Saturday 31 January 2015

10 Reasons why I hate Brompton Bicycles - Not

#1 The Brompton fold is too efficient 

I hate the way the Brompton folds. It is just too efficient. When it takes me less than 10 seconds - on a bad day -  to fold or unfold my Brompton it just makes the owners of other folding bikes feel bad. There they are struggling not only to fold and unfold but they then have to carry their unwieldily contraption, which I liken to a screaming, uncooperative toddler having a full on temper tantrum. I don't want them to feel bad or inadequate but they surely must do?!

#2 The ultimate form of personal transport

I really hate the way that the Brompton can be taken anywhere and on any form of transport. One minute you're cycling along and it starts to rain. You have the choice to keep pedalling or:

  • Get a bus
  • Get a train
  • Get the tube
  • Put it in the boot of a friends car
  • Get a taxi
  • Fold, take indoors and enjoy a coffee and wait for it to stop
The list goes on and on. I don't want to have so many choices, so many options at my disposal. 

#3 The Brompton World Championships

I hate the fact that once a year you can enter the Brompton World Championships, exclusively for Brompton users. Having competed in this event for a number of years it is just too much fun. I hate this! I also hate the way that I actually find myself looking forward to it every year. I really hate the way that I have come to regard it as the greatest sporting/cycling event...ever! 

#4 The way the Brompton makes me feel

I really hate the way owning a Brompton makes me feel happy. I find that I enjoy my commute to work. I find that cycling on my Brompton on the way home from a hard day at work not only puts a smile on my face, it allows me to unwind. I particularly hate the way that these feelings force me to take the long way home. 

#5 Owning a Brompton has made me healthier

I hate the way owning a Brompton and cycling more has made me fitter, lose some weight and generally try to lead a healthier lifestyle. 

#6 Not just for commuting

I hate it that the Brompton isn't just for commuting. It can be used for racing, touring and going on all manner of adventures. I hate it that my Brompton bicycles have been efficient, comfortable and capable enough to take part in:

100+ mile Dunwich Dynamo
100+ mile Mitie Revolution
100+ mile St Crispin's Day Ride
London to Brighton
London to Whitstable 
London to Southend
London to Oxford
London to Cambridge

#7 Choices

I hate the way that when you buy a Brompton you have several choices. You can go to any reputable bicycle shop and buy a Brompton there and then or you can order a bespoke Brompton to your exacting specifications and wants. The level of choice is astonishing. You can choose different colours, tyres, handlebar type, gearing, gear ratio, saddle, saddle height, lighting, luggage options and even the firmness of suspension. How many other companies offer this level of personalisation and choice?

#8 Friends

I hate the way that owning a Brompton has allowed to me to meet lots of other Brompton owners. I really hate the way that some of these people have become good friends and that we actually enjoy each others company. I particularly hate that way I am pleased to see some of these people when going on an adventure somewhere!

#9 Improvements to the Brompton

I hate it that Brompton constantly tries to improve an already brilliant design. This means periodically there are changes to various components making them better. Brompton, caring about their customers usually ensure that any changes can be retrofitted to ones existing Brompton. The owner then has the choice of upgrading to the newer part if he/she wants to. A good example of this was the new brake levers. I hate knowing that the Brompton I buy now can be kept up to date 

#10 Brompton as a company

I hate the way that Brompton is a company that genuinely cares passionately about its customers and its products. Its attention to detail and customer care is second to none. They make bicycles in the UK, are a major exporter of bicycles, employer and champion engineering and innovation. It organises events for owners whether this be factory rides or urban challenges. Of course it organises the annual Brompton World Championships in several countries in addition to all of this.  What other company does this much for people who buy its products? They are just too good a company.

Well, I am sure you have guessed that I don't hate Brompton Bicycles and readers of this blog will already know that the opposite is true. They are quite simply the best. There are other folding bicycles out there but for me they cannot compete with a Brompton. I have in reality provided 10x reasons to buy a Brompton over other bicycles and although I cannot guarantee you will have the same experience or that all 10 will apply...I suspect many would! Happy cycling.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Combating Helmet Hair!

