Saturday, 20 July 2019

Brompton Dunwich Dynamo 2019 Completed

When I rose early on Saturday morning the Dunwich Dynamo dominated proceedings somewhat. This would be Dunwich Dynamo number four for me.

My first port of call was Compton Cycles. I took the bike in for them to check over the headset and a little play in the rear wheel. (There probably wasn't anything wrong with the wheel but I thought it best to get it checked). Jim at Compton Cycles took little time in giving things the once over and in less than 10 minutes I was on my way again. It is a wonderful shop.

On the way to Compton Cycles I heard from Dr John and that he might not make the dynamo as his calf was playing up and he would tell me later. Not long after he confirmed that he was not going.

The rest of the day was busy. I had some family stuff to do as well as plugging every electrical item I was taking with me on the Dynamo into various sockets so that they would all be 100%.

Eventually, the time came for me to leave home and I set off. I reached London Fields in good time and even though I was earlier that the - sort of - official start time of 20:00, there were lots of cyclists about either getting ready, waiting for friends to arrive or just starting early to avoid the crowds.

Geoff had previously said that he would be riding the Dynamo (on big wheels) and like me would be starting earlier. Firing off a message to Geoff we arranged to meet a little further out from the start point. My hope was that I would be able to ride with Geoff as far as Epping Forest (or slightly beyond). To my delight we ended up keeping each other company for the entire 112 miles.

Pressing start on my Wahoo just before the blue iron bridge (sort of official start) I headed off and met Geoff at the Lee Valley Ice Centre.

The official, unofficial start.

It was great to see Geoff again. While I navigated via my Wahoo, Geoff was using the spoken tune by turn directions on Ride with GPS. Both worked well.

Geoff checking the route

As we cycled it gradually got darker and darker. In the distance on the horizon the setting sun threw up oranges and reds and the overall scene was one of great beauty.

Sunset in Essex 

The miles flew by on fairly quiet roads and before we knew it 44 miles were up and we stopped at Finchingfield. A pub was selling cheeseburgers for £5. It didn't last long as it was pretty good and just what was needed. 


At Finchingfield I saw one of the many bicycles adorned with lights. I always like seeing them but perhaps as we had set off earlier I didn't see as many as I have on previous rides.

Light bike!!

Pressing on after being suitably refuelled we decided to forgo the stop at the Sudbury Fire Station in favour of one a few miles up the road at Needham Lake. We parked our bikes overlooking the lake but as it was still dark the only thing we could make out were some swans fighting over the best floating spots.

At Needham Market there was a stall selling sausages with onions in a bun. They were wonderful and I seriously thought about getting a second!

The 100 mile mark arrived at 03:57 a.m. and it was the first time I have passed this distance on any bicycle for some time. In fact the last time I did was perhaps the Dynamo back it 2017!

I found the next 8 - 10 miles demanding. I had to stop to take on some fuel before pressing on. The last couple of miles I had a second wind and seeing a Brompton rider in front of me brought out the childish competitive streak in me and I had to overtake him. We reached Dunwich Beach just before 05:15 a.m. We had done it.

Needham Lake

Going over to see if I was able to get my ticket for the coach journey home I was told that they wouldn't be scanning the bar codes on our coach booking confirmations until 06:30 a.m. Luckily they started doing it a little earlier and I got my ticket just before 06:00 a.m. and I had a place on the 09:00 a.m. coach.

I made it!!

Geoff and I parked the bikes up and Geoff sat propped up against a little old beach hut/shed. It started to get colder and I felt absolutely frozen. Geoff was much the same. This lasted for over an hour before the sun made an appearance and started to warm things up again.

Just before 08:00 a.m. I said my goodbyes to Geoff who was going to stop off at a tea rooms for breakfast before cycling onwards to Ipswich Station.

The queue

I sat down where Geoff had and waited for the time to tick by watching the growing queue and the few brave cyclists who took a dip in the North Sea.

