Sunday 28 August 2011

My Brompton World Championships 2011

Well it finally came.  I cannot begin to explain how excited I was getting up and heading off to my very first BWC.

I am so proud of getting this!
I dragged my wife and two young children out of bed (they didn't really want to come) and we headed off to Oxford. There was a mild disaster in that before departing I attempted to pump my tyres up with my foot pump. Much to my dismay the nozzle end wasn't working and all I ended up doing was defaulting the rear tyre! Despite this we headed off in the knowledge that someone at the other end must have a pump I could borrow or I could use the one that is attached to my Brompton (for the first time).

We arrived in good time. I was a small child, too keen, too eager. I went to registration and got the number to place on my bike with the time chip attached. I then put my bike on the grid and the long wait began.

My beloved Brompton on the starting grid.

The nearer things go to the start the more the anticipation built. At 11:40ish we assembled for the instructions and safety procedures.  That done it was time to get ready to go into the pens - the waiting area in which one would wait for the off, run to your bike and go.

Once in the pens I detected a nervous tension among many standing near me. A few people from the Brompton staff lightened the atmosphere my starting a Mexican wave. That done things became quiet. A silence descended over the pens like a sea fog creeping quickly out of nowhere. I felt nervous and could hear my heart beating. The first wave went off. The second wave. It was now my turn. The two minutes between each wave seemed like an age. The air horn sounded and we were off.

Many ran as quickly to their bikes as possible. I have always been taught that a gentleman does not run, so I walked to my bike, assembled it and was off. I raced through and overtook quite a few riders. As I approached the first steep climb I tempered this initial haste as there was such a long way to go.

By the second steep climb I started to feel the strain and found things heavy going but got through to the start / finish for the second lap. As I approached I think the second steep climb things took a distinct turn for the worse!

I do not know whether what happened to me can be what runners describe as, 'the wall' but believe me I hit something. I almost ground to a halt as I desperately searched for a gear to keep me going. I couldn't find it. My legs did not have the power to turn the peddles and I had a stitch (something I haven't had since I was 11). As I searched for a gear that would help I must have somehow kicked off my own chain as it was off and I had to stop to put it back on.  This was a kind omen as I say with all honesty, I would have had to stop and push if it hadn't.  I suspect that I should have gone through some sort of warm up beforehand and not regarded having a cup of tea as being sufficient! Chain back on as I reached the summit I mounted my bike and headed off.

The great, Ms Elliot on her way to her second win!
This event, race and day was a celebration of owning something quite unique. What other manufactuer put on an event like this? What other sport would allow a 40 year old, father of two to compete in its World Championships? My time for this race was just over 35 minutes, quite shocking but does it really matter? Upon receiving the Brompton medal I was tired but elated. Something I had looked forward to, for so long exceeded my expectations. I loved the Brompton World Championships

Some people make no effort al all!

Add caption

The great thing about having a time, is it is there to be beaten. BWC 2012 is only a year away. I can put in proper training, go on a diet and perform some sort of warm up. I even bought a pair of racing slick tyres to give me that extra edge for next time. I can't wait. After all, I am now a world class international cyclist and if you buy a Brompton, next year so could you!

Roll on 2012 when we can do it all over again!

Sunday 21 August 2011

BWC 2011

Needless to say, I had a great time today. I will write up my thoughts about the day as soon as I can. In the meantime I think that the people at Brompton deserve a very big thank you for putting on such a well organised and enjoyable day.

Saturday 20 August 2011

BWC 2011 - Best of Luck

Just wanted to wish all those going to the Brompton World Championships tomorrow the very best of luck.  I do of course hope that I am faster than you but it really is the taking part that counts.

I will try and take as many pictures as I dare and will post up a full report of my experience of this great event sometime next week.

In the meantime I will be giving my Brompton a good clean and getting it ready.  I will almost certainly watch a few of the videos on YouTube about the BWC before trying to get an early night.


Friday 19 August 2011

New black Brooks saddle for my Brompton

As you know I have a brown Brooks saddle but the colour has always bothered me. Yesterday I bought a black version of this saddle.

I have an orange Brompton with black extremities and I have always wished that I had bought a black version. Having now bought it for a fantastic price I have to say I am extremely pleased with it. It has the same great looks but is gleaming, shiny black with bright chrome rivets.

For me it goes much better with the overall colours on the bike. (I always think black and orange are a killer combination anyway). Added to this is the fact that it sets the bike apart from all the others I see with the brown Brooks.