Some time ago I wrote a blog post on the horrors of helmet hair (CLICK HERE) In this post I described gruesome business of innocently enjoying oneself on a Brompton cycle ride, only to discover a terrible sight that at the very least might induce small children to either cry or point and laugh!

To combat this my only solution apart from cutting my hair in such a short style - which might cause old ladies to cross the road upon seeing me - I decided to conceal it with the aid of a cycling cap.

These come in all sorts of designs and colours. Walz, an American company make some brilliant caps and the fact they are sensible enough to produce one in black with an orange stripe was enough to make me purchase one.

This little cap is rather lovely and very well made. It weighs next to nothing and its construction allows for ample breathing. It can be worn on its own or under a cycling helmet.

It is my intention to carry this cap about my person and use whenever there is a prolonged stop such as luncheon. I am one of those who now feels unable to cycle anywhere or any distance without a cycle helmet so you would not see me cycling and wearing it.

In addition to the Walz hat (which I have to say is my favourite) just before Christmas I bought a Rapha cap in white with a black stripe. This cap is equally as well made but made of cotton.

At around Christmas Rapha well these cap in various colours for the unlike Rapha price of £5. The money goes to a nominated charity which is a really good thing. Sadly is you search eBay - which is where Rapha sell these caps - you will even now be able to purchase one of these caps for around £20. I am not suggesting for one minute that sellers have bought several caps for £5 and re-selling them for a great deal more...certainly not! I will leave it to you dear reader to draw your own informed conclusions.

Helmet hair is a problem and needs to be stamped out. I have recently suffered a particularly bad bout of this unwanted byproduct of cycling and I can only hope that the use of these caps will allow me to walk among my fellow Bromptonians and not worry about having hair that resembles a newly ploughed field!

Tuesday 27 January 2015

One Green Bottle for the Discerning Brompton Owner

I have been looking for a new water bottle for a possible future Brompton project for some time. Most cycling water bottles are the plastic type and I wanted something that more classically styled and elegant. It dawned on me that I had seen something like this before and a message to a fellow Bromptonian confirmed that it was indeed exactly what i was looking for.

Onegreenbottle are a great little company that produce drinking bottles made out of stainless steel. In using steel as the material they are able to produce a bottle that is easy to clean, toxin free, non leaching, odour and taste free, recycleable and able to withstand continued usage.

The packaging is excellent and contains lots of information about why they employ stainless steel.

Onegreenbottle produce several different types of bottle in terms of design and the amount they can hold. I opted for a 500ml stainless steel nude .

The bottle is elegant, understated and robust. One can imagine it withstanding quite a bit of action.

The great thing about buying one of these bottles is that you can buy lots of different types of caps for various looks and functions. I decided to get the steel and bamboo cap and I have to say it looks pretty fine.

This particular cap simply unscrews and is functional and totally leakproof. There are seven other cap options. The steel and bamboo cap was the most expensive option at £2.50 but many of the others are £1.00 - £1.50 and some no cost at all.

When purchasing online you can choose to buy an additional cap as a spare. Onegreebottle are honest enough to point out that caps will not last as long as the actual bottle.

This particular bottle cost £12.50 including the £2.50 for the steel and bamboo cap. They are brilliant little bottles and have looks and functionality. Occasionally when using the generic plastic cycling bottles I get that plastic taste that I really dislike. This bottle doesn't and will not suffer from this problem.

I have posted a link to the Onegreenbottle website should you want to check them out for yourself. They even do one in orange so you never know that might appear on one of my Orange Brompton bikes at some point.

Monday 26 January 2015

Video of East to Olympic Park on a Brompton

In addition to the photographs on Saturdays ride from the London Eye to the Olympic Park, I managed to capture some video footage too. Hopefully it sums up what a group Brompton ride is like.

As always watch it in the highest quality you can.

Link to video

Sunday 25 January 2015

Three-Quarter of a Million Page Views

At some point over the Christmas period I passed 750,000 page views. I cannot quite believe that I have got past the three-quarter of a million mark but I have.

