Sunday 30 June 2013

My favourite blog - Fit With Fegrig

There are lots of blogs that I follow and of an evening before retiring to bed I often catch up on them to see what is going on. Many are Brompton related, some are to do with Ricoh camera, photography and some Star Wars. I really like David Lindo's urban birding blog but they are not the one I like the best.

My favourite above all other is by a writer called Fegrig. This blog is an eclectic mix and it always provides interesting and entertaining reading. The subject matter varies from recounts of walks with the dogs to travel to his training and participating in running events.

The only downside is that like all of us bloggers Fegrig probably doesn't have the time to write more. Still, he has a large back catalogue for you to browse through and you may well like me find that you like it greatly.

You can find his blog at the link below.

Am I getting faster? Richmond Park with my Titanium Orange Brompton

For this morning it had been my intention to cycle to central London to take a few pictures with my Ricoh GR. When I set off it looked so lovely I decided to head to Richmond Park instead for a few laps.

When I arrived at Richmond I could see that I would not be alone. In all the time I have been to Richmond I have not seen so many cyclists. It could be as the Tour de France is currently on or it could just be that it was such a lovely summer morning and many could not resist the draw of the place.

I took my Titanium Orange Brompton with me and traveled very light. I didn't even take a saddle bag and stuffed a spare inner tube, CO2 pump, tyre levers and spanner into my pockets.

As I set off I decided that I would try and maintain a 16 mph pace (if I could). I managed to do this just about. Descending the big hill at the end was farcical on the first lap as a car decided to overtake cyclist coming up the hill and was quite happy to stay on the side of the road I and other cyclists were travelling down. Bit of an idiot as he could have easily returned to the correct side of the road.

The weather was wonderful and Richmond Park was stunning. It reminded me of last years training sessions before the Brompton World Championships. Deer at one point were right up on the edge of the road and many cyclists stopped to take some photos of them. Not wanting to spoil my desire to maintain a 16 mph average I continued.

When I watched the highlights of yesterdays first Tour de France stage I watched with interest British cycling legend Chris Boardman giving a report about aerodynamics. He showed via the use of a wind tunnel why cyclists bunch in a peloton. With this in my mind I tried to get a tow from some of the roadies. I was able to keep pace with a few groups before they spun off. I was going near flat out whilst they had more in the tank. It was quite funny seeing the faces of a few other roadies going at a slower pace. They were past by five roadies all in the same club jersey with yours truly at the end of the peloton just about keeping pace. I only wish I'd brought my GoPro and got it facing them as cycled past saying, "lovely morning for it!"

When I completed the first lap I stopped to take on some fluids and treated my first circuit as one lap. I soon headed out for my second lap and as I did a quite fierce breeze made itself know. Cycling into a headwind made things hard and I was fighting to maintain the 16 mph average speed. Luckily I managed to do it (just about). I think I managed to do this as I kept in a lower gear and upped my cadence.

With two laps done and needing to get back home I decided to call it a day. I really enjoyed this morning spin at Richmond Park. It isn't my favourite location by any means but I always come away thinking that it has done me some good. It is certainly better than sticking to undemanding flat as a pancake roads.

Is my Titanium Orange Brompton a faster bike? average speed was higher than it has been on my Original Orange Brompton. The weight saving will have some part to play I am sure. I do feel that the addition of Kojak tyres and mudguards off is also a factor.

The clipped in pedals definitely help ascending the hills and I like them a great deal. I have yet to go on a seriously long ride using them but I have a feeling they will help. (In fact before I got to Richmond Park I had a go at the infamous Nightingale Lane and its 20% gradient. It was ascending this that convinced me clipped in pedals help)! Perhaps those of you out there with more knowledge than mine can comment on this but I have the notion that they are more efficient than flat pedals and therefore help the rider to use up less energy.

It could be that I am simply getting a little fitter? I still have a long way to go. A year or so ago my training runs might have consisted of cycling in Hyde Park or in and around central London. My only goal is to continue getting fitter, continue being able to cycle distances at a reasonable pace, lose a little more weight and go on many more adventures. So far things are ticking over nicely and it is great that so many of you out there are trying to do much the same.

The maps and ride data recorded by my Garmin Edge 510 can be viewed by clicking on the links below.

Richmond Spin 1 map and ride data

Richmond Spin 2 map and ride data

Saturday 29 June 2013

Titanium Brompton M6E X Almost Ready!

On Wednesday I went for a training run. Today like many of you I watched the start of the 100th Tour de France. It was an eventful beginning to what should be an incredible spectacle of athleticism. I was quite amazed that the average speed for the winner was well over 26 mph!

I decided to go a stage further with my Titanium Orange Brompton and this afternoon I took the mudguardds off, added the non mudguard nylon hook and the small metal cable protector. These last two items had not seen the light of day since the Nocturne at the start of the year.

The M6E X 

In addition to this I also took off the Brompton rear light and replaced it with the lighter rear reflector that comes as standard with Brompton bikes. With Kojaks inflated to the maximum permitted levels I took my bike out and proceeded on exactly the same route I did on Wednesday. Although slightly warmer there was not much between this evening and then. The bike felt good and now weighs only slightly over 10kg.

