Sunday 25 February 2018

Popov Leather

This blog post has nothing much to do with cycling but I thought I would post it anyway for those who appreciate something handmade.

During the Christmas holiday having some Christmas present money I was looking for a leather credit card case that would actually last longer than the loads I seem to get through. I found lots of different types. Some were incredibly expensive for what they were, while others just looked like they would fall apart after a few days. Completely by chance I stumbled across a website called 'Popov Leather' that really caught my attention.

In addition to the wallet I also saw that they made pen sleeves - single and double. I absolutely loved the look of these and ordered the double pen sleeve.

The buying process was easy via the informative website and I was informed that while they took a well deserved rest over the Christmas period, order would be made - by hand - when they returned.

I liked the look of these two items so much I decided to order a Field Notes Cover with Pockets as well. This meant I had to process another order and pay for postage but an email to explain that they could combine and send as one was answered moments later by Ryan the owner and maker of Popov Leather!

You can customise most of their products to your own tastes. I ordered all the three items in 'driftwood' coloured leather with tan stitching. (See the website for the different leather colours and stitching options).

I have used the three items below every day for the last five weeks and absolutely love them! The colours do change over time and they have become a little darker. The first picture below is probably the best reflection of what they all look like. Trying to get the lighting the same in the some of the other photos was almost impossible.

The pen case has been a particular favourite of mine. I wear a suit every day to work and store two pens (which I change quite often) in a much better way than before. The whole pen case now sits in the left inside jacket pocket. They stay upright, are easily accessible and the case has such a low profile you would hardly notice it is there at all.

Double pen sleeve

The stitching on all three items is excellent. There are no loose ends and its is obviously that Popov's 'guarantee for life' is no joke.

Impecable stitching in the colour of your choice

The leather moulds to the shape of the pens placed inside 

I love Field Notes books and those of that size and use them all the time. I did get fed up with them becoming worn and moth eaten and the leather cover keeps them in near mint condition.

Field Notes cover 

Again, stitching that will last

You get a Field Notes book with the leather cover which is a nice touch and you could quite easily have two if you wished. In the version I bought you can also store a few credit cards if you wished.

You get a free Field Notes book to start you off

Enough space for another Field Notes book and credit cards etc..,

The great thing about the cover is that it stays totally flat when closed. No springing open. It stays cloesd.

It lies totally flat

I had a go at putting in a pocket sized Moleskine weekly diary and it holds it well and again stays flat when closed.

Takes a Moleskine pocket diary with ease

Still lies flat

The wallet is just brilliant. I just know that it will last year and years and be able to cope with a fair amount of abuse.

The best credit card holder ever?!

Pocket on the outside

There is officially space for 5 x credit cards in my version - one been on the outside. I can report that each space could hold two cards each and even doing this it still stays flat when closed.

Lots of space

Lies flat

Build to last

You can check out the Popov website below for detail of prices and if you time things right they usually have a discount code from time to time. They are not cheap but if you believe in buying once you'll appreciate the quality of something than is handmade.

I love these and can already see myself wanting another couple of double pen sleeves, perhaps in a different colour. I've tried to find something that could be better or something I didn't like but can't. Check out their website for more details and an insight into what makes this excellent little company tick.

Link to the Popov Leather Website

Monday 19 February 2018

Brompton Boys Badlands and Box Hill Bicycle bash!

There are times when I seem to come up with good ideas that are different to those that others probably have not considered. Yesterday was a quite lovely day. The weather was autumnal and I thought to myself that a cycle ride later on in the day would be a good idea. By the end of the day I was beginning to wonder whether my idea was a good one after all...

After spending a few hours at the zoo with Mrs Orange and the Orangettes I had a idea that a a ride from Kew Gardens to Box Hill and back later on might be a very good idea. With this in mind I fired off a group text message and waited for any takers. Thankfully Mark (King of the Hill) and David both replied that they were in.  The agreed meeting time was 18:30 which meant I had a little time to get ready.

Thinking that we might eat something at the legendary 'Smith & Western' I decided to eat a sandwich to tide me over. Heading off in the car to Kew Gardens I arrived with about 10 minutes to spare. Seeing that David had arrived I saddled up and went over to say hello and wait for Mark. He arrived a little while after and a little before 19:00 we set off - three years since we all did this very ride together.

David set a brisk pace. The night was still, clear and starting to get a little colder but it certainly wasn't too chilly for the first half of the ride. Before long we arrived at Bushy Park and managed to enter the park just before the guard closed the gates at 19:00 sharp. Cycling through Bushy Park devoid of traffic was wonderful. We cycled three abreast, enjoying the freedom this brought.

