Monday 31 December 2012

Have a great 2013!

Well dear readers, in a few hours time here in London it will be 2013. Whatever you're doing (or have done already depending on where you are) I hope that you have a happy new year!

2012 has been a really good year for me in terms of cycling. You won't be surprised to hear that I have lots of plans for 2013. Some of these plans will be with other Bromptonians and some will be me n my own.

Tomorrow I am going to try and start 2013 as I meant to go on but more of that another time.

If you are out there cycling on your own at the moment, perhaps in 2013 you could start your own little group. Even if you find one other person it will be a start!

Hope you had a good 2012 and if you didn't the great thing about New Year's Eve is that you can try and make a fresh start for 2013.

Foldable Water Bottle

Another thing that caught my eye in the Bletchley Park shop was a foldable water bottle.

For the princely sum of £2.99 I bought this reusable, collapsible water bottle. It is Eco-friendly, fits into bags, pockets and backpacks and I just thought it would be great for space saving.

It has three layers of ultra durable material that stand up tot he rigours of frequent use. Coming with a carabiner you can clip it to belts, bags or backpacks. Once filled it even stands up and when finished can be rolled up and flattened for easy storage. You can even freeze its contents if you want to keep things cooler. (Doesn't do hot drinks). It can hold 500ml.

I had a go at filling it up and all seems to be fine. I will give it a proper testing when I return to work for my daily commute.

Bletchley Park on a Brompton

Today we paid a visit to Bletchley Park, somewhere we had not visited for quite some time.
We cycled to Euston (me on Orange Brompton, Mrs O on my Raw Lacquer S2L and Orangettes on their own bicycles). The journey took about 50 minutes and the train wasn't crowed considering it is New Years Eve.

The famous Bletchley Park (iPhone 5)

For those of you unaware, Bletchley Park was the top secret location during WWII where code breakers tired to decipher the famous Enigma code. There were of course many people who worked there all doing their bit for the war effort but the star was the genius mathematician Alan Turing.

The great man - Alan Turing. (X100)

The Enigma machine was a portable device, that allowed codes to be sent and then scrambled, only to be make sense again by the person receiving them.

An Enigma Machine (X100)

Turing had an incredible mind and saw the solution to the problem of cracking a near impossible code in a machine. Once built they worked 24 hours a day trying to find the key to the code. It was the start of computing as we know it.

Turing's great machine (X100)

The rear of Turing's machine (X100)

Turing working on the Enigma Machine (X100)

After the War, Turing's work was so top secret that his machines were dismantled and the work he did all but forgotten. Those who worked there, bound by the Official Secrets Act kept silent about their efforts for decades, only to tell the world about what happened at Bletchley when it was threatened with a housing estate being built on it. Luckily, many of the wartime huts where vital work took place survived the developers.
If you like the wartime period / history you'll love Bletchley. We paid £26 for entry for a family of four but this now acts as an annual pass, allowing us to return as many times as we wish in the coming year. As Bletchley also hosts classic car/bike events and other special events throughout the year, it represents great value for money.

Lots of Brooks (iPhone 5)

At its peak over 8,000 people worked at Bletchley during the war and many travelled to there by bicycle. A couple of bike sheds hold some bicycles of the period. Nice to see so many Brooks saddles.
One thing I knew was going to be released at some point and exclusive to Bletchley was an 'Alan Turing Edition of Monopoly.' It was there in the flesh and I as I had a little Christmas money left, I had to get on. A percentage of the sales of this go towards the renovation and upkeep of Bletchley - which can't be a bad thing. In fact we noticed a few areas that had been renovated since we last paid a visit there.

The Turing Edition (iPhone 5)

After a few hours we cycled the short distance to the train station and made our way back to London. In all we cycled almost four miles...not a huge distance I know but for my youngest who is 9 in February and suffers from a balance/coordination problem, I was very proud.

(One thing to note, if you do take your bicycle make sure you take a lock with you).
Click on the link below to take you to the Bletchley Park website.

Sunday 30 December 2012

Hyde Park Brompton Spin

As I hinted yesterday, this morning I ventured to South Kensington to meet fellow member of the Brompton Club, David P (navigator extraordinaire).

The meeting point was the Albert Memorial. This memorial was approved by Queen Victoria herself after the untimely death of her husband. Up to a few years ago, for as long as I and my parents can remember the statue of Albert was covered in black paint. Things look much better with the gold leaf, taking things back to what was originally intended.

