Monday 27 January 2014

New Brompton Toolkit Tyre Levers - Are they any good??

Many of you out there will know that the tyre levers in the first Brompton Toolkit had to be recalled and were updated for the new Toolkit released in time for Christmas. Until yesterday I had not used these new tyre levers and having now used them to take off a 'Marathon Plus' no less, I thought I'd give my opinion of them.

The Marathon Plus is a particularly tough tyre and it is equally as tough to take off. Despite being quite adept at performing this task (thanks to Mick B) these tyres are not easy.

My Original Orange Brompton got rather dirty on the excellent Docklands by Dark (Please click) ride on Friday and my wheels and tyres were so filthy I had to take them off to give them a good clean.

Using the Brompton Toolkit to undo the bolts was effortless but it was the levers that surprised me. Following the instructions on the rather nice packaging the tyres were off - front and back - in next to no time. It was certainly faster than I have ever done this task. Putting them back on was as easy.

The new levers are quite brilliant! I had been using heavy duty plastic ones but these make life much easier. I now have some confidence that should I need to replace an inner tube at 03:00 a.m. on a dark country lane, I have the right tool for the job! So, are they any good? Yes!!!

Click on the link below for a review of the Brompton Toolkit.

Brompton Toolkit Reviews

Sunday 26 January 2014

One Very Proud Dad!!

Early this morning we took my eldest daughter for her first cross country running event with her Army Cadet troop. 

I must confess to thinking that I would not care to do so in heavy rain and rather chilly conditions. Also at just over 12 years old she was the youngest taking part. 

Mrs Orange, our youngest daughter and I  waved her off and returned to the warmth of our car, there not being any suitable viewing area even if we had wanted to. I suspect Mrs Orange and I were more nervous than our eldest daughter!

The course was 3 km and after walking the full route first, the 85 taking part were off. When our daughter returned she quite modestly informed us that she had come 6th. I was immensely proud!! 

We will now quickly return home so she can have a hot shower and get a change of clothes before taking her for a celebratory meal. 

I suspect I will bore people to death for a while about this but perhaps that is what a proud dad does. 

Saturday 25 January 2014

Docklands by Dark on a Brompton

A couple of years ago if you had of asked me whether I would have liked to have gone on a night cycle ride, the answer might have been why? Since owning a Brompton and suggesting a Christmas night ride I have not looked back. There is something rather alluring about a night ride. Add to this the London skyline at night and you are on to a winning combination.

Rain had been accurately predicted for this ride and despite this eight of us in total braved the elements to meet near the London Eye by 19:30. Our leader for the ride was David and yet again he had come up with an interesting concept - Docklands by Dark.

After waiting a suitable time for any late comers and viewing sick notes from Matron we headed off, lights ablaze and full waterproofs on. I decided to take my Original Orange Brompton and had packed my big camera just in case the rain relented. Unfortunately, the rain was constant and my camera remained tucked up safely in my Carridice Super C saddle bag.

The rain did nothing to dampen any attendees spirits. Many of us are now so used to rain that it doesn't really enter our thoughts. We simply wear or carry appropriate clothing and carry on. It is a great attitude to have and as such results in rides carrying on regardless of weather.

One incentive for this ride was that at around the 11 mile point we would visit a fish and chip shop and partake in a hot late night feast. I have to confess to being rather excited at this and it served as a good carrot.

The docklands fell into sight quite quickly and although my big camera didn't see the stars my trusty iPhone 5 was able to capture a few grainy photos taken while raining.

At Canary Wharf we took a few wrong turns and went round an interesting roundabout a few times. Interesting, as in its centre it had the mother of all traffic lights made up of dozens of them. On seeing it first time, I wondered how on earth I was going to know when the lights turned green. It then dawned on my that it was a decoration.

The route as you can see from the Garmin data below was a good one. Lots of twists and turns and interesting views. When cycling through Canary Wharf I again was struck that I would like to photograph some of the many buildings. Mental note to self to return there in better weather to do just that.

Just after 10 miles or so we reached the 'Britannia Fish Bar' in Poplar. With orders placed (fish and chips naturally) we waited for it to be prepared fresh there and then. Once it arrived I consumed it with enthusiasm as it was pretty good.

