Monday 31 March 2014

Short Video of Thames Triple

Saturday was a great ride out and below is a link to a short video that I hope gives a flavour of what it was like.

As always please watch in HD to get the best quality.

Link to video

Sunday 30 March 2014

Sun Along, On, Over and Under the Thames!

The people of the late Middle Ages were prone to believing in portents and omens. I write this as my start to the day could have been likened to them. I decided to head out early as I wanted to get in a good fast paced run as I knew that the, 'Thames Triple Chaser 2014 (Greenway Diversion)' to give it its official moniker would be a gentle affair - due to shear numbers attending.

Getting into my car I started the engine, turned up whatever was on Radio 4 and put the car into gear. No sooner than I had done this my windscreen was covered in what was a vicious and full blooded aerial assault! So shocked was I that I had to engage an emergency stop - it was as if I were back taking my test with a chap banging a copy of the Highway Code on the dashboard. My first thought was Albatross and then Golden Eagle,  however this was soon dismissed.  The creature remained unknown.

This occurrence could have been taken, perhaps like my Middle Age cousins as a sign. Being an ever optimistic sort I regarded it as a lucky omen and proceeded with caution down my street!

I cycled from Brondesbury Park to Trafalgar Square in next to no time and managed a rather respectable pace. The roads were quiet which aided this. As I was earlier than expected I continued to some old haunts - Millennium Bridge, Gherkin, Cheesegrator and Lloyds Building.

The view from the Millennium Bridge was hazy and I was joined by a few tourists and joggers who had also risen early to secure less crowded views.

Hazy London skyline

The strange thing about owning a Brompton is the desire to take photos of it. The sight of a tall chap squatting down taking photos of a little bicycle in bright orange, induced those walking the bridge to pause taking photos of the views and start taking them of me!


After taking several photos of my Brompton my mind was cast back to recent blog post, '10 Signs that tell you if you are a Brompton Geek.' I paused for a brief moment before accepting the inevitable and took even more photos!

Again 122 Leadenhall Street - The Cheesegrator - was a draw for me and I was unable to resist taking several photographs of it. For me the star on the dressing room door has definitely moved to this location.

The Cheesegrater - a new favourite 

I was also able to catch a reflection of The Lloyds Building via another and it was at this point that I thought I had better get myself back to Trafalgar Square and halt trying to take arty shots of buildings!

Lloyds Building reflection

At Trafalgar Square I saw lots of familiar faces and several new ones. Mark (King of the Hill) was leading this ride and it has always been a very popular one. This time 29 riders turned up. (It might have actually been more but I didn't bother counting.

Brompton bicycles lined up

Directly behind us a street entertainer who didn't seem to be entertaining anyone was trying to drum up trade. Unfortunately for him the sight of dozens of Brompton bicycles lined up in front of the National Gallery resulted in his audience numbering two!

Nearly read for the off

The lovely Anne testing her new camera

Our ride leader

Without too much fanfare we departed not too long after 10:00. I had agreed to perform the vital job of Tail End Charlie. This I embarked upon with enthusiasm but after about 10 miles in I got bored doing it and as the tail was taking care of itself I relived myself of this duty.

Brompton riders always happy

The early stages took us over the cobbles at Wapping. This provided some practice for the 'London Classic' which with its many demanding cobbles and even more demanding hill sections which will provide entertainment for next week.

Part of the ride took us along canal footpaths. I have written many times before that I am no fan of riding next to water. This section was narrow and as we gave way to other cyclists, pedestrians and joggers I cycled rather gingerly! As I passed people on the narrow footpath I must have said 'whoops a daisy' half a dozen times. This might have accounted for the puzzled expressions as I made eye contact. I must endeavour to cut this down to no more than five utterances!

We stopped at the 'View Tube.' This is am interesting mix of cafe, bike hire and exhibitions housed in old shipping containers. Very unusual and perhaps worth another visit. There was even an upper storey that provided good views across to the Olympic Park.

View Tube

One structure that dominates the view is the ArcelorMittal Orbit. You will soon be able to buy tickets to go up to the viewing platform - although what there is to see is questionable. Being Britain's largest piece of public art its purpose is I suppose to provide a legacy of the 2012 Games. For my money it looks like some sort of Blackpool Pleasure Beach nightmare where bits of old fairground rides have been cobbled together in some form of practical pleasantry.

The tower thing

Possibly the most photogenic person ever?

With our rest stop done we headed off again into one of the best days in terms of weather so far this year. Blue skies and wispy clouds were our companions throughout.

