Monday 30 July 2012

Another Milestone Reached!

I was very pleased this morning when I logged into Blogger to discover that I had gone just over 40,000 page views. I am more than pleased about this!

Many thanks to all my loyal readers and anyone new!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Hummvee Short - the perfect short for Brompton riding?

It has taken me ages to find the perfect pair of cycling shorts. Like Jason searching for the Golden Fleece it has not been an easy task. But, I think I have found them.

They are the Hummvee Short by Endura. These are an excellent pair of shorts that don't look like a pair of cycling shorts. They look quite urban and can be worn quite happily out in the field when not cycling. (This is always a good thing).

They are made from a durable nylon ripstop fabric that offers a water repellent finish. Perhaps the best feature for me are the pockets. There are loads and they all seem to be in just the right places. The two front pockets have zips and two, large rear pockets can be used for all manner of items but are labelled as map pockets on the blurb. (I tend to use them to carry a camera when cycling and they are excellent for this purpose).

The inner legs, seat and back have stretchy material, this making things even more comfortable. An elasticised waist and adjustable belt, adds to the general comfort. There are even zipped side vents should you require ventilation.

Also included is a liner pair of padded shorts. These click into place in a very quick and clever way. The liner shorts are great as they hide the facet that these are a pair of cycling shorts after all.

I have black and a newly acquired olive. There is camouflage and indigo should black or olive not to be to your taste.

In short they are brilliant and I will wearing a pair at the Brompton World Championships. If you are looking for a great pair of cycling shorts, then these just might be perfect for you too?


Many have asked why is orange such a significant colour for me? The simple answer is I am not really sure?

I have an orange iPhone bumper guard. Orange pen (and sometimes orange ink). I have an orange pair of sunglasses. I like MCC as its tie colours are yellow and orange. I have an orange waterproof jacket. I frequently wear orange socks. My BWC outfit will heavily feature orange and of course I have an orange Brompton bicycle.

That is quite a lot of orange for anyone to be getting on with. I did like orange before getting and orange Brompton but when I decided on buying one for the second time (my first was one of the first Brompton bikes, bought for me in 1990) I didn't have any difficult choices. It had to be orange!

Do any of you out there have a similar colour fixation or is it just yours truly?

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Compact Camera for travels on a Brompton

Like me you might like to get your Brompton and travel light. After all that is sort of the point of having a bicycle like a Brompton. When I say light I mean no bags on the front carrier.

I have an Olympus Pen as my main camera of choice but even that isn't as portable as I'd like. What I really need is small contact that isn't going to cost a fortune and yet deliver good pictures.

In the early hours of this morning I would have loved to have taken my Olympus Pen but I didn't want to carry it as it is not the most discrete of cameras and not pocketable. What I need is something I can fit in the pocket of a pair of cycling/cargo shorts or jacket.

A few people I have spoken to strongly suggest the Sony HX20V as it seems to be a jack of all trades and would cover all my needs. Good size, 18mp, 20x usable zoom, 25mm at the wide angle, good screen and pretty nippy AF.
Does anyone out there have any suggestions?

Early morning on a Brompton

One of the joys of living in London and having a bit of free time is that you can (if you are mad or that way inclined) head in to the centre of London and see a very different side. Better still, if you have a Brompton Bicycle you can see even more.

In the early hours of this morning I headed into London on my beloved Orange Brompton. It was quite warm and despite being 4:00 a.m there were quite a lot of people about. Strangely for a Tuesday morning there were all manner of people coming out of clubs. Don't they have jobs to go to? (They might have been asking the same question of me of course).

