Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Carradice Super C Audax

Many of you our there reading this blog will already know that I have a number of cycling related bags. Today I took ownership of another and hopefully my last - the Carradice 'Super C Audax.'





The list of bags I own is as follows:

Brompton C bag - used virtually every day on my commute as I have to cart to and from work lots of files and books

Brompton S bag - used on the days when I know I can get away with a small capacity
Carradice Roll Bag - an excellent little saddle bag that is fully waterproof and fits a surprisingly large amount in its 2 litre capacity

Carradice Barley saddlebag - A lovely saddlebag that I no longer have. I sold this bag for two reasons. First I just didn't use it enough. Second, I didn't use it enough as I found the buckle straps took me too long to open and close

Specialised saddle wedge - a brilliant little two tear saddle bag that is really big enough for your tool kit, spare tyres and a few other small items

Ortlieb 11 litre waterproof backpack - this is truly the best backpack I have owned. When they say waterproof they really do mean it. It is small but holds a great deal and is very comfortable when riding

So why buy the Super G Audax? There are some very good reasons. The main one is that even on longer rides there is now no way I'd take the Brompton C or S bag with me. I can remember the days when I set off with literally the kitchen sink carried in those bags. Travelling light was packing out the S bag! Over time I have got to the point where I take only what is needed, trying to be a minimalist as possible.

The Ortlieb is a great backpack in its own right and having total confidence in its waterproof claims has made it the bag I have taken with me on all my recent longer distance rides. Unfortunately it has also been eyed up by my eldest daughter!

Number one daughter walks to school every day and is quite an active girl anyway. She often uses a tablet paired to a bluetooth keyboard to do her schoolwork. Despite me providing one of my bright orange dry bags, the appeal of the Ortlieb has been too great. Possession has been transferred and I am no longer allowed to use it!

They are that good I did consider just getting another but they are quite expensive. I then thought about my friend Mark (King of the Hill) who has sworn by his Super C Aduax since buying it. The fact it has quick release buckles and like the Carradice Barley (that I sold) holds a huge amount, it was an easy decision. In addition to this I was able to get one at a great price.

The Carradice Super C Audax has the following features:

  • Capacity 9 litres
  • Weight 610 grams
  • Dimensions of 28cm wide x 16cm heigh x 15cm deep
  • Two external pockets with storm flaps and quick release buckles
  • Two white, reflective strips on the two side pockets
  • Internal organiser with zipped pocket
  • Loop for a rear light
  • D rings on the lid to attach extra loads as and when required
  • Quick release buckles for the main lid
  • Made out of cotton duck - an amazing material that is waterproof


The Super C Audax - great space and fully waterproof

Heavy duty, quick release buckles

Reflective strips

D rings to attach other items if needed

Internal organiser - zipped pocket and two compartments

The bag can be attached to the saddle loops or the saddle rails by the leather straps supplied. A third step can be used to secure the bag to the seat post stem. (The leather straps are also heavy duty).

I suppose it will allow the bike to take the weight again but I will miss the Ortlieb. The Carradice Super C Audax is definitely the only choice I could have made and I am sure it will serve me well on all the adventures planned for the remainder of 2013 and beyond.








Cute Maine Coon Cat - Brompton Fan

The picture below is of one of our three Maine Coon cats. He is a half brother to the other two and is coming up to a year old in a few days time. His name is Barmy and believe me it is a very fitting name!

This was taken by me going down the stairs, with Barmy on the landing stair rail. He was not pleased that I had stopped giving him attention and wanting more, tapped me on the shoulder as I went past. Naturally I had to oblige.




Of our three cats it seems that Barmy is more than a little curious about my Brompton bikes. When I am cleaning them, he sits with me watching what I am doing. Occasionally it something small and of interest is within paws reach, it becomes his toy.

When I leave for work Barmy is sitting in his favourite spot, looking out of the front window and somehow always seems to know when I am home as he is there again. As soon as I come inside however he runs to head butt my Brompton - claiming it as his?!

