Tuesday 25 November 2014

CATEYE Volt 300 - a new front light

Regular readers will already know that when I bought my new P type I made sure it came with a SON dynamo hub. This had been something of a revelation and I cannot think how I lived without the convenience of having front and rear lights permanently fixed to the bike. The upgrade to the Edulux II front light has only enhanced an already good set up.

Despite this, I always have an extra light mainly one that flashes - the brighter the better. This has been my trusty Hope Vision 1 - which is an excellent light. There has however been a slight problem with this light and the limited space of the P type handlebars.

Having the Hope Vision 1 fitted to the bars has been a struggle. The brake cables get in the way and it has been a bit of a squeeze. I have been looking for a solution and after much searching I found the answer in the CATEYE Volt 300.

As far as specs go it is more than an equal for the Hope Vision 1 and in many regards beats it hands down:

  • Maximum 300 lumens output (the Hope has about 200)
  • Compact and lightweight (120g making it less than half the weight of the Hope)
  • Cartridge battery (more convenient than 4 x AA batteries)
  • USB rechargable
  • Five light modes, with memory function
  • Fast charge well under 3 hours
  • Waterproof

Much easier to fit on my P type's limited handlebar space

The Volt 300 is well made and the silver parts are metal. The black portion is the cartridge battery section that simply screws out.

In terms of runtime the Volt 300 is pretty good:

High 3h
Normal 8h
Low 18h
Hyper constant 11h
Flashing 60h

The high setting is very bright as is the hyper constant which is much brighter than a similar mode on the Hope.

The light can be charged via a UBS connection. My pack came with a spare cartridge battery, desk charger and 2 x USB cables. This means that you could charge both simultaneously.

My pack came with the spare cartridge battery

Desk charger dock and 2 x USB cables

The small desk charger is very compact and the cartridge screws in. You can connect this to a USB port or any plugged USB charger.

Cartridge battery in the docking station

Charge light on

The CATEYE mount for the handlebar - also included naturally - is a tried and tested formula that works well. All is held in place very securely and there is little chance of things slipping. For me it also means that it is small enough to be left on the bars. Putting the light on and off this mount is quick and easy.

Standard bar mount

For me this is a win, win situation. I have a light that: is brighter, fits my P types handlebar space more comfortably, more compact, takes up less weight and generally more convenient.

Quite a size and weight difference

I have no intention of getting rid of my Hope Vision 1 as it is too good a light, however as far as my P type is concerned this new light is just a better fit in all regards.

Monday 24 November 2014

Return to Box Hill

Last night I joined a select band of intrepid sorts for a return to Box Hill. The journey from Kew Gardens (our meeting point) to Box Hill and back is alway enjoyable and very much an adventure, so I was looking forward to this sojourn.

I arrived at Kew Gardens just after 18:00 and it was not long before I saw the familiar sight of David, who had organised this ride. Sadly, Anne was unable to come but before long James, Matt and Mark had arrived. I was especially pleased to see Mark as it has been an age since we have been on a ride together. 

My Orange P type waiting for the off

We set off just after 18:30 with a dampness in the air. It was hard to believe that it was November as it was so mild. It didn't rain all night but the roads were damp from previously showers and the general dampness that hung in the air. 

Again my Orange P type was out for another adventure and I am becoming almost inseparable from it. My poor Titanium Orange Brompton is gathering dust at present and still has its summer footwear - Kojak tyres.

We cycled at a good pace considering the roads were somewhat greasey. As we cycled under bridges and archways that uncontrollable urge to ding ones bell took over and several dings later we had got it out of our systems. 

The roads were fairly quiet on our way to Box Hill and were making excellent time. There were no mechanical issues and everyone seemed happy to have short breaks. 

I mention mechanical issues for good reason. If you search my previous blog posts for Box Hill you will encounter the woefully tragedy of my chain snapping not far from Box Hill. This saw me walking / running up Box Hill only to later have the indignity of getting a taxi back to Kew Gardens. Ever since this, on all other rides to this location I carry a spare chain. Yes you read correctly. Not a a small length of chain to make good a repair...a full chain!!

