Monday, 30 April 2012

The Tweed Run on a Brompton

The Tweed Run is this Sunday. It is a bit of an unknown quantity for me but I am registered to attend and it looks like good fun.

I have a tweed jacket at the ready and a pair of plus fours, or is it plus eights? Anyway, whatever it is I have a suitably ridiculous outfit to wear.

It would be great if the weather was okay. I wouldn't be greedy and wold settle for anything but rain.

Hopefully there will be other Bromptonians out in force. I will of course be taking a camera with me so I hope to get lots of photos of another great cycling event.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Rain

I am sorry to report that during the past two weeks I have hardly taken out any of my Brompton bikes - including the one supposed to be for wet weather - for my daily commute.

Tomorrow I have vowed that whatever the weather I will be travelling to work on my beloved Brompton. Attending the Big Ride yesterday had again affirmed why I ditched the car in the first place. More sustainable, greener, healthier and riding a Brompton is just so much fun.

I will however have to seriously get another waterproof as I have used my current jacket to within an inch of its life. As a result it does let in a fair amount of rain. I will let you know what I manage to get as soon as I see something that catches my eye.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Helmet Hair - on a Brompton

When I cycle I always wear a helmet. I always have and always will, despite what I am about to share.

I have been back from the Big Ride for a few hours now. When I returned home I excitedly told my wife and children about all I saw, took my cycle gear off - including of course helmet - and had a cup of tea.

I have just come back from having a shower, before which I gazed into the bathroom mirror. It was the first time I saw my own likeness since this morning. To my horror I discovered that I had succumbed to the dreaded helmet hair. It was pretty bad. Somehow my 'Urban Cool' helmet, specifically purchased as it had the word 'urban' in the title had inflicted the worse case of helmet hair I have ever had!

My hair had somehow parted in the middle and I therefore had a centre parting, resembling the hairstyle of an Edwardian gentleman. In addition I had several groves all across my head travelling front to back.

In case you are wondering, yes I did go out in public looking like this without knowing it. No mention of this was made by wife and said children as they sniggered at Daddy.

I really do think that the helmet manufacturers should consider some sort of design to eradicate this phenomenon.

I welcome your comments regarding this matter.

The Big Ride - London Cycling Campaign 28/04/12

Today I headed out into London to join the London Cycling Campaign's Big Ride.

The weather was inclement and the probability of worse imminently was high. Despite this I headed off in support. Regular readers of this blog will be pleased to hear that my breakfast consisted of porridge and a banana!

The Big Ride was a way for cyclists of all denominations to come together under the umbrella of sending a message to the mayoral candidates that our capital is in need to safer streets for those riding bicycles. The event was organised by the London Cycling Campaign and they did a pretty good job.

I met up with @icrazybee and his near legendary Brompton BumbleB. The first drama of the day was hearing a crash and then seeing a car going into the side of a taxi on Park Lane. It was great to see other Brompton's of course but the range of bicycles on display was breathtaking. I cannot guess how many hundreds of thousands of pounds of bike was out there.



The legenadary BumbleB








One of the marshals was giving out some London Cycling Campaign hi-vis vests which I think were for other Marshals. @icrazybee and I managed to get one as a souvenir of our day.





There was quite a wait for the batting to start as Park Lane and the rest of the four mile route had to be cleared of traffic. Itching with excitement we waited for the off and after a little while we were. We got as far as the bottom end of Park Lane and waited for some of the organisers of the event to address the crowd. Considering the weather everyone was in good spirits despite being a little damp and chilly.


















With cheers and bells we were off on the four mile traffic-free route. There really was a great atmosphere to proceedings as we passed many famous London landmarks. Tourists were amused and bemused in equal measure but the support from passers by was good.
















All good things come to an end but there was an opportunity to go back the way we came. My intention was to have a quick burst and then return to @icrazybee who was taking photos of those who were just finishing. There was however a sizeable group of Bromptonians, perhaps 20-30. They started to speed up and were having a mini race. I could to resist and joined in reaching The Mall very quickly. I waited around for a short while but with no sign of @icrazybee I returned home.

