Monday 30 December 2013

Fridays Tourette of London

This morning I joined the Fridays for their Christmas ride. The meeting point was the usual Hyde Park Corner but it wasn't a Friday and we were not to be cycling through the night to the coast. It was going to be different.

Cycling up The Mall I saw lots of tourists getting their vantage points for the changing of the guard. I couldn't resist taking a picture of a young solider on duty outside St. Jame's Palace.

The Guards at St. James' Palace

When I arrived at Hyde Park Corner I saw some familiar faces, some hardend veterans of many a Friday night ride and a few Bromptonians from our club. The weather was very jolly. It was a beautiful crisp and clear morning and obvious that it would remain like this for the entire ride. 

Hyde Park Cornerr

Again I decided to take my Original Orange Brompton with me, mainly as I knew I'd be taking lots of photographs and the more upright M-type might assist in that task. The last time I was out on any of my Brompton bicycles was on last weeks all night ride and it was good to be on two wheels again. 

David and Anne were also on the ride and David was showing off a Brooks saddle roll he got for Christmas. I have to say it looked pretty fine!

Brooks Saddle

As we waited for the off, a small detachment from the Household Cavarly rode past. It seemed quite fitting that they did so under the nose a statue of his Grace looking on and almost taking the salute. 

Household Cavalry 

Cycling through Hyde Park on such a glorious day was fun enough but this was going to be a mini tour of architectural high points by an architect of distinction. As such I was keen to see what treat was going to be first?

Hyde Park

Our first stop was a public lavatory at Westbourne Grove. Desgined by Piers Gough of CZWG it came about by local residents taking umbrage at the local authorities plans for a public convenience on a traffic island. Wanting something more becoming they hired Mr Gough to come up with something more befitting. His Turquoise Island certainly achieved that.

A rather special toilet

Our next port of call was the familiar territory of South Kensington and the Royal College of Organists building. I cannot tell you how many times I have passed this building and quite shamefully not given it much attention. Deigned by architect H. H. Cole it was home to the Royal College of Organists from 1903 - 1991.

Not on the list of buildings we were paying special attention to on this ride was the Royal Albert Hall. It has always been a particular favourite of mine. The nearby Albert Court was once the home to Howard Carter of Tutankhamun fame. As a child I remember hearing stories from a few very elderly residents who actually remembered him.

The Royal Albert Hall

Lovely isn't it!

Peter from the Tweed Run?!

Next was the Natural History Museum. When I was little I can remember spending hours in there and its interconnected museums. A certain young rogue who will not be named used to surreptitiously crush the glass vial of a stink bomb under foot, walk to a suitable distance and observe the reactions trying not to giggle. Quite shocking!

The Natural History Museum was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and I was shocked to discover that it was a steel framed building with a tiled frontage! Despite this, it remains a stunner!

The Natural History Museum
Michelin House on the Fulham Road, designed by Francois Espinasse features the Michelin Man Bidendun and must be one of the best long term company adverts. It acted at the UK headquarters with this building opening in 1911. They certainly don't make them like this any more.

The Michelin Building

They don't make them like this any more...

The Danish Embassy building was designed by the Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobson. In 1971 he died unexpectedly so the building was completed after his death.

The Danish Embassy

Lambeth North Station was originally Kennington Road. Designed by the architect Leslie Green it opened in 1906. Leslie designed over 20 London tube stations all much the same. Steel framed and fronted by the distinctive ox-blood tiles.

Arches. Station designed by Leslie Green

Great information and a captivated audience

As we made our way to Spitalfields for our next destination we approached The Shard. I have been quite scathing in the past and I have yet to soften my view. I currently liken it to a glistening trinket a footballers wife might wear.

The Shard

With one of our number repairing a puncture we waited on a bridge and I took the opportunity to have a snack and take a few photos of the views.

Approaching the City some of its new offerings glinted in the winter sun. A particular favourite of mine the Gherkin looked rather splendid as it reflected the light.

The Gherkin
Our penultimate building was Christ Church Spitalfields. Built between 1714 and 1729 to a design by Nicholas Hawksmoor. Stunning of the outside I have always admired it from afar and the inside - a place I had not been before - in no way disappointed. Elegant is the adjective I would choose.

Spitalfields Church

Our final building - and it was a shame that it was our last - was The Blue House in Hackney by FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste). The Blue House consists of house and an office and the design seems to reflect this double use. The facade, almost cutout of a house sits in front of an office block.

