Saturday 11 June 2016

Farewell for now dear readers

Well, it is with a heavy heart that I have made the decision after over fives years of blogging and a million and a quarter page views to call it a day on releasing regular blog posts. There are lots of reasons for this which I won't bore you with but sadly, for the moment at least, I cannot summon up the necessary enthusiasm to sustain the release of regular postings.

I started this blog simply as a means of recording my memories in an online diary but its readership - much to my amazement and delight - grew steadily to the extent that I have an average of 25,000 views a month - on a bad month.

Thank you dear reader if you have read my ramblings over the years, left a comment or sent me the odd email. This has all been much appreciated. Wherever you are in the world I do hope that you can get out on your bicycle and continue or start to have adventures of your own.

Farewell for now dear readers.

Friday 10 June 2016

Road Bike item #2 - Fizik Saddle

When I went for a test ride at Condor last week, the bike I tested was fitted with a saddle by the Italian manufacturer, Fizik. I didn't order my new bike to come with this saddle thinking that I would simply bring along one of my Specialized saddles instead. I did like the Fizik saddle quite a lot and afterward though that it might just be the ticket for my new bike.

A few days later I was still thinking about this saddle. Not with much hope I put in a search into a popular site and saw that the very saddle I was after was up for sale at a very good price. I put my bid in and thought not much more about it. In fact it was during the wait at the Nocturne start line that I found out I won and actually paid for it too just before the heat commenced, being the only person to bid.

I received the saddle today after a couple of failed delivery attempts and it is every bit as gorgeous as I remember of on the test ride.

The Fizik saddle is extremely lightweight when compared to a Brooks - what wouldn't be - and I would say that it is even lighter than my Specialized saddle which I have always regarded as being extremely good on the weight front. Buying a steel framed road bike I am fully aware that it is not the lightest bicycle I could have chosen but I didn't want to stick a Brooks on it.

The saddle is equipped with black manganese rails which will help me achieve the look I am going for.

Like many of the Fizik line of saddles it had a little Fizik clip on the underside of the saddle with come out and into which you can attach a Fizik saddlebag. It is a very good system and a couple of neighbours who have road bikes swear by it. I will have to look into this.

Being an Italian company, the saddle is made in Italy - to me a very welcome bonus - and I find the minimalist, understated styling refreshing and pleasing to my eyes.

I am very much looking forward to taking this with me to Condor Cycles in a few weeks time to have it fitted to my new bike. For me it provides an important finished touch to what I regard as a particularly lovely looking bike.

Monday 6 June 2016

Road bike item #1 - Lezyne Twin CO2 Kit

When I get my new road bike I don't' really want to mix and match the basic kit I will take with me on rides. Ny first purchase is a Twin CO2 Kit by Lezyne.

This is a quite compact little affair and contains two CO2 cartridges, value, two tyre levers, a couple of puncture repair patches in the the little aluminium box that the cartridges are strapped to and a velcro strap to keep it all together.

It all looks pretty solid and even the tyre levers - which I wasn't aware came with this little kit - are quite robust.

I imagine this would sit quite nicely in a saddle wedge and I have to say easier to carry than the one in my Brompton saddle bag, which sits in an ageing freezer bag!

A good little piece of kit and if you shop around you can get this for £15.

Sunday 5 June 2016

Eastbourne Cycling Festival Folding Bike Race

With the high of the Nocturne yesterday still coursing through my veins I obviously could not get enough of it so I decided to attend the Eastbourne Cycling Festival Folding Bike Race.

With Mrs Orange and the Orangettes packed in the car we headed off first for a good breakfast before driving down to Eastbourne. We made very good time and had a few hours to spare in which we had a good look around and bought some rather good ice-cream from a huge establishment opposite the Winter Gardens.

When the time came for me to return to the car to change into my racing outfit I was quite sensibly abandoned to my fate.

Yesterday I was on the receiving end of some strange looks. I have to report that I do not think Eastbourne was ready for me in all my racing glory!

The folding bike race was at 15:30 at the end of the two day festival. It looked pretty good to me and the race lineup for the two days was impressive.

As I entered the paddock I saw the familiar faces of Tim, Roger and Chun-Han. It was lovely to see them and I was glad that I would be with at least a few familiar races out on the track.

