Wednesday 31 October 2012

Travel Tyre Inflator for my Brompton - Genuine Innovations Air Chuck

The last time I had a puncture was on the London to Cambridge trip. Luckily I had a Cambridge educated engineer riding with me in the form of Harry from, Small Wheels Big Difference.  He had the wheel on and off in record time but the biggest and hardest job was pumping up the new inner tube.

On a recent London Brompton trip another rider had the misfortune to suffer punctured front wheel. Instead of using a pump, one of other members used a little device called a Genuine Innovations Air Chuck. With this he pumped the tyre up in seconds and I do mean seconds. Having not seen one before it was bordering on witchcraft an I knew that it would be a great little thing to have in the bag on trips, just in case.

I managed to use my London Cycling Campaign membership to get a couple of pounds off and I bought one yesterday. I was surprised at how small and lightweight it was. Perfect for putting in your saddlebag.

It came with the little pump part that fits over the valve and a CO2 bottle. I hope to get some more of these soon.  The little bottles of CO2 are enough to pump a Brompton tyre up with ease and if you buy in bulk aren't too expensive. With this in mind a friend bought some in bulk and he will split them and the cost with three other friends. It's a very good way to do it.

Hopefully, I won't ever need to use it in anger but you just don't know? If a colleague had a puncture and didn't have on of these I would let them use it as it would get everyone up and rider a great deal quicker. I can see this going with me on most rides as it so small and compact you would hardly notice that you were carrying it.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Carradice Roll Bag on a Brompton

At a recent Brompton ride I saw another rider with a Carradice Roll Saddlebag. I have been toying with the idea of getting one for some time and seeing one in the flesh made me covet it even more.

Carradice have been making bag for bikes for years and together with a Brooks saddle they really do add that finishing touch. You get a bag which is two litres in size and three leather straps. Two attach it to the lugs on the saddle and the third attaches to the seat post. It is a classic and simple design.

I wanted one of these as when out on shorter day trips I don't really want to have to take the S-Bag (the smallest Brompton bag I have). The Carradice is a wonderful solution to tis problem. It is waterproof, lightweight and can be taken off if needed.

It is made out of a wonderful material called cotton duck. This is waterproof, breathable, natural, reproof-able, has a reflective logo and is even self sealing. It does this by the cotton threads swelling when wet to create a watertight seal!

The bag has a sturdy zip and press stud flap and everything gives off the vibe of being very well made and built to last. On the inside there is a little label telling me that it has been handcrafted by a lady called Janet, who has signed her name in pen. A very nice touch and whoever Janet is, she has done a wonderful job.

I think it looks pretty good on the Orange Brompton but I must confess it looks even better on my raw lacquer S2L. If the green and tan straps aren't to your tastes, they also do a black and white version.

I love it and today when I made a short trip to the local shops, I fitted inside a waterproof jacket, mobile phone, camera, gloves, wallet, spare tube and some tools and had loads more room.

This little bag may not stay on my bike on a permanent basis but I will use it extensively on day trips. It is bordering on perfection in terms of size, weight and quality. For a penny shy of £30 it really is a bargain and I may now have to have a serious look at the bag they make for the front carrier block of Brompton bikes.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Bicycle Snobbery?

Since I have been out and about on my travels over the last couple of years on my Brompton bikes, I have noticed a certain amount of bicycle snobbery. I will elaborate further.

Richmond Park is a location I will start with first. Richmond Park is a big draw for the road bike Lycra brigade. When there on training runs with iCrazyBee I have come away with the feeling that they are rude, dismissive of anyone not on a road bike and more than not, do their upmost to ignore.

Perhaps I am overly sensitive (I am not really) but I would go as far as saying that as a group, they definitely see themselves as a cut above everyone without an expensive, semi carbon fibre number with copious gears. Of course some may own Brompton bikes - but if they do they are probably the less rude types.

Should one be brazen enough to nod ones head at one of the arse up, head down types you will almost certainly be ignored and they will do their best to look the other way. If you dare to utter a simple, 'morning' you will usually get the same reaction.

This has not been exclusive to Richmond Park it has happened on most rides I have been on. I would argue that certain cyclists are like tribes that band together and view others not in that tribe with suspicion. Just try and overtake a road bike and see what happens. On a hill the Brompton has a slight advantage for several metres due to its wheel size and acceleration. I have overtaken road bikes on hills only to see them nearly kill themselves to overtake me. To show any pedestrians and motorists that they are top of the bicycle food chain.

