Sunday 24 November 2013

Dr Who 50th Anniversay Special - No I'd rather be out cycling!!

The past week has been quite a build up towards the 50th Anniversary of Dr Who. Saturday night marked the culmination with a special anniversary programme that was even being shown in cinemas across the country. I have always been a Star Wars fan. I mean how can a Sonic Screwdriver compete against a Lightsaber or the Police Box against the Millennium Falcon?! As such, a cycle ride from Kew Gardens to Box Hill was something I wanted to do more.

I made it to Kew Gardens in good time and before long David, Anne and Bumblebee rolled up to where I had parked. With some last minute adjustment of my saddlebag we were off. The pace was brisk and purposeful - the way I like it. Anne had recently changed to clipped in pedals and by the halfway point was suffering slightly. There is always some adjustment to these pedals and I am not sure I have fully adjusted to them either. Stoically she carried on.

The weather was pretty good throughout the night. It would be slightly over 50 miles and although there was a fine rain at times, it didn't cause concern or a reach for waterproof clothing.

There came a point in the ride where we had to cycle along a bridal path. The wet weather of the past few days resulted in places that were quite shocking. As we travelled through there was one point that could only be likened to quicksand! Anne cried out as she was unable to traverse through. I had images of her sinking slowly, me telling her not to move and trying to find some sort of rope to pull her out with! Luckily she found traction and managed to free herself.

Many bridal paths are not often used my horses and riders. I can report that this particular bridal path in terms of horse use must be like Oxford Street at rush hour. Horse droppings littered the floor and I was again thankful of my 1800 lumens dispensed from my humble Cree light!

The Badlands - a strange and terrible place!

With tarmac in sight we cleared the 'badlands' and proceeded ever forward. We approached Epsom town centre and saw a Christmas tree. It provided a perfect photo opportunity, so we dismounted and positioned our bikes. As we did I speed several young men in the distance and knew that the draw of four Brompton bikes would be too much temptation to resist!

Sure enough they came over. I feared the worse - having lived a sheltered life - and moved my bike out the way. They wanted a picture taken with them and the bikes and David obliged. Anne and Bumblebee got in the shot with them but thankfully I did not. My fears were ungrounded as they were quite nice chaps and with our own photos taken we were off again.

Photos with the Epsom locals

All Christmassy!

Is that specks of mud I see!

With Box Hill not too far away we made a wrong turn but back on track it wasn't too long before we reached this famous location where last time I was walking due to my chain snapping. This was revenge and would be the first time I had cycled up Box Hill on my Titanium Orange S6L least that was what I hoped would happen.

I stopped to take a picture of the Box Hill sign while the others continued to cycle up not wanting to break their rhythm. I set off too. I felt pretty good and the cold which I have been carrying for the last five weeks didn't dampen my enthusiasm for tackling Box Hill.

I soon passed Anne and Bumblebee and even David. I would however point out that David was going up Box Hill without a light as it had died on him. I suspect if his light had of been working and he could have seen the way, he may well have been in front of yours truly.

Cycling up Box Hill at night is a strange experience. It is pitch black and eerily quite. Even the bicycle sounds slightly muffled - perhaps due to the very new and super smooth road surface? The only sounds were the odd owl hooting and the sound of ones own breathing.

I managed to maintain a very steady pace when ascending Box Hill. I was also loving the challenge. The ascent seemed to go on and on and felt much longer than the previous times I had cycled up. It was preferable to walking up it as I did last time. After what seemed like a never ending series of turns and inclines I saw the summit. This was a relief! I had done it!! Box Hill was conquered yet again without a foot hitting the ground. Revenge was mine and I had done it!

Again I feel that my fitness and endurance has improved greatly since first cycling up Box Hill. There is still a great deal more I can do and I will have to work much harder to achieve what I have planned for the tail end of this year and 2014.

David and I headed for the 'Smith & Western' - a western themed pub/restaurant not far from the summit of Box Hill. Not too long after Anne cycled in. Despite one of her knees providing some problems she made it in good time. A little while later Bumblebee rolled in.

I wasn't actually going to have a great deal to eat when I sat down inside but I felt quite hungry. In addition I had not taken any of the small snacks I usually graze on throughout the ride - as I forgot to pack them. Not wanted to succumb to the dreaded 'bonk' I decided to eat and the New York burger was just what I needed. Along with a lemon ice cream sunday I felt refuelled and ready for the return home.

