About Fountain Pens

Fountain pens date back as early as (believe it or not) around the tenth century. The first recorded instance of this style of pen being used was in 953, when one of the Egyptian emperors demanded to have an instrument with which to write that would not stain his clothes! However, the fountain pens we are more familiar with nowadays are more likely to be associated with the name Lewis Watson. Watson was the man who patented the first useable fountain pen in 1884. But he wasn’t the first to come up the idea: one of the first fountain pens found has been dated around the turn of the 18th century, and still survives today. Certain inventors explored with the concept of half-nib, half-quill pens, but these were impossible to sell due to the fact that the ink still spilled. It wasn’t until Watson’s patent that the fountain pen model which we know and still love today really took off.

Most pens these days can be filled using cartridges. Cartridges used to be filled from bottles of ink using a syringe. But early versions of fountain pens used what is known as an eyedropper. This tended to make refilling the pen messy. This method then gave way to the easier ways of refilling. However, the eyedropper types of pen are still made and are available to buy today.

Fountain pens offer elegance and refinement you won’t ever find in a biro. In this day and age, however, it seems as though using a fountain pen has become a bit of a lost art. It seems so much easier to pick up a ballpoint or a biro, or even a gel pen. They’re cheaper, disposable, and easy to replace. However, herein lies the beauty of the fountain pen: they are not produced to be a disposable instrument to write with. A particularly high-merit pen will last longer than even your lifetime! And the fountain pen holds so much more charm that the average writing instrument. Some people would view their use as so much more hassle than they are actually worth. But once you’ve learned how to re-fill the ink cartridges, they are quite simple to use. This is the element which most puts off people looking to buy a fountain pen. And another is the cost. However, if you think of all the biros you purchase over your entire lifetime, buying one fountain pen and getting the odd repair here and there is actually a bit of a saving!

Fountain Pens have a cedrtain style and image that simply can’t be matched by other, lesser pens. Sometimes it’s not the cut of your clothes or how you carry yourself that influences how you come across to others. Sometimes it is the trimmings. Using a fountain pen exudes class. If you are looking to buy a fountain pen, first of all determine which kind you would like to get. Some come with simple cartridges, some with a bladder, and some with a converter. The cartridges are the most popular variety of pen, as they are usually the cheapest and easiest to use.
Reclaim the lost art of beautiful handwriting with a fountain pen

You’ll often find that your penmanship improves tenfold when writing with a fountain pen. As most modern nibs are made with metal, they do tend to take a while to ‘learn’ how you write. Every person has a certain way of writing: the pressure you use, the angle with which you hold your hand, all effect your handwriting. The metal of the nib has to adapt to your method. But this shouldn’t take long if you use your fountain pen regularly. After a while, you’ll find that you write most comfortably with it, and that biros just feel plain odd! And eventually, as you become more and more used to it, it will become more and more used to you! Unlike normal pens, you can write with Fountain pens for a much longer time without your arm or wrist tiring out. It adapts to your movements, making writing a pleasure once more. Any marks you make on a blank page will seem important and elegant. And I guarantee that your handwriting will become neater! The more you use it, the more aware you will become of the art of calligraphy, and the more pride you will take in your writing. And, of course, one of the greatest aspects of writing with a fountain pen is choosing your type of ink! Of course, you can opt for the simple blue one recommended by the manufacturer. But there are so many more choices out there. There are many different quality inks, different colours, and different intensities. Some will provide you with a smoother consistency. Some will be much harder, giving you a more permanent feel (ideal if you’re working with important documents).

Fountain pens have a certain sense of pomp and ceremony to them. They can inspire you if you like to write in a journal. Or they’re particularly lovely if you are planning to pen a love letter to your dear departed!
Fountain Pen Gifts

Fountain pens are great gift for people when it comes to special occasions. If it’s a birthday, a christening, a wedding, or particularly for wedding favours, a fountain pen is a really classy choice. Fountain pens will be cherished and used for many years to come, especially if you decide to purchase a particularly good-quality one. And if you’re feeling particularly extravagant, why not go for the top-quality type? Pens are collectable, so often some kinds are jewel or precious-stone encrusted. One of the most expensive fountain pens ever sold was made from diamonds and went for the price of $265,000!

Make sure you clean your pen regularly. And try to buy high-quality ink; if you don’t, the nib could become clogged. Look after your fountain pen, and if you do, it will last you a lifetime.