Of course there are grumpy Brompton riders out there - albeit not many. It would be foolish to single out all riders of road bikes as sharing these traits, however I feel a great many do.

What do you out there think? Do you agree with anything I have written or disagree?

Brilliant Bikes - Brilliant by name...

There comes a time when you have to purchase spare parts. Owning a Brompton is slightly different to generic bicycles out there as many of the parts are produced only by Brompton. Having somewhere good to buy spare or replacement parts is vital.

With this in mind step forward quite possibly, the, best place to get genuine Brompton parts - Brilliant Bikes. Brilliant Bikes is a small but growing online company where you can get all you Brompton needs. When I say all I really do mean all. Everything from brake pads up to frame parts, Brilliant Bikes either has it in stock or can order.

Everyone I come across in the London Brompton Club uses them and most of us recommend them to anyone in need of something worn out or broken etc. They are very knowledgeable and will reply as swiftly as they can to emails. An example of this was when I toyed with the idea of converting my M type to an S type. I didn't have a clue what parts I'd need to do this, but they did. In the end I kept things as they were but if I had of gone through with it I would have had a detailed list of what I would need.

Another great thing about Brilliant Bikes is that delivery in the UK mainland is free. Not only this, delivery is fast. I have bought things from some very well know companies and they cannot compare with Brilliant Bikes for price and speed of delivery.

I must add that I am not an employee of Brilliant Bikes, getting a discount from them or being paid to write this review. I am merely a Brompton owner wanting to pass on the location of a great little company.

Richmond to Hampton Court and Back Again

Today was a bit of a frantic start. It didn't turn out that way but events soon took over that made it a frantic start.

I was up early and off in good time but disaster struck when on route in my car I kept seeing someone behind flashing their lights at me. A a set of traffic lights another driver informed me that one of my tyres was flat. I pulled over to inspect and it wasn't flat completely but it wash;t looking good. Upon closer inspection I saw what is termed in the motoring trade as a ruddy great nail imbedded in the tread of the tyre. Changing the tyre didn't take long but unloading and then reloading the boot did. This meant that I would be late for the start of the ride. I rang Mick the LBC Commander and Chief and asked if he could wait. At 11:30 I arrived and all were still waiting - which was extremely good of them.

We set off at a gentle pace into a very chilly headwind. As far as I am concerned it is now winter! Before long we were riding adjacent to the Thames and were afforded some lovely, crisp views.

The white house above was apparently a home to one of Charles II's mistresses and has a ballroom that is a perfect cube in shape.

One of the more unusual stops was a water garden, resplendent with some lovely statues. Going on rides like this, people with local knowledge can take you to places you would not have found yourself or dreamt of going to.

When we reached Kingston under the John Lewis there were the remains of a 12th Century bridge. Quite amazing that it has survived so long that that even with modern building developments, it has been preserved.

A more modern bridge at Kingston
 We reached Hampton Court in good time and made ready for a photo. I cannot count how many times I have been to Hampton Court but this is one of the rare times I have ever been on a Brompton.

I think it was Busy Park where we saw a meaty stag of good size. A lady just outside the frame of the photograph was standing at one point less than two metres away, happily taking photos. I have seen people do the same at Richmond with disastrous results. I stayed a suitable cowardly distance away.

Another interesting stop was an ale house that used to make ale and serve the needs of Henry VIII at Hampton Court.

After some refreshment we returned to Richmond and most made their way home - it being very cold. Mick, his wife and I had some liquid refreshment at Costa and chewed the fat before we too made our respective journeys home.

Another very good ride and made better by the many Bromptonians who braved the icy conditions. Below I have posted a link to the data gathered by my Garmin Edge 200 for your perusal. At some point I really must get a mapping unit as my general sense of direction is appalling. It would also allow me to plot new routes without the worry of getting lost!

Ride map and data

Friday 26 October 2012

A Chilly Windy Brompton Ride

Tomorrow I will be meeting other Brompton riders for a Richmond to Hampton Court to Richmond ride.

It should, as always be pretty good but the weather has definitely turned the last few days. Temperatures have dropped and if tomorrow is anything like today, it will be chilly and windy. I am therefore going to be wrapping up warm and making sure I have my gloves with me!

