Tuesday 30 August 2016

Best cycle friendly cafe ever...shuush!

Being a lovely sunny morning and having an errand to attend to near an old haunt, I took my trusty P Type Orange Brompton for a little multi-modal travel. With my errand completed and feeling I needed the reward of a cup of tea I was about to look for one of the high street brand names where one can buy such an item. In doing so, I stumbled across perhaps the best cycle friendly cafe, bar none!

The cafe in question was an independent family owned and staffed affair and although not one of the trendy cycle-specific types, was more than happy for me to bring my Brompton in. Inside I was greeted by friendly staff and a section of cakes I was informed, all home made.

I ordered a slice of pavlova, the size and quality of which was impressive. This was washed down with several cups of tea from a pot that sat happily on my small table. The cafe was quite busy despite it being 10:03 on a Tuesday morning.

I should tell you where it is. I should tell you its name. I should do all these things...but I won't. For the moment at least I am like Howard Carter upon discovering the steps leading down to the tomb of Tutankhamun's, covering them up again so that his benefactor Lord Carnarvon could see them a few weeks later.

In a few weeks I will almost certainly reveal to the world - or London - the name and location of this oasis but for the meantime I will just have to keep it to myself.

Monday 29 August 2016

Back where I started!

A few weeks ago I posted on here a question asking you whether you wanted me to stick with the new blog www.adventuresbybicycle.com  - which is general and covers my travels on my road bike  - or resume posting on here, despite it being called 'My Orange Brompton.'

Firstly, many thanks to all the people who have emailed how much they had enjoyed reading my efforts over the years on here and for supporting the new one.

Well, the results are in and have been verified - well not really but you know what I mean - and it seems that the majority of you would prefer me to resume posting on here, even though I may stray into big wheel territory.

Just under 30 emails were received and it was 73% for resuming blog posts on here. 19% for the new blog and 8% who were not bothered either way.

Many questioned why I started a new blog where it was a case of new boss just like the old boss? There are three very specific reasons why I felt the need to have a different blog address and name but me blogging about it would probably land me in the proverbial hot water.

So, much to my surprise I am back on here! There may well be some posts about my new Condor road bike - which is quite wonderful - but I have two Orange Brompton bicycles which get used every day, so you are sure to read about lots of Brompton adventures as usual!

Thank you for your support.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

London to Whitstable overnighter #2

Friday was a little hectic to say the least. Early evening saw me drive back from East Anglia, get myself and my bike ready and head off to Potters Fields near Tower Bridge for the London to Whitstable overnighter.

Coming back in the car the heavens opened and thoughts immediately turned to what bike? I didn't want to get my lovely Condor Fratello road bike wet but then again I still wanted to take it. I thought about taking one of my beloved Brompton bicycles and giving them an outing as they haven't had much in the way of adventures of late. The decision made it was my Condor that made its way outside, at a time when many might actually be heading off to bed.

When I arrived in central London after cycling about three miles I estimated that I had roughly another eight to go to get to the start point. As I knew I would arrive in good time I decided to take a few photos - again with my iPhone SE - of London at night.

Passing Hyde Park Corner - our usual meeting point for these rides - I could not help but feel a little nostalgic for the location.

I cycled down The Mall and past Buckingham Palace and all was fairly quiet. Stopping at Horse Guards again all was eerily quiet. The moon illuminated the parade ground quite a bit and in the distance the London Eye glowed. How things would change later on!

The Guards Memorial on Horse Guards Road looked pretty good on a clear night illuminated by uprights. A lone tourist with a professional looking tripod was busy getting the right shot with a hefty looking beat of a camera.

Crossing the Thames at Westminster Bridge was where things changed almost instantly from being fairly quiet to as busy as you can possibly get.

Stopping halfway over the Thames - still on the bridge of course -  I had to negotiate huge numbers of pedestrians who like the undead seemed to have no true purpose or direction as they walked around.

At Jubilee Gardens I decided to take a few photos of the London Eye. It was of course closed for business but was still a draw to all around.

Cycling along the Thames path on the south side of the river was interesting to say the least. It was incredibly busy and I was reduced at times to performing a track stand. This was a bonus as I have not ever succeeded in doing one on a Brompton but discovered I could - for a few seconds - on my Condor road bike.