Maine Coons are wonderful cats and Barmy has a few more years before he reaches his full size and his full coat comes out. This is a worry as he is already almost the size of his two brothers and gigantic compared to even the biggest Tom cats.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Video of the Brighton Undercliff Ride

As promised please find below a link to my short video which I recorded on Saturday's Brighton Undercliff ride.

I did recored more footage but my GoPro started to fog up internally as it sometimes does with the full waterproof housing.

My Brighton Undercliff Video

Monday, 28 October 2013

Protecting your Brompton

One thing I have been meaning to do for ages but haven't got round to is a a blog entry on how to protect your Brompton. When I write the word protection, you might suspect I was going to write about bike locks or cables. This is a very different type of protection. Besides, who actually locks their Brompton up when you can just take it with you?

For those who have owned a Brompton for a while, you will undoubtedly be aware that over time the paintwork can be damaged at certain vulnerable points. These tend to be where there cables rub against the frame over a prolonged period of time. This blog post will highlight some key locations you might consider protecting.

You might be the type of Brompton owner who doesn't have the time or inclination to be bothered with this, which is fine. However, Brompton bicycles aren't cheap and it only makes sense to protect your investment.

First thing you will need is to find an outlet selling 'helicopter tape.' This is quite simply a stronger and more durable version of sticky back plastic. It is used to protect the surfaces of helicopter blades. It can also be used for protecting specific surface areas of expensive cars, motorbikes, road bikes and of ours your Brompton.

Fellow Brompton Club member David brought helicopter tape to my attention over a year ago. I have bought matt and clear versions and have been very happy with both.


Clear tape on the bottom and matt on the top (tape on white backing)

I bought mine via an eBay seller called 'Paragon Tapes.' You can put in 'helicopter tape' when searching items in eBay and you should be able to find them. There are lots of sellers who sell this tape but I have bought two lots of helicopter tape from Paragon and services was excellent and fast. You can buy it in different lengths but typically you'd be paying under £8 and that would be enough to do your bike 2-3 times.

Okay, so you have bought your helicopter tape. Next you will need to give a really good clean to the areas you want to protect. This will make the whole process easier and prevent oil, stains and dirt showing through.

Another thing you might have to do on some areas is to get some touch up paint, specific to the colour of your Brompton to dab on to any areas that have had lots of rubbing and taken off some of the original paint.


Touch up paint

The first two areas I would go for are either side of the fold on the main frame. Both areas have cables and with folding and unfolding there will be some cable rub. I have to say that on these areas on three Brompton bikes the only thing going on in this area is the black of the cable transferring to the frame.







Next the main stem where the cables cross over and travel down as you can see in the picture. Again not any serious damage will be caused by this other than the colour of the cable transferring to stem.


Stem

An area that really can see some action is the front brake cable where it makes contact with the front left fork. On my Original Orange Brompton the rubbing has taken the paint off to the metal. It is therefore worth protecting it.


Front fork

Another area that seems to have lots of cable rub is the bottom of the seat post stem where the cables travel around it as you can see in the picture below.





Where the rear triangle attaches to the bottom of the main frame there can be quite a bit of cable rub from all the folding and unfolding. 




The last place is where the hook on the front wheel sits on the bottom of the rear triangle when the bike is in the fold position. 





I have posted a link below to an item on eBay sold by Paragon Tapes but bear in mind if you view this in a few weeks time it will probably not be there.

These are the areas that I have protected on both my Brompton bicycles. There may well be more than I have mentioned but I am happy that these are the highlights. As I wrote earlier, this might not be for you but anything that keeps your Brompton looking better can only be a good thing.

Link to an item on eBay sold by Paragon Tapes.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Windy Brighton - Rottingdean Undercliff Ride

I was akwoken from my slumber this morning quite early and certainly earlier than I had intended by my eldest daughter informing me with enthusiasm that an update for her brand new 'Google Nexus 7' Android Jelly Bean 4.3 was downloading. I was carried along by her happiness and felt all the better for my Brompton adventure to Brighton. 