I will post a writeup and some pictures at some point soon.

Orange Brompton Back!

At last! My beloved Orange Brompton is back from my local bike shop and has had all the new parts I bought for it. I picked it up yesterday and today was my first test drive with the new parts fitted.

As you may know, I was having problems with the chain slipping and sloppy gear changes. I therefore bought a new chain, rear cog set and chain tensioner. I must say that having the new parts fitted has certainly made a significant difference. All feels really good and precise.

I also fitted some new brake pads - front and rear - and actually managed to adjust the brake cables. Believe me, even doing this was something I didn't feel confident doing and it has made me realise that I must get myself on some sort of maintenance course.

Several friends on mine with Brompton bikes could have quite happily a tackled these jobs with ease, without the hassle or expense of taking it to a bike shop. It probably is a confidence thing and me thinking that I can't do it - not being particularly technically minded. For example, I wouldn't mind fitting some Kojak tyres for the BWC or other races but would want to change them over to my favoured Marathons soon after for general use. At the moment I would be reluctant to do this.

What I am going to have to do it gradually do a little more each time and either find a Brompton Jedi Master I can be apprentice to, or simply get on a course of some sorts.

What do you out there think? Are you like me and terrified of mucking things up? Where you like me and have now overcome your fears?

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Still No Brompton!

I am still waiting for my beloved Orange Brompton! The bike shop where I took my Brompton to have the new parts fitted told me that they have not been as busy for ages. This time of year is apparently a great deal slower than spring and summer but not at the moment.

The success of the British Olympic Cycling Team and Bradley Wiggins have all conspired to make cycling more popular than ever! The shop in question were saying that all types of bikes were selling fast and many people were buying them via bike to work schemes. When I dropped off my Brompton I saw no less than 6 other Brompton bikes in the racks waiting to have something done to them. I also saw gleaming new bikes waiting to be set up for new customers or to find their way to the shop floor.

This can only be a good thing. The more cyclists the better I say. If there are more of us, then perhaps the government will see fit to think about our cycling infrastructure - or lack of it. Hopefully I will get my beloved Brompton back tomorrow but I can tell you I miss the M-type handlebars, the 6 x gears, the fact I can use my large C - Bag on it and last but by no means least, the colour!

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Free Cycle Maps of London

During the London Olympics Games I remember looking at the Transport for London website and seeing that you could send off for some free maps of various locations in London. I selected a few that were of interest and thought nothing more about it.

When I got home this event I saw that an envelope was waiting for me which contained these maps.

Better late than never I suppose. The maps are pretty good quality and in colour. They will supplement my iPhone - my only form of navigating at the moment on a bicycle.

I am not sure whether these maps are still available other website but do check it out as being free you really can't go wrong.

Nervous Twitch on Brompton

Regular readers will already know that on Saturday I took my beloved Orange Brompton to my local Brompton Service Centre, with a brace of replacement parts to be fitted. I am missing the simple pleasures of having the Orange One for my daily commute.

I am having to use my Raw Lacquer S2L while it s at the shop and not liking to use it in the wet, or the slightest chance of it being wet has caused me some anxiety. The English, it is oft said are preoccupied with the weather. This is, to some extent true. However, my interest in all things meteorological has increased greatly in the last few day as I worry about the forecast and likelihood of rain!

When riding my S2L along the streets of London during the past couple of days, I am conscious of this preoccupation and look hither and yon for the first signs of rain. So far so good, although I don't know what I would do if it actually did rain!

This nonsense really will have to end. Perhaps a good downpour would be almost like aversion therapy and get me over using it in the rain? If I bought another Brompton - it would of course be Orange this time - would I do the same? Would I only use it for better weather? Possibly. A Brompton is such a well made bicycle that using it in rain would hold little fear for it. The fear is with this rider!

I only have to last until Friday at the latest as my commute will stop for a week while I am on holiday. I hope I get the call soon to say that My Orange Brompton is ready!

Monday 22 October 2012

Schwalbe Marathon Plus - London Edition for my Brompton Bicycle

After seeing some fellow Bromptonian's photos with these tyres or hearing that they were getting some, I was very sceptical. Once I saw them in the flesh, I soon changed my mind and thought they looked rather fine.

