Sunday 26 February 2012

'Small Wheels Big Difference' on my Raw SL2 Brompton

'Small Wheels Big Difference' consist of three friends who in June will embark on a charity bike ride (on Brompton Bikes) from Lands End to John O'Groats. It is going to be tough going but they hope to raise as much as possible for three charities. Hospice in the Weald, Help for Heros and Great Ormond Street Hospital. It is a noble undertaking to say the least and they certainly have my support.

Before their mammoth cycle in June they quite sensibly are going on number of training runs. Yesterday I joined the 'Small Wheels Big Difference' chaps for a training run from Kings Cross to Tonbridge - well almost.

Before I set out I had a big decision to make. Would I take my beloved Orange ML6 which is more suited to the 38ish miles from Kings Cross to Tonbridge or take my new addition the Raw Lacquer SL2? I decided to take the SL2. I chose the SL2 as it is lighter and much nippier than my ML6. I was worried though about the lower riding position over such a large distance as I headed off to Kings Cross.

Arriving in good time I stocked up on some sweets - fuel for the trip and met up with the Small Wheels chaps and a few other friends. After some group photos and final checks we headed off.

The Small Wheels crew meant business and set off at a fair pace. This was to continue for the whole trip. Preconceived visions of having the time to take pictures on route were soon abandoned. We headed south past the Houses of Parliament and travelled for a while alone the north side of the Thames past Battersea Power Station. Soon we crossed the River and headed further south.

Lambeth, Clapham, Tooting Streatham, Crystal Palace and Croydon past by as the miles went by. The ride down the long hill past Crystal Palace must have produced speeds over 35 mph!  At the 20 mile point we stopped for a well deserved rest. Having completed the longest single distance on my SL2 I was suffering no ill effects. I had worried about the lower riding position putting strain on my back but I was fine and glad that I had not brought the heavier and less agile ML6. With our rest over we headed off again.

It wasn't too long until we were in the countryside, made all more beautiful by the fantastic weather we had been blessed with. It was also the start of the mountain section! I say mountains as there were a series of incredible gradients. With only two gears this resulted in me out of the saddle and pushing but to be honest being 42 years young I would have been doing the same if I had of brought the ML6 instead.

Lovely scenery and glorious weather

One of those hills
We passed near Biggin Hill and arrived at Sevonoaks. With another 45 or so minutes to Tonbridge we were given the choice of getting the train back to London or Tonbridge or carrying on. I and one other decided on travelling back to London and the others pushed on.

On the train my legs were aching but soon recovered and I knew a soak in a hot bath and an early night would put things right.

I am very happy I tagged along with the 'Small Wheels Big Difference' chaps. I enjoyed the ride and finding out more about them and the reasons behind why they are embarking on their charity ride. My SL2 proved to be a worthy ally and having cycled approaching 30 miles, almost 24 hours after the event I am not suffering in any way. The bath and early night must have helped.

You can find out more about 'Small Wheels Big Difference' donate, support and even join in just like I did by going to their website:

It really is a great thing they are doing and if you haven't given any money to charity this year or want to donate what you can to three good causes please look them up.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Back to training on my Brompton Bikes

It has been a while since I was able to go out of an evening and do a few circuits around the roads where I live. Many things have conspired against me. Snow, a cold that seemed to stay with me a month (and I am not convinced that it had fully gone) and of course the demands of work.

Next weekend I hope to go on an extensive training run and have some fun along the way but more of that if things go according to plan.

My two Brompton bikes seem to work well. The Orange an ML6 is great for wetter weather and longer distances while the Raw SL2 is perfect for everything else (still don't like getting it wet yet).

Many people have asked whether I will be selling the Orange Brompton. The simple answer is no. I don't think I ever could. It is the bike that got me riding again after years of cars and dire public transport. The bike that gave me the inspiration to start this humble little blog and the bike that allowed me to enter the Brompton World Championsips and all the fun that owning a Brompton brings.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

A Roman Bath in the middle of London - Strange Locations!

Loyal readers of my humble little blog will recall that I have written in the past about a strange location in the heart of London that few people know about. The last time I wrote about this location on my blog I didn't have a camera or phone to take any pictures. Added to this, many people have asked me where this Roman Bath is located.

Your starting point is the Strand. You can reach this by walking from Picadilly Circus or Charring Cross - Charring Cross being closer.  Turn right on to Surrey Street. Not far down you will see Aldwych tube station which opened in 1907 but closed in 1994. The first thing you will notice is that as you walk down Surrey Street the noise, hustle and bustle of the Strand is left behind. Apart from the odd student from the nearby Kings College you will have the place to yourself.

Aldwych Tube. Used for film and TV now.

Continue past the disused tube station and carry on until you see a black mesh metal gate. It does look as if it is a place you aren't allowed to go but the general public is at liberty to wander down. (I'd better point out that this gate is rarely, if ever open during the weekend or public holidays as far as I am aware).

Although it doesn't look like it, you can walk through these gates.

Once through the gate you will see a narrow passage with two bollards ahead. Carry straight on. The bollards are there as there is a staircase (Surrey Steps) down to Strand Lane. They are very steep so take care.

A short but eerie passage. Imagine this when it is nightfall!

Very steep stairs.

