Thursday 28 August 2014

Link to video for 'Trying to keep up with double Brompton World Champion in Kent

In addition to some of the photos I took while on the Saturday ride, Eastward Hoo Peninsula Tour, I also captured a little video.

Below is a link to a short video clip. As always watch it at the highest quality you can. I have also provided a link to the blog post again.

Link to video

Trying to keep up with double Brompton World Champion in Kent blog post

Wednesday 27 August 2014

A Plea Direct to Brompton!!!

It was not that long ago that I owned a Brompton bicycle but did not know how to fix a puncture. The very thought of taking a wheel off was one that filled me with a sense of foreboding and dread. I have come a long way and can now do most jobs in respects of maintaining a Brompton bicycle. With this newfound confidence I decided to embark upon a little project. Today, I stood back and looked at my DIY efforts and after some careful deliberation, recoiled in horror at what I had done...

I have a thing about the colour orange. I can't help it. Brompton have started to offer various parts in different colours - grips, saddles and mudguards. Mudguards!!! They have yet to release any of these items in orange, although the saddle and mudguards do exist in the form of a special edition Brompton released a few years ago.

With a little spare time, I decided that I would paint an old pair of mudguards orange, so that I could realise a long held dream to add orange mudguards to one of my beloved Orange Brompton bicycles! If things went well with the first attempt, who knows...I could repeat it and have both my Orange Brompton bikes kitted out in Orange mudguards.

I must say that I contacted a few specialist bike sprayers, but sadly none were interested in spray painting mudguards. No...I would have to do it myself. I therefore bought flexible primer / orange spray paint and even a selection of ultra fine sandpapers. YouTube was consulted too.

The primer was a success. After a few coats I felt confident about applying the magic, the orange! That is when it all went spectacularly wrong!

I mean...just look at what I have done!

The orange spray paint I chose was a pretty bright orange and the cap (an indication of what it was meant to be like) provided a good match to the orange Brompton colour. I wish! The first coat was a shiny gold and reminded me of the colour Shirley Eaton looked in the film 'Goldfinger!'

The second coat - which I assumed would be better - could only be described as, Liberace!! The third and final coat made things even worse. At best it can be described as being mildly farmyard.

I have single handily ruined a perfectly good pair of mudguards all in the pursuit of my obsession with orange! Mrs Orange - in-between giggles of laughter - said that they weren't that bad and that I should see what they are like on the bike. On the bike!? Look at them! My daughters openly pointed and laughed at them.

Brompton HQ, should you read this I appeal to your better nature to make orange mudguards available for those of us suffering from the affliction of colour coordinating our Brompton bikes!

Sunday 24 August 2014

Trying to keep up with double Brompton World Champion in Kent

The meeting point for Saturdays ride was Charring Cross, where a train would be taken to Gravesend.  I was toying with the idea of cycling the 24 miles to Gravesend and meet everyone there but could not get up early enough to allow time for my woeful navigational skills. I therefore resigned myself to heading to Charring Cross.

I arrived in pretty good time, mainly as the roads seems to be very quiet. Upon reaching Charring Cross I thought that I was the only Bromptonian there but saw that non other than Rachael Elliot, double Brompton World Champion had also arrived.

Apart from going on an adventure the ride also had another purpose. As part of a forthcoming BBC television programme called, 'Fake Britain' which looks at fake good in the UK and the people who sell them, a cameraman had been deployed - along with a fake Brompton - to gather/film opinions. Rachael, who had a particular dislike of such items wanted to be part of it.

Regular readers will know that I usually pay a visit to Charring Cross, late at night when attending a Friday night coast ride. Thankfully, things were a great deal tamer, apart from a lady near WH Smiths screaming about trains?

The Brompton of a Champion

One by one participants started to appear and before long we were on a train bound for Gravesend. The journey was not too long and as most commuters seemed to be travelling into London rather than out of it, we had the carriage pretty much to ourselves.

Upon reaching Gravesend, we were greeted by Geoff who had met us there and we were soon on our bikes and off for another adventure. Almost immediately the river Thames could be seen falling into view. I have cycled a great deal along the first part of our ride before but under the cover or darkness on one of the Friday night rides, perhaps bound for Whitstable. It was nice to actually see what it all looked like in daytime.

The first few miles were off road on various cycle paths. On a night ride I recall on one of these hearing marsh frogs croaking away in a stretch of water running adjacent to the path and straining my neck towards the heavens to see the International Space Station travel by.