All bloggers look at their page view statistics (regardless of what they might say) but I stopped doing this some time ago. For me this blog is first and foremost an online diary of what I get up to. I am however constantly amazed and surprised at how many of you out there read my efforts and seem to enjoy what I post.

2015 may well see this blog pass the one million mark. If it does it would be some achievement but regardless of this thank you very much for reading! I hope that you can continue to join me on my adventures and that it induces you to go out on your own.

Thursday 22 January 2015

A quiet Tower of London Visit

On Monday I found myself with a spare hour to kill in the City of London as I had arrived at a meeting earlier than anticipated. Initially I didn't know what I would do to while the time away but it soon dawned on me that I had our family yearly pass to the Royal Palaces and with the Tower of London being less than 100m away I decided to head inside.

It was a a pretty good day to go. The usual time I have been with my family have been the weekends or school holidays and both have seen the Tower of London being unbelievably busy. Not so Monday.  I was able to walk around at my leisure with hardly anyone else getting in the way.

The walk around the curtain wall was great and I actually did two complete circuits as I was enjoying the freedom to roam uninhibited.

It was a bitterly cold morning and even though I had several layers on I could still feel the cold. As a result I tried to spend some of my time at the Tower to warm up.

As I took photos I glanced over at Tower Bridge and other landmarks and could not help but think of my many Brompton adventures near these iconic buildings. I have passed them on Christmas all night rides. Zoomed past not long after midnight on my way to the coast.

Even though the sun started to shine through the cloud towards the end of my quick visit, it remained very, very cold. How those poor soldiers manage to stand to attention so stoically I do not know.

Normally, when we have visited the Tower the tour of the Crown Jewels can involve a wait of well over an hour. Not today. I was able to obtain brilliant views and when coming out (partly induced by the cold) I headed straight back in for a second viewing.

The Tower of London is one of those locations where it is hard to appreciate just how long it has existed and how must important history has taken place. There seems to be subtle improvements upon each return visit and the coffee and selection of cakes in the restaurant was one of the improvements I can endorse with some enthusiasm.

If you are looking to visit the Tower of London I would advise you to try a weekday and you might just be treated to an altogether enhanced experience!

Monday 19 January 2015

Winter is here!

This morning I was due to go to work in my car as I had quite a few bits and pieces to carry and didn't think I'd fit them all in my O bag. One look out of the front door and I saw lots of ice on the windows of my car that made me change my mind.

I packed the O bag with as much as I dared and then resorted to borrowing my Ortlieb backpack (which used to be mine but now my one of my daughters) and putting the remainder of in that. This all worked pretty well and I was able to carry all I had intended with little fuss.

I set off quite early and it was freezing cold. My commute was slower than usual not because of the heavier load but because of icy patches that were just about visible.

Heading for home it was if anything even colder and I was glad of the merino base layer I packed just in case for the journey home. Winter is very much here - at least for the moment - and the forecast looks set to bring colder weather.

As I type this I had to think back to this morning when I made the decision to take the Brompton rather than the car. The prospect of scraping ice off windows would have taken a great deal longer than just unfolding and going. In addition to this once I reached work and home a hot mug of tea made cycling on a cold winters day that bit more enjoyable.

Winter may well be here but unless there is heavy snow, it won't stop this rider from getting his daily Brompton fix!

Sunday 18 January 2015

Lost Brompton on Evans West London Sportive

Last Sundays ride was going to be the longest so far this year. It was the 'Evans Cycles West London Sportive.' I intended to cycle the 54 miles of the medium route but ended up cycling another four miles. Read on to find out why.

The start of the Sportive was Osterley House which featured in the New Years Day Ride.  I arrived in good time and saw and soon caught up with Chris B on her pink Brompton and various pink items of clothing. I really cannot understand why people do this! 

Once in view of the Big House we saw lots of other cyclists in line so we joined them. It soon transpired that we had in fact joined the start queue and not the one for registration. On route to registration we saw the smiling face of Zoom Zoom Brompton and later Anne and David. 