The last time I was in Brighton was when I went on the overnight London to Brighton on the Friday night ride to the coast. That particular journey was memorable for making it up Ditchling Beacon without putting a foot down and the rain. This was a ride with a difference. Train to Brighton, cycle and then train back to London. I was very much hoping that rain would not be the memorable part of this ride...

I was soon off and out and making my way to Victoria. The last week has been one almost devoid of all Brompton cycling. Last Sunday, the cold which had given notice it would be coming arrived in force. A sore throat and all the associated ills, conspired to halt all excursion of the cycling variety. I did feel that the bracing sea air would do me good, so rather than the sickly child with a note from Matron, I dutifully decided to go. 

It was as always an interesting journey getting to Victoria. Thankfully there weren't any semi-rabid dogs to contend with but there were some beguiled onlookers. A few people looked on in wonder at me folding my bike. It is of course an infrequent by-product of owning a Brompton. One gentleman at Oxford Circus was even given an Orange Brompton card with my blog details. (If you are reading this I hope you do one day get a Brompton). 

Arriving in good time, Victoria seemed to be as busy as it always is with people milling around, waiting for their trains or wishing friends and loved ones goodbye.


Victoria


The 09:06 train from Victoria to Brighton only had two stops apart from Brighton - Clapham Junction and East Croyden which was a bonus. I have to say I was a little apprehensive about making any rail journeys after last weeks Canterbury to Charring Cross but thankfully all was good. 

I travelled up with my cycling partner BumbleBee and we arrived at Brighton just before 10:00. Once out in the waiting area we saw Alan, followed by John M and Andy. Shortly after David and Anne arrived and out group was complete.


Brighton

We wasted little time and were soon off and heading for the under cliff. This part of the coastline is quite stunning and with the tide coming in, on stormy days it has been known for the sea to crash into the sea wall and over the path. I was glad that it didn't do that today but nevertheless the sea looked pretty stormy. There have been weather warnings about gail force winds on this part of the coast for tomorrow and Monday and I can believe it.





The cliffs are a site of special scientific interest due to the exposure of various layers of fossils. Many different types of fossils have been found here and I wonder whether any have made their way to the Natural History Museum in my beloved South Kensington?






Cycling adacent to the sea was a positive assault on the senses. The sound of the waves and wind blowing. The smell of the sea air and the feeling of the wind bellowing. 










Reaching the end of the under cliff path we headed back towards the Brighton seafront. As we did memories of Friday night rides to the coast flooded back and I considered how far I have come in ine year. A year ago I am not sure I would have relished the prospect of London to Brighton and yet I have done this twice this year!





The weather was very kind to us for the entire day and it was hard to believe it is the end of October. The threat of rain didn't materialise and although very blustery, it was still very enjoyable.






At one point on the way on the way back we saw a steep path leading down to the sea. I speculated that if Mark (King of the Hill) had of been here with us, he might have been persuaded to place bikes as far down as possible and race up to the top?




Surfers braved the strong winds and crashing waves and looked to be having a wonderful time of it.




They say one should feed a cold. I took happily to this notion as I felt hungry. Luckily luncheon was served at our first stop the, Coach and Horses pub. We had to earn this first by ascending a fairly steep hill. It wasn't too much of a problem but the wind was so powerful it made the whole process demanding. In fact when coming down the other side the wind was so strong, instead of freewheeling I had to pedal!! 

With luncheon over we headed off again this time to Shoreham. The ride was very enjoyable and the sea was doing its best to keep us entertained.



Shoreham Harbour and the power station in the distance

Shoreham Airport has a lovely Art Deco main building and hinted that its interior might hold some architectural gems from this period. It didn't disappoint. Ordering a pretty mean slice of 'Velvet Red' cake and a coffee I settled down to an ambiance of the Agatha Christie. At any moment one expected the great Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings to sit down and join us.