I placed an order last Wednesday and today they arrived. They are stunners. They can be pumped up to 95 psi - a little lower than my current Marathons and they are a little thicker in profile however with looks like these, I can live with that. In addition they have a special layer that helps to prevent punctures. These tyres are a special edition, released to coincide with the London Olympics and when they are sold out, that's it.

A few friends who have then fitted to their Brompton bikes, swear by them. I suspect that I will eventually fit them to my beloved Orange Brompton once the worst of the British winter is over - assuming I can resist the temptation of having these rather gorgeous tyres fitted to my Brompton!

Sunday 21 October 2012

How am I supposed to live without you?

It has been less than 24 hours since I took my beloved Orange Brompton to a local bike shop to have some worn out parts fitted. Already I am missing the fact that the Orange One is not here in my study!

They said three days. This is not the three days that Scotty would have estimated on Star Trek, which meant that it would take much, much This will be three days and maybe a bit more!

This morning I woke with a terrible song from the past. Michael Bolton's, 'How an I supposed to live without you?' This is terrible! I neither care for this song, nor do I care for Michael Bolton. However, in my head it was.

I have my Raw Lacquer S2L and I suppose to use common parlance I should get over my terror of using it in the rain and 'man up.' The trouble is that my S2L is also such a lovely bike and was specifically purchased for good weather riding.

I will walk around today with a heavy tread in the knowledge that my beloved Orange Brompton is not here...

Saturday 20 October 2012

Lamy Nexx Fountain Pen - in orange.

Last week a work colleague presented me with a Lamy Nexx fountain pen. The cap was in a rather fetching orange. I wonder why they thought I'd like it??

I don't think it was a new pen but I was nonetheless very grateful. It is a great little pen with an aluminium barrel and a nib that is the same as those on the quite brilliant Safari range. The grip is very comfortable and rubber coated and writing with it is a breeze.

Talking of nibs, this one had an extra fine fitted and I am finding it pretty good for figure work and number crunching as my handwriting seems to be neater with it doing such tasks.

It takes the standard Lamy converter so that you can use your favourite coloured ink or if that is not your thing it accepts the generous Lamy cartridges.

Unfortunately, I think that this particular colour is discontinued but there are plenty of others available in the Nexx lineup. As with all Lamy pens in the sub £20 price range, it really does punch well above its weight and represents great value for money.

Lamy also make pens at the other end of the price bracket. I would love to have a go with their stunning 'Dialog 3' which is a gorgeous retractable fountain pen. This is now in its third version, hence the 3 and I have eyeing it up ever since I saw version 1! If Lamy's pens at the £15 - £45 price bracket are really good, what are their luxury pens like? (Anyone who has used or owns a Dialog 3 please comment and let me know).

My Orange Brompton Gone!!!

Now, did that alarm any of my regular readers? There is no need as it was merely a dramatic headline to a fairly mundane entry.

After my Richmond ride I took my beloved Orange Brompton to my local approved Brompton service centre with a brace of spare parts, purchased last week and was told that it would be ready in three days. Three days!! How will I last? Well, having the sense to own two Brompton bikes I should be okay (unless it rains of course while I am using my Raw Lacquer S2L).

Before heading off, I fitted my new updated Brompton pedals and was very pleased with them. After a little test run I could see that my old ones did need to be replaced.

What do I do with the old ones? Any suggestions please comment.

Richmond Park - revenge of the hills!

If you have read my previous blog post from this morning, you will know that today I went to Richmond Park with my cycling partner iCrazyBee.

We met at about 10:30ish rather than 10:00 as there were lots of cancellations due to engineering works. We proceeded straight to Richmond Park and took to the Thames cycle path for a more scenic route. The truth of the matter is, that despite having gone to Richmond on several rides, we were lost and for a while could not find Richmond Park - despite it being hundreds of acres! My Apple Maps which faired very well I have to say helped to point us in the right direction as did iCrazyBee's fancy Garmin Edge 800.

The scenic route

Just love that colour

Upon reaching Richmond Park we negotiated our way to the main cycling route. The hills were still there but not as bad as I remember the first time. I do believe I am gradually getting fitter - as I have said before all thanks to the Brompton.