Just after 09:00 (I think) we set off. As usual David set a fairly quick pace and the group started to spread out as is natural on these sorts of rides. I had brought a camera with me and 2 x spare batteries but I should have left it all at home as these sort of rides don't really lend themselves to stopping to take photos. In fact you think I would have learnt my lesson from the 'Mitie Revolution' last year. That ride was a killer and 100+ miles. It did not stop yours truly from taking arty shots of lone trees in fields and alpacas being chased by dogs! What was I thinking?!!

The ride was very well organised by 'Evans Cycles.' Pink direction signs were placed well and even I was able to follow them...well for the most part. (More about that later). At about an hour into the ride we stopped to regroup and were joined by Guy (veteran of many a ride) on his new titanium Brompton which I have to say looked pretty fine. It was lovely to see him and we hadn't realised that he would be on this ride.

Setting off we thinned out again and it was just David, Zoom Zoom and myself for a while. There was a pretty steep series of hills but nothing we couldn't handle and if anything we had experienced much, much worse. David was in good form and ascended all hills on his 54t chainring as if his Brompton were part powered by a concealed motor.

Arriving at the first feed station we were able to stock up on cakes, crisps, peanuts, gels and water. It was exactly what you would want and although it didn't have any thrills it was excellent. In fact I hope that the same would be on offer at the final feed station.

Guy was on the longer route - 74 miles - said his goodbyes and was soon off into the distance. Hopefully he will be seen on other rides in the not too distance future. The rest of us pressed on again towards the last feed station.

It was a very cold day. Initially I could not get my hands/fingers warm but gradually they started to feel better after an hour or so. The sun was out and if one suspended belief one could almost imaging it was a lovely spring / summer day. This route would make a lovely ride when it really is spring / summer and I suspect the route (longer version with a few more hills) will appear as a future ride.

When ascending the steepest hill I heard something knocking against the front forks and to my horror saw that my Edulux II light had sheared off its bracket. Luckily I had all but reached the top of the hill and when I came to a stop David helped me tie it up. In fact David - who has the same light - informed me that the exact same thing happened to him with his. Thankfully I had a spare bracket at home and the light was undamaged.

The final feed station was actually outside an Evans Cycle store. I am happy to report that refreshments were exactly the same as before. With only a just a little over 20 miles we pressed on for the end. Dr Chris, like a few other Bromptonians was on the longer ride but had caught us up and joined us for the last few miles. David set a blistering pace and Dr Chris and I kept with him for a good 10 or so miles.

Traffic lights and heavier traffic played their part to further thin us out and soon David and not long after Dr Chris were way in the distance. It was roughly at the 50 mile point that my woeful navigational skills came to the surface as at the junction of a very busy roundabout I became hopelessly lost.

Getting lost is nothing that unusual to me. The thing with getting lost is not to flap about it. I asked a shocked passer by for directions but unfortunately they didn't speak English - typical. I therefore resorted to Google Maps on my trusty iPhone and its excellent spoken commands. Having this at full volume, while riding an orange Brompton requires a certain thickness of skin. I must have looked like some sort of junior Minister on a fact finding tour of inner city cycleways.

Following Goole Maps and its spoken commands religiously - as I was at this point desperate and without a clue where I was - I ended up cycling on a very busy stretch of road called the A312. I think I remember it as a route towards Hampton Court. I like Hampton Court and keeping this happy thought in my head I cycled along a near motorway.

I was beeped and treated to some pretty rare language i can tell you as I cycled along the A312. Wanting to live another day I dismounted and decided to cycle along a stretch of pavement. Feeling much better I cycled further until disaster struck and said pavement ran out. Back on the open road again and still following the spoken commands from Google Maps I somehow managed to see the familiar sight of black arrows on a pink background!

Back on track and with Google Maps telling me to 'turn around' I stoically cycled on. At nearly 58 miles - a few more than billed - I crossed the finished line. I was greeted by David, Anne and Zoom Zoom who having travelled the correct route, finished some time before me.

This was a great little ride, well organised by Evans Cycles and certainly something that I would like to do again. Well...the part about getting lost I'd like to avoid and along with going anywhere near the A312 even if towards Hampton Court!

Going home my knee felt pretty good and I certainly wasn't suffering from having cycled 58 miles at an average of 13.5mph. Hopefully there will soon be many more rides in the calendar and yours truly cannot wait.

