Thursday 28 February 2013

My new Orange Titanium Brompton

Within the next month or so I hope to have in my possession my new Orange Titanium Brompton.

It is quite strange this past week. On my commute I have never seen so many titanium Brompton bikes. Perhaps I have seen them before bit not identified they were titanium versions? This week I have noticed them all.

The new double rimmed 2013 wheels I have fitted to my original Orange Brompton have provided a little taste of what I might expect with my new bicycle. It could be my imagination but these new wheels feel a little stiffer than the old ones. It could of course just be because they are newer but there does seem to be a difference.

My new titanium Brompton will actually have more orange than my existing bike - main frame and stem. My original Orange Brompton has black extremities. Such is my fondness for all things orange, some people who have seen my bike up close several times and been on rides with me, are sometimes shocked when they see the black extremities. They even ask whether I have changed the forks or rear triangle.

The waiting is nearly over - I hope and I am going to be very happy to have two Brompton bikes again. The fact that they will be both Orange is a happy bonus.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

New Double Walled Rims Plus More

My new Brompton rear wheel with wide range Sturmey Archer hub arrived today along with a new front wheel.

The wheels are both the new double walled type that were introduced for 2013 bikes. First impressions are good. They look better than my old wheels however saying that the original wheels have been on many adventures. 

A lovely new hub

No pressure washers for this one - ever!

Everyone seems to say that the new rims are slightly heavier than the old ones. I don't have a suitable scale which I could weigh them on but if anything, they feel ever so slightly lighter to me. I could of course be wrong.

That double walled rims do look pretty good
 I decided to buy a new front wheel as well as I didn't really like the idea of having a new rear wheel and the old front. Again it looks pretty good to these eyes.

I have put both of the wheels on and taken the bike for a short spin around the block. The bikes does feel pretty good and the gear change is back to what I remember it being before suing pressure washers, degreasers and what have you. Never again I tell thee!

The rim tape is different too. It is yellow for a start, instead of the blue we were all used to. It is also a much better fit. I have been told that Brompton will eventually use a fabric rim tap at some point but this is a step in the right direction.

Putting my London Edition Marathon Plus tyres on to these new rims was easy. There really wasn't the huge struggle putting them on these new rims when compared to my old ones. Putting Marathon tyres on was not easy and this can only be a good thing especially if one is unlucky and gets puncture out in the field. Performing this task will be easier.

Another purchase was a new M-type handlebar and the new 2013 back foam grips. I bought these I intend to replace my current brake levers, which are now quite rattly. They say that you should change your handlebars after every three years or so many thousand miles - probably not really needed. I took the view that if I fitted some new brake levers and grips I may as well go the whole hog.

I have not decided whether I will be getting the new Brompton brake levers, the version they replace or  a different make. I will need to think about this a little more. The only other jobs I need to do is to replace the gear and derailer cables, replaced the bottom bracket and perhaps the chain set. I will again have to deliberate more about whether I do this.

With a new Orange Titanium Brompton on the way you might be asking why I am spending money on my old bike? Well, I don't really want this original Brompton to go to seed. I want it maintained and remain as up to date as I can. It is my intention to use this Brompton on journeys I don't want to take the gorgeous Titanium one on. The addition of the new wheels has already given this bike a new lease of life and long may it continue.

Monday 25 February 2013

Leather Strap Hub Cleaner for a Brompton

Before the ride yesterday one thing I forgot to mention was that our Commander and Chief, Mick had brought with him lots of samples from a company that makes bespoke leather products for Brompton Bicycles.

He had a few different types of main tube coverings. Once covered the entire main tube while others covered only certain sections. They were extremely well made and the leather had that gorgeous smell only new leather seems to have.

One of the items Mick allowed me to test was a small leather hub gear strap. This was one of three colours but for some reason this honey, almost orange coloured strap took my attention for some reason?

Honey coloured leather...could almost be classed as orange?

These straps are from a bygone age where hub gears ruled. They work in a very simple way. It is fastened around the hub and as the wheels rotate, the strap rubs gently along the hub from side to side keeping it clean. I remember by brother used to have one permanently attached to his bike and the hub was the only part of the entire bike that was ever clean.

At the moment I am thinking that the strap might be a little too wide and it would be better if it could be fastened to the hub in a more circular fashion, however it is very early days and I will need to test it out a great deal more before I can make a final assessment. One thing is for certain, this and the other items are incredibly well made and I can see myself getting more than one of these straps!

Once I have tested it out fully I will post a link to the manufacturer and the recommended price.

Sunday 24 February 2013

Cold Richmond Ride!

This morning I went on a ride I had originally turned down. With very little cycling in the past two weeks due to a very heavy chest cold and a general feeling of woe is me, I decided that a good brisk cycle would do me some good.

The meet up point was Costa Coffee at Richmond and once there I saw our Commander and Chief Mick B. Unfortunately, as he had been suffering from a horrid bug he quite understandably didn't feel like cycling. He treated me to a cup of tea that was so large the cup had two handles. If truth be told, I have been to restaurants and had smaller bowls of soup!

Eventually those of us foolhardy enough to brave the elements set off on a very satisfying ride along the Thames, over it and through Richmond Park.

The route took us on some of the dirt tracks - nothing a Brompton cannot handle - and it made an interesting change to the roads. I must confess that I still prefer sticking to the roads when going through Richmond Park as the Brompton is of course an out and out road machine at heart.