Making our way to Greenwich we reached the familiar entrance to the foot tunnel under the river Thames. Since our last visit the barriers at various points (presumedly to stop people cycling) had been removed. It made the tunnel much better cosmetically as the barriers were rather unsightly.

Once out in the open again the Cutty Sark greeted us in semi darkness. It was not long after this we said goodbye to Mark (King of the Hill) and Tony. It was good to see Mark again and hopefully our partnership on some of the longer rides will continue from last year.

We decided that we would take the direct route back to London and near Fenchurch Street we said goodbye to Guy and Jenny. With David, Anne and I pressing on I said goodbye too and headed for Regent Street.

Perhaps due to the weather, London seemed quiet. If it hadn't of been raining I would have been able to take some lovely photos as the streets appeared empty. Pressing on I reach where I had parked my car.

In all I cycled just over 30 miles if you include my journey to and from the ride. My take is that with so many long distance rides planned for this year I need to take every opportunity to venture out on longer rides. 30 miles is not that long now however I want to not only complete these planned rides comfortably but at a decent pace. Social rides are great and I am going on one soon but I am not going to achieve my goal of improving my fitness further by constantly going on what I call piddly rides.

David yet again was a great guide and produced anther very interesting route that I am sure will be repeated. Many thank to him and all the great company.

You can view the ride data and map by clicking on the link below:

Docklands by Dark map and ride data

Sunday 19 January 2014

Richmond Park Solo Spin

Of late there has definitely been a drought in terms of Brompton rides and adventures! Luckily, with a nocturnal adventure this Friday evening and a few more not too long after, it seems that this dry patch might be at an end. I am very glad for this as withdrawal symptoms are starting to creep in!

This morning I rose at an earlish hour and parked my car at Kew Gardens. From there I cycled the short distance to Richmond Park. On route I cycled up and down the infamous Nightingale Lane twice. (This isn't really too bad once you get going but still provides a formidable warm up)!

Arriving at Richmond Park with my Titanium Orange Brompton I was greeted as usual by the sight of all manner of cyclists. It was busy and the favourable weather conditions must have brought out more cyclists than usual perhaps?

I only had time for two laps as I had to be back to take Mrs Orange and my two daughters out for their usual Sunday adventure. Setting off I tried to maintain a steady pace but the sight of a large peloton of roadies and me subsequently trying to keep up with them, made me forget to press start on my Garmin Edge 810.

I managed to keep up with them for about a mile before someone at the front shouted, "come on let's get going!" At this all hell broke loose. I had been cycling at just over 20mph and cycling as fast as I could. The peloton of club riders had simply been warming up and at this shout their pace was increased. Quite soon they were a considerable distance in front - very impressive.

By the time I came up to my start position I remembered to press record on my Garmin. I did my best to try and keep an average pace of about 16mph but I found it quite difficult. I think I need to up my cycling as I didn't feel as good as even as far back as September when I went round at an average of 17mph.

On the big hill I managed to overtake a roadie. He shouted out, "that's not allowed!" as I went past. It was all good humoured stuff so I shouted back, "yes it is!"

With my second lap completed I exited the Park and headed back to Kew Gardens. Looking at the data from my Garmin I was a full four and a bit minutes slower than my fastest lap around Richmond Park. That particular lap was done on Kojaks, no mudguards, lighter clothing and in dry weather so it isn't really like for like but still! I need to improve further! This will certainly be my aim in the coming months.

You can have a look at the map an ride data recorded by clicking on the link below.

Richmond Park Solo Spin map and ride data

Saturday 18 January 2014

The Nikon AW1 - All the camera you'd ever need?!

The lovely people at Nikon UK let me borrow one of their newest cameras and I have been busy testing it out. I have to say that Nikon UK let me borrow this camera for review purposes (mores the pity) and that I was free to write a review as I see fit.

The Nikon 1 AW1
Regular readers will already know that I own a Nikon waterproof camera the AW100 (my daughters camera) and Nikon UK let me test the newer version the AW110 several months ago. (Links to both of these posts can be found below). Both the AW100 and AW110 are compact cameras and I have been really pleased with my AW100. The camera Nikon let me borrow is an all together different prospect. The AW1 is a rugged waterproof camera but is the first interchangeable lens waterproof camera.