As I cycled along the mix of people and moods was as dramatic and varied as the London skyline. There were people who were merry and cheered me by. Some were terrified of a bike coming towards them - at a snails pace I add - and from their reaction and look in their eyes it was if I were an articulated lorry coming towards them at speed. Couples walked hand in hand. Couples had heated arguments and it was obvious for all to see that the night had not gone well and was possibly going to get worse. People being sick in near exorcist style and the low point was seeing a seagull on a fence almost mimic the people being sick as it regurgitated something that had not agreed with it.

When I arrived at Potters Fields it was all quiet and those already there had decided to wait on the other side of the road from where we had met on a previous ride.

The wrong meeting point

The correct meeting point

Soon Tim our ride leader, a gentleman among men, arrived and told us we were standing in the wrong place. Obligingly everyone crossed the road and waited where they should have.

The ever smiling Sam arrived shortly after me and not too long after that David and Anne. Now, we all have Brompton bicycles and all of us but Sam have done this ride on a Brompton, but keeping up with the recent trend for big wheels all of us rocked up on our road bikes.

Now at the correct meeting point

After our safety briefing and at the stroke of midnight we were off. It was a lovely night to be out. Moonlight to help light our way, a gentle breeze and quite warm. That wondrous sound of cleats clipping into pedals filled the air. Whitstable lay there in the distance.

Our ride leader

I had decided to take my Rapha Brevet Windblock jersey with a light Howies merino base layer underneath. This was a winning combination. The jersey with its own high merino wool content and the base layer kept me both warm and cool as and when required. The panel of fabric on the front of the jersey meant that even after the hallway stop I didn't need any other clothing. Merino is amazing stuff!

We soon passed Woolwich and went through the Royal Arsenal where posh new riverside developments are all around - a quite dramatic change from a few years ago. We seemed to reach Woolwich quite quickly.

Travelling further east, again making good time, we reached Gravesend. This area has an accent history with both Stone Age and Iron Age implements being found locally. It also possess one of the oldest surviving markets in the UK.

At Gravesend many of us tried to get some photos of the river and the hive of activity in the distance. Some stretched their legs, while others had something to drink or eat. We stopped like this throughout the ride so that the tail was able to catch us up. When it did the two riders acting as Tail End Charlie shouted out 'all up!' with gusto.

As there were roadworks along our route Tim decided to take up on a stretch of path running adjacent to the Thames and Medway Canal. Now I do have to say that we were warned about this in the pre-ride email but this did little to diminish what was about to happen.

The path was quite flat and there weren't any huge potholes. As canal paths go, it was pretty good. There were however lots of sharp looking stones, gravel and all manner of creatures lurking about.

The path seemed never ending. I was concerned that my tyres would burst open at any moment, due to all the sharp stones I have already mentioned. Insects of every type and size seemed to want to fly directly into my mouth.

As far as I was concerned this path was the type you see on those YouTube videos, where professional stunt riders hurtle down on a meaty mountain bike. I was terrified for my lovely bike, the tyres and whether I was going to ever get to the end!

As I cycled along I have to confess to letting out more than a few curses. I even speculated that David might even remember this particular route and repeat this section!

Rear lights in the distance got closer and closer. Was I getting faster and catching them up? No, they were stationary. When I got close enough to see who it was, I discovered that it was David and Anne. David had succumbed to a rear wheel puncture. As everything was in hand I pressed on. This point was only halfway so I had more to endure!

How I managed to get to the other side I will never know? One by one people emerged and few spoke of what they had just been through. If it had of been raining I am not sure I would have made with through at all!

A few miles more and we reached the Sanctuary of the halfway stop at the Church of the English Martyrs. One of the best halfway stops anywhere, we were treated to cakes, cheese rolls and tea. It was all lovely and we were very grateful to the lovely people who got up early to prepare it all for us.

It wasn't quite dawn when we left the halfway point but it was not too long before it was light and dawn had broken. Just after leaving we could hear an audible pop which was David's rear tyre again. This was soon patched up with the help of Adrian and his bag of tricks and before long we were off again, David's tyre remaining good for the rest of the ride.

The Kent countryside proved to be as beautiful as ever and perhaps why people so enjoy this ride, with many labelling it their favourite.

It is hard to convey the wonders of cycling on country lanes during the hours of dawn. Equally, photos do it little justice.

There were a few hills on this ride but nothing too taxing. I am finding ascending hills a great deal easier on my road bike. There are more gears to play with but the ability to click down a gear and ride while standing, makes me thing I could get up almost any hill.