As I set off the bike felt different. I suspect it is all psychological but my Titanium Orange Brompton felt agile, certainly more than on Wednesday. Things felt faster somehow? As I went round the same circuit my Garmin Edge 510 was telling me that my average speed was up from last time. If I could maintain this level for the 30 minutes I had allowed myself out, I would not only achieve a higher average speed I would travel slightly further than I had on Wednesday.

Before I left the house I invited my daughters to view my progress live via the excellent live track via my Garmin and iPhone. This allowed them to view my progress on a map. Upon my return they were excitedly telling me that they loved it and it seemed to work really well. (A review of the Garmin Edge 810 and 510 to come soon).

                                  Wednesday                                               Thursday

Time:                         30.17.74                                                    30.51.32

Distance:                   8.42 miles                                                  9.01 miles

Ave Speed:               16.68 mph                                                 17.51 mph

Max Speed:               27.66 mph                                                 27.06 mph

Calories:                    673                                                            698

In my last blog post I said that I wanted to get closer to the 17 mph mark. I am surprised that I have been able to do this so soon let alone the next time I attempted this circuit.

Comparing the my the weigh of my two beloved Brompton bikes the Titanium in its near racing spec is noticeably lighter. The removal of the mudguards cannot surely account for me going slightly faster I know and is probably a placebo type reaction. Perhaps the more knowledgable out there can tell me what they think?

I really hoe that it doesn't rain for the London to Whitstable trip in a few weeks time as I would love to see how this bike performs over a longer distance. There are a few more little tweaks I need to make in the next few weeks and in the meantime I think I am going to enjoy my Titanium Orange Brompton even more!

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Mid Week Training Run on a Brompton

With a major training run to Whitstable in less than three weeks time...which in turn is in prep for the 120 mile Dunwich Dynamo...which is in turn major prep for the Brompton World Championships a little over a month away, I decided to get out on my Brompton and go for a mid week training run.

As I reported yesterday I am beginning to reach the point where I cannot praise the Kojak tyres enough. Really enjoying them. As for the clipped in pedals I have used them almost every day since they arrived and when funds allow I am going to get another set for my Original Orange Brompton. I am afraid the days of standard Brompton pedals are coming to an end.

Yesterday I had intended to stay out for 30 minutes but ended up falling short of that target mainly due to getting the timing wrong. Today I used the timer function on my iPhone and got my 30 minutes.

I was glad that I was able to maintain an average speed of over 16.5 for the entire 30 minutes. I hope to build up to something nearer to 17 mph in the future on this particular route.

My route has one large hill to negotiate which I now relish. When I first got my Brompton I have to admit that this hill was a struggle and I certainly didn't find it easy. It is the opposite now. I still cannot fathom why I like hills so much? Perhaps it is the challenge? I do love ascending a steep hill where there is the opportunity of overtaking an unsuspecting road or mountain bike.

For the moment the mudguards and the front carrier block are still on but for how much longer I am not sure?

My statistics for my training run are as follows:

Time: 30:17.74

Distance: 8.42 miles

Average Speed: 16.68 mph

Maximum speed: 27.66 mph

Calories: 673

Ascent: 227 metres

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Titanium Orange Brompton Evolving Slowly...

I bought this bike because I have always wanted a Titanium version. I bought the M-type as I wanted something that was an all rounder and I loved the classic, almost timeless shape. My Titanium Orange Brompton is slowly but surely evolving.

First I changed the pedals to clipped in. The Shimano M780's are quite lightweight and more or less the same weight as the original Brompton pedals...perhaps even a tad lighter.

Next the saddle. The 530g Brooks was replaced by a Specialized racing saddle that saved me over 300g. I have to say that this saddle is surprisingly comfortable! It's titanium rails allow a certain amount of flex that keep things stiff but allow vibrations to be dampened. It is quite effective in this regard. In addition to this gel sacs are strategically placed at vital areas to add further help.

Today I changed the standard Marathon tyres that I ordered with this bike and replaced them with the slick Kojak tyres I had bought and only used once at the indoor Nocturne. When I had finished fitting them the bike felt very light when compared to my Original Orange Brompton. (And that was with the Hope Vision 1 front light and Garmin Edge 510 attached).

Going out on a little test run the bike felt fast, nimble and a different animal to what it had been before. The Kojaks grip the road well and the reduced rolling resistance is palpable with each turn of the pedals. They also reduce the weight by 400g.

As for the pedals I have to report that I really, really like them. It is still a bit of a learning curve but when going back to the standard pedals on my Original Orange Brompton they don't feel right somehow?

The next step will I suspect for me to take the mudguards and front carrier block off. This will reduce the overall weight by a small amount but it will create less drag.

This is all quite ridiculous I know with all this weight watching but this is quite an addictive game. Will it all male me faster? Almost certainly not!! I do wonder however whether when I next try to ascend something like Ditchling Beacon or tackle the 120 miles of the infamous Dunwich Dynamo whether carrying less weight will assist me? I think it will.

The data for my test run is as follows:

Time: 23:09.02

Distance: 6.47 miles

Average speed: 16.77

Maximum speed: 27.84 mph

Calories: 514

Ascent: 164 metres

A Day at Bletchley Park with my Ricoh GR

At the weekend I took the family to a particular favourite location of ours - Bletchley Park. For those of you who are not aware during WWII Bletchley Park was know as 'Station X' and was ultra top secret. It was here that the many code breakers attempted and were eventually successful in cracking the 'Enigma' code.