The Blue House by FAT
A poor dog took a great deal of interest in this large group of cyclists pointing cameras at its house and kept coming and going - perhaps to see if we were still there.

Who are you lot?!

We're friendly...honestly

After this many went to a local pub to partake in a well earned drink. I couldn't go as I had to get home and proceeded to where I had parked my car. On route I could not help but take a few photos of some more buildings.

The Lloyds Building

St. Paul's Cathedral
This almost certainly marks the end of 2013 in terms of cycle rides. What a way to end it! This was a brilliant ride and a wonderful idea. Our leader, Simon an architect himself, was as knowledgeable as he was enthusiastic and I came away learning a great deal but also having lots of fun. So Simon, many thanks!!

This ride must be something that you out there reading this, wherever you live, could probably do too. I'd love you to send me a picture of an unusual building or perhaps your favourite one from where you live so that I can share it on here!

The map and ride data can be viewed by clicking on the link below.

Fridays Tourette of London map and ride data

Thursday 26 December 2013

Orange Brompton 2013

What a year 2013 has been for me! I remember thinking this time last year that I hoped to go on more adventures and I have certainly done that. In many ways I have exceeded the general aim.

Many of you out there reading my many blog posts have been kind enough to say via your comments or emails that you have felt you have been almost with me. This is great! I am also glad and humbled to hear that I have been partly responsible for you either buying a Brompton (I forgive you even where it has not been an Orange one) or getting out on your bicycle and going on your own adventures.

I have been on more all night rides and over much longer distances. I have become fitter and I even bought a second Brompton. My blog has gone from strength to strength and I only hope that it gets as many people reading it in the future!

My blog archive for 2013 as I write this stands at 267 posts. They represent many personal highlights but I have whittled them down to a few. If over the Christmas period you are at a loss for something to do, you might consider reading a few. I hope that you enjoy them:


In January I started as I meant to go on with an indoor version of the IG Nocturne. Read the entry to see if I reached the final...

The IG London Nocturne - what a day!

The quite brilliant Managing Director of Brompton, Will Butler-Adams kindly spared some time to answer some questions in my interview of sorts...

Interview with Brompton MD, Will Butler-Adams

BBC 'Top Gear's' James May who owns a Brompton, kindly agreed to be interviewed about his Brompton.

I get to interview Top Gear's James May


Continuing the interview theme, two Brompton World Champions Michael Hutchinson (Dr Hutch) and Rachel Elliot kindly answered a few questions.

Michael Hutchinson Interview

Rachael Elliot Interview


I saved up for ages to get a Titanium Orange Brompton and I wasn't disappointed...

Full review of my Titanium Orange Brompton

Mark (King of the Hill) put together a great ride where a good number of Bromptonians came out in force for a river Thames based ride. This is one of my all time favourite routes and rides.

Thames Triple Chaser


Many Brompton owners fit a leather Brooks saddle to their bicycles and I managed to pay a visit to the Brooks Factory to see them being made...

Brooks Saddle Factory Visit

I loved the Tweed Run!!! It is a great event where participants wear their finest outfits (tweed of course) and cycle around a scenic route in London...

The Fifth Tweed Run on a Brompton

April was the first time I attempted a night ride to the coast. This first one was a London to Brighton. I cannot tell you how nervous I was about doing this but I loved it and ended up going on several more throughout the year.

London to Brighton on a Brompton


The Adventurer, author, motivational speaker, Brompton owner and all round good egg Alistair Humphreys managed to find some time between all of the above to answer some questions...

Alastair Humphreys Interview


The 6th of June was quite a day. The IG London Nocturne (an incredibly good event) in the afternoon and the 100km Nightrider Charity ride later that night.

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


There is only one thing to write about in July 2013 and that was the Brompton World Championships! This really is THE cycling event of any year for me. A new location proved to be excellent and the event itself was awesome - and then some!

Brompton World Championships 2013


This was the month I decided to alter my Titanium M-type to an S-type.

My Titanium M-type becomes an S-type

I went on another overnight ride from London to Brighton. It rained all night. The first time I didn't managed the ascent of the dreaded Ditchling Beacon. Read to see if I managed it this time...

London to Brighton - Epic and rainy!


A year before I cycled from London to Oxford and didn't managed to get all the way up a particularly steep hill. This time I wanted revenge...

London to Oxford - Revenge will be mine!


Back to Brighton, this time by train to go on a coastal ride a few hours before some of the worst storms for years!