With the Brompton World Championships on Sunday it might not be the best option as it hasn't been broken in. I must say however that having been on an extended ride this morning, I don't detect any difference in comfort that my older brown Brooks? Even as I type this a few hours after my ride I am suffering no ill effects, so it might just appear on the starting grid this Sunday.

For those of you with a Brompton and no Brooks saddle I would strongly suggest you check them out. They are brilliant and really enhance the overall look of your Brompton. They are also built to last and with care will serve you well.

Apart from getting my outfit ready I am now going to apply a coat of proofhide to my new saddle. If I don't post anything before Sunday, best of luck to those taking part and if you see an orange Brompton, do say hello. It just might be me.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Shopping for an outfit for Brompton World Championships

Yesterday I ventured out to finally buy a few bits and pieces for the BWC on Sunday. I only have myself to blame for this, having left things to the last minute.

I started off (without my Brompton) on a number 6 bus heading towards Marble Arch, my destination being Primarks flagship store. Regular readers of my blog will no doubt know that I hate public transport. Keep this in mind when reading further.

Persons unknown got on said bus and didn't sit next to me and were in fact several metres away. This distance did not in any way prevent the putrid stench wafting its way down the bus to my nostrils. I am not exaggerating when I say that this outrage of smell would have choked a horse. As nonchalantly as I could I got up and out of my seat, while holding my breath and proceeded up stairs.

The bus approached Marble Arch and could not stand being on the bus any longer. I walked the short distance to Primark with a heavy tread. Walking inside Primark, Marble Arch for the first time, I must say that nothing in life prepared me for this particular shopping expedition.

The first thing I made a mental note of was the fact that Primark Marble Arch was incredibly busy. I would go as far as suggesting it was like television reports of the sales at Christmas, where people sleep outside a shop in the hope of grabbing a bargain!

People of all ages, all nationalities were shopping in an almost frenzy. To me it felt like one of those zombie films with yours truly searching terrified for safety. The second thing I made a mental note of was, never again.

I made my way to the first floor and tried to look for a jacket. On route I saw a short sleeved white shirt and grabbed it. Not long after this I saw some suitable jackets, tried one on and almost shouted out hallelujah. I made my way to the tills. It was at this point things took a turn for the worse.

The number of people in front of me was astounding. I got my trusty iPhone out to while away the time and started tapping away when I detected a strange smell. Some Germans I believe, started to say, 'mine Got. Was ist das smellen?' (Or there abouts). I recognised that smell as being the same one on that dreaded bus. The bastard had followed me! After what seemed like an age I reached, 'cashier number 8' paid and almost ran.

Once out in the open, I chance I may have resembled a brave WWII POW at the point they had first exited their escape tunnel to possible freedom.

I now have my complete outfit and look forward greatly to the BWC on Sunday. If this has taught me one thing for next year, it will be not to leave things to the last minute. In addition, call me an elitist snob but I don't feel I could give my patronage to Primark, ever again!

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Brompton World Championships Outfit Buying

Those loyal readers of this humble blog will no doubt have read that I have fine tuned my Brompton. With great attention to detail I removed my Brooks saddle and aluminium extended seat pillar and replaced them with the original Brompton saddle and extended seat pillar, all so save weight. I hated it and then put back what I had in the first place!!

Later this morning I am going to search Oxford Street for a cheap but suitable jacket for the BWC and also some sort of hat. I feel that a cycle helmet on its own is a little dull so a hat precariously attached with cable ties might just work.

I am starting to get more than a little excited, nervous even. I watched lots of YouTube videos last night relating to the BWC and fell asleep dreaming about it. I am also slightly nervous as I have done no real training at all for it! I think that I might start to get some early nights. Maybe have porridge or muesli (organic) for breakfast. Might start drinking mineral water like those supermodels do. Might even take the Brompton out for a spin. Think like the search for a cheap jacket...might have left my training programme too late!

Monday 15 August 2011

Should I get a Brompton Folding Bicycle - Some help in choosing.

Several people have asked me what type of Brompton they should get before they take the plunge. As your Brompton will almost certainly be with you for a very long time (they really are built to last), getting it right first time is vital.