I am really glad a went today. It really is an important message and if only we had safer, better and more abundant cycle routes more would ditch the car etc.., for a bicycle. Let's hope the powers that be take notice - for once.






Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Nutrition on a Brompton

With the Brompton World Championships now in my thoughts (again) I got to wondering about nutrition.

I am entering all three events. I will be using the Marathon as a warm up for the BWC race and won't be going hell for leather. It is however 26.2 miles. I will then have the BWC race which I will be putting much more effort in to. After that the Sprint which I have little intention of breaking a sweat.

My current regime of sport science nutrition consists of having a Mars Bar and perhaps some natural orange juice. I am ashamed to admit that I actually thought it would be a good idea to have a bacon and egg McMuffin and a latte before last years BWC. I obviously need some advice from someone in the know. Does anyone out there know what would be the best things to eat/drink before the races start?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Brompton World Championships 2012

The morning started with me registering like an excited child for the Brompton World Championships 2012. When I got home from work I entered the Sprint event and just before writing this I entered the Marathon event.

I must be mad! I really don't know what's have let myself in for? A triple Bromptonfest.

This of course means training. A regulated diet. Much deliberation about what to wear.

If you have a Brompton and want to enter all or a combination of these events head over to the Brompton website and register soon as places are limited and appear to be going rapidly.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Oxford to London with @sw_bd on a Brompton

Yesterday I joined the intrepid @sw_bd chaps on their training run from Oxford to London - a distance of some 75 miles before they embark on their goal of cycling from Lands End to John o' Groats - on Brompton folding bikes in aid of three charities.

Before embarking on this I deliberated about whether or not I should go. Even as I reached Paddington lingering doubts still surfaced. Once on the train to Oxford the urban sprawl (my favourite of all locations) was left behind as the countryside in all its glory flew by. This only served to remind me that I would not pass near these views on my Brompton for at least another seven hours!

I arrived at Oxford in good time and made my way to the meet up point which was outside Trinity College. Oxford is very picturesque and I enjoyed the architecture.




















Unfortunately, google maps didn't seem to want to find the meet point for me (at least that's my excuse) so I ended up outside a totally different location. Luckily a tweet to @sw_bd resulted in one of them coming to get me. The meet up point was literally across the road. Damn google maps.
Shortly after 11:00 we were off. Soon the last hints of urbanism was gone and it was the open road. The pace was brisk. We passed lots of other weekend cyclist and rang our bells to say hello. Some were more friendly than others. I bet they weren't travelling as far. Luckily the rain that was with us all of last week held off and it was actually quite lovely. I was enjoying it. Of course this didn't last.

In the distance I saw a steep incline. Some would say it was a hill. I certainly viewed it in a different way. It was brutal and must surely have been the start of a significant incline previously not charted on ordnance survey maps. I liken myself going up this hill to Charton Heston in Ben Hur. More specifically I mean the part where he is in the Roman galleon going at ramming speed. Not surprisingly I was off the bike pushing as I saw the @sw_bd chaps confidently ascending. At the top we were treated to dozens of Red Kites circling overhead, some of which swooped low as if to see what we were up to.

At roughly 35 miles things took a turn for the worse. I will put it down to only having a Mars bar for breakfast, not enough fluids or the fact I am 42 but I hit the wall. I don't really know what 'the wall' is but one hears about it annually whenever the London Marathon is on. With this very event taking place the next day I had heard quite a bit about 'the wall.' Peddling became difficult. I started to feel fatigued and consequently my pace suffered. At one point I felt like a character from a Jane Austin novel who might at any point faint. Pulling myself together I thought more like Captain Oates and was about to tell the @sw_bd chaps that, I am going outside and may be some time.