One particular hill was very demanding and it was made worse by the dirt track rather than Tarmac. Three of us ascended this serious incline without getting off the bike. More training perhaps for another time? My partner in crime iCrazyBee is getting better at going up hills but is now seriously considering a gear upgrade from 3 to 6. Should help?

You can make out the steep, snaking incline and one of our number walking up the hill

I don't think I have mentioned the weather. It was bitterly cold, probably 1 degree but it felt much much colder, certainly dipping in to negative figures. My Helly Hanson balaclava was almost worn at one point but it stayed in the saddlebag.

Going back towards Richmond we went down the infamous Nightingale Lane. This is a lane with a seriously steep and sustained climb. At the bottom I was the only one of the three of us left to have a go at going up it again. If truth be told I had been looking forward to it. Ascending it for hand second time felt a great deal better and dare I say easier than my first attempt a few weeks ago. I do think that with hills one has to have the right mindset. Setting off thinking you cannot do it does not really work for me. I managed to get to the top pretty quickly and even had a gear in hand. If you look at my ride data below and zoom in to the map you will see that I got all the way to the top - honest.

It was a good ride and I am glad that I went on it. The chest cold of the past couple of weeks has really set me back as far as getting in some miles. My commute begins again tomorrow and I am vowing not to use the car for this journey for the next five weeks. This is going to take some serious planning on my part as there is only so much I can carry on a Brompton!

Next Saturday I have another great ride to look forward to which will take in the famous Box Hill. Really looking forward to that and although I will not have my new Orange Titanium by then, I will have a few new parts to fit to my original Orange Brompton that I hope will make things better all round.

Ride Data and Maps

Saturday 23 February 2013

Why I Cycle and Why You Should Too!

There are many reasons that made me abandon the car on my daily commute and cycle to work on my beloved Orange Brompton. I can honestly say that owning a Brompton has opened up a whole new world I did not know existed and over two years on, regardless of the time of the year I hate having to take the car to work and love cycling on my Brompton.

In no particular order here are some reasons why I and so many more are cycling to work and elsewhere. Some of these were not even at the the back of my mind when I first started cycling to work but I have heard lots about them in the few years I have been cycling, with many being very sound reasons for ditching the car or public transport.

1 Speed

No this isn't what you are thinking. Cycling to work is actually quicker than going in the car. This is especially true in winter when having to scrape windows of ice. In heavy traffic a Brompton allows me to go in and out of traffic and get to work quicker than if I had sat in a traffic jam.

2 Cost

Okay, a Brompton isn't exactly £99 from Argos but over time it has meant that I have spent less money on petrol which seems to go up every month. If I think about the savings I have made by not using buses or tube, I have saved a considerable amount.

3 Fitness

Since cycling to work and at the weekend, combined with a heather diet I have lost weight. In addition to this I am definitely fitter than I was before I regularly started to cycle. Combining essential travel with  light exercise i.e. cycling to and from work can only be a good thing. I have even been known to take a longer route home if I have been unable to resist a biscuit when at work. Studies have shown that regular cycling  can help reduce your risk of heart disease of cycling just 20-30 minutes a week.

When cycling you use more oxygen and frequent cycling will help to improve all that cardiovascular stuff. This helps your lungs and heart to work more effectively in getting oxygen where it is needed.

4 Illness 

Apart from a really bad chest cold I have had for the past two weeks (from which I had suffered a great deal less than Mrs Orange Brompton). I do seem to have suffered from less colds etc.., and when I have got them their potency is diminished somewhat.

5 Feel happier

Cycling they say is a very good way of alleviating stress and allows one to unwind at the end of a hard day at work. I certainly feel happier at the end of the day knowing that I will be cycling home. This might be as for the majority of the day I have been indoors. Getting out in daylight can only be a good thing.

6 Save the planet

Cycling will give you a lower carbon footprint and mean that you aren't sitting in a car or bus giving off all those greenhouse gases and other nasty emissions.

7 Snob value

Some surveys show that people on higher incomes are usually better educated about the health benefits of cycling. So, if you are as common as muck or an elitist snob you have the perfect reason to start cycling to work.

8 Additive 

Yes, cycling can be addictive, not of course in a crack cocaine / heroine kind of addiction but a good way.  Some people have used the fix they derive from cycling to help them stop smoking or drinking.

9 Make new friends

If you join a club or ride with similar minded people you will open yourself up to new adventures and possibilities. I look forward greatly to the many rides I go on but they are made even better by the many new friends and acquaintances I have made.

10 Improve performance

I have got fitter since I started commuting on my Brompton but a by product of all this was actually participating in formal races. This has induced a need to improve my performance. The desire to go on longer and ever more demanding rides has also meant that I have been forced to look at my diet, technique and a host of other factors that for me at least, have been positive.

11 Boost your sex life

Now, I wound't want those of you without a bicycle to be rushing down to your local Evans tomorrow morning just because you read this but studies have shown that because of reasons 3, 4 and 5 (but especially 3) cyclists can enjoy a boost to their sex drive.

12 Raining! Who cares!

On my daily commute I have cycled in all weather conditions. Wind, rain, sleet, snow, frost, fog, scorching heat...the list goes on. The great thing about cycling is that with the right clothing you can still get out there. If you have this mindset, you can not really put things off because of the weather!

There you have it, a dozen reasons for getting on your bike. Whether you decide to go the whole hog and cycle to work or part of the way, cycle more at the weekend or simply take the bikes out if you have a family, you won't regret it. Anyway what is the worse that can happen? You'll be happier, fitter over time save money and do your bit for the planet.'s over to you!