As we cycled along with the sun shining down, birds sang happily and part from their well rehearsed melodies the only other sound was the faint noise of wheels going round.

Soon we had reached Faversham and could see the impressive spire of, St Mary of Charity church. Tin our ride leader informed us that shortly after Faversham the ride would change slightly. He would now follow and those interested in cycling at pace could do so all the way to the breakfast stop at Whitstable. This is something of a tradition and one I have entered into enthusiastically in the past.

Previously on my Brompton I could keep up for a few miles before having to ease off the pace, not being able to keep up with the road bikes. In addition the strong headwinds that always seem to be around during the last few miles to Whitstable make it difficult - for me at least - to maintain top speed on my Brompton.

On this ride I was on my Condor road bike and I did indeed find it easier to maintain higher speeds - even when the strong headwind that was forecast to be going the other way, most certainly was not. I was happily pushing along at about 19 mph and not able to really go much faster when Adam - our ride leader for the truly excellent Shoreham-by-sea ride earlier in the year - sailed past at a much greater speed and soon disappeared into the distance.

Reaching Whitstable all I had to do was to turn left at the road leading down to our breakfast stop, 'Waterfront Club Cafe Bar.' Unfortunately but not surprisingly with my sense of direction I made a couple of wrong left turns before I found the correct one.

With the majority of the riders sitting out on the balcony, we enjoyed a pretty fine full English with great views out onto the bay.

Saying our goodbyes we headed for Whitstable station where we had a train to catch back to London.

At the station, David and Anne and I boarded a fairly empty train along with a few other riders. The journey was a little over and hour and although packed by the time we reached St Pancras station, all was okay. Saying goodbye to David and Anne just off the Euston Road we went our separate ways.

This was an excellent ride. Sadly it is the last night ride to the coast for this year. There are a couple more which do look interesting but they are not the classic out of London by night, arrive at the coast for breakfast. I really love these rides and hope that 2017 brings another season as good as this.

Many thanks to Tim for his calm, friendly leadership and great route. Also thanks to the lovely people at the halfway point for getting up to feed and water us all. Thank you to the gentleman who acted at Tail End Charlie and to the great company.

Map and ride data

Friday 12 August 2016

Garmin Edge 820 review

A few years ago I owned a Garmin Edge 510. For me this was a near perfect sized GPS device and although I eventually ended up with an 810 - as it had navigational features - I still liked the form factor of the 510.

A few week after Garmin's flagship Edge 1000 was released, the kind people at Garmin let me test it for a few weeks and although a big improvement over the 810 I didn't care about the extra screen size. Garmin released an update to the 510 in the form of the 520 and despite its looks and it diminutive size which I liked a great deal, the fact it could not give you turn by turn navigation meant I passed it by.

Zoom forward to July 2016 Garmin released the update to the 810, the 820 but instead of keeping things roughly the same size as the 810, it resembled the 520 more. Added to this it had turn by turn navigation.

I have been very lucky to have been given a Garmin EDGE 820 for a few weeks to review and having used it for a couple of weeks already I am in a position to write about what I like and don't like.

As already mentioned, I really like the size. It is lightweight and compact and the 2.3 inch screen is a much higher resolution than the 810. The screen is capacitive and Garmin say it works when wet or wearing gloves. I can say it definitely works when raining. It is summer so gloves aren't a requirement yet - even in a British summer - but I did put a pair on to try and the screen can indeed be operated using them.

There is nothing different about the quarter turn mount and the 820 comes with a Garmin out front mount and a couple of standard mounts and various O rings.

Also included is a tether and despite not using this on any other Garmin device I have owned, I decided to use it on the 820 while under review.

The 820 only has three buttons. Two on the bottom for start/stop and lap and one on the side for on/off.

As far a battery life goes it is quoted as 15 hours or 24 hours in what is called UltraTrac mode which is an energy saving feature. I have been on a a night ride with my phone connected by bluetooth, cadence and speed sensors connected, riding for a good nine hours with the ride being recorded and the battery registered 43%. It is of course waterproof and able to cope with wet weather.

The screen is bright and easy to view in all lighting conditions. There is an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness of the screen. This actually works pretty well and can be turned off if not required. One thing to say about my photos. They have been cropped and if viewed at full magnification it looks as if the screen is pixilated. It isn't and this is just the screen being magnified.