The model Nikon sent out is was the white version but it does come in black and sliver. The camera feels solid and well made in the hand and reminds me a little of the V1 I used to own. The part metal construction makes one confident that it can indeed withstand a great deal of action.

I must first point out that I don't have a huge amount of photos I have taken with this camera to display. There is very good reason for this. Over the Christmas period I was on holiday. This camera went with me almost everywhere when out with my family and I have taken many photos with it. My family do not want to appear on this blog, so that is why there aren't dozens and dozens of photos.

In the pretty awful weather we have had in the last few weeks, this camera was a godsend. I cannot express how reassuring it was to have a camera with you that could withstand the elements. For someone who is out and about quite often, regardless of weather I have been able to take some photographs and video where other camera would fear to tread!

The specifications of this camera can be found at the bottom of this post but they stack up to quite an impressive list. The Nikon 1 AW1 has a 14.2 million-pixel CX-format CMOS sensor that is similar to that in the Nikon 1 J3. In addition to being waterproof to 15m it is dustptoof and shockproof.

The only option one has for a camera with a larger sensor than a waterproof compact would be to buy an underwater housing for your DSLR. This would be not only expensive but cumbersome. In this regard being able to take the AW1 snorkelling must be quite liberating to those used to carrying around heavy equipment.

The AW1 is a solid and well made camera with magnesium alloy. It feels good in the hand and the small, raised grip works surprisingly well. If you require an even better grip you can buy a silicone jacket (CF-N6000) for £25 which comes in a rather good orange colour!!

The hand grip works really well

Really liked the zoom ring

The top plate is uncluttered with the on/off switch, movie record button, shutter, zoom leaver and pop-up flash.

An uncluttered top plate

The zoom ring is particularly good. The metal grooves provide lots of grip and even better the lens internally zooms in and out. This means that the lens does not protrude any further than in the pictures.

The autofocus on the AW1 is like lightning in good light. It does not have a touch screen so you are unable to touch the screen to focus as you can on for example my Lumix G5 but you can position it fairly quickly using the D-pad. Perhaps a version 2 might have this functionality?

Internal zooming

The SD card slot, battery door, HDMI and USB doors all have good locking mechanisms which mean they won't open accidentally. They are of course sealed to make them waterproof.

The Nikon AW1's 1 inch sensor produced clean and noise free images from ISO 160 - 400 but one can of course go to its highest range of 6400. Not going beyond ISO 1600 will yield the most pleasing results.

The AW1 can take normal 1 system lens but the AW1's waterproof lens is again sealed against the elements. If this camera were mine I would only ever use the waterproof lenses. The kit lens is an 11-27.5mm (30-70mm equivalent) f3.5 - 5.6.

Rubber seal

The flash is the type that you can manually swivel, allowing the user to have some control over bouncing the light. It is much better than a fixed type.

The 3 inch, 921,000 dot LCD is very bright and detailed. Composing shots using it in brighter conditions did not prove a problem.

There camera shoots video in full HD at a maximum frame rate of 60i. The focusing is smooth and quiet. There are also several microphone settings. In the clip below the ticking sound is the electric fence. Also this video was shot later in the afternoon, during light rain and with quite terrible light. The shake is due to my youngest daughter pulling my jacket to let me know another lynx has come right in front of where we were standing.

The Nikon 1 AW1 menu system is intuitive to use and all is laid out in a user friendly way. One great feature is the ability to hold down one of the function buttons and control what menu you want to use.

Hold the button down, tilt the camera and you can select the shooting mode you want. Clever and worked well.

There are the usual PASM modes as well as full auto. The automatic mode is particularly good and the camera seems to be able to work out quite well what the best shot will be.

There are several creative modes that one can use as well as the standard ones.

The selective colour mode is particularly good in my opinion. You simply choose the colour you want to highlight from the side bar and the camera makes everything else black and white, apart from your chosen colour.

The following photographs were shot at Whipsnade Zoo just after Christmas. It was late afternoon in fading light and although the photos don't show it perhaps, it was raining throughout the entire time we were there.

