The sounds of your bicycle: does it need maintenance, or repair?

The bike whisperer hears the message in the sounds of a bicycle. How can you tell whether your bike is asking for maintenance, or screaming for repair? If you’re at all unsure, just drop in to The Bike Doctor, and we’ll let you know what’s up, free of charge.

Sometimes it’s straight forward. If you hear a constant chorus of squeaking which stops when you stop pedaling, it’s probably your drive train telling you that it’s time for some oil. Add oil to your chain as you spin the pedal backward, making sure that it is applied to each of the links evenly. After a short ride, or even at the end of the day, wipe all of the excess away. Excess oil will attract dirt and wear down your components, so you’ll want to keep your drivetrain clean. Simple maintenance is that easy, it really doesn’t require much in the way of special tools.


Sometimes it’s a little more complicated. Does the squeaking continue even as you’re coasting? Perhaps you need new wheel bearings. Is there a creaking, or a clicking sound as you pedal? It sounds like your bottom bracket needs your attention. A loud screech when you apply the brakes is an obvious clue that they need a bit of TLC. It might be as simple as a loose pad or misaligned brake shoe. If you still have rubber on the pads, but the levers touch the grips when you’re trying to stop, just come in and we’ll tighten the cables while you wait for $8. Watch how we do it, and next time you can tackle it yourself.


Roll the wheels to see if they’re running true. Rubbing sounds could mean a couple of things. A constant rubbing noise might happen when a fender or brake needs a slight adjustment, whereas a short rub per revolution may be signalling that your wheel is out of true. Book an  appointment with us online, and we’ll take care of that for you.

A clicking noise, and a delay or jumping between gears when you shift is a sign that your cables may have stretched – something that happens to all cables and is easily adjusted – or it might be that your derailleur needs an adjustment. If you hear the rear derailleur clicking on the spokes, stop riding immediately and bring your bike in.

Body language speaks volumes; your bike is always talking to you.. Keep it clean, and get used to giving it a once-over, so that you can easily tell when something is out of place. Before you ride, give it a quick check; make sure that the tires are inflated, the brakes are working properly, and everything else is in order. It won’t be long before you’re fully fluent, and the whisper of your bike’s wheels on the road is like music to your ears.



The wheel deal: easier is better.


When it comes to bikes, we can all agree that easier is better, right? Bikes are such a brilliant design when it comes to converting energy into distance travelled, and there are a few things you can do to make your machine more efficient. The simplest and easiest way to improve your bike is to look to your wheels. The rotational force of a heavy wheel will slow you down more than would adding a pound or so to your frame. So if you would like to buy a lighter, faster bike but don’t want to invest in an expensive bike, try buying a set of nice, light wheels instead and see what a difference they make!


And if you’re riding a bike with low pressure tires, you’ll find that simply switching from a bigger, low pressure tire, to a skinnier, high pressure tire will make a noticible difference in the amount of energy it takes you to travel anywhere. Any tire with more than 75 psi will significantly reduce the amount of effort you’ll need to spend. It will cost a little bit more than will a low pressure tire, but you’ll likely save the difference in replacing and repairing tubes lost to puncture, which happens often enough with those low pressure tires. You’ll need to remember to pump the high pressure, skinny tires up regularly, though. They too become prone to puncture if you let the pressure drop below 80 psi, and instead let them get too soft. It’s a bit of a trade-off, really. Letting the tires go a little soft will give you increased traction if you normally ride at the upper end of a high pressure tire, at or over 110 psi. Some people will even intentionally let a little bit of air out of a high pressure tire in a situation where they might want a softer ride and a little bit more grip.


How low is too low? Well, it helps to have a friend on hand to give you a better perspective. Sit on the bike, and maybe ride in a circle around them. With you on the bike, the tire should be inflated enough to remain at least one third as ‘tall’ as it would be with nobody on the bike. Anything softer than that and you are asking for a pinch flat.

