Thursday 28 May 2015

Orange Brompton Goes to the Nocturne 2015

Today I received the new that I would be going to my 5th London Nocturne Folding Bike Race. I cannot tell you how happy I am to hear this and it has served to lift me in sprits after some difficult past few weeks.

Below I have posted my past blog posts and some of the video footage captured on heats and finals - which I have been fortunate enough to get in to a few times.

As you will discover if you read my blog posts, the one word I associate with this fine event is 'pure.' There is nothing more I can use to describe it but it is raw, brutal and intoxicating and one of THE highlights of my year. In short I absolutely love it and along with the Brompton World Championships it is something that brings an overpowering sense of glee.

I suspect that my thought will be dominated by this event next week as I countdown to race day.

Past Blog Posts

Video Links

Urban Wildlife Video

The weather this week has been pretty good and I decided to head out on my Brompton to a secret location where I knew the views would be good, wildlife would be in abundance and refreshments were but a step away.

I decided to take my camera with me and managed to capture a little video footage. I am particularly pleased at capturing the baby Great Spotted Woodpecker being fed by its parents. (Can you tell which is the male/female)?

The video is pretty short but as always try to watch it in all its 1080p glory.

Link to video

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Anzac Graves at St Mary's Church Harefield

Living in London you are never too far away from bumping into an Australian as our city seems to be a second home for many. There can at times be a bit of a love/hate relationships between our two countries - perhaps due to the cricket - but I have yet to meet an Australian I have failed to warm to almost instantly. 

A relative from this fair country is over in London for a few days and they wanted to see the Anzac Graves at St Mary's Church in Harefield. Harefield is in northwest London and close to the Buckinghamshire border. It is a lovely location.

In addition to the famous pioneering heart surgery hospital, during WWI the grounds of Harefield Park were used for the treatment of wounded soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). 

St Mary's Church is Harefield's oldest building and a site of Christian worship for countless centuries. The Domesday Survey of 1086 lists Harefield as having a priest and he is almost certain to have been located at the location of St Mary's.

The Anzac cemetery is accessed with by the main entrance to the church or via the road running parallel with it. One is greeted by an imposing archway.

At the centre of the cemetery is an obelisk where wreaths are laid every year as part of Anzac Day.

The annual ceremony began in 1921 in which local schoolchildren put flowers on every grave. Anzac Day on 25th April has become one of the most significant events in the local calendar of events.

The headstones are quite unique and were actually chosen by staff and patients at the hospital. They are created before the end of WWI and therefore predate the standard design used from the 1920's to the present day.

In all there are 112 graves, 111 men who did not recover from their injuries and one female nurse.

The messages on the headstones are poignant and it struck my relative that it was highly unlikely the families who had lost their sons, brothers, uncles, husbands etc.., would have ever made the journey to Harefield all the way from Australia to pay their respects.

The surrounding countryside is quite stunning and I have a feeling that it would make a very good Brompton adventure. I will have to get my thinking cap on about that and think of a suitable route.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible for the memorials and there is even a section to search their records online. Well worth a look

Sunday 24 May 2015

Unforgettable 80 mile Brompton Ride to Whitstable!

The past few weeks have proved to be quite difficult and as such I have had little motivation to go on any Brompton adventures. The Whitstable Winder is an annual ride organised by my good friend Mark (King of the Hill). I have been on the previous two and this years ride was scheduled for yesterday. Up until as late as Thursday I had resigned myself to not going but feeling that getting out on my Brompton might be exactly what I needed I decided to go.

The meeting point was Trafalgar Square at 07:00. Setting off bright and early I had a ride of about 4ish miles to the start. When I got there Mark and Dr Chris were already and waiting. The plan was for the three of us to ride the 29 miles to Otford while those not mad enough to join us would get the 09:22 train from Victoria to meet us at Otford Station by 10:00. This meant that Mark, Dr Chris and myself would cycle 80 miles while the others would do 50 miles.

We rode at a good pace but nothing too silly - we had 80 miles to complete after all. When we needed to we stopped for some water or snacks but riding was purposeful. Eventually we started to leave behind the city and head out into greener areas and before we knew it, in to the full blown British countryside.