The light hitting the clouds produced picture postcard views. I would have liked to have stopped and taken lots of photos, but this was not that sort of ride and I had to do my best taking them while riding my Brompton.

Rachael and Mark leading the way

Again, I took my all new P Type Orange Brompton and I have to say that I am pretty pleased with it. Already I have clocked up quite a few miles on it and next week I will be taking it to Brompton Junction for its initial service and checking over.

The ever stylish Tony

The scenery was very pretty but every so often, towers, storage facilities and ships betrayed the industrial importance of this part of the river Thames.

After only 10 miles we stopped off at a pub (whose name escapes me) in Cliffe where we also met up with the BBC cameraman. Not wishing or interested in being part of the filming I wasted no time in ordering luncheon. It was a pretty mean ham, eggs and chips and I ate it with enthusiasm while the filming took place.

Rachael was first to offer her opinions of the fake Brompton. I don't know if the definition of a fake Brompton would mean that it would have to be a fake Brompton with a Brompton decal sticker on it but this bike was unashamedly based on Brompton.

People quite rightly offered detailed and thorough assessments of what they thought of this bicycle. Not being someone who minces my words, my assessment would have been much shorter, blunt, to the point and could have been summed up in just two s*#t!!

Having had the opportunity to visit the Brompton factory a few times - last week in fact - I have seen a Brompton being built. The level of skill, attention to detail in making a Brompton as well as quality components make you appreciate that you have indeed bought a hand build bike. The thing - the only word I can use to name it - the BBC man brought was total rubbish.

It looks like rubbish doesn't it!

I have been on many adventures on my beloved Brompton bicycles and because of their supreme quality I have always felt confident that my journey will be safe, comfortable, and achievable on my Brompton - whatever that journey may be - commute, race, touring...the list goes on and on.

A few more people got stuck in to why this copy bike was a piece of c•¢p:
  • Build quality shocking
  • Chain comes off every time you fold the rear triangle 
  • Folding pedals that were awful 
  • Uncomfortable / cramped riding position
  • Non-existant brakes
  • Sharp edges
  • Rear rack that looks as if it might be up to carrying a packet of crisps
You get the idea.

Comparing the real thing to that piece of @$%!

A few had a go at riding it - many just didn't want to me included - and this aspect was equally as rubbish. I have to say that I am not sure who would buy this bicycle or whether Brompton have a problem here? People buy Brompton bikes for lots of reasons but a major factor in the purchase is that they are build to last and withstand just about anything. You only have to read some of my adventures to appreciate that.

If you bought a fake posh watch for example it might have the looks and fool a few people, which is perhaps all someone buying such an item wants. I am not sure why someone would buy a fake Brompton? You would want to actually use it and as soon as you would be game over.

The filming took ages and eventually we left the pub to continue the ride. As such it meant that a slightly longer version had to be abandoned until another time. I am told that the actual programme will go out in January. For the several hours the cameraman spent with us, his footage will account for approximately 90 seconds!!

There was quite a strong headwind which made the pedalling that bit harder and a 37 mile ride felt like a great deal more.

There was one section where we strayed on to a main road. It was an 'A' road but as it was a three lane carriageway on which the national speed limit applied, it felt like at motorway. I pedalled hard as I wanted to get off it as quickly as wasn't pleasant. Sanctuary came in the form of a slip road. I get pretty wary about being on such busy roads and was glad when we returned to quieter lanes.

With signs for Gravesend we pressed on and made the final push. Arriving at the station we boarded the train for Charring Cross and had a good journey home chewing the fat.

At Charring Cross we said our goodbyes and made our respective ways home. It was lovely to finally meet Rachael and it is not hard to see why she was a double Brompton World Champion! She spent most of the day up in front. As we were travelling from Charring Cross in the same direction I was behind her as she motored through Hyde Park. I normally zip through from Hyde Park Corner to Marble Arch pretty fast but Rachael was off into the distance and out of sight. Fast lady!!

I am sure that Mark, who organised this ride will host another like this at some point. It was definitely   an area to explore another time...without a BBC cameraman! Many thanks to Mark. My map and ride data can be viewed via the link below as can my interview with Rachael done some time ago.

Map and Ride Data

My interview with Rachael Elliot - Double Brompton World Champion

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Brompton Merchandising

When I put my Brompton bicycles away last night after a short ride, I stared at the orange suspension block I had fitted to both of my Brompton bicycles. This got me thinking about whether or not Brompton are missing out on a merchandising mountain...

