Mechanic Ian gets bike geared up for the snow

Ian Simpson with his snow bike.
Ian Simpson with his snow bike.
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A MORPETH-BASED cycle mechanic has made sure there is snow stopping this bike from getting around in difficult conditions.

Last month’s severe winter weather caused problems for all types of vehicles on the roads.

And as a result, Sims Cycle Workshop owner Ian Simpson received an unusual request from a customer.

He was asked to build specialist wheels to go with a unique frame so the vehicle could become what is known in Canada and Alaska as a ‘snowbike’ and it turned out to be his toughest challenge.

After reaching the correct specifications, the Surly Pugsley bike was in the shop for a week before it was picked up and it has caused considerable interest among the cycling community.

Mr Simpson said: “They were the most challenging wheels I’ve built in 20 years of doing this – at four inches wide they are double the normal width.

“I had to do some research on the internet and I asked a few specialists who use slightly different techniques, so I had to find my own way to do the job.

“I put them together three times before I got to the point of putting them on the bike. It was complex because they need to be central even though the rim is offset, otherwise the rim would collapse.

“You need to be meticulous in making sure the correct tension is in place and the spokes are in the right position, if one thing goes wrong then they will not function properly.

“There have been quite a few comments from people who have seen the bike and some have even taken photographs. Snowbikes, nicknamed ‘fatbikes’ in the UK, are popular because their large-volume and low-pressure wheels can get riders through quite a bit of snow and other terrains, such as sand and mud, when other bikes would get stuck.”

When he worked part-time at a bike shop in the past, he would often help out with fixing problems and did some repairs during the weekend.

The Hadston resident, who lives with wife Kim, became a courier for DHL but then decided that he wanted to open his own shop and achieved the necessary mechanics qualifications. He also went on a wheel building course to get ready for the enterprise.

He secured a unit in Old Queen’s Head Yard, Oldgate, and Sims Cycle Workshop started trading in the autumn.

“I wanted to get back to what I love doing and hopefully make some money from it,” said Mr Simpson.

“I discovered that Morpeth was the ideal location because the town did not have this type of workshop – the nearest ones are in Amble and Bedlington.

“Things have been building steadily and I’m getting some return business, which is encouraging. My main challenge is making people aware of the shop’s location.

“There is a big cycling community in Northumberland and many clubs from the North East regularly ride up here because of the hills and scenery the county has to offer.”