Passing Hampton Court we pressed on. The route was not followed by my Wahoo Bolt, an iPhone app or a Garmin device but simply from the memory of David. Much of the route I knew as well but there would be no way I could do this.

David mentioned that we could cut a couple of miles off the route if we went through the Claygate badlands. The mere mention of this location induced the hairs on the back of my neck to do what they are meant to do when one hears something that brings out the primeval instincts to survive. Mulling it over Mark and I decided that we would have no problem with this.

We approached the entrance to the Claygate Badlands. The tarmac of the road instantly changed into the rural and I really do mean rural. Muddy tyre tracks, footprints, the outline of horses hooves and probably a full range of farmyard animals - all filled with water - greeted us. I even started looking to see if there was a full moon! The complaining - from yours truly - started almost instantly and before I could do or say anything else David was enveloped by the night and gone. Mark followed and so did I.

It was terrible. Traction was touch and go and at one point I peddled furiously and did not move an inch. Trying to traverse the treacle-like mud, ruts, tree roots, rocks, water and small mammals was terrifying. Eventually seeing stationary lights I knew the end had come and Mark and David waited. My poor Brompton was like a cyclocross bicycle. Mud was everywhere. When we rejoined the open road - hallelujah - the road was festooned with clods of mud, much the way a tractor does!

We made out way to Box Hill and after a few climbs there were a few welcome descents. These felt very chilly and the night was turning a great deal colder than it had been at the start. Arriving at Box Hill we made our way up. David and Mark soon disappeared and I made my ascent at my own pace, knowing my legs were not capable of much more.

At the top David was waiting. Mark had pressed on ahead to the 'Smith and Western' on recon.  Upon seeing the 'Smith and Western' I again thought it strange that such a lively and vibrant place could be located at the top of Box Hill. The thought that Jane Austen - who mentioned Box Hill in 'Emma' -  might faint at the sight and sound of such an establishment, filled me with a warm sense of glee.

Thankfully we had good seats inside and with our Brompton bikes folded and sitting centimetres away. Ordering a burger called 'The Tennessee' we sat back and chewed the fat while we waited for our food to arrive. During this it transpired that David was an asthmatic. Not believing this fact David went to his backpack to produce his asthma pump! I speculated as to whether this would account for his immense speed!

The food was wonderful and I was glad of it. As we ate our burgers as if ravenous, the song 'Always on my mind' was being played - naturally in a country and western style. It took me several minutes of contemplation to realise that the more famous version I was trying to think of but could not, was of course by Elvis Presley! People with a birthday had the staff in a procession banging a large triangle and then singing 'Happy Birthday. Others ate their food in a jail! I really do recommend a trip to this establishment as it is quite unique.

With our food eaten we made our way outside and the temperature had decidedly dropped more than a few degrees. Following David the pace was brisk and at times I could hardly keep up. Thankfully traffic lights managed to create opportunities for me to do so. Approaching the Claygate Badlands I thought to myself that it could not be as bad as before. This is of course where I was proved to be wholly wrong!

The Claygate Badlands seemed to want to have the last laugh. At times I didn't seem to move, such was the thick, molasses like mud. Several classic horror films started to play in my mind and I instantly thought of 'The American Werewolf in London!' Not wanting to have my throat ripped out by some creature of the night and become a tortured soul of the undead, I did the only thing I felt I could do which was peddle faster. Nearing the end of this horror ride, I lost all traction completely as I exited and felt my wheels hit tarmac once more. Telling David and Mark of my problem with the bike, David spotted that my chain had come free of the deraileur! Putting the chain back on normal service was resumed and we pressed on.

As we started cycling the copious quantities of mud on our brake callipers, tyres and around our mudguards created a hissing sound, not that dissimilar to a steam train of days gone by. So it was that Thomas, Gordon and Henry puffed along on the the island of Sodor!

Eventually we neared Twickenham where we said goodbye to David. Mark and I pressed on for Kew and just after midnight we had made it back - in one piece. Our Brompton bicycles - meant for the open road - are quite capable for almost anything you throw at them. Even a ride like this.

Despite the terrors of this ride, it was quite brilliant in many ways and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you care to look back at my previous blog posts for Box Hill you will discover that it always seems to be eventful. Many thanks to David for navigating and both David and Mark agreeing to do something crazy like this that simply started as a whim. Until next time...

Friday 16 February 2018

Evans Cycles West London RideIt Sportive

On Sunday 28th January 2018 - which now seems like ages ago - I took part in an event that I have done a few times before. As the blog title has already given it away, it was the Evans Cycles, West London Sportive which is part of their series of 'RideIt' Events.