My salvation came in the form of a pub that I thinks was called, 'The Squirrels Nuts.' (Delirium might mean it was not exactly called this). At this oasis I ordered a meal, a pint of Cola and several chocolate bars. In fact not since I was 13 and had extra funds to spend at tuck have I eaten so much chocolate. Luckily the rest and sustenance seemed to work. I felt better and was able to carry on, rather than being like the sickly child with a note from Matron sitting on the sidelines. The @sw_bd chaps were great despite the fact I was slowing them down.
















At Henley on Thames we stopped for a quick rest before moving ever further towards London. Windsor and the stunning building of Royal Holloway and Bedford College passed by. Hampton Court looked resplendent as we headed towards Richmond.

Going through Richmond Park we were treated to some close views of the famous deer but with London nearly in sight we pressed on.








Once through Richmond Park we left behind all traces of the countryside as we cycled towards the end, Waterloo. At 18:20 we reached Waterloo. I was very happy to have reached it. Getting off my trusty Brompton my right knee seemed to seize up but a hot bath and lashings of Deep Heat helped.




Yet another enjoyable event via the @sw_bd team and again it was great to join in. For me, it helped with my own training for a few Brompton rides I'm participating in but anything Brompton related can only be a good thing.

With hindsight I should have got some sponsorship for this Oxford to London ride. In the coming weeks I am going to see if I can do so retrospectively as it were. Please follow their adventures on Twitter and via their website and even in these difficult times pledge some money towards their goal of raising £50,000.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Charles II Mistresses at Hampton Court Palace

Today we found ourselves at Hampton Court Palace and did our best to dodge the many April showers today!
Apart from the usual things toucan see at Hampton Court including the maze, which is amazing (sorry) there is a new exhibition of the portraits of the mistresses of Charles II.




To use common parlance Charles II obviously liked to put it about as he had quite a few mistresses. The paintings are lovely and some are by top drawer artists of the time. The many paintings feature his mistresses in various states of undress and to my eye, all look very similar. There are of course many pictures of his most famous mistress, Nell Gwynn. Apparently Charles II was extremely fond of her feet which were described as the daintiest feet in all of England. I suspect he was extremely fond of other things as well.
The many mistresses were regarded as 'the' beauties of the day and considering the various artists probably painted very flattering portraits of the sitter in a precursor to Photoshop, they might not be viewed the same way today.




It is nonetheless a very well put together exhibition with lots of paintings and information. The paintings of his mistresses with little or no clothes were kept in Whitehall Palace behind other paintings. Charles II would then share these paintings with the chosen few. One wonders what someone would have said if the King showed you one of these paintings?





Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Slim cut trousers on a Brompton

Today I succumbed to the temptation of buying a pair of 'slim cut' trousers. I do stress the words, slim cut and not skinny.

Trying the trousers on wasn't as bad as I thought. I looked at myself in the ample mirrors and thought, not too bad. Not bad at all. I purchased them and made my way home.

Later in the early afternoon I put them on, got my Brompton and rode off for a short trip to the local shops. I started to feel as if there was a slight pins and needles feeling in my legs. This gradually increased.

The only thing I can liken this to is if like me you sometimes take a magazine, newspaper or absorbing book into the 'reading room' at home. I hope that you all know what room I am referring to?! Very occasionally reading material can become so absorbing that when you attempt to leave the 'reading room' one loses the power of walking as ones legs are riddled with a terrible pins and needles.

The feeling of pins and needles I describe above started to creep up my legs as I jauntily cycled. I started to worry about getting to my destination let alone getting back home. I had to resort to getting off my beloved Brompton to allow the feeling to return to my legs, before resuming my journey.

I do think that there should be some sort of Government health warning attached not the label of 'slim cut' garments for those of us ever so slightly over 40 years of age!

Even more photos from the @sw_bd Brompton Monopoly ride

Even more photos from the recent Brompton Monopoly ride. Hopefully there aren't too many duplicates from the other posts.




































Lamy Safari Special Edition 2012

I have written before about my love of all things Lamy. They are a great company from Germany that produces the most interesting of pens. For me the Safari version of their pen is my all time favourite.