Getting back onto a Brook saddle

This afternoon I decided that would go out for a very short spin around the block at a reasonable pace. I say short as I have had a really bad chest cold for the best part of two weeks and only now does it seem to be easing off slightly - although it still hasn't fully said goodbye to me yet!

My stats for this outing are very poor but I felt that if I stayed out longer in this cold or pushed any further, the cough that has been a constant companion, might outstay its welcome.

Distance - 2.65 miles

Time - 10:23.81

Average speed - 15.25

Maximum speed - 22.68 mph

Calories - 170

Ascent 141.1 feet

The rear wheel on my Brompton seems to be just about okay since the bearings were replaced as a precaution but I strongly suspect I will have to replace it sooner rather than later. I also think that the crank and bottom bracket might need replacing as well at some point. 

I cannot really complain about replacing a few parts on my this my original Orange Brompton as it has served me faithfully throughout many miles and all sorts of adventures. I will never sell my original Orange Brompton and if it requires the odd spare part to replace bits that have been worn out or broken then so be it.  do turn to my new Titanium Orange Brompton which I hope to have in my possession within the next month or so. I am quite keen to get hold of it but patience is going to be needed.

Next week I start my commute again and it is going to take me a few days to get back into the swing of things as I have not really cycled for two and a half weeks - mainly due to feeling rough with this cold. There certainly won't be any record times and I will be easing in gently. I have a few big rides coming up that I want to be able to enjoy. Experience has taught me that going too quickly after a bad chest cold can actually make things worse and last longer. This is something I definitely don't want to happen!

Thursday 21 February 2013

130,000+ page views!!!

I have been away for a few days and have only just realised that I have reached 130,000 page views!

Don't know if I reached this today or yesterday (but think it is probably yesterday) but it does mean that I had over 10,000 page views in the last two weeks!

I always say that I will stop doing this and not post when I reach these little milestones but it is a very hard thing not to be excited and happy by it all. I will endeavour to try!

Mystery Shopper

A few readers of my blog have mentioned that they would like the idea of a review of various cycle shops in London in terms of customer service, friendliness, product knowledge...the list goes on. The have suggested a mystery shopper approach whereby someone goes in to a shop with the intention of finding these things out. I am told that in the trade it is called 'mystery shopper.'

I am not quite sure if I want to do this or even have the time but it certainly opens up a world of possibilities. Which is the best bike shop? Is it a small independent or a larger chain?

What I would like from you dear reader are the locations of shops in and around London that could be reviewed in this way. Should it be shops that stock Brompton bikes or should it be more general that that? So, please leave a comment to start the ball rolling on what could be a useful exercise that might yield more than a few surprises.

Monday 18 February 2013

Father, help me! I'm falling!!

I am vain enough to have a picture of yours truly as a screen saver on my iMac. Each time I turn it on I am greeted by myself in full flow at the Brompton World Championships, in my complete and rather fetching outfit. A few moments ago I caught sight of the many orange hues and it made think of the sun. This brought other images. Terrible images...

My early morning realisation that I had been responsible for the demise of my own gear hub, brought me to thoughts of Icarus and Daedalus. With Icarus it was melting wax caused by an arrogance to go too close to the sun which had disastrous consequences. For me it was washing grease away with a degreaser! 

Had Icarus made his escape on a Brompton (and I am sure you know exactly where I am going with this) I suspect he would have come a cropper with a scraping sound, because he too had done the same thing!

I have purchased a small tin of '3 in 1' oil this very p.m. and from time to time I will commit a few drops to the hub of my beloved Orange Brompton. Failing this, I will simply purchase a new wheel with said hub and regale people with the time 'a friend of mine' nearly ruined the hub on his Brompton. I can even hear the closing sentence..."and do you know, it was even an Orange Brompotn!"

A quite terrible revelation on a Brompton!

Yesterday my hub gear was disassembled, new bearings inserted to be on the safe side and lashings of grease applied. There had been a little bit of a scraping sound since the Cambridge ride. In the early hours of this morning I awoke from my slumber with a start, faced with the full implications...guilt even of what I had done!

After the Cambridge ride I took my beloved Orange Brompton to a local petrol station and pressure washed it. I thought I was reasonably careful but I know I did clean the back wheel and dare I say it...hub. Once home I gave it a good clean and recall applying liberal amounts of GT85 to the little chain that goes inside the hub and for good measure a few squirts of it through the hold of the hub itself!

At 4:07 in the a.m. it dawned on me that along with its many properties, GT85 is also a degreaser! Damn it to hell! I have been the cause of my own hubs problems!

Watching the rear wheel of my beloved Orange Brompton on the work bench was akin to seeing something on the operating table. Never again! At 4:10 in the a.m. I rushed to the study trying to avoid no less than three Maine Coon cats, in search of the Brompton Bicycle book by David Henshaw. When I had finished reading the comprehensive section on hub gears, it was only with a self control I did not know I possessed that prevented me from shouting, "noooooooooo!"

With my new Orange Titanium Brompton on its way, I will not be making the same mistake again. Luckily, the bike and hub seem perfectly fine, so perhaps it was caught in the nick of time!

Sunday 17 February 2013

Witchcraft on a Brompton

Today, like a Hammer Horror film from the 1970's I witnessed a sight almost too terrifying to commit to this blog. If there had of been a sofa to hide behind I may well have been found there. I speak of hub gears and it tis witchcraft!

