Tuesday 24 January 2017

Let there be light

As an all year round cyclist I commute daily in all weathers. At this time off year when things are still quite dark early in the morning and much the same on the way home - although it does seem to be getting ever so slightly lighter each day - I find it astonishing the number of cyclists not sporting ANY lights front and rear?!

I know what you are thinking. They are probably on cheap bicycles where a set of lights might cost more than the bike itself. Well that is true for some but I have seen quite a few riders on expensive road bikes, hybrids and mountain bikes with no lights whatsoever. 

My commute to work this morning was made more interesting by thick fog to go with the darkness. To my amazement I saw a few riders with nothing. It was much the same story on the way home. In fact I regularly see riders without lights. Some are stupid enough to wear black with not even the smallest amount of reflective material. This is just plain stupid. 

I had a quick look at bike lights and you can get a very good set of front and back battery lights that would withstand the rigours of a daily commute for £9.99. There really isn't any excuse. 

Here in London there are a sizeable number of cyclists who run their lights during the day - I am one of these - and although many would deem this unnecessary, for me at least it makes perfect sense.  

Monday 23 January 2017

The Brompton World Championships 2017 opens for business...

Many of you out there actually think that I - and it has to be said my Partner in Crime, Andrew - work for Brompton, get my bicycles for free, get invited to all Brompton events and am privy to all sorts of classified information from Brompton HQ.

The reality is very different. Despite being rather enthusiastic about all things Brompton, loyal to the brand and providing lots of free advertising for them over the years, I have existed very much on the outer limits of Brompton, the company. In fact almost a year ago, it was made very clear that my humble blog was of no significance to them whatsoever. Of course this doesn't matter as I write it for my benefit rather than for anyone else.

I write all this as today I have been getting quite a few emails asking me the question, are you riding at the Brompton World Championships this year, as if I have a direct route to the start line and that my place is guaranteed. Well, I will state the obvious. Firstly, if I did enter the ballot I would have to take my chances and have the anxious wait like everyone else. Second, who says I want to participate at all? I did use the word, if...

Sunday 15 January 2017

Rainy Ride It West London Sportive

I signed up for the Evans Cycles, West London Sportive ages ago in the knowledge that it would be the first biggish ride of 2017. The weather recently has been terrible and there was even the possibility of snow. The only snowflakes however were the whimpish types who bailed because rain was forecast.

I set off for Osterley Park bright and early with my waterproofs and my Whyte mountain bike. There was no way I wanted to take my Condor and I toyed with the idea of my Brompton but I have done this ride on a Brompton before, so decided to choose my mountain bike instead. I also figured that my mountain bike with its meaty tyres would handle all the rain, crud and potholes that bit better. More on that later.

Arriving at Osterley Park I was struck yet again at how pretty it all looked.  I was also struck at what a dump the surrounding area was and how this house only serves to magnify this.

Registration was quick and easy as there didn't seem to be a huge amount of people around. The Evans staff were enthusiastic and friendly and with this over with I made my way to the start area. This was thoughtfully covered by a sort of tent with Evans Cycles livery.

After a brief safety talk and instructions, the handlebar numbers with barcode were scanned out and we were off. I seemed to be the only person on a mountain bike - which was later confirmed at the halfway refreshment stop - everyone else being on a road bike.

My group started with about 15 riders and I knew that I would not be able to keep up with them for long, me being on a mountain bike. This didn't bother me. I had downloaded the gpx route and stored it on my Garmin and was relying on it to tell me where to go along with the very helpful black on pink arrow signs Evans Cycles had marked the routes with.

I had originally opted for the medium 52 mile route but as I was on my own and it was raining - for probably the entire ride - I decided to go for the short 42 mile one instead.

About 20 minutes into the ride there was a steep winding decent with potholes, gravel and the like. I found that with the beefy tyres I could descend quicker than I would dare on my other bikes. A roadie in front of me cycled down too quickly with skinny slick tyres, skidded and was off into bushes. I stopped to see if he was okay and thankfully he was with nothing but pride dented.

The rain was a constant companion but nothing too terrible and not getting heavy to the point of making proceedings uncomfortable. I have cycled in far worse over longer distances. One night ride to the coast to Brighton was like a monsoon for a constant seven hours!

With 22 miles coming up the feed station came up and was a very welcome sight! There I was able to partake in some generously thick cuts of lemon drizzle cake and fill up my water bottle. This feed station was outside an Evans shop and one of the members of staff came out for a nose at the bikes that had stopped there. He liked my bike and confirmed that as far as he was aware I was the only participant using a mountain bike.