Enigma machines looked like typewriters but contained three rotors which characters on them that spun around each time a key on the keyboard was pressed. This meant that each time a key was pressed your Enigma machine would display a totally different character on the lampboard that would light up showing the different character.

The Enigma Machine

The Germans used the Enigma machines on U-boats to send coded messages. Churchill apparently said that the only thing he feared during WWII was the U-boat threat. Breaking the code was vital and the code breakers worked tirelessly to do so.

Alan Turning the genius mathematician inventing a machine of his own called the 'Turing Bombe' that had rotors that spun around continuously trying to decipher intercepted codes. This together with the team of code breakers managed to do just that and the Germans lost the war thinking that their Enigma codes were unbreakable.

Bletchley Park was so top secret that until a few years ago no one had really heard of it or the great Alan Turing. It was only with the threat of Bletchley Park being laid to the ground for developers to build housing that those who worked there during WWII broke their silence. Now it is a museum and the quite incredible work many people did there can be recognised and celebrated. Many have estimated that the work the code breakers did at Bletchley cut two to three years off WWII and saved millions of lives.

A replica of Alan Turning's 'Bombe.'

There is a huge amount to see at Bletchley and I took my Ricoh GR to take a few photos where obtaining bokeh was the order of the day.

There are lots of old classic cars at Bletchley

Inside one of the bike sheds there several rusting bikes, many with Brook saddles on them.

Bletchley Park is about 50 minutes drive from London and it has an overground station 5 minutes away. Admission entitles you to an annual ticket and as such you can visit there as many times as you like during the year. A family ticket costs £34, adults £15 and under 12's go free. The great thing about Bletchley is that there are lots of special events during the year which you can go to.

A renovated hut where the great Alan Turning worked

I am really enjoying playing around with my new Ricoh GR. It is so small and light weight that carrying it around if effortless. I am also very pleased with the results so far. The level of detail is very good and the lens is very sharp. At f2.8 isolating objects and achieving bokeh is quite easy. I thought nothing would be as enjoyable as the Ricoh GRD IV but this new GR is better!

The link to the Bletchley Park website can be found below.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Velonotte Albertina, June 22-23, 2013 on a Brompton

Last year my riding partner iCrazyBee and I went on one of our first ever all night rides which was the first Velonotte. On that occasion it quite literally poured down for the entire ride. It was an experience to say the least but it perhaps gave us a taste of the wonders of nocturnal cycling in London.

Late last night and throughout the early hour of this morning we again embarked on the second Velonotte. This time we were joined by two other Bromptonians - Chris and Oliver. We were periodically joined by Roger (veteran of all Nocturne races) who was performing Marshalling duties.    Our meet point was Piccadilly Circus at 23:00. Once assembled we chewed the fat for a while before making the short journey to Buckingham Palace which marked the official meeting point for the Velonotte Albertina.

The Velonotte Albertina was the brainchild of Sergey Nikitin who is the founder of this enjoyable concept. With a Victorian theme riders were encouraged to dress appropriately in Victorian costume -which many did. The idea is that participants will cycle to various locations where they listened to a simultaneous broadcast on 104.4 FM radio. Experts talked about the architecture and some of the great and good associated with these locations/buildings. It was all very interesting stuff.

The meeting point opposite Buckingham Palace 

As midnight approached it was not long before the simultaneous broadcast began. Shortly after midnight we switched on our lights and were off to our first location.

The growing gathering of cyclists at Buckingham Palace

As we cycled down The Mall we saw dozens of lorries and transporters unloading lots of very expensive cars. Some were F1 cars. As hordes of cyclists weaved in and out of the cars being unloaded security guards looked on nervously. One even asked politely if we could be careful as the cars cost lots of money.

Expensive cars

Apparently all these exotic cars where going to be used in filming a forthcoming episode of BBC's 'Top Gear.' Didn't see James May but would have been nice if he had of seen all the Brompton bicycles go by.

Cars nervously brought out of their transporters

The first stop was Charring Cross Station. The focus being the station, the early underground and Eleanor's Cross situated outside the station. I have mentioned this before in my blog and to find out more about it please click here.

Eleanor Cross

Outside Charring Cross past midnight is certainly lively. As on previous night rides this location in particular is a conduit for those either starting their night out or those about to return home. An ambulance was parked in the taxi rank with a middle aged lady sitting in said ambulance. Not too long after this the same lady was being marched to a nearby police van by two police officers. She must have either made a remarkable recovery or was not injured/ill as she was resisting quite well and using language that would have made a docker blush.

Bike all shapes and sizes outside Charring Cross

Our ride continued and we arrived at the University of London's Senate House. This is a lovely art deco building that is a particular favourite of mine. We listened to some very interesting commentary about the university before moving on.

University of London Senate House

The weather was not as bad as last year. There was only light rain on a few occasions but the moderate winds made made things chilly for this time of year. When will summer truly arrive in the UK??

Travelling along the Grand Union Canal with so many cyclists was distinctly dicey. Regular readers will know that I have a particular dislike of cycling along stretches of waster so I negotiated the sometimes narrow towpath with caution!