Windy Brighton - Rottingdean Undercliff Ride


While lots of the UK watched the 50th Anniversary of Dr Who, I decided to go out on a night ride...

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


I went on the ultimate Brompton themed ride...

Bob's Brompton Bonanza!

With the 21st December being the shortest day and longest night I went on an all night ride with a very clever twist...

Solstice sights and signature sojourn

Keep coming back in 2014 for more reviews, thoughts, observations and recounts of my adventures. I already have many things planned for 2014 and if it is half as good as 2013 I will be very pleased.

All that is left for me to say is I hope that you and your family have a very happy New Year!

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Updated Brompton Tyre Levers

On the Solstice ride on Saturday night / Sunday morning Mick presented me with a pair of the new updated Brompton tyre levers which he had got form the shop I originally bought the Brompton Toolkit from. I have to say that I was more than a little pleased at receiving them.

They were changed from the original levers as there were several reports of these snapping when used to try and take a tyre off. Brompton to their credit offered an exchange for anyone with the old tyre levers.

The old levers looked good but these updated ones do outshine them. They are a little heavier and now all metal. I can actually see myself using these. After hearing a few horror stories about the original ones I simply left them in the toolkit. I still have the originals and I will not be parting with them as the represent a little part of the Brompton story.

The new Brompton Toolkit, apart from the new tyre levers remains unchanged. I am not surprised by this as it was a wonderful piece of design in the first place. A few shops have already sold out of it but I did see quite a few of the new Toolkits available at Brompton Junction in Covent Garden when I was there at the end of a ride. I am sure that many a Bromptonian might well have this as a present from Santa perhaps?

Sunday 22 December 2013

Solstice Sights and Signature Sojourn

Last year I went on a Christmas night ride to take in all the nocturnal wonders London has to offer. It proved to be a very popular ride and set many of us up for Christmas. This year was to be no different but there were a few significant differences that made this particular outing very special...

Firstly, December 21st was the shortest day and longest night. Lots of pagan types descended on Stonehenge as it marks the Winter Solstice. Members of the London Brompton Club descended upon the streets of London. It also had more significance as this date also represented the two year anniversary of the club.

My journey started with meeting the Co-founder Mick and cycling down to Piccadilly Circus to meet the other Co-Founder and my partner in crime, Andrew. We wasted no time in cycling to the meeting point, The Lord Clyde Public House not too far away.

All of Saturday the weather was quite terrible and it rained almost all day. In fact it only stopped just after 23:00. After that our entire ride was rain free. The weather was also quite mild for the time of year and certainly a great deal warmer than I remembered for last years outing.

Reaching The Lord Clyde I saw lots of familiar faces. Mark (King of the Hill) came to say hello and see us off as he was working the next day and therefore understandably couldn't go. This was a shame but I am sure I'll be able to drag him out soon at some point.

There were very few people in the pub but three took a great deal of interest in out bikes and what we were doing. They really were quite charming and the gentleman in the photo reminded me of the actor Ray Winston for some reason?

Inside The Lord Clyde

Ready for the off

Saying goodbye to Mark we headed off for our solstice adventure. What dramas would unfold? With child-like eagerness I was keen to start this adventure.

Much of London was decorated with all manner of Christmas decorations. It looked stunning and I cannot understand why more people weren't out and about? The river Thames - the backdrop for so many of our rides in the past looked beautiful at night and a moon, although no longer full- provided extra illumination.

I decided to take my Original Orange Brompton with me tonight. I felt that the more upright riding position would allow to view all London had to offer all the better.

The sights came thick and fast and every so often we would stop and take the odd photograph. All of us did this and between us, we probably have enough to fill an album. Passing the Monument which marks the spot at which the Great Fire of London stopped, I made a mental note to come back and climb its staircase to the top.


The Shard in the distance 

Crossing the Millennium foot bridge we were alone with hardly any people around at all? This was a dramatic change from last year! St. Paul's looked majestic at night

St Paul's

Many of us took photos of a bronze statue of a man driving some sheep. This perhaps signifies being afforded the freedom of the City of London. Recipients of this honour usually guide a sheep across London Bridge as holding the freedom of the City allows this perk!

Freedom of the City

A Police Box

At the Bank of England's imposing building I decided to take a photo of the Duke of Wellington statue nearby. I am not entirely sure I have captured the most flattering angle for his Grace's horse?!