At a maintenance course I attended today, my hub gear, which previously had exhibited a mild scraping sound was taken apart and examined. The hub gear on a Brompton is a sealed and self contained unit that only the brave would dare to tackle. The mere suggestion that I would open it up and poke around would induce a reaction similar to Christopher Lee playing Dracula upon seeing a crucifix held by Peter Cushing as Van Helsing! Much hissing, turning away and the covering of ones eyes - that sort of thing.

Today a man only known as Michael the Hub Slayer not only took apart my hub but no less than two others. He had a quick look at an old one he had in the workshop and then set to work on those attached to bikes.

The bearings in my hub looked a little dull. They were replaced, new grease applied and it all put back together. I am happy to report that the scrapping sound seems to have gone. Hopefully it will give it a longer life before it needs replacing.

In case you are wondering why no photos, I did take them but the hub did not show up in any of them? I take this as an omen not to meddle with things that I do not understand!

The Shard

Yesterday, before I went on the Ibike London ride I paid a visit to The Shard. My partner in crime iCrazyBee kindly looked after my Brompton while I was doing this.

I have watched The Shard with interest as it ascended the London skyline. You can do this from almost all parts of London as it can be seem for miles. Some people despise it and hate the fact that it will be so visible from so many locations.

It  is a 95 storey building standing some 309.6 metres tall and is the tallest building in the European Union with only Moscow's Mercury City Tower being taller.

A pre-booked, specific time slot ticket was bought for me ages ago. Printing it off at home I thought that as it mentioned that I could simply scan the barcode at the entry speed gates at the ticket office, I wouldn't have to wait around too long. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case and a snake-like, Theme Park line wound its way towards the ticket office. I was mildly disappointed at this as my 09:00 -09:30 time slot did not get me inside to the ticket hall let alone anywhere else. It begs the question why have a time slot?

Eventually inside one had to go through some security procedures. small items had to be placed on a tray along with ones coat which was passed through a scanner. Once done you then had to walk through a body scanner before encountering another Theme Park feature - a photograph. My ticket cost over £24 and I didn't really want a photo of me smiling to a backdrop. One couple before me asked if it was free. The photographer said that taking it was free but to get the photo you would have to purchase it. They muttered and walked past. I merely commented that I was with them and did likewise.

We travelled in two lifts to reach the viewing platform. These travelled at incredible speed - two floors a second and although not unpleasant, you could certainly sense their swiftness. 

Once at the viewing platform I was surprised at how busy it was. Every available window and tell:scopes - digital telescopes with touch screens allowing you to zoom in at points of interest and get information about them - were taken.

The view. Well quite amazing. It is quite overwhelming to see London in this way. Perhaps because I had visited Tower 42 last summer, this view was perhaps less potent, but nonetheless it was breathtaking. The Theme Park continued however with piped instrumental music.

A slight disappointment was that when taking photos as there is so much glass it does make getting photos without reflections almost impossible. Because of its height windows that open or cutaways would be almost impossible.

After a good few circuits and many photographs later I decided to call it a day and headed for ground level. On my way out the reminders of Theme Parks persisted as like coming off a ride one could see ones photograph and just like at a Theme Park, have a look and then wince at the eye watering price. A small shop sold souvenirs of The Shard but it just felt tacky to me.

The view from The Shard is incredible but taking my entire family would set us back almost £100 and I am not sure I think even that view is worth it? Yes, you can stay as long as you like and the tell:scopes are brilliant but the word tacky, used in this blog once already is how I would describe the The Shard. I am one of those people who perhaps views The Shard as one of the those ghastly cut crystal ornaments that cost an arm and a leg and merely for show. From it you can obtain an incredible view of London but I suspect The Shard itself will not be viewed as an architectural classic in many years to come.

Saturday 16 February 2013

IBike London Love2Ride on a Brompton.

All of last week I have not so much as looked at my Brompton let alone taken it on my commute. I have you see been suffering from an extremely bad chesty cough/head cold bordering on consumption. The worst is perhaps over but this morning knowing that a gentle ride might do me good, I decided to venture out on to the streets of London. I took the view that if the cough/consumption persisted during the ride, at least I might be moved to pen a poem about it all, like one of the greats from the 19th Century. (Lots of them had consumption too).

So, as lonely as a cloud I met up with a few familiar faces at the allotted hour and after a ride briefing we were off. Riding through Hyde Park we snaked our way towards Buckingham Palace, past the Houses of Parliament, St Stephens Tower before entering some sort of tunnel (the location of which escapes me - well you know what I am like with directions) where graffiti artists committed their visions to the walls.

The meet up point

Some very nice bikes

They always seem to come out when I cycle

A rather fine orange and white Brompton

You may be thinking that yours truly would be a little out of his depth in this ultra modern urban 'street art.' Well you would in fact be wrong. I like many types of graffiti and have hundreds of photographs I have taken over the years. One of my favourite locations as a child was when I was taken to Portobello Road Market on a Saturday by my dad. Under the flyover was and still is the home to sometimes quite stunning art. My dad had a very different view and often remarked that he didn't fight the war for this particular freedom.

One artist was very much the showman. In true street photographer mode I look a photograph of him in full flight, spray can in hand. It was an okay shot. Seeing me, he gestured for more photos. I took them. He gestured for even more and posed very obligingly. I was getting in to this. I was almost about to say, 'for the next photo, I'd like subtle but sexy.' He must have been a mind reader as he got a cigarette lighter from his pocket and ignited a jet of paint spray from the tim he was using. It was all terribly excited stuff and I thought to myself, I must give that a go when I get home. Is that bad?

