Saturday 31 August 2013

Pirate ships on night Docklands ride

Last night Mark (King of the Hill) tempted a few of us Bromptonins to try out a new route he had been working on and tinkering with. Being allowed out for good behaviour, I met him and a few other Brompton club members at Trafalgar Square at 20:30. 

On route I got caught up in a Critical Mass cycle ride. For a few hundred metres I was one of hundreds riding noisily and enthusiastically around the streets of London. Luckily as I got off my bike and walked to the top of Trafalgar Sqaure they made their merry way down towards the Houses of Parliament. 

The night was near perfect for cycling. Warm with a gentle breeze, it made a dramatic change from the meteorological events of last week! 

We proceed to our first location that overlooked Tower Bridge. There were lots of people around - mainly tourists - and the sight of several Brompton bikes was a bonus attraction for many. 

As we headed further east we traced some familiar locations on our many rides along the Thames - amount my favourite routes. At one point we overlooked Canary Wharf and as we tried to take photos in the dark a tall ship travelling east caught our attention. It looked like a pirate ship with its tall masts and square sails. 

Cycling further east we reached Woolwich Arsenal and it was here that we saw many more pirate-type ships. I don't know what so many were there for but they certainly added to the views. 

Mark had hinted that there would be a lung busting hill, from the sumit of which there would be stunning views of London. The hill was Eglonton Hill and it was certainly demanding. In recent weeks I have been up many a hill and have got better at ascending them. On a high from besting Ditchling Beacon is particular hill didn't pose too much of a threat. The views were stunning and could just be viewed through the gaps in the houses. 

Not long after the hill we cycled though Blackheath and interesting location to say the least. During the height of the plague, Blackheath - being far enough outside the City of London - was the site of a mass plague pit. The uneven levels are due to different parts being used more or less this this grizzly purpose. Over 100 years later Blackheath was a popular haunt of highwaymen and virtually a no go area. Before we left Blackheath we passed Ranger's House, a Georgian villa that houses a vast art collection. 

Travelling under the river Thames via the familiar foot tunnel we were joined by lots of other cyclists. The tunnel acted almost like air conditioning, cooling us down. 

On the last leg of our return to central London we took last few pics of Canary Wharf, a location we had cycled through as part of the ride. We then reached the familar sight of Tower Bridge. At this point we made our respective ways home.

As I reached the bottom of Lower Regent street there was something I saw and heard that left a sour note on a really good evening. Unfortunately a cycle richshaw driver lay on the ground surrounded by medics. I am not sure what happened but he looked semi conscious. As I waited to proceed I heard a taxi driver with windows down shout out, "hope it hurts." Not good. 

Despite this I really enjoyed the ride and look forward to repeating it during the day or again at night at some time in the future. 

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Beautiful cycling locations

On our recent short holiday in the Welsh borders the number of touring cyclists seen was high to say the least. 

There are some quite stunning cycle routes in this part of the world but I found one in particular to be above all others. The route from Monmouth to Tinturn Abbey has to be one of the most picturesque I have ever driven through but to cycle along, taking in its beauty at a more sedate pace is surely the way to do it. 

At Tinturn Abbey, a location that Wordsworth no less committed to imortality in one of his poems I came across lots of touring cyclists who obviously had the same idea. I spoke to a a few and one couple said that they had driven this route many times but always wanted to cycle it. This year was the first year that they left the car at home and thy had no regrets. 

Someone commented on a blog post today that they were going to cycle to Niagara Falls on their Brompton bike. This I imagine would be some journey! It got me thinking. I have readers all across the world and that I'd like to know (and I am sure you reading would too) what has been YOUR best cycling journey? 

What I'd like you to do is to email a picture showing your best cycling route and I am going to display them on my blog and add to it - depending on what response I get. So take yourself back through memory lane and share your best journey with a short description explaining why. The best will appear on a blog post/page devoted entirely to this. 

Monday 26 August 2013

London to Brighton - Epic and Rainy Journey on a Brompton

Towards the end of Friday night I met up with a few follow Bromptonians who were intrepid enough to brave the elements for a London to Brighton cycle ride that would test us all to the very core. I have done this ride before and loved it and been on lots of memorable long distant rides but little did I or any of us know what the night/early hours of Saturday morning would have waiting for us...

