Friday 31 July 2015

Final Brompton World Championships Prep

Well, with the Brompton World Championships but a step away and for the first time in London I decided to carry out some last minute prep and I am rather glad I did!

I will be taking my Titanium Orange Brompton with me tomorrow and after giving it a clean, some oil to the chain I took it out for a test run. The Tiller Cycles metal chain guard - which is in a fetching shade of orange matching the bike rather well - was making far too much noise for my liking. In fact over the past few journeys this has started to annoy me, so off it came and the original plastic Brompton guard put back on. No more annoying clanging sounds.

The rear tyre looked a little low on pressure so putting some air in I went for a quick spin. About an hour later the tyre looked low again. Taking the tyre off I could see that the inner tube had a small hold in it. Not sure how it got there as I haven't used the Titanium one much since the Nocturne? Replacing it didn't take too long and things look much better.

Last thing I did was to put the rider numbers on to my jacket and on the bike. There are lots more than previous years. There is a body number for the rear of your jacket. Shoulder numbers on left and right shoulders. Handlebar number as per usual for the front of the bike and even a number for the top of the tube. In addition to this there is a wristband.

On the weather front things are looking pretty good, however this is England we are talking about and the weather can quite literally do whatever it wants!

Remember if you are there and see a tall chap on an Orange Titanium Brompton, with an orange theme going on in the clothing department, please come and say hello.

To everyone taking part (spectators and participants) I wish you the very best of luck and hope that you enjoy the day. Spectators, should you see me glide past I would be obliged for some shouts of encouragement...I'll need them!!

Thursday 30 July 2015

Performance Enhancing Substances at the Brompton World Championships

The Brompton World Championships is but a step away and I thought I would tackle the somewhat controversial subject matter of performance enhancing substances!

Now, just so you do not die of shock or think that I am suggesting anything untoward, I feel I need to reveal my stance. I am from the school of thought of au naturel. In fact I do not like taking an aspirin for a headache and wouldn't even take 'Infant Capol!' Now that I have cleared that up, please read on dear reader.

Of course, being a married, middle aged father of two Orangettes I really should know better than to think any of this will do me any good. However, part of the fun of the Brompton World Championships is the build up. It is a little like rugby before it all went the way of the professional. You might recall watching coverage of the Five Nations, where they followed one of the players who managed to fit it top level rugby commitments while working for the Royal Mail, British Gas or a local firm of solicitors.

On Saturday morning I will almost certainly have porridge with an extra handful of blueberries for good measure. Along with this I will possibly have a cup of coffee.

Cyclists are a little like Hobbits I think as for elevenses I will probably have some homemade flapjacks and this time a herbal tea - the type that does not require milk, doesn't particularly taste that good, but is meant to be great for detoxing etc.

For luncheon I suspect I will have some poached eggs on muffins, bacon and some mushrooms washed down by several glasses of water.

Just before the BWC I might take one 'Shot Bloks' which I first saw David P taking on longer rides. Better than gels (that I cannot stand or get on with) they seem a much better alternative for that little extra hit.

I no fan of energy drinks but I still have this can given to be at the Nocturne and I suspect as some sort of placebo, it might also assist.


Tonight I will be having pasta in the hope that the slow release goodness will let their presence be known come 17:00 onwards on Saturday.

All Brompton World Championships I have attended have been special but will this one in London, a not far from where I was brought up be more so? We shall see but rest assured I will be telling you all about it.

Monday 27 July 2015

Deadly Encounter with Steve Backshall

I don't know about you but I do not really watch a great deal of television. Most of what comes on is of little interest to me. The only genre I do regularly watch is anything to do with wildlife and nature. When my two Orangettes were younger one of their favourite programmes was basically anything that Steve Backshall was in - various National Geographic progammes, 'The Really Wild Show' and perhaps their favourite of all 'Deadly 60.' They have of course got to an age where they have almost left such programmes behind but the chance to see Steve Backshall live in person at Whipsnade Zoo was too good an opportunity to miss.

Whipsnade have been running their 'Deadly Explorer Trail' since 18th July where you or your little ones can learn how to be an explorer, learning all the skills you might require. There were some adverts for 'Deadly Summer Shows' at which Steve Backshall would be there live to present some of there zoos own deadly residents. I said to the Orangettes that I was booking for us to see Steve Backshall and if truth be told I was perhaps more excited than they were. 