The weather was glorious considering the last few days. We had a leisurely spin around Hyde Park for just over an hour before returning to a coffee shop in nearby Kensington Church Street where David and I chewed the fat and talked of rides for 2013.

Returning back to the Albert Memorial we said our goodbyes and I got out my new and rather fetching X100. I am still somewhat learning the ropes with it but I have been very pleased with the results so far.

The pictures posted with this blog were taken with it. Unfortunately, the iPad app I am using to write this very blog, compresses the photos quite drastically which means they will not show their true resolution / detail. The 35mm equivalent prime lens works incredibly well with the APS-C sensor to produce some sharp images. (When zooming in on a Mac in iPhoto the detail is quite amazing).

With the f2 prime lens you can achieve impressive bokeh. Not sure you can see on this photo but the bike is in sharp focus with the background slightly blurred. Had I stood nearer the bike the bokeh would have been even more pronounced.

It was standing adjacent to Albert Court, taking the last photo that some tourists approached me to ask how they would get to the Natural History Museum. It was perhaps the out of the blue nature of the question or the fact that I was preoccupied with my new camera that caused me to go blank. What I uttered could have come from the lips of Bertie Wooster.

"Yes...the Natural History Museum. Lovely place, lovely. Now, let me see. Well, I'd go down there a bit and keep walking straight...then go on a bit more." I was quite surprised when they thanked me and went on their merry way.

Hyde Park is a lovely location for a gentle spin but I have to confess I missed the more demanding Richmond Park. I suspect that Richmond Park will be the location I return to for more serious training. Hyde Park is too flat, too crowded and too easy for me now. Besides, I actually missed the hills at Richmond!

So, I am sure that you might read about me going to Richmond Park in the not to distant future! Below you can click on the link to see the data collected by my Garmin Edge 200.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Sunday Brompton Cycling

Tomorrow, regardless of weather I am going to venture out, braving the elements! There, I have said it so now there will be no excuses tomorrow morning!

I have been off work for a week or so and have not really been out on my Brompton a great deal. I have missed it. Deciding that tomorrow, at stupid o'clock would be a good time to get out for a little spin, I will be cycling a few circuits of Hyde Park and maybe beyond?

Hope that you all had a good Christmas by the way! It would be great if you could post some comments telling me what your best present was for Christmas - cycling related or not.

Also, have you managed to stay on the straight and narrow as far as food is concerned? My blog post about how far you'd need to cycle to work off various items of Christmas food favourites, almost induced a riot at my sister in laws!

The Victoria and Albert Museum - Air Display

A late Christmas present arrived yesterday in the form of a 'Fujifilm Finepix X100.' To say that I am happy about this is an understatement! Since this was announced well over 18 months ago I have coveted one however the price has always been too high. But over 18 months later I now have one! This is just the right timing as the Nikon V1 had to be returned to the shop I bought it from because it had developed a fault in its first few days of ownership.

Sorry for digressing but the reason I mention this is that I of course wanted to get out and test the X100. As the weather was terrible, we decided to go somewhere indoors and eventually decided upon the 'Victoria and Albert Museum' in South Kensington.

We had a lovely time. I snapped away quite happily, tinkering with the settings to get the desired look I was after. The X100 is a manual control camera at heart and I was loving using it. (More on that another time). It came to the point where we decided to have a cup of tea. The V & A has a lovely cafe and in the summer you can go out in to the central courtyard. We sat down on one of the inner rooms which are stunning. 

A tourist who should have know better attempted to open one of the large doors out in to the courtyard. They soon realised the error of their ways and closed it again but not before a guest flew inside. To my amazement and and that of my family a sparrow had flown in. No one else seemed to notice at first. 

This little fellow flew with great aerial acrobatics and for some reason I thought of a spitfire from WWII.  This was a moment of almost clairvoyance. Obviously scared and nervous it released this tension...perhaps fear on to the table adjacent to ours. This had the effect of causing momentary fluster from those seated at said table. I glanced over, trying not to smile - to say my usual line when something like this happens - that it was a lucky omen. This was met with an angry stare. The little sparrow flew around a little more - still more or less being ignored by everyone - and then was gone. Where I do not know but that was the last we saw of it?