The brave few included David, Anne, Geoff, Guy, Amanda myself (David, Geoff, Guy and myself on our Brompton bikes). Some of us met at Charing Cross making the short journey to Hyde Park where we all met up. We were one of the first of over 70 riders taking part in this ride. Initially I fancied it had been called off due to the possible whether conditions but gradually they came. Before long a sizeable group waited for the off. We were going to meet David and Anne at Charing Cross but David suffered a rear wheel puncture and met us at Hyde Park. Little did we know but this was an omen of what was to come.

The meeting point

My Titanium S-type read for its first run

At the stroke of midnight we departed and there was definitely an atmosphere of mild apprehension of the unknown. As we cycled past tourists and those on a night out, I speculated upon whether they would believe we were going to cycle through the night to Brighton - in THAT weather?

The pace was purposeful but at one where conversation flowed freely. I decided to take my newly updated Titanium Orange Brompton with me. The ride position of the S-type felt as good as I remembered on my S2L but the addition of 6 gears and the shock absorbing qualities of titanium worked together to make the ride sporty, precise and comfortable. I was glad that I made the change to the S-type and it confirmed in my mind that this was the best setup for longer touring. 

For the English (or people living here for long enough) the weather is a near preoccupation. Predicting the weather is a national pastime. With the rise in smart phone ownership all manner of apps compete to tell what it might be like tomorrow, the next day or days in advance. Consequently, there were several weather forecasts for Friday night / Saturday morning. Many advised that rain would come from midnight onwards - some of it very heavy. Luckily the ran didn't put in an appearance until 02:45. Until then I was cycling happily in a Brompton cycling top in humid and muggy conditions. 

Every so often those at the front would wait for slower riders. The Bromptonians were able to hold their own and stayed within the top third or so. One such stopping point was at the base of our first formidable hill. This hill was merely a taste of what was to come and wasn't easy.  I would say that the riding position of S-type helped ascending this hill as it it very easy to shift ones weight forward. It was also the first time since I had injured my knee (probably due to my cleats not being positioned correctly)  that I had gone on an extended ride using clipped in pedals. If you look at the Garmin data recorded by my Edge 510 you will see that the hill I refer to seems to go on and on. There came a point where you thought it was all over only for it to start all over again!

As we approached the Horley Badlands a mist pervaded the air. The beam of my Hope Vision front light was not able to penetrate too far into the distance as water vapour created something akin to light fog. It was also at this point that the rain started to fall. It was light at first but gradually got heavier - nothing too awful but it was persistent and obviously going to prevail for the rest of the ride. 

Virtually everyone stopped and put on all manner of waterproofs. I put on my super light, Pearl Izumi Barrier Lite jacket. This did a good job of keeping me reasonably dry but due to the humid temperatures condensation formed on the inside making me wet. I stopped, put it away and got out my old DHB jacket I had somehow managed to cram in to my saddlebag. I was glad of it as the rain conspired to turn down the thermostat and it got colder. 

As we entered the Horley Badlands, trees lining each side of the path provided some protection from the rain as branches touched each other. Progressing further the metalled path turned into a dirt track. I feared that as it had been raining so steadily, 70+ cyclists might churn up the track to make it resemble the Somme. Luckily my fears were ungrounded and we came through the other side unscathed.

Sanctuary came in the form of a scout hut specifically opened for this group of riders. I opted for a tuna sandwich, wedge of lemon drizzle cake and a cup of coffee which I consumed with enthusiasm. The floor of scout but was hard and shiny and water laden with the foot fall of 70+ riders padding about. I walked to the serving hatch to get my water bottle refilled and the combination of wet, shiny floor, SPD shoes, metal cleats and neoprene overshoes conspired to induce interesting consequences! Unfortunately this meant that trying to walk gingerly 30 metres to the serving hatch, I had a tendency to mince. Luckily the assembled riders were too engrossed I their food, conversation or attempts to dry various items of clothing to be bothered looking at me mincing my way to the serving hatch. Should they have glanced in my direction I wager they would have likened my gait to that of a young Sir John Hurt when playing the role of Quentin Crisp in, 'The Naked Civil Servant!' As I walked back towards the safety of my seat I saw the gaits of several other well know celebrities including John Inman, Louis Spence and even Kenneth Williams! 