My first piece of advice would be to look at the Brompton website for a list of approved dealers. This means that they have to be of a certain standard to even stock Brompton's. Once this has been done you can find a dealer close to where you live and go and have a look. In some shops you might even be able to go on a limited test ride so that you can try the various handlebar options. I bought mine from "Specialized" and found them to be extremely helpful. Other really good shops are, Compton Cycles and Fudges. Any shop worth their salt will take you through the various options without any pressure or atmosphere of intimidation. It will almost certainly be this shop that you take your bike back to be serviced, so the right shop is quite important. (Brompton's can only be purchased via their dealer network. You can order over the Internet but you will have to go and collect it in person. Anyway, going into a specialist shop is the way I'd do it).

My second piece of advice is to ask any Brompton rider you see what they can tell you about their bike. Believe me, most Brompton owners will find it a vast and uncomplicated pleasure to talk to someone or should I say convert someone to the fold.

My third piece of advice is don't rush and try and be patient. When you go to a cycle shop you may see Brompton's that they have in stock that you can buy there and then and ride off into the sunset. I would suggest resisting the temptation for a very good reason.

If you are prepared to wait 6-8 ish weeks, Brompton will build YOUR bike. A bike that you have chosen totally bespoke to you. A bike totally unique to you. There a literally hundreds of options and it really is worth getting exactly what you want, as apposed to compromising and buying off the peg. The bespoke option is again the way I'd do it, if only to get the colour combination you want.

Okay, you've done the above. There is now the task of choosing the handlebar type. The most popular (also the one I have) is the M type, which you can see below.

This allows for a fairly upright riding position, great for whizzing through traffic while providing great viability. The M type is the original handlebar for the Brompton and is very distinctive. I am over 6 foot tall and find that it is very comfortable for all sorts of journeys I make - long and short. The steering is also very responsive.

The S type is a flat handlebar that provides a slightly lower and slightly more forward riding position and generally gives a more sporty feel. Some taller riders find that for longer journeys the S type wasn't as comfortable as the more upright position of the M type or the P type, which I'll write about further on. However, I was going to get the S type and found it to be fine when testing it out. In fact I have two Brompton friends who are 6 foot 4 and 6 foot 5 respectively, both with S types who make longer daily journeys than me and find them to be very comfortable. If I was ever to get a second Brompton it would be an S type.

The P type is really the best of both worlds. By positioning your hands on the top bars you have a more upright riding position and by positioning them on the lower bars you have a more sporty riding position. It is regarded as the touring Brompton but I know a few P type riders who have never taken their beloved Brompton out of London.

It really is a matter of choice on looks and what sort of ride you want. The M type is as I say the most popular but try them out at a bike store to see which you like best.

The next big choice is whether to go for the steel or titanium frame. The steel frame is slightly heavier with the titanium frame being slightly lighter but the titanium version will cost you a few hundred pounds more. You will have to decide whether the saving of about 1 kg is worth the extra money? I didn't and went for the steel version.

Colour is a huge decision. With the steel frame you can have the main frame in one colour and the extremities in another. You can of course have your favourite colour all over. I chose an orange frame with black extremities. (Orange being my favourite colour). There is a good pallet of stock colours and every year Brompton seems to add an extra colour to choose from.

If you check out NYC Wheels they have a fabulous device on their website that allows you to choose all the colour combinations possible and see what it looks like on the bike.

The next really big choice is the number of gears you'd like. For the truly hardcore there is the single speed option. This will save greatly on weight but may be tough going up hills.

The two speed has one gear to get you started off and one for cruising. Slightly heavier than the single speed.

The three gear option is the most popular. It has three well spaced gears and will be perfectly sufficient for most journeys. Loads of my friends have this option and swear by it. Again slightly heavier than the previous two.

The final option is the six speed. This has six well spaced gears to get you up the steepest of hills and yet cruise happily on the flats. I have a six speed and love it. This is the heavier option in terms of weight.

With the three and six speed gearing you can even have the ratios altered when ordering so that they are higher or lower geared! Most people just go for the standard settings.

I know what some of you are thinking. 'only 2, 3 or 6 gears!?' The truth is you won't need 18 or 25 gears. Honestly. If you have ever ridden a mountain with copious gears, how many have you actually used? I'd wager it wasn't all 18 or 24. I regularly overtake mountain bikes on my daily commute with many more gears than my six. I am able to go this as they are incredibly well spaced and the boffins at Brompton have given you the rider everything you need.

A must as far as I am concerned is to get the front carrier block fitted. It is only £15 and will allow you to attach a bag which clips onto the block. It is a brilliant design and means if you do have things to carry you can do so safely. The bags aren't cheap but they hold an incredible amount and even fully packed do not in any way interfere with the steering. Once you reach your destination you can unclip or semi-fold the bike leave the bag attached to the carrier blog and pull it and the bike along on its wheels. 

