Saturday 26 January 2019

New handlebar for my Orange Brompton!!

I have always liked the S type version of the Brompton. I am on number 3 in fact but I have been thinking long and hard about whether or not this still works for me.

I do use my Brompton for its intended purpose  - multi-modal short trips. However, I tend to use it more for journeys probably only a devotee to the brand would attempt on a regular basis. My Brompton has seen me riding through the night 60 - 70 miles at a time, ascend dreaded hills such as Ditchling Beacon and also attempt longer rides of 100 miles or more such as the Dunwich Dynamo.

This year I hope to use my Brompton on lots of these adventures but there had been a problem using the S Type that doesn't seem to be getting better. I have found that on longer rides the cycling position afforded by the S type brings neck and shoulder ache. I don't know whether it is because I am getting older or the fact I am quite tall, but I just don't seem to be able to get away from this.

I did think about fitting some bar ends or Ergon grips as they would definitely help with regards comfort. Certainly the orange grips I have on at the moment are lovely to look at but they aren't very comfortable. In the end I decided to go down a different and ultimately more long-term solution.

Joseph Kuosac make all manner of after market components for Brompton bicycles and I was aware that they made a handlebar for the Brompton. This is the mid-rise which when fitted to an S type stem brings the handlebar height and ride position almost the same as the new M type. Quite a radical step in many ways but for me at least the best long-term solution and the cheapest option. I say cheapest as the alternative might be going do ether new stem/handlebar route. (Remember these words for later on).

The Joseph Kuosac mid-riser in black is readily available for around £20 and looks pretty good - better than the new official Brompton M type handlebar in my opinion.  The only other thing I needed to buy would be new M type cables. I had a few of these anyway so didn't need to buy that many.

Taking the cables off was easy enough. If you think about doing this or replacing your own cables (it isn't that hard) just make sure you take a few photos  or perhaps a short video clip of their currant position so that you can refer to it afterwards.

Undoing the handlebar bolt I took out the straight S bar and got the new one ready. As I put the S type handlebar to one side I had a tinge of regret at having to take it out. It didn't last long. I have already ridden a Brompton with exactly the same set up as I was intending and it felt much better.

Putting the new Kuosac handlebar in position I folded the bike to see how much on each side I would need to cut off. I estimated that I would need to cut 6cm on each side. The Kuosac bar comes with very handy centimetre celebrations to let you know easily how much you are cutting off.

Fitting the new M type cables was easy and didn't take very long. In the space of a few minutes the bikes was cabled up and looked pretty good on the bike stand. I took it outside for a quick spin around the block and liked the ride position instantly. Taking it back inside I only had to tighten the centre bolt that attaches the handlebar to the stem. That is when things took their disastrous turn.

To cut a long story short I made the rookie mistake of over tightening the bolt. Before I could stop myself I had sheared off the thread of the bolt and those it threaded into on the stem! Oh dear! (I have cleaned that last comment up)!

There was nothing for it. I took the bike to the brilliant people at 'Compton Cycles' for them to buy me a new stem and fit it all back together again - yes you read correctly.

I collected the bike today and it felt wonderful when I rode it. I could have just opted for an M type stem as I had ruined the original S type one - I had to pay for a new stem anyway. I decided to stick with an S type stem and the Kuosac riser bar. I still have the S type handlebar and cables and know that if I ever wanted to go back to the lower position of the S type (if unicorns fly and I ever got into the Brompton World Championships) I could.

For me at least I now have the best of both worlds and I do like the ride position of these bars. It will also serve to hopefully lesson or eradicate the neck and shoulder ache I have been experiencing. In addition, I hope to use this bike on a great deal more of my longer cycling adventures. This will culminate in the Dunwich Dynamo. Yes, this was a painful and slightly costly experience but for me at least, it has worked out rather well

Wednesday 23 January 2019

No lights. Are you mad?!