As we cycled along memories flooded back of the Whitstable Friday night ride where we cycled along a long stretch of water. I write this as cycling along I fancied I could hear the distinctive sound of Marsh Frogs calling in the distance.

At Ladbrook Grove we reached the outside entrance of Kensal Green Cemetery. In my opinion it is one of the finest Victorian cemeteries in London if not the finest. I have written about this location at length and you can see my previous blog entries by clicking herehere and here. Pay it a visit if you are able.

The Ladbroke Grove entrance to Kensal Green Cemetery

At about 03:30 we arrived at a rest point the name of which alludes me. I know that it was a nightclub but thankfully most of the clientele had left and the club - with an extended licence - hosted all the cyclists taking part in the Velonotte.

Rest point in a nightclub

More shots of the nightclub

Shortly after 04:00 with dawn on its way and various birds starting to sing we headed off again. At this point Chris said her goodbyes and not too long after that so did iCrazyBee and I.

Together we cycled along Park Lane passing a lady sitting at a bus stop with her boyfriend perhaps sobbing and wailing. Not that much further along we passed another bus stop where a 40 something was doing the same while his friend drank from a bottle. Crossing at Marble Arch I caught a glimpse of a man lying in the road with paramedics surrounding him and a dented van, stationery with hazard lights on. I write glimpse as I cannot bare to look at such things. I suspect this poor chap was drunk and wandered into the path of an oncoming van. I have written before that I have lived a sheltered life but there was much more to come. More of that later.

We knew that the only place that would be open was McDonalds near Charring Cross. Unfortunately when we got there we could see that there was an incident taking place outside and not wanting to get too close we headed back to Tottenham Court Road where we had passed one that opened at 05:00.

The view while waiting for McDonalds to open - Centre Point just after dawn

As we waited we were joined by more and more people. All apart from iCrazyBee and myself were worse for wear. many were plain half cut! I am the sort of chap who gets on with everyone from all walks of life but I felt as if there might be little in the way of common ground between us. I suspect no one bothered us as we were standing there with folding up Brompton bicycles and colour coordinated jackets. Perhaps they thought the same about us I thought about them?

The seating area was totally shut, perhaps as they didn't want people sleeping there - as believe me some might have. With food ordered we took it to a quiet spot and ate. As I finished the last of my coffee a homeless lady carrying two filled carrier bags in each hand appeared from nowhere. I actually smelt her before I saw her and from the fumes I inhaled I worried about whether it would be safe for me to cycle home? There then followed a brief conversation that confirmed I have indeed lived a sheltered life...

This lady looked me in the eye and asked if I would like to take her to bed as soon as possible! (I have of course changed the wording on this. She was much more graphic in her choice of language)! With a quickness of wit I did not know I possessed I said that I was very tired after a night of cycling but Mitul (the Mcdonald's staff member who served me) would only be too happy to fulfil her request. I pointing in his general direction.

She proceeded to walk purposefully in the direction of the poor unsuspecting Mitul, taking no notice of the lenghty line of people waiting to be served by him (not in that way). For a few moments I felt slightly guilty but I did not stick around long enough to see how things panned out.

I said my goodbyes to my cycling partner iCrazyBee (who being a London Bus Driver for many years who has seen it all and probably amused me saying I have lived a sheltered life).

The Velonotte was a great little ride. The locations were great and it was good to see lots of cyclists from all walks of life participating. The organisers did a very good job and Sergey put together a great event. Below you can click on the link to view the map and ride data recorded by my Garmin Edge 510.

Velonotte Map and Ride Data

Saturday 22 June 2013

Specialized Saddle with Ti Rails for Titanium Brompton

Today I took the plunge and bought a lightweight Specialized saddle with titanium rails.

I have been attempting to reduce the weight of my already Superlight Titanium Orange Brompton of late and transform it into more of a sporty number. With this saddle I have taken off over 300g when compared to my Brooks B17.

It is dramatically lighter than my Brooks and even the standard Brompton saddle cannot compete with its slight build!

The all too important questions - what does it feel like when riding? Very good. It feels as if not more comfortable than my Brooks. It is designed with a grove cut through a portion of the middle so that vital arteries aren't as compressed. This really does seem to work well.

Picking up the saddle is a little like when I first picked up my Pearl Izumi Barrier Lite jacket - hard to believe it weighs what it does.

The saddle comes in three sizes and the helpful people at Specialized assisted me in choosing the correct size. This consisted of sitting on some memory foam and the staff member measuring the imprint my rear end made with an overly engineered ruler.

Will this make me faster? Probably not. That isn't why I bought it. It could be argued that these weight saving attempts are the equivalent of a mid-life crisis where some 40 something buys a convertible. That definitely isn't that case with me. First I hate convertibles. Second with this saddle on my Titanium Orange Brompton, my new clipped in pedals and cycling in central London I would almost certainly overtake that 40 something in his convertible!

I bought this saddle as I think it looks rather good on my Titanium Orange Brompton. I love the light weight and titanium rails and physiologically if will surely give me a boost at the Brompton World Championships and when I next attempt to ascend Ditchling Beacon.

Friday 21 June 2013

I'm not alone in my like of the colour Orange!