After thanking the people who had again got up at an ungodly hour to serve us some lovely refreshments we set off. The rain was now slightly heavier and every so often a group of riders could be seen at the side of the road, tending a puncture. Punctures! Luckily I did not suffer any at all but it was as if they were everywhere. By the end of the ride there were 15 or 16, a record I was informed. More on punctures later. 

If you look at the ride data you will see that in addition to the hills there were also some lengthy downhill sections. I took the stance that going down hills in the dark while raining was done best at a safe pace. I therefore took descents very carefully. In deciding to do this I was able to spot and avoid some huge potholes. 

As I cycled along I saw some riders at the side of the road, obviously tending a puncture. It was only when I recognised Anne stopping that I too Pulled over. David had suffered a quite spectacular puncture. He reported a sudden deflation from a tyre explosion. He said that there were also sparks flying and the image in my mind was that of Ghost Rider. David had the wheel and tyre off in reord time. Upon initial inspection we could not detect any damage. Later Anne spotted a nasty tear in the inner tube. With the tube replaced the tyre was inflated with via CO2 bottle. It was then I spotted a slight bulge in the wall of the tyre. Unfortunately there was a nasty gash in the tyre wall. Various suggestions were banded around but a plastic water bottle was cut to size and inserted as a temporary measure. That done we all proceeded. In case you are wondering what my part in all this was, I positioned my front light in David's general direction and watched him give a master class on rear wheel puncture repairs.

Yes it was as bad as it looks and this is with the tyre boot fitted

After David's puncture incident we started to spread out as the dreaded Ditchling Beacon still had to be tackled. On this ride there were times when you were on your own for several miles. In the distance I could just about make out the rear lights of riders way ahead. Using them as a carrot I would try to reel them in and eventually overtake. It certainly provided a distraction from the constant rain. There was a stretch of at least five miles where I was on my own. All was quiet apart from hearing my Brompton cutting through the rain and it pitter pattering on my jacket. During this time the Beacon was very much in my thoughts. The last time I managed to get 3/4 up before throwing in the towel. Could I do it this time? Would the rain have the final word? As I cycled along I fancied I could hear the rain make the sound of gentle laughter.

At the final stop point I followed a small group of four who knew their way to the Beacon. After not too long we reached the bottom of the Beacon - the official start point. We all got ourselves ready. I took an energy gel as I had not had anything since the scout hut and was under the delusion that it might help. I also took my last swig of water and in the same manner I saw other riders do the last time I attempted the Beacon, I threw the rest away. A few of the group I followed to this point made their way up. Guy rolled up and began his own preparations. Geoff rode past without stopping and said that if he did he wouldn't be able to get going again. As ready as I felt I could be, I too started off. 

The road leading up is quite steep even at the start and clipping in to my pedals took concentration and immediate effort to get going. I tried to keep a steady rhythm as I pedalled and in my head I counted as spun the pedals. There were two points on the ascent where it was so steep I knew that if I remained in my saddle I would surely grind to a halt. I therefore got out of the saddle and cycled. Last time I didn't have clipped in pedals and now with them I felt more confident that my feet wouldn't slip off the pedals. 

The S-type riding position helped me ascend the steep gradients. Shifting my weight forward was easy even while seated. I passed one of the riders I had followed to the Beacon and a good distance passed halfway I passed Geoff who had succumbed to walking. The ascent is a little over a mile but it seemed never ending. After each winding turn I thought surely this must be it but my hopes were dashed as I saw more twists and turns and road to climb. After what seemed an eternity I reached the top. I had done it. I had conquered the Beacon without a foot becoming unclipped...without a foot touching the floor. I have to confess to feeling rather proud of myself. Is that wrong? I was doubly proud as my left knee although feeling okay still wasn't 100% after the Whitstable ride. 

At the top the stunning views were null and void as mist and fog obscured any chance of a scenic photograph. I waited for my colleagues and soon Geoff, Guy, Amanda, Anne and David also made it to the top. David really does need special mention. After mending his puncture and tyre wall tear he had apparently suffered further problems. Someone let him have a 'tyre boot.' I had not heard of this before but it is a strong rubber patch that can be used as a temporary repair to holes/small tears in tyres. David made it up to the Beacon without stopping on a rear wheel that was not inflated to the correct pressure, a bulge in the tyre wall and the worry at the back of his mind that it might deflate at any time. 

