it was muscle). Probably it was more like 7-10 kg, but I conveniently forgot what my starting weight was (~67kg?). All I know is that, suddenly one day I hopped on the scales and the little dial moved in a manner in which I’d never previously witnessed: it lurched forward and then backward and then forward again, swinging like the pendulum of a miniature grandfather clock, giving me enough time to realise that I’d definitely gained too much weight. By the time it settled I wasn’t happy about the decision to weigh myself. At this point, I could only imagine the level of guilt truly obese people feel. [Read more →]

Mountainbikes vs Road Bikes

Why choose a mountainbike? Road bikes vs MTBs.I must admit that before I moved to Tenerife, I really didn’t fully understand this whole mountainbiking phenomenon. I mean, why would anyone intentionally choose to ride a bike on dirty, bumpy surfaces, in the middle of nowhere? They’re heavier than road bikes for a start. MTB drivetrains wear out quicker. Complex suspension components demand more maintenance. And obviously, they’re much slower than road racing bikes.

The primary reason, I believe, is to escape from traffic, other people and civilisation itself. It’s the single best form of transport to get you out in the wilderness and away from society. [Read more →]

Bicycle Training on a budget: How cyclists can save money!

Bicycle Training on a budget. How to Save Money!All cyclists know that cycling can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn’t have to be. Bicycles are the most efficient form of human transport that we know of. But if you’ve started to spend ridiculous amounts of money in this sport, you might want to re-analyse the situation; if you’re flaking out loads of cash on all the latest training gizmos and whatnot, is it such an environmentally friendly sport after all? Where does your money actually end up? What do those recipients do with it? Consumers don’t tend to weigh these things up enough before purchasing something. I think I became a semi-retro-grouch when I turned 30 last year. So without further delay, here are a bunch of easy ways to help you save your hard-earned money: [Read more →]

Surprise the hell out of everyone with the new you!

Successful man doesn’t drive a car or commute, he exercises by walking, jogging or biking.This is a special guest article written by Jonathan Donnelly of Northern Ireland. Late last year, he hired a road bike with us for 6 days here in Tenerife, successfully scaled the 2300m climb to the base of Mt Teide and was then keen to try out a mountainbike for the first time in his life! This is an amazing story because in April of the same year, Jon was a self-confessed computer gaming addict tipping the scales at 103kg. Thanks for the inspirational article Jon!

-Dr. Leslie Brown

Inspiration Part 1.

In my area of the world the authorities that be are mad keen to get you active! A while back there was this campaign called Go walking, it’s the thing to do… to get fit, lose weight, de-stress.

You need to replace that attitude that “walking is all I can do, ’cause I’m old, fat, always tired and have no time” with a new attitude.With facts and figures about how much you can lower your risk of heart disease etc. it all looked very boring and did not appeal to a Gladiator like me killing mad mosters that drop purple gear with my super powers in my virtual world (google ‘world of warcraft’).

Go walking, it even had a theme tune, and a spin off called “highway to health”. The problem with walking is unless you change your scenery often it gets rather boring I know I did loads of it ’til i was SICK of it.

It seems to me like a form of exercise that i term, “just for the sake of it”. Or “I have no sport I’m good at so I’m gonna walk for exercise” and “I’m too fat to jog”. [Read more →]

Important gear selection tips for climbing in the mountains.

The best gears for climbing mountains. Compact triple double chainring wide range cassetteThe most important thing to remember if you haven’t ever cycled in mountainous terrain is APPROPRIATE GEARING. I can’t stress that enough. The best gearing for climbing are the following options:

1) 53/39/30 chainring with 12-25 cassette

2) 50/34 chainring with 12-28 cassette

3) 53/39 with 12-32 cassette

All of these choices provide what I call “the magic 1.2 low gear ratio” which will be perfect for climbs ranging from 5 – 10 or even up to [Read more →]

Bicycle maintenance, part III: everything else.

Have bicycles changed since the dawn of time?Welcome to the third installment of “making a bombproof reliable bike”. Here I’m going to provide further tips on how to maintain your bike so that you can rely on it to get you through not just the best bike rides, but all of them. Don’t forget to read Part II: The Drivetrain and Part I: Wheels & Tyres.

1. Listen to your bike! Remember that a noise-free bike is what to aim for. If a bike clicks, ticks, creaks aqueaks and groans it’s trying to tell you something…. something like… “lube me!” or “I am badly in need of adjustment!”. And it’s surely going to get worse and you increase the chances of component failure (for example breakage or seizure of parts).

2. If a part requires a special tool, pay attention to it! The worst bicycle failures are those which force a rider to stop and call for some kind of backup or a lift back home (either your partner, your parents, or you leg it to the nearest train station). Quality parts -properly maintained- rarely break. If you want a reliable, durable bike, avoid what we call in the bicycle industry: “stupid light parts”. So in most cases, you’re only prevented from continuing your training ride because the mechanical breakdown requires the use of special tools which you aren’t able to carry. Virtually every part on a bike requires a unique tool. For example, cranksets require an 8 or 10mm allen key to fix and are fairly heavy; spokes require a spoke key; pedals require a 15mm spanner, cassette lockrings require a cassette lockring tool; bottom brackets require their own tools. Unless you are planning to do solo-touring, it’s not practical to carry everything with you to cover all of these contigencies. Fortunately, there is one thing you can do to prevent these parts from loosening… and that’s simply to tighten them up sufficiently in the first place! Then remember to check them periodically.

3. Lubricate (almost) everything! Grease should be applied to ALL fastener threads. Lubricate all other and contact points such as saddle rails, seatpost clamps, seatpost shafts, cleats, etc, with an appropriate lubricant (either oil or grease depending on the application). Obviously don’t lubricate anything that could cause you to lose control of the bike (for example: where the stem touches the handlebars and steerer tube)

4. Become an €œinstant fixer€. When you’ve locate the source of a problem,  don€™t procrastinate by delaying bicycle repairs. Fix it as soon as you can and it will never bother you again. Then there’ll be one less thing to go wrong in future.

5. Wrap your bar tape well. Wrap the bar tape tightly around the handlebars. Don’t use less than 3mm overlap on the outside radius of bends otherwise the handlebar underneath will begin to show after some use. The 6″ pieces of sticky tape that come with all cork tape kits are the most useless things to reside on planet Earth -they don’t stretch enough, they don’t stick and they’re not long enough either. Sometimes they’ll unravel as soon as your back is turned. If you decide to use these anyway because they look nice, know that the cork tape is practically guaranteed to unwrap as soon as your handlebars get wet (with sweat or rain). If you’re smart, follow this advice: you’re a hundred times better off throwing the stock tape in the bin & using PVC electrical tape in their place. If you really want to make the bar tape secure, get the 1/2″ wide PVC tape, and wrap it around 3 or 4 times the bars. Two wraps is not really sufficient; 5 or more wraps and the tape will bulge and look funny. If you have a mountain bike, the oldest trick in the book is to spray some hair spray inside the handlebar grips; you’ll find they’re much easier to slide on & they stay put once the ‘glue’ dries. [Read more →]