I have written about this before but I do wonder why so many cyclists decide to cycle choose to ride their bicycles without lights?

On my way home yesterday this evening (when it was snowing) I saw several cyclists with no lights and strangely no reflections of any type. Added to this many wore clothing that was dark and devoid of any reflective elements. This rendered them almost invisible until car lights shone on them.

Now I know what you might be thinking - were they youths on mountain bikes doing wheelies?  The answer is no they weren't. They were what I would describe as commuters. One was on a mountain bike, two on hybrid bicycles - steel yourself for this - and one was on a Brompton. The Brompton rider shocked me the most. He had no reflectors, lights and his tyres had no reflective sidewall whatever they were? With a set of 'be seen' lights costing under £10 or less there really isn't any excuse.

I know the police have more important things to do but I watched one of the hybrid riders and the Brompton owner (letting the side well and truly down) pass a police vehicle at a set of traffic lights and cycle through a red light. They didn't do anything, despite definitely seeing them.

I for one always have lights aplenty - front and rear. The dynamo lights on my Brompton are just left on even in daylight. I usually wear some item of reflective clothing too. I suppose it has all become a habit. Not sure whether this makes me safer and I know that there have been lots of studies on this issue but what I do know if that it makes me more confident on the road and more importantly that I will hopefully avoid the 'didn't see you mate.'

Sunday 20 January 2019

Video of Canary Wharf Winter Lights Brompton Ride

Here is a short video of the recent Canary Wharf Winter Lights Brompton ride.

Watch in the highest quality you can.

Link to video

Dunwich Dynamo 2019 Plans

The last Dunwich Dynamo I took part in was back in 2017. On the Canary Wharf Winter Lights ride I got thinking (for some reason) about the Dunwich Dynamo and whether I would do it this year.

I skipped last year for a number of reasons. The first was that in 2017 I travelled back from Dunwich by train which was okay. I hoped to do the same in 2018. I therefore didn't bother to buy one of the coach tickets that go on sale around now at an early bird price and then increase a few weeks later. Unfortunately, the train company decided to have a blanket ban on all bicycles during the weekend of the Dynamo for 2018, so I missed the boat.

When I got home from the ride on Friday I had a look to see if coach tickets were available and they were. Before going to sleep I decided that I would have a think about it and essentially sleep about it.

Saturday was quite a busy day but thoughts of the Dynamo were never too far away. Now, if you have ever read my blog posts about the Dunwich Dynamo (link to them all below) you will know that I have a little bit of a love / hate thing going on with it. I like the ride to the coast but loath the coming home. The coach journey I have never particularly enjoyed.

By the end of Saturday I had pretty much made up my mind that I wanted to do the Dynamo. The date is the weekend of the 13th - 14th July which date-wise okay for me. With a coach ticket in the basket I pressed the button to buy and it was mine.

Sadly, it looks as if I may well be doing this ride on my own as early indications seem that a few people cannot do it this year. I will still do it and I suppose with a ride like the Dunwich Dynamo you are never too far from another cyclist.

I will have to get in a little bit of training from now until July. The night rides to the coast will of course help. I also think that this year at least, I am going to be riding my Brompton a great deal more. I have a few rides in the pipeline and already I am thinking of the Brompton rather than my original thoughts of bigger wheels.

Watch this space...

Dunwich Dynamo 2014

Dunwich Dynamo 2015

Dunwich Dynamo 2017

Canary Wharf Winter Lights 2019

The Canary Wharf Winter Lights event has been taking place for a few years. Last Friday was the date when the lovely Brompton peeps would experience the many light installations.

Now this was a Brompton ride but sadly my beloved Orange Brompton was out of action. I performed an act of Brompton DIY that ended in disaster. I will write about this at a later date. (It was going to be a helpful how to guide but it will end up being a tale of caution)! So, with no Brompton I decided to take the Surly.

I nearly didn't make the ride at all. An event took place at work about 90 minutes before I was due to leave that meant I might still be at work when the ride set off at 18:45. Luckily, things were resolved but I only just made it in time for the start.