I know it is terrible to write this dear reader but I had little sympathy for the dive bombed table. You see they were from the tribe, middle class trying to be upper middle class. There is of course nothing wrong with this but when such people speak loudly trying to convey this fact to all unfortunate to be within earshot, I do draw the line. Besides, they called one of their offspring, 'Pippa!'

Early tomorrow morning, I will be cycling on my beloved Orange Brompton not too far from the V & A and I suspect a smile will play across my lips as I pass it. I only hope that on my travels I come across a sparrow or two. 

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Christmas Cycling Guilt!

This morning I ventured out on my Brompton very early for a one mile round trip to any newsagent that was open. Luckily I found one and bought the latest copy of Cycling Weekly.

I am not a regular reader of this particular magazine but an article I had heard about caught my attention. It was all to do with popular Christmas food and how many miles cycling one would need to embark upon in order to burn it off. What I read was quite disturbing!

Kettle crisps (40g) - 4.6 miles of cycling.
1 x mince pie - 6 miles.
6 x Quality Street - 6.3 miles.
1 x slice of Christmas Cake - 6.7 miles.
1 x portion of trifle - 7.3 miles.
1 x portion of Christmas pudding with 2tbsp of double cream - 10.7 miles.

(The above is based on the average person weighing 70kg and cycling at 12-14 mph). I won't go on as it is a quite depressing and sobering list!

I found this all quite incredible. Logically thinking - something that is defiantly switched off at Christmas - I knew this already but it certainly gets the little grey cells working.

I have little intention of going through Christmas like a Franciscan Monk but will not go mad stuffing my face either. A healthy balance is the way to go. One of my brothers in law based on the above list and its general theme would probably have to cycle from London to somewhere in the far North of England, the the amount he consumed yesterday alone!

Since Sunday and this morning I have done nothing in the way of getting out on my Brompton and I think I am going to have to get out in the next few days, when I can. In the meantime, enjoy yourself as much as you dare!

Brompton Toolkit Update.

Well yesterday I opened my Christmas presents and was finally able to get my hands on my Brompton Toolkit.

I must say that with an extended examination it is still as brilliant as I thought it was when I first bought it. (Only to have it taken away and told it was gong to be wrapped up for Christmas).

This toolkit will defiantly be parked in the frame of whatever of my Brompton Bikes I decide to take out and it will I am sure come in very handy!

You can see my full review via the link below.

Monday 24 December 2012

2012 has been some year!

2012 has been quite a year for me. I remember at the end of January 2012 being very excited at passing the 15,000 page views for my humble blog. It now stands (at time of writing) at 90,190. This is to me an incredible achievement. It is of course thanks to you my loyal and ever growing readership!

Despite going on quite a few rides with the Small Wheels chaps during the first half of the year, I was still quite unfit and possibly approaching two stone heavier than I am now. At the start of August I made a concerted effort to watch what I eat and cycle a bit more. At the start of the Brompton World Championships I was just over 14 stone (possibly having lost a little weight already) and fitter than 2011 for sure. I now weigh 12 and a half stone and feel fitter still. I am hoping to lose a little more weight but I suspect that at 43 years young, I have plateaued somewhat. (I also have Christmas to get through)!

I am going to provide a list of highlights from 2012 and provide the links to my blog so that you can relive the past year with me. At the end I am going to try and pick one event that I regard as being my personal highlight of the year - which believe me will not be easy as I have participated in so many great rides.

February 2012

Way back in February 2012 I somehow heard about, Small Wheel Big Difference. Looking back I cannot recall how I heard about them? I think I read a tweet and saw that they were inviting fellow Brompton owners to join them on a training ride from London to Tunbridge. I hemmed and hawed about whether to go on this but I was glad that I actually did. It was the longest ride I had ever been on and to my surprise I actually enjoyed it!

London to Tonbridge with Small Wheels Big Difference

April 2012

April was quite a busy month. I joined Small Wheel Big Difference for their 'Brompton Monopoly Ride' which was excellent. This was the first time that iCrazyBee and I met but we didn't really speak to each other as we were on different teams. Little did I know what we would get up to then?

Brompton Monopoly

Also in April was The London Cycling Campaign, 'Big Ride.' This was the first time that iCrazyBee and I went on a ride together and it was to be the start of a beautiful friendship. On this ride I joined thousands of other cyclists in Central London in support of safer routes for cyclists.