Brompfication Titanium Seat Post

Brompfication make some wonderful things as far as Brompton spare parts go. On my Titanium Orange Brompton I already have a set of titanium hinge clamps and I have been toying with the idea of getting one of their titanium seat posts for some time. Thankfully, Santa was rather kind and one arrived just in time all the way from the Far East.

If you are into packaging, Brompfication do a superb job. It is simple, understated and functional. Picking up the box I could already tell that as far as weight was concerned, its contents were considerably lighter than my current steel seat post.

Opening the box the titanium seat post was revealed in all its glory. Brompfication is etched into the titanium on two sides.

The Brompfication titanium seat post does away with the need for the pentaclip and employs its own cradle. All the parts for this are also in titanium. Assembly is very easy and once set up the seat can be easily adjusted for the perfect fit. 

Even these parts are made from grade 5 titanium

The cradle works extremely well and adjustments are very easily made. Once tightened the seat is held firmly in place and is pretty rock solid.

There are lots of copies of this very design but I am glad to see that the Brompfication version has a flared base, meaning you won't run to the danger of pulling the entire post out when lifting. Incidentally, the Brompton rubber bung fits perfectly and can be used if you wish.

Being quite tall I needed the slightly longer 580mm version. Comparing the Brompfication seat post to my old steel one without the cradle, they were a close match. With the cradle installed there seems to be a little more height than the extended Brompton post - even with the pentaclip at its highest position.

The weight between the two posts is very noticeable and there is a considerable weight saving. However, I have to say that this is not the main reason I'd buy one. I went for quite a long ride on my Titanium Orange Brompton - still with Kojaks and no mudguards - and for me the ride felt very different. The seat on this Brompton has titanium rails but the addition of the titanium seat post helped to dampen the vibrations, knocks and bumps of riding on the road. Titanium does have these properties and the Brompfication seat post certainly aids this.

There are cheaper copies titanium seat posts out there but I personally would not entertain the idea of buying one for several reasons.

Firstly, Brompfication is run by a chap called, Peter a person passionate about quality and customer care. It is good to know that if there was a problem I would have a warranty and could do something about it fairly easily.

Secondly the seat post is obviously manufactured to a very high standard. It oozes quality this gives one a sense of confidence.

Next you will save brought 185g when compared to the standard steel post. As I wrote earlier, there really is a noticable weight difference.

Finally, the added comfort this seat post brings - which I have to say surprised me - might not be something I could find in cheaper and lesser made ones.

My Titanium Orange Brompton looked good before this post went on but to my eyes at least it looks a great deal better than the standard steel one and complements the titanium parts on the bike.

You can buy this seat post in the UK at a few good bike shops for around £155 or direct from Brompfication for €158. I have posted a link to their website below. For me at least it is worth every penny and I know that when Spring and Summer finally arrive here in the UK (and my Titanium Orange Brompton is allowed out) I am going to love it.

I know that Brompfication make a titanium S bar and if the ride comfort it brings is anything like this seat post I may well be getting one of those too at some point in the future. What this space!

Link to the Brompfication site

Cyclist takes a tumble at Richmond Park

Early this morning I decided to go for an early morning spin to Richmond Park. I haven't been there in 2015 so I wanted to start the ball rolling as it were. 

The weather was typically British winter, insofar it was chilly, slightly grey and a little damp. 

As per usual cyclists dominated the roads inside the park with the Lycra clad roadie taking top spot. 

I decided to take my P type rather than my Titaniun S Type, mainly as it is still in its summer outfit - no mudguard and Kojak tyres. Despit this my second lap seemed as fast as any I have ever done. Answers on a postcard to explain that one?

On my third lap just after ascending the long climb and levelling out into the flats I saw a rider about 50m in front take a tumble. It looked as if he applied the front brake too heavily and flipped over but when I reached him the buckled and what was once a lovely aluminium pump, told the story. It must have come loose and gone between his wheels. 

The strange thing about all this is that there were lots of other cyclists around and those that passed didn't bat an eyelid. I was close enough to hear that those initially passing didn't even shout out to ask if he was okay. 