Driving and Car Toys

Children love playing make-believe. Not only is it fun, it also gives them the chance to develop their imaginations, their social skills, help them solve problems, and learn life skills, as well as building their confidence and giving them a sense of self. Scientists have speculated that the more a child plays, the more connections he or she will make to different parts of the brain (to do with sensory, cognitive, and language skills), which will make them more intelligent. There are many different kinds of ‘play’, and one of the most early developed is the art of imitation. Children see their parents perform daily tasks and want to copy them.

For many little boys, one of the most fun ways of imitating their parents takes place on the road. Driving is a big part of everyday life and a lot of kids start imitation by playing house and pretending to be grown up. However, you can encourage this kind of play without having the kids climbing all over the new car. Hand a little boy a cardboard box and at some point it’ll turn into a racing car. But there are a number of toy cars available to buy so your kids can play safely and happily.

Toy cars range from simple plastic models to much more advanced models with real engines. You can also purchase driving simulation games, meaning they can go as fast as they want without having to worry about them crashing into a ditch.

Rather than hiding them away from the fast-paced racing car lifestyle, it’s better to show your kids how to be responsible drivers. Make sure they know the difference between reality and the game they’re playing.
The toy company Little Tikes are famed for producing one of the most popular plastic ride-on cars, the Little Tikes Grand Coupe. You’ll probably recognise the red and yellow frame, and it comes with a large steering wheel and working horn. Little Tikes have also taken on the Disney brand ‘Cars’, and manufactured a number of imitations from the successful film, such as the character Lightening McQueen. In the same range, there are also cars for girls, push-along cars for children too young to steer themselves, and police cars and pick-up trucks. The Little Tikes range do not have pedals. There are a number of pedal cars available, but they tend to be a bit more expensive. One of the most popular pedal cars is the Instep PC300 Kids Fire Truck Pedal Car.

However, you can also get electronically charged cars, which are much more realistic. Your child can drive up to 6km per hour. They come in all different models, from Porsche, to Ferrari, to Hummers, and can often hold two kids at once. These cars are much more expensive, selling for around four hundred pounds each.

Imitating Mum and Dad helps children to understand the adult world and develops their life skills enabling them to become independent as an adult. And it’s never too early to instil your child with good road sense.

Huggle Buddies

Most cuddly toys get a bit boring after a while. They can be hugged to death, and played with, but that’s pretty much it. Huggle Buddies are a relatively new product on the market. These toys are very similar to the brand ‘Pillow Pets’. They are basically cuddly animals which can easily turn into a pillow using a Velcro strap. It’s a relatively easy procedure, so any child can perform it. Kids really do love having a soft toy with them when they go to bed, or even if they just take a quick nap during the day and Huggle Buddies are designed with that in mind. They are small enough for children to carry around for comfort purposes, so a pillow can be available at the drop of a hat. Expect Huggle Buddies to be on your child’s Christmas list, as they are bound to be a big seller.

Unleash the Velcro strap on the toy and it will turn into a pillow. But if you roll out the toy even more, you’ll find a pouch where your child can keep whatever they need. This is particularly useful for overnight stays, whether it’s in a hotel with Mum and Dad, or at a sleepover at a friend’s house. Pack in their pyjamas and toothbrush in the belly of the toy. They are also great for taking on holiday, especially on long car journeys where kids tend to fall asleep on the road. So not only is it fun, it’s also a useful toy.

At the moment, there are eleven different designs your child can choose from. These are Unicorns, Pigs, Lambs, Ducks, Dogs, Polar Bears, Rabbits, Monkeys, Bees, Rabbits and Frogs, meaning that whatever animal your child is hung up on, they’re sure to find a favourite in the range. The material the Huggle Buddies are made from is incredible soft and fluffy, designed to be the ideal comforter for your child, and they come in a wide range of bright colours and materials, to keep your child’s attention and imagination.

They are also very well-made toys. Each of the Huggle Buddies is double stitched and can be put in the washing machine over and over again. So it doesn’t matter how much wear and tear the toy has, it will remain in good condition for years to come. Just ensure that the wash is gentle, and that you don’t tumble dry the toy. A soft brush when it’s dry will make it just as fluffy and clean as new.

The Huggle Buddies brand is keen on emphasising their product’s benefits during play time. The interesting characters enhance your child’s imagination, and the toys can be used to make up games and stories, and are key in interacting with other children.

At present, there are no product recalls in the Huggle Buddies range, so they are perfectly safe for your little ones. You’ll find the best prices if you order online, so get shopping now before the Christmas rush.