The other day I had to go multi modal and us emu car for part of my journey. With my Brompton the boot I stopped briefly at McDonalds in order to get a cup of tea to break up a long journey. In the car park space near mine I saw an orange bike not the pedalling type but a Kawaski Ninja Superbike.

I got out of my car and asked the owner if I was allowed to take a photo of it. He was only too happy and after taking the first photo I told him that things were going to get worse as I started to open the boot. I got out my Brompton but as I was doing go the owner of the motorbike said, "I don't believe it. It's an orange Brompton!" It was good that he instantly recognised the brand we are so fond of. 

With my photo taken we joked about would be able to go the fastest. We both agreed that mine was the better mode of transport as I could take my Brompton almost anywhere. 

When I drove away to continue my journey my mind wandered off to the last time I was ever on a motorbike. It was the early 90's and I was an undergraduate. I locked my Brompton to the railings at Hanover Square. (I had a Brompton back then but like a fool sold it).  After a night out I said my goodbyes to a friend who had parked his motorbike near Marble Arch. It was also a  Kawaski, the one that Tom Cruise used in the film, 'Top Gun.' He offered a lift to where my Brompton was locked up. (strange that back then I used to do that all the time. No way I'd lock and leave my Brompton bikes now). 

I got on the bike and very reluctantly put on the spare helmet. Back then, to my shame I didn't wear a cycle helmet and was worried about suffering helmet hair. However, being a legal requirement I conformed. My so called friend told me to hang on...

I did but the acceleration was so rapid, so violent that I could not suppress a scream. I am not ashamed to say that I wailed like a banshee on a journey that seemed to take less than 5 seconds. In addition to this I held on so tightly that onlookers would have thought we were a young couple. I shouted out STOP! 

Arriving at Oxford Circus I got off the bike, told my friend he was an arse, handed him his crash helmet and sulked off to Hanover Square. To this very day I have not and will not have anything to do with motorbikes!

Thursday 20 June 2013

I finally go clipped in on my Brompton...again!!

Quite some while ago I bought some M540 Shimano clipped in pedals but abandoned them not long afterwards. For reasons I won't go into I was put off them, couldn't get used to them and if truth be told wasn't really ready for going clipped in - if that makes sense.

I have done a great deal of riding since then and seen lots of my friends...fellow Bromptonians go clipped in. I have watched with interest and listened to their findings. I decided to take the plunge...again. 

I bought a pair of Shimano M780 pedals. They have a double sided entry, adjustable tension for the release of the cleats and weigh only slightly over 350g. Fitting them was easy and they look rather fetching I think. Comparing them to the M540's I briefly owned then look and feel better. 

There was a big difference to the purchase of these pedals compared to the last pair of clipped in ones I bought all those months ago. Last time I was almost nervous. Putting them on I was having doubts. Going out for a ride on them for the first time I felt unsure, uneasy and wasn't confident. This time things were very different. 

I was eagerly awaiting their arrival. I was happy to put them on and did so much easier than I had the last time (perhaps due to all the maintenance jobs I am now able to do). Going out for a ride using these new pedals I felt much happier. I enjoyed using them...I liked them! 

I rode a 5 mile route near my home that has a fairly steep hill. I have to say that ascending it with clipped in pedals and my new DHB shoes with a much firmer platform, all worked in conjunction with one another to make things not necessarily easier but more efficient. I certainly felt I was using less energy. 

It is very early days but at this moment in time I cannot foresee these pedals coming off my Titanium Orange Brompton.

The Shimano M780 pedals

I think they look rather good.

The shoes I bought along with the pedals are by no means the most expensive and are at the starter end of the market at £42. They have however been favourably reviewed and are supposed to punch well above their weight. 

DHB mountain bike shoes so that I can walk in them!

At the budget end of the market but I think they are rather good.

It will be interesting to see how they both feel and perform on some of the longer rides I have planned. As for them making me go faster...I suspect they will help on hills and aid with efficiency. Unlike last time I am looking forward to using them and that cannot be a bad thing. 

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Speed...on a Brompton!!

No, not that sort of speed! I am talking about speed...going faster on your bike as if ones very life depended upon it. Speed has been a slight preoccupation of mine the past few weeks. It has dominated my thoughts and I have pondered its wonders.

I blame the Nocturne Folding Bike Race I recently participated in and the impending Brompton World Championships. I seem to have endurance conquered. In the past a ride of say 10 miles would have seemed almost insurmountable. The thought of 50+ miles would have brought on a fit of the vapours. Now, things are very different. I have been on several rides over 60+ miles and coped pretty well. The day after is always a good indication of ones fitness and so far I have felt pretty good, not suffering from any ills, other than the desire to go on more rides of similar length.

At the Nocturne I did not make the final. I am 43 years young and many riders were approaching 20 years younger but a gentleman named Brian who is older than I tore through the heats and to the final and when in the final placed very well indeed. Another rider Alastair, of similar year to myself did much the same. Mark (King of the Hills) again of a similar age to me did the same. Laurence, who was recovering from a rather nasty fall didn't go as fast as I did - almost certainly due this - but his technique was peerless. It was smooth and efficient...elegant almost.  Even Peter that nice chap I met on the Tweed Run who is in his 50's positioned ahead of yours truly. The truth of the matter is that I am happier to mince around like a dandy of yesteryear in my finery but I still want to go faster.