The Greenway section was a great addition to the route. Over several miles we would cycle along this until we reached the Woolwich Ferry. I suspect it will become incredibly popular as time goes by and when it has had a few years to bed in, will be stunning to walk, run or cycle along.

The Greenway
As on the Recce Ride we passed Abbey Mills Pumping Station. It would be wonderful to view it interior but sadly public access is rare.

Abbey Mills Pumping Station

We had to wait a  few minutes for the Woolwich Car Ferry but once onboard we completed the 'on' part of the Thames Triple Chaser.

On the Woolwich car ferry
Once off the ferry we made our way round to great views of the Thames Flood Barrier. These glistened in the sunshine and looked all the more pretty for it.

The Thames Flood Barrier

We stopped at the O2 for a spot of luncheon and for those who needed it a rest. As we ate our various food items the wind really picked up becoming quite strong. I hoped that this would not cause any swaying when on the Emirates Skyline - the over part of the Triple Chaser! Luckily the little cars were okay and we had a quick journey across with some wonderful views.

On the other side we said goodbye to quite a few of our number. The rest of us headed for Greenwich. Along the way view after view cropped up that begged to be photographed.

Canary Warf

At Greenwich we stood at the other side of the River Thames for more photos before descending the stairs - of if lazy the lift instead - to walk under the Thames via the tunnel opened in 1902.

Greenwich Naval College

The tunnel was incredibly busy, more so than other times I have used it. I wonder whether the longer Woolwich foot tunnel further up the river is used as much?

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

Once on the other side of the tunnel we saw the familiar sight of the Cutty Sark which marked the end of this rather good ride. After one last photo some headed for the station, some stayed to chill a little in the glorious weather while others - me included - cycled back to Central London.

The end of the ride at the Cutty Sark

A youthful David

Saying goodbye to various riders while cycling I headed back to The Mall, Hyde Park Corner and Hyde Park itself. I wasted little time getting on to the Edgware Road which was busy in a quite astonishing way. There just seemed to be so many people out and about - perhaps as it was a beautiful day.

The Triple Chaser is one of my favourite rides. It is actually as good in horrid weather as this brings a gritty, industrial dimension to the views. It was lovely to see so many family faces and great to see some new ones. This was a very successful ride and I am sure I can convince Mark to run yet another version of it! Many thanks to Mark for organising and leading such a large group.

You can view the map and vide data for the ride (lap 1) and part of the journey that ended near where I parked.

Map and ride data

Wednesday 26 March 2014

10 Signs that tell you if you are a Brompton Geek!

To follow are 10 indicators that you might have taken your fondness of your Brompton bicycle to the land of Brompton geek fanboy/fangirl! Displaying a few of these doesn't quite mean you're a fully paid up member of the Brompton geek club but they certainly provide a good idea of the direction you might be heading!

#1 - Fashion

You find yourself buying more and more cycling specific clothing. You might even buy some Lycra. Even worse still you might wear some of these items of clothing to a social event, just because you happened to arrive on your Brompton!

#2 - Cleaning

When you buy a new Brompton you might go through that I cannot possibly allow a speck of dirt on any part of my bicycle. You know you have or are becoming a Brompton geek when you clean your Brompton after it has for example been out in the rain.

#3 - Colour Coordination

It is not only Gok Wan that tries to colour coordinate everything in start to do it as well. You might start off small with subtle touches such as a pair of socks that match the colour of your Brompton. Before you know it the colour of everything from cycling helmet to gloves requires much deliberation.

#4 - Overtaking

You might have taken part in the Brompton World Championships but your daily commute is social Darwinism at its worst. You know you are heading in the direction of Brompton fanboy if you try and overtake as many roadies as possible on your daily commute.

#5 - Online

Spending too long on online cycling / Brompton specific forums if a sure sign all hope is lost!

#6 - Photography

There is nothing wrong with taking a few photos of your prized Brompton...they are mini works of art after all but when you start to place your Brompton in the middle of a famous landmark and take a photo to show where it has been, you surely know you are a Brompton geek.

#7 - Tyre pressure

When you start to pay more attention to the tyre pressure of your Brompton wheels than your car, it is a sure sign Brompton geek boy status is not far behind.

#8 - Get a Brompton

If you find yourself becoming evangelical about Brompton bicycles and tell others they too should get one it is a sign you're a geek. Plain and simple.

#9 - Other Brompton bicycles

If you are going about your daily business and spot another Brompton and then mentally take note of what type of gearing, handlebar and tyres it're a Brompton fan boy!

