Saturday 25 February 2017

Look who I bumped into? + Short video

There was a time not that long ago when my Partner in Crime, Andrew and I would be attendees at all manner of Brompton rides. Wherever there was one, the other would not bee too far behind. I suppose life gets in the way of such things and both of us, but to a greater extend Andrew, have not been out on adventures as often as in the past. It was therefore a happy Mr Orange who was venturing out into a grey and dull morning.

The meeting point was the London Eye at 09:00 and when I go there it felt cold and a little drizzle was falling from grey clouds.

My riding partner arrived and before we knew it we were cycling east as we had done many times before.

We chewed the fat as we cycled along and it was good to be riding again with my cycling buddy. In fact the last time we saw each other was the day of the Brompton World Championships - that neither of us got in to. In other words, it has been far too long.

At the fountains with views looking out to Tower Bridge we rewound time a little and putting our Brompton bicycles in familiar poses.

As well as a few photos I managed to capture a small amount of video and I have spliced together a few clips and put them in a short video clip, the link for which you can find at the bottom of this blog post.

The Legend checking his photos 

Cycling further east we stuck to familiar territory and hugged the Thames for much of our journey, chewing the fat as we cycled along.

The Thames Barrier Cafe opened at 11:00 and timed to perfection we arrive four minutes before opening. Once inside we ordered our usual and it was as if the old times were back again.

As I needed to be back home by about noon and didn't want to keep Andrew out for hours, I suggested that we take the tube from the O2. He agreed and we traveled together until parting company a few stops later.

It was great to see my Partner in Crime after so long. I will make sure that we will go on one of our adventures sooner rather than later!

Link to short video

Sunday 19 February 2017

Photos of You / Your Brompton Wanted!!

What seems like many months ago now I put out a request for you out there with your own Brompton to send in a photograph of it. I would very much to revive this and see how many new ones are sent through.

The email address to send them to is:

You can send a photo of just your bike or you with it. Also send a brief outline of where the photo was taken and why you like your Brompton.

I will check this email once a week and any I receive will go straight up as soon as I can.

Many thanks! 

Saturday 18 February 2017

Beeline navigating adventure along the Thames Path

Early this morning armed with my camera, P-type Brompton and Beeline navigation device I headed out the short distance from darkest South Kensington and simply put Thames Flood Barrier into the Beeline app and I was off.

I was up an out quite early and unusually for a Saturday morning, things were pretty quiet. It was also mild and even though there were no signs of condensation on car windows, there was a high mist in the air.

With the roads being quiet I just followed the arrow and travelled wherever I fancied. I had not really looked at the route the Beeline app had suggested but I am sure that I did not follow it strictly at all. I just cycled in the general direction it suggested.

On restaurant was getting ready for its clientele later on and there were furtive efforts to clean the many lights that only hung on one side of said restaurant.

Near Wapping a lone and extremely territorial Mute Swan was no in any way mute. It took quite a dislike to me hissing, swimming over to me and flapping its wings. Believing what every says about the power of a swans wings being able to break an arm, I made a tactical withdrawal.

Also out for a proper test were the new gear/derailleur shifters. As reported in my blog post a few days ago, they are a marked improvement over the older ones. I don't think that they are any quicker - perhaps as I need more time to get fully used to them - but they are much nice to use.

The Greenwich foot tunnel under the Thames was all but empty which allowed me the chance to take a few photos. I did have the village idiot telling me that I was not allowed to cycle in the tunnel. I pointed out that I was not cycling and taking some photographs!

A rowing eight were out and trying to keep a stroke. I suspect they were either first timers or just a group of people who hated each other and could not/would not work as a team.

The Skyline was busy as usual. I hope that it stays put as it would be a shame to lose it from this part of London.

The Beeline brought me quite happily to the Thames Flood Barrier. I am liking it a great deal. I did move off course several times - on to very quiet roads - but always found it easy to simply follow the arrow. It is certainly a different way to do things and I can see myself using this quite a bit, especially when the weather starts to get better and I fancy a random adventure on two wheels.

Friday 17 February 2017

Beeline - Smart Navigation Made Simple...

What seems like ages ago - October 2015 - I saw that there were a Kickstarter campaign being established for a new and altogether simple bicycle navigation device. I pledged my support and backed the campaign with I think about £40 (I cannot remember the exact amount). As I got in so early I would not have the pay anything else.

Since then the people at Beeline have been really good at emailing updates about how things were going. This was great, being carried along their journey.

The concept was very simple. The device when paired to a smartphone app would navigate a route by displaying a direction arrow as the crow flies. That's it. No audible alerts, no maps no fancy HD display but something that was minimalist and uncomplicated. I suppose the one thing that attracted me to it was that simplicity and the idea of just following a direction arrow; being able to just take in my surroundings and not stick to a rigid route.