You can set up several profiles on the 820. I have three so far which takes care of all my bicycles. One thing to note is that the slightly cheaper Explore 820 does not allow multiple profiles and does not have the ambient light sensor.

As far as data screens go, like the 810 and 1000 you can set this up to your personal preferences. It is very easy to do and if you want to change a field you simply tap and hold and a menu comes up to change it for something else. The amount of customisation is vast and there is more than enough for the hardened geek, club rider or professional.

A new feature for the 820 over the 810 and 800 is the ability to connect to Garmin's IQ store. Essentially this is a little like an app store for your Gamrin. There is an ever growing library of free material that can be quickly downloaded to your device. At the moment this includes various data fields and graphics that are different from the stock layout.

Another new feature over the 810 and 800 is that you can swipe down to reveal some of the more important functions. For example from this you can turn bluetooth on and off. You can adjust the brightness or set it to the ambient sensor. You can connect external sensors such as speed, cadence, heart.

The 820, like the 1000 when contacted to your phone alerts you when you receive a text message or call. You cannot take a call or send a message via the 820 but you know someone has tried to contact you. This feature can be turned off but I have found it pretty useful.

Navigating is excellent on the 820 and for me more usable than the 810. It uses GPS and GLOSNASS satellites to locate your position and when turned on locks on a GPS signal very quickly, more so than the 810 which I believe only has GPS and not GLOSNASS.

My 810 had maps on a SD card which was an additional extra. The 820 has then built in. You can enter points of interest, stations, intersections and postcodes which then quickly provides a route for you follow with turn by turn directions.  The 810 has this but the 820 seems to be able to update more quickly with little in the way of delay from making the turn to what happens next. In addition the smaller screen didn't detract from me - yes me - being able to use the 820's turn by turn instructions to navigate. This might be in part due to the higher resolution of the screen.

One feature, which is for me at least, is nothing short of brilliant is the ability to get audio prompts while navigating. This works when paring your phone to the 820. Once paired the 820 sends audio prompts for navigation to your phones speaker. This really does work well. I have used it with just the phone in the chest pocket of a jersey and I could hear the prompts. Better still you can use one headphone bud or a small bluetooth speaker. I am normally hopeless at navigating but I have found that I have actually managed to get from  A to B using the 820. This has been a little bit of a revelation for me and quite liberating. As a result I have used it to cycle to a few locations I previously would have struggled to get to. A smartphone with google maps or a specific mapping app are of course better but I am really enjoying the 820 as far as navigation goes.

There is also a round trip feature. With this you can select a route of say10 miles. The 820 will then make a couple of routes for you to choose from that will be 10 miles and return you to your start location. You can select things to avoid like main roads, hills etc.., and having tested it out it is very good. I can see myself using this as a training aid if I got bored of my usual circuits around the block as it were.

GroupTrack is a new feature that I believe with come to the Edge 1000 in the future in a firmware update. With this once your 820 is connected to you phone you can keep an eye on friends - with and 820 or 1000 (when the firmware update allows) as they show up as markers on the map. I can see this being of great use on rides when riders thin out and are separated or when the front is seeing where the tail is. You can keep track of up to 50 other riders.

The LiveTrack feature on my 810 was a little bit hit an miss at times. This feature essentially allows people you have chosen to view realtime on a map your location. I have enabled LiveTrack on almost all the longer rides I have been on since getting hold of the 820 and I have to report that it worked 6 out of 7 times.

If you have a good ride stored on your 820 you can transfer it quite easily to a friends 820. This is done very quickly and a ride leader could transfer the official route to participants with an 820.

The 820 has a built in incident detection that sends out your location to an emergency contact if you are involved in an incident. It does seem like a good idea but I have not activated it so far.

The 820, like the 1000 has Wi-Fi. This means that when you step through the front door your ride data will be uploaded to Garmin Connect by the time you have put your bicycle away. This auto upload feature can be turned off but it is very useful.

I only have a few more days with the Garmin 820 before I have to send it back. I have really enjoyed using it and haven't even scratched the surface with all the more advanced feature packed into this small package. I suspect that Garmin will release an update to their 1000 at some point in the not too distant but for me, the size and compactness of the 820 would be very compelling.