As we ate I listened with interest to a country and western version of 'Paradise City' by Guns and Roses. It took a few seconds for me to even register what the song was and why it was familiar to me.? I concluded that I preferred the original.

My sense of direction let me down again. Wanting to go to the toilet to freshen up, I took a wrong turn and ended up in the staff serving area where food and drinks are made ready to be taken out. A tolerant member of staff said, 'can I help you partner?' With the directions to the toilets in my head I made it there without further incident.

When we departed from the 'Smith & Western' my mind was taken back to the many Friday night rides to the coast. Always after being inside and doing out I end up being freezing cold. This ride was no exception. The night air seemed colder and as such I put on a light jacket and a Helly Hanson balaclava. This is by no means a flattering garment!

We set off at again a brisk pace and before long we were back at the badlands! It was as if a herd of antelope had run through this bridal path while we were gone as the ground seemed even more churned up! Desperately trying not to be OCD about my beloved Titanium Orange Brompton becoming filthy...again was hard. A large rat ran across my path which almost caused me to fall off. The quicksands appeared to be everywhere and I fancied we needed the help of a 'local' who had years of experience navigating safe routes! Luckily we all made it to the other side.

Not wasting any time we headed back towards Kew Gardens at all speed. As always onlookers gazed in disbelief at Brompton riders in full flight. We arrived back at Kew about about 01:40 which was pretty good. Saying our goodbyes we headed off to our cars and the soon to be sanctuary of a warm bed.

This was a great ride. Again thanks to my fellow riders but especially David who again navigated us safely up front. The pace was good and I was happy that I felt I could have gone much faster or survived without so many stops.

I have signed up for the one day of the Mitie London Revolution which is a 100 miler in May 2014 and I will need a great deal of training from now until then. (BumbleBee has signed up for the second day as well which adds another 85 miles. He is going to have to put in the work to complete this). The good thing is that reaching the car at almost 52 miles I could have gone further. This particular ride featured lots of hills - something I love having a go at on a ride. All the rides I have gone on this year so far have definitely helped me towards bigger rides. I will have to make sure that in what remains of 2013 I continue to get out there and cycle and get in lots of hill training.

My ride data and maps can be viewed by clicking on the link below. You can also have a look at the link below that for a past blog post  detailing what happened last time at Box Hill!!!

Box Hill - The Revenge! Maps and ride data.

What happened the last time I tried to ascend Box Hill...

Thursday 21 November 2013

Roman Emperor on a Brompton!

It isn't every day that you go to work dressed as a Roman Emperor. Even less being dressed as a Roman Emperor while on your Brompton in commute mode!

I will not go into why I was dressed as a Roman Emperor but yesterday I had to and it was more than a little interesting. The first thing to point out was that I had a thermal base layer under my white robe and purple throw of fabric draped over my shoulder. I therefore did not feel the cold.

When opened my front door took out my folded Brompton, unfolded and turned on my front and rear lights, it coincided with several of my neighbours departing. The strange thing is that even though I was dressed as a Roman Emperor, they ignored it totally, said 'morning' and carried on as if I did this everyday. How typically English!

When out on the open road the level of attention received was dramatic. School children could not quite believe what they saw and had their phones out trying to take a picture. I fear they would have got nothing as I was cycling at speed.

Stopping at the traffic lights was comical. Commuters in their cars tried their best not to stare - or at least been seen to stare. In fact cycling as a Roman Emperor was better than any high-vis as cars, lorries and buses seemed all too happy to give way at junctions. I suspect many may have thought I was care in the community, had been let out for the day or escaped!!

I cannot say that I will be going to work as a Roman Emperor for at least another year but if you want to be seen on the road and possess a thick could do worse!

Sunday 17 November 2013

Garmin Virb Elite Part 1 - First Impressions

The very nice people at Garmin UK have let me borrow one of their new Virb Elite HD Action Cameras. When I received it in the post and opened it I was excited to say the least! There are two versions of the Virb. This one - the Elite has GPS, Wi-Fi, accelerometer and barometric altimeter.

Cameras like this have become essential kit for many cyclists. Some people - me included- like to occasionally record their adventures. Increasingly and unfortunately many record their daily commute as evidence against dangerous road users - such is life on London streets.

I should perhaps say, Garmin aren't giving me this camera (more's the pity) and have left it to me to review it as I see fit. I will provide an honest appraisal once I have tested it thoroughly.