There was one particular club, quite well known I suppose, caught my attention at 4:30 in the a.m! I have not had a particularly sheltered life (well by some standards, I probably have) but nothing in life prepared me for the sights I saw. A large number of scantily clad maidens exited said club and started to have a fight. It was a strange fight and went in waves. One minute one faction would win, then the other would gain ground and turn the tables. It reminded me of Napoleon's first Italian Campaign. A bitter struggle to win. I tutted and cycled along. At this point one of the ladies shouted out and pointing in my general direction asked me at the top of her rather vulgar voice, 'why are you riding that BMX?' At this I puffed myself up as far as my M-type handlebars would allow and cycled past without comment. Once I was past the feuding hordes, I could hear the battle resuming.

The reason for me venturing out at this ungodly hour was of course as a training exercise for the BWC. I headed towards the City which I am happy to report was almost empty. I headed back and ended up circling Regents Park. With few cars this was brilliant. I was joined by a few Lycra clad cyclists. My beloved Brompton (and my legs of course) were able to keep up with them for quite a while.

Passing London Zoo I could see the heads of giraffes peaking out of their exclusive abode. At Regents Park Mosque I saw a couple of the faithful on prayer mats outside partaking in perhaps the first call to prayer of the day. The circuit around Regents Park is a pretty good one and I will definitely be back for further training.

With the sun starting to put in a full appearance things started to get much busier and the hustle and bustle that is central London resumed as it always does. I folded my Brompton and bought a cup of tea and sat watching the world go by for a bit. The people coming out of Oxford Circus Tube Station seemed to be almost ant like. They all seemed purposeful and eager to go about their business as quickly as possible. I must say that the vast majority looked fairly miserable. Perhaps they weren't looking forward to going to work? There was one exception as I sipped my tea. An older gentleman with a red M3R. He unfolded and appeared quite jocular as he headed off in to the distance. Perhaps he was just a naturally happy chap? Maybe, just maybe he had been looking forward to peddling away on his Brompton?

Sunday 22 July 2012

Titanium Brompton

Just before we reach 2013 or shortly thereafter I am seriously toying with the idea of acquiring a titanium Brompton. There I have come out and said it.

It will be Orange of course! I am also pretty certain that it would be an M-type. As for gearing I am tempted by the simplicity of 2 x gears but the three speed would be more useful. There is a huge premium for having a titanium version and and I wonder if the saving of roughly 1kg is worth this premium? I have always wanted a titanium version and with the changes hinted at when I went on the Factory Ride, it might be time to upgrade.

No of this is certain but I would like to hear from other Brompton owner of titanium versions to say what they think about their bikes.

Impulsive Brompton World Championship Training Run

At some point during Saturday I decided to go on a training run of sorts somewhere in Central London. Also at some point on Saturday I decided to open up this initially individual sojourn to members of the London Brompton Club.

I didn't really have anything in particular in mind and certainly had not even thought of a route - that would be far too taxing and it was a spur of the moment thing after all. I had a vague idea to ride in or around a park.

My partner in crime iCrazyBee said that he would come, along with another two members of the club - Leo and Amanda.

The meeting point was Piccadilly Circus at 09:00. I arrived just before the allotted hour and saw that iCrazyBee and Amanda were already there. Shortly after, Leo arrived. We waited for a few minutes just in case anyone else decided to turn up and after a polite time period we departed.

This morning I rushed out of the house, put the bike in the car and drove to my parents house where I unfolded and headed off to Central London. After unfolding I discovered to my horror that in my haste I had forgotten my cycling helmet. I was going to have to ride a bicycle without one! I know that some of you reading this would not wear a cycling helmet if you were paid but I always have. I insist of wearing one even though I frequently run the risk of being inflicted with the dreaded 'helmet hair!' So, with great fortitude and strength of character I stoically carried on - without helmet.

We headed towards Hyde Park. On route we spotted the new memorial to Bomber Command. The curse of a blogger meant that I had to stop and take some photos.

Our bikes from left to right. My Raw Lacquer S2L. The legendary yellow M3L of iCrazyBee. Leo's elegant and slightly modified S6L and Amanda's green M3R. I decided to take the Raw Lacquer as it was such a lovely day but I always miss my beloved Orange Brompton.