I have had my Beeline for a few weeks now and feel in a better position to tell you what I think of it. The device itself is as I have stated very simple. The green silicone case - there are other colours available but early backers got the special green colour - holds the device as acts a mount to the handbags or stem of your bike.

The grove sits on the bar and then you fold the case front on itself so it sits in place. The strap has some give in it and I have fitted it to stems and handlebars without an issue.

The technical bits sit inside the silicone case and the display is white on black. In sunlight this works really well and at night there is a small backlight to illuminate the direction arrow.

Battery life is excellent lasting for a few weeks between charges. In addition it is able to withstand the rigours of British weather. 

The display with its compass direction arrow is very easy to read while cycling and it is supposed to be more accurate than that in your phone in terms of interference. 

The packaging is worth a mention for following the minimalist theme and as well as being functional was environmentally friendly.

Also included in the pack is a triangular piece of polished metal which allows you to attach it to a bunch of keys and almost carry it like a keyring. Very clever.

The Beeline app is easy to use and as well as being the conduit for loading firmware updates to your Beeline device, it also is where you put in where you want to go. When opening it your location is shown of the map and you have the option to tap somewhere on the map or input the details of a location.

A route is calculated almost instantaneously and then you ride, following the all important arrow. It works pretty well and I had no difficulty in following it. For me I see this as being used for recreational use, when I don't necessarily know a particular route but want a little adventure or variety. For this it works really well. If you want to get from A to B you can but for me it did seem to take the pressure off following that rigid route. When I got lost or wanted to make a different turn as it looked more interesting, I could. The navigation arrow just kept reassuringly pointing in the right direction.

The Beeline pairs with your smartphone via bluetooth and once the initial set up is done, apart from turning on bluetooth on your phone connection is very quick.

I would imagine that as more and more people give this a go, user feedback will filter back to the makers and additional features will almost certainly be rolled out. For the time being I am more than happy with it as a way of directing me on interesting routes. I have to add that the routes do seem to be bicycle friendly, so there is no need to worry that you might end up on the M25!

Stickers included in the box

The Beeline is available from their website at £99 with a choice of three colours at the moment for the case - grey, red or blue. I am of course hoping that they come out with an orange one!

Thursday 16 February 2017

Inventor of Brompton Bicycle Andrew Richie Talks

My nephew is doing one of those fancy MBA courses at the London Business School and told me a few weeks ago that Brompton inventor, Andrew Richie was going to be in attendance speaking at one of their 'Tell Series' events. With tickets being free and grateful for the heads up I booked myself a ticket. I had asked Mrs Orange if she wanted to attend a talk by Andrew Richie. She replied, Andrew Ridgeley from 'Wham?'

'No, Andrew Richie, inventor of the Brompton,' says I.

Mrs Orange then said, 'no.'

Meeting my nephew for a quick bite to eat beforehand, upon reaching the London Business School we parted company and I made my way inside. Those of you who have read my efforts for a while will know that I am not overly good with directions. I thought I would just put that out there as it does have some relevance later on.

Reporting to reception I was given directions and headed off to the location. This is where things started to get a little strange. If you have ever seen the excellent film, 'Spinal Tap' you will recall a part where the band are backstage and trying to get on stage. They go to where they think the stage is shouting out 'hello Cleveland!' only for it to be back where they started. The London Business School was a little like that. Before long I was back at reception, saying 'hello Cleveland!?'

One of the security staff then escorted to me to the correct location and said that it was just through those doors. I went through those doors and it soon dawned upon me that I should have said, 'hello Cleveland again!' I was in a room with round tables set up for drinks and other refreshments? Thankfully a member of staff was around who looked on her printout of what was taking place and after questioning whether I had actually come to see Andrew Ridgeley from 'Wham' give a talk, I ended up back at the reception! 'Hello Cleveland.'

I can tell you I was almost ready to give up the ghost but the security guard at reception apologised for sending me on a wild goose chase and pointed to a set of stairs less than 10 metres away! Thankfully, this was the correct location and no it had nothing to do with 'Wham!'

Sitting down it was obvious that the vast majority of the audience were not Brompton fanboy-geeks like me. This was later confirmed when a chap doing the introductions asked for a show of hands to indicate who were students at this establishment. Almost all hands went skyward.

The first thing that caught my eye was that Andrew Richie was sporting a P-type Brompton and looked as if he had cycled to the event. After brief introductions the great man was off talking about how it all started. While this was going those in the audience could submit a question that might be put to Mr Richie at the end.

I have seen Mr Richie at various Brompton events over the years but not heard him speak about Brompton. For a Brompton fanboy-geek I was captivated and it was of great interest to hear how it all started and what hardships he had to go through.