The Virb Elite

The Virb marks Garmin entering into the crowded action camera market. I have a GoPro Hero 2 which I have enjoyed greatly doing all manner of recording but upon seeing the Virb in the flesh my GoPro is a mere toy. The Virb feels solid, well made and ready for action.

The Virb is very simple to operate. There is a power button, an okay/select button and two up and down buttons that allow you to go through the menus. On the other side of the camera is a large up / down switch that acts as a record button. Navigating the menus and the all important press record are a great deal easier that on my GoPro and if you have owned one, a great deal less  frustrating to use.

When I saw pictures of the Virb I was initially worried about the lens covering and whether it would be prone to scratches. Again having it in the flesh has allayed these initial fears as it looks to be very substantial and like the rest of the Virb extremely tough.

Large slider for quick and easy recording

A rubber flap on top of the Virb covers a standard USB port and mini HDMI port. It is from the USB port that you can either charge or download your pictures and video clips to your Mac or PC. The Virb Elite also has a few more tricks up its sleeve in this regard but more of that later.

Connectivity - USB / HDMI
The battery door (a very weak point on my GoPro Hero 2) is again very substantial. There is a full locking mechanism and the door itself has a rubber seal. The unit itself is waterproof. The battery is a 2000 mAh Li-ion and has a stated life of 3 hours. I will certainly put that to the test in the coming weeks.

Under the battery is a slot for a mini SD card. This isn't just a push in job but has its own little locking in and out slot. It can take an SD card up to 64GB. I only have a 2GB card allowing about 10 minutes of recording so I haven't been able to do as much as I would have liked. I have ordered a 32GB card and hope that it arrives soon so that I can really put this Virb through its paces.

The screen is a 1.4 inch chroma display. It was dark by the time I powered up the Virb and at first I thought that the screen was a little low powered. Taking it out the next day in daylight showed me what it really could do. The display is very clear and easy to read and I imagine that even in bright sunlight it would be easily viewable.

The 1.4 inch screen is very easy to read and navigate from

The Virb comes with a cradle that clips on to it. This is extremely secure and I could not detect the slightest of movements once it was locked in place. It a simple and practical design and allows for a much more stable platform.

The cradle is a very clever, providing a very stable platform

The stability of the cradle transfers to the mounts. They are not only more secure and easier to use than my GoPro ones, they are better! If however you have lots of GoPro mounts you can actually use them via an adapter that is included in the box.

With the Virb Elite connectivity is a high priority. A recent update for my Edge 810 now allows me to partially control the Virb. From my Edge 810 I can take stills pictures (up to 16 megapixels) or start / stop recording video. It does this via ANT+.

There is also going to be a smartphone app released shortly that will allow this a perhaps more using Wi-Fi. Because the Virb Elite is so new this isn't available as I write this but I will download it as soon as it becomes available.

Having Wi-Fi means that you can download your clips wirelessly which I am intrigued to see in action. Another feature of the Virb Elite is that it has high sensitivity GPS and there is even the possibility of overlying your speed for example on your video. I'm looking forward to seeing that.

ANT+ connection via my Garmin Edge 810

The Virb can record in a variety of HD formats and of course true 1080p. I have recorded some video already and will post this as soon as I am able. Ideally as soon as the 32GB SD card arrives I will be able to record a great deal more. Initial impressions tell me that the quality of video files produced are better than my GoPro. I will reserve judgement for the moment until I am in a position to record like for like footage.

I cannot wait to really see what the Virb can do! I was going to wait until I had recorded some more footage but being excited by what I have seen so far, I couldn't. It is early days of course but I suspect even at this early stage that Garmin in on to a winner.

Saturday 16 November 2013


I am still looking for people to sponsor me for my Nightrider 2014 event in aid of Breast Cancer Care. 

Any amount would be gratefully received. I have posted a link to my original blog post on this very subject, which in turn has a link to my Virgin Money Giving page.

Cyclist with a Death Wish!

Yeaterday evening I was driving to my parents house and saw a lone cyclist who I concluded must have a death wish. 

I was driving on the A40 heading into Central London. The traffic was very heavy and stop start. (This was caused by a lorry that was stranded just before the Hanger Lane underpass as it was too tall to go  safely under). As we moved forward a cyclist on a road bike quite literally flew past us - in the middle lane. He did have lights but they were rubbish. I thought this strange as his bike looked of the expensive variety. 