I have sent the AW1 back to Nikon and I have to say I do miss it. The ability to take photos in all weathers and with a larger sensor and letter lens cannot be underestimated. The AW1 is perhaps the ultimate outdoor camera. For the type of activity I do cycle in all sorts of places, weather and times of the day, having a a camera that can cope with this and shoot video in HD is great. Knowing that the AW1 was also shockproof meant that I was quite happy to just have it hanging from its strap while I cycled along.

The AW1 can be bought for £699 with the kit lens if you shop around. This is quite expensive and I am sure the price will go down further. Still, a fully waterproof, shockproof and rustproof camera that takes great pictures might be just what you are looking for!

Many thanks to Lily at Nikon UK. You can see the full specifications by clicking ion the link below as well as having a look at my reviews of Nikon's compact waterproof cameras.

Okay the specifications. There really are too many to list and I will merely list the key features. The full specs can be found by clicking HERE

Effective pixels - 14.2 million

Image sensor: 13.2mm x 8.8mm CMOS sensor (Nikon CX format)

File Format: RAW and JPEG for stills

Shutter type - electronic

Shutter speed - 1/16,000-30 s in steps of 1/3 EV

Release modes - Single frame, continuous, self-timer

Frame advance - 5, 15, 30 or 60 fps

Autofocus - Hybrid autofocus (phase-detection/contrast detection AF)

Build in flash - Manual pop-up

Full HD movie recording - various formats and frame rates

Electronic compass - 16 headings

Location data - GLONASS receiver

Altimeter - -500 - +4500m

Depth gauge - 0 -20m

Dimensions - 113.3 x 71.5 x 37.5mm

Weight - 356g with battery and memory card

Operating temperature - -10 to 40 degrees centigrade

Shockproof performance - withstood drops of 200cm

Waterproof performance - operates to a maximum depth of 15m

Dustproof performance - JIS/IEC Class 6 (IP6X) rustproof performance

My Nikon AW100 Review

My Nikon AW110 Review

Tuesday 14 January 2014

I get stopped by the Police!

I must state for the record that apart from a naughty schoolboy-type streak that has failed over the years to leave me, I am a law abiding citizen. My dealings with the Police have been few and far between.

As a small child I can remember my mum and dad telling me that if I didn't know something or got lost I could always ask a Police Officer. In addition my parents encouraged me to say, good day to any Police Officers we passed on our travels. To this day, if I pass a Police Officer in the street, I always acknowledge them with a suitable greeting. Habits are hard to break I suppose.

There are of course faults with any organisation and always some bad apples but I genuinely believe we are lucky to have possibly the best police service in the world. It is a hard job and I am thankful we can produce men and women capable of doing such work. I write this as I certainly couldn't do it!

Anyway, back to the title of this blog. I was cycling home and had my various lights on as well as my Altura over trousers and jacket. As I approached a set of traffic lights a police car pulled up on my right. As is my custom I acknowledged the Officers therein with a nod. With the lights turning green we all pulled away.

Not too much further along the road, from the police car driving adjacent to me I heard the passenger side Office with window down say, 'excuse me Sir. Would you mind pulling in for a moment?' My brain went into overdrive. What had I done? What law had I broken? If it was going to mean doing stir I'd have to get a tattoo or two before going just to fit in! (David, if you are reading this...I blame you)!

The driver of the police car got out and apologised for stopping me several times and made it very clear I had not done anything. The reason for the Police Officer stopping me was to enquire about my Cree front light. He had seen it in his rearview mirror and though it was one of the best he had seen. I told him about said light and how it could be purchased for under £20. The Officer again apologised for stopping me and if I had been in any way inconvenienced.

Both Officers were brilliant! It transpired one of them and his son had got mountain bikes for Christmas, wanted to go on off-road night rides but were reluctant to do so as their front lights were pitiful. I am sure a couple of Cree lights will sort that out.

Monday 13 January 2014

Brompton World Championships 2014

Well today was the time many have been waiting for. The day when one could register officially for THE event of the year...Brompton World Championships 2014!

Ready for the BWC

I have lots and lots of adventures and events planned already for 2014, however it would be true to say that there is something very special about the BWC.