As we neared Kensington side of Hyde Park I spotted some Cavalry. I felt almost compelled to shout out 'charge!' but thought better of it. With the Olympics in preparation I could imagine the SAS swooping down from helicopters because someone shouted out 'charge!'

With the better weather finally hear, Boris Bikes were out in force. I know what I would rather ride! Hopefully the Olympics, Mr Wiggins winning the Tour and me competing and winning all three events at the Brompton World Championships will put cycling safety and riding back on the agenda.

We passed Kensington Palace and were greeted by a long straight that begged to be ridden along at full pelt.

There were quite a few muggles around (those without a Brompton), shakers and pedestrians and you really had to keep your wits about you. The long straight was excellent. I cycled full pelt and my iPhone told me that my top speed was 31 mph. This wasn't bad considering I only had two gears and had to weave in and out quite frequently.  My heavier and more upright Orange M6L can go considerably faster and I think that it will be this bike that goes with me to the BWC over the S2L.

There really were some rather strange sights to behold. There was a jogger with a small child in a pram running along with two small, rat-like dogs that for some reason I took an instant and sustained dislike to!

An unusual water fountain caught our attention and we attempted to have a drink. This was easier said than done but we were all grateful for some cool water. At about 10:00 Amanda said her goodbyes and down to three we made another few circuits. At about 10:30ish I said my goodbyes and headed home.

I think that the next time I do a morning training run I will have to go a great deal earlier. It was starting to get busy by 09:30 and it would be much better having things emptier and less crowded. Alternatively I might go for a night ride.

I am glad that I put the invite out there. It is always great to meet fellow Bromptonians and it was good to see iCrazyBee again. My training for the BWC had a good start today and I hope that I can keep it up. For my next training run I am toying with the idea of cycling the 7 mile circuit of Richmond Park. This would take about 30 minutes at a fairly average 15 mph so I would like to do this a few times. Watch this space.

Saturday 21 July 2012


The Brompton World Championships is looming and my training will be starting tomorrow. I say tomorrow and not today as I have a BBQ to go to this afternoon and I am sure that the food on offer will be particularly good.

My training (if you can call it that) will consist of a 20 minute cycle in the early morning at a fairly brisk pace and the same in the evening. My evening ride will get progressively longer until I am cycling for good 40 minutes by the week before the BWC.

I have been talking quite a lot about the BWC to others who are also taking part and the question came up, what would we all talk about when it is over? As far as I am concerned the answer is pretty simple. It will be training and getting ready for the 2013 BWC!

Monday 16 July 2012

To shave or not to shave? That is the question.

Regular readers will know that a few weeks ago I competed at the London Nocturne. (See blog entry for this if you haven't already). While there I saw lots of the 'elite' racers who all had shaved legs. This induced a conversation this lunchtime with a work colleague.

My work colleague is a hardcore Brompton rider. Titanium single speed with Kojak tyres all year round. He doesn't own any other bikes but strangely has absolutely no interest whatsoever in competing at the BWC or any other event for that matter. He uses is Brompton for commuting and that is it. He does however have legs that are as hairless as the chubby cheeks of a newborn baby.

At lunchtime we got on to talking about the Nocturne, the elite riders, their hairless legs and his hairless legs. I must state that there are no circumstances that would make me do the same.

My colleague said that the pro riders shave theirs primarily as it makes the post cycling massage and application of lotions and oils etc.., that much easier. In addition should a rider come off his/her bike and suffer injury, there is less chance of infection by a load of great big hairs getting in the way. There is also the surely ridiculous notion that it creates less drag!

I don't know what you out there think but I certainly won't be reaching for Epilady anytime soon!

Sunday 15 July 2012

Tourists and my Raw Lacquer Brompton

After the factory ride yesterday I felt the need for an early morning fix on my Brompton. With the probability of rain low I headed out on my S2L Raw Lacquer into central London.