Every year Lamy introduce a new colour but only for a limited time. Last year it was Turquoise and previous 'special editions' have given us pink and orange. (I'm particularly fond of the orange version but alas you can't get it anymore).




The 2012 colour is the green as seen in the picture above. I love it and think that it has already become my favourite. (So much so I will probably want another one and maybe the bullpen version!)

At just under £15 it really is excellent value for money and the build quality and attention to detail for what must be a mass produced pen is second to none.




In the picture above I have put it next to my Pelikan M805 which is quite a large pen to show the Safari's size. The M805 costs over £270 more that my new Lamy Safari but I must confess to living the Safari pens better!

So, if you have a Brompton you can almost certainly colour coordinate it with a Lamy Safari. I got mine online but it you look hard enough you might be able to find this limited colour on the high street. Hurry though as they won't be around for long!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Damien Hirst Exhibition on a Brompton

Today I went to the Tate Modern to see the Damien Hirst exhibition. I used my Brompton Raw Lacquer SL2 and public transport. Luckily I was able to leave my beloved Brompton with a friend who works nearby so I didn't have to go through the rigmarole of leaving it in the cloakroom.

I must say first off that I don't really know anything about art. I have been to a Monet and Mondrian exhibition and I suspect that's it. I was hopeless at art at school and haven't a clue about art in general. Why then did I pays £14 to see the Damien Hirst exhibition I hear you ask? I suppose it comes from regretting not going to see his famous shark all those years ago when I had the chance. That of course isn't enough on its own but he has had so many iconic pieces of art over the years, not seeing so many of them together would have been another opportunity missed.

The queue for collecting preordered tickets was long but that for buying was huge. There was definitely an atmosphere of anticipation. As I had about 20 minutes before my allotted time I decided to go and see the famous diamond incrusted skull. I had seen pictures of it of course and going inside the Tate Modern you can't miss the posters, t-shirts and postcards of it. Seeing it in the flesh as it were brought back the same feelings I had when I must have been 10 and I saw the Tutankhamen death mask. The skull is stunning and will surely provoke similar reactions in several years to come. If Mr Hirst is interested in life and death, he has made something that will be timeless.

Going in to the exhibition itself the atmosphere of anticipation could be gleaned in people's faces - mine too probably. There was a lovely order to seeing the items on display but I felt so excited, overwhelmed, trying to take it all in that I abandoned this and went through it all swiftly, only to go back to the beginning and take things slower.

Back at the beginning I looked at the small room guide given to me when I showed my ticket and started again. There were many highlights for me. The spot paintings I really liked and if I had one (and it will probably be a poster unless my 6 x numbers come up) I know exactly where I'd put it and would enjoy looking at it.
The shark was obviously a focal point. Everyone and their uncle were taking pictures of it. I got my iPhone out and took the picture below before being told that photography wasn't allowed. I like the picture as it looks as if the man standing looking at it is about to be eaten.




The fish, cows and sheep in cabinets reminded me of days out as a child at the Natural History Museum. The split in half and the surgical instruments reminded me of the Science Museum - the really interesting bit right at the top that seems to be neglected about the history of medicine. The pharmacy cabinets reminded me of the bathroom cabinet at my mum and Dad's - old boots bottles and even a pink packet of Junior Disprol.

'A Thousand Years' was shocking and compelling all at once. Again childhood memories of an old cafe on the Edgware Road near to Church Street Market that seemed to have a decor that hadn't been changed since the 60's flooded back. I remember the ultraviolet light fly catcher.

The butterfly wings arranged in patterns to almost form stained glass windows were beautiful. So much so I bought a postcard. Memories of a tray owned by my grandmother with butterfly wings arranged under glass that fascinated me as a child were played out in my head.

When I told friends and family that I was going to this exhibition I was met with a barrage of "Emperors new clothes, anyone can do what he does" or "I don't get it." I would ask if it were all that easy, why haven't others done it?