As a spectator the sight of hundreds of Brompton users must be incredible. Even though there are other events staged at the BWC it is the Brompton events that beguile, mystify and entertain. To be a participant - take my word for it - is beyond compare.

Nearly ready for the big off

The events will consist of the Brompton Marathon - which I am really pleased has been brought back. This is a 42km non-competitive event but I am sure many will want to put in a good time.

The Brompton Sprint is a fast paced and flat out race against the clock over a 500m course. Both the Marathon and Sprint will take place on Saturday, 26th July 2014.

The Sprint...not for the faint of heart!!

The Brompton World Championships perhaps the Queen of all events will consist of four laps (9.6 miles) of the famous Goodwood Circuit where up to 800 Bromptonians will participate.

The famous Goodwood Motor Circuit

I will be entering the Treble and therefore participating in all three events. I enjoyed last years BWC immensely and I have little doubts about this year being better! Brompton the company really do know how to put on an event and this is all top drawer stuff.

Of course this does now mean that I am in official training! As yet I do not know what that will fully consist of but at least saying it gets me in the mindset. What I really want to do is get a much better time at the BWC than I did last year.

I have posted a link to my blog post for last years Brompton World Championships of those who might not have read it. It will give you a good overview of what it was like...for me at least.

Will this dominate my thoughts from now on until July? Yes...quite probably! But you read it here...this could be my year! With enough training, you never know...

My Brompton World Championships - 2013

Sunday 12 January 2014

Interview with 2013 Brompton World Champion Isabel Hastie

Back in 2012 I went on quite a few training rides with a great bunch of people called, 'Small Wheels Big Difference.' They were in training for an epic Lands End to John O'Groats on Brompton bicycles. 

Looking back on things I cannot quite remember how I ended up going on their first ride but think that it was merely a tweet put out by them asking if anyone wanted to join them.

Things were quite different back then. I was quite unfit and carrying a few more lb.'s than I would have liked. I had a Raw Lacquer S2L  and decided to take it with me on their training run from London to Cambridge. I found it demanding! I met Geoff S (I think for the for the first time) and also Isabel who I remembered as also riding an two speed but being incredibly fast!

2013 Brompton World Champion

At the 2012 Brompton World Championships I remember saying hello to Issy and pleased for her that she got on the podium in the ladies category. Last year we bumped into each other again in the pens just before the race and I wished her luck. 2013 was to be the year Issy became the ladies Brompton World Champion and she has kindly took the time to answer a few questions.

Below are my questions and Issy's responses:

1) You are the Brompton World Champion for 2013! congratulations again. Can you describe what it feels like?

Thank you! It feels great to have won, especially against some really strong competition.

2) What sort of Brompton do you have and what made you buy a Brompton?

I have a Turkish Green S2L Brompton. The reason I bought a Brompton was because I was getting fed up of my other half's worn out GT mountain bike for the commute, which I’d been riding for about a year. So I decided to buy a mountain bike. The first day I cycled to work on it, it was stolen, and this was only a day after I’d bought it! 

I'd seen Bromptons being ridden around London, and thought it would be ideal because I could take it into my office where it was much less likely to be stolen.

3) I first met you on a 'Small Wheel Big Difference' training ride when we cycled from London to Cambridge. Looking back at it I was fairly unfit compared to now but I remember thinking that you were speedy to say the least!! What have you done since then in terms of cycling and fitness that has allowed you get third place at the Brompton World Championships last year and winner this year?

Since then I've just cycled more. I'm not a member of a gym, and I don't do much other exercise. I just like setting myself challenges. I joined a local cycling club and went on some rides with them, but I have to say I tend to ride by myself, which probably doesn't help me get much faster or become a better cyclist.  I also tried my hand at a few races and added some extra miles to my commute by doing laps of Richmond Park, as well as rides out to Box Hill. Oh, I also bought a turbo trainer.

4) When I said hello to you on the grid you were very modest about another podium position. Did you have a game plan for this race?