The Big Ride

Finally, a ride I will never forget - Oxford to London with Small Wheel Big Difference. On this ride I started out with a naivety that still has the power to shock me. Click on the link and you will discover how I thought I'd survive this quite demanding ride with nothing more than a chocolate bar for breakfast! Never again have I made that mistake!

Oxford to London with Small Wheels

May 2012

At the start of May I managed to get a place on the Tweed Run. This was a wonderful ride and I loved it. Wearing as much tweed as possible we cycled at a sedate pace around London. The look on the faces of tourists was a picture.

The Tweed Run

I joined Small Wheel Big Difference for another of their interesting training runs, this time London to Cambridge. If you click on the link you can see if I learned from the error of my ways on the Oxford to London ride.

London to Cambridge with Small Wheels

June 2012

An event I had not heard of before but managed to get a place on was the IG Markets London Nocturne. This was a brilliant day out and I loved it. I even managed to get in to the final. Fingers crossed that I get a place in the January ride and then the one in June 2013!

At midnight I went on my first ever all night ride on something called the Velonotte. I cycled around London, ending up at Canary Wharf at 05:00 am. It rained throughout the entire ride!

July 2012

The Brompton World Championships was very much in my thoughts in July. The launch ride for the Championships was held in Manchester earlier in the year and there was no way I would have been able to travel that far. Luckily Brompton decided to put on their 'Factory Ride' where those lucky enough to get selected were able to enjoy a scenic ride. The ride ended up at the Brompton factory and guided tours allowed us almost backstage passes. It was a great event and very good of Brompton to put it on.

Factory Ride - Part 1 

Factory Ride - Part 2

August 2012

There was only one thing to think about in August and that was the Brompton World Championships. This year one could enter three events. Yes, I entered all three! It was a fantastic day and I absolutely loved it. Again, Brompton really do know how to put on a great event!

After the high of the Brompton World Championships I sensed that many Brompton riders wanted something more to get their teeth in to. I put forward a Richmond to Oxford ride for the Brompton Club and it proved to be very successful.

Richmond to Oxford

October 2012

Another ride with the Brompton Club saw us cycle along the Grand Union Canal and pay an impromptu visit to the Brompton Factory just to take photographs. There were a few welcome surprises!

December 2012

The Greenwich Loop saw some of the Brompton Club go on and over the River Thames. It was a largest attended club ride and for me, one of the most enjoyable.

Epic on the Thames and Over the Thames Greenwich Loop

I thought about a night time ride in order to take photographs of London asleep. My idea was to become a reality as several other club members joined me at a 01:00 am start riding to famous landmarks and locations in London. Mad or what?

Well, how do you pick a highlight, a favourite among this lot? Thinking about it and trying to choose is very difficult!

I have loved receiving all the comments, emails, tweets from you my readership telling me that I have had a part to play in you buying or considering getting a Brompton. To hear that some of you have decided to get out of a weekend and go on your own cycling adventures is wonderful.

In terms of me getting out and riding more on my Brompton, I feel I have done this and the blossoming of the  London Brompton Club has provided a suitable fix for getting out, meeting like minded (slightly mad) people. It had been through these rides that I have met up with some great characters - I would not have know otherwise. I have a few new friends - particularly my riding partner, the legend that is iCrazyBee, Mark W and our Commander and Chief Mick B.  I am sure that 2013 will continue to be an even better year on this front with all the rides we have planned.

I really enjoyed all the rides with the Small Wheels Big Difference chaps. It was on the longer rides that I had to push myself hard and consider my fitness. They were excellent hosts and their aim of riding from Lands End to John o'Groats for charity was a noble and worthy cause.

The IG London Nocturne was a brilliant event and I left wanting to do it all again but for me the Brompton World Championships was the one event that I looked forward to above all others. Entering all three events (hope that they keep this for 2013) was as fun as it was a challenge and I loved coming home with three medals!

I suspect that when Brompton announce where the World Championships are to be held for 2013 (as it probably won't be at Blenheim Palace) my thoughts will be dominated by it. I will want to get ready for it physically/mentally and more importantly, consider at length what I am going to wear!

I have lots of plans for 2013 and it could well be my most active year since owning my Brompton, so keep coming back to my blog to hear all about it. Thank you for reading my humble blog and I hope that I can continue to keep you entertained and occasionally put a smile on your face and tell your friends about it.