Riders arriving

I boarded my coach just after 08:30 a.m. put my Brompton into the luggage compartment and retired to my seat. Wheels rolled about 10 minutes after the advertised departure time and not long after that I remember very little until we stopped at Chelmsford Services for a comfort break.

Once back on the coach I drifted off again for a short while and stayed awake thereafter. Getting to our stop near Millwall football ground was slow and cumbersome due to some rather selfish parking. We got there and once off the coach I got my Brompton from the luggage area, said thanks to the driver and was off to London Bridge Station not too far away. I was home and in the shower well before 14:00 which I was pleased about.

A VERY quiet coach journey!!

I didn't actually feel too bad the next day and apart from feeling a little like I needed an early night the following day, I was fine. I think that if I did this next year I would definitely pack a lot lighter. I packed quite a bit of food and water but I need not have. There were lots and lots of locations along the route where I could eat or top up fluids. I would also check the route on my Wahoo as I had a few differences in the official tried and tested route. In all though I enjoyed this Dynamo more than any of the others.

Thank you to Southwark Cycles and Andy who out on the coaches and got us home. Special thanks to Geoff - yet again - who allowed me to tag along. It would have been a very lonely ride without his company and I am not sure that going it alone would have gone down well with Mrs Orange had I not ridden with Geoff.

So, would I do it next year? I think I would have to say the chances are high.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Hiplok FLX bike lock for my Brompton

One of the many reasons people buy a Brompton is the fact you can fold it and take it with you. As such you often do not need the heavy and expensive locks that makes claims about how resistant they are to withstanding the the most determined thief. So, why am I writing a review of a bike lock I hear you say?!

My feet are firmly in the camp that say that if I am out on my Brompton and refused entry in a shop or establishment with my folded Brompton, I turn around and look elsewhere. This in itself is quite interesting. Recently (on rainy Sunday morning with no one about) I tried to enter a small supermarket outlet on Oxford Street to buy a bottle of water and was refused entry. Moments later I walked into a high-end pen shop on Bond Street to collect a fountain pen that was being serviced and they could not have been more accommodating.

What I am saying is that I don't really use or need a huge lock. My Brompton always comes with me and when I do leave it a few metres away from me, I keep a close eye on it, being ready to strike with the ferocity and speed of a coiled cobra should anyone get too close!!

Occasionally I do take a lock and for a few years I have been using a HIPLOK FLX. This is a very compact lock with a light and all integrated into a clip that can fasten to bags, coats, belts and jersey pockets. At 100 grams you almost forget it is there.

The lock has a light that pumps out 10 lumens and has a constant and flashing mode. The flashing mode lasts for hour and hours.

It is a combination lock, so no keys are needed. The retractable steel cable extends up to 1 metre and affords basic protection for low-risk areas. The cable is also coasted in a plastic cover so it won't scratch the paintwork.

I have used this lock on trains where my Brompton is sitting on a luggage rack and at times where I just want some peace of mind. It definitely isn't a lock that you could use to leave your beloved Brompton unattended but as a cafe lock it is very good.

The retail price of the HIPLOK FLX is £49.99 which I think is too much. Shopping around I paid £19.99 which for me was a price that works. This lock normally stays inside my saddle bag or is clipped to a pocket and complements the smaller is better vibe of the Brompton.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Brompton Overnight London to Brighton Part II

Just over a week ago I was all set for a Brompton overnight London to Brighton but I had to cut this short. CLICK HERE. With the weather looking wonderful and more importantly having the time to commit to this, I offered the ride to Dr John when he enquired whether I was free over the weekend to go on a Brompton ride. This Friday night was definitely Part II.

Our meeting point was the usual location on the South Bank not too far from the London Eye. Dr John was already there when I arrive at about 23:30 and thinking it was best to get going we headed off.

The weather was wonderful and I hope that it is as good for next weeks Dunwich Dynamo. Temperatures didn't really drop below 15 degrees and for a good part of it things were a little hotter.

I decided to take my Flame Lacquer Brompton with me for this adventure, mainly as it would be a ride of firsts for it. First time up Turners Hill. First time up Ditchling Beacon. First time to Brighton. You get the idea.