I was able to keep up with one lady rider on a road bike on the incline however she was pacing herself and could have gone a great deal faster. It was spotting a mountain bike on the big hill that spurned me on. I could see him the distance on the flat and new a serious hill was approaching. Leaving iCrazyBee behind I accelerated at a steady rate and managed to overtake him halfway up the hill. I nonchalantly said, 'what ho' as I went past but heard no reply.

My partner in crime iCrazyBee was also doing well and tackled the hills better than the last time we were there. I suspect we will both need to push further as 2013 is going to be a mammoth year for both of us, judging by the cycling events/rides we plan to go on!

With one circuit under our belts we headed back to the station (as yes we did find our way there first time) past a now regular meeting point - Costa Coffee next to the station. As I past the advertising banners adjacent to the outside seats, memories flooded back of photographs taken with members of the  London Brompton Club.

On the way home we discussed future plans and I look forward to halloween on a Brompton with iCrazyBee next week, but more of that later...

Comment not appearing on blog

There have been a few comments people have been kind enough to post on my humble blog that haven'y yet appeared or are delayed somewhat in making an appearance? I routinely accept comments as soon as I have logged on but have noticed the above happening during the last couple of weeks.

If anyone else has a blog can you let me know whether you have experience the same please.

Trains and Brompton Bicycles

I have oft wondered why people bother with full sized bikes on crowded trains? I am at Richmond Station waiting for my cycling partner iCrazyBee and I am pondering this question while I wait.

On my journey today I have given out no less than 7 of my little orange business cards (sure to be a collectors item one day) to total strangers who have come up to me to enquire about that orange folded package I look so smug about.

There were plenty of other road bikes on the same train but no one went up to them. The Brompton creates discussion from strangers, curious to find out more.

As I tucked my beloved Orange Brompton neatly out of the way (it was incredibly busy in the train) I could see the reaction from people upon seeing a hulking road bike taking up loads of space. I could see the looks. I could hear the tuts. I on the other hand was greeted like a friend and left those seven people kind enough ask about my bike, with a feeling that a Brompton, in a busy city made sense, was practical, well made/engineered but perhaps most importantly fun.

Friday 19 October 2012

Helping a driver with a flat tyre on a Brompton

I pride myself on being a gentleman - well at least most of the time. Today on my daily commute, early this morning in light drizzle I saw a car with the hazard warning lights on and a chap about my height trying valiantly to push the car to the side of the road. Seeing that it was on a slight incline and wanting to do the gentlemanly thing, I got off my beloved Orange Brompton and offered my help.

Perhaps a note of what I was wearing might help you picture the scene. I was wearing a shirt, tie, suite trousers and a rather fine pair of loafers in a fetching shade of burgundy. Over all of this I was wearing my Altura Nightvision jacket and over trousers.

I folded my Brompton up completely and left it in front of the car so that I could see it. I asked if the owner - a young lady of about 18-19 had a spare wheel as I could attempt to change it when we had pushed the car to the side. It had none. So, we began the task of pushing. The gentleman pushing was in fact the ladies boyfriend.

We pushed and nothing happened. I pushed again and nothing happened. At this point the rear screen wiper (on a Ford Ka by the way) impeded my grip and because it came on so suddenly and without warning I let out an 'ahhhh!' and jumped. This caused the boyfriend to jump as well. We pushed again. Nothing. Putting a concerted effort in, my hands were positioned on the bumper and I was almost horizontal to the ground. It looks so easy on 'Worlds Strongest Man.' At this point my loafers, which have a hand stitched leather sole decided that they had done their bit and the little grip they had seemed to get less and less.

I started to become amused by the situation I had found myself in and my total uselessness. I started to laugh, still trying to push the car. The boyfriends suggestion that his girlfriend start the car and gently drive it to the curb had me laughing out loud. As we continued to hold on to the rear of the car and guide it to the curb, as it was driven slowly, tears streamed down my face (masked by the light drizzle). I had now reached the point of no return and upon seeing that the boyfriends jeans - the type that hang halfway down ones backside - had slid down to his mid thigh, I was gone. I stood doubled up and openly pointed and laughed as the curb was reached.

I got on my beloved Brompton and pedalled off giggling to myself for rest of my commute. I don't know what the poor people in the car made of it all but I hope I left them with a good impression of us Bromptonians.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Orange Brompton Makeover.