He talked about the first prototype and how difficult it was to get this off the ground. He then talked about the design and how he felt it could be made less complicated and ultimately better. It seemed clear that Mr Richie by his own admission was not a businessman but more of an ideas man and someone who was keen to get his hands dirty refining a quite brilliant idea.

He mentioned some of the differences between himself and the current Managing Director, Will Butler-Adams who became his successor.  Mr Richie was not totally enthusiastic about the Brompton Docks, where you can hire a Brompton, whereas Will Butler Adams was. He alluded to some other differences between the way he would like things to be done and the direction of the current leadership but there was genuine affection towards Will Butler Adams. Mr Richie talked about what WBA had done as a surprise when he got married and the plaque he had organised when the Duke of Edinburgh recently visited the new factory in Greenford. He also said that WBA's enthusiasm  for Brompton was incredibly high. Having seen him at a few Brompton events I agree.

With Mr Richie running over his time slot having, 'only covered a quarter' of what he wanted to, it was time for the question and answer session. Some of the questions above were answered and if truth be told I could have listened on for several hours more to hear about the remaining three-quarters.

Before ending Mr Richie showed the audience how the bike unfolded and folded. There were a few people who had not seen this done before judging by the reaction from some. With questions answered the event sadly came to a close.

It was lovely to finally see the great man talk about his wonderful design and the process behind it. It was also great to hear that he was still thinking about designing things and that he had a few projects he was interested in pursuing.

Brompton would not exist if it were not for Mr Richie but I do have to give a nod to the current management and WBA. I go back quite a long way with Brompton. When at university I had my first Brompton bicycle in 1990 before stupidly selling it a few years later (believe me there is a story to be told one day about all that). Despite me having a few moans about Brompton in recent times, they need the enthusiasm Mr Richie refers to. They also need to sell Brompton bikes and keep selling them. They also need existing enthusiastic owners like myself (although I suspect this is not what Brompton think), my partner in Crime Andrew and more importantly YOU out there to support them and spread the word!!

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Brompton World Championships - Now I'm not in?

Yesterday lots of people were rightly pleased to have received the email congratulating them upon gaining a place to the Brompton World Championships 2017. Today they were in receipt of another email that quite possibly left a bitter taste in their mouth.

It seems that someone must have made a monumental cock up in sending out some congratulations you're in emails to the wrong people. What they received today was a second email saying that this was sent in error and that they were in fact on the reserve list. These poor people now have to wait and see if they will get a place at the start of March.

Oh dear! Wherever the blame lies it certainly isn't good and if the fault was not with Brompton, I am sure that the powers that be in Greenford are livid. Regardless of this I am sure that those affected are as annoyed. Hardly military precision.

I am glad to be standing on the outside looking in. Living in London I have raced several times around the Brompton World Championships circuit over the past couple of years at stupid o'clock. The only difference being less spectators and participants, not paying £50 and not having to enter a ballot to do so. I know what I prefer...

Monday 13 February 2017

BWC 2017 - More chance of becoming the next Pope

Over the past few hours a few people have been revealing whether or not they gained a place in the Brompton World Championships 2017. Apart from me saying enjoy, I also added that had I of entered the ballot I would have stood more chance of becoming the next Pope. It seems that unbeknownst to me I was correct. I will explain.

The last BWC I participated in was back in 2015 - the first to be held in London - and I loved it. I entered the ballot for BWC 2016 but didn't get through. I missed not being able to attend but in the cold light of day I didn't miss going as much as I thought I would. 

Roll forward to this year I didn't bother entering. Although I could afford the £50 entry fee it didn't really seem like the best value for money, especially when one considers that the Ride100 - also a ballot - costs £16 more. For about half an hours racing, meal and medal it doesn't seem like value for money. 

The BWC is restricted to 550 participants but on race day a sizeable number won't show. In 2015 this was a kick in the soft dangly bits for those who had supported Brompton by turning up to watch proceedings but unable to take part, despite wanting to. I believe the same thing happened last year. I can understand why London has been chosen but a venue that caters for only 550 participants does not reflect the numbers that want to take part. This will be the third year where the permitted number of participants has not increased. I can understand why and totally get it. It is all an exercise in marketing the brand.

In addition to all of this when I consider what cycle rides provide more lasting memories, it wasn't the BWC. The ones that stood out for me include cycling through the night in all weathers for several hours to arrive at various coastal locations the following morning. Cycling along the Thames path toward the Thames Flood Barrier and back. Cycling to Box Hill and back day or night. Cycling along the Brighton coast wondering if the waves will crash over the sea wall. These memories will last longer and in some cases provide more of a physical test that can be enjoyed at will, without the need for a ballot. If you are lucky enough to have got in, enjoy as it is a great event. If not, get over it and think about applying next year. 