One route to Box Hill David and I were a little disappointed that a landmark in the form of the 'Cock Inn' had now gone upmarket and renamed and perhaps rebranded to 'Headley Hills Restaurant and Bar.' A pity on many levels!

Before long we arrived at the base of Box Hill. I have now lost count of the number of times I have made the ascent to the top but all have been great fun. This was my first outing with my P type and it faired pretty well. Again I found myself spinning out - even when ascending Box Hill - with my 44T chainring. I keep saying that I hate it - and I do for this very reason - and I also keep saying I will have to change it over - which I must get round to doing!

David was his usual quite astonishing self and was off ahead into the distance. I followed at a good pace and felt that it was actually my fastest ascent to date. As I cycled up the twisting and turning road in the pitch black you would think that there would be little to distract. You would be wrong. Owls hooted, foxes screeched, small rodent creatures darted across my path and looks skyward afforded views of the stars almost impossible in central London.

Once at the top we all assembled and made our way to the 'Smith and Western' pub/restaurant. This is in my opinion one of the THE places to visit. Nothing in life really prepares you for a Country and Western themed restaurant at this location! Box Hill and its famous view appeared in a Jane Austen novel and I alway wonder what she and her fictional characters would make of it?!

As we entered country music - something by Dolly Parton - filled the air, instantly creating the necessary atmosphere to transport one to somewhere in the United States of America. I have yet to visit this wonderful country but it is a long held ambition. I alter between wanting my first visit to be New York  and then something more suited to its recent history, Tombstone for example.

What to eat?

This was as tasty as it looks

Shared between five, it didn't last long!

We sat at our table and had a good view of the gaol, with authentic steel bars where one could perhaps enjoy an enhanced experience. It must be said that we looked upon this with mild envy. Perhaps next time?

The gaol in the distance

People with birthdays - and there were lots - were greeted with their large desert ice cream carried by several members of staff, shouting out 'yeah-ha' and with one hitting a large triangle with enthusiasm. Our conversation turned to who might have a birthday to celebrate for our next visit?!

Boots above the bar

A saddle bar stool

Sadly, all good things come to an end and with our meal over we departed and got prepped for the ride home. As always, after spending some time indoors I felt cold and my Proviz 360 jacket was put back on.

Our journey back was as always at a good pace and this time David had found a route that bypassed the dreaded 'badlands.' This is essentially a muddy track through a wooded copse. I imagine in the middle of summer it would be fine but the last few times we have use it for the Box Hill run, it has been horrendous!

From Epsom onwards my longhand belief that I have lead a sheltered life gained some weight...again. Various youths shouted, gestured and staggered around in a highly vocal manner and to me looked like participants in a university Rag Week that had somehow been extended! Things didn't get much better when we passed Kingston. As we neared Richmond, several very large (tall and fat) rugby types lolled around after seeing the match at Twickenham. It was with a sense of relief that we reached Kew Gardens in one piece.

As per usual this was a highly enjoyable adventure and yet again I have conquered Box Hill. I have to say that I do howe that it isn't the last time we pay a visit to Box Hill in 2014. I am certain that it will feature in 2015!

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

Box Hill map and ride data

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Super Power Front Light for £16.99 - Is it any good?

I have to blame my friend and fellow Bromptonian David for this purchase! We have been on a number of night rides this year and will almost certainly be going on many more before the year is out, so in addition to my Hope Vision front light - which is brilliant - I decided to take the plunge and buy a second light that offers quite a lot for the princely sum of £16.99.

The light in question is the Cree XM-L T6 light. These can be easily bought on eBay and for the price you cannot really go wrong. The light itself boasts that it is 1800 lumens. I am not sure whether it really does give off that immense power but I can say that compared to my Hope Vision's 300 (on full power setting) it is a great deal brighter!