The time have come to replace a few parts on my beloved Orange Brompton. A few clicks on the Internet and a visit to the Brilliant Bikes website and I have a number of new spare parts.

The first package contained a new chain, rear cogs and chan tensioner. I have noticed that my chain has been slipping somewhat over the past few weeks. When comparing it to my S2L which is a great deal less used, I could see that it was visibly slacker. I thought I would buy a new chain tensioner as my current one looked very worn.

The next was the new 2012 updated folding pedal which I have liked a great deal on my S2L. The old pedal as creaking the right non folding pedal rattled. It just seemed like a good idea to replace both.

Next, a couple of packs of brake pads, always a useful thing to have just in case. I suspect my rear brake pads need replacing but the front should be okay for a while.

I will get taking the bike to the local shop that services my Brompton at the weekend and hope to have it back soon. I am sure that keeping my Brompton regularly serviced a supplied with new parts as and when it needs them, will provide many more years of loyal service.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Over 60,000 page views for my blog.

Yippee! Now over 60,000 page views for my blog! I am very pleased and have managed 10,000 in the last 5 weeks.

Many thanks to you out there reading - whether new or whether you've been there from the beginning.

Slipping chain on my Orange Brompton

In the last few years my beloved Orange Brompton has been on some very interesting journeys. Yes, of course it has been my sole mode of transport on my daily commute but it has been much more. Two Brompton World Championships, Brompton Marathon, Brompton Sprint, London Nocturne, Oxford to London, London to Oxford...the list could go on.

As I rode it yesterday and today I could feel the tell tale signs of a chain slipping and needing replacing. I therefore placed an order for the necessary parts from the excellent 'Brilliant Bikes' and hope to receive the parts in the next few days.

Fitting these parts will be an easy task - for someone else! I occasionally have a mild fit of the vapours when I recall my attempt to change the tyre on my rear wheel. I watched Andrew Finkill on YouTube but alas for me at least, any mechanical tinkering is at best witchcraft or worse one of the dark arts unfathomable to me!

So in a few days I will have to use my Raw Lacquer S2L for my commute. I only hope it doesn't rain!!

Those hills are mighty steep!

After yesterdays great day out, I ventured to Dunstable Downs with my Orange Brompton. My reasoning was simple. It got absolutely filthy yesterday so before giving it the makeover it deserved I took it for a spin.

I also took my Ricoh GRD with me to take some arty shots of the English countryside in fashionable Hight street Kensington, black and white. You can see my efforts below.

Yes, it is steep!

An unmapped mountain?

The summit.

It must be said that the hills (and I use that term lightly) were steep! What I can remember from my O-level grade B in geography reminded me that they were hills, but surely they must have been mountains! Perhaps the map people like some areas not covered by Google Street view, missed off these peaks!

I am getting better at ascending hills as I gradually get fitter - all thanks to owning Brompton bikes I might add. I strained, laboured and used mild profanity as I did my best to gain any momentum. From watching the olympics and the cyclist training I had heard all about lactic acid this, lactic acid that. I had no intention of vomiting so I did the only thing a gentleman could do. I nonchalantly got off my bike and took a swig of water, then ate a flapjack.

After this I was on the bike again and trying to get up what seemed like the north face of the Eiger. My assertion that this was in fact a mountain was bourn out, as at such altitude oxygen is thinner. It was fear of succumbing to altitude sickness that induced me to push the bike up to the summit and not the fact that it was damned steep.

As lovely as the scenery was, I think in future I'll stick to Richmond Park!

Saturday 13 October 2012

Epic Brompton Grand Union Canal Ride

What a a great day! Well, there you have it, no need to read the rest of this blog. I jest of course but today was a great ride.

The assembled Bromptonians arrived at Richmond Station outside Costa Coffee in good time and after a few photos we headed off towards out first stop. It was the Brompton factory no less for a photo opportunity. There were 15 of us which was a great turnout and we also had quite an international representation. Malaysia, USA, New Zealand, England and even South Wales.

I was toying with the idea of taking my Raw Lacquer S2L but decided against it as some of the ride would be on canal footpaths and as regular readers will know, this particular Brompton does not do that sort of thing.