When someone buys a Brompton, most generally keep them a long time. There are several reasons for this but here are a few of my observations:
  • As refinements are made to existing parts, you can invariably buy these new parts (if you choose to) and retrofit them
  • A Brompton is just such a well made bicycle and such fun to use, many just cannot part with their bike
  • They are just so useful, even if you use it now and then 
I go on lots of rides with other Bromptonians and receive roughly 10 x emails a day from Brompton owners/those interested from all over the world. One thing I have noticed is that there is genuine market for aftermarket customisations. For many this is simply kitting your bike with various parts that match the colour of your Brompton. (I wonder if you can guess who might fall into that category)? For others it is finding parts that make the bike lighter. Companies have sprouted up all over the world that cater for this type of Brompton owner.

Why have Brompton not done this? If you consider a bespoke order Brompton already offer a variety that is quite staggering. Adding the complication of hinge clamps, saddles, mudguards, grips etc.., in say orange or various colours would be a logistical nightmare. It is fairly obvious that all of these extra parts would have to be after market. Brompton have already started this with a few colours, perhaps dipping their toes to see whether it needs pursuing.

It would be great if Brompton set up a in house division / sub company that offered all manner of coloured parts or ones made out of titanium. I suspect it would be very lucrative for Brompton. I also know from you out there that you would love to buy a T-shirt, sweatshirt, cycle jersey, hat, gloves etc.., emblazoned with the Brompton logo. Brompton do most of this as 'Brompton World Championships' merchandise, but I suspect there would be huge interest for such items.

Brompton are of course in the business of making bicycles and that has to take centre stage. That being said, I am sure I read somewhere that Ferrari makes larges sums from people buying branded merchandise. The Brompton brand is becoming stronger and stronger and if someone were to sport a Brompton T-shirt going about their daily routine, it would surely provide a degree of marketing?

My business and marketing acumen is next to useless, so what do I know?!! These are just my thoughts and observations from meeting lots of different Brompton owners. Put it like this, if Brompton released mudguards, grips, carrier blocks, hinge clamps, seat clamps, saddles etc.., in orange, yellow or green I know of two other friends who would join me in the stampede to Brompton Junction Covent Garden!!

What do you think? I would love to know whether you would like this sort of stuff too.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

My Review of my new Orange P Type Brompton P6L

As I am sure you are aware, I have a new Orange Brompton. Using it the past few weeks has been a gleeful experience and I now feel in a position to say what I think of it – which many of you have asked me for.

My new P Type

Okay, I had better start with the specifications. The bike was a bespoke order and I deliberated long and hard about what I would and wouldn’t get:

  • P Type
  • 6 x speed
  • 44T chaining – 12% reduced gearing
  • Orange frame
  • Orange extremities
  • Firm suspension
  • Extended seat post
  • Eazy wheels
  • Marathon tyres
  • Brooks B17 Special Edition saddle
  • SON Dynamo lighting system

Essentially, I suppose I wanted this Orange Brompton to be a touring bicycle. Comfort and being practical were important factors. The SON Dynamo lighting system was chosen unashamedly to make night rides (I go on lots of these) and my commute easier. More about this later but I didn’t want to bother too much about lights and batteries, especially on my daily commute. During late Autumn/Winter my commute to/from work is often in darkness.

The reduced gearing was chosen for two reasons. First the SON Dynamo would make pedalling a little harder. Second, I was happier to sacrifice some top end speed to make ├╝ber hills easier to ascend. The strange thing since using the bike is that for me at least I have detected very little resistance at all when using the SON Dynamo. As such, I may well end up swapping the 44T chaining for the standard 50T. (To be honest I have not encountered too many problems ascending hills when using a 50T anyway).

44T Chainring - but for how long?

The P Type bars. Some of you may be wondering why I opted for them. They aren’t the most popular bar type in the Brompton range and some people hate them, going as far as saying they are ugly. Having had a go on a P Type many years ago I liked the riding position. With the addition of the Brooks leather bar tape, to compliment the Brooks saddle, I think there is a certain elegance about them.

Brooks saddle, Brooks bar tape
More important than looks however is how they perform. The ride position is quite upright – which is exactly what I wanted for longer distances. I am not getting any younger and don’t fancy being unable to cycle due to back pain. I had considered an H Type but for me the lower riding position of the P gave them the edge. The lower position does not have brakes and there is a sticker to state the obvious on the handlebar. I have found this lower position to be excellent when ascending hills and when cycling into a headwind. Many have safety concerns about not having brakes, which are indeed valid. That being said, I would only ever use this lower position as described and therefore do not see it as a danger at all. Incidentally, the lower position is further down than my S Type. For getting ones weight forward when ascending hills this lower position is excellent.

