Monday 30 May 2016

Strange sights on morning Bank Holiday cycle

This morning I was in central London and as I had my Brompton with me decided to go for a ride along the Thames to blow the cobwebs out.

I decided not to take any of my cameras out with me apart from my iPhone SE - which I am loving!! (If you read further you will appreciated that this was a good idea). I started at Barbican and made the decision that I would take only a few pictures if any.

I must have got going at about 09:30 and being a Bank Holiday here in the UK things were a great deal quieter than normal. Even though it was cloudy and a little windy at times, conditions were very pleasant for cycling.

Start / end
If you have a look at the map and ride data below, you will see that I was on my tried and tested favourite. I needed to be back at my start point later on so it seemed like the best option.

The first of the strange sights this morning was as I started to cycle around the Shadwell Basin. In the distance I saw a jogger who appeared to be wearing a skin tight body suit of some type. Now this lady must have been in her late 30's, a little overweight and was wearing in addition to the skin tight body suit a pair of bright pink trainers and matching baseball hat. As I soon got closer nothing in life prepared me for what I was about so see!

It soon became obvious that the skin light body suit was in fact actual skin. The lady in question was wearing a thong and a sports bra that did nothing to assist the poor lady...let's just leave it at that. How I managed to not shut out, 'my eyes' I do not know?

The next strange sight was a much more pleasant one. In between Greenwich and the O2 I saw a small buggy with an antenna coming towards me. I fancied that it was a child in a car at first but as it came closer, I was at a loss? There was a nice lady walking behind it so I asked what it was. In a heavy Russian accent and with a smile playing across her face she informed me that it was a delivery robot. When I asked her how many others had asked her the same question this morning, she laughed.

I reached the Thames Barrier and its View Cafe in good time. Not thinking that it wild be open today I was about to head back the other way when I saw a couple walkers heading in.

Halfway point

As I had only had a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast I decided to partake in a little light refreshment. Suitably refreshed I headed back.

One thing I noticed was that one of the barriers was up. This has been a question to one of the cafe staff by another customer. They were informed that it was just maintenance checks.

My journey back was as quick as I dared and thankfully I did not see the jogger again!

Map and ride data

Saturday 28 May 2016


Farewell to my 'Original' Titanium Orange Brompton. You served me well...

Update 1 - cryptic clue in the word 'original.'

Saturday 21 May 2016

London to Shoreham-by-sea overnight

It would be true to say I had been looking forward to the Friday night ride to the coast - in this case Shoreham-by-sea - all week. With my Titanium Orange Brompton ready and derailer finally repaired I was ready days in advance. 

The meeting point was the familiar Hyde Park Corner. I had set myself the goal of using public transport to get myself there and back once the ride was over. Regular readers will know I have a particular horror for tube trains and sadly my worst fears were well and truly realised.

I am usually waiting at Hyde Park Corner at least 45 minutes earlier than needed. On this occasion I decided to just things a little finer so I would arrive at about 10 minutes before the roll call. My journey was delayed somewhat as a fight had broken on another carriage. Police were called and our journey was delayed as they attended to the scene. Texting Geoff that I may be delayed we were eventually allowed on our way.

I arrived with moments to spare, got myself signed in and was able to join in with the pre-ride safety briefing. Geoff, Mark, Dr John and Zoom Zoom were all there and with a slight drizzle we awaited midnight which would mean the big off.

Hyde Park Corner

Bang on time we headed out to the side of Hyde Park Corner, poised for the lights to turn green. Once they did, that wondrous sound of shoes clicking in to pedals filled the air and we were off into the night.

The pace was purposeful and I was glad for packing as light as I dared. I am getting better at this but still no match for some of the hardened Friday Night riders who are expert in taking only that which is needed.

Albert Bridge in the distance

We regrouped every so often but for the entire ride we certainly weren't kept waiting long. The Friday night ride had even gone Star Wars with the added technology of two way radios signalling the all important, 'all up' informing that the tail had caught up.

Clapham Common

The route was very good. It seemed to follow the one to Brighton. At the base of a little hill we regrouped before making our ascent. I decided to wear my Proviz 360+ jacket which had proved itself to be waterproof but also breathable. I wore it for the entire ride and didn't really feel too hot in it.

Occasionally the driver of a car passing our way would shout out a derogatory comment but nothing they uttered could dampen the positive vibe of this ride.

After some steep little inclines we had the descent of Reigate Hill. With it being mildly moist and with cars around, the only word I can use to describe my descent would be, mince. Dr John was happy to join me in my slow and deliberate pace down but sensibly abandoned me towards the bottom.