The view from the top of Ditchling Beacon - I made it!!

With all of us at the top of the Beacon we made our to Brighton. For the last few miles it was almost free wheeling as sea gulls cried overhead and the sea air filled our lungs. As we reached the Madeira Cafe on the seafront, a few cyclists who got there before us, tucking into their breakfasts have us a few cheers. We grabbed a table and left no time in ordering our own. 

After breakfast we set off. David, Anne, Geoff and I had booked ourselves on the 11:19 train to London Victoria. It was our intention to take a few pictures of us in Brighton but of course the weather made this impossible. We therefore retired to a number of coffee establishmens in order to kill a couple of hours. Arriving at the train station in good time we boarded our train, got some good seats, from which we could keep an eye on our bikes and sat back and relaxed. As we were next to the toilet and as I had drunk a cup of coffee and a pot of tea in the two hours before getting on the train, I felt this would be a good idea. 

The rather lovely roof at Brighton Station

Opening the electricially controlled door with the push of a button it made a whooshing sound and opened. I stepped inside and pushed the close button. It whooshed shut. It was all very science fiction.  (I have not used a toilet on a train so I am easily pleased). I was later told that as I had not pressed the 'lock' button someone could have come and opened the door while I was inside! Luckily no one did. 

Saying goodbye to David and Anne who got off at the station before Victoria, Geoff and I made it to Victoria. As we stepped outside the heavens opened and we took shelter in a doorway. Getting fed up waiting and wet from a nights cycling anyway we set off. Inside Hyde Park Geoff and I said our goodbyes. I cycled to Maida Vale where I had left my car and set off for home. 

As I type this in the comfort of my own home I have a few thoughts about this ride. Firstly the neoprene overshoes although keeping my feet dryer than they would have been without them had two problems. My feet still got wet and the stitching on the soles had started to come away. Rubbish really that they didn't last the 10 hours I wore them. They were returned to the shop for a full refund. I suppose what I am trying to say is that for the length of time we were cycling, I doubt if any cycling top or over trousers would keep you totally dry. Fitness wise I was happy with how the ride went. I didn't put a foot down on any of the hills and was able to keep a respectable pace. My knee seems okay and the rest of me is equally good. I feel I am getting to a level of fitness where a 60+ mile ride is more than comfortable but I can still improve. 

I could have looked at the weather forecast and thought twice about riding all night in the rain and not gone. That would have been a big mistake!! This was a wonderful adventure and for me the weather conditions only added to this. It was perhaps the most challenging ride I have been on. I loved the sense of achievement of cycling in wet weather and of course getting up Ditchling Beacon. From the ride data I found that my average moving speed was more or less the same as the last time I did London to Brighton in much better weather conditions. (In fact it was slightly faster). 

These longer rides are very enjoyable and as I have written before quite addictive. Although short social rides are fun, it is perhaps true to say that I prefer longer rides with a descent pace to them. Luckily for me there are a few of these planned for the future - some like this ride and some Brompton owners only. I look forward to them greatly. 

It was great riding with so many people from all walks of life and with all manner of bicycles and of course my thanks go to Simon who yet again organised a truly superb ride. It was also great fun to ride with my fellow Bromptonians and I am sure will will be going on lots more adventures in the not too distant. 

So, you out there, if you like the sound of all this get a bike (preferably a Brompton of course) a few friends or family members and head out for your own adventure. It doesn't have to be 60 miles but I am sure by the time you get home and finish you'll want more. 

Rainy London to Brighton map and ride data

Friday 23 August 2013


Oh yes!! 300,000 pages views reached and passed!!

As always I am rather pleased at another little milestone being reached. Remember, please continue to leave a comment or send an email. This blog is also for you out there too. 

Thanks to anyone who has read my random thoughts, recounts, reviews and everything else. Keep coming back!!

The rain will not stop me!!

In a few hours I will be embarking on a London to Brighton overnight on my Titanium Orange Brompton. Although not the longest of rides at 61 miles it does have more than a few hills and hr dreaded Ditchling Beacon (which I can't wait to bet another go at)!! I have vowed that the rain will not stop me...