All that I have to write now it that I wish you all a very happy Christmas and hope that 2013 is going to be a good year for you!

90,000 page views!!

What a lovely thing it was this morning to wake up and discover that I have gone quite a bit passed 90,000 page views!!!

I have had over 10,000 views a month in three weeks. Considering I started 2012 with just under 15,000 this is just great.

As always many thanks to my loyal readership and those of you who dip in now and again!

Sunday 23 December 2012

Spare Battery for Ricoh GRD IV

Regular readers will already know that I have a soft spot for my Ricoh GRD IV. I would go as far as saying that it my all time favourite camera, second only to its predecessor - the GRD III.

The battery life on the Ricoh is nothing short of excellent and approaching 400 shots are a realistic possibility. When you are out and about taking lots of pictures, or taking them in colder conditions the battery does go down. Wi this in mind I decided to look into getting myself a spare battery.

Buying an original Ricoh battery was just too expensive so I looked for an alternative. I found it on Amazon and paid the princely sum of £6.49 with free postage and packing. The prices on Amazon tend to fluctuate so it may be slightly more/less if you have a look.

The battery looks like the original. Takes the same time to charge. Lasts e. same number of shots and so far after 3 months of use keeps its charge. I am very pleased with it and having two batteries means that a day of street/architecture photography is viable.

So if you have a GRD you might want to check the batteries out on Amazon as they represent great value for money.

Trying not to laugh?

When I was at Richmond Station this morning as I was early and having a cup of tea, I tweeted that I was trying not to laugh at a gentleman who was half cut. Actually, half cut is perhaps a little kind as he was totally intoxicated!

As I watched I saw him attempting to walk from the entrance to a ticket booth. This was quite a sight I can tell you. It was as if this man was one of those people from a bygone era who walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls. The great Charles Blondin must have surely looked like this man when he wowed crowds of onlookers as he milked walking across the Falls, feigning cascading to his death below.

This spectacle was played out over at least 10 minutes. Now I should point out that the distance from the entrance of the station to the ticket booth cannot be more than 10 yards! It may well have been half a mile. He went left, he went right. Backwards, forwards and then to a grinding halt. It was when he took a running race in the general direction of the ticket booth only to return to his original spot, stop and open a tin of 'Carlsberg Special Brew' while swaying that I could not contain open laughter.

A kindly station worker tried to assist him - see him to the outside of the station - but he loudly protested that he wasn't drunk. At this my laughter started to induce pain. Leading him outside the station worker proudly returned. Seconds later the man came in again too quickly and ended up sliding across the station foyer but with tin in the air and not a drop split. All I can say is that I was fortunate that I had not consumed too much of my tea, otherwise I may have had an accident.

The very patient station worker guided him outside again and sadly he did not return. 

Marzipan Christmas Table/Cake Decorations.

With Christmas but a step away, Mrs Orange Brompton and my two Bromptonettes made some Christmas table/cake decorations. I think they are very good. My suggestion that they fashion a Brompton Bicycle - preferably in Orange - fell on deaf ears!

Pre-Christmas Richmond Park Spin

Yesterday my partner in crime iCrazyBee couldn't venture to Richmond Park and I threw out another invite for today. Luckily he accepted and this morning we met up for a pre-Christmas spin.

The weather was much better today. Cloudy but quite mild for this time of year and thankfully rain, which fell in abundance yesterday, stayed away.

My cycling outfit has been formed and moulded by several friends and colleagues. The general trend has been go lightweight, close fitting and try where possible to wear items that reduce drag. Most of the time I have viewed this with suspicion and often my body language - a raised eyebrow - has betrayed my thoughts on such matters. However, there is some merit to all this and anything that helps one to go slightly faster, longer while expending less effort can only be welcomed. Wearing suitable cycling attire for the discerning Bromptonian I headed off to Richmond. (You will see why I mention this when you read further).

The ride was earlier than normal but despite this there were more cyclists out than I had ever seen - including summer. Perhaps like me they wanted that last cycling fix before Christmas really starts.

There was a very strong south easterly wind resulting a harder slog up the hills. I found it demanding but pressed on. My riding partner iCrazyBee was tenacious but had to get off a few times. I put it down partly to him wearing 'normal clothing' and not the aerodynamic items I mention above.