Tyres come in three guises. The standard Brompton tyre which is quite free wheeling.  The Marathons which aren't quite as free wheeling but offer a better overall grip. (I went for these). An the last Kojaks. These slick tyres meant for the open road and speed. The standard tyre won't cost you anything extra but the Marathons and Kojaks will cost a little more.

All the tyres have reflective sidewalls which glow in the dark when headlights shine on them. They are also pretty puncture resistant which can only be a good thing.

The standard tyre 

Marathons - better grip
Kojaks - slick tyres for speed

The last thing I'd mention is the saddle. The saddle your Brompton comes with is great. It is black, comfortable and even has a hand grip underneath to make carrying your bike easier. I however would go for something called the Brooks Saddle.

Brooks have been making beautiful saddles for over 100 years the the saddle in the picture is one specifically made for Brompton's. It is gorgeous, will last a lifetime and will get more comfortable the longer it is used. For many, including me, they really do add the finishing touches to a bike that is already approaching perfection.

Well there you have it. If you thinking of getting a Brompton I hope that I have helped. If you do get one you will have perhaps the ultimate form of personal transport. Cycle for a bit and if you get tired or it rains you simply fold it up and take in with you on the bus, train, tube, taxi, someone else's car or sit down for a bit and have a cup of tea/coffee until you are ready for the off.

There is no getting away from the fact that £800+ is a large amount of money. However I would say that you will be buying something that will last. Something that is a design classic. Something that will last years and something that you will be able to upgrade and add bit to as and when new technologies are introduced. Added to this you will be able to enter the Brompton World Championships and become part of a club where everyone riding a Brompton has a smile on their face.


In case you are wondering why adverts have appeared on my blog I will explain.

I have a humble little blog and do not intend to have the adverts displayed for more than a month. I am actually gathering the data that can be derived from them. Once I have enough of this data I will turn them off. I won't go into why I am doing this as it is terribly dull but I can assure you it is for a quite serious bit of research.

For the volume of traffic I have I would be luck to make 0.00000000000000000001 of a penny, so I won't be retiring anytime soon!

Saturday 13 August 2011

Brompton World Championship - Bike Tuning!

This time next week I like many of you will be getting myself geared up for the, Brompton World Championships. Today with a week to go I decided to give my Brompton the once over.

I swopped the original Brompton saddle for a rather perfectly formed leather Brooks a few months ago. I also replaced the steel extended seat pillar with the telescopic aluminium version. This of course comes at a price - weight. I therefore removed the new additions and put the original seat and extended seat pillar back on. I went for a test ride...and hated it!

The Brompton seat is very good don't get me wrong, but it does not compare to the loveliness of my Brooks saddle, which has all but moulded itself perfectly to the contours of my rear end. The telescopic seat pillar allows that extra reach to the extent I can barely touch the floor with my feet - perfect for full racing conditions. I took my Brompton out for the another test ride with exactly what I started with and loved it!

I must say that I am getting rather excited about the BWC. I have a mood of childlike excitement and you even get a medal for goodness sake which only serves to make me more excited!

There is one thing I am missing which I will have to sort out before this time next week. At the moment I do not have a jacket to wear. I do of course have plenty of suits and assorted blazers but none that I particularly want to get covered in manly sweat from the exertions of honest toil. So, yours truly will have to venture out and get some sort of inexpensive number that is quite possibly going to be hideous.

This will be my first BWC and I cannot wait. Anyone reading this who has been before might want to post a comment about what I can expect.

Saturday 6 August 2011

London Zoo Penguins

A few weeks ago I went to London Zoo. Only now after a few weeks gone by do I feel able to write about this experience.

We had not been to London Zoo for a few months but had heard that penguins were back and housed in their new enclosure, 'Penguin Island.' Not only was this bigger and better it is the largest of its type in the UK, Europe even! We were excited.

Feeding time was 15 minutes away so we sat down and marvelled at the size of 'Penguin Island' as the little penguins swam around happily in the knowledge that only the United States of America might have something as good. It was the next best thing apart from the wild!

Anticipation was high as two members of staff came out. One had a bucket of small fish and one had a Madonna style headset. Madonna had the enthusiasm of Keith Chegwin and soon had the assembled crowd eating out of her hand. The chap with the bucket started throwing fish and the little penguins eagerly swam, hopped and dived, with the cuteness only little penguins can. It was then things took a turn for the macabre.