So far I am under the quite deluded notion that the following will make me go faster:

  • Kojak tyres instead of Marathon's.
  • Mudguards off.
  • Clip less pedals.
  • Front carrier block off to aid aerodynamic efficiency. 
  • Brook saddle off to be replaced by an Italian super lightweight razor blade.
  • Lightweight road bike helmet rather than one that is simply orange.
  • Lose a a couple of pounds of weight.

I write deluded as I know that all of the above will not make me faster.

In a recent edition of 'Cycling Weekly' there was an article entitled, '41 ways to go faster.' This obviously caught my attention and imagination and I read it with an eager frenzy. All 41 ways of going faster were digested and I have to say many I am doing already.

A few of the more interesting included:

  1. Doing micro intervals where you pedal with perfect technique flat out for 6 - 30 seconds during a training run.
  2. Work on your weakness where you think honestly about your likes/dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and work on the dislike and weak areas rather than ignoring or avoiding them.
  3. Fuel ones riding. This is where you fuel up before and during a ride so that you don't suffer the rather unpleasant 'bonk.'
  4. Increase revs not gears is where you use a low gear and pedal at a greater rate, rather than struggling in a high gear.
  5. If it doesn't make you faster don't put it on your bike. A very interesting point that I have certainly embraced and feel I could do much more on.
  6. Ride in the best kit you can afford. There is a time and place for budget cycle attire but quite often you do get what you pay for. Having good equipment - clothing - certainly makes for a more comfortable ride. 
  7. Drink beetroot juice. High in nitric oxide it also lowers blood pressure and improves exercise tolerance.
  8. Just ride. Quite simply get out on your bike!

The above is taken from the 6th June 'Cycling Weekly' and with another 33 ways to go faster it is certainly worth buying.

Tomorrow a new pair of clip less pedals should arrive in the post. I plan to put them on to my Titanium Orange Brompton and it will mark the start of this attempt...desire to go faster. Clip less pedals will prove to be very helpful on many of the longer rides I have planned and hopefully allow me to pedal in a more efficient fashion but as for speed...we shall see!

Monday 17 June 2013

Tower 42 Time Lapse Video

I took this video when I was lucky enough to visit the top of Tower 42 in the heart of London. Travelling on my Brompton I somehow managed to carry a fairly big tripod upon which I attached my GoPro Hero 2 and used the excellent time lapse function.
Tower 42 Time Lapse

Sunday 16 June 2013

Orange Brompton on YouTube

I have lots of video footage that I have taken over the few years I have had my beloved Brompton bikes. I thought it was about time I had my own YouTube Channel so I took the plunge and got one.

At the IG Nocturne I was in Heat 1 and I decided that I would mount my GoPro Hero 2 camera on the rear seat post. I did this as I wanted something different to the norm or the forward facing shots.

I didn't make it to the final but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I hope that you like the footage. If it doesn't load when you click on the link below you might want to try later on. As I am new to YouTube it might take a while for the video to appear.

Let me know what you think in the comments section.

My footage of Heat 1 of the IG Nocturne Folding Bike Race

Saturday 15 June 2013

New Purchases and I ponder the Future...

It has been a very busy few weeks on the Brompton front. I have been on several night rides and last week was Epic Saturday which consisted of participating at the excellent IG London Nocturne and 100km NightRider Charity Ride.

I recovered really well from last weeks exertions and on my commute I wasn't suffering at all. I don't have anything planned for the foreseeable future as far a rides / adventures go but the 20th July will see me take part in the 120 mile Dunwich Dynamo. This is a formidable distance and I really do need to get myself ready in mind and body!

The Dynamo is a turn up event that has been going for several years and is a must do cycling event. I wanted to do it last year but timings and dates didn't work out and I was unable to do it. In a way I am glad as my fitness, although improving was not as good compared to what it is now. I still feel that I have some way to go but I am getting there and last weeks fairly brisk paced 100km certainly bring me to the conclusion that I am ready.  A week later it will be the Brompton World Championships and I really do need to get ready for that one!

One of the things I have been looking in to again is the notion of getting clip less pedals. Regular readers will know that I did go clip less several months ago, only to be put off for one reason or another.

A friend who recently emigrated to Canada could not understand why I didn't go clip less. He used to do an 22 mile each way commute on a single speed Titanium Brompton, Kojak tyres and no mudguards regardless of whether and swore by clip less pedals. Lots of other fellow Bromptonians have also gone clip less and I now feel the time is right. I suspect it will take my cycling to where I want to be.

I was in a cycle shop mid week and had a good look at the many different pedals. I haven't yet made up my mind but I want to get some soon so that I can start getting used to clipping in and out in time for the Dunwich Dynamo and the Brompton World Championships.

One item I had to purchase recently was a new suspension block. Despite me degreasing the existing one on my Original Orange Brompton it makes a loud squeaking noise. I am hoping that the new one will make all the difference.

Regular readers will know that a few weeks ago I bought a folding dry bag. I was in Cotswold Adventure Store today and saw a smaller dry bag that was even better than the one I bought previously.   This was one sale at a discounted price and I got a further discount by using my CTC (Cycle Touring Club) membership card. Pretty good. (I was in no way swayed by the colour)!

Monday is going to be the starting point of my training for the BWC. During the week I plan to go home the long way, making sure that my route includes a steep hill. At the weekend unless I have anything planned I intend to get in a good 10 miles. 