#10 - Brompton World Championships 

If you spend your entire year 'in training' for THE cycling event of the year you're a Brompton geek.

As I stated at the start of this blog, if one or two applies to you, it doesn't mean you are a Brompton geek. If however several do, then....

Monday 24 March 2014

Short Video of London to Burnham on Crouch on a Brompton

I managed to get a little video footage of the Friday night London to Burnham on Crouch adventure for your viewing pleasure.

As always make sure you watch it in HD to get the best quality. 

Sunday 23 March 2014

Brompton London to Burnham on Crouch Night Ride

Friday night marked the start of the first night ride to the coast for 2014. The idea of these rides is very simple. Meet in central London just before midnight and at midnight head off for a ride throughout the early hours until you reach a coastal destination. They are beautifully pour and highly addictive.

Even though I have now been on several of these rides and knew what to expect, throughout the day this ride was in the back of my mind - a mixture of excitement and mild fear. We had been warned that our route would take us through the Rotherhithe Tunnel and over a formidable hill...

I had agreed to meet my friend Geoff a veteran of many a night ride at Charring Cross. My journey to the meet point was about 6 miles and initial thoughts were to take the tube but I cycled it instead. Arriving at Charring Cross at 22:45 I saw lots of people how had just been on a night out catching their trains home and many more about to start their nought out.

People watching on a Friday night at Charring Cross is always an interesting pastime. I received several comments about how cool my Brompton was and two proposals of marriage. Thankfully, Geoff was bang on time and we were soon off to the official meet point for the ride - Hyde Park Corner.

At the meet point we were joined by David, Anne, Charlie, Amanda (on her road bike) and Bob. The rain was already falling and as we chatted it progressively got worse to the extent that I donned my waterproof over trousers.

There was a calm buzz of excitement as Simon the leader of this ride went through the ever important safety instructions but in the usual fun way where participant join in. With talk the of the Rotherhithe Tunnel and hills there were a few nervous smiles exchanged and at the stroke of midnight we were off.

The familiar sound of more than 60 riders clipping in was a wondrous noise that seemed orchestrated to perfection. A snaking peloton of all manner of bicycles made their way through the central London traffic, bound for Burnham on Crouch some 58 miles away. As we passed pedestrians, motorists and even other cyclists I wondered whether they knew or would even believe what we were embarking upon?

The rain was heavy at times and the night air decidedly chilled. I was glad of the many layers I had worn. The dreaded Rotherhithe Tunnel was reached a great deal sooner than I had expected and as I saw the entrance I was induced to make an involuntary swallow.

The Rotherhithe Tunnel is a road tunnel under the River Thames opened in 1908. It consists of a two lane carriageway 1,481 metres long and travels to a maximum depth of 23 metres. A pedestrian walkway runs parallel to the carriageway and we were told beforehand to make for it if there were any punctures or mishaps.

This tunnel is not for everyones liking. Frequently motorists with claustrophobic tendencies who have not used it before are caught out and have to be rescued by emergency crews. The only thing I was worried about was cars travelling adjacent to us cycling along. Luckily this didn't happen. We cycled through quite quickly and traffic seemed to be light. I was glad for this as it was towards the end getting unpleasant. The car fumes were noticeable and I longed for the night air and liberation. Once on the other side we regrouped, took in a few lungfuls of fresh air and were off again.

The rain was constant and combined with strong winds made for tough cycling at times. Normally on these rides we have a mid-ride stop off at various locations that open especially for us with lots of homemade goodies. Unfortunately this could not be arrange of this ride so our stop off was Junction 31 of the M25.

There wasn't much in the way of food and most of us brought our own. It wasn't as good as the small church halls or scout huts we normally frequent but it was warm and spacious. I sat next to Bob - a great character and pretty potent Brompton rider -  and chewed the fat.

Descending downstairs to the toilets was quite a sight as many riders attempted to dry various items of clothing and warm body parts on the hand dryers. I even got some of the action as perhaps like a flamingo I stood on one leg trying to dry my knees.

See, I'm not alone in taking pictures of bicycles!

Carrying everything but the kitchen sink

My beloved Original Orange Brompton

Bob's very distinctive and pretty fine Brompton

Every time I have set off after the mid ride break I have been frozen to death. This time I decided to put on one extra layer. I am glad that I did. No sooner that we stepped outside I started to feel the cold but not half as bad as I would have without that extra layer.

The next few miles saw us building up to the hill we had been warned about and with good reason! As we approached it in near darkness you could see that it looked pretty steed. As I progressed on my ascent I soon bottomed out on my gears but had a nice little rhythm going. Of course this didn't last.

