Independent (mechanic) woman: brake pad repairer and breaker of chains

Travelling so much this year has taught me a lot about bike maintenance, but in between trips I’ve been in and out of the Bespoke Gresham Street workshop pretty much every other week… I therefore thought it was high time I donned a pair of rubber disposable gloves and got stuck in! Sigma Sports offers a one day bike mechanics course, which came recommended to me, so I thought I’d give it a whirl…

I had a couple of clear aims for the day: firstly, to learn to change my disc brake pads myself and then, secondly, to walk away as self sufficient as possible.

The course…

The course itself runs from 10.00-16.00 at Sigma’s HQ store in Hampton Wick. Our group was quite small, with only five of us working on four bikes in the store’s upstairs workshop. The bikes included a Cannondale, Specialized Tarmac pro, a Specialized Venge and a Specialized Tarmac. I chose to work on the Venge as it was the closest thing to my own bike, with disc brakes and a Shimano Di2 Ultegra electronic groupset. The other bikes also offered the opportunity to work with Shimano Ultegra groupsets, disc and rim brakes, quick release and through axle wheels.

Specialized Venge… pretty graphics and bar tape 😘

In just a few hours I went from practicing the very basics, removing and replacing tyres and inner tubes, to replacing rim and disc brakes (tick!). I also learnt to remove, clean and replace cassettes, cranks and front and back derailleurs. I broke and reattached new chains; and learnt to attach and adjust cabling and limits, to smooth out gear shifting and adjust the headset. Not a bad day’s work!

And the verdict..?

For someone who knows the basics and wants to become more self-sufficient in maintaining their bike, this course is ideal. There was plenty of time to ask questions, chat and get hands-on with all the bikes. I learnt such a lot in a day and left feeling confident I could do all the things we were taught with a bit of practice – essentially a silver service (credit to the Sigma team!). The one thing we didn’t learn was how to bleed hydraulic brakes, but I think I’m ok with someone else doing that for now!

I would give this course at least four if not five stars. It’s great value at £125, particularly if you compare it to the cost of a service or regularly check your bike in for maintenance. It met all of my aims… the only downside of the course being at Sigma was I went and bought a load of new kit after the course! Oh well lol. It’s all an investment. 😉