Pose 1

Pose 2

Pose 3  Is this what you're looking for?

Further up the tunnel one of the ladies who was a marshall for the ride had a surprise. She had committed some of her own art to the wall. It was very good. A lady riding a bicycle with the title, 'Yeah bitches.' Obviously the urban rebel was coming out in me, as when me moved off, inside my head I was saying the words. 'yeah bitches' in different ways. I had to check myself as otherwise it might come out at the wrong moment!

Yeah, bitches!

We stopped at the Imperial War Museum for a while and many of us chewed that fat while other drank tea and coffee. I wanted to keep moving as it was chilly standing around. 

The Imperial War Museum
Soon we were off again and before long we saw a WWII Russian tank, in the process of being painted white, sitting in a patch of land on the corner of a street. The tale we were told was that not long ago a father bought his son this tank and left it on a piece of land he owned. Despite protestations by the local council, he was allowed to keep the tank on his land. To this day the gun turret points in the direction of the council offices.

WWII Russian Tank. Imagine having this in your front garden?

Our next surprise was a windmill that seemed totally out of place in it current location but must have been in the perfect one when built.

Before long we were in Battersea Park where we had our final stop before heading across the River, through Brompton Cemetery and on towards the end location, the Builder's Arms in Kensington.

It was a really good ride and it served it purpose of brushing away the cobwebs from a week long Brompton exile. I actually felt better than I had all week. One success in the field as it were was my new Carradice Barley saddlebag. It easily held by larger X100 camera, water, food, toolkit and had load more room to spare. This really is going to be a useful friend on all those night rides and day rides in general.

I forgot to take my Garmin Edge 200 with me today so I don't have any ride data but you can see the route that was taken by clicking on the link below.

The Route

Friday 15 February 2013

The Waiting is Terrible!

When I first thought about the idea of buying a a Brompton, the idea of going in to a shop where I could buy one off the peg did not appeal to me as soon as I realised that you could go bespoke. Bespoke is a similar experience to going to one of the few old name tailors left on London's Savile Row. Looking at the various options and choosing those you feel are best. Instant gratification is not the done thing and once ordered a wait ensues that could be considerable.

As I type this my new Orange M6L Titanium is ever closer to being made. I have received a date from the excellent bike shop I am buying it from (more about this shop at a later date) and the end is in sight. It does not make the waiting any less easy however. 

My new Brooks Mandarine saddle is a constant reminder of what will be and throughout the past week I have on occasion gazed wistfully out of the window at opportune moments to daydream about the arrival of the Orange Titanium. Had I been living in the 19th Century I might have even been moved to write an ode about it all!

I suspect you have an opinion on this. You might prefer to just turn up to a shop and buy and take home there and then? You might be like me and want the more considered approach? Either way it would be good to hear what way you would go.

Interview with Rachael Elliot - Double Brompton World Champion!

Hot on the heels of my interview with Michael 'Dr Hutch' Hutchinson I interview Rachael Elliot - Brompton World Champion for 2010 and 2011.

Rachael almost certainly needs no introduction and many of us who have attended the Brompton World Championships might have seen her go past us in a blur. In fact at the 2011 BWC my youngest daughter was meant to be watching out for me but one of Rachael's supporters told her to watch out for this lady who was faster than most of the men. My daughter did and I was a sideshow for the rest of that day!

This has been the interview I have wanted more than most and is my favourite so far. Below are my questions with Rachael's responses.

1 What sort of Brompton bikes do you own? (Colour, gearing, handlebar type…)

I have three Bromptons:

The original: An M3L steel Brompton in baby pink (purchased in 2005).
The racing Brompton: An M6L-X titanium Brompton in claret (won in BWC 2010)
The museum item: An M6L limited edition steel Brompton with bespoke artwork by Vic Lee. I can’t bear to use this one (won in BWC 2011).

2 As a double Brompton World Champion you quite rightly won two of your Brompton bikes but what made you originally buy a Brompton?

As a commuter, I used to use two bikes at both ends of my commute. When the bicycle I used for the London-end of my commute was stolen from Paddington (it had three locks on it and was worth less than £100, for goodness sake). I made the decision to buy a folding bike. Being in the tube behind the one that was bombed at Edgware Road and hearing the explosion expediated the decision to get off the tube completely.

3 How does the Brompton World Championships compare with other cycling events you have participated in?

As a time trialler, I am used to sidling up into a layby with a secretly named course code, being pushed off at a pre-assigned start time, hurtling down a road as fast as you can, retiring to the tiniest village hall to see your result pinned to a wall and spending the next two hours discussing how if the wind had been around 2 degrees more to the north, you’d have definitely have ridden three seconds faster. And, of course, the person who you normally beat but was victorious on this occasion must have had a lighter headwind on the way out.

The Brompton World Championship puts an end to this analicity, and is pure fun. It’s definitely the highlight of my year, but also probably the most competitive event I take part in.

4 I have taken part in two Brompton World Championships with the belief that I might win. What advice would you give to the many Bromptonians out there who are going to enter the Brompton World Championships or other events like the IG Nocturne Folding Bike Race?

Always believe you might win. Someone has to. The best advice is not to prep your bike too much. I always ride it as I would on my commute (OK, maybe I don’t usually wear shorts quite that short). Standard trainers, mudguards. It’s what I’m used to.