Arriving at the zoo in good time a queue had already formed and soon we were in it. We didn't have to wait too long and before we knew it we were seated and waiting. After a little build up out Steve came with an assortment of several parrots that instantly flew skyward. It was quite an opening. Some soared in a huge arc, while others flew just above the heads of those seated.

Steve was a very skilled presenter and engaged the crowd straight away. His knowledge about the animals he was presenting was extensive and he delivered it in an informative and enthusiastic manner.

When certain birds didn't cooperate he was unfazed and carried on like a trooper.

At one point in proceedings he opened the floor up to questions. A few children were lucky to ask their hero a question or two.

Thinking of the answer to a question

Nice chap

Sadly after 30 minutes which seemed to feel like 5 the curtain had to fall and the 'Deadly Summer Show' came to an end. Steve suggested that children line up in a great big semi-circle facing outwards and he would come along and pose for photos, as long as parents were at the ready with their cameras. I cannot tell you how I resisted the temptation of lining up among them to see the look of horror on my Orangette's faces.

Sadly, this was the last of the shows, so you won't be able to see him until he does it again in the future. As you may have guessed I like the 'Deadly 60' programmes and wish that Steve would make more of them and some more adult orientated nature programmes. He seems very sincere, passionate about what he does and for my money a very good presenter. The only thing now is to get a signed photo!

Sunday 26 July 2015

Finally a new pair of SPD shoes!

My current SPD shoes as regular readers will know have truly given up the ghost. They have served me well but all seems to have stretched to a point the straps have to be pulled pretty tight to keep the shoe from moving around. I had bought a pair of Shimano M089's but one of the straps broke so I returned them for a refund. Finally I bought a pair of 'B'twin 500 Mountain Bike Shoes' annd not only did I save some money they are more comfortable.

The 'B'twin 500 Mountain Bike Shoes' are a pretty standard pair of mountain bike SPD shoes that allow the user to walk quite happily and are compatible with SPD type cleats.

I used to have a pair of DHB which although not expensive were really comfortable and these remind me of them.

Three strap closure are positioned better than my old Specialized shoes and offer a very good and secure fit.

The heel is high and the cut out makes things comfortable on the ankle. Being padded only adds to this.

The insole is padded and provides a good about of support. The arch of the foot is well supported and the lightly padded tongue keeps the foot firmly in place.

The sole has a very good grip and there is even a place at the toe for additional studs to be fitted if they are perhaps being used for mountain bike rides. In terms of rigidity the nylon sole is quite stiff and provides a firm platform for pedalling.

If you have a look at the photo below of my old shoes you can see that the straps come down a long way. The upper is designed in the different way to that of the 'B'twin 500 Mountain Bike Shoes' but they have become unusable. I do not have a particular narrow foot and as I have suggested I can only put forward the notion that over the time I have have them, all has stretched?

Okay, how much? Well the Shimano M089's were £65. These were £44.99 and as I wrote, I was happy to save some money. Like lots of products from B'Twin they come with a two year guarantee, so I will be keeping the receipt just in case. I have very happy with these so far and pretty sure that they will serve me well for some time to come. I have posted a link directly to this product on the Decathlon website should you be interested in them.

Link to Decathlon Website

Saturday 25 July 2015

2015 Brompton World Championships Almost Here!!

Well the premier cycling event bar none is almost upon us. My rider pack was received a few days ago and reading it had brought me to confront the fact that the one event I look forward to above all others is but a step away.

Things are a little different this year at the BWC. First, location. The event, for the first time is being held in London. This is only fitting as it is a bicycle made in London. Iconic is not too strong a word to use. As I type this I can only imagine what it is going to be like racing in front of a much greater number of spectators. In addition heading down The Mall with Buckingham Palace in full view will be...well...incredible!

In addition to the location, this represents the 10th Brompton World Championships and is therefore a rather important milestone.

The actual race format is also different. Rather than in previous years it simply being a timed event, where all complete a set number of laps to achieve a time it took to complete the course, this year will see a criterion. This means that when the front runner crosses the line on their eighth lap, the race is over for all. Scary stuff!