I had decided long in advance that I would we be completing this ride on my Orange Brompton, so I packed the car nice and early and made my way to the event start point at Osterley Park.

I thought I would be riding alone but Dr John and Peter (from the Tweed Run a few year ago) were also riding so I would have some company. (More on that later).

After signing in I saw that Peter and not long after Dr John had both arrived. There were of course lots of other participants who were mainly on road bikes or hybrids. There were no other Brompton bicycles as far as I could see.

Making my way to the start line I managed to get going in the first wave at 08:30. A few inpatient participants questioned why they could not just go. A patient Evans Cycles employee pointed out that the computer that number crunched the timing chips stuck to the side of our helmets would not work until 08:30 had arrived.  After a brief safety talk we were off, well sort of. We waited a bit for Dr John and then we cycled off.

I had signed up for the medium route but knew that I could not devote the extra time needed to complete it so I decided that the 42 miles of the short route would be a much better fit.

After a few miles we started to thin out and Dr John who had got stuck at the lights was a little behind. Sadly there came a point in the route (far too early I have to report) where the short route - 42 miles - broke with the medium one that Peter and Dr John were doing. I said my goodbyes to Peter and proceeded on the short route. Dr John was some way back so I didn't get a chance to say my goodbyes. It transpired that Dr John saw me take the short route but not Peter. He then proceeded to take the short route unbeknown to me.

There were a few other riders also on the short route. I cycled for a good few miles with a cyclist on a road bike and chatted about our favourite cycling routes and how on a Brompton I had done all sorts of crazy rides. I was cycling at a good pace bur after about 20 minutes she said her goodbyes, upped the cadence and was soon all I could see of her was the black and pink of her Rapha jersey.

Many participants commented on how they were surprised I was attempting this event on a Brompton and also that it could keep up and in many instances overtake larger wheeled bicycles. It was nice to be the small wheeled ambassador for the day.

The halfway point was very welcome as I had not taken any fuel with me. One of the members of Evans staff recognised me (probably the Orange Brompton I should say) and we chatted about my other friends also participating at the event. With some generous slices of cake, a few sweets and some water I was off for the last part of ride.

The route was signposted but I paid no attention to it. I had loaded the route on to my Wahoo Bolt. This route I had with the turn by turn directions enabled and one where your simply follow a line on a map. I opted for the latter as I had been very keen to try it out. I have to report again that it was faultless in helping me to navigate round the route. The Wahoo Elemnt and Bolt are in my opinion make the Garmin devices I have used over the year feel like amateur hour. The Wahoo devices refresh quicker, load routes from your phone or computer almost in an instance and I have yet to have either crash or not do what it is meant to do.

The route was okay but not the most picturesque and as such I felt little compulsion to take any photos.

With 40 miles coming up I know that there was little more to go and entering Osterley Park I crossed through the start/finish line and was handed a medal. Regular readers will know that I like a medal so I was rather pleased.

The Evans RideIt events are pretty good and despite the route being rather urban I still enjoyed it. Many thanks to them for their organisation. It was great seeing Peter and Dr John, albeit al too briefly

Monday 12 February 2018

2018 Brompton World Championships - some thoughts

Over the last week the inbox for the contact email address for this blog has been busier than usual as the day for when people find out whether they have got in to the 2018 Brompton World Championships got ever closer. Today was that day and the emails were flying around letting people who had entered the ballot  know whether they were in or out.

The emails to my inbox have generally covered the following:

  • London wasn't as good as Blenheim Place 
  • London wasn't as good as Goodwood
  • £50 for 30 minutes of racing is too much
  • There isn't the same family atmosphere as there was at Blenheim or Goodwood
  • It isn't an event for British owner as too many competitors are from overseas
  • It isn't inclusive as only 550 places are available
  • I didn't get in last year
  • Brompton only cares about marketing 
  • You and your Brompton chums get guaranteed entry
  • We should boycott the 2018 as so many of loyal owners didn't get in
  • We should have a UK Brompton Championships as well as the World Championships 

The last time I participated in the Brompton World Championships was 2015 and I have to say I loved it. For 2016 I didn't get in. Last year I didn't actually enter - but eldest Orangette did on my behalf and I still didn't get in. Zoom forward to 2018 and for the third year running I haven't got in. (Can't say I am surprised).

If you got in, congratulations! Will you enjoy the event...absolutely! It will provide lots of memories that you will be able to dine out on for many months and you can say to anyone who listens that you competed at the World Championships of THE premier cycling event. My advice is start the training and preparation now - which is half the fun!