It was then much to surprise that I too received an email informing me that I had been unsuccessful in gaining a place at the BWC 2017. This induced much scratching of the head and me saying, 'I don't understand...I didn't even enter this year?!'  It seems that my eldest Orangette entered for me on my behalf. I love her for this but as predicted I would stand more chance of becoming the next Pope!

Sunday 12 February 2017

The new integrated brake/gear/derailleur levers

In my blog post yesterday CLICK HERE I wrote about the new integrated brake/gear/derailleur levers. Since then I have been inundated quite literally with one or two emails requesting that I let you know what I thought of them.

It didn't actually take that long to replace everything on my P-type and once done I took my bike out for a quick spin. (As I managed to do this pretty much trouble free I decided to replace the levers and cables on my S-type as well with the new version).

Well, the all important question what do I think of them and are they better than those they replace? The simple answer is yes. It does take a little getting used to but after a few minutes I had the hang of it. There isn't that rattle, so familiar from the old ones and aesthetically they are a big improvement. They are neater and you don't have them just sticking up on the handlebar like some sort of agricultural device you'd expect to see on the inside of a tractor.

Another good thing is that your hands do not have to stray too far from the brake levers in order to change gear and apply the brakes. I also like that the bell - although still quite pathetic in terms of its audible volume - can be happily used with just the flick of an index finger. The little windows that tell you gear 1, 2 or 3 and + and - is good but if you were a new owner I doubt you'd need to look after fives minutes. All in all the new integrated levers have brought Brompton to at least 2004 which can only be a good thing.

If I had an M-type or H-type would I go to the bother and expense of replacing the handlebar and stem into order to fit to my existing bicycle? Absolutely not! The old gear and derailleur shifters are fine, cheap to replace if they do die on you and are functional in every way.

Look at it tis way. I suppose it is good that Brompton are still continuing to refine an already great design with updates to components like this. For me at least this has more value than the yawn announcements of yet another 'special edition.'

Saturday 11 February 2017

Replacing old for new

Up until last year the only bicycles I owned were by Brompton. I have had a few many years before but that was so long ago I can hardly remember them. The Brompton gear shifters, although perfectly usable and reliable on all sorts of adventures I have been on, are universally regarded by many users as cheap, rattly and to be blunt more than a little crap.

Using the Shimano 105 shifters on my Condor road bike or the quite brilliant SRAM NX system on my Whyte mountain bike, I have come to realise that those on my humble Brompton bicycles were beyond crap by comparison. Both are quicker and easier to use. It is of course not fair perhaps to compare, however there is no comparison if that makes sense.

The new 2017 bicycles from Brompton came with a few updates and one of them was an integrated gear sector and derailleur shifter. This was a welcome addition as it seemed that of late Brompton only seemed to care about 'special editions' which were all about colours.

There are two downsides. First is that if you have an M-type or H-type you cannot upgrade easily as a new handlebar and stem is needed. Expensive and who knows when they would be available even if you wanted to be bothered with this.

Second, when would they be available to buy as an aftermarket upgrade? We have been there before with Brompton. Remember the double walled rims or the new brake levers? How long did we have to wait for them?? It was therefore with much shock that the all new integrated levers were out there and available to buy. Astonishing!

The levers with integrated brake levers and shifters certainly feel of much better quality than the older ones they have replaced.

They appear well made, solid and are made of what seems to be much better materials.

Owning a P-type and an S-type I can make the change quite easily and I have a normal sliver pair for my P-type and an all black set for my S-type.

The jury is out on these until I fit and test them out on my daily commute and weekend adventure. So, watch this space on what I make of them, assuming the DIY fitting goes well...

Friday 3 February 2017

Rapha Festive 500 Roundel Arrives?

Some of you might have read about the Rapha Festive 500 I completed over the Christmas period. If not you can read about it by clicking the link HERE. Well in the post at the start of the week in a royal blue envelope was my Rapha Festive 500 Roundel.

I have it pictured below with my Whyte mountain bike in shot. This is definitely most appropriate as I completed almost all of the required 300 miles on it.

I have to confess that I had doubts about whether or not I would receive it but very pleased that it has.   I am not overly sure what to do with it? I feel I should sew it onto something however I cannot think what? Perhaps it could go on one of my saddle bags.

I do think that I will try my very best to complete this challenge again this year. I enjoyed it greatly and loved the early starts in sometimes quite bracing weather conditions. As I type this I can think back to some extremely cold mornings with freezing which fog and the reward of a hot mug of tea.

For next year I think I would like to take some more photos along the way but do realise that this might not be the best of ideas as far as I am concerned.

If you are able and get the chance, I can highly recommend the Rapha Festive 500. You can set your own route, pace and choose whether to do it all solo, with friends or a combination.