The Cree XM-L T6 light with standard lens

The light seems very well made and if I had of inspected it and not know it cost £16.99 I would have thought it cost a great deal more. It appears to be solid and of good construction. The Cree has a very simple mounting system which consists of a rubber O ring (two are supplied) that attaches to two points on the light. On the handlebars it is quite secure and easy enough to take on and off.

Simple mount works well 

When the light is connected to the battery the light emits a green light and interestingly the supplied battery pack comes partly charged - a nice touch.

Connected to the battery and ready to go

Also included in the pack is a charger and adapter socket for British plugs. It works well as far as I can tell.

Charging plugs

The battery pack comes in its own case which you can attached to the frame of your bike. The light is billed as being waterproof. I am not sure about the battery pack though?

Battery pack 8.4v 6400mAh

A headset is also included. I can't say that I would immediately use this but it is nice to have and you never know?


O rings to attach to handlebars or headset

As an optional extra you can buy a wide angle conversion lens. This makes the light better for night riding as it coverts the light to a floodlight with some 30 degrees spread rather than just a spotlight. Changing it was simple a case of unscrewing the cap, taking out the supplied glass lens and putting in the new one. The wide angle lens cost £4.99 including postage and packing.

Conversion wide angle lens

With wide angle lens fitted

The Cree XM-L T6 will come in very handy as a backup to my excellent Hope Vision light. The Hope Vision is a light that I expect to have in my possession working away in five years, after hard use. I say this as it is that good. 

I cannot say how long this light will last? What I can say is that I am very impressed with the performance and even more impressed with the price. At £16.99 it is a bargain. I would be happy if it lasts until this time next year. Longer would be a bonus. 

I had to go to Richmond last night briefly and could not resist a quick ride up Nightingale Lane. I tested the light out although it wasn't fully charged. First impressions were favourable. The flashing mode was outrageous! Bright is not a good enough word. The low mode was about as bright as my Hope Vision on its highest setting. The high mode was much brighter. Again I can't say it is a full 1800 lumen but my goodness is it bright!

The first of the pictures below is the Cree on full. The second the Hope Vision on full. 

I am going for a mini night ride this evening and I will take this and let you know how I get on with it. So far though, VERY impressed!

Sunday 9 November 2014

Your New Brompton - Expectations vs Reality!

So, you finally did it. You stumped up the necessary moula to purchase your gleaming new Brompton folding bicycle. I can tell you from experience that you are going to be a happy soul as owning one is rather special. However, there can be a considerable gulf in terms of expectations and reality. Here follows some advice that you may wish to consider.

Expectation #1 

I am going to take my new Brompton everywhere! I have the ultimate in personal transport and can quite literally go anywhere!!

Reality #1 

I don't believe it! It's raining. There is no way I am going to cycle in that weather and get my new bike dirty! I use it another time.

Expectation #2 

When my friends and family see my new Brompton, they are going to be captivated and want to know all about it!!

Reality #2

Your friends and family are incredulous that you spent that much on a bicycle that isn't something Sir Bradley Wiggins would use! You try to explain your Brompton bicycles many merits and even resort to folding and unfolding but to no avail!

Expectation #3 

You are going to instantly be faster than your work colleague who has been commuting to work on his/her road bike for the last five years!

Reality #3

Keep up the cycling and you will become fitter, stronger and faster but your sweaty red face and general shortness of breath indicates that you are not going to be instantly faster by virtue of owning a Brompton.

Expectation #4 

I will instantly become hipper, trendier and cooler as the Brompton is THE thing to have at the moment for the gentleman/lady in town!!

Reality #4

Your confidence takes a slight knock as you pass a group of spotty adolescents at the bus stop when they shout out various observations such as:

'Clown bike.'

'Shrunk in the wash.'

'Why are you riding that kids bike?'

Expectation #5

You have a Brompton and can now enter the fabled. Brompton World Championships. You're going to get on the podium or win the thing, right!!