If you didn't get in, bad luck but get over it and try again next year. Some of the comments flying around in these emails and out there on the inter web  make me wonder whether they were made by adults? It is almost as if some would be prepared to put their Brompton bicycle on eBay as a result of not getting into the BWC 2018.

I was going to write a general blog post in reply to some of these comments but it occurred to me that I had already done this back in 2015! I post a link to that below.

I will address a couple of these however. Neither I, nor any of my Brompton friends I regularly ride with have had automatic entry into the BWC or any Brompton event for that matter. Like you we sign up and hope for the best. My last BWC was 2015 -  as was a certain equally colourful friend of mine. I would like to think I have done my bit for Brompton over the years being a visible presence at all manner of cycling events and hopefully via this blog but there is no special relationship between myself and Brompton as a company and therefore no special treatment.

The one that keeps cropping up is that Brompton doesn't care any more about its customers/existing Brompton owners and is only concerned about marketing. I have never understood how gaining or not gaining entry to the BWC somehow means that Brompton does not care about the people it sells bikes to?  As for marketing, Brompton bikes are made/assembled in London and by having the BWC in London - and more specifically in the wonderful location the race actually takes place - they would be crazy not to.

I think some people are expecting something out of Brompton as a company that just doesn't exist anywhere. For example, some  people contacting the Managing Director of Brompton Bicycle, Will Butler-Adams when they have a problem with tyres on a new bicycle. Seriously?! Surely that is the job and responsibility of the shop you bought it from?!

What I am trying to express, probably quite badly, is that if you didn't get into the BWC what is the worst that can happen? Come on people, it is one event and one day out of 365. You can still enjoy the delights of riding small wheels whenever and wherever you like. If you got in great! You are in for a treat. If you didn't...there is always next year!

Link to my 2015 blog post in which I ponder the BWC

Friday 9 February 2018

Canary Wharf Winter Lights - On an Orange Brompton

After the really enjoyable Lumiere 2018 ride the previous week, I announced that I would be going to the Canary Wharf Winter Lights before it ended. A few other Brompton chums said that they would like to come as well and thankfully David P took pity on me and agreed to navigate. So we met at the London Eye on Friday 26th January and looked forward to another illuminated fun ride.

You may already have read my blog post reviewing the Proviz LED Nightrider jacket but along with taking photos of the lovely nocturnal sights of London, I was kept busy taking photos of Dr John who  kindly agreed to be my muse for the evening.

Throughout the night I suggested poses Dr John was very obliging I have to say. I was rather pleased with some of the photos and how they turned out and I suspect it was also quite a novelty for Dr John.

The weather was very kind and although on the chilly side it was a dry and fairly clear night. As we reached the familiar location of St Kathrine's Dock with wondrous views of Tower Bridge, the night air was punctuated with sound of 'just look away from the camera...try and look nonchalant...l'd like you to glaze wistfully but not directly at the camera.'

Our route took us past some familiar territory that in day or night I find very agreeable and could never feel tired of.

Quite soon we arrived at the steps leading up to Canary Wharf from the Thames Path and the Winter Lights were all around. Our first stop was a small green space probably used by office workers by day but now transformed with green lines that almost looked like lasers being fired.

Next up were illuminated green and orange string that one could pluck like a guitar.

With Canary Wharf being so compact. once there we found that moving between the various exhibits was quick and easy.

One piece that really caught my attention were precision drips of water that changed width according to how long or short a word was that was projected onto the water as it fell. It was very cleverly done and I found it quite absorbing reading which word would be spelled out next.

One exhibit consisted of triangular shaped slights that rose and fell to a synthesiser music accompaniment. Again this was hypnotic and it felt to me like the alien invasion has begun. I really enjoyed it.

Our last exhibit was another small green space with a few white rabbits. Some looked as it it had been a hard few weeks as their ears were deflated slightly.

With as much of the Winter Lights seen we headed back to the the London Eye but before that we headed towards Greenwich and under the Thames foot tunnel.

Always a fun thing to do with no-one else in sight we made our way across to the other side and up into the night air.

As we made our way back to where we started many of us continued to take the odd photograph here and there. London at night is so appealing it is very hard to resist its allure.

We arrived back in good time a little after 22:00. Saying our goodbyes we made our separate ways hopefully to repeat something like this in the not too distant future.

Many thanks to David for again leading the way. Much appreciated. There is also a short video posted not too long ago that hopefully captures the vibe for this great little ride as much as the photographs do.