Once we had got past Clapham things started to get a little quieter and eventually urban gradually gave way to rural. Before long we arrived at the cattle grid on Ditches Lane where we cycled through Farthing Downs. This areas is a protected site that is home to several rare plants. It is also of archeological importance with finds showing human occupation back to the Neolithic period. At the top we stopped for a drink of water and took in the sparkling lights of Croydon in the distance.

We continued to make excellent time and about 26 miles we looked out for the Scout Hut which for us marked our halfway stop. As we cycled along we thought things looked familiar and soon the iron fence of the Scout Hut was upon us.

There we ate the food we had brought with us and again the weather made things very comfortable. With comestibles done we headed off.

Dr John had done some research and found a small service station that was open 24-hours and more importantly had a hot drinks machine. Despite the weather not really warranting the need for a hot drink, it was still appealing. At a roundabout not actually that far from where the Scout Hut was located, the service station came into view. Not only did it have a hot drinks machine, it sold sandwiches, snacks and every type of chocolate bar imaginable. In short it was an oasis. There was even a modest seating area. With a hot drink and a cold bottle of water I sat back and we both agreed that this would be our halfway stop from now on. Refreshed - for the second time - we headed off.

The next feature of the ride was Turners Hill. It was at the top of this location I recall sitting down, resting my eyes and actually nodding off. Dr John says that it was only I that did this but I remember Dr John dozing off just before I did.

Turners Hill arrived and we made our accent and both of us made very good time up. Dr John was to later inform me that its was his fastest time up it and I suspect it may well have been mine too.

Every now and then we cycled though some cold pockets of air. This was a rather strange sensation but a welcome one as they did not last long and was almost like stepping into an air-conditioned room for a few moments and then going back outside into the warmth.

From about 03:00 dawn was on its way and in the east we could see glimpses of light trying to peak through on the horizon. This time of the morning was wonderful. Birds sang and apart from the noise our bicycles made and our conversation, it was the sound of the dawn chorus that acted as a soundtrack to our adventure.

The light and colours at certain points was beautiful - especially the orange tones that blended with the blues, white and greys of the sky.

We were making excellent time and in the distance we could see the rising hills that signalled we were getting closer to the infamous Ditchling Beacon. Just after I look the photograph below, an insect so large I feared at first was a small bird, hit me in the chest. By the time I had finished telling Dr John what it might have been I finished by stating it might have been a young Red Kite!

We arrived at the car park at the base of Ditchling Beacon which queued me taking lots of photographs of my Flame Lacquer Brompton at various points.

After taking onboard some water and the odd sweet we made our way up to the top. We weren't in any hurry and did not really care what speed we made our accent. Dr John was up in front with me a few metres behind. As we cycled along the views to my left were wonderful. It was only with the greatest self-control that I did not get off the bike and start taking photos. As I continued up and up it occurred to me that for once there were no cars going up or down. We had the Beacon to ourselves and this really was a very good time to do this.

Finally we reached the top which was the start of more photos. This done we headed off to central Brighton. Again the roads were devoid of all cars which was wonderful. The last few miles into Brighton were free-wheeling and raving at the the seafront we had done it.

After a few more photos we headed straight for the station. With about 5 minutes before our next train, I collected my ticket from one of the ticket machines and we boarded our train. I was to get off at London Bridge at about 07:40, while Dr John headed a little further. Cycling to a nearby tube station I was home before 08:30.

This was a lovely ride. Dr John and I have now completed this route several times. Both of us like it a great deal and I suspect future rides featuring the half-way stop at the 24-hour services rather than outside the Scout Hut will add another dimension. Many thanks to Dr John for again being my cycling partner for this ride.

Next weekend is the Dunwich Dynamo. From now until then I will have to make sure that I am fully prepared and have a good think about what to take/not take with me. I am looking forward to it and I am sure Dr John (it will be his first Dynamo) will enjoy it greatly too.