Sunday 29 March 2015

Short Brighton Brompton Bimble Video

A short video to accompany yesterdays Brighton adventure. As always watch in the highest quality you can.

Link to short video

Blustery Brighton Brompton Bimble

Brompton adventures are always enjoyable and of interest but yesterdays ride in and around Brighton proved to be a very memorable ride in more ways than one...

My train was due to depart from Victoria at 09:07 and make its way to Brighton but travelling through Hyde Park, with the knowledge that the Brompton World Championships circuit was just a few turns of the pedals, with a rush of blood to the head I decided to give it a go.

This is going to be a brilliant route and I suspect it will prove to be quick. Having completed one full lap I toyed with the idea of a second but luckily sanity prevailed and realising that I would might be late for my train, I headed off to Victoria.

Thankfully I got there is good time, boarded the train and secured an excellent seat adjacent to the onboard toilet - as is often the case with bicycle space on trains. I didn't see any other Bromptonians but a call from David informed that he was on a different carriage with five others.

A gentleman sitting opposite went to the toilet and after a short while I heard a knocking sound coming from said toilet and the words 'I can't get out!' Like the good citizen I am and trying to take the smile off my face I sprang into action and offered some assistance. I told the occupant of the toilet to press the door release. This didn't seem to work. A much louder knocking - more like pounding came from within along with the words 'Help! I'm locked in! I can't get out!!.' At this I started to giggle and snigger and knew that like a volcano about to erupt, loud uncontrolled laughter might emit from yours truly. Thankfully, a staff member (one of those people that goes up and down the aisles with a trolly of comestibles) saved the day and got him out. It was only by biting my lip and staring intently at my iPhone that I managed to control the laughter that desperately wanted to be let out.

I am glad to report that after this the remainder of the journey was uneventful. As we rolled into Brighton station I could see that all was hazy and a myst hung in the air. Getting off the train I met up with the others and we waited inside the station until all had arrived.

The roof of Brighton station is rather lovely and the large clock alluded to a begone era. While we waited for everyone to arrive, a few people bought a coffee or other supplies by which time we were more or less ready to go.


One participant turned up on a newly acquired Tern X10. Nice bike but with the front badge hanging off and the fact it wasn't a Brompton left the poor chap open to a fair amount of ribbing.

David had let us know that a hill in the form of Bear Road was but moments away. It certainly looked like a good gradient but I was unprepared for what was about to follow. Swains Lane last week was rated a 4 out of 10 in the book, '100 Greatest Cycling Climbs.' Would this be as hard?

The simple answer is yes! It was no Ditchling Beacon but going on for what seemed liked ages and with a 1:8 gradient for the first section and then a 1:11 for the second, it was tough. Thankfully it wasn't too windy for the most part but it was a formidable hill and I was happy to reach the top. I can easily understand how it was included at the end of a Tour of Britain stage.

After the conquest of Bear Road we headed back down to the Undercliff via a walkway come, cycle path come, bridal path. After Bear Road I thought the drama of the day was over. How wrong I was!

The path and its views were stunning. A thin blanket of mist hung in the air and despite the obvious precipitation the ground remained firm. There was also an incline as you can see in the photos below. For some reason I found it very difficult to ride my bike in a straight line? Generally I traversed the downward path like a big girls blouse and would have liked to have stopped to fit some sort of stabiliser to my bike. Knowing this would not be possible, I stuck my left leg out and used it scooter style, as apposed to pedalling.

I must have looked quite a sight and as the others disappeared into the distance, enveloped by the mist I did my best to scooter along as fast as I could. I fancied that at any moment I might cascade down the hillside into an embarrassed heap.

Stopping, more to collect my thoughts than take the photograph you see below, the scene reminded me of that part in the film 'The Great Escape' where trying to flee Nazis soldiers, Steve McQueen tries to find liberation by jumping over a fence. As I saddled up again I thought, look what happened to him!

At the bottom of the hill I could see my fellow Bromptonians waiting and it meant that a metalled road surface was not far away...sanctuary!

Making our way down to the Undercliff, the clouds looked ominous. The wind started to pick up and the sea could be heard in the distance crashing and rolling against the shore.

Cycling along the Undercliff is something I have done a few times and never fails to delight. The weather makes things different every time we have been here.