I had the place to myself as it often the case when venturing out early on a Sunday morning. I got as far as Piccadilly Circus where I stopped and folded up my Brompton so that I could pop in to an establishment that sold tea. As I did this I saw a family of tourists (I red heart London T-shirts over normal clothing) watching.

From the look on their faces I could see that as far as they were concerned I must be a witch or a Jedi. They were entranced. The leader of their group approached me and started to ask questions about the bike. He spoke English but I will not disclose what nation he was from. With great patience I showed them how it folded and unfolded. This is where things went sour.

The tourist leader asked very politely if he could have a go at folding my S2L Raw Lacquer Brompton. Now I need to point out to newer readers that this Brompton only sees the light of day when the weather is good. In short I love it! I said,"yes." "Of course you can," says I.

As this man attempted to fold my Brompton I watched with growing horror. Things were not going well. Inside I was starting to panic. Inside I was thinking he is going to scratch or worse still break my S2L! I remained calm until the last straw was placed on the camels back and my Brooks saddle was turned round the opposite way.

Witnessing this, it had to happen and all I could say was, "Jesus Christ almighty! That's bloody well it old man!"  I took possession of my Brompton, folded it up and walked in to the establishment that sold tea. As I sat drinking my tea I hoped that I had not caused an international incident and that the 'special relationship' would survive.

Brompton Chapter at the Ace Cafe

In the early hours of this morning I woke briefly after having a very strange dream. I will do my best to explain.

My dream consisted of the London Chapter of Brompton riders congregating at the Ace Cafe in northwest London. I have never been to the Ace Cafe but it was a location in the past frequented by bikers, Hells Angels, Mods and Rockers. Now it is mainly weekend bikers.

We all assembled in large numbers and parked our Brompton bikes along side Harley's and Japanese/Italian super bikes. We then went inside to partake in the rather good fish and chips I believe it is also famous for.

Just imagine if this became a reality. The look on bikers faces would almost make this worth doing!

Part 2 Brompton Factory Ride

Welcome to Part 2 of my take on the Brompton Factory Ride which took place yesterday. To any new readers welcome and to anyone who keeps coming back for more many thanks.

The allotted hour came and the first group which included yours truly was allowed in. The comparison to the 'Golden Ticket' was quite apt as several fully grown adults, who should have known better walked past the Brompton sign and were out with their camera and phones happily taking pictures. 

The almost Shrine that is the Brompton Factory
A very patient and tolerant member of the Brompton staff who was our guide waited as we took pictures, perhaps slightly bemused. After all he works here and sees it every day. We on the other hand were seeing where all the magic takes place - some of the first time.

I wager that pilgrims upon reaching Canterbury hundreds of years ago may have done the same, if they had of had cameras but they would not have had that look of crazed wonderment I detected in the eyes of the 25 Bromptonians who were about so see where their prized folding one was born. We walked in.

The first thing I saw as I entered were several wooden boxes containing the brazed main frames of soon to be fully fledged Brompton bikes. They looked quite beautiful. Even though I had been on the Factory Ride last year the mystique of this location a powerful force.

The factory has changed slightly only in terms of how the bikes are produced. Rather than building up a stock pile of parts ready to be assembled, they now more or less produce to order. This we were told has actually helped to speed up production. 

It was great to hear that Brompton is incredibly busy to the extent they are actively recruiting more brazers and have orders coming in copious amounts.

The attention to detail and quality control is staggering. We were told that Brompton were focusing on quality control to an even greater extent. As this was being said my attention was drawn to the seat post parts, standing to attention on their best behaviour waiting for the time when they will be assembled.

A brazer was working while we were there and provided a demonstration of this vital and highly skilled art. It was fascinating to see how the different components were placed in a jig and then brazed together.

As someone who also has a Raw Lacquer Brompton, the brazing looks beautiful and shows off the skill of the brazers.