My Exposure Toro continued to impress and illuminated every pothole several metres ahead of me. As you know I am a fan of the dynamo system on my P type but this light is incredible. It can pump out a huge lumen count for hours - even on the low settings.

After about 35 miles we reached Faygate and the our halfway stop, 'The Cabin.' This roadside cafe provided us with warmth, sanctuary and refreshment. I opted for a cheese sandwich and a mug of tea. This I consumed with enthusiasm. The sandwich reminded me of something you might have got for tuck, if you were lucky and I vowed to have the same later on when I got home.

With comestibles out of the way we ventured outside to find that dawn had arrived. As always I felt cold and was glad that we didn't hang around and just got going.

Almost immediately we had to ascend another hill and within the space of a couple of minutes I was warmed up and felt the cold no more.

Zoom Zoom was not on his Brompton for this ride but had decided to bring his new Cannonade Synapse. It was a truly beautiful machine and again confirmed for many of us that we too would make the jump to a big wheeled road bike at some point in the future.  Quite rightly he was very pleased with it.

As you may know, for me that is going to be a Condor. There are some sentimental reasons behind this decision but the jump to a road bike had been on my mind for some time. I do love my Brompton bicycles but definitely have got to the point that I'd like a little more.

As we cycled along I could hear the dawn chorus in full flight. The usual suspects Robins, Blackbirds and Wrens were of course there but also that of Chiff Chaff's and Reed Warblers.

With the back of the ride almost broken we had made excellent time and would arrive at Shoreham-by-sea ahead of schedule.

Having been to Shoreham and its Art Deco airport a few times on David's excellent Brighton Undercliff adventures, I started to recognise my surroundings. Knowing that the airport was not far away I accelerated and was soon looking out onto the runway.

We grabbed a table and before long a waiter came round offering tea/coffee. Not too long after that our buffet breakfast was served and we were treated to some great food in great surroundings.

With tea and coffee being brought round several times, we were spoilt and the added bonus of being informed we could go up for seconds was a gleeful moment. So, like Hobbits many of us had a second breakfast. 

Saying our goodbyes we headed out towards Shoreham-by-sea railway station before taking one last look at the airport and the temptations of some rather lovely road bikes parked up by participants of the rides.

At the station we said goodby to Dr John who was sadly on a later train. Geoff, Mark and I boarded the 09:42 bound for Victoria.

Once on the train as we neared London we saw a few football fans. It soon transpired that today was the FA Cup Final. The last thing I wanted was to be on a tube train with huge numbers of supporters. Thankfully this did not happen.

With Mark getting off at East Croydon, Geoff and I got off at Victoria before heading our separate ways where a few hours before it all began - Hyde Park Corner.

The route

Some hills

This was an excellent ride. The route was good and the breakfast location was inspired. Hope that a London to Shoreham-by-sea features again in the future.

Many thanks to Geoff, Mark, Dr John and Zoom Zoom for the company and banter. Special thanks to Adam our ride leader for organising it all along with Rebecca. 

As I have written many times, there is something quite addictive about doing these rides. When you tell people that you have this planned for the weekend, they often look back as if you are mad. That reaction is perhaps understandable, but doesn't detract from the fact that these rides are brilliant. Hopefully, I will be signing up for the next one which may well feature the dreaded Ditchling Beacon!! 

Link to map and ride data

Monday 16 May 2016

Tweed Run 2016 Video

The Tweed Run on Saturday was another quaint, elegant and fun way to spend a day cycling around in ones finest.

In addition to the photos, I managed to shoot some video which I hope captures what the day was like.

As always please try and watch it in the highest quality setting you dare.

Link to video

An evacuee?

As the warmer weather has started to descend upon us, my choice of clothing when cycling to work has changed. This brought about a comment from a collegeue at work that left me speechless.

So you can picture my attire, I wear a pair of mountain bike shorts but my top half is shirt and tie as it makes for swifter changing when I get to work. 

My colleague has seen me in this getup many times but on this occasion they simply remarked that I looked like an evacuee. I couldn't see it myself but half way home catching sight of myself in a shop window...they were right. 

I tried to cycle as best I could after this but found the notion of a middle aged man wearing a pair of shorts, shirt and tie resembling an evacuee from WWII accurate and hilarious. Every time the thought crossed my mind I burst into fits of laughter. I suspect the few people I cycled past must have concluded I had been let out for the evening or that riding a Brompton must be great fun!