Even a little on the soft side, a high pressure tire is far more efficient than a bigger, low pressure tire – expecially knobbies! The trade off for this efficiency is an increased translation of road vibration through the bike to you, but you can mitigate these vibrations easily enough: you can use a gel saddle or one with springs, and you can also opt to sit in a more natural, upright position, taking the strain off your hands.

Slow Streets for tomorrow’s moment.

The daily commuter.
The daily commuter.

It’s funny how many people say “Oh, I would love to ride to work, but it’s too dangerous! I would feel much too unsafe sharing the roads with the traffic. It’s too dangerous!” I used to get into it, pointing out that in fact it’s driving a car which will endanger your health and wellness, not riding a bike. It always surprises me how few people understand the risk they undertake every time they get behind the wheel of a car, and yet they refuse to ride a bike for safety’s sake! Nobody seems to be aware that the number one reason that people are admitted to hospital for a serious head injury is a car accident, not a bike ride. Bikes are safer than cars, and by a landslide. Where are the helmet laws for people in cars?

They’re the ones involved in most of those high speed crashes that are taking people out at such an alarming rate.


THAT’s what makes it so funny that normal, everyday average people all share this myth of a belief, this silly lie, that cycling is somehow dangerous or risky. It is something we are all comfortable seeing a four year old doing, so how dangerous can it be? The truth is that Riding a Bicycle is Safe!! It is so very much safer than driving or catching a lift by car could ever hope to be, because speed is the one consistency between dangerous accidents, and a person on a bike can always choose to stay away from cars which travel at speed, whereas a person in a car seeks faster roads out. Crashes that happen at any speed over 30 km/hr are far more likely to cause injury or death. Anything that happens at speeds under 30 km/hr, (or 20 American) is more benign. Survivable. It’s several orders of magnitude safer, in fact. Speed is alsays the defining difference.

Motor crashes are not inevitable, and it really isn’t hard to enforce slower speed limit with a little digital surveillance. Easy. If we rewrite our motor vehicle acts so that maximum speed in urban centers is half what people travel today, the accident and injury numbers would plummet dramatically, and the mass destruction of life and limb would become a thing of history. What do you think? Would you slow your car down enough to save a life?


Vision Zero a multi-national road traffic safety project which aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic. It started in Sweden and was approved by their parliament in October 1997. Vision Zero is working beautifully. It’s completely do-able. Let’s make it so already, shall we?

David and Goliath: small, local business is more powerful than you’d think.

You have a social conscience. You do what you can to ensure that your Vancouver is healthy, beautiful, vibrant and strong. You make choices every day choices that reflect your priorities. You care about the environment, and you care about your commuity, and that’s why you make the decisions you do, day by day. You ride your bike to work, even in the rain. You shop locally, and you support the many businesses that give Vancouver so much character.

And that’s the thing. We are you. We share your community and make the very same choices. We drink local beer and eat in local restaurants and shop in the hood. We care about this city just like you do, and like you we pass on what we earn here in town instead of paying shareholder dividends to tax evading multinational corporations who prioritize funding offshore shell corporations. We do it because like you, we know that community matters. Bike Doctor is a small, locally owned and operated business, and we’re just like you. Like you, we stay abreast of the true threats to healthy cities and sustainable economies and we do what we can to stop them. We know what kind of monkey business the big box stores get up to just to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and like you, we are smart enough to avoid them. Because places that are home to numerous locally owned businesses are more prosperous, sustainable, and resilient than those in which much of the economy is controlled by a few big corporations.

We take it one step further. The Doctor places a premium on local and Canadian products, so that you know for sure that your money will grow your economy. Bet on the little guy, and create a strong community fabric.