The P Type, for me at least being quite tall affords an excellent riding position. There are a couple of caveats if you are thinking of following suit. First is handlebar real estate. If you have loads of gadgets you want mounted to the bars, it is possible on the P Type but the amount of usable space is a little reduced. The SON Dynamo lighting system does however mean that I don’t feel the need to have as many lights as I used to. Second, if you are…how can I put this…possessing a paunch, you might find the lower riding position uncomfortable. Thankfully, cycling so much has kept the middle age spread at bay, so the lower riding position is fine for me.

Rather elegant I think

Reduced real estate

As far as comfort goes, I have Brooks leather bar tape with some gel strips at crucial positions. Recently I went on a 67+ mile ride from London to Whitstable and suffered no hand aches or pains. There are lots of places to position ones hands (in addition to the lower position) resulting versatility and comfort. 

A Brooks saddle looks really good on a Brompton and as I have always got on well with them I had to have one. When you order a bespoke Brompton the cost of the Brooks is offset against not having the standard saddle. This means that you get a Brooks Special edition for a good price.

Brooks B17 Special Edition

Love those copper rails

Proofhide has been applied twice since I got my P Type and it has for me at least been very comfortable. I like the copper rails and pleased that the colour will only get better as the saddle gets older. It will also get more comfortable as it ages which is a bonus.

The SON Dynamo lighting system has so far been more than worth the hefty price tag. This is a little marvel of engineering. The whole setup weight a little over 200g and has little rolling resistance. There are lots of boring statistics to tell you exactly what this is but I will put things more plainly. Either on of off I cannot detect that is it there and it certainly - for me at least - doesn't make pedalling any harder - including ascending hills which I encountered on the London to Whitstable ride.

The SON Dynamo hub. Low weigh and little rolling resistance

The rear light with the SON Dynamo produces a much brighter light than the battery version and the stand light function means that when you have stopped both front and rear lights stay on. The front light is excellent. It produces a bright, whitish light that does an excellent job of illuminating the road ahead. Let's be clear about this. It is not a commuter light that allows oncoming traffic to see you from considerable distances. It does this to some extent but I would add a small flashing light for this purpose. 

SON powered rear light is also quite bright

On the London to Whitstable ride, once we were out of the urban sprawal and entered country lanes things started to become pitch black. I had brought my Hope Vision light with me but never had it on anything but its commuter flashing setting. SON powered front light instilled confidence. There was not a time when I felt I needed more light. For long stretches I turned off my Hope Vision light altogether to see what the SON powered one could do. It was excellent.

The SON powered Busch & Muller front light is excellent

It produces a bight, whitish light

Added to this there is even an automatic setting where a sensor detects when it is dark enough to turn everything on and light enough to turn everything off. Very clever. I also think that the SON Dynamo is also rather pretty and I liked the shiny sliver finish.

As on all Brompton bicycles there is subtle detailing that tells you and others your bike is a Brompton. The chain guard, cranks and brake levers all have the Brompton logo discretely placed. 

I have not been a fan of Brompton customisation as in my opinion they are a design classic anyway. I have made some changes. Some cosmetic, some practical and some a combination of these.

The first is the chainring bolts. Since 2013 Brompton bikes now come fitted with the spider chainring. This allows the user to swap their chainring easily. I replaced the original bolts for aluminium alloy ones that They are also half the weight of the originals. 

I have used clipped in pedals on all my Brompton bikes for some time now and took the standard pedals off almost immediately. The Shimano XT pedals are a favourite of mine and I really like them.

I had a spare front carrier block so this went on. This will allow me to use a wide range of Brompton luggage options I have build up over the years. I currently have:

  • Mini O bag in Orange
  • O Bag in orange
  • S bag 
  • C Bag 

I use these bags according to what I know I might be carrying and the great thing about the P Type is that all the above works.

There was nothing wrong with the standard firm suspension block, but the one in the picture below by BikeFun is orange and a little firmer.

As I am sure you will have gathered, I really do like my new P Type Brompton. This bike will become quite a workhorse taking my on my commute and night rides. The P Type isn't for everyone. For some the lower riding position is too low or not safe enough without extra brake levers. Some may long for more handlebar real estate. For others it is not a looker. 

For me one of the attractions of a Brompton is its quirkiness. The P Type is certainly that. For me at least, I feel I have made a good choice and I can see us becoming better friends that we already are now. I have already been on a few adventures with this Brompton and you can be assured that there will be many more to come!