Lovely coving


Shoreham Airport has quite an illustrious history. It was opened in 1911 and its flying school opened two years later. During the First World War it was used for departure flights across the English Channel. During the Second World War it again saw action.




Upon leaving, I saw that David was outside and followed with my bike assuming it was the exit. My legendary sense of direction letting me down again, I had in fact followed him out to the airfield viewing area where he had merely gone to have a quick look!



Red Velvet
Feeling full and fuelled up we headed back towards Brighton. We said our goodbyes to Andy who had parked in Worthing while the rest of us pressed on. The sky looked quite dark and the sea was crashing in. We made it to Brighton Station before 17:00 which was great timing. Alan and John headed off for their trains while David, Anne, BumbleBee and I took our patronage to a nearby coffee shop as we had tickets for the 18:19 train to Victoria.

After a lovely coffee we headed back the station to board our train. The journey went quickly and before long David, Anne and I got off at Clapham Junction, saying goodbye to BumbleBee.

This was a great little ride. The sea air did help to blow the cobwebs out a little as far as my cold was concerned and it was a very picturesque route. It is certainly one to do again in the future. Again a big thank you to David for organising the route and navigating.

I did take my GoPro camera with me and have a little footage of us. I will endeavour to edit this and post a link when it is done.

Windy Brighton - Rottingdean Undercliff Ride map and data

Monday, 21 October 2013

What is it with dogs and bicycles?!

On Saturday when Mark (King of the hill) convinced me that cycling another 8.5 miles from Whitstable to Canterbury was a good thing, after already cycling over 66, we cycled along the 'Crab and Winkle Way.' This was a very pleasant cycle route where birders, joggers, walkers and dog owners could all share the loveliness that is the English countryside. On one section a King Charles Spaniel, normally a placid breed was transformed into something quite wild. As Mark cycled along this dog first trotted and then ran a full speed at his ankles. Despite his tired legs, his cadence was picked up a notch as he attempted to out cycle the dog!

Today on a my Brompton commute I was nearly savaged by a small Dachshund. I am sure that some of you are tittering as you read this but I can say I was lucky to make it to work! I was cycling along a side road when I saw an elderly lady walking a little black dog with brown bits. I remember thinking that it looked like a little Doberman. I also recall thinking that it was a silly looking thing as it was like said breed but with its legs cut off and a good deal smaller.

The elderly lady was walking very slowly and had a walking stick in one hand. The other held a small plastic contraption that allowed this little beast freedom to roam freely on an extendable lead. Her dog was also walking slowly and I suspected it too was a frail little thing. How wrong I was!

As soon as the little brute saw me - and that is a good word to use - it showed an interest. It stopped in its tracks, pointed its nose towards the sky and gave a half hearted bark. At this point I was parallel to them both when it all happened. The vicious little beast started to run directly for me with as much lead as it wanted, barking its little head off and barring its surprisingly long fangs. It reminded me of that bit in 'Jaws' where the line on the fishing rod spins totally out of control. 

The elderly lady certainly had no control over "Rexy" as he now started biting at my feet. I wondered how I had got it all wrong as this little Doberman with its legs cut off could run at speed and seemed to share the Doberman's reputation as a fearsome creature not to be messed with! 

Roxy proceeded to grab hold of the flapping part of my Altura waterproof over trousers and  shook its head from side to side. As it did this, it growled. The elderly lady apologised as she came closer and told Rexy to let go. Picking the little savage up in her arms he proceeded to bark and bare his teeth, letting me know in no uncertain terms that he had not quite finished.

The only thing I could utter in my state of shock was, 'really!' I cannot be certain and it might have been the frenzy of the situation but I am almost certain Roxy was foaming at the mouth. Happy that my skin had not been broken I pedalled away not looking back.

What is it with dogs and bicycles? I am sure you out there might have something to say about this matter. For the rest of the day I tried to convince myself that my insatiable desire for water was the result of succumbing to a sore throat! If I also start to fear the same water I am so keen to drink, I will let you know! 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Waterproof Jackets!