Hopefully I will soon have a new pair of clip less pedals to be getting used to but we will have to see?

Monday 10 June 2013

Nocturne and 100km Nightrider on a Brompton Back to Back!

The IG London Nocturne Folding Bike Race

Saturday, 8th June / Sunday 9th June will forever be etched upon my memory as an amazing few hours  where the adjective epic could have a stab at summing things up.

Spanning these two days I first participated in the IG Folding Bike Race, held at Smithfield in the heart of London. I first attended this event last year and came away with the feeling that I would like more. More came in the form of an indoor version In January at London's Excel as part of the Bike Show.

The Nocturne Folding Bike Race has become more and more popular each year. To Brompton owners it has become like the 'Queens Club' tennis tournament to the 'Wimbledon' that is the Brompton World Championships. The Nocturne provides great training for the BWC and for the really speedy Brompton owners. Doing well at the Nocturne might reap rewards at the BWC. I am a very big fan of the Nocturne and it is a rather pure race in many ways.

I arrived at the Barbican Centre Car Park in good time and made my way to the the signing on area. Gradually more and more members of the Brompton Club assembled. Once signed in we retreated to the riders area on the inside of the track.

Club racers rode purposefully on turbo trainers or rollers and the professional riders bikes could be see neatly racked on top of team cars with copious team livery daubed all over. Penny farthing bikes were carefully stacked in groups and reminded me of the way soldiers of yesteryear might haver rested their muskets/rifles. It certainly set set the scene.

I had decided to take my Titanium Orange Brompton with me and my sole nod to the weight saving brigade was to take off my front carrier block. I did so with the conviction that it would in some way aid the aerodynamic efficiency of me and my bike.

Waiting around for the big off is always a nerve racking affair. Ladies who worked for 'Red Bull' kindly distributed cold tins of these energy inducing liquids and were gratefully received. The new 'Urban Challenge' event which I must say looked like tremendous fun was on directly before heat one of the heat.

Race officials gathered us to go through the race particulars. We were randomly given small laminated pieces of paper containing details of where to place ones folded bike on the start line and we waited.

The wait felt like an eternity but our time came and before we new it we were out on the course. Bike folded I pressed play on my GoPro which this time I decided to position on the rear of my seat post as I fancied a different view. I walked back the 60 metres or so to the start line where over 40 riders, on the balls of their feet, spoiling to get going had to wait again.

The Union flag being waved was the signal we needed and with shouts of encouragement from the large crowd and cheers from the riders themselves we ran towards our folded bikes. My unfold wasn't particularly quick but at least I was not one of the many unfortunates still unfolding when I cycled off.

The heat would be over three laps and we were told that the first 20 riders would qualify for the 5 x lap final. I have put in lots of miles in the past six months and I am happy that my personal journey to gain an increased fitness has been a productive one. I gave it my all and could not have done any more. My riding partner iCrazyBee must have had a tremendous start as I past him on about a third into the first first lap. I passed fellow club member David P but he overtook me but he went past me and although trying I did not catch him up.

Laurence a club member and a very useful rider to say the least who had been recovering from a nasty fall of the bike put in a gutsy performance. My GoPro footage has him like a shadow for the entire race.

Another club member Femi, suffered the frustration of his chain coming off scuppering his race. As for my riding buddy Mark, I did not see him as he was way ahead and along with Brian and Alasdair got into the final 20 with aplomb. (Alasdair was a on a quite incredible beast of a Brompton with various customisations. He could have turned up on a Raleigh Chopper and still made the final).

The race was over only three laps but it felt like longer to me. I was by no means last but I knew that I had not made the glorious 20. In truth looking at the lineup before the race I suspected this anyway. 

This heat, this race was brilliant. I really enjoyed it, the buzz it gave and the atmosphere. The crowd were very enthusiastic and many kindly shouted out words of encouragement to the 'Orange Brompton!' With the Brompton World Championships less than two months away this has provided a great preparation for that event. It has given me a few points to work on:

  • I seem to be able to ride at a fairly brisk pace over longer distances and cope well with hills but my speed over shorter ones needs some work.
  • Everyone was telling me that for this sort of race I should go for clipped in pedals. This is something I may have to look at again. (My Adidas Marathon 80 trainers have the colours I like but the sole is quite woeful). 
  • The hinge clamps can be updated to the spring loaded type that make the fold that bit quicker.
  • Kojaks are lighter, firmer and offer a tremendous ride.

With my heat over the second heat containing several other Brompton Club members got under way. Soaking in the atmosphere the club riders were racing and going at great speed on their carbon fibre wonders.

In the riders some lady riders from the 'Wiggle Honda' team were being photographed and causing quite a stir. I went over to photograph them too and saw that in the centre were Team GB riders and  Olympic gold medal winner Joanna Rowsell, double Olympic gold medal winner Laura Trott and Olympic gold medal winner Danielle King. 

Golden girls

Not a medal but a great souvenir 

The IG Nocturne Folding Bike Race is a near perfect event that was well organised and great fun. I am sure that regular readers will already know that I like medals. (The Nocturne would be even better if all participants were given a Nocturne medal). Regardless of this, if I am lucky enough to get in next year I want to be part of this again!