The previous race still going at 15:30 and we had to wait a little to get on to the track - quite understandable. We received our race briefing and told we would have a Le Mans start but would have to leave our ties on our bikes and when we were given the go, we would have to run to the bike, put the tie on, unfold and then go. Interesting.

I opted for something Terry Thomas would have been proud of and left a loosened tie hanging limply on my bike. This meant that I would only have to put it over my head and tighten.

With very little fun we walked back to the start line, got ready and on a whistle we were off.

There were about 15 riders but one of them was Mark Emsley, the current Brompton World Champion and former Nocturne winner. I actually managed to get a much better start than him but of course I was very soon overtaken.

The course was interesting and there were a few very tight turns and the one near the the beginning of the home straight proved near impossible for me to negotiate. We went round for 10 laps and in the heat to was hard but fun and enjoyable work.

With lots of support from the crowd the atmosphere was really good and upon seeing the checkered flag the race was over.

Mark Emsley won but Roger came second which was brilliant. Chun-Han also came second in the ladies race so they had a wonderful day.

With the race over I said my goodbyes and headed back to the car to change and find out where Mrs Orange and the Orangettes were.

This was a great little event and I hope that the organisers consider putting it on again for next year. I am pretty sure that I could rope in a considerable number if they did.

Again my enthusiasm for all things cycling seems to be coming back but I do look forward to the arrival of my new bicycle which for once is a change from anything Brompton related.

Map and ride data

Saturday 4 June 2016

Nocturne 2016

With so many of use unlucky with the Brompton World Championship ballot this year, one of the only tastes of racing was the Nocturne. With a new location, circuit and sponsor the opportunity to participate in a very pure and somewhat raw event was too good an opportunity to miss.

Sadly our numbers were diminished this year. There was no Andrew, David, Anne, Dr John or the lovely and ever smiling Chris (although she was smiling as a spectator). It was just Mark (King of the Hill), Guy and myself.

I had arranged to meet Mark outside St Paul's Cathedral so that we could chew the fat, take on some food and water before heading over for registration.

Getting to St Paul's was interesting wearing orange business attire I can tell you! A thick skin was needed. As I glided by some looked bemused. Some smiled. Many pointed. Some totally ignored what I was wearing and carried on as if I were wearing nothing out of the ordinary. At traffic lights I was besieged by all manner of people - mainly young ladies who wanted a selfie with this strange chap in orange.

Outside St Paul's Cathedral

By the time we registered it was gearing up and the race briefing was moments away. There were other changes to the familiar format. This time there would be no heats but one pre-qualifying race that would see all participants racing for 40 places. Crikey!!

Some familiar faces came into view. Past participants gave knowing smiles and handshakes as we all waited for the off.

Bikes were placed 30 metres up the course and we retreated back, vying for positions. I have to confess I was nervous and my heart was beating fast and I hadn't even started pedalling yet!

We were told that we would be off at 15:46 and 30 seconds. Gulp!!
Mark making final touches

With the clock ticking down in front of us we all started to countdown from 5...4...3...2...1 and like the charge of the light brigade, we were off.

Wearing SPD shoes I sort of minced for want of a better word to my bike. I actually got a pretty good start and was off quite quickly. I have to say that I found the going hard. Mark soon passed me and my attempts to keep up were in vain. This was not to be my year as far as the final went but I loved the buzz from the crowd and the heat of serious competition. By the time I was on my final lap I felt I was almost slowing down if anything. The start finish line loomed and crossing it I continued for another lap to wind down.

As for the course, it was flatter than Smithfield but there were 90 degree turns, narrow sections and lots of drain covers - I went over every one of those and made a mental note to learn how to take a racing line.

What a circuit and what a race! Returning to the pits, many awaited the list that would say if you were in or out. I already knew that I had not done enough and when the confirmation came I was 2/3 places outside the cut. Poor Mark, like last year wasn't even on the list but placed rather well and went to see the stewards about it. His place in the final was secured as was Guy's. Well done to them.

With plans for tomorrow I decided to head for home rather than wait quite a while for the final. I really enjoyed the event and hope to return next year. My fitness let me down me thinks and I know that I have to do something about this.