Weather wise we will be treated to very warm if not muggy overnight/early morning temperatures but it is predicted to rain. This rain has been forecast as anything from a sustained light shower, periodic bursts of heavy rain and even precipitation of near biblical proportions. 

I have therefore decided to take no chances as far as my feet are concerned and will use for the first time a pair of Endura road overshoes. 

It was my intention to use these for the coming winter and the many night rides I will almost certainly take part in but this ride seems as good as any. They basically a waterproof neoprene boot with a cut out in the sole for ones SPD's. It's a simple but effective design. They have e following features:

* Waterproof welded seamless construction

* Scotchlite reflective logo

* Smooth neoprene upper

* Rear zip with snap-down puller and Velcro heel tab

One bonus feature is that the lining is a rather good colour that for some reason I really like?

The rest of me might not be dry by tomorrow morning but hopefully my feet will be. (If you are anything like me I hate it when my feet get wet). 

So, quite possibly while you are sleeping tomorrow morning I should be attempting my ascent of the infamous Ditchling Beacon. Make sure you keep coming back to see how I (and my feet) get on. One thing is for certain, I suspect tis is going to be a ride to remember...


I have to report that after the ride my feet were wet but no where as much as if I had of worn nothing at all. This was 6 solid hours of rain so under normal conditions - perhaps a commute they'd be okay.

The biggest surprise was that at the end of the ride the stitching on the sole had started coming lose and there were a couple of holes starting to form. Not very impressed! I took them back to the shop for a full refund.

I have to say that I won't be buying another pair with this type of material and until I do my feet will just have to get soaked!

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Sunday 18 August 2013

iBikeLondon Summer Ride

This morning I was out bright and early and off to attend one of iBikeLondon's excellent rides. I had arranged to meet a few of my fellow Brompton Club members at St Paul's Cathedral and one by one they arrived. After a coffee and catching up we cycled the short distance to the the official meeting point - City Hall on the South Bank of the river Thames.

Meeting point number one

On route we stopped at the wall of lights where we took lots of photos. I think we have been here before on one of our night rides but I cannot be sure. After perhaps far too many photographs we pressed on to our meeting point.

Isn't that Peter from the Tweed Run?

The jury is out for me on whether I just hate or despise The Shard?

This started out orange and changed to red!

When we arrived at City Hall there were already quite a few people there and more than a few on Brompton bikes of various colours. It was there that we bumped into a few familiar faces and some new ones. One new member to the fold, Andy P was kind enough to say that my humble blog had a part to play in him getting a Brompton.

Elisabeth from iBikeLondon - the very talented artist who was at the recent Brompton World Championships said hello and gave me an orange badge she had on with a Brompton. I was rather chuffed! 

After a safety talk from iBikeLondon'd Anthony we were off. I was invited to help out and marshall the ride at junctions. It would be true to say that I was really pleased to be asked. At a few points in the ride I proudly marked the junctions until the last rider was past and then zoomed back up the line of cyclists.

As always iBikeLondon's John navigated the route with great skill and made sure that everyone knew whether there were any tricky bits coming up.

Still loving Kojak tyres

Once we were given the go ahead we walked out bikes along until it was safe to start the ride proper. Lots of onlookers speculated as to what we were doing. Some asked what we were doing. The best reply I heard explained that we were cycling around London in a large group as it's fun.

Money for old rope?

There was a really good turnout for this ride and as always it attracted all manner of cyclists from a vast array of backgrounds. For me it is one of the reasons why these rides just work.

We progressed to a vantage point overlooking Canary Wharf to one side and the City of London to the other. Clouds ominously formed and the sky turned a shade darker as the threat of rain seemed as possibility. 

Cycling further on we reached Greenwich - a favoured location for many a Brompton Club ride. Going up the hill in Greenwich Park was a gleeful moment for me as I love hills. I still like my clipped in pedals and after adjusting the cleats they seem to be better.

At the top of Greenwich Park it started to rain but it didn't last long and those who looked to grab a waterproof soon thought better of it. We were treated to some lovely views and after a few group photos we were off again.

Reaching the Greenwich Foot Tunnel memories flooded back of many a ride with my other cycling partner Mark (King of the Hill). Virtually all of the Brompton riders simply carried their bikes on their shoulders down the stairs - the versatility of our folding bike.


Towards the end of the ride we had to negotiate a twisting path with 90 degree turns. It was great fun and brought a smile to the faces of everyone. I wish that I had videoed it as it looked brilliant. 