This year I feel the least prepared. Normally I'd be out doing some sort of training in the deluded belief that it might help my chances. I will have to rely on my current fitness to see me through.

Regarding which Orange Brompton to take, this is easy. My Titanium Orange Brompton will be coming with me. The only thing I am still deliberating over is whether or not to stay with Kojak tyres?

It is going to be an incredible event and it will be great for Brompton to showcase what their product is capable of. It will also display the passion Brompton owners (yours truly very much included in this) have for the company, the Brompton brand and their own bicycles.

At the BWC I always find it amazing that many Brompton bicycles in the days leading up exist  as commuter hacks but trasnformed at the BWC into racing thoroughbreds. How many other manufacturers of bicycles could say the same?

If you are attending as a participant, guest or spectator one thing to watch out for is the 'game face.' This becomes more and more obvious the closer it gets to the start of the race. You'll see it in-between the smiles, banter, nonchalant glances at other participants and their bicycles. Some may utter the words, 'I'm just here for fun' and I suggest you watch them the closest.

For everyone taking part, I wish you the very best of luck. If you are a reader of this humble blog and attending in any capacity, do find me, come over and say hello, I'd love to meet you however don't leave it too late as I am in the first group to go and believe me, I'll have my game face on!!

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Platinum Kanazawa-Haku Fountain Pen Red Mt. Fuji

Regular readers will know that I have a thing for fountain pens, so if you are not interested in them and prefer my Brompton/cycle related posts, you might want to give this one a miss.

If you are still here, recently I was bought a 'Platinum Kanazawa-Haku Fountain Pen Red Mt. Fuji' with a fine nib and I have to say that it is bordering on perfection! You don't really have to read much more to understand that I REALLY like this pen - better still that it was a gift and a pretty generous one at that.

Platinum is a Japanese pen manufacturer that has been making pens since 1919 and believe me they are pretty good at it. I own two other pens by Platinum that I use daily.

The Platinum Kanazawa-Haku Fountain Pen Red Mt. Fuji is a hand decorated pen with gold leaf. A very skilled craftsperson of kamazwa - working with gold leaf - produce some of the finest gold and silver leaf that are in turn hand-applied to these pens.

The iconic Mt. Fuji with its red sunset, golden cloud, shining in the sun are what appears on my pen. The photos really do not do this justice as the colours are brighter and sparkle as light catches the gold and silver leaf at different angles.

The clip, also gold is firm and looks as if it could stand the test of daily use.

The gold and silver leaf is stunning and you seem to see different colours and aspects each time you use the pen.

The centre band has 'Platinum' at the front and 'Japan' on the rear.

The cap and end of the barrel are capped off by a black jewel, banded in gold.

The nib is 18k gold and in the Goldilocks school of pen nibs. It isn't too firm and it isn't to soft, but just right. The ink flow is excellent and produces a consistent line. The other great thing about this particular pen (and seems to be true of my other Platinum pens) is that they just seem to work straight away even when not being used for a while. There is no skipping or soft starts. They just work.

The pen comes with a converter but can be used with Platinum cartridges. I will always use a converter as I sometimes swop ink colours.

The pen comes in a box, the outer wrapper of which is card and looks like handmade paper?

Inside is a simple wooden box containing the pen itself. This is minimalist and elegant.

Inside the lid is satin lined with 'Platinum' in gold writing and the pen sits in a deep red velvet lined tray.

A warranty card, instruction card and information about the pen declaration are also inside the box.

The dimensions of the pen are:

  • 137mm long close
  • 124mm open
  • 152mm posted
  • 13mm diameter
  • 17.2g in weight

It really is a stunner of a pen to look at but the actual practicalities of using it are not far from my thoughts.

Make no mistake this is a pen you could quite happily use as your daily writer, your workhorse even. It is simply that good. I am a huge fan of Lamy pens but the 18k gold nib really does make all lesser pens wanting.

The pen was a gift so talking about cost is perhaps vulgar, however it can be bought from anywhere between £105 - £149. That is a great deal that someone has spend on me but having used this pen and experienced that incredible nib, I do fell it is worth every penny.