The tide was out which meant dramatic sights of the sea crashing into the sea wall and sent skyward would not be experienced. It was nonetheless still a stunning sight.

Father and Son

As we cycled along some chatted, some admired the views and lots took photographs. One of the great things about these rides is that there is always something for everyone.

The ever smiling Zoom Zoom

With the Undercliff done we headed up the steep ramp which took us up onto the top of the cliffs that you can see in the pictures. It was here that more drama ensued. The weather was definitely turning for the worse and a fine rain was made worse by a very strong wind. For a few hundred metres it was as if little needles were hitting ones face.

Cycling along the wind became incredibly strong to the extent that I was actually blown to the side and had to put my foot down. Battling along even when cycling downhill we sought sanctuary in a pub in Rottingdean call the 'Coach House.' After some good food we braved the elements and set off again.

There weren't really too many people about, the weather almost certainly playing a large part in this. There were few takers for Brighton's mini London Eye.

Cycling through a park we spotted a large crowd assembled so we went for a closer look. To our amazement we saw that there were several model steam trains being displayed and prepared by various gentleman.

There was even a small railway track and these trains had the power to pull along little carriages / seats. The gleeful looks on the faces of those being pulled along showed it was lots of fun.

The sound of steam engines firing up and the sight of it bellowing to the heavens was enough to put a smile on anyones face.

Many of us found ourselves taking lots of photos and videos which I found strange as I don't really care for such things. For me I suspect I could see common ground in a slightly eccentric hobby that involves British engineering at its best.

With 22 miles completed we called it a day and retired to an old haunt, 'Milk and No Sugar' a pretty fine coffee bar that is very cycle friendly. With a train to catch we headed for the station, boarded our train and had a good journey to Clapham Junction. There we went our separate ways after another wonderful little adventure.

As always thanks to all who came and especially to David who although under the weather soldiered on.

The map and ride data can be viewed via the link below.

Map and ride data

Friday 27 March 2015

The Brompton World Championships 2015

Several months ago I posted a contact email address on my blog to allow you the reader direct contact if you wished. On the whole this has gone well and I regularly have emails from people all across the world asking questions about all things Brompton, London and the items I occasionally review. Of course I regularly receive emails from companies saying they have a wonderful investment opportunity and a few offering non surgical enhancements.

Since Brompton announced the date, time and venue for the 2015 Brompton World Championships, I have been getting a steady stream of emails asking what I think. In fact I have received more emails about this issue than any other so far this year. 

A few people writing to me have not been particularly happy. So rather than reply to individual emails I thought it best to offer my thoughts and observations here. 

Okay. The details of the 2015 Brompton World Championships. It is going to be held in London for the first time, on 1st August at 17:00 at the end of the Ride London event where for one day a year the many of the streets of London are devoid of cars and the bicycle in all its forms take over for a few hours. 

The event is restricted to 575 riders who will have - like yours truly - enter a ballot to participate in the event. The route is quite spectacular and involves up to eight laps of St James' Park. This includes racing along The Mall in sight of Buckingham Palace. Iconic location or what!! This will be the 10th Brompton World Championships and therefore quite a milestone. 

Reading the emails received I will list a few of the common gripes:

  • Goodwood was a better location
  • Blenheim was a better location 
  • A ballot is not as inclusive 
  • I probably won't get in
  • It's £40 for 8 x laps but I won't be able to complete them as when the winner crosses the line the race is over 
  • The event won't have the family atmosphere of past events
  • 575 entrants isn't enough
  • The details of the event weren't released early enough for those wishing to participate to make plans to attend
  • The Ride 100 is the next day and I can't compete at both 
  • Brompton don't care about us anymore 

I don't propose to respond to each of these in turn and will merely provide my general thoughts. 

As far as location goes the BWC 2015 could not be more iconic and I felt excited about it when I heard where is was going to be. The spectacal of 500+ Brompton bikes racing along The Mall with Buckingham Palace in view is nothing short of intoxicating. 

I had the pleasure of riding at Blenheim and Goodwood and really enjoyed both and there was a special atmosphere. Surely the London location would be the same if not more!!

In previous years if you signed up early enough you were almost certain to get into the BWC. Sadly with the ballot this is no longer a certainty and the nervous wait begins. I suspect this aspect might be the biggest gripe regardless of what people say. I know that I felt maudlin upon reading the word ballot. 