Before long we were at the end of the ride where those who had brought a picnic sat down in the Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden and enjoyed lots of tasty morsels. Unfortunately I was late for somewhere else I had to be so had to make a very swift exit and head back for home. Saying goodbye to those I could see, I made my way back to where I had parked my car off the Marylebone Road.

The view from the picnic area

Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden

To my amazement I was able to negotiate my way to where I parked my car without getting lost. Believe me, this was incredible as setting off from the picnic area I thought to myself, I don't really know which way to go?

At a set of traffic lights on the Strand several naughty cyclists jumped the red lights - something I don't do. A black taxi was behind me as I shook my head as they cycled past and saw one almost get run over. They didn't get far as another set of traffic lights haled the traffic. Again they went through the red light. This time the taxi was on my left and he turned and shouted out, 'I wish they were all like you Mr Orange!' I wondered who he knew my moniker but realised it was printed on the back of my bright orange t-shirt!

The iBikeLondon rides are great fun and seem to be getting ever more popular. I always come away from one of their rides seeing parts of London I didn't know existed and making new friends. If you live in London or can get to London for one of their rides you won't be disappointed.

iBike London Summer Ride map and ride data

Saturday 17 August 2013

The March Towards Minimalism on a Brompton Continues - Saddle Bag

Regular readers will already know that my Titanium Orange Brompton is gradually becoming the Brompton I use for all other uses apart from my daily commute to and from work. I have been tinkering with my beloved Titanium one for a few weeks now and my attention turned to the saddle bag.

It was not that long ago when for example cycling from London to Oxford (in fact coming up to a year ago) I actually took my front C-bag! I shudder to think what I had packed away in it however I do recall it being full to near bursting with everything but the kitchen sink! I remember thinking at the time that although heavy I'd almost certainly need everything packed therein, just in case.

How times have changed! The amount of kit I take out on a longer ride has gradually got lighter and there has been a ruthlessness about whether an item is actually needed in the first place. My saddle bag has over time got lighter and lighter but wanting even better performance I decided to embrace minimalism further still. Perhaps I have been reading too many cycling magazines aimed squarely at roadies but I have decided to dip my toe further into some of the kit for the road bike user.

There are lots of different types of wedge-type saddle bags out there but I opted for a Specialized 'Dirt Bag.' This retails for £17 but I managed to get it for £12 from an online retailer. The price of some of these small wedge-type saddle bags is quite shocking and I felt that at £12 it was worth a go. It has the following features:

  • Zipped expansion pocket for more volume
  • Water resistant nylon
  • Water resistant zipper
  • Internal neoprene tool pocket

The 'Dirt Bag.'

The bag is very lightweight and has a number of advantages over my Carradice Zipped Roll Bag. First as I have perhaps given away it is a great deal lighter. I have not got weights but I would say it is about half its weight. In addition to this, this bag does not sit horizontally to the seat and therefore doesn't have bits sticking out making it more aerodynamic. 

The top compartment has a neoprene pocket which is said to be a tool pocket. I would beg to differ saying that it would make an excellent place to store a mobile phone, wallet or money.

Neoprene pocket

Expansion for more volume if needed

The bag attaches to the rails via two strong velcro straps. A further strap goes around the seat post. It is a simple idea but works well. The bag is held firmly in place, doesn't move around and despite the slight overhang seen in the pictures does not makes its presence felt at all. When I first fitted it I was worried that I would be sitting on the top of the bag but a lengthy test run confirmed that I would not.

Another nice touch is that the Specilaized logo on the back of the bag is in fact a loop from which one can attach a rear light.

On the bike

Not sure what the internal capacity of the bag is but I managed to fit the following item inside with room for a little more:
  1. iPhone 5
  2. 2 x Schwalbe inner tubes
  3. CO2 pump
  4. 2 x CO2 cartridges
  5. Tyre levers
  6. Park tool multi allen key tool
  7. 15mm spanner
  8. Oystercard
  9. Pearl Azumi Barrier Lite jacket
  10. 2 x energy bars
  11. Wallet
  12. Car keys
  13. Hand wipes
  14. 2 x rubber gloves
  15. Pack of handkerchiefs 

Stays firmly in place and very light

I have to say that I am rather impressed with it and even will all of the above inside it felt a great deal lighter than my Carradice Roll Bag. I still really like the Roll Bag and would not part with it but this new 'Dirt Bag' is certainly going to be the saddle bag I take with me for the majority of future rides on my Titanium Orange Brompton.