My Altura Night Vision jacket which has served me well this year has finally given up the ghost and I am in the market for a replacement.

Unfortunately after being out in several downpours there seems to be weak areas in the arms and shoulders which has allowed water to come through. I have attempted to reproof it but this has not worked. In many ways I actually think that putting these types of jackets into the wash seems to render them useless. (This is certainly the case with activity jackets I own).

What jacket to get next is a bit of a minefield as the range and price of cycling jackets is vast. It seems each manufacturer makes sometimes wild claims about a jackets waterproof and breathability qualities.The reality can of course be very different in real world use.

Added in to the general, "what should I get next?" is the superficial business of colour. Ideally it has to be orange! Price is also a big factor as in two years of serious cycling I have got through two jackets. For me at least they seem to last a season. I therefore do not wish to pay a fortune for one.

The wish list is as follows:

Orange
Decent waterproof qualities
Not too expensive
Breathable with vents
Strips that are fluorescent

If anyone out there has any suggestions please feel free to leave a comment. I am sure at this time of year many of us cyclists start to think about waterproof jackets. So if you have a good one - or a bad one for that matter - let us know as your knowledge will possibly help us make an informed decision.  

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Whitstable!

This was going to be my last Friday night night to the coast for the year. With the nights drawing in and the weather surely turning, rides of this nature just wouldn't be feasible. It was a ride I have done before and I was looking forward to it.

For once I all my bits and pieces ready the day before. Normally I do this on the Friday itself after work. Tucking my two daughters in to bed and saying goodbye to Mrs Orange I ventured off. One of the appeals of these night rides is that I don't miss any family time. When it is time to leave everyone is going or getting ready for bed. By the time I return they are getting ready for the off.

I arrived at Charring Cross in good time and awaiting the arrival of Mark (King of the Hill). While waiting I yet again found much to amuse and occupy me. One lady wore a pair of hot pants and matching top that was so tight it left nothing to the imagination. It was also an unwise outfit choice as said lady was possibly 200 lbs heavier than me!

Mark arrive punctually as always and as we we early we chewed the fat for a while before heading off for the rally point of Hyde Park Corner. There were quite a few people already there and safety procedures were being discussed. After pressing the palms of a few familiar faces faces we waited for the off. Someone we sadly don't see often enough, Bob who is a real character claimed that he was merely going to say hello to us all and then go home. This was extended to a bit further along as he didn't head for home until after the halfway point!


The assembled


Bies under Wellington Arch


Punctual to time as ever the massed riders on all manner of bicycles, took to the open road and headed out in to the night. We passed lots of famous London landmarks as as swiftly as I could I tried to take the odd snap.


St Stephen's Tower

The Monument

Once we passed Greenwich and headed further into Kent we gradually left the urban sprawl behind. The darkness of the night cast a veil over the surroundings and there was little to attract the eyes attention other than the blinking of lights and the reflective shine of florescent material. 

As always there were lots of way markers who stood at junctions or tight turns to guide the riders the correct way. The ride was at a fair old pace. My average moving speed for the ride was over 13 mph. There were lots of stretches were we were travelling along between 16 - 20 mph.


Marking junctions

For the most part Mark and I stayed with each other. Sometimes I would be ahead and sometimes he would. We seem to have a very good cycling relationship for these longer rides and when required form a purposeful double. Of course when we come to hills we both relish the prospect of ascending them and taking a few scalps in the process. There really is something about a Brompton and hills that works well.

There were more than a few  where the riders would thin out. On one such section I must have cycled for 6-7 miles on my own, at speed with a rear light blinking in the distance. It is on these occasions that one thinks about the strangest things. I thought about a shopping list for a food shop, what I was doing next week and whether it was too early to start Christmas shopping?

The halfway point came quickly. The Church of the English Martyrs in Strood again provided hospitality and sanctuary. For a small fee one could purchase rather good cheese rolls and tasty cakes. Washing these down with a cup of coffee we chewed the fat before venturing out into the morning air. We said our goodbyes to Bob and Femi and I hope to see Bob again when he he gets to lead his own ride.