I started to pass a few people and saw that it had caught out quite a few riders who were off the bike and walking. This proved to be my downfall. I was hugging the wheel of one rider who understandably and without warning stopped and got off the bike. Unable to react in time to cycle I unclipped and was off my bike too. I walked 10 paces before getting on and cycling the rest. By my own standards the hill beat me - even if by default.

With dawn approaching cycling through the British countryside was glorious. It is perhaps one of the features of these rides. The only sounds to be hear apart from that made by various bicycles were birds getting ready for the dawn chorus. It is a sound I have heard many times but always welcome.

With the back of this ride broken and only a few miles left until we reached the end and a well earned breakfast we cycled with purpose. Those of Brompton bicycles yet again put in a good performance. Bob was frequently at the front of the pack as was David, Anne and Geoff. Anne will be taking part in the ride 100 later in the summer and although not riding on her Brompton I suspect she could!!

Arriving at 'The Cabin Dairy' in Burnham on Crouch an order was placed for their 'Full Monty' breakfast which was well worth the wait.

Many of us were wet from all the rain and a few riders were felling very cold. My hands and feet felt like blocks of ice but after the breakfast felt better.

With breakfast over many riders started to say their goodbyes and head for home. It was my intention to get the boat across the River Crouch and cycle to Southend with Geoff and get the train from there as this would forgo changing trains and would be more of an adventure. Unfortunately, this service started at 10:00 and not wanting to wait Geoff and I headed for Burnham on Crouch station for there train to Wickford.

At Wickford I took the train to Liverpool Street while Geoff (on the opposite platform) took the train to Southend. Arriving back in London at just before 10:15 I felt pretty good considering I had cycled through the night. Seeing some familiar buildings I headed for them to take a few more photos of them.

As I reached Charring Cross I contemplated taking the tube and then thought better of it. The sun was out, traffic was light and I was feeling okay. I therefore decided to cycle another 7 and a half miles back. In total I cycled over 71 miles. As I cycled up The Mall tourists lined the streets in anticipation for the changing of the guard. I hypothesised as to whether they would believe what I had just done.

I was really pleased to see that my average moving speed for the 58 miles was 12.2 mph but I must get what i take with me right. I definitely went overboard with the amount of kit I took. Next time I am going back to the minimalist school of thought!!

This was a great ride. The addictive nature of the night ride to the coast and the sense of adventure and challenge it brings was certainly there and I look forward to the next. It was great to ride with my fellow Bromptonians and I hope that more make it to the next one. As always a big thanks has to go to Simon for organising these great rides and to his excellent team of Tail End Charlie's and Way finders for keeping us safe.

The map and ride data can be viewed by clicking on the link below.
London to Burnham on Crouch map and ride data

Friday 21 March 2014

Another Set of SPD Pedals for my Brompton

Regular readers will know that I abandoned my original Brompton pedals a long time ago. I bought a pair of Shimano PD-M780 SPD pedals and fitted them on to my Titanium Orange Brompton. They have proved to be a great addition.

Once we started to approach winter I took these pedals off my Titanium Orange Brompton and fitted them to my Original Orange Brompton so that I could have all the benefits of being clipped in on my daily commute. (My Original Orange Brompton being my commuter hack, winter and generally horrid weather bike).

Not wanting to swap pedal over I had fitted a pair of Shimano M520's to my Titanium Orange Brompton, borrowed from a friend but did not really like them too much. They have a smaller area and I always preferred the slightly larger surface area of the M780's. With the weather appearing to be getting better I thought I would take the plunge and just buy another set of clipped in pedals. This proved to be an easy decision.

As you can see from the photos I opted for a brand new pair of M780's. These will be going on my Titanium Orange Brompton and staying on.

I really like this pedal. They look good, have that larger surface area than the M520's and M540's but are lighter than them too.

These new pedals are very well greased and will be like an old friend returning when fitted to my Titanium Orange Brompton.

The addition of a pair of cleats in the box is always welcome and will save me buying a second pair for my new SPD shoes.

Clipped in isn't for everyone, especially on a Brompton for several reasons. First it means you do not have a folding pedal. Second you really do have to wear shoes with cleats to pedal in rather than almost anything on the original Brompton pedals. Finally, so people just cannot get used to them. As I said I haven't looked back and now relish that clicking in sound when the cleat engages with the pedal.

My original blog post on these pedals can be viewed by clicking on the link below.
Link to original clipped in pedal blog post