I stopped and asked if he was alright and thankfully apart from nasty grazes on his hands, elbows and a dent to his pride he wasn't badly injured. He was soon on his way albeit slowly and that rather lovely pump no more. 

Back on my beloved Brompton and complying my last circuit I speculated as to why no one stopped or even shouted out whether he was okay? I am pretty sure that if I were on a Brompton ride my fellow Bromptonians would offer assistance to anyone in possible need. This morning, at that particular time those cyclist decided that it was more important they continue their lap, too cold to stop, that he was okay or that it wasn't their problem. Whatever the reason it was a pretty poor show!

Thursday 1 January 2015

First Brompton Ride of 2015 Video

A link below of a short video clip I managed to capture from the first Brompton ride out in 2015.

As always, watch it in the highest quality you can. Hope you enjoy it.

Link to short video

First Brompton Ride of 2015

I have to confess that I only decided to go on this ride late yesterday evening. My knee has still been rather tender since I tried to do some sort of olympic standard pommel horse dismount, when I slipped on decking near Tower Bridge last Sunday.

Feeling that my knee would be able to take a leisurely pace without hills for less than 20 miles, I was in. The great thing was of course that I could bail out at any stage if things proved to be too much too soon.

The meeting place was Costa Coffee almost adjacent to Richmond station. This has always been my preferred meeting point when starting at Richmond and I was glad to be back there again as it brought back lots of memories of past rides.

A good number of Bromptonians turned out and it was great to see some faces I haven't seen for a while - Tobias, Bob, Rob, Chris, Robin, Henry, Andy and Dina. It was also lovely to see some new faces too among the familiar ones.

Once all assembled we headed off at a gentle pace, which is exactly what I wanted and needed. As we cycled along the all too familiar Brompton peloton started to form and the usual incredulous looks  from onlookers was visible for all to see.

Our first stop was Syon House as seen below. This obtained its moniker from Syon Abbey founded nearby in 1415 by Henry V of Agincourt fame. Catherine Howard the fifth wife of Henry VIII was brought to Syon House and imprisoned there for a while before being taken to the Tower of London to be beheaded.

Our next stop was Osterley Park not too far away. Elizabeth I visited this area and I could not help to wonder what she might make of Hounslow - The London Borough it is set it - if she were to visit it today?

Chris almost with a look to say, 'I'll tell you exactly what you can do with that camera!'

The architecture is quite stunning and the influence of Robert Adam is evident. The house has been used for countless television programmes from 'Doctor Who' to films like 'The Grass is Greener.' I have to say that I was mighty impressed to discover that the BBC's 'ChuckleVision' was also filmed there!!

Bob, an adventurous type, decided to scale the walls (well almost) and pose for various photographs. I'd like to say that it was almost like a shoot for the cover of Vogue or an equally glossy publication, but of course I cannot!

Once Bob started a few others started to follow and before long it was like the end of a Karl Lagerfeld fashion parade.

It was a pity in many ways that we had to go as Andy has an encyclopaedic knowledge of local landmarks and I would have liked to tap his brain for further snippets of information.

Born to be photographed

Before long we were off again and heading along the Grand Union Canal. Cycling along any body of water is not my favourite and canal towpaths are possibly at the bottom of any list I could draw up. The reason being is that they are at times so narrow. The prospect of meeting a walker, jogger or other cyclists coming the opposite direction certainly concentrates this mind.

Thankfully we negotiated it all safely and one of the canal boats took out attention as it had a huge inflatable snowman on top. As Christmas adornments go it was pretty fine.

'The last pike I caught was at least this long!'

With Kew Bridge in sight and having clocked up approaching 13 miles, I decided to call it a day. My knee was telling me not to overdo things so for once I listened. Telling Andy I was off I waved goodbye to any of the group who could see me and peeled off.

This was a great little ride and wonderful start to 2015. Thanks as always to David for organising and I am sure it won't be too long until we are all out on another ride. I have posted a link below to a short video clip I managed to capture while on this ride. As always watch it in the highest quality you can.

Link to short video clip

Link to map and ride data