5 Before a Brompton World Championships how do you prep your bike?

I make sure the gears change ok and the tyres are pumped to the max PSI + 20. The secret is in the safety pins in the suit.

6 Unfortunately, you weren’t able to defend your double Brompton World Championships titles in 2012. Why was this?

I had a serious accident whilst marshalling at a club time trial. I blacked out on the bike and crashed, shattering my wrist completely. This was Jubilee weekend and I have barely cycled outside since. The turbo trainer has been my best friend.

7 Who is your all time favourite cyclist and why?

Got to love Tommy Voeckler. He climbs the French cols with a true Brompton World Championship Race Face.

8 If you were the Prime Minister / Mayor of London for the day what would you do to make cycling safer?

I’d convince my electorate to elect me for the next 10 years. This is how long it will take to change cycling. More people need to cycle in order to make a change come about; we need a critical mass of cyclists.

9 When cycling / commuting on your bicycle what makes you angry?

Red light jumpers and cyclists who flout the law. Until cyclists change, how can we expect road users to take us, as a body, seriously?

10 Chopper, Grifter, BMX or other? Explain why.

Something with stabilisers. I’m only good in a straight line.

11 What is your personal proudest moment in cycling terms?

Has to be my 2011 BWC victory. Finishing “top 5 in the national 50” holds no credibility amongst colleagues; winning a folding bike race clearly means you’re heading for the next Olympics.
Most recently though, it was riding my bike outside for the first time after breaking my wrist.

12 On rare occasions (usually ascending a hill just after traffic lights) I sometimes overtake a road bike on my Brompton. Do you ever try to do the same?

I view any other bike on the road as competition. The more lycra and carbon on display, the more burning my desire to kill.

13 What is your favourite cycling route? Why do you like it?

I love the challenge of Alpe d’Huez, and have climbed it on both my road bike and my Brompton. That was a sight to behold.

More locally, there are some beautiful routes around my home town of Newbury – I have a favourite local route which lasts about two hours and is perfect in every way.

14 Will you be defending your Brompton World Championship title and going for a third win in 2013?

That goes without saying.

A very big thank you to Rachael for answering my questions and I am sure that you would all agree with me when I say that I hope that she is able to attend the Brompton World Championships this year and win for a third time.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

I get to Interview 'Dr Hutch' - Michael Hutchinson, Double Brompton World Champion

To many Bromptonians reading this blog Michael Hutchinson, 'Dr Hutch' (due to his PhD in International Human Rights law) needs no introduction. He is a double Brompton World Champion - 2011, 2012. He also represented Britain and Northern Ireland at many events including the Commonwealth Games.

There are of course many other strings to his bow. As a writer and journalist his column in 'Cycling Weekly' is very popular and frequently brings a smile to my face. A published author, his book 'The Hour' won Best New Writer at the 2007 British Sports Book Awards.

I asked Michael a few questions and very kindly in the middle of all the other things he must be busy doing, he agreed to answer them. Below are my questions and Michael's responses.

1 What sort of Brompton bikes do you own? (Colour, gearing, handlebar type…)

I've got a black S2lx, a black and white S2l, and the S6l with the custom Vic Lee paint job that was the prize for BWC in 2011. I do 80% of my riding on the S2lx.

2 As a double Brompton World Champion you quite rightly won two of your Brompton bikes but what made you originally buy a Brompton?

Actually I won the first one I owned. Brompton offered it as a prize at road bike event at the first Bike Blenhein. The only one I've ever bought was a red and green S2l for my partner.

3 How does the Brompton World Championships compare with other cycling events you have participated in?

It's pretty different -- most events are a bit more formal, but normally a lot smaller in terms of rider numbers. There's a much greater variety of rider -- some BWC competitors are there for a different kind of a day out, some are deadly serious, and there are any number of different approaches in between. BWC is quite a lot more fun than most events.

4 I have taken part in two Brompton World Championships with the belief that I might win. What advice would you give to the many Bromptonians out there who are going to enter the Brompton World Championships or other events like the IG Nocturne Folding Bike Race?

I don't really prepare specially, I just use the fitness I have from my other racing. If you want to take any sort of race seriously, I suppose it would mainly be about getting out and getting the training done, and making sure you do at least some fast riding on the Brompton.

5 Before a Brompton World Championships how do you prep your bike?

I clean it. I take the mudguards off, but i do that during the summer anyway. I don't want to prepare the bike specially, because I like that I'm using exactly the same standard Brompton that I ride round London.

6 How did you make the jump from the legal profession to being a writer?

It was via being a pro cyclist for a few years. I didn't plan to give up law, I always intended to go back after a few seasons of racing, but while I was racing I found I was quite regularly asked to do bits for magazines. Then I wrote a book called The Hour, which did pretty well, and that drew me into full time writing.

7 Who is your all time favourite cyclist and why?

I really don't think I would want to pick out any one individual I know so many people who put so much into cycling.

8 If you were the Prime Minister / Mayor of London for the day what would you do to make cycling safer?

Safety on a bike has a lot to do with the attitudes of other road users, which it's hard to 'fix'. A start, though, would be to sort out a lot of dreadful junctions that are just designed on the assumption that bike riders either don't exist, or will be happy to spend five minutes walking 50m round the junction.