As we moved forward every so often I could see him weaving in and out of the traffic. My heart was in my mouth for him as at any moment I feared the worse. At times we travelled at about 30mph and he was cycling at that speed if not more. 

Once past the stranded lorry the traffic started to speed up and so did the cyclist. He put the afterburners on and after occupying the right lane for a few hundred metres he zoomed back into the left lane. I was amazed at the speeds he reached but still continued to be worried for him. I was driving at a little under 40mph and could just about see him in my rear view mirror. As I went into the right filter lane to turn off the Marylebone Road he cycled past at speed in the middle lane. 

Whoever this person was they had obviously cycled this route many times and was an acomplished cyclist but I do feel he was crazy to cycle he way he did on the A40! Even now thinking of it makes me feel nervous. It may have been the quickest and most direct route but this was ill advised, surely!?

Thursday 14 November 2013

Brompton Toolkit Alternative??

I bought one of the original Brompton toolkits and still think that it is a design classic. I originally thought that its £48 price tag was quite simply too much and that I was not going to buy one. I did succumb to its undoubted practicallities and bought one.

Unfortunately, no sooner had I bought one and placed in inside the mainframe of my Brompton horror stories began to surface that the tyre levers were prone to snapping. I saw a few pictures posted and have yet to even use the 15mm spanner in anger.

Many months later you cannot even buy a Brompton toolkit at the moment and it looks as if the tyre levers will be changed slightly when and if if becomes available again.

There are lots and lots of alternatives but Brian Mc a fellow Bromptonian spied a rather fetching looking toolkit that certainly caught my eye. It is 'The Nutter Cycle Multi Tool' by a London based bicycle accessories design company, 'Full Windsor.'

'Full Windsor' is the brainchild of Mark Windsor a product designer and all round good egg who started up this innovative company. Full Windsor was successfully funded 'The Nutter' on Kickstart which is great as this brilliant tool can now be purchased via their online store.

Mark very kindly sent me 'The Nutter' for review purposes and I have to confess to being more than a little impressed.

The Nutter features

  • Glass filled nylon lever with a steel core
  • 15mm box head spanner
  • 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm hex tool bits
  • Phillips head screwdriver (PH2)
  • Flat head screwdriver (3mm)
  • T25 torque key
  • Tool bit extender
  • Bottle opener
  • Leather (matt brown) and recycled inner tube pouch.
  • Tool weighs just 100 grams
  • Full tool pouch weighs 185 grams

The Full Windsor logo 

The straps are velcro secured and you have a number of options as to where to place the tool pouch. It happily hangs from the back of your saddle (looks great on a Brooks) or even your handlebars.

The case is gorgeous and features leather and recycled tyre. All the little bits fit securely and it is nicely follows the cycling theme.

Leather and recycles inner tube make a perfect match

The main tool feels very strong in the hand and appears well made. I have taken the wheels off my Brompton with no difficulty whatsoever and the length is just right to obtain enough purchase even for stubborn bolts.

The spoke tool on the side it s welcome bonus and again works well as does the bottle opener.

The tyre lever is brilliant. I actually managed to get a Marathon tyre off using it, although I'd suggest taking at least one of you plastic tyre leavers with you just in case. The coated end made me confident that the rims of my wheels wouldn't be damaged in any way.

The side of the Nutter has a little slot into which you can place an extender for the little screw bits and like everything else just works.

The Nutter is an extremely well made tool that works really well. £39.99 may to some seem like a lot for a bike multitool and for that sort of money you can buy ones that have lots more tools within them. I would say that they probably wouldn't be as stylist, well made or practical as The Nutter. There really aren't many negatives I can think of other than I don't want to give it back!!

You can buy it directly from Full Windsor but and selected stockists. I have posted a link to their website so that you can check it out for yourself and some of the other products they make.

Full Windsor Website

Saturday 9 November 2013

Raining Reading to Richmond Ride

I have had a cold for the last three weeks! It started with a sore throat, runny nose, cough and a combination of all of these. My nose has been so runny the past couple of weeks that if I were of the canine persuasion, I would be healthy enough to win Crufts! The prospect of cycling for over 40 miles in rain might not be the best of things to have done in the circumstances but feeling it would do me good, I set off bright and early for Paddington.


This particular location has of late been a slight nemeses of mine. This you may recall was because of the quite shocking way I got lost attempting to get to the Edgware Road only a few minutes away. I am glad to say that I made it there without incident!