Platinum produce several other pens with different gold / silver leaf designs and some I like and some I do not. It is a case of choosing the one that appeals to you most. (I would have chosen this one given the choice). I would consider another one at some point in the future, perhaps in a medium nib next time?

Below I have a photo showing the line thickness of this fine nib. I would say that like most Japanese pens the nibs tend to be a little finer than a European fine. For me this is perfect.

Below is a size comparison against a Lamy Al Star. It isn't a huge pen but I do have huge hands find it comfortable writing with the cap not posted.

There you have it. At the start of this review I REALLY liked this pen and I have to say I do. If you feel that this is too expensive but want to experience a gold nib, Platinum do a pen called the PTL-5000 which is similar in style, a little smaller, without the gold/silver leaf but sporting a 14k gold nib. I have one of these and it is also excellent value at around £45.

If you are looking for something different the Platinum Kanazawa-Haku Fountain Pen Red Mt. Fuji might just be the pen of you?!

Monday 20 July 2015

Squeaky Brompton Suspension Block

Despite greasing the bolt on my suspension block, after a few days I seem to have the tell tale squeak that informs those in the know that more grease is required. At least I hope that is what it is?

The only grease I have used is Park Tools and after putting it out there that I have suffered from this problem, I have received lots of advice from those better informed that me pointing me in the direction of alternative products.

The squeaking of the suspension block is something I have had on all Brompton bikes I have owned. I have always had the firm version and despite greasing, after a few days it seems to come back. I really don't know what I am doing wrong?

Have you suffered this problem? Was it something other than the suspension block needing some grease? Is there a knack to applying grease in certain areas? Any advice would be appreciated so if you are one of those people in the know, please consider leaving a comment.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Summer London to Whitstable Overnight

Regular readers will know that I love night rides to the coast, with London to Whitstable one of my favourites. Friday was an opportunity to take my Orange Brompton on the King of rides and certainly one too good to miss!

Even though I had signed up for this ride many weeks ago, it came upon me rather rapidly. Work has been manic for the past couple of weeks and I didn't have time to carry out any preparation until I got home Friday night. Luckily, being fairly organised as far as my bike and what I carry I don't have to do too much.

I decided to abandon the car for this ride and relied upon the tube to get me to Hyde Park Corner. Boarding a train after 22:45 heading into central London is not something I am particularly fond of. Initially I more or less had the carriage to myself. I watched in amazement as a young lady started to squirt lines of foundation on her face and then a second set of lines in a slightly different colour. Using the windows opposite as a mirror she skilfully blended this all in. Moments later as we approached the next station, my worst fears about using the tube at night were realised..

At least 30 - 40 youths boarded the tube carriages and then started going through the carriages, opening interconnecting doors while the tube was in motion. It seems that they had been involved in some sort of altercation. My Brompton was parked in front of one of these doors and I had to move it each time they went back and forth. At one point two friends had a conversation through the carriages, perched on the windows. They were speaking English but I barely recognised anything of what they were saying other than a few words. The true horror of this situation was when I glanced down and saw that the chap in my carriage was wearing white socks with a pair of Oxford shoes and an estate agent type suit. It was almost too much to take it.

When Hyde Park Corner arrived I was elated and so was out into the fresh air. Making my way to Wellington Arch I could see that a few other participants were ready and waiting.

One by one others started to arrive on all amend of bicycle. Road, mountain, hybrid, recumbent and folding were all represented. As I took some photos Geoff arrived and we made up the only Brompton contingent.

Others start arriving

No, this isn't Marble Arch

As is customary, Tim our ride leader went through a few safety procedures that was in its usual interactive style. Just before midnight we made our way to the large junction before heading out into the warm summer night, bound for Whitstable.

As far was the weather was concerned it was near perfect conditions. Warm but not stiflingly so. A breeze, but not too strong. Most people wore short sleeves despite packing an extra layer, I didn't need it.

Getting through London was slow initially as there were lots of roadworks. Every so often we would stop and regroup, for people who had got caught up at red lights.

When we reached The Monument the worst of the traffic was over. The Monument, was built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666. You can actually go up inside the spiral staircase and I always make a mental note to do just that one day!

The Monument

Cycling every further east we arrived at Greenwich sooner than I had anticipated and again regrouped for the tail to catch up.