Safe Cycling for Young Children

We all know the fact that riding a bike has its advantages at all ages, and we also know that most children fall in love with bikes quite soon. Sometimes, just after learning to walk gets boring, the toddler will want to directly jump behind the steering wheel! However, as responsible caregivers, we should always take care of the safety precautions, because the little ones are certainly fuller of energy rather than attention. The classic bike is not the safest one at young ages, and some learning bikes can actually be more fun for a, let’s say, 6-year old than the one you are riding.

First of all, do not forget the safety gear. The safety gear depends on the age of the rider and the device, but a helmet is always a good thing to have. Also, some kneepads could come in handy. Sure, at young ages, toddlers do fall a lot and a small injury is not such a rare thing, but you would not want your little one to get hurt or to associate riding a bike with a traumatic experience that could make him stay away from this means of transportation for a long time. This is why assisting him/her at first and always keeping an eye on him/her is important. Also, it is important to get a good learning bike, and this should be a decision not taken lightly. The second element of safety, after the gear, is a good learning device.

A tricycle is a good pick, certainly for very small ages, but, at one point, your child will find it restrictive, not necessarily because of practical reasons, but rather because of psychological ones: he might want to become one of the “grown-ups,” getting to ride a “real” bike as soon as possible. From a certain age onwards, a tricycle can even seem demeaning for a child. This is why, as soon as you consider your child to be suitable for a more specialized learning bike, you should allow him to take it to the next level.

The next level could be either a balance bike or one with training wheels. Balance bikes are really nice because your child will not have to concentrate on paddling, making him more aware of steering and balance, the two vital elements he needs to master in order to advance to the “real thing”. While training wheels may seem as a handicap for the little ones, a limitation, the balance bike is in itself a unique means of transportation that will prepare him for the next step. Of course, training wheels are effective, too.

The final decision, funnily enough, might not come from you, but from your child. Both options are safe for young children and toddlers, so you shouldn’t worry too much. Just make sure that you can explain to your child the advantages of both in a way that will help him choose. And, of course, the ideal way would be to offer him some rides with both of them, so both you and the child can find the answer. Whichever one you will end up buying for your child, these alternatives are all safe and fun at the same time.

The Mattel Toy Co

If you’ve never heard of Mattel, you’ve been living a sheltered life. Mattel are one of the biggest, most successful toy manufacturers in the world based on their revenue. The company was founded in 1945 by Harold Matson and Elliot Handler, who combined their names to come up with the name for the company. The first toy Mattel produced was doll house furniture. It was Handler’s wife who came up with the idea for a new doll which changed the history of Mattel. In 1959, the Barbie doll was born, and thousands of little girls had at least one in their home. The Ken doll came on the market soon after. The dolls were names after Handler’s children.

After the enormous success of Barbie, the sixties saw Mattel branching out into different doll designs, specifically ones that talked. Chatty Cathy was one of the talking dolls, and with this new success, Mattel looked into having other types of talking toys. In 1965, the See ‘N Say range was introduced to consumers, and their success mean that Mattel became the top toy manufacturer in the USA. These days, there are no more Mattel factories in the US. Most production takes place in Chinese factories.

When Barbie started to go out of favour with little girls, Mattel almost went bankrupt. However, Barbie was constantly re-invented, and new toys were released. In the eighties, Mattel was also a big producer of video games consoles.

Other products available from Mattel include Fisher-Price toys, Hot Wheels, Polly Pocket, Power Wheels, Matchbox cars, Pound Puppies, as well as board games. Their products are an incredible success, and are available to buy in almost every country across the world.

One of the worst crises to hit Mattel was recalling certain lines of their Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer. They had been coloured using lead-based paint. Some circumstances found the paint to be one-hundred and eighty times over the safety limit. If children ingest too much lead, it can cause poisoning, which can lead to behavioural issues, and in the worst cases, death. In 2007 the company were also forced to recall a Polly Pocket toy due to a detachable magnet being ingested.

Other recalls have included a character from Cars (Sarge), again due to high levels of lead in the paint, Barbie and Tanner Playsets, and Batman Manga toys because of the detachable magnets. All of this was between May and July in 2007. 2007 was a bad year for Mattel. There were so many product recalls in the space of one month it led to the company being fined $2.3 million. The situation got so bad that one of the factory owners who produced toys for Mattel committed suicide in the August of the same year.