It was a warm morning and the forecast foretold of actually that with the prospect of light rain before luncheon. Stopping for some refreshment we were joined by some roadies on what was obviously a tried and tested route out of London into some stunning scenery. Every so often a lengthy peloton of bikes would pass us and the occasional greeting was shouted out as they went past.

A little after 08:00 Zoom Zoom sent a text to Mark asking if the ride was still on. Mark stopped to phone him to inform that it most certainly was and with this news Zoom Zoom said he was coming. I was pleased about this as Zoom Zoom is a great character and a lovely gentleman.

Mark, Dr Chris and I arrived at Otford at about 09:35 which meant we could go to a coffee shop for some comestibles. Mark and I ordered a coffee and a pretty good carrot cake, while Dr Chris went for the class scone and jam.

Feeling refreshed and ready for another 50 miles, we headed to Otford station where Zoom Zoom (with a brand new Brompton), James and Brian were all present and correct. James is a veteran of long distance Brompton rides and thinks nothing of taking his bike on pan European adventures. Brian is a fearless Bromptonian who is the same Brian who sustained a complete rear wheel failure on the overnight London to Southend ride not that long ago.

View from the coffee shop in Otford

The ride out of Otford station was straight up a hill. This was definitely a feature of the ride and they were aptly named 'undulations' by Brian. There were certainly a great deal of undulations believe me but liking the challenge of a good hill I enjoyed them immensely.

After a few miles the weather turned slightly and haze in the distance hinted at rain. The countryside was stunning and Kent famed for its picturesque views certainly delivered.

We cycled through lots of small villages with quaint little houses. Lots of the locals were out walking their dogs or coming back from buying a newspaper. Where possible we would shout out a 'morning' as the sight of six Brompton riders disturbing the peace of an historic village might have been likened to Hells Angels marauding through middle America perhaps?

King of the Hill

Another feature of out ride through Kent were oast houses. Oast houses with their distinctive hat-like roofs were used for the drying of hops, which in turn were used in the brewing process.

Although located in other parts of the country there are generally associated with Kent and the surrounding area.

A wrong turn lead us to an expected treasure. I think it was Dr Chris who spotted a National Trust sign informing about Coldrum. Further investigation revealed that we had come across an ancient burial chamber dated to about 3,000 BC.

Leaving our Brompton bikes parked, we headed for a closer look. I must confess to feeling a little like a Victorian explorer stumbling upon a great artefact. 

Coldrum is one on the best preserved megalithic tombs in Kent. Looking out to the Medway Valley the four large sarsen stones that make up the the rectangular burial chamber makes for a stunning sight. Out ancient ancestors certainly knew how to choose a prime location.

As I came down the stairs and back to my bike I could not help but think I would not have know such a location existed if it had not have been for my trusty Brompton!

The picture below was taken before we embarked on a section of off-road cycling to get us back on track. As I think of what I can possibly type about this part of the ride, a shiver runs down my spine and little in life prepared me for what was about to follow...

As various navigational devices informed that we needed to go 'this way' I can assure you 'that way' didn't look too promising. What lay in front of us was a forest where I doubt few people had trod in several years. It felt remote...dangerous and I assert we must have been the first ever people to cycle down there on Brompton bicycles!

The ground was muddy with large pot holes. Tree roots got in the way and large stones or should I say boulders lay in wait to catch the unsuspecting Brompton user. It was terrifying. What was worse was the prospect of getting ones Brompton dirty!

I felt for poor Zoom Zoom with his gleaming, brand new Brompton. It was not long before I had my beloved Orange Brompton over my shoulder and walked gingerly trying to avoid mud, pools of water and possibly small mammals. It was awful and it felt like one of those Bear Grylls television programmes were he is dropped at an inhospitable location in order to escape back to civilisation!

At one point in proceedings there was a huge body of water everywhere and the only way to ford it was via small stones. With my Brompton on my shoulder I tiptoed across the stones like a Prima ballerina on points. Making it to the other side someone a considerable distance ahead indicated that the end was near.  With my heart lifted I headed for freedom.

Using the tools of nature I grabbed a stout twig and got to work on trying to removed the caked mud in my wheels. Spinning the wheel, holding the twig at an angle to get the mud off was like the potters wheel in 'Ghost' as strange swirls and patterns formed.