I am waiting too of course and will be very disappointed if I don't make the cut but I can understand why the event has deemed it necessary to place a cap on numbers. The actual race comes at the end of another very popular event. Closing central London roads at any time is surely subject to very strict conditions and Brompton wanting their event at this iconic location has probably had to slot itself within a tight window. 

Location has possibly paid a very big part in the Brompton decision making process. Given the opportunity to have a great event in such a prime location would have been ridiculous to turn down - even though it restricts participant numbers and introduces the dreaded ballot. What company in their right mind would turn this down?

Brompton is a company. They are in my humble opinion a pretty good one. They exist to make bikes (you all know what I think of their bikes) and turn a profit. In doing this they employ several people, export to all corners of the globe, innovate, champion engineering and remain made in London. If by having the BWC here in London it further strengthens the brand, keeps them making bikes in London, innovating, keeping people in employment and turning a healthy profit, I have to support it. 

As for Brompton not caring anymore, as I have written Brompton is a company wanting to sell lots of bloody good bikes and turn a profit. I am not sure what people expect from it? 

I would say that in my experience they go beyond this. They seem to be passionate about keeping owners happy. First they try to make the Brompton you buy today last. New improved parts can generally be retrofitted. Image buying a car five years ago and being able to keep it as up to date as a new one. Second I have attended several events where I have been made to feel very welcome, not to try and sell me another Brompton but as a thank you to loyal owners. Finally, I am just happy they put on a BWC. Remember their primary aim is to make bikes, sell them, make a profit, employ people and innovate. The organising of any event, even if it is a wonderful marketing tool, must deviate them slightly from this. In addition, last years BWC almost didn't happen as events out of the control of Brompton put it in jeopardy.  Brompton rallied and the event took place. 

As I type this I have a long and agonising wait. Regular readers will know just how special the BWC has become for me and many of my friends. If I get in it I will be elated. If I don't...well I think you can guess.  

So, don't give Brompton a hard time for grabbing what might be their one and only chance for a truly iconic backdrop for the 10th BWC. If you worked at Brompton, what would you do?

Sunday 22 March 2015

Short video of the Hill of North London

Very short video clip from yesterday's ride. As always watch it in the highest quality you can.

Link to video

Saturday 21 March 2015

Hills of North London on a Brompton

Today I was up bright and early for the 'Hills of North London' ride. Having tackled some of south London's finest, it was a good opportunity to sample what north of the river had to offer.

The meeting point was the London Eye at 09:30 and I made pretty good time. Weather changeable as ever couldn't really make its mind up.  I woke up to glorious sunshine but by the time I had said goodbye to Mrs Orange and the Orangettes it was cloudy and looking as if it would rain.

The brave few were assembled at the Eye and even though only 09:30 the Southbank was already starting to get busy. Looking skyward I saw a flight of cormorants who looked pretty keen to get somewhere fast.

Shortly after 09:30 David - our ride leader -arrived along with Anne. It was good to see Anne again and she hoped that her knee was going to be up to tackling some meaty hills.

I had toyed with the notion of taking my Titanium Orange Brompton out for its first real outing for ages. Looking at my Brompton bicycles side by side, I just couldn't bring myself to leave my trusty P type at home. I have grown quite attached to this particular bike. It has been my go to bike for just about everything since I bought it.

As we set off a few other cyclists were out and I spied a roadie with a rather fetching saddle and bars in Italian livery.

At one set of traffic lights an eating establishment called 'Chicken Cottage' came into view. This sparked a mini conversation about the many chicken eateries across London. There are copious variations of this theme: Chicken Shack; Chicken Shed; Chicken World and my favourite Land of Chicken.

Passing the British Museum and some of the University of London buildings was familiar territory and it brought back lots of childhood memories. 'A friend' once told me how as a 13 year old he used to go to the British Museum frequently after the wonders of the museums of South Kensington had been exhausted.

Almost opposite the British Museum there used to be a magic shop. If you went to this shop you would often see the owner showing tricks to prospective buyers. Apart from conjurers tricks they also sold stink bombs in packs of three for 50p. 'This friend' along with another reprobate would stock up on quite a few packs and take them over to the Museum across the road.