I did have a game plan!! I genuinely wanted to win. I realised the Goodwood circuit would be very open and windy, so I decided to form a team with two others: My husband and his brother, Jack. I thought team time trialling was ideal for the course, not that any of us had ever team time trialled before. It also helped with providing me with extra motivation and the occasional respite. This was because half-way round the course I was actually going to give up, so I told the others to go on without me. Jack then said to me that it was only 25 minutes of pain, and to just get on with it... so I did, mainly because I suddenly felt bad for making them take part on my behalf - they were pushing very hard themselves.

There were a number of times before and during the race that I doubted that I could win because Julia Shaw is an exceptional Time Trialist, and there were some other very fast ladies out there. I knew I had the legs, but for me it’s all about getting into the right mindset, because I’ll shoot myself down and tell myself I can’t do it, when I know I can, so will just give up. If it wasn’t for Jack and Jordan telling me that I could do it, I might have slowed down.

5) You won the Brompton World Championships with a Brompton Dock hire bike. What were the reasons behind you not using your own bike?

I actually won using my friend's 3 speed Brompton, Jordan used the hire bike and Jack used my S2L. The reason we did this was because Jack can ride at a much higher cadence than me, and I'm more suited to pushing bigger gears, so I took the 3 speed. It just seemed the right choice.

6) Did you do anything to the hire bike to get it ready for the race?

We lowered the handlebars and changed to a firm suspension block for the day. We changed one of the tyres to a Kojak, but that's only because 20 minutes before the start of the race Jordan had a blow-out.  That was slightly worrying!  

7) I think it is great that someone might hire and use the bike you one the Brompton World Championships on. Surely the company behind it should gift the bike to you?

We hired the bike through Brompton Dock. It wasn't technically the winning bike, so I didn't ask for a freebie.

8) I really liked the Goodwood circuit and put in a much better performance that last year at Blenheim. Which circuit do you prefer and why?

Goodwood is a very open course, which makes it quite windy. Whereas Blenheim gives you respite as it has a relatively lengthy descent but the ascent beforehand isn't easy, especially the second time round. I think both are great courses, but I'm probably more suited to a flat course, like Goodwood.

9) What advice would you give to those of us who are already thinking about 2014?

If you're in it to win it, or if you’re just after good time, then my advice is to cycle around 100 miles per week.  Incorporate interval and hill training and learn to spin and push hard. Do a few long rides, and learn to stay ahead of the roadies!! From what I've heard, I think the BWC is going to be much more tactical this year, so forming a team is a great idea providing you do it safely and practice safely beforehand. Otherwise, just go and enjoy the atmosphere, as well as the free G & T!

10) How often do you cycle and do you have other bikes apart from your Brompton?

I'm a commuter cyclist so I currently cycle twice a day five times a week, nine miles each way. 

Apart from my Brompton(s) I have two road bikes. One is my commuter bike that I bought in 2012, the other I bought last August as a gift to myself for winning the 2013 BWC. I’ve actually only ridden my new reoad bike once as I’m saving it for the Summer months... if I’m able to get out...

11) Talking of bikes what do you think of the Brompton you won? Will you use it to defend your title next year?

The Brompton that I won is a 6 speed, so feels a much more relaxing ride in comparison to my sprinty 2 speed. I feel like it's bit of a trophy, so have only ridden it a couple of times. I'd probably use a 3 speed to compete in the BWC as that suits my riding style much better, but I won't be taking part this year as I'm expecting a baby in May/June. Plus, I've already dreamt that I'd lose, whereas the past two years I only dreamt that I'd win!

12) Your husband also took part in the Brompton World Championships and obtained a very good position. Does he own a Brompton and is there a heathy rivalry between you?

No he doesn't have a Brompton, but he does use mine when he needs to. Like me, he's just a commuter cyclist and does relatively little else cycling-wise so we don't often ride together. He has a very competitive nature, but we're not particularly competitive with each other. I do remember years ago he used to tell me to go faster all the time whenever we did ride together. Nowadays he’s a bit more complimentary.

13) When riding one of my Brompton bikes on my daily commute I make a point of trying to overtake as many bikes as possible. What are your thoughts on this?

Check out the SCR (Silly Commuting Racing) thread on the Bike Radar forum and you'll see it's a popular game (ahem *sport*) to take part in. I really enjoy chasing and riding with some very fast guys on my commute (safely). I'm going to miss it very much.