Despite the millions of product recalls, Mattel continue to do very good business over the world. In 2006, their total revenue was over $590 million. One the whole, their toys are incredibly popular, but if you are concerned about a certain product, check on the company website or search the web for more information.

About Harry Potter Toys

In the last ten years, one of the most influential books has been the Harry Potter series. Popular with children and adults across the globe, these books have been turned into films, making them even more accessible for children today. The phenomenon has filtered into all aspects of daily life for kids, especially into merchandise and toys. The final film was recently released. With each film, a new set of Harry Potter toys goes on sale, from figurines to Lego toys. Toy shops are full to the brim, so how do you go about choosing the right Harry Potter toy for your kids?

Lego sets are a good option to go for. Lego is one of the most popular toys for children, so a combination of the two has been a massive success. However, because of their popularity, they do tend to be very expensive. They are difficult to get your hands on as they fly off the shelves. With the release of each new film, there have been new Harry potter Lego sets available. More recent ones are Lego Harry Potter The Burrow, Lego Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle, and Lego Harry Potter Quidditch Match. These are great for Christmas presents.

The success of the Lego sets has spawned a video game in the same vein. Your children get to explore the Hogwarts Castle themselves and cast spells as a number of different characters. The game goes into detail about the first four years of the Harry potter series. It’s available on a number of consoles.

There are also board games available if you don’t own a computer. The Mystery at Hogwarts board game is a great game for all the family. It is based on the first Harry Potter installment (The Philosopher’s Stone), where the players must solve a crime. Imagine a Harry Potter Cluedo and you’ll get the gist. The great thing about this game is that you don’t have to be completely clued up on the books or film to know how to play it, meaning it’s a good one for all the family.

However, if the whole family is obsessed with the series, a good board game to get your hands on is the Harry Potter Trivia game. This is Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit. The questions are categorised into five sets, and if you get a question right, you collect a Charm Card. There are also age-appropriate questions, so the whole family can play.
Other items of merchandise include dress-up clothes. You can buy Harry Potter costumes from a number of stores, and one particularly popular item is the Gryffindor robe. Although it’s made from polyester, it feels like felt. The black robe has a hood, a clasp, and the Gryffindor crest. It comes in three different sizes and is great for a game of make believe or Halloween parties.

Do be careful of fake Harry potter merchandise. With something as big as this, there are always going to be rip-off toys available. Do your research beforehand and try to buy only from legitimate shops and websites.

An Overview of Dolls and Accessories

Dolls and doll houses – Playing house and playing Mum

Dolls and dolls houses are classic toys, perfectly designed to practise grown-up behaviour, situations and scenarios. These toys can help children to practise social interaction, nurturing, sharing and other desirable skills and qualities. A beautiful dolls house – of any shape, size or design – can be a favourite social centre of a child’s bedroom or playroom. Many people assume that dolls houses will be expensive but there are many affordable ranges on the market, so this need not be the case. The types of dolls and houses available vary greatly. From classic large wooden houses, to miniature carry-along cottages, there is something for every budget. Dolls houses today can be farms and cottages, tree houses, palaces or mansions.

Dolls

Dolls are often seen as charming, old-fashioned toys but their appeal has actually endured for many generations. The types of dolls available has changed dramatically in the last few decades. When dolls first became popular, the dolls available were ‘babies’ and children played at parenthood. Since then, the political landscape has changed. Children can now play with dolls, or figures, that are teen-aged, or adult. This changes the types of play available to children. Playing with older dolls, or figures, now focuses play on socialising, careers and more grown-up situations, while ‘baby’ dolls focus on the nurturing of parenthood. All types of play have a purpose and children often graduate onto older dolls and figures as they mature and want to act out grown-up scenarios.

Dolls houses

Dolls houses, of all sizes and shapes, are the perfect toys for children to learn about, and mimic, the grown-up world around them. In this play, we can see our lives reflected back at us, as children play at doing the things that they do at home. Playing ‘house’ will always have lasting appeal as these experiences are some of the first things a child will learn and experience. These games reflect their security and understanding of their place in the family. Playing at simple things like cooking and eating, bathing and putting children to bed, and other everyday tasks, help children to understand, and feel secure in, their world. Also, being the organisers of these little worlds helps children to make, and understand, the rules and routines of home life. These kinds of games increase their security and well-being.