While waiting I could not but help to notice all the nature around us. Large numbers of red deer grazed near the roadside, uninhibited by the presence of cyclists, dog walkers and cars. I also spotted two types of woodpecker - Green and Great Spotted, Ring-necked Parakeets, a Tree Creeper and Nuthatch.

With one full circuit done we called it a day. Retiring to a coffee establishment we chewed the fat for a while. For our next training session we plan to do circuits of Hyde Park for a number of reasons. Firstly, its location is much easier to get to for both of us. Secondly, Richmond and its hills are quite demanding and we both feel that the gentler incline of Hyde Park will allow us to focus on cycling more miles in s shorter space of time.

So, this will almost certainly be my last training run at Richmond for 2012 but I am sure that it will feature in training at some point in 2013. Below you can press the link to se the ride data. I did just over 8 miles.

Garmin ride data

Saturday 22 December 2012

An early bicycle themed present.

Got a Christmas card yesterday that contained a great set of 'Bicycle Clip' page markers. I particularly like the orange one of course.

The person who sent it obviously knows what I like and I am rather pleased with them.

GT85 perfect for your Brompton

GT85 is quite amazing stuff. After my 10 mile ride in the rain this morning, the chain of my Brompton was left in a disgusting state. When I arrived home I was very thankful for a package that contained two tins of GT85. The very nice people at GT85 kindly sent me two tins of their GT85 for the purposes of reviewing on my blog.

The special ingredients in GT85 helped to get off all the muck and grim on the chain and the rest of the bike and when clean allowed me to spray on a layer to lubricate the chain, which will actually displace water! The little red straw that attaches to the nozzle does a really good job in creating a fine jet that helps to get into all the small parts of the chain.
I also used some on the main frame to get off dirt, oil and grim and it was very effective and didn't damage the paint. The underside of the mudguards were caked in dirt and application of GT85 even worked there.
I now have a gleaming Brompton ready again for the open road. In fact I did have to pop out after cleaning the bike and the chain and gear change was silky smooth.
The contents of a tin of GT85 with all its cleaning/lubricating/water displacing prowess borders on witchcraft but GT85 contains a substance abbreviated to PTFE. There is a rather long word to go with this but if I simply say that this substance is commonly known as 'Teflon' you will have almost certainly heard of that. It is used a hardwearing nonstick coating and with moving parts it allows things to move more freely.
The list of plus points for GT85 are extensive:

  • Water displacer

  • Rust proofer

  • Won't drip off

  • Electrically safe

  • Deep penetrating action

  • Longer lasting than many similar products

  • Metal and plastic finisher

  • Ozone friendly

  • Non-carcinogenic 

There really are lots of uses for GT85 and the fact is it approved by the Ministry of Defence and has specific NATO accreditation, leaves one feeling that if it is good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
I have to confess to being a bit of a GT85 fan before they kindly sent me two tins but I cannot see myself using anything else.
Special thanks to Gavin at GT85 for sending the tins to me in the first place and you might want to pay a visit to their website for information on this and their other products.

Mad dogs and Englishmen on a Brompton In The Rain!

I saw weather warnings on the BBC news last night. There were warnings of flash floods, localised flooding and even coastal flooding. Even the Automobile Association issued their, 'tale care when driving.' Only the foolhardy would venture out in such conditions surely?

Perhaps I should briefly recount part of my childhood. Both my parents took the view that rain shouldn't stop you from doing anything. I remember vividly walking with my mum to High Street Kensington as a preschool child with an umbrella and Wellington boots and being conditioned (as my parents perhaps were) that rain was fun. In fact when I parked my car at my mum and dad's this morning, they were already making plans to head out in the rain.

In the early hours of the morning I cold hear heavy rain to the extent that it woke me up. After a couple more hours sleep I got up and dressed and got ready. The plan was to meet up with iCrazyBee at Richmond Park for a spin but unfortunately he couldn't make it. Undeterred, I stoically carried on and instead of Richmond Park I decided to head for a cycle around Hyde Park.

The rain was incredibly heavy! I worn my Altura Night Vision jacket and over trousers. Both worked really well at keeping me dry. I also had my Carradice Saddle Bag. This was amazing as it just seemed to remain dry? The material meant that the water just beaded off. No colour difference whatsoever due to the rain.