This new addition is a further move towards making my Titanium Orange Brompton the best bike I can  for all the adventures I have coming up. There will be more changes on the way - some that you might be very surprised by - so keep reading!

As always please leave a comment in response to this or any of my other blog entries. I like to think that  us cyclists are all on the same team, regardless of what bicycles we ride and like best and your comments are often useful for other readers as well as yours truly.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Hyde Park Training Run

I haven't been on my Brompton since the Brompton World Championships and felt that I needed to get out and go for a mini training run. I had no intention of burning rubber or going on a demanding route but wanted to clock up at least 10 miles. As my training partner Bumble B had been feeling below par for a few days I managed to rope him in to joining me.

We settled on Hyde Park and met at the Achilles Statue - the meeting point for so many iBikeLondon rides. The weather was good and the forecast of rain didn't really materialise. A small amount of light drizzle was all we encountered.

The park was busy and dozens of tourists were cycling along on Boris Bikes (some of them incredibly badly). When we stopped for a coffee a young tourist approached me excitedly asking where he could hire a bike like mine? I politely informed him that it was in fact my bike but felt like quipping £1600 an hour.

The bikes together

The great thing about owning a Brompton and riding regularly in a group is the simple friendships one can make along the way. My partner in crime and I are a bit of a double act - where there is one there is usually the other. Today was not about seeing the sights or setting a personal best. It was more about two friends chewing the fat, sharing our respective plans for our bikes and laying the foundations for copious amounts of rides to take us up to Christmas...

The long stretch of Hyde Park

Wednesday 14 August 2013

2013 Brompton Brake Levers

As I am sure you are aware Brompton ever the company to improve, tweak and update components on their brilliant bicycles made a few changes to their 2013 lineup. Rumours surfaced first of a new brake lever to get us all excited. Pictures were released that caused quite a stir and finally if you we one of those purchasing a 2013 model (which I was) you got he new levers!

I have already sung their praises in previous blog entries but I will say again that they are a dramatic improvement over the older version - looks, form and function. I have waited for quite a while for these to be available as an after market upgrade for older Brompton bikes - namely my Original Orange Brompton. Finally they are now available. 

It has taken Brompton quite a while to get these out as a spare part but you cannot blame them too much as Brompton bikes seem to be in such demand I suspect they can hardly keep up. Well they are here now so if you choose to you can get an instant improvement. 

Anticipating their release at some point, I actually bought a new set of brake cables months ago so that if I ever got my hands on these I'd be able to replace them too. Fitting the new levers is a pretty easy task and wasn't too taxing.  My advice would be to take it steady and replace cables one at a time. This way you can see where the routing goes. I know at some friends take a before picture on their phones and refer to it as often as needed. 

My Original Orange Brompton now proudly wears the new 2013 brake levers and looks great. It's 2013 makeover is now complete. The only thing I have to do now is replace the gear and derailer cables at some point. 

The 2013 brake levers can be bought individually or as a set (which is what I did) for £29. For what you get and the improvement I performance, this is a small price to pay. I bought mine from Brilliant Bikes - the only place I any of my Brompton spares as the are like their name suggests brilliant.  

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Cycling Magazines for the Brompton Rider

I like to think that us cyclists are all on the same team, whether roadies, mountain bikers, hybrid, folders, hipsters on fixies and any other bike type I have not mentioned. However, when visiting ones local newsagent the genre of magazine that one can purchase well and truly geared to the road bike user.

Many of these magazines offer very interesting articles that draw in the Brompton user. There are articles on nutrition, how to ascend hills, how to descend hills, how to rider faster, what to eat and what to wear. As I have stated these articles are directed at the roadie but I like to think that there is some crossover. I mean, I do all of these things and more. 

I have read about how the director of Team Sky has deliberated a great deal about marginal gains. This is where numerous small changes can collectively help to produce a greater overall result. I have recently embraced this with regards my Titanium Orange Brompton. Tyres have been changed, mudguards taken off. A new super light saddle has replaced my Brooks leather offering as it saved over 300g in weight. I have even considered changing a few bolts for titanium ones that might save a further 50g. Surely all these collective minor changes will reap rewards?