Before long we arrived at the Brompton factory. It was great being back there. The last time was the factory ride and we assembled our bikes for a a few photos. Mick and David, fellow administrators of the London Brompton Club popped into the factory to say hello and after some smooth talking we were  permitted to venture in to the hallowed turf. I say hallowed turf as the only thing I can liken to visiting the Brompton factory, is going to Lords Cricket Ground. I have been to Lords more times that I can ever remember, but seeing the wicket from the pavilion, always makes me pause for thought.

Outside the factory dozens of boxes containing Brompton bikes were awaiting collection for delivery to all corners of the earth. Brompton truly is a global brand!

I must say something before I go on. Please do not expect to go to the Brompton factory and in any way expect them to invite you in. It is a working factory and like any successful business they are extremely busy. Our expectation was merely to have some photos of us and our bikes near the factory. What took place really can be viewed as a one off and although we were extremely grateful for the welcome we received, I wouldn't want to give the impression that you could or should go there to do the same.

Back to the blog. We were invited to go inside for an impromptu tour. Split into two groups our guide was Nigel who gave us a very interesting mini tour. (I think I saw Nigel when I was racing at the London Nocturne earlier this year but can't be sure).

We saw lots of interesting prototypes that may not make it to the end user. The orange seat took hold of my interest as you can imagine!!

A real bonus was seeing the boardroom. I can only imagine the meetings, decisions and discussions that are held there. Being a bit of a Bertie Wooster type, I suspect that if I worked there, if there was a lull in the brainstorming process it might degenerate into being used for some sort of spur of the moment sport, with that lovely table being in some way used.

The new brake levers were shown to use and seeing then in the flesh I can say that they look and feel excellent. My bikes are getting them fitting when available along with the new crank. The new, updated parts were proudly on display and the toolkit is surely a must have item if available for Christmas. I would go as far as saying that if they had of been selling them there and then, I would have bought two!

One of the highlights of this impromptu tour was seeing the journey Brompton has taken. Older models hung in the staircase leading to the boardroom as if to say, here is the progression, how far can you take

The many awards given to Brompton and Andrew Richie proudly hang on display along with several rejection letters from other manufacturers and banks. Let's hope that in 2012 and beyond British engineering is believed in and invested in!

Our time had come to an end at the factory and we said our thanks and said goodbye. A very big thank you to Brompton and the staff who welcomed and allowed us inside. I am sure they were busy and to give up their time was much appreciated. The only downside was me leaving with the desire for Brompton number 3 in 2013!

We continued after this high along the Grand Union Canal. It was as the rain started to fall and the surface became increasingly muddy that I was thankful I did not bring my S2L. I suspect that it would have been at this point, had I brought it, with all the mud and rain I would have suffered a mild breakdown as my beloved Orange Brompton was fast becoming the dirtiest it has ever been!

Disaster struck for Mark as a front puncture meant we had to stop. Luckily it was under a railway bridge so we didn't get too wet. Mark and David worked at a furious pace and the wheel was ready for inflating. David had a compressed air canister that inflated the tyre in 3 seconds. (Mental note to get some of these).

Mark and David get to work on a flat tyre.

We stopped off at Sainsbury near Kensal Green for a sandwich and rest before heading off to Paddington. At Little Venice we stopped for another few photos before making the short distance towards Paddington.

Little Venice

One of our Malaysian friends had an orange Brompton - how sensible!

My beloved Orange Brompton

We said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways. Another great day had by all and thanks to David who organised this ride, Andy for getting us through a tricky patch, Mick who asked and was given and to everyone else who rode with us today.

So, what did you do at the weekend? If you like the sound of what I did you know what to do. Get a Brompton and it won't just be used for the daily commute!

Below please find the link to the ride data and route recorded by my Garmin Edge 200.

Data recorded on the Grand Union Canal Ride

Friday 12 October 2012

The eve of the Grand Union Canal ride on a Brompton

Tomorrow I will be meeting other Bromptonians at Richmond for a leisurely cycle mainly along the Grand Union Canal.

The route will take us past the place of origin for all our Brompton bikes - the Brompton Factory in Brentford. We will almost certainly stop and take a few photos before moving on but we won't be going in. Brompton are far too busy making bicycles for that. It will be great to ride past the factory though with so many other Bromptonians.

We will eventually end up at Paddington. The distance will be 20 miles - a breeze for me nowadays - and will be fairly flat. We aim to finish 14:00 - 15:00 and will of course have some sort of luncheon.