Heading down Ladbrook Grove I did wonder if stoically carrying on was the best of ideas? Soon I was in Hyde Park. Not surprisingly, there weren't many people about, less still cyclists.

Because of the weather, taking a camera or using my iPhone was out of the question. Before leaving I remembered to take my GoPro as it has a full waterproof housing and can take pretty good, wide-angle still images.

My first stop was Kensington Palace. The few people milling around were tourists (perhaps trying to get the most out of their stay in London). I chance they thought someone on a folding bike, taking pictures was typically eccentric.

Cycling further along I came to the Albert Memorial and the Royal Albert Hall. Not surprisingly things were distinctly quiet!

The GoPro produces some really interesting wide angle shots. Some people hate them but I love the huge landscapes that you can get.

I cycled along the same track that we travelled along on the Night Ride last week. Today I encountered a large group of Greylag Geese taking occupancy across my entire path. Ringing my bell was an error as it sent them into an angered frenzy. As I cycled past at least two of their number made for me and the bike. There was much noise and fluttering of wings. Going past them I thought freedom was mine until I saw one of them running and flapping wings at me. This induced me to say, 'bloody ducks!' This schoolboy error of ornithological identification can be put down to the pressure of the moment.

All in I travelled just over 10 miles in about an hour of cycling, at a very sedate pace. This gives me some confidence that the Nightrider in 2013 and its 100km length will not cause any problems. I know that on flattish ground I can travel roughly 8 miles in 30 minutes. From the Brompton Marathon I know that I can sustain a brisk pace for longer distances. I suspect I would have been able to put in an even better show for 2013 (had the BWC been at Blenheim Palace). I say this as I am a stone and half lighter now and more importantly getting fitter.

The data from the ride can be found from the link below. Interestingly, the ride started and finished at Ladbrook Grove and yet it has the end going further? Stranger still, when I log into my Garmin account it has the ride stopping at Ladbrook Grove? (Any ideas why this is folks)?

Mad Dogs and Englishmen Rain Ride Data

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Lifeventure Thermal Mug

Regular readers will already know that I have a few of these thermal mugs. I first encountered them at a friends house and since buying one, it has been a useful companion at work.

If you look very carefully you might find some great offers out there. I go this pair for £12 at Blacks. (Buy one, bet the other half price). This is pretty good considering they are around £10 - £12 normally.

Be quick if you want one as there weren't that many when I bought these and there wasn't a huge selection in terms of colour. I bought a stainless steel and white version. Both colours were fine for me.

My orange mug had already survived a few knocks and even coped falling out of my S - Bag while on my commute and rolling down the road. They are very tough, hold 300ml and keep a drink hot or cold for ages.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Christmas May be Near But I Must Train!

At the end of the week my Christmas holiday begins. For the Christmas period I will not have to think too much about work - I hope. It will also be the time when Santa will give me back my Brompton Toolkit. I say this as I had it but Santa took it away!

Over the Christmas break I plan to continue some sort of training. What this will involve I am not sure. With lots of family commitments, the family will come first, second and last, so any training might have to be done at night or very early in the morning.

I have arranged a training run with my cycling partner and all round good egg, iCrazybee at Richmond Park quite soon. It is always good to have someone to train with and we make quite a formidable team. I am hoping to drag him out over the Christmas period for more adventures.

Sadly, I haven't cycled to work once this week so far and the rest of the week doesn't look good either. The Brompton C-Bag can hold a great deal but the amount of bits and pieces I find myself carting to and from work means that it is impossible to commute on the Brompton. (I absolutely hate taking the car and not my beloved Brompton, but alas I have little choice).

I have a few ideas for some solo rides and if they come to anything you'll be the first to read about them.

Monday 17 December 2012

CatEye HS-EL520 Bike Light

Regular readers will already know that I bought a new light for my Brompton to beef up my existing lights when cycling at night. Having completed the epic all night ride on Saturday morning, I feel I need to post a more detailed résumé of its lighting prowess.

CatEye’s HL-EL520 combines one high power white LED with their exclusive OptiCube technology to produce more than 1800 candlepower. This was certainly evident when cycling at night. It is perhaps more than 3 times power of my Brompton battery light set.

It isn't the brightest battery light that CatEye produce but it was the one for me as it is sleek and fairly compact. It is also waterproofed well and towards the end of Saturday's ride it rained a fair bit and all was okay.