Cycling there and back as well as participating in the one heat, I do feel as thought my mojo for all things cycling is starting to return. This is of course a good thing as I have just spent a tidy sum on a new Condor road bike. I have more than a few plans for my new addition as well as of course taking my Brompton bikes out for more adventures.

As I type this the final is over and both Mark and Guy placed very favourably. Very well done to them!

Map and ride data

Friday 3 June 2016

Condor Bicycle Moment

If you are a regular reader you are undoubtedly aware that I have been giving serious thought to buying a road bike. There are many companies to choose from but the London based Condor have always held a place in my affections, perhaps more so recently.

My late father owned a Condor and there is an old and tatty photo somewhere of him, perhaps in the 1950's standing outside their shop - which I don't think was its current location but I could be wrong - proudly holding his new bicycle.

Yesterday was the day I had set aside to go to Condor Cycles. Before this I had arranged to meet David at Hyde Park Corner who was buying the rear wheel that I had taken off my Titanium Orange Brompton. After chewing the fat for a short while - as David was on his way to work - I walked to the home of Condor Cycles on, Gray's Inn Road.

The walk was enjoyable and I was conscious of the huge numbers of cyclists out and about on their way to work. Soon I arrived at the shop as getting there not long after its 08:00 opening time, I more or less had there place to myself.

Going downstairs I had a look at all the lovely bicycles and wondered whether I was doing the right thing? I looked specifically for their 'Fratello Disc' bicycle. This particular bike I have coveted from afar for several months. In fact a couple of very nice chaps based in London each owning this bicycle contacted me a few weeks ago to arrange a meet up at Richmond Park so that I could have a test run on one of theirs. Going round very familiar territory on this bike I was struck at how much easier it was to maintain a higher speed but not work as hard. Equally hill climbing was easier too and I wondered how it was that I have been able to take the scalps of many a roadie on my Brompton in the past? Against this I wouldn't stand much of a chance.

Racked up were a few of the bikes I was interested in. They only come in two stock colours - Paris Green and Deep Purple. Taking it off the rack I weighed it up. The Fratello Disc is not an ultra light carbon number but Condor's flagship steel frame. It is a bit of a Jack of all trades and happy commuting, fast tourer, audaxing or even the odd sportive. I estimated that it was lighter than my Titanium Orange Brompton, but not by a huge amount.

The Paris Green Condor Fratello Disc

I was soon greeted by Angel who was to guide me through the whole process. I had come to place an order rather than just look. A test run was offered so after leaving ID and credit card with the shop staff, the saddle adjusted and tyres pumped, I was out onto Gray's Inn Road with one of their bikes.

The only test bike in my size available that was close to the one I was interested in was the standard Fratello which does not have disc brakes. I had intended to literally go up the road and back but these plans were dashed as I found myself enjoying the whole experience. The bike was great and it felt really comfortable. The gear selection took a little getting used to however I was much the same with my Brompton. After a few minutes I got it and was enjoying the rapid gear choices.

The test bicycle

Coming back in the shop with a big smile on my face we went downstairs for the fitting. If you buy a bike from Condor the bike fitting is included in the price. This was great as it was very comprehensive to say the least.

Like a good tailor, Angel had already surmised that I needed a 58cm frame after a quick glance at me the second he set eyes on me.  Having brought my SPD shoes I put them on and was taken over to the fitting jig where all sorts of measurements were taken. These are the main ones:

  • Saddle height and position
  • Cleat position
  • Handlebar stem length
  • Stack height and reach
  • Bar width

Once the measurements were taken we sat down and Angel went through every conceivable option, explaining each one. He was very good at his job and from my admission that I had only ever owned a Brompton and a mountain bike 25 years ago, made sure I understood everything before moving on to the next component. This took about an hour but the time went by in a flash.

Things ground to a halt when colour was mentioned. I actually liked both stock colours but there was the option of orange. I deliberated over this for a few moments. There is a reason why orange is of significance and a concluded that I didn't want this bike to be orange. In truth I just liked the Paris Green colour too much.

It was all done. With my deposit paid I was informed that my Condor bicycle would hopefully be ready for collection in about 6 weeks - perhaps earlier.