Sadly, this sense of liberation did not last long as having traversed the forest section we now had to cross a section covered in menacing stones and crevasses. The best description I can muster is the arid plains of Tibet. Finally the open road was spotted and I experienced joy.

The drama was not quite over as we had to go through a redistricted byway. This started off quite narrow and towards the end was almost impossible to cycle through.

Incredibly a sign indicating that this was a redistricted byway indicated that said byway was for horse and carriage, horse cyclists and pedestrians!

Crossing the ride River Medway meant that we weren't too far away from our lunch stop. With such wonderful views I wished that I had taken one of my big cameras but my iPhone made a pretty good substitute.

We stopped for lunch just before 13:00 and were able to relax, take on fluids and refuel. With the dreaded Holingbourne Hill still to come in what was already a hilly ride, this was quite important! Brian's rear wheel which had been making a slight noise was inspected and the noise was due to a few loose spokes. These were tightened by James but we all thought that it should not have happened to a wheel so recently repaired.

Hollingbourne Hill is just over a mile of climbing with a maximum gradient of about 8%. This may not sound like a great deal but it is a formidable and unforgiving stretch. James was off into the distance as was Mark (well he is King of the Hill after all). I followed and took things as steadily as I could trying to maintain a rhythm. Soon I was using the lower bar position of my beloved P type handlebar which helped me get my weigh forward.

The last little section was very steep but with a final push I made it all the way up without a foot down. Soon after the others followed and Zoom Zoom who was able cope with most hills on his former 3 x speed Brompton, looked even better on his new 6 x speed titanium.

At the top we rested by Holllinbourne House and waited until all had the opportunity to recover.

At the top of the hill Brian discovered that the ping he heard going up the hill was a spoke snapping. As on the Southend ride, Brian was unflappable, stoical and calmness personified. He carried on with another 20 miles to go.

Not from the excursions of ascending Hollingbourne Hill but finding out a spoke had gone

Almost immediately after Hollingbourne Hill there was another hill I recall from last year that was shorter but much steeper. If I remember correctly it was so steep I had to walk up towards the end. Thankfully this year it did not beat me.

With the back of the ride broken we pressed for Whitstable. As we approached Graveney Marshes memories of great night rides to the coast came flooding back. On these we approached Whitstable in the early hours of the morning, dawn chorus still playing and the sun making itself known.

The strong headwinds - always a part of the approach to Whitstable - made things heavy going and my speed dropped considerably, perhaps due to the fact that I had cycled almost 80 miles.

With 79.96 miles logged on my Garmin 810 I cycled around at the end of the ride until the magic 80 miles popped up. We had done it. The only thing that remained was to partake in some fish and chips. These were consumed with enthusiasm and near silence.

With a farewell to Whitstable we headed for the station and the train to London. With moments to spare we boarded our train. Saying goodbye to James and Dr Chris, Mark, Zoom Zoom, Brian and I got off at Faversham so we could get the train to Victoria.

At Bromley South we said goodbye to Mark and at Victoria Zoom Zoom, Brian and I parted company too. (Brian made it all the way with one less spoke and in my book deserves Man of the Match).

As I cycled home I felt a little more like my old self and was glad that I went on this ride. Thanks to Dr Chris, Zoom Zoom, James and Brian and special thanks to Mark for organising and leading the ride.

Map and ride data for Whitstable Winder 2015

Thursday 21 May 2015

Water Resistant Brooks Saddle Cover - in Orange!

As a Brooks saddle owner I have never worried about using it in the rain. Applying 'proofed' from time to time seems to provide a fair degree of water resistance. I have cycled for hours throughout the night in almost constant heavy rain and my faithful Brooks saddles have always survived socially to live another day. However, a recent trip to 'Decathlon' saw me purchase a waterproof saddle cover.

I cannot imagine what drew me to this cover?! It is quite bight and having splashed some water over it, it is definitely waterproof as the water just beads off.

The fit is quite tight but it isn't hard to get on or off and weighing next to nothing it can easily be left in my saddle bag for times when the heavens open.

The good thing about this cover it that it stays in position when placed on the saddle and is comfortable to ride on.

At £3.99 it is fairly inexpensive and for me is a bit of a bargain.