The Edge 820 comes in three different packages. The Explore 820 is £279.99 but lacks Wi-Fi, ambient light sensor, live Strava segments and some of the other serious training data like VO2, Watts, lactate threshold.

The Edge 820 - which is the one I have here is £329.99 and a version with a heart rate monitor, cadence and speed sensor comes in at £389.99. If you shop around you can probably get each for a little less, but don't expect a huge reduction. Until recently only a few select retailers were first in line well the 820 but I think it is now widely available.

I like the 820 a great deal and will put serious thought to buying one myself. If you know you are not going to use the heart, speed and cadence sensors the Explore might be the way to go. I would probably use the speed and cadence sensors so the £329.99 unit is the one I'd go for - as I already have the sensors.

Is there anything I don't like? Well, not a huge amount. I have noticed that occasionally it cannot pick up WI-Fi when I am standing next to the router. Perhaps a firmware update can fix that? The only other ting is that I do think it should come with the rubber protective cover/jacket rather than having to pay possibly £10 extra. Apart from this, as stated not a huge amount.

When I return the 820 I go back to my 810. I will miss the 820 and do think that I will have to drop some hints for what I want this Christmas!

Thursday 11 August 2016

Phone and wallet solution when cycling

I am an all year round cyclist. The weather rarely stops me from going on my commute to work on my Brompton, going on long distance cycling adventures or travelling through the night in all seasons. If you take a backpack, saddle bag or when on a Brompton one of the many bags you can place on the front carrier block, you can of course put your phone, wallet and keys in there. However, what happens if you want to go minimalist and not carry everything and the kitchen sink?

Like many of you I have used plastic freezer bags to carry my phone/wallet when the wet stuff is about to fall and there is nothing wrong with that. I have also used those small plastic see-through wallets you sometimes get free in cycling magazines. I have been looking for something else.
A couple of solutions came my way in the post the other day. They are both by Lezyne and both offer protection from the elements for phone, wallet, money, keys etc. 

The first is the Lezyne Phone Wallet. This costs anything from £11 to £15 depending on where you shop and is a very basic single fold wallet that allows you to carry quite a lot.

Lezyne Phone Wallet
  • Mobile phone in a a water resistant zipped pocket that has a seam weld and clear plastic panel   allowing you to use the phone
  • Four slots for credit cards, notes or combinations of these
  • Zipped pocket for coins, keys, notes
  • Zip loop so that you can gain entry to the phone compartment easily even when wearing gloves
  • Weight 120g
  • Dimensions 145 x 100 x 25mm

The phone section allows me to fit my iPhone SE - which is the same size as any of the iPhone 5's but it does fit phones the size of the iPhone 6.

Holing my iPhone SE with ease

Card / note slots

The phone can happily be operated via the plastic screen and does not need to be taken out of  the case for turning on and off.

The wallet can be placed in any jersey pockets and once there is barely noticeable, even when full with all your bits and pieces. Incidentally, I was also able to fit a car key in the zipped compartment. 

Zipped compartment

Large zip puller

The phone compartment is the only part that is fully water resistant but the material of the the case does offer some water proofing.

Having started to use bib shorts more and generally trying to be more and more minimalist in what I carry with me when cycling, I do like the idea of having this wallet with phone, cards, notes etc.., all in one location. Using it on a few rides I barely registered that it was even there. For the moment at least I suspect I will definitely use this wallet a great deal in the autumn and winter when the weather can be unpredictable.

The next wallet from Lezyne is the Caddy Sack. This is a much simpler affair. This is a basic sack that can be sued to hold everything the above can hold. 

Lezyne Caddy Sack

There are two version, small and medium. I have the medium which weighs in at 50g with dimensions of 180 x 130mm. 

The Caddy Sack can hold all of the above and although a little larger when filled, can still be happily stowed in a jersey pocket, offering full water resistance - assuming the sack is closed properly. 

Roll closure

The Caddy Sack is £5 - £10 but if you shop around you can get it for less. 

I used the Caddy Sack on the Ride46 and liked it a great deal for its total simplicity and homage to the freezer bags I have normally used in the past. The Wallet I used at the Bikeathon and didn't notice it was there for the entire ride.

Which do I prefer? If it were a night ride to the coast or longer ride, I think I'd prefer the Caddy Sack. For general cycling in and around London the Wallet would be better for me. Of course I have both to choose from but if it had to be one of the other, I would go for the Wallet.