The brazer showed us that his bikes are emblazoned with his X moniker. I thought to my Raw Lacquer bike and was convinced that I had an X on it but upon inspection at home I discovered that mine had a T. The brazer was very patient considering he was being bombarded with questions and photographed!

One of the sights I found of particular interest were the Brompton bicycles packed up and ready to be shipped to their new owners. Each bike/box has a small piece of paper containing the customers details and what bikes and options they have chosen. Lots of these boxes were being shipped to the far east and many to South Korea. Brompton are an international and important exporter of significance.

Of course anything orange caught my attention and the wooden boxes and shelves containing frame parts brought a smile to my face.

Orange is a fine colour for a Brompton

The tour also showed all the different stages of a bikes assembly. All of the bikes that were in the processed of being built were the new H-type.

The stainless cog wheel caught many peoples attention as it was different to the ones we all had on our bikes.

There were shelves of black 2 speed bikes with Kojak tyres all bound for South Korea. I could imagine someone far away wondering when their bike is to be delivered.

As for developments for the future Brompton is forever refining their bikes and components. There are plans for a slightly redesigned non-folding pedal. There also might be change in the bar grips. In addition the brake levers might be changed slightly.  The joy of owning a Brompton is that on the most part any updates can be applied to an older bike.

All bound for South Korea

Of course things had to end and our tour was over. The danger of coming on the factory ride is that it makes me want to buy another Brompton or try and convince Mrs Orange Brompton that she needs one! I was thinking about colours and different options as I walked out of the factory.

As we returned to the marquee we has a brief chat with the charming Will Butler-Adams, Brompton Chef Executive who along with his team has helped Brompton become a major exporter of bicycles for this country. He talked briefly about the toolkit that will be released soon. (Another thing I desperately want to own). Quite fittingly we later saw him making a good job of balancing on a board placed on top of a cylinder. Brompton bikes are serious commuting machines but they are also full of fun.

A final photo opportunity beckoned as I shamelessly took pictures of my beloved Orange Brompton next to the Brompton signs before heading off to the train station.

When I was on the train the days events raced past in a blur. An announcement that only folding bikes would be permitted on trains during the olympics brought a smile to my face and half the train carriage turned and smiled at me.

I loved this event! Like a Haircut 100 song it brought a little feeling of sunshine to a rainy day. With a few weeks to the Brompton World Championships (which I will of course win) this event has really set me up for it. I hope that I am lucky enough to do it all again next year if Brompton decide to have another Factory Ride.

I feel it is only fitting to thank Brompton for yet again putting on another well organised and fun day. I suspect this event must cost a great deal of money. Cynics out there would say it is merely a marketing tool. Well I am sure it is that but what other manufacturer of bicycles or cars for that matter does anything like this? Brompton riders are very loyal to the brand and knowing this I like to think Brompton are sharing the love. Now...what gearing should I get when I make an order for a 2013 model?

Saturday 14 July 2012

Part 1 of the Brompton Factory Ride

I was up very early this morning excited about going on the factory ride.  Like a small child on Christmas morning I headed off to a top secret location which I can now reveal was Richmond Green. My two daughters were excited for me and luckily good behaviour during the preceding week meant that Mrs Orange Brompton allowed me out!

The weather, as predicted was terrible to start with. I made my way along Richmond High Street to Richmond Green and saw the assembled mass of Bromptonians lucky enough to have an almost Willy Wonka 'Golden Ticket' that would gives the holder the chance to see the Brompton Factory!

My trusty Orange Brompton
BumbleBee was there in force, specially cleaned with newly applied livery. Another member of the London Brompton Club, Tim was also there.

The legend
The assembled riders eagerly awaited any signs that we would begin.  It wasn't too long until a member of Brompton staff gave us some instructions and we embarked upon our adventure. Excitement was palpable.