I really enjoyed the exhibition and could have stayed much longer than the 80 minutes I did! My only regret is not buying the lovely catalogue detailing the items on display. As I said I have very little knowledge of art or artists but what I saw was contentious, would provoke discussion and be liked and loathed in equal measures. Surely that is a good thing. The exhibition runs until 9th September so if you are in London and want to see something that isn't staid, lifeless and predictable you might want to check it out while you can.

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Tate Modern

Tomorrow I am travelling to the Tate Modern on my Brompton to see the Damien Hirst exhibition. I have to say I am rather excited about it. More to follow.

More photos from the Small wheels Big difference Monopoly ride

A top hat at the Savoy.







A police officer who was very friendly and accommodating. Luckily he didn't send us to gaol.












The Tweed Run

A few weeks ago I saw that registration was open for the Tweed Run so I signed up for it. Places are strictly limited and this year a lottery system will be force with the lucky few gaining official entry.

The Tweed Run is a bicycle event where participants dress in traditional costumes from a bygone more gentle time - in other words lots of tweed and plus fours.

Today I found out that I was in. It will take place on 6th May and I have to say I am quite looking forward to it. I hope to take lots of photographs as I am sure some of the outfits on display will be spectacular.

I haven't worn tweed since I was at University (I am sorry to have to admit that) so I will have to get a suitable outfit together.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Olympus E-P3

As you you may know I bought an E-P3 after selling off all my Canon DSLR bits and pieces - not that I had a huge amount to sell. I don't have any regrets. As for my E-P1 review I must make it clear that I am no photographer. I am merely someone who dabbles and has a little knowledge of ow to use a camera. Nothing more.

Looks and building

I bought the raw silver aluminium version with the 14 - 42mm kit lens. Compared to the E-P1 as far as looks go, Olympus obtained a great deal of their design ideas from this camera as things are an evolution of this already modern classic. The grip screws on to the side of the camera rather than the fixed one on the E-P1. You can leave it off and have more lovely aluminium exposed, have the standard grip or get a slightly larger grip if required.

The screen is a much higher resolution than the E-P1 and is a touch screen, nearly three times the resolution. You can tap anywhere on the screen to take a picture and release the shutter, flick through the photos you have taken and zoom in by sliding your finger up and down on the right hand side. It is bright, detailed and to my eye a very accurate representation of what your pictures will come out as. It's a gorgeous screen!

Like the E-P1 it is extremely solid and very well made. All the buttons feel solid and those that click do so with the right amount of resistance. Everything feels great in its aluminium body and shouts premium product, built to last.





The camera came with a 14 -42mm kit lens. It is very small and folds into itself to make things that more compact. Although mainly plastic in construction it is well built and performs to a high standard.




The lens you see in the pictures above and below attached to the camera is actually the 12mm f2.0. This is an all metal premium prime lens with a 35mm equivalent of 24mm. The attention to detail and build quality is incredible. Since buying it I have not take it off. It is perfect in many ways and I will one day write a review just about it.




Performance

A criticism of the E-P1 and E-P2 for that matter was the speed of auto focusing. (I must admit that the speed of my E-P1 in daylight - the only time I really take pictures - was not something that overly bothered me). The speed of the E-P3's focusing is breathtaking. It is as fast as if not faster than that of the Canon 500D I used to own. Coupled with the kit lens or my beloved 12mm f2.0 it is like lightning. The screen it touch sensitive and can be touched to focus and release the shutter, taking a picture. This means that for street photography its fast reaction time means shots are rarely missed and hardly ever out of focus. I love it!

The menus are fast to navigate and all appears snappy. Some say that the menus are complex however I found them quite intuitive.

The cameras jpegs are very sharp and colours have great tones and appear very natural to my eyes at least. Even though it can shoot RAW I haven't
really had cause to use it a great deal.

In short I love this camera. I can see newer, updated versions on the horizon but they don't interest me. I am very happy with this camera and will enjoy the time to get to know it better and all it can do. Coupled with the 12mm f2.0 for the type of photos I take (buildings, landscapes, street photograph and family) I have all I need.