9 When cycling / commuting on your bicycle what makes you angry?

Drivers who push past inches from your elbow when they can already see a red light 100m up the road. There are a fair number of bike riders who always push to the front when you're waiting at the lights who are't much better!

10 What is your personal proudest moment in cycling terms?

Not sure I've ever really done anything remarkable enough that I'd go around being proud of it. I'm glad that as a rider during the early 2000s I managed to find a niche where I could compete clean, so I don't have much to be ashamed of either.

11 On rare occasions (usually ascending a hill just after traffic lights) I sometimes overtake a road bike on my Brompton. Do you ever try to do the same?

Continually. I almost never ride anywhere in London without passing the odd road bike.

12 What is your favourite cycling route? Why do you like it?

I'm very fond of a route from my parents' house that goes through the Mourne Mountains in County Down. It's very bleak, especially in winter, and there are roads with almost no traffic whatsoever.

13 Your book, ‘The Hour’ is a brilliant read. What was the story behind you writing it?

Simply that I had made an attempt on the world record for the greatest distance covered in an hour. After it was over, it simply occurred to me that there was a story to be told about what went into making that sort of attempt happen, and some great stories about previous attempts that I'd come across in old magazines, or that people had told me. Full-time riding still left a fair amount of evening free, so I decided I'd write the book to see what happened.

14 Will you be defending your Brompton World Championship title and going for a third successive win in 2013? (I have to warn you, I am already in training).

I don't know where it's going to be yet, or when. If it's somewhere reasonably easy to get to, and doesn't clash with any other events I'm committed to, I'll be there.

A very big thank you to Michael for taking the time to answer my questions. I found his answers of great interest but mildly fearful of the answer to the last question. With a new Titanium Orange Brompton on the way, I really did think that 2013 would be my year. I think I had better hit the open road and start training in earnest! (Three months earlier than planned)!

'The Hour' is a great read and can be purchased as a paperback or via Kindle.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Carradice Barley Saddle Bag

I already have a Carradice saddle bag - the zipped roll bag. This has served me well on trips where I do not or can not take larger bags. This was certainly true on my recent Cambridge run. Taking the zipped roll saddle bag meant that I didn't have to fight that strong head wind.

Taking a leaf out of a friends book I decided to see what Carradice could offer in terms of saddle bags that were bigger than the zipped roll, but not huge. I wanted something that was definitely bigger but not so that it made the ride uncomfortable or cumbersome.

The 'Barley' seemed to fit the bill. At 7 litres compared to the 2 litres of the zipped roll it is much bigger. in addition to the roomier inside, it has two useful side pouches that allow for even more storage. The chromed leather straps are built to last and the straps on the lid have metal rings which allow more to be strapped on to the top.


Very well made chromed leather straps

The drawstring cord with toggle means that you can cover up all your items and keep them firmly in place. There is even a strip of black webbing on which you can attach a small rear light.

It is a very well made and well thought out design and I like the fact that the inside is just one large space rather than sectioned off into compartments I had not chosen.

Its waterproof prowess is proven. I have been out in heavy rain and the zipped roll doesn't even look as if water has landed on it. It just beads off.

With all the rides I intend to go on this year there will be many where I will have to take a bigger bag however when I don't need to I suspect this Barley saddle bag is going to come in very handy!

The lid is lined with a lovely herringbone tweed

Brooks B17 Mandarine

As I am sure you know I will be getting a new Orange M6L in Titanium in the not too distant future. One accessory I have laboured over is the saddle. I have a Brooks brown special edition B17 saddle on my original Orange Brompton and have always loved it. I know that there are horror stories of rock hard saddles and ages spent applying prof hide to no avail but I have not experienced this. This includes the black B17 that used to reside on the S2L that I recently sold.

I have seen this particular version on a few bikes and I always thought to myself that one day I'd have to justify getting one. Well, with a new Orange Brompton on its way, my excuse was realised. This saddle is a B17 but in Mandarine. The pictures do a good job of conveying the colours. Compared to the brown Brooks on my B17 the colour looks wonderful. I love it.

Also included in the packaging is the small spanner that allows one to tighten a bolt that stretches the leather covering. I have not had to use it on any of the Brooks saddles I own after two years but bearing in mind they can last a lifetime if cared for, I am sure at some point I will.

I know that combined with the orange and titanium of the new bike, this saddle will really look good. I doubt very much if I will fully unpack it until my new bike is here.

If you haven't got a Brooks saddle for your Brompton, you might want to give them a go. For my money they really add those finishing touches. I will almost certainly buy another Brooks for my new bike but I haven't decided between a Swift or a Swallow. In the meantime I will open the box to my Mandarine Brooks B17, just to see how it looks.

Monday 11 February 2013


My youngest daughter made the mistake of asking to see my Brompton World Championships medals. I was happy to accommodate her wish believe me.

At the 2012 Brompton World Championships they offered three events one could participate in:

The Marathon - 26 miles around a demanding circuit.

The actual Brompton World Championships - a full on race over 8 miles.

Finally the Sprint - a 300 metre flat out drag race.

I entered all three and loved every minute despite it being very demanding and not for the faint of heart.

When showing my BWC medals for 2012, I was moved to also bring out the one I obtained for the 2011 Championships. By the time I had recounted my adventures likened to international competition, told her on perhaps three occasions that I managed to complete the Marathon in less than 1 hour 45 minutes, my daughter may have confused my medals to being almost Olympic in their importance.