The NightRider

After the excitement of my Nocturne heat I had to come back down to earth and gasp the fact that I the 100km NightRider later that evening. My riding partner iCrazyBee and I decided that we both needed to get home and do some last minute prep. In my case I wanted to see my daughters and wife before heading off again. 

We decided to grab a coffee at the brilliant, 'Look Mum No Hands' nearby and met David and Anne who would join us later on the NightRider. The last person joining us on the NightRider was Mark but he still had the Nocturne final at 20:30 to get through!

I agreed to meet iCrazyBee and Mark at Oxford Circus as 22:00 so that we could cycle the few miles to Alexandra Palace. I just had about enough time to have something to eat tell everyone about the Nocturne before heading back out.

Mark was waiting bang on time and I was fashionably late with iCrazyBee being unfashionably late. Once gathered we cycled from Oxford Circus to Alexandra Palace. The road leading up to the palace was steep but Mark and I managed it but I think iCrazyBee might have walked a few metres of it. Riders came down the hill on the other side of the road who had earlier start times than our midnight.

Once up at the top there were hundreds of riders of all ages on all manner of bikes (we only saw a couple of other Bromtonians participate the entire night) and a buzz of excitement. Getting out reflective vests and pinning our race numbers on to the front we searched for David and Anne but with so many people we couldn't spot them.

One rider asked me in a quite arrogant manner whether or not I had ever ridden 60 miles, 'on that.' I politely explained that I had completed several rides of a greater distance - London to Brighton, London to Southend, London to Cambridge, London to Oxford. He tutted and turned his attention to the road bike he probably bought from Halfords. I recall passing him on the first big hill and don't remember seeing him again for the rest of the ride.

The riders setting off at midnight were called and it was then we spotted David and Anne. With much cheering from the many midnight starters we were off.

Once we descended from Alexandra Palace we almost immediately encountered another hill. Again I coped pretty well as for some strange reason I actually like hills and find them a fascinating mind game. It was a different story for iCrazyBee who doesn't really like hills. It was our intention to do this ride together as a pack but at this first hill we perhaps knew that it might not happen. The weather was not terrible but there was a nip in the air mainly due to strong headwinds that seemed to plague us the entire 100km.  The ride as a pack option might not happen for the entire night.

The first stop was at the Imperial War Museum. The organisers had done a very good job of taking care of those taking part. There were plenty of chocolate bars, crisps and water tanks where you could up . In addition there were mechanics on hand to tend to your bike if needed. 

As we pressed on some of the views of London at night as I have also seen on the many night rides I have been on, proved to be stunning. Many riders stopped in the middle of the bridges we traversed to take a few pictures.  

Mark and I seem to have a good riding relationship and on longer rides I seem to be able to keep up with him. We started to cycle at a good pace and took the scalps of many a rider. At times we tore through the snaking lines of cyclists and it would be true to say that both of us quite enjoyed it.

Arriving at Crystal Palace we had nearly reached the half way point. We exchanged the first of the vouchers on our race numbers for a well earned snack. Soon David and Anne rolled up and slighter after them iCrazyBee.

We left Crystal Palace together but it wasn't too long before Mark and I started to enjoy the pleasures of passing road bikes or anything that moved. I cannot speak for Mark (although I expect it might be a similar story) but I had already been allowed to go to the Nocturne and I wanted to get the NightRider competed as soon as possible so that I could get back to my family.

With dawn breaking London looked beautiful in a different way and the route was proving to be a very good one. Travelling through a deserted Canary Wharf made me ponder the idea that I should go there again in order to photograph some of the architecture. At Potters Field Park adjacent to the river Thames we had another rest. I took the opportunity to take some photos.

Canary Wharf at dawn

Potters Field Park with the Mayors office in the background

After Potters Field Park we headed for Alexandra Palace. Mark and I decided to cycle on just as David and Anne arrived. We felt a little guilty for not staying in a pack but with the end in sight - albeit still a long way off - we cycled on.

As we neared Alexandra Palace there was one last killer of a hill to overcome. With fresher legs this last hill would have been a piece of cake for me but the Nocturne, trying to keep a brisk pace and overtaking anything that moved had made my legs tired. Despite this I made it - as did Mark (and remember he was also in the final of the Nocturne) to the applause and congratulations of people who lined the last few hundred metres.

Before 07:30 we had done it. A medal was presented to me and loving medals I was rather pleased. The line for the breakfast was quite long so Mark minded the bikes while I went in to get our keenly anticipated food. At about 08:20 we saw David and Anne and not too long after we saw iCrazyBee. We had all done it!

Mark and I said our goodbyes before heading back in to central London where we too said our goodbyes...until next time.

Full circle - back to Alexandra Palace

Taken at 07:32 but we arrived slightly earlier

A particularly fine medal

I enjoyed the NightRider. The route was interesting, demanding in places and all for charity. There was a lovely atmosphere among the riders taking part and a curiosity about us taking on Brompton bikes. Yet again I feel we did our bit and changed many peoples opinions about our bikes.

Would I do this again? I think I might but next time I would try and raise more money for my chosen charity.

Below you can click on the various links to see the ride data and maps for the various points of the ride.

Journey to Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace to Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace to Potters Field Park

Potters Field Park to Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace to Finish