On all these type of rides in the past, the end of the halfway point has been something not to look forward to. Not for the remaining miles to travel but for feeling cold! On all other Friday night rides I have come out uncomfortably cold. As I stepped out of the church I was ready to put on another layer but was halted by feelings, this is okay!?

The weather for the entire ride was mild. It really didn't feel like the middle of October! If anything I could have taken off a layer and jettisoned my gloves to my backpack. We were luck too that rain held off. A few small drops fell but nothing came of it.



Night lights very important!


A few hours after the midway point dawn was threatening to make an appearance. Robins and blackbirds began their dawn chorus but thought better of it and stopped. With the end in sight we pressed on. A few steep hills later and we were on the final leg of the journey. Cycling parallel to the estuary the end was in sight. With a final push we pressed on and soon reached the Waterfront Cafe with its excellent views and food.


We made it







After partaking in breakfast and saying our goodbyes Mark and I decided that our legs were up to cycling the 8 miles to Canterbury. From here we could sample the delights of a a cycle route called the 'Crab and Winkle Way.' In addition at Canterbury we could get a train back to Charring Cross and come full circle.




Start of the Crab and Winkle Way to Canterbury




The Crab and Winkle Way was a lovely ride and very picturesque. There were parts with short by steep gradients. Normally these would be nothing to us but after cycling over 66 miles and a few miles before our legs felt tired. Besides, the last time we slept was Thursday night!!



A rather lovely sign

Once at Canterbury - which was lovely by the way we did want to take some photos of the Cathedral. A sign stating the £9 entry removed this thought.



Canterbury

Heading for the station we boarded the train bound for Charring Cross. (More on this below the maps and ride data). This was a really good ride. I have had a little sleep and something to eat and as I type this I feel...not too bad. This may well mark the end of the the night rides to the coast but the allure of night rides will continue I am sure on a smaller scale with the hardcore members of the Brompton Club. 

Many thanks to Simon for leading and organising the ride and to his many Tail End Charlie's for guiding our path. I hope that in 2014 these rides continue as they are quite brilliant.






This next part of the blog only relates the the journey home. If it this isn't for you, close the window.

The train we were on was bound for Charring Cross but as it stopped at various stations along the way it would take about 80 minutes. After passing through Petts Wood station there was a noise that sounded as if some metalwork had fallen off the train? Not long after the train ground to a halt. A few seconds later an announcement came over the PA system that the train had been involved in a fatality. 

My initial thoughts were to think of the poor driver and then the unfortunate person who had probably committed suicide. It was obvious we were going to be here for some time and PA announcements confirmed this. 

Many people looked upset but some actually started to complain about the delay. One man remonstrated that he was now going to be late as 'a crazy person' had decided to throw themselves on the track. This I found unbelievable. A few people sounded off about how they were going to be late. Others had the conversation about suicide of this nature being the most selfish of actions. 

A paramedic came on the train to ask if passengers were okay. One young lady started to complain to him that there wasn't enough information about what was going on and that we really should know exactly what had happened. Later when a member of the Fire Service did the same she complained to him. This time that she was going to be late for her corporate lunch at a football match. I tutted and shock my head at this. Having look at this lady, I shamefully summed her up in a few seconds to be a social snob who was not going to reach the status she desired.

The train eventually moved off back towards Petts Hill Station where we got off and eventually boarded another train bound for the original destination. After saying goodbye to Mark who got off at London Bridge I continued to Charring Cross where I too made my way home.

Later on in the day I saw that a young male of about 20 years old had committed suicide by jumping off the footbridge on to the track. On every level this is a tragedy. The poor driver, the other staff on the train. Those who witnessed this from the station - some of which were apparently children. The Emergency Services who had to deal with this and possibly inform parents. The parents - what will this do to them? The ripples for this one act will travel far and last. Finally, the greatest tragedy of all is that a young man felt that there were no choices other than this!