Choosing the Best Balance Bike for Your Child

Balance bikes are excellent toys with considerable development enhancing qualities. Also called run bikes, these “vehicles” are designed with no pedals and no chains and they are perfect for not only developing your child’s reflexes, but also for enhancing attention and raising awareness of using muscles while also preparing your child for learning how to ride a real bike later. As these are very popular toys, the balance bike market is huge and the bikes available nowadays range from the inexpensive to the high-priced; they come in every color you can imagine, and some of them even feature cartoon themes, so choosing the best balance bike is not easy. However, if you consider the following aspects, you will surely be able to purchase a bike with the right parameters, a bike that will make your child happy and active.

Balance bikes come in many different sizes and weights, and can be made of different materials. The simplest way to choose the best size is by making the child sit on the bike seat. If the size is right, your kid will sit on the bike comfortably, while being able to put both feet on the ground – this is important because the child needs to be safe and to feel comfortable while riding. The bike also needs to be lightweight – it is meant to be used by small children, and maybe they will not only ride it, but will also have to lift it from where it turned over; plus, it is also much easier to ride and handle a lightweight bike than a bulky, heavy one.

Quality and durability are other aspects that you should consider when choosing the best bike for your child. The frame of most balance bikes is made either of wood or of lightweight metal alloys, the choice in this respect depending on the storage room you will keep the bike in when not in use. If you have to possibility to keep the bike in a dry place, wooden frames are fine, though they are less resistant to very strong shocks; if you do not have the possibility to store the bike in a dry place, the modern, corrosion-resistant aluminum frames will be the right choice for you. Durability is important not only in the case of the frame: the seat of the bike must also be made of resistant, high-quality material, with proper cushioning.

The comfort of your child is essential if you want to make sure riding the bike is a pleasant experience. It is recommended to choose a bike with adjustable seat height and possibly with an adjustable handle bar – this way, your fast-growing child will be able to use the bike longer, without having to experience any discomfort while riding.

The price is also an issue to consider. Fortunately, balance bikes are nowadays available for any budget: the price for the cheapest bikes start around $50, while high-end products can cost up to several hundred dollars. The good news is that most cheap bikes are reliable and durable as well.

Balance bikes are excellent development toys: riding them is a great physical activity that combines fun with healthy exercise for your child’s benefit.

About VTech Toys

Vtech are a toy company that manufactures educational electronic toys for children. The name is short for Video technology Ltd, and is based in Hong Kong. It was in 1976 that Stephen Leung and Allan Wong came together to start this impressive company. They also produce general electronic equipment, like computers and telephones, and it was in this area that the company became famous. During the eighties, as the age of computers was taking off, Vtech were producing IBM-compatible software and machines, as well as a legal replica of the Apple IIc. They also produced the Vtech Socrates, a games console to challenge Nintendo, but when it was released in 1988, the machine was a massive flop.

The company continued to manufacture personal computers under the Vtech brand until the Intel 80486 was introduced. It was at this point that the company began to veer towards children’s toys. Their range of electronic toys aimed to develop children’s cognitive skills, creativity, problem-solving abilities, expansion of language and phonetics, as well as increasing musical aptitude. They marketed a range of toys for different age categories, which included birth to six months, six to eighteen months, eighteen to thirty-six months, three to five years, and five to nine years. So whatever stage your child is at, there will be an age-appropriate product.

Their biggest successes (known as ELP – Electronic Learning Products) include the V.Flash, the V.Smile, the Kidzoom Camera, the Whiz Kids Learning System, and the Nitro Notebook. There is a range of toys for infants and pre-schoolers, some carrying character branding such as Disney Princesses, In the Night garden, Toy Story, and Dora the Explorer.

Vtech also produce toys such as interactive nursery rhyme books, digital cameras, video cameras, and baby laptops. All these electronic toys are made from safe plastics and bright colours to stimulate your child’s imagination. The ranges can basically be surmised as ‘grown up toys for children’.

Vtech are a good-quality brand providing an excellent service for their customers. They assure customers that manufacturing standards and safety awareness is very high within the company, with quality at the height of importance, as well as making the toys durable and long-lasting.

Despite their assurances, there have been a few product recalls over the years. In 2000, Vtech were forced to recall toy phones for infants by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. This was due to choking hazard from small parts. There was a reported instance of a child chocking on the small, detachable antenna. There were nine reports of the antenna coming away from the phone. The product was called Little Smart Songs baby Phone, carrying the Vtech brand. The handset contained a mirror, light-up buttons, and musical buttons, and was padded around the edges for safety.
However, in the grand scheme of things, Vtech have much fewer recalls than other toy manufacturers. Vtech are keen developers of innovative technology for children all over the globe and are enthusiastic about ‘smart-play’, which encourages kids to play and learn at the same time.