14) Cycling in London can be tough going. What do you think could/should be done to make cycling safer and a genuine alternative to the car or public transport?

I think cyclists and drivers should have more training on road hazards and dangers and how to avoid them. I often find cyclists a bigger hazard than vehicles much of the time. Often cyclists just pull out in front of you without shoulder checking just as you're about to head past them. That said, I also have drivers pulling out right in front of me, although I'm going much faster than they probably realise. Motorists overtaking me only to turn left 10 yards or so later is also a common hazard. People just don't think. New infrastructure isn't going to come about tomorrow; we have to learn to get around safely together today.

15) Brompton users can be an eccentric bunch with many having a strange obsession with certain colours for example. What are your thoughts on Bromptonians?

Ha ha! I can't think who you're talking about Mr. Orange Brompton ;)?!? I think Bromptonians are great, and it's a great way to show off your more colourful side, especially in London where everything can seem a little grey at times. I used to ride in the same colour green jacket as my Brompton, and people often commented that it made them smile whenever they saw my 'coordinated' outfit.

A very big thank you to Issy for answering these questions. I wish Issy and her husband all the best for their new arrival in the summer and who knows we might see Issy competing at another Brompton World Championships in the future!

As for me, I am going to try an not only get a game plan for the 2014 BWC but take inspiration from Jack's words, that it is only 25 minutes of pain and get on with it! In my case the pain might be there but it might well last a little more than 25 minutes!! 

What a team!

Wednesday 8 January 2014

TWSBI 580 Diamond Fountain Pen

Let me get this out of the way first. This particular blog post has nothing whatsoever to do with cycling or Brompton bicycles.

Regular readers will know that I do have a thing for fountain pens. I have lots of them. So are ridiculously expensive and if I were being vulgar and tell you how much some of them cost, you would gasp.

Saying that there are a few pen manufactures out there that produce fountain pens of very high quality at a fraction of the price. One such company is TWSBI.

TWSBI is a Taiwanese company that produces a range of quite brilliant fountain pens. There are several reasons for this.

The first is that their Diamond range of pens are rather handsome, well balanced and sit very comfortably in the hand. Added to this the fact that TWSBI use nibs manufactured in Germany and of high quality.

A very handsome pen

The screw on cap, like the rest of the pen is clear

The Diamond range are also rather different from your run of the mill fountain pen. Rather than using a cartridge or a converter, which usually holds only a small amount of ink, the Diamond 580 uses a piston filler. This allows you to hold a huge amount of ink and in my opinion a much better option for those of use who love bottled inks.

The piston filler is a much better solution that cartridges or a converter

You can buy the pen in various nib configurations and if you fancy something different at a later stage you can easily buy a second nib and fit it without much trouble.

The pen writes really well and produces a lovely semi-wet line. This particular pen has a medium nib and is a joy to write with. As someone who has to do this a great deal every day as well as type away on a keyboard it makes a great workhorse of a pen. The ink flow is excellent and there are not any moments where the pen skips or scratches.

Quality nib from Germany

The cap with the TWSBI logo

The other very interesting feature of the Diamond 580 is the fact that in the box TWSBI supply a small bottle of silicone grease and a small wrench. The wrench allows the user to fully dissemble the pen for cleaning and servicing. The silicone grease allowing you to ensure that the piston runs silky smooth.

Wrench and grease allowing the owner to service the pen

Okay, how much I hear you ask? Mrs Orange bought me this pen for Christmas for £42. Let's put this into context. A piston filler fountain pen is normally found on a pen costing £80 upwards. I have a Pelikan Souveran M800 which retails at over £300 and is very similar in terms of size and handling but I have to say I prefer using this TWSBI. I like the looks of the TWSBI, its handling and the fact you can be geeky and dissemble the entire pen. 

This is not the first TWSBI pen I have owned. I have the 580's predecessor the 540 - also an excellent pen - and I am certain it will not be the last. If you like fountain pens and want one of very high quality that punches well above its weight, the 580 Diamond should be on your shortlist!

If you want to find out more I have a link to the TWSBI website below.