A member of Brompton staff was handing out some of those clear plastic ponchos and iCrazyBee and I were able to get one each. Upon getting this our waterproof jackets (including the Altura Night Vision jacket I had only recently bought) were jettisoned. The primary reason for this was to show off the London Brompton Club printed T-Shirt worn by iCrazyBee and a bootleg hoodie version I was wearing.

Before we really go going we stopped off at Richmond Hill (I think) for a photo opportunity organised by Cycle_aka_Bob. iCrazyBee was given the task of being official photographer and took a few snaps of the assembled Bromptonians.


Of course one of the great things about coming on an event like this is meeting lots of interesting people. One charming lady in her 50's had a lovely year old Raw Lacquer M3L. She told me that she had cycled all her life and had been curious about Brompton bikes for some time. She took the plunge and went out to buy one in what she described as the most expensive shopping trip she had ever had.

Another chap on a four year old black P-type was a Lecturer with a particular interest in online social groups. BumbleBee and I gave him something to think about when we explained some of the adventures we had been on.

Many were keen to hear stories of long distance rides on a Brompton as I recalled stories of Oxford to London, London to Cambridge and even Brompton Monopoly.

Such a great colour for a Brompton
 We made our way to Richmond Park which proved to be a very different experience to that of last year, where we cycled through the streets of Central London. Quite soon we travelled through green, tree lined vistas and I chance many thought it hard to believe that we weren't in the countryside. Some parts reminded me of Blenheim Palace and the Brompton World Championships. This was especially true of the hill.

The last time I was in Richmond Park was coming back from Oxford on a training ride with, 'Small Wheels Big Difference.' Memories flooded back. (See the previous blog entry for this)!


The variety of Brompton Bikes on display was staggering. Old and new. S, M and P types. Single speed up to a custom eight speed. There were plenty colours and I was very pleased to see a few in orange.

I had my GoPro strapped to my helmet (said the actress to the ...) and hope that there is some half decent footage. I will check later

The Brompton rider is a cheery type. Rain...bah!

The weather was pretty bad and there was a constant drizzle throughout the ride but I and I suspect those taking part, couldn't have cared less about it. I suspect many of the Brompton riders like me are daily commuters, using their Brompton bikes all year round.

As we cycled in Richmond Park we passed and were passed by cyclists on road bikes. Some nodded at us and said hello, others tried to ignore us. I am ashamed to admit that on more than one occasion temptation took hold of me. A cyclist on a road bike raced past and like a greyhound seeing the rabbit I was off in pursuit. My six gears were more than enough to keep up until the rush of blood to the head subsided. Us men can be childish.

Before long we stopped for a 10 minute break and regrouped, realising that the factory, the site of pilgrimage was not too far away.

At just after 13:00 we arrived at the factory. Bikes were parked in a secure area and we headed in to the marquee. A choice of Pims, beer or lemonade was a wonderful way to be greeted.  ICrazyBee and I put our bags down and headed for the food.

The food was wonderful. West Indian cooking at its best. Rice and peas, chicken and a pretty mean lamb curry didn't last long. The food was wonderful! It was so good iCrazyBee didn't need much convincing that we should rejoin the end of the growing line of people for seconds.

When someone mentioned that the cakes were out we abandoned thoughts of seconds for firsts of cake. They didn't last long I can tell you! Any onlookers may have thought that I was feeding a small dog lurking under the table as the food was gone so quickly!

Wonderful food that didn't stay on the plate long!
The before

And the after
At about 14:00 it was time to head in to the factory. We were allowed to go inside in waves of about 25. I was excited! just before doing this I saw a chrome plated Brompton. I had seen this last year at this very event and it belongs to a Brompton member of staff I believe.

I wondered what it would be like? Would there be any changes? What would I see? I was keen to get inside and see the secrets of the best folding bike maker. Secrets that have the power to bewitch and confound. I was eager to discover any secret information about the bikes, parts and new developments. You can read all about them in the second part of this blog coming soon...