Almost immediately in front of you will see the Strand Lane sign. Turn right and you will see a narrow alleyway not dissimilar to a certain alley in Harry Potter.

In front of you you'll see quite an old timber framed building with a walkway. Just before this on your right you will see a window with black railings around it. This is where the Roman Bath is located.

The Roman Bath is just through the arched window.

Looking through the window just can just make out what remains. There is a light switch on the wall outside however this didn't seem to work today. The window has a fair bit of condensation on it and this makes taking pictures difficult as it renders the window like a mirror.

Dickens mentions this very location in David Copperfield and frequented the bath himself. The jury is definitely out on whether this is Roman. It is certainly old and was documented in the 1700's. I'd like to take the romantic view that it is Roman.

It is also strange to think that hundreds of people walk up and down the Strand everyday and know nothing of this little oddity. I travelled there quite easily on my Brompton just before midday. I must confess that even if you could go there after dark, nothing would get me to do so. There really is an atmosphere down there and the absence of other people only magnifies this. The prospect of walking down any part of this at night makes me shudder. If you are in London and bored of the usual tourist locations, or work in London near the Strand and have time during your lunch hour, you could do worse than visit this place.

How strange to think this is in the middle of London.

Monday 13 February 2012

Trellick Tower - Part II

I decided to post a couple more photos of Trellick Tower that were taken yesterday.

Yesterday was a bit of a mini adventure on the Brompton.  Those of you who have read a great series of books by Alastair Humphreys will know that he is quite fond of these. A mini adventure entails just getting out with no particular agenda and head off, taking in what is around you. For me it was Trellick Tower.

I used a new app for me on the Mac called 'CameraBag 2' to render slightly different tones to the pictures and I quite like the results. I didn't really say yesterday but I am rather fond of Trellick Tower. I am sure it isn't to everyones taste. I do think that some of the people living there do regard it as an eyesore but it really does have something.

There are quite a few of Goldfinger's buildings dotted around London and I wouldn't mind going on some more mini adventures to photograph them as well.

Sunday 12 February 2012

The Urban Jungle with my Brompton and Ricoh GRD III

This morning I found myself out on my Brompton and could see Trellick Tower in the distance. For some unknown reason this building, which I have seen quite often in the distance on my compute seemed to have a draw on me and I cycled towards it.

Trellick Tower. Now a Grade 2 listed building
Trellick Tower was the work of Erno Goldfinger. Some of his buildings still survive and are in the brutalist style. It certainly reminded me of something one might see in the dark days of the cold war somewhere in Eastern Europe. By all accounts he was an interesting character. Ian Fleming used his name for his villain in Goldfinger.

One of the strange things about photographing this building was that the locals going in and out of it regarded me with some amusement. It was almost as if they were wondering why someone would take a picture of this hideous building? I was not alone. There were a couple of others with camera shooting away. None of them had a form of transportation as beautiful as a Brompton Folding bike however.

The Brompton really is great for this type of photography. I hadn't really got a clue where I was going but pointed the bike in the general direction and managed to find it after a few T Junctions and blind alleys. I certainly would have been unable to find it as easily by car. The Brompton also makes for a rather good impromptu tripod and my Ricoh found the stability it needed on top of a Brooks saddle.

Ins't there a gasworks in Monopoly?
Having exhausted Trellick Tower I headed off and found a gasworks. I am really pleased at the way this little Ricoh manages to get crisp shots which such a small sensor. So far I love it! Being so small and light but still having loads of manual controls it is not only easier to carry than a DSLR, it is much more fun to use.

Pigeon in flight
I am particularly proud of my pigeon in flight. I used a feature on the Ricoh called 'snap focus' to capture it very quickly. This feature allows you to pre-set a focal distance. When you then point the camera and press the shutter, it instantly focuses on this pre-set distance. As long as your subject (in this case a pigeon in flight) is roughly lying in that focal range, you will get your shot.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Snow in London and my Ricoh GRD III

Hyde Park in its snowy glory
When the snow started to fall last night I made the decision to get myself out and take a few shots with my ever trusty Ricoh. I started off in Hyde Park but didn't stay out for too long as it was starting to rain very softly and I didn't want to get my camera wet.

I retired to a coffee establishment and read a copy of The Times  from last week which had its wonderful cycling campaign for better cycle safety. I really hope that this takes off as those of us living in cities and want to use personal transport could do with someone batting for us.

Hyde Park
I am really happy with the way this camera manages to get such a sharp focus. While out there were a few other people snapping away. When I headed back to Oxford Street I saw a chap photographing the canopy of Selfridges with a Leica M9. I was drooling over this near work of art and trying to get a shot of him taking a shot. He turned saw my camera pointing at him and said, "wow a Ricoh GRD. Is it a II, III or IV?" I didn't get my shot of him by the way.

Marco not a problem on the Ricoh GRD
The 28mm fixed lens also has a pretty mean macro function and you can focus from 1cm away. My Canon G11 is excellent with its close focus but the Ricoh beats it for me in terms of its sharpness and Bokeh. (I love saying Bokeh out loud).

Great macro and plenty of Bokeh!

My Brompton bikes stayed at home this morning and I suspect they will do for the next few days while the snow thaws and the slush goes away. I bet tomorrow however, like mad dogs and Englishmen there will be plenty of Bromptonites out on their beloved folding personal transport braving whatever the weather throws at them.