I met David and Anne and a few of the usual suspects and a few new ones. Before long we were on the 09:18 bound for Reading. The journey didn't take too long and just before 10:00 we reached our destination. Apparently Reading Station has had a great deal of money spent on its upgrade. I have to confess not seeing evidence of this from the small part I saw but then I didn't really look far.

Our ride leader Bob greeted us at Reading. It was good to see him again and great that he has devised this ride for us. As we waited for the off the heavens opened and the waterproofs started to come out. The forecast was right and rain was to be our companion for a great deal of the ride.

Ready for the off at Reading

Setting off, always the best part of a ride there were 16 Bromptonians. As always this must have been an amusing and intriguing sight. The rain fell but this did not dampen our spirits.

Unfortunately with less than fives miles under our collective belts we suffered our first puncture. Bob made quick work of getting the rear wheel off while we took sanctuary under a nearby railway bridge. I suspect all were thankful for that.

We weren't that much further down the road when we heard that another of out number suffered a similar fate. This time some of us took refuge in a bus shelter. It was here that talk turned to weather forecasting. The Met office it seems is yesterdays man as the Norwegians also predict the weather and seem to do a better job at it.

The view from the bus shelter

Reaching Ascot we stopped briefly but the group decided to press on for lunch. While we waited outside Costa a very nice lady brought over a tray of various Christmas cakes. She had first offered these to the general public but many seemed uninterested. Her bringing them to us induced a frenzy of activity. The only thing I can liken it to is a pack of wolves surrounding the caracas of some poor creature. Singing the praises of Costa's Christmas cake selection we headed off again.

There were times on this ride when cycling in a large pack where the riders bunched up together but still rode at speed. It reminded me of the Tour de France and riding in a strict peloton.

The peloton

Riding through Windsor Great Park was picturesque even whilst raining. There was opportunity for some speedy cruising on the long open stretches.

With a slight change in route we headed for the familiar location of the Monkeys Forehead in Egham. Once inside we could see the sky clearing. The sun started to come out. Those with the Norwegian weather forecasting iPhone App saw the sun symbol and might have been given to thinking that the rest of the ride was going to be rain free. I took off and packed away my over trousers. 

My new Caradice Super C Audax performed well in the wet

Just as we were about to head off the heavens opened again. Over trousers were put back on and off we went into more of the same.

Following the Thames path we encountered mud. I was regretting taking my beloved Titanium Orange Brompton! There was so much of it! So traumatised was I of the prospect of riding it through a near lake of a puddle, I got off and carried it. Mud to the left of me! Mud to the right of me! Mud in front of me!! As I cycled through this I was already making plans for how I was going to put this right!

Arriving back at Richmond a few of us made straight for the trains and home. This was a really good ride and the rain didn't really do anything too drastic to alter this. It was great to see some familiar faces and some new ones. It also marked one of the largest turnouts of Bromptonians for some time.

Many thanks to Bob and I hope that he is able to come on and perhaps lead more rides in the future. In case you are wondering one of the first things I did when I got home was to wash down all the mud off my bike. I suspect that my Titanium Orange Brompton might have to be retired for winter at some point. As soon as salt is put on the roads I think I am going to be using my Original Orange Brompton.

Rainy Reading to Richmond Ride map and ride data

Sunday 3 November 2013

Maxell USB Charger

When out on my cycling adventures, especially longer rides having a portable power source for my iPhone is vital. They can also be used to provide a boost in power for Garmin GPS units and certain cameras. In short they are extremely useful. I already have one but when I saw this one in a wholesaler at a great price I bought it.

It is a Maxell 5200 mAh portable power source and the reasons I bought it apart from the price was the fact it is smaller than my current one and more importantly a great deal lighter.

It is smaller than an iPhone as you can see in the picture and has two USB ports. One is specially for an iPhone / iPad and the other is for other items. It is charged via the micro USB in the centre and typically takes 6 hours to fully charge from empty.

My current charger is the same power but has never been able to charge my iPad and iPhone together for reasons unknown. This one had no bother carrying out this task.

For Brompton adventures this will I am sure come in very handy and its smaller size will prove to be more useful, especially when space is at a premium.

Friday 1 November 2013

Nocturne on a Brompton Video

This is a bit of a blast from the past. Footage from my first heat of the Nocturne in January. Managed to scrape into the final.

Link to my YouTube footage