Sunday 15 May 2016

Tweed Run 2016 on a Brompton

With a much coveted ticket gained for a place on the Tweed Run some weeks ago, I had this date firmly placed in my diary. I have to say however that with recent events, there was some doubt about me attending. In many ways my appetite for cycle rides has been diminished. As with the night ride to Southend a few weeks ago, I felt this would do me some good, so I headed off into Central London bright and early.

By the time I reached Hyde Park Corner a lone Brompton rider enquired whether I was attending the 'Brompton Urban Challenge.' I said that I was going to the Tweed Run but that I was sure he would have great fun. It is a pity Brompton were not aware or didn't care that their event clashed with the Tweed Run. 

A few of use decided to meet at a coffee shop called 'Briki' on Exmouth Market not too far from the start of the Tweed Run. Soon David, Anne, Ben and Adrian arrived and after chewing the fat for a while and having a coffee we made our way to the start.

The starting area was heaving. Penny farthings, vintage bikes, modern bikes and more that a few Brompton bicycles mingled with just about every conceivable type imaginable. Added to this were people dressed in their finest tweed. All ages were represented and the numbers of men and women seemed about even to me - one of the great features of the Tweed Run.

Bob - who had the job of Marshal - popped by briefly to say hello but as he had duties to perform did not stay long.

As always the Tweed Run allows one to abandon the usual lycra in favour of something with a little more élan. Again, for me the ladies stole the day with some quite stunning outfits.

This lady was using the mirror on her bicycle to check her make-up

Yes, it looked okay

Are you looking at me?

Vintage seemed to be the order of the day. Lots of dresses you see in period dramas - Agatha Christie  and the like - were very popular.

Two ladies having a great time

As I cycled along I did spot quite a few familiar faces I had seen on previous Tweed Run events. For some this is the highlight of their cycling year and they certainly made an effort on all fronts.

Onlookers didn't really know what to make of lots of people ambling along in tweed and in an orderly and lets face it quaint fashion. The standard reaction seemed to be wave, smile, shout out hello, started taking pictures or videos via a smartphone or a combination of all of these things.

Some of the bicycles on show were stunners. I didn't really have a particular favourite but glancing sideways at a few riders and it was as if you had been transported back in time.

For me the Tweed Run is very often a show stolen by the ladies participating. Universally they looked stunning and I wonder whether tweed features in their outfits during the week?

The marshals did a great job of stopping the traffic so that we could pass. There were a few impatient drivers but on the whole everyone took things in good spirits.

After about an hour in the saddle we stopped for tea. With huge queues and not wanting to leave our Brompton bicycles, we all decided to people watch instead.

One lady dressed in a retro army uniform was seen checking her makeup on the screen of her smartphone. How times have changed.

A lady very much enjoying her tea

Retro bicycles and accessories at every turn

With tea over we were off again. Wearing tweed in hot conditions would be slightly uncomfortable but the weather was near perfect. It was hot enough to be pleasant when wearing tweed and and a gentle breeze cooled us down when things got a little hotter.

David enjoying the ride

Now that it a bag!

As we neared South Kensington that could only mean lunch. Again onlookers were often mystified by what they were seeing. This area was my old stomping ground and memories of me cycling along the pavement as a child on a Raleigh Chopper came flooding back.

The sight of hundreds of bicycles parked up was most unusual. David had brought a lock with him and he was able to lock up his, Anne's and mine. Adrian locked his to David's lock and I tried to get out of my mind that I was leaving my beloved Brompton all alone!

We choose a very good spot right in front of the 'Cordings' - one of the Tweed Run sponsors -  tent where lots of activities had been set up.

For the front cover of 'Country Life?'

With another engagement later in the afternoon at almost 15:00 I called it a day on the Tweed Run. Yet again it was a lovely way to spend a few hours. There are now events like this in different parts of the world but there is something very special about the London event.

Many thanks to the organisers for another lovely event and to David, Anne, Adrian and Ben for the company.

In all for the Tweed Run I cycled 6.63 miles over a four hour period. My cycle to the event was 8.02 miles which took 36 minutes and my journey home was just under 4 miles in well under 20 minutes. The Tweed Run is about taking ones time and enjoying the atmosphere. The journey home as as eventful as being on the Tweed Run. Never have I been waved at or smiled at more!

Would I go next year? If I could get a ticket, definitely. I have been on a few of these now and even though it doesn't involve cycling far, up hills or at a pace I still thoroughly enjoy it.

Map and ride data