Fitting jig

I hear many of you saying that I should have gone for a carbon bike or a different brand or another Brompton. Well, for me this is the right choice. I have written that I doubt if I will buy another Brompton - I do own two after all. This will mark a new chapter in my cycling journey. I won't be going any further. I wont't be cycling with different people - I  will be doing so with the same lovely people I have cycled with for the past five years. If there are any differences it is the possibility of going further in a shorter span of time. Being able to maintain slightly higher average speeds. Perhaps most importantly, doing all this with a little more comfort and less strain being placed on my body. (The change to ascend hills faster than I can on my Brompton does appeal naturally).

I have to say I am rather pleased at my purchase and certain that collecting this bicycle will be a gleeful moment.  For me, this is the right bicycle at the right time and although I will not use it all every day, it will be fun when it comes out to play. I can't wait!

Thursday 2 June 2016

Brilliant Bikes, quite simply brilliant!

If you are in the UK and have a Brompton as far as spare parts are concerned Brilliant Bikes (see link below) are pretty much the only place to go*

All of the black parts were purchased from them and in fact virtually all the stock Brompton parts blogged about were bought from them.

Why are they so good? They are able to process orders really quickly and delivery is free. They are an email/telephone call away should you need advice on a certain part. Their knowledge about all things Brompton is as good as someone working at Brompton.

In addition to their online presence they have a shop and it was at this very shop I had the black headset fitted along with a new bottom bracket and a general service.

Everyone I know with a Brompton has used Brilliant Bikes and I have yet to find anyone who has a bad word to say about them.

They do of course sell other bicycle related parts and accessories but I have only ever bought Brompton items.

I suppose I am writing this blog post because I think they do deserve a special mention.

Check out their website if you haven't heard of them and I do believe that they ship to EU countries.

Link to the Brilliant Bikes website

*I write this purely as a very satisfied customer of several years standing. I receive no discounts or freebies.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Orange, black and titanium the new black?

As many of you may have guessed it wasn't a case of farewell to my Titanium Orange Brompton, more of a farewell to some of the 'original' aspects.

The good thing about owning a Brompton is that you are free to do just that. Add various parts - some produced by Brompton and some by third party companies.

I have written before that Brompton as a company often miss a trick. The 'Special Edition' Brompton bikes released have been a bit of a yawn moment for me. The black parts on the all black edition however I like - as you can see below. Still, it has taken Brompton quite some time to get the black parts out there as spares for existing customers of the folding wonder to buy. This is where Brompton is in my opinion are far too slow.

Following this theme there is rumour of an all new shifter. The current ones are functional but everyone says that they are cheap and plastic and don't do anything for the bike. How long will it take for Brompton to release these as after market upgrades?

Anyway, rant over I am rather pleased with the results. I have as you can see created my own special edition that has lovely titanium! I had some Christmas and birthday money left over and seeing that the much fabled black parts were on sale, I knew what I wanted to spend this on.

The crank looks a great deal better and in addition to this I had the bottom bracket replaced to the newer version.

My old pedals were not black enough so I swopped them over for some that I had bought ages on an online sale for a bargain price and were still boxed and waiting for the right time.

The wheels, front and rear just had to be done and I do like the overall look. Leaving the standard ones on just didn't look quite right.

Along with a new black seat post I opted for a black S bar and brake levers. I also added some black Ergon bioleather grips. These in particular are wonderfully comfortable as well as looking good. (I used these on the overnight London to Shoreham-by-sea and for me at least would say that they are better than the rubber or biocork versions).

Black clamp plates had to be done and I like the contrast of black and orange.

Finally I had a black headset fitted to finish things off.

The black Brooks saddle is the one when opening I cut my hand and was out of action for the best part of three months! Believe it or not I bought it in the hope that Brompton would eventually release black parts so that this little project might be realised.

I have written before that I will almost certainly never buy another new Brompton bicycle, although there are a few caveats to this. If they manage to produce a bike that is lighter than my titanium one that also has some more polished components, better gearing and doesn't cost a small fortune, I might.

The new version of my trusty Titanium Orange Brompton will certainly keep me happy for some time to come and I am pleased that I was able to do it. I have two very different Brompton bicycles but it is no secret that I will be buying a road bike in the not too distant. How long I remain in the possession of two Brompton bikes after that I cannot say for certain. For the time being I have to report that I am VERY pleased with the results.

There are a few folding bike races this weekend which I am hoping to attend. If I do, you know which of my Brompton bikes is going to be coming out to play?!