I've been cycling on and off in London for over 2 years now, which sounds like a long time but in all honesty, I've spent more time 'off' than 'on'. It's only over the past 7 months of pedaling to and from work each day that I feel I've done enough to consider myself a certified city cyclist.
I definitely look the part with my wet weather gear, snazzy USB rechargeable lights, high-vis jacket and a fairly robust backpack. But when it comes to actually knowing the ins and outs of my bike (a Charge Hob 3 who answers to the name Daphne) I was embarrassingly useless.
In a desperate attempt to appear less pathetic I frantically searched for 'bike maintenance, London' and breathed a hefty sigh of relief when I saw a beginners course on offer at Look Mum No Hands Old St. If their bike chat was as good as their coffee than I'd be happy.
(Spoiler alert: it was)
This course ran from 10am to 4pm which I initially thought to be a bit overkill for just covering the basics, but by the end of the day - covered in grease and surrounded by bike parts, I didn't want to leave.
We started the day with a coffee and then headed to the basement aka bike heaven, I think I even heard Daphne purr when we were shown around.
Our instructor, a brilliant chap called Digger, briefed the room with what the day had in store and kicked off with teaching us how to inspect our bike frame and take off our wheels. Mine was a little more complicated than the quick release tyres some more seasoned cyclists had with them, but Digger took the time to make sure I understood every inch of my bike and wheels, showing me what tools I need and what to do with them.
I now have a 15mm double open ended ratcheting combination spanner wrench on my Christmas list. And what's more, I even know what that means.
The biggest appeal of cycling is the independence having a bike gives you. But until you learn how to change a puncture quickly and successfully, you'll always need other people around. In that spirit the course has given me the confidence and knowledge to look after and repair the everyday damages that any cyclist, old or new can pick up along the way.
All the advice and skills felt tailored to our bikes and our individual cycling needs, despite there being 5 of us in the room and various different break and gear systems - everyone was well looked after and different experience levels catered for.
Despite knowing the least about bikes and upkeep I was never made to feel it, there were grown men with beautiful titanium speed bikes in the room who got just as much of a high out of fitting an inner tube as I did.
After wheel care, punctures, inner tubes and lunch, we moved on to brake set-up, block replacement and gear adjustment. All of which, I now feel capable enough to either work on myself, or walk into any bike shop and confidently tell them exactly what I need doing, without being charged for more.
As well as news skills, we left the course with a few freebies too: a set of tyre leavers, puncture repair kit and a Pedros multi tool are now safely stored in my backpack for future emergencies.
All in all, an absolutely brilliant day I would recommend to any cyclist, old or new. I have gone from being a complete novice to finding myself purposefully aiming for the potholes and broken bottles on London roads, just so as I could bash out my new puncture repair kit. That, I would not recommend.