Ride the Vancruisers Little 100 Relay Race!

little 100c
Vancruisers Little 100

There’s still time! Who knows? You might just win, you never know, and it’s always a great prize when you do. We won the second place prize last year, a $200 gift card for professional custom paint detailing. Not bad for an afternoon’s ride in the park!

little 100a

I enjoy all of the Vancruiser events, but this little gem stands alone as my favourite on the annual calendar. Some people say that Vancouver isn’t a friendly city, but the Vancruisers always make it abundantly clear that the people who say that sort of thing clearly haven’t met the cruisers. Yet. They should. If you feel that way about Vancouver- even just a little bit- then act now. Go to the Vancruiser’s Calendar and come out and join in the fun. Everybody is welcome to come and watch the race, but if you act now you still have time to find a team of at least four, and a good cruiser bike for the race on the afternoon of Sunday March 23. You even have time to come up with a costume. I mean kit. You’ve time to find a great team kit.

little 100

It’s a tremendously fun in the sun social event where several teams of at least four riders taking turns riding laps on a bike all compete to finish100 laps of the old, paved, root riddled oval first. Those fat cruiser tires come in handy on this particular track. So do the wacky cost…er team kits, the cheerful, fun, happy crowd, the odd little shot of dutch courage given to the athletes every so often and the sweet bikes to be seen and enjoyed everywhere.


So round up your friends, give your favourite bike the once over, and come to the Strathcona Oval on Sunday, August 23. Registration opens at noon. See you there!

Do you need a tour guide?


Do you like to ride your bike? How would you like to try something completely different? How does a cycle touring adventure on Saltspring Island sound? Or perhaps you would like to explore the wild side of Vancouver Island, instead. How would you like to explore the west coast of Vancouver Island north of Sooke? Let your imagination roam. Where would you like to go? What do you want to see? A bike offers freedom unlike any other adventure, and we can help you plan and prepare for the rest.


Between us, we have traveled all over the place and we’ll make sure that you can do it, too. How about Hornby Island? How would you like to spend a few days looking south at the Georgia Strait from Hornby Island? It’s about 156 km one way from Vancouver, so you can do it in either one day or two, depending on how fit you are. There are all sorts of lovely trails to explore on the island, too. It’s a great way to vacation.


Just pick your destination, and let’s get to it. We can give you as much or as little support as you need to make your tour a success. All you have to do is choose. Are you interested? Give us a shout!

A trip through time.

Riding a bike is like time travel for me. It takes me back. The first time I noticed how liberating a bicycle is was in the summer of my fourteenth year, when while at Pioneer Ranch Camp we rode from Jasper to Rocky Mountain house over four days. It was a marvellous experience which changed the course of my life in a profound and significant way. We were high school kids, riding one or two hundred dollar box-store bikes, and we had no previous touring experience, nor any special training, none of us.

Where does your heart take you?

Between us, we carried our tents and food. We were just kids, really, with two expert leaders. As high school students, we were relatively independent, having spent a few summers engaging in outdoor adventure already, and so we were comfortable with pitching a tent and putting dinner on at the end of a day’s adventure. But we were no more physically prepared for long distance cycling than any other normal teenaged girl. If we could do it, so can you. We rode 330 km over four days, and we crossed a high mountain pass along our way. It was marvellous, and it taught the lot of us that you can go anywhere on a bike. Anywhere your heart takes you.

The most important component of success is having the understanding that as long as you continue spinning along on your way, you will always inevitably arrive at your destination. The camp was a remarkable gift, in fact, because it taught us the value of self propelled travel, of active transportation. It’s a beautiful, powerful experience which all young people ought to enjoy. The very best gift that came from those various outtrips was the innate awareness of the many, huge benefits of living an active lifestyle.

Just LOOK at those helmets!! :D
Just LOOK at those helmets!! 😀

It didn’t take any special training, and it didn’t require expensive bikes or gear, either. It was one of the top three vacations of my whole entire lifetime, and it was neither expensive, nor exotic. It was fun, it was memorable, it left us with a real feeling of accomplishment and achievement, AND it triggered the early development of some great muscles.

That ride through the Rockies was the beginning of a lifetime of movement and the cornerstone of a happy, healthy, active and purposeful life. In a way, that trip was an inspiration for riding which I now enjoy at every possible opportunity. Who could ask for anything more?

me and Lynskey

If you’re reading this, you might just have a moment like that all your own. Was there a time you can point to, when you realised just how wonderfully freeing a bicycle can be? Was there a moment when it dawned on you just how far you can go on your bike?