The compact design features side visibility, high and low beans, and up to 150 hours of runtime on 4 AA batteries. The simple, tool-free FlexTight mounting bracket allows you to quickly and easily attach the HL-EL520 to virtually any handlebar.

Yes it is bigger than my Brompton front but it still fits on to the from handlebar comfortably.

I bought this from Evans Cycles with a small discount and the retail price was £44.99. The battery life is excellent and although it has two settings, there is little difference between them. I have some rechargeable AA batteries and will almost certainly use them to power this. There are lights that have their own separate battery pack which produce a brighter light but for the moment it is a pretty good light and I am more than happy with it.

Dimension: 101.0 X 44.0 X 46.0mm
Weight: 185 grams (with bracket and batteries)
Light source: 3 watt white LED X1
Light output: 1800+cd
Battery: AA alkaline battery X4
Runtime: Approx 75hrs in high mode and 150hrs in low mode

Sunday 16 December 2012

Navigation on a Brompton

I am generally next to useless when attempting to navigate. I say this with a heavy heart!

Growing up I lived within throwing distance of the Royal Geographical Society. Passing this wonderful building I was captivated by the exploits of Livingstone, Shackleton and Scott. I have travelled extensively across the globe and getting hopelessly lost and going off piste was always something I was infamous for among those who travelled with me.

I am always amazed by those who have a near genetic disposition to always keep on track. One such person is David P of the Brompton Club. It must be like people who take to languages. Some just have an aptitude for it.

Despite my O level Geography grade A the ability to read a map correctly and navigating with it is bordering on witchcraft - double if riding my Brompton!

Technology is of course available to pinpoint ones location to within a few feet on planet Earth. I suspect that it is going to be this that will provide salvation. The iPhone has lots of map apps but I doubt if the battery would last the many hours these ever more adventurous rides take.

At some point in the new year I will have to purchase a mapping unit, which will at least will point me in the right direction!

Saturday 15 December 2012

Why I bought the Brompton Toolkit!

Oh dear. Your blogger writes this entry with a heavy tread. I am going to have to admit to being a great big hypocrite of the first order. Not long ago I blogged about how I was not going to buy the new Brompton Toolkit. It wasn't worth it. It was too expensive for what it was I blogged. The picture below tells the current state of play.

Yes, I have bought it! Now that it is in the shops, actually examining one in detail brought me to only one course of action - I simply had to buy it. I will try and explain.

The first thing to report is that the toolkit is incredibly well made! Everything and I really do mean everything is of obvious high quality. Nothing is going to snap, break off or become damaged in normal use. The black housing tube is aluminium and everything fits inside perfectly - not a hint of that will do.

There are rubber coverings at both ends. The toolkit fits inside the main tube of your Brompton perfectly. The rubber insulates from vibration but the items inside the black aluminium do not rattle or make any sounds. When riding you would not detect it is even there.

The 15mm spanner remains in this position and acts as a handle to get the toolkit in and out of the bike frame. It's a clever idea. In this position you can use the toolkit straight away on the wheel nuts but if you prefer you can take it out and use the naked spanner.

Inside the kit there are some hex bolts and a cross head and flat head screwdriver. The opposite end to the 15mm spanner has a ratchet which is of course reversible for clockwise and anticlockwise. As with the rest of the toolkit, the switch is solid and reassuring.

The tyre leavers also have other functions at the top and are magnetised so that they fit together seamlessly when storing back inside the kit. Again clever engineering.

Last items are an emergency tube patch and small piece of sandpaper for preparing the area prior to applying the patch. You also get a small supply of additional patches.

The Brompton moniker appears frequently just to remind you what you have bought.

This little toolkit is brilliant and the design and engineering is bordering on perfection. I can see it winning lots of design/engineering awards.

I have to say that I was wrong. This toolkit is worth the £48 retail price. It exudes quality and like the Brompton bike it sits inside, performs a function that something similar cannot do. The midget spanner I bought is good, but comparing the two would be ridiculous. The toolkit is going to be more convenient to use, easier to carry and last longer.

My advice if you have any doubts is to try and see one in the flesh. I suspect the second you hold one, examine the quality of the materials, the fit and finish and see how easily it fits inside your bike you will like me change your mind. I have two Brompton bikes and I can see myself one day getting another toolkit.