A recent article gave advice on how to tackle Alpine climbs. Mrs Orange Brompton tutted when she glanced at this and asked when I was going to take a Brompton up a mountain? I pointed out that its advice might prove useful. I then retold tales of Ditchling Beacon, that uncharted mountain on the recent Whitstable ride and a London to Oxford ride planned for later in the year as if to illustrate my point. Satisfied with my defence I continued reading 'Cycling Plus' magazine August issue which had an article titled 'Beat Every Hill.'

These cycling magazines do provide interesting reading and although I tend to take their advice with a pinch of salt they do give the Bromptonian food for thought. I will hopefully be going on a London to Brighton ride in the not too distant future and I will of course let you know how I get on with the many hills I will have to overcome. I will also tell you whether the advice offered for beating any hill works for me!

Sunday 11 August 2013

New Roles for my Two Orange Brompton Bicycles

If you are a regular reader of my humble blog offerings you will undoubtedly know that my Titanium Orange Brompton has been slowly evolving. I have made several changes and so far this includes:

1) Replacing my Brooks saddle for a Specialized road bike version with titanium rails and some 330g lighter. (This has been a great success so far. The weight saving is really noticeable and it is as comfortable as the Brooks). 

2) Brompton stock hinge clamps have been replaced with a titanium version from Brompfication. These are only marginally lighter but they do offer a much speedier fold/unfold. 

3) Front carrier block has been removed and will not go back on again. 

4) Marathons have been replaced with Kojaks. The Kojaks offer a huge weight saving an although I may not keep them on during a British winter (although my friend Mark (King of the Hill did and lived to tell the tale) I might consider it. 

5) Mudguard have been taken off although during the winter months they will almost certainly go back on. 

6) I finally replaced the stock foam grips for an Ergon lightweight version that instantly proved a great deal more comfortable. 

I have really enjoyed using my Titanium Orange Brompton and can really feel the weight reduction over my Original Orange Brompton. The titanium parts definitely provide some shock absorption and make the ride more comfortable. I do have several other changes in the pipeline for my Titanium Brompton which will further reduce its weight ever so slightly but I have come to a decision over its use...

I commute to work every day on my Brompton all year round. The only weather conditions that prevent me from cycling to work would be snow, ice or a heavy fog. The only other factor that stops me from using the Brompton is if I have to carry a particularly heavy or large load that would be impossible on a Brompton. My plan is to use my Original Orange Brompton for my daily commute and use my Titanium Orange Brompton for recreational use which represents all my Brompton club rides, weekend adventures and of course racing. (If the weather is terrible I have the option of using my Original Orange Brompton). 

This has been a decision that has almost made itself and my Titanium Orange Brompton seems to have fallen into this pattern of use quite naturally. To my mind I will look forward to using my Titanium Orange Brompton even more. I suppose is is the luxury of having more than one Brompton - one for work and one for play. Saying this commuting to and from work on a Brompton is a gleeful experience compared to other forms of transport. 

As these new roles for my Brompton bicycles takes shape I will further focus my attention on making my Titanium Orange Brompton the best bicycle I can for longer rides, racing, ascending hills and general adventures. This journey will take me some time but I will share each new development as and when they are place. 

Saturday 3 August 2013

Brompton World Championships Souvenir

Last week at the Brompton World Championships I saw several people who had preordered a Brompton cycling top. The opportunity to buy one passed me by and seeing them in the flesh as it were made me regret not buying one as they are quite stunning.

On Saturday when at Goodwood for the Sprint and Eliminator I popped in to the Brompton tent and was told that there were a few of these tops available but they weren't sure of the price. I was going to pop back later but it slipped my mind in all the racing excitement. 

After the big race on Sunday I popped to the tent again while people were tucking into their post race refreshment I remembered to pop back to the Brompton tent and asked again. There were only a few sizes left but they had one in my size and I snapped it up. 

I really like it and I can see it being put to good use - while the weather lasts. I really like the 'Team Brompton United Kingdom' on the back. This added to the Union Jack on the arm adds to my 'International' athlete status - if only in my own mind. Regardless of this it will serve as a great souvenir for a great Brompton event!