The question was raised, why I had not been Knighted like other cyclists who who had won medals? I politely tried to explain the reasons why this would probably - the word probably was seized upon - not happen. At this point Mrs Orange Brompton - who had been patiently listening with growing amusement - intervened with laughter. My assertions that I was a, kind of international world class athlete was met with open pointing and laughter. Adding to the chorus of jocular tittering was eldest daughter who explained in no uncertain terms why I would not be paying a visit to Buckingham Palace anytime soon.

I think it is best that I am not an international world class athlete who has medaled at the highest level. If I am like this with BWC medals...

The IG London Nocturne - what a day!

Occasionally, fate plays a hand that leaves you feeling rather shocked. Not in a bad way you understand but in a sort of, well I didn't expect that! Today was that sort of day!

Up early the only fussing around I made was which of the three cameras I own do I take? This caused a great deal of deliberation and eventually I opted for the Sony RX100. Of course I need not have bothered but more of that later.

The journey to Excel was not half as bad as I feared and door to door was about an hour. After collecting my thoughts I headed off for the Excel itself. This is quite vast and one half had the bike show while the other had the boat show. On my way in I saw the beaming smile of the co-founder of the Brompton Club Mick B.

I soon met up with Mark W and his pit technician (who later joined the fold and bought his very own 2013 Brompton for a bargain). We were allowed to get on to the track and put down a few laps. I leapt at the chance and headed out.

The track was fast! It also required concentration in the bends - one of which was formidable! There were all sorts out. Some folders like us and a collection of different bikes being tested by customers being wooed in to a possible purchase. After 5-6 laps I was sweating and feeling the pace. I returned to the pit. The corners were treated with a fine sandpaper material which provided greater traction. This was a welcome addition as I found it all bordering on terrifying.

Soon my partner in crime iCrazyBee arrived and thankfully I had someone to tone down the garishness of my own outfit. Retiring for a spot of luncheon, talk turned to the track and the best way to approach it. Back in the pits, before long we were joined by Laurence, Joe, Alasdair and Monskton-Monsk (who had flown in that very a.m from Spain)!

Now dear reader I have to say that I am not proud of the next few sentences I write. It is nothing short of quite shameful. The ideas of Social Darwinism surfaced in the pit. I began to look at my fellow folding bike racers and weigh them up, deciding whether or not I felt I could beat them...whether they posed a threat. You see, it had for a microsecond become a game of survival of the fittest and I was trying to ascertain whether I would place higher! This is quite shameful, I know.

With our race an hour away we went out to the bike show bit. I did take some photos but to be blunt, my heart wasn't really in looking around at anything - even Brompton's! Perhaps I was anxious but I wanted to get back out on the track while I could and that's what we did. After several more laps I was feeling a little better.

500m and 10x laps. The Hairpin on the left!

The moment then arrived. The briefing. Given instructions we picked a number out of a bag which represented our start position on the grid. Ten laps on a fast, 500m course. Bikes were folded and positioned. We moved back some 30 metres to the start line and waited. My mouth went dry. Strange thoughts raced through my mind. Had I turned the GoPro on my bike to record? Would nerves conspire to make me fumble the fold? Was my tie straight? Did I brush my teeth this morning? The flag was raised, countdown from three and then we were off.

Mark got a great start and raced into the distance. I did okay and managed to pass 5-6 riders who did not pass me again. The crowd was tremendous and I could hear their shouts - some of which were directed at me. I could hear the race commentator mentioning sartorial elegance and orange. I was going as fast as a dared.

Coming out of the hairpin on lap three, I adopted my usual out of the seat and driving forward but wobbled violently. Thankfully I managed to recover. I got behind one of the racers I had seen at the Nocturne and Brompton World Championships. I knew he was fast so I stuck behind his wheel for most of the race. His intention was merely to get in to the final. I know this as on lap eight he opened the afterburners and was off. I didn't see him again.

With the checkered flag, for me the race was over. I thought I had done well but as for the final - well there was always the Nocturne in the summer. We waited around and before long a lady came over, confirmed my name and number and informed me that I was in the final. This is what I referred to at the start of this blog. I was stunned. Unfortunately, iCrazyBee and Laurence didn't make it. Mark, Joe and Alasdair joined me in the final.

The final was slightly over an hour away but surprisingly the time flew by. Before long we were having another briefing, picking more numbers out of a bag and positioning our folded bikes on the start line. We were off again.

I was so pleased at getting in to the final and still tired after the first heat that I eased the pace - at least I thought I did. I wanted to enjoy it and get round in one piece. Some of the riders were incredibly fast. I suspect that if there had of been timing for this race I might have gone faster in the final than in the heats? Luckily the rumoured 15 laps for the final stayed a rumour and after 10 we were finished.

There was talk from some of a best dressed prize. One fellow rider said that he heard the race commentator talk very favourably about my attire. I did not win any prizes but take some satisfaction in knowing my outfit was certainly noticed. In fact I was the muse for several people working at the Nocturne and a few photographers. Perhaps I will appear in one of the cycling magazines?

I really surprised myself today as I genuinely didn't expect to get in to the final. Perhaps all the weight saving on the bike paid off. In addition to having lost some weight I certainly felt fitter - perhaps this all worked in my favour. Even though my beloved Orange Brompton wasn't there (much to the disappointment of some) my little Raw Lacquer S2L served me very well. I think I am going to keep the Kojak tyres on it as a little reward.

The IG Nocturne Folding Bike Race is a fantastic event and yet again it was well organised and great fun! I hope that in the summer I can do it all again.