Reality #5

Oh my days! That was harder than I expected. I didn't come last but perhaps I need to do a little more training in the next 12 months!

Buying a Brompton and owning one is going to be nothing but fun. They are build to last, great to use and put a smile on your face. As long as your expectations match the realities of ownership you'll be fine and part of an ever growing club of Bromptonians who sing the praises of their folding wonders.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Top 8 Brompton Noob Fails

You have a new Brompton! That is great but there are a new things you need to know if you are to avoid looking like a Brompton noob. Of course you might have had a Brompton bicycle for years so keep reading as you might need this too!

#1 The Fold

If you are to avoid looking like a total Brompton noob, mastering the fold is essential. The person in the shop may well ahem demonstrated this to you, but you were probably too excited in getting a new Brompton to listen or care.

Take the time to master the fold and unfold. There is an order and soon you will have it down to under 12 seconds - maybe even quicker. If all hope if lost, consult the handbook that came with your new bike  or have a look at YouTube.

Failure to do this may result in slight embarrassment as you haplessly try and fold/unfold with the general public looking on.

#2 What sort of Brompton?

When meeting other Bromptonians, conversation may turn to what sort of Brompton you have, they have, your work colleague or perhaps a friend. Do not betray your lack of knowledge and brush up on all the different types of Brompton. Know your M from your P...your H from your S. Be able engage in polite conversation about gearing and chainrings. It won't take long to brush up but failure to do this will make the more knowledgeable regard you as a Brompton noob.

#3 Locking it up

The joy of owning a Brompton is the fact you can fold and take it with you. You can of course lock it up to some inanimate object and there may be times when you feel that there is no other option. Be ready for shakings of the head, tutting, and mild wailing or combinations of all of these from hardened Brompton owners.

#4 Punctures

Brompton tyres are pretty tough but there will at some point be a time when you might have succumb to a puncture 'in the field.' You are therefore going to have to know how to do this. If you don't you might suffer the shame of carrying your Brompton on to a bus, train, taxi etc.., with a flat tyre. Worse still, wheeling it along in public with a flat!

When I first owned a Brompton I knew nothing of repairing a puncture. When it did happen 'in the field' I was like a faint lady from a Jane Austen novel, about to go if someone...anyone didn't come to my rescue there and then. Do you want that to happen to you?!

#5 It's just a bicycle

When you buy a Brompton strange and mystifying forces are at work that are best left unexplained. You will have fun when riding it. You might even take the long way home, just because. You might buy an item of clothing to colour coordinate with that of your Brompton. Uttering the phrase, 'it's just a bicycle' betrays that you are a Brompton noob. It's not just a bicycle, it is THE bicycle...your bicycle. At this point you might want to consider providing your new pride and joy with a name. This will instil in you the notion that it is, not, just a bicycle.

#6 Brompton World Championships...what is that?

Oh my days!!! If you actually said this you really are treading into Brompton noob territory. It is an event all Brompton owners need to take part in at least once. With World Championships in various countries around the world you will hopefully find one where you live.

#7 Photographs of landmarks

If you haven't got copious photos of your Brompton strategically positioned in front of a well known landmark you are straying into Brompton noob territory. You may well have visited St Paul's Cathedral for example but it is your Brompton that is more photogenic!

#8 Not making your Brompton your own

My view is that the Brompton is all but perfect as it is and requires little in the way of customisation. However, this has not stopped me from making small additions that provide a nob to my colour preference or where performance is enhanced. For example:

  • Orange dust caps to replace the standard black ones
  • Brooks saddle to replace the standard one

There is no rule that says you have to change your Brompton in any way but not to do nothing leaves you open to the noob label.

There you have it. Eight Brompton noob fails you can avoid if you wish. If you choose to ignore all or some of these it is perfectly okay! The fact you are a Brompton owner and riding it for fun or as a commuter hack is more than enough. Whatever you decide...just enjoy it!!