The Duke of Wellington

Near the entrance to the Bank of England there was another statue entitled 'The Hand of God' which provided lots more photo opportunities.

Bank of England

The Hand of God

While in the heart of the City we payed a visit to the Gherkin - a particular favourite of mine. As we headed out of the City I knew that the next destination would certainly grab my attention - Brick Lane!

The Gherkin

As you can see by their absence, there are no pictures of Brick Lane...but for good reason. As we cycled along this famous street, now ultra hipster, everything seemed quiet. It looked rather pleasant. That is when it all changed. In the distance a fully grown adult male - who should have known better - worse for wear, lay in the middle of the road. A friend remonstrated with him to get up but the chap lying in the middle of the road was having none of it! Despite several Brompton's and even the odd car, he wouldn't budge. We all passed by and he was still lying there.

A feature of London is its nightlife. There are lots of clubs and even at 01:00 in the a.m. many were queuing to get it!! Had I of been driving, a finger would have pushed my central locking to lock. Being on a Brompton, I simply pedalled faster!

Heading back to familiar territory the Bloomsbury area was explored. The area seemed very quiet and with the prospect of a cup of tea/coffee in sight, we quickened our pace.

Senate House 

Quiet streets

Mick in a Calvin Klein pose

Sanctuary came in the form of St Pancreas Station. While sipping on my coffee, Mick retold the tale of how on the last night ride he missed his last train home and had to spend most of the night in the same coffee shop being chatted up by a transvestite. Only in London. With our refreshments consumed we headed south and towards Oxford Street.

The BT Tower

Oxford Street, perhaps one of the most famous in the world was fairly quiet for this time of year. Kitted out in its Christmas colours, it looked lovely. Brook Street's sparkly arches caught our eye and again provided lots of photo opportunities.

Oxford Street

The window display at Selfridges rarely disappoints any time of year but the Christmas display is as innovative as it is famous. One rather expensive handbag caught my attention for some reason?

Just before returning to Piccadilly Circus we cycled down Carnaby Street. I stopped a Dr Marten's shop and saw a pair of rather fetching brogues in an even more fetching colour. Might have to pay them a visit in daylight hours.

The famous Liberty and Co shop

At Piccadilly Circus the famous Eros statue had been turned into a snow globe. I actually think it is a very clever way of protecting it from vandalism over the Christmas period and much prettier than previous efforts in this regard!!

Heading past Trafalgar Square I look up at Admiral Lord Nelson briefly and was to think of him again shortly.

Trafalgar Square

Near Covent Garden we passed a white portable structure that I thought was a telephone kiosk of sorts. I write this as I saw a man standing using it. One of my fellow Solstice adventurers broke it to me that this was in fact a portable urinal of all things. My first thought was, in London!? My second thought confirmed I had lead a sheltered life. Another thought, what would Nelson have to say about this? My final thought was that I did not hear this chap shout out 'pain, pain pain' which I believe to be an old bylaw for being allowed to relieve oneself in public in the City of London. I know that this location fell outside the City but I mean really!

A public urinal

At Covent Garden one of our number actually used one of these public urinals! I suppose when you have to go!

Covent Garden

Cycling up The Mall we could see Buckingham Palace. With some of us being caught short as it were, a suitable tree was found and well...nature took its course. When you have to go... I must confess to feeling  rather bad about it all as the flag was up on Buckingham Palace and it just seemed wrong on a number of levels.

The Mall
As we reached the bottom of Park Lane, part one of our ride namely the Christmas lights and sights was over. We said goodbye to two of our number and shortly after that a third and the second part of this Solstice adventure began.

The idea was simple. Many of us have Garmin GSP devices that record ones route. We were going to ride a route that would plot the initials of the club - LBC on a map of London. It wasn't going to be quick being almost 24 miles.

It was the brainchild of navigator extraordinaire and all round good egg David, who not only devised the route but guided us and organised the entire night. The pace was as brisk as it could be as traffic was starting to build.

Eventually we heard the end signal on David's Garmin that we had done it. A quick look at the map on our devices and we could see LBC!

This was a brilliant ride. The first part was great fun and trying to map put LBC on the anniversary of the club on the Solstice was a great little adventure.

Reitring to Kings Cross, the remaining few had something to eat before going our separate ways. A big thank you to all who came on the ride but special thanks to David who has yet again worked so hard to produce an adventure of pure quality.

Part 1 - map and ride data

Part 2 - map and ride data