The Cutty Sark in the background

I had thought of taking my Titanium Orange Brompton with me on this ride as it has not had an outing since I competed at the Nocturne a few weeks ago. As it was a night ride and my beloved P type has an excellent SON dynamo hub and light, I had to take it. (It's my favourite by a mile anyway).

My trusty Orange Brompton
Passing Woolwich we overlooked the Thames and memories of many rides with my Bromptonian friends started to play in my head.

Geoff and I stayed together and were just about able to keep up with those at the front of the pack. (Of course many of them could have gone considerably faster if this had not have been a group of this type). Bob, usually on his Brompton was on his road bike and was trying his best to convert us to the joys of ownership. It was as if he had some sort of epiphany with regards all things road bikes. (While I do appreciate them, they are just not for me. I love the fact my Brompton can be folded, taken on all kinds of public transport and is just more convenient).

One of the great things about these rides is that you get to meet lots of interesting people. One lady -  a seriously quick rider - on what looked like a retro road bike enquired whether I normally do these rides on a Brompton. I replied that I own two bikes and both were Bromptons.

At just over 30 miles we arrived at The Catholic Church of the English Martyrs, a familiar haunt and one with wonderful refreshments . The cakes were home made and top drawer stuff. Sadly I only had brought enough money for a cheese roll, slice of lemon cake and a cup of coffee, otherwise I could have happily bought the rest of the cake to take home for later.

After recharging the batteries we headed back outside. To my amazement I didn't feel too cold - after stops I am usually freezing. Despite this, I put on a thin layer just in case I did feel cold but after less than two miles I was off again as I was becoming too hot.

Outside the Church

As we made our way after the rest stop dawn was approaching and as light illuminated what had been in darkness we started to get glimpses of some of the most stunning views possible.

Some of the views were too good to not photograph and many riders stopped to take arty shots of the sun rising through trees.

With dawn arriving ever quicker we went thought quaint little villages, all still asleep and oblivious to our goings on.

View after view competed with one another and just when you thought it could not be bettered, something came into sight to surpass all that had come before.

The ride was more or less event free and I think there were only a couple of punctures among about 40+ riders so pretty good going.

At a little town centre where market stalls were being set up for later in the day, Tim announced that from this point on there might be some riders who would go quite fast to the finish line at Whitstable. A few riders started off and I went with them...

I managed to keep them in sight for a couple of miles but their speed was impressive and I couldn't stay with them. I knew this of course but it was fun trying. Maintaining my pace I kept going and after another couple of miles I realised that I was riding alone. Being the worlds worst navigator I started to ease off and cycle at slightly slower pace. Thankfully other riders started to join and pass me, one of them being Geoff.

As we were making wonderful timing I decided that I would head straight for Whitstable Railway Station and forgo breakfast. Geoff, a very quick Bromptonian said that he would hopefully meet me at the station and headed off into the distance.

With signs for Whitstable and the station I knew that the ride was all but over and I eventually reached the station just after 07:30 - yes I had made a few wring turns on the way. Having a look at train times, there was a train for St Pancras at 07:50. Soon I was joined by Geoff and with tickets purchased we boarded this train along with a few other participants from the ride.

The train was one of those fast types and at a certain point it was able to reach speeds of about 140mph. I set my Garmin to record this and took a photo of when it reached 138mph. Geoff got off at Stratford and we said our goodbyes. As always it was a pleasure riding with Geoff and I hope that we will be able to do so again soon. Also many thanks to Tim for being the ride leader and organising this ride in the first place.

As I eventually boarded the tube for home I wondered whether those on the same carriage interested in my Brompton folding bicycle would believe that I had just cycled from London to Whitstable? This was a great ride and I loved it. I was very happy with my average speed and even happier that my SDP shoes held up - after having to tighten the straps periodically throughout the ride!

I am not sure what rides I will have next but the rather special Brompton World Championships - special as it is the 10th and being held in London for the first time - is in less than two weeks. Is suspect this will dominate my thoughts as for me it is THE premier cycle event bar none!!

The map and ride data fro this ride cane be viewed by clicking on the link below and all the photos were taken using my iPhone 6+ as I know some of you out there always like to know.

Map and ride data from my Garmin 810