I am looking forward to it and it will be great to meet up with some familiar and new faces. I hope to take my Ricoh GRD IV with me so expect lots of photos at some point in a future blog.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Ricoh GR Camera - always with me when out on a Brompton

Regular readers will know that I have a thing for what the photographic industry term, 'premium compacts.' These are small, lightweight cameras that still manage to pack a punch and allow one to shoot in RAW.

In the past I have laboured with hulking DSLR's only to find that I couldn't be bothered to take them anywhere due to their size and weight. It is oft said that the best camera is the one you have with you. For many of us that it the iPhone - which is brilliant. However sometimes you just need more.

I should say that no compact camera will produce pictures as good as a DSLR - it is a fact. Their appeal is their convenience, size and weight. You are just more likely to take them with you.

I recently blogged about my Sony RX100 which is a truly incredible little beast. It produces pictures that are excellent. If you know what you are doing you can get brilliant results. It is not however my favourite. The camera I love using more than the Sony and in fact any other is the Ricoh GRD IV.

It is small and incredibly well built. The magnesium alloy body makes it strong and lightweight. The 1.25 million pixel screen is crystal clear. Its ergonomics are bordering on perfection. It has a fixed 28mm prime lens (yes you read right - no zoom), can shoot in raw and has a f1.9 lens that is super sharp for a camera with such a small sensor.

I love it and although the Sony would eat it for breakfast in terms of megapixels and picture detail, I still like it much more. It can produce pictures that are very close to a film camera which I really like. When taking pictures in black and white, few cameras can beat it.

It is discrete, understated and not just quiet in operation, it is silent and stealthy. It is near perfection for street photography. The amount of customisation and user tweaking is quite breathtaking. You can play around with a range of settings and have different set ups for alternative conditions or shooting styles. Officially the battery lasts for 390 shots but I have got closer to 450.

I have had this little GRD IV for quite a while now and the GRD III before it and further back a film version. I sold this ages ago but wish I'd kept it as film has made a slight comeback. Ricoh are pretty good with their cameras. Every so often a firmware update is issued, not to fix bugs, but to add features - many suggested by users. An example of this was a recent update that included a function to display copyright information on photo files.

When out on my Brompton bikes this for me, along with my iPhone is the camera that always goes with me. For those into their premium compacts, the GRD series with their fixed focus prime lens may not be to everyones taste, but I absolutely love them!

Nightrider 2013

Registration for the Nightrider event in 2013 has just opened and I have signed up to participate in it with my partner in crime, iCrazyBee.

The Nightrider is a charity bike ride with a difference. The difference is 100km through the night, taking in some of London's iconic landmarks. These include: Tower Bridge; a deserted City of London; Canary Wharf; London Zoo; Piccadilly Circus; British Museum; London Eye; Houses of Parliament; Trafalgar Square and many more. It takes place on the night/morning of 8th - 9th June 2013 and iCrazyBee and I will be starting and finishing at Alexandra Palace.

I will have to get in some training for this and the Brompton rides I am going on should go part way to fulfilling this. It will be great to see London after hours as it were and have the chance to take lots of pictures of a City devoid of most of it inhabitants. (Assuming it doesn't rain that is).

Riding with my riding partner iCrazyBee will be great fun. We have also done similar when we took part in the London Velonotte.  I am sure that we will keep each other amused and motivated and a competitive edge will also play its part I'm sure.  I could not think of a better partner to go with and I am already excited and looking forward to it!

I will treat this as a major training event for the Brompton World Championships in 2013 but I am certain I will enjoy it in its own right. If I get a medal for crossing the finishing line I will be even happier!

Sunday 7 October 2012

Lamy 'Studio' Fountain Pen

Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for Lamy pens. Only Saturday I was given a Lamy Studio Fountain pen and I must say that I was more than a little pleased with it!!

The Studio fountain pen had a very satisfying weight to it and everything has the feel of a quality finish. The cap reassuringly clicks into place and the clip is solid and will definitely stand the test of time.

The nib produces a lovely line and looks to be similar to that on my Safari pens. It also comes with a converter so you can fill it with your favourite ink - whatever the colour.

It really is a well made pen and again, dare I say it, I like it more than my Pelikan M800! I now have another complication, namely which Lamy pen to use?!