Bicycle Maintenance

Bicycle maintenance is one of those things you know you must do, but keep putting off. Right from the start, from the moment you get your new bike, make it a habit to do those maintenance tasks before and after every ride. Mark a date on your calendar for the weekly or monthly work; set aside a Saturday for the annual maintenance. You’ll enjoy your bike rides that much more because your bike will simply ride that much better.

If you’re taking your bike out in the mud and the rain or you put a lot of distance on your bike every week, you might want to do more of your maintenance schedule more often then recommended. If you barely use your bike, then you can wait to do some of the maintenance until a convenient time pops up. At the very least, learn how to change a flat tire on your bicycle. You use tire levers to get the flat tire off the wheel, a patch kit to cover the hole, a tire pump to re-inflate the tire and the tire levers again to put the tire back on the wheel. make sure you’re always carrying these items whenever you go on a ride, even a short one.

There are certain things you must do every time you take out your bike, both before and after the ride.

Check the air pressure in the tires. Look at the numbers on the sidewall of the tire for the proper air pressure. You can inflate by hand or use one of those pressurised air hoses, but, whichever you use, get out the tire pressure gauge when you’re done finish to check the result. Too high is just as bad as too low.

Check the brake levers on the handlebars and look to see if the brake pads are actually closing evenly on the tire. And, by “evenly,” we don’t mean all at once — with a light squeeze of the levers, the leading edge of each pad should touch the tire sidewall, with the rest of the pad grounding itself against the tire as you squeeze harder. That action means the brake pads are properly toed-in. Look at the inside of the brake pad for embedded junk and remove — you don’t want sand, gravel, metal or glass rubbing against your tire. While you’re cleaning up the pads, clean off all that mud, grime and garbage that’s collected on the fenders, on the tires and in the spokes.

Once a week, lubricate the bicycle chain with a lube recommended by the bicycle manufacturer. Check the brake pads to see if they need to be replaced.

Once a month, turn your bicycle upside-down and rotate the tires to look at the entire circumference — replace the tires if they are cut or worn deeply. Clean and lubricate the chain, looking for loose links — you may need to replace the chain if too many links are loose. Check all the moving, joined and bolted parts of the bicycle for looseness and tighten as necessary. Check the cables, levers and assemblies of the brakes and the shifter. Use a lightweight bicycle lubricant on these items — if you use too heavy an oil, the moving parts of your bike will gum up and attract dirt; if you use too light an oil, the lubrication will have little effect. Wipe away excess oil as you work. Don’t get any oil on the brake pads because you’ll be defeating the purpose for which the brake pads are designed. Take a look at the free wheel, the one that is not attached to the chain, to be sure it spins true. Check the pedals to see if they’re getting too worn or do not turn freely. Shift the gears with the gear shifter to see all the moving parts and put a few drops of oil in those places.

Every three months, after your monthly inspection, evaluate the physical appearance of your bicycle. Look for peeling paint or rust on the fenders, frame, handlebars, stem and fork. Sand and cover any bad spots with spray paint or a bottle of touch-up paint. Check for any component of your bike that looks bent or out of form. Give your bike a good wax job.

Anytime the wheels of your bike seems to be riding wrong, slithering from side to side or rubbing against the brake pads, take a look at the spokes of the wheel for looseness. Turn the bike upside-down and pluck each spoke the way you’d pluck a guitar string. A loose spoke will make a completely different sound from all the others. Use a spoke wrench to tighten the nipple that connects the spoke to the inner rim of the tire.

Once a year, it’s time to do a complete disassembly and overhaul of your bicycle. You’ll get to know your bike even better when you take it apart and put it back together. Take a look at the repair manual for your model and be sure you’ve got all the tools you’ll need. Replace any component that looks worn out or on the verge of breaking. You’ll likely have to replace your bicycle chain and the cables for your brakes and your gear-shifter. Depending on the type of wheel on your bicycle, you may, if the wheel is no longer up to snuff, need to replace the ball-bearings in the hub or the entire wheel.

This yearly maintenance is based on a bike being ridden around 10,000 kilometers in a year; if you put more distance on your bike than that, then this yearly ritual may become a twice-a-year event. If you don’t feel like getting your hands dirty taking apart your bike and putting it back together, you’ll be able to find staff at your local bike shop who will do all this work for you, and charging you for it, of course.