I am sure you can guess what happens next in this shameful tale!? A small glass phial would be crushed under foot and a general sniggering could be heard from a couple of hooligans, up to no good  as the reaction of those nearby was surveyed from afar.

As we cycled on slightly busier roads the natural peloton formed and again the sight of Brompton bicycles cycling in formation was a sight to behold. Onlookers smiled, pointed or took a double take.

Before long the first of the big hills, in fact the biggest of the day 'Swains Lane' came into view. This has quite a reputation and it was going to be good to see if I could best it or if it would best me!

The start was pretty tame but the gradient soon changed and things were quite taxing. Swains Lane is just under 1km in length and has a height gain of 71 metres.  At times there is a 20% gradient and in the book '100 Greatest Cycling Climbs' it is rated as 4 out of 10.

A few years ago I might well have been walking up Swains Lane but today it posed few problems. The only difficulty for me was that it was a narrow road and a large van was behind and wanting to overtake. The van driver was very polite and waited until it was safe but it did slow things down a little.

As I made my ascent Highgate Cemetery could be seen and a tall brick wall to my right added to the feeling that the road was a very narrow one.

David, who was under the weather motored up with ease as did Graham. Anyone who got up without a foot touching the floor did very well. A few walked part of the way - no shame in that - and can always tick it off another day.

All in I still cycled just over 26 miles today which wasn't too bad. Thanks again to David for another great ride.

The map and ride data can be viewed via the link below.

Map and ride data

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Video for the Brompton Fish and Chips Ride

The Friday Fryer was a great little ride where we cycled from the London Eye to East London to a fish and chips shop to return back to the London Eye. It was a ride of 20 miles and although it might seem like a long way to go for fish and chip, when done on a Brompton it all makes sense.

I managed to capture a little video footage that hopefully captures what the ride was like. As always watch in the highest quality setting you can.

Link to short video

Monday 16 March 2015

Brilliant Mudguard Solution for your Brompton!

Some of you may remember my woeful blog post in which I attempted to spray paint a set go mudguards orange - CLICK HERE. This was such a terrible experience I still wince when I think about it.

Sadly Brompton have so far only released black and white mudguards for sale (please Brompton consider other colours) but salvation has come in the form of a set of mudguards from the quite excellent 'Tiller Cycles.'

You may well remember that I bought an orange chain guard from Tiller Cycles last CLICK HERE and this orange chain guard is still on my Titanium Orange Brompton. I didn't actually realise that Graham at Tiller Cycles had been working away on mudguards and it would seem that he has produced a great solution to all those who want to either colour coordinate their Brompton or go for something totally different.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the well packed box was that the mudguards were made of aluminium and not plastic.

They really are a quality product with no rough or unfinished edges. The paint match is spot on and you can get the mudguards in all the existing Brompton colours with the new 2015 colours to come in the near future.

Brompton rear flat included

As far as weight it concerned they are a little heavier than the standard plastic ones but there is only a few grams in it and therefore nothing to be concerned about. The front is 23g and the rear is 28g.

There are a few options available when buying them. You can buy just the mudguards and use your existing metal stays or you can buy them with steel and even titanium stays.

Graham enclosed detailed instructions on how to fit the mudguards and this was a fairly painless process. Believe me, if I can do it anyone can.

Seeing orange mudguards on my beloved P type was a gleeful moment. It is something I have longed for ages and I have to say I was very pleased.

I have suffered a few cracked mudguards in my time and these are definitely more robust. The fit is perfect and as good as the original Brompton plastic mudguards.

I don't know how the paintwork will fare over time however I suspect all should be okay. They are powder coated and I haven't asked Graham at Tiller Cycle yet but I would think Brompton touch up paint might cover any small blemishes.

These mudguards are hand made and as such made to order so expect to wait 3-4 weeks for yours to arrive. As far as I am concerned this is more than fair.

The prices can be found via the Tiller Cycles website and I have placed a link below that will take you there.

I am very happy with these mudguards and sure that lots of you out there would be too. I know that lots of Brompton owners like the idea of colour coordinating or want to mix and match but it has not been possible...until now.

Even thought I have put them on my P type I have a strong feeling I will take them off to put on my Titanium Orange Brompton instead. Of course I may well buy another set and have both bikes kitted out in orange mudguards!

Link to Tiller Cycles