Feeling suitably refreshed I headed out for the final 20 miles. I was enjoying this ride. The other participants were a friendly bunch and the odd mile here and there were spent chewing the fat about all sorts before I pedalled off.

I continue to get on very well with my mountain bike. The ride was comfortable and on a day like today I welcomed the thick tyres and stopping power. The front forks with the suspension locked out make things that bit firmer for the road but still allowed lots of shock absorption when the road surface deteriorated.

Unusually for me I decided not to take a saddle bag and instead took a small waterproof rucksack. In addition to being in more keeping with the mountain bike look, I found it pretty comfortable - possibly as I only had the bare essentials and the Evans Cycles, Ride It goodies you get as a freebie when signing up for their rides

Reaching Osterley Park again was almost a surprise as having the Garmin displaying the route map I had not paid any attention to the millage. I went through the finish tent, handlebar number scanned and my ride was over. Thanking the Evans Cycles staff I took a few photos before heading back home.

This was a lovely ride and I enjoyed it a great deal. It was a shame that the weather wasn't better and more of the old guard could have attended but it was nonetheless a great little ride. The 42 mile option seemed like a better fit today and it is great that Evans Cycles allows participants to swop the route they have originally signed up for - as long as you remember to tell them of course.

Many thanks to Evans Cycles for a very well organised event. They had a good route, well sign-posted, friendly staff, great refreshments and I will definitely be signing up for more of the same later in the year. They even do specific mountain bike events so you never know...

Map and ride data

Monday 2 January 2017

Familiar territory, different horse

One journey I have been itching to do on my new bike is my Thames Path route. This morning I got the chance to do just that and I found the experience quite a difference.

As far as I am aware I have only ever completed this route on a Brompton. I am pretty certain that my Condor road bike has not got its wheels dirty heading along the Thames Path? As yesterday was raining and I had other plans anyway, today was my first ride in 2017.

As per usual I was up early and there was not a great deal of activity in terms of people out and about. There were joggers, dog walkers, tourists and a photography group - taking arty long exposure shots of people walking along the Millennium Bridge with St Paul's Cathedral in the background - but apart from them, London was very quiet.

Crossing the river via the Millennium Bridge and heading towards Southwark I spied some street art depicting, William Shakespeare. I suspect this is as 'The Globe' is but a step away. I do not actually know why I bothered to park my bike up and take a photo of this? (I will get emails about this next bit so look away or steel yourself). I cannot abide Shakespeare. For me his lasting legacy is stupefying boredom for school children across the nation forced to study or worse still actually go and see one of his plays live. If the RSC were performing one of his works art the bottom of my garden and giving out £20 notes, I wouldn't attend. There, I've done it now. I await the emails.

London did look pretty good this morning. It was crisp but the sky was blue and there sun was shining. Even the security guard patrolling was in a good mood and wished me a happy new year.

I stopped at the bascule bridge in Wapping not really to take a photo but to have a drink and see whether I liked a new electrolyte tablet I had been sent as a freebie in some cycling gear I bought. The answer was yes and I plan to buy a tube for later on in the year.

As I have reported previously I like this new bike a great deal. Navigating the cobbles of Wapping was effortless with the big mountain bike tyres and quite superb front suspension. I could also do this at some speed with pleased me greatly.

All the photos in this post were taken using my iPhone 7+ and I was experimenting with the 2x lens. The picture above is the normal lens and the one below me standing at the same spot, repositioning but using the 2x lens. Rather clever and it works well.

Reaching the Greenwich foot tunnel I had the place more or less to myself. They are testing out a new system which allows cyclists to cycle through at times when things are not too busy.

There is a section of the Thames path just before reaching the O2 that has over the years providing a great deal of concern for yours truly. Everything from a small lake, mud, stones, gravel to a combination of all has had to be negotiated much to the amusement of those with me as I muttered and cursed my way through. I could not help but succumb to a little smugness as I feel I could traverse almost anything on this bike.

Reaching the Thames Barrier I knew that the small cafe there would be shut. I stopped to take a few photos and was joined by an older gentleman on a mountain bike. He asked for my advise about his disc brakes making a loud screeching when he stopped. I thought to myself, you have asked the wrong person here but not wanting to be unhelpful had a quick look and summoned that they probably needed bedding in. He seemed quite happy with this, thanked me and went on his way.

Having reached the Thames Barrier I turned and headed back. I enjoyed the ride and more so because of my new bike. It doesn't conveniently fold into a small package but it is faster, has better brakes, gears and is more conformable over just about any surface. I am I will return with it again in the not too distant future.

Map and ride data