As Madonna told us about habitats, diet, where they come from and bucket boy threw fish, I noticed several seagulls circling in low flight overhead. To me it was like one of those westerns where vultures or buzzards circle above the possibly of something terrible happening below.

I am certain that people's attention moved from the penguins to the seagulls. I started to become fearful anticipating what might happen. I did not hear what Madonna was saying and couldn't have cared less what bucket boy was doing. I was terrified and looking skyward. I don't want to be flippant but this must have been what it was like during the blitz.

The first I knew that the inevitable had happened was when a man behind blurted out loudly, 'bloody seagull bastard.' He had taken the full payload from a particularly large Herring Gull. No UXB, a direct hit. I did not turn round as I knew it was a sight no one should see. In addition my wife, one of my children and I had large amounts of shrapnel (for want of a better word) on our coats. This was a sizeable quantity but this was only the splash. What that poor man must have had deposited on him...?

We spent the rest of the show, hoods up cowering in fear. Penguin Island! More like Seagull Shit Island!! Never again will I go to feeding time. For those of you brave enough, you have been warned.

Friday 5 August 2011

Brompton Oratory Jacket

I try to look as stylish as I can on my Brompton. In a previous blog you may recall that I have even been wolf whistled by a roughness of builders (for want of a better collective noun). Surely that must have been because I was looking particularly debonaire that day?

To be honest riding in London and wanting those in charge of a motor vehicle to see me, I usually wear some sort of fluorescent number that at best might indicate I could be a surveyor or an architect on the way to view my new stone and steel masterpiece in the city.

Who am I kidding. I probably look like some sort of dock worker or someone who digs up large parts London replacing the pipes, standing there all maudlin with a stop/go lollypop sign. I exaggerate of course as there is no possible way, I, could be mistaken as someone employed in either profession. I labour the point as cycling clothing is hardly stylish.

That is until I saw the new Brompton Oratory Jacket. O to the M to the G! I really can picture myself in one of these, waving to onlookers as I glide by on the greatest bicycle ever made. Giving a knowing smile to other Brompton riders I pass and winking at myself in the windows of Selfridges as I catch my reflection travelling up Oxford Street. In short I want one!

With a RRP of £250 English Pounds it isn't cheap but it looks incredible! Waterproof cord material, pull down cuffs, button up to the neck collar (when needed), reflective bits, folds on the back that allow greater comfort when cycling and I even like the colour!

When this marvel hits the streets I am going to buy one. I have been going on about it so much that some non-cycling friends might even buy one too. So, in the meantime I am going to have to start saving and hope that I have enough when it is finally released.

Thursday 4 August 2011

David Lindo's book 'The Urban Birder.'

David Lindo for those of you who don't know is 'The Urban Birder.' You may have seen him on BBC's, The One Show or read one of the many articles he writes.

I have lived in London all my life and remember being interested in birds/nature when I was little. Sadly, it was a pastime that for one reason fell by the wayside.

A few years ago I remember watching David Lindo enthusing about the joys of finding birds/wildlife in the middle of the urban landscape and how in any city you could always find something of interest. This coincided with out first child and David Lindo's enthusiasm for people to get out and explore their urban environment struck a chord. With an inquisitive toddler we decided to do just that.

His book is a brilliant read. It recalls how as a young child he acquired his interest in nature but especially birds, something that has become a lifelong passion. It also touches on how he overcame racism and simple minded prejudice in such a positive way.

It is filled with accounts of David's trips to different urban locations and even the countryside. Many of these account's will leave you with a smile on your face. I especially liked his reminiscing about his first trip to Scotland and a bright yellow jacket he wore. It is the story of one persons hobby with the message that you can go and do the same thing, so long as you look up and listen.

In this age of instant communication and hectic lifestyles there really is something in what David writes about. On your way to the train/tube station what birds/wildlife can you see? When at your local park feeding the the ducks with the children, what else is around? What wildlife can you find in your own back garden?

I cannot understand for the life of me why David Lindo hasn't yet secured his own television show? If I was a budding TV producer I'd have him visiting major cities in the UK. A second series would see him doing the same abroad.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can definitely recommend it. Like me and my family it might give you the inspiration to get out and look for birds/wildlife even if you live in the middle of the urban jungle.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Brompton's are everywhere.

Today I found myself in Walsingham, Norfolk.

Walsingham is a rather picturesque location and site of Christian pilgrimage since 1061.

Imagine my surprise when I spotted the newish Brompton locked to a bench outside the Slipper Chapel.

Brompton's really are everywhere.