When I arrived I saw lots of familiar faces, some of which I had not seen in perhaps two years! Far too long really. It was great catching up.

David was our ride leader and after a quick briefing we were off. We cycled pretty much along the tried and tested Thames Path route - that I am particularly fond of. Before long we arrived at Canary Wharf.

The first installation was 'Sasha Trees' by Adam Decolight. These were quite lovely and if anything put me in mind of Christmas again, what with all the glowing fir trees.

Next was 'Prismatica' by Raw Design in collaboration with Atomic3. These were great and people had lots of fun spinning them around watching the colours.

I think the Cabot Square Fountain was quite lovely and jets of coloured water were pumped in time to various music tracks. When I got there Gene Wilder singing 'Pure Imagination' was being played and the whole experience was quite magical.

'Colour Moves' by Rombout Frieling Lab had lots of colour projected on the walls of a narrow tunnel. It had the effect of making you feel you were moving, when standing still.

'Angles of Freedom' by Age Collective had queues of people waiting to portion themselves like an angel, wings and halo included.

'Submergence' by Squidsoup was perhaps my favourite of all. In this 24,000 points of suspended light created pulses, waves and huge movements of light. I parked the bike and waded in and for a few moments forget my surroundings.

'Bit Fall' by Julius Popp was there last year and as water dropped, letters were projected onto it as it fell. It is very clever and quite hypnotic waiting to see what word comes next.

Just after 21:00 we had seen all the lights we wanted to see and as people were starting to feel the cold (me included) we headed back towards the London Eye.

Naturally a group photo had to be taken before heading back to the start location! We arrived back at the London Eye in good time, just before 22:00. We said our goodbyes before heading off on our separate ways. Many thanks to David for leading the ride.

I had a six and a half mile cycle to where I had parked the car. Carrying my big camera with me, I resisted the temptation to stop and take more photographs. Besides I knew I had to be up early the next day to take my Brompton to 'Compton Cycles' so that they could sort out my DIY disaster!

As always a lovely ride. I really missed my Brompton! It would have been a great deal more convenient to have used it for this ride. I will be glad to have it back hopefully by next Saturday if all goes to plan!

Wednesday 2 January 2019

I really don't like standard Brompton pedals anymore!

After fitting SDP clipless pedals several years ago to my Brompton, I totally abandoned the standard Brompton pedal. I would go as far as saying that I don't think I could ever go back to just a fact pedal. This belief was certainly strengthened this morning!

I won't go into great detail but today I attended a rather important event in central London where parking was not permitted. Getting there was easy enough and as travelling part of the way on  Brompton made things even easier, I decided to go multi-modal in terms of transport.

There were a couple of issues. The first was that I would need to wear a formal suit and all the trimmings - including shoes. The second was that I would not be able to carry them in one of my Brompton front bags. I was allowed - just - to bring the Brompton but it had to be the bike only. No tools, saddle bag etc., This meant I would have to pedal in formal shoes with a leather sole. No! The last time I did this was at David and Anne's wedding and found it hard going. I would have to change the pedals back to the Brompton Standard.

Changing the pedals was easy. Setting off this morning in suit was nothing new to me but I have not commented to work by Brompton for well over a year. It reminded me of that and I suppose the Brompton World Championships. I only had a mile to the nearest tube station and when I got off about four miles to my destination. 

I found the Brompton pedals very different. Probably as I was not used to them anymore - all my bikes have SDP pedals now - it all felt wrong. By the time I had reached my destination I knew that I could never go back to normal pedals, even if they were  more convenient. 

One aspect I liked a lot was the folding pedal that got things out of the way. This did make things much easier carrying but I was still left with the thought, I can live with a sticking out pedal. As soon as I got back home, the standard pedals were off and my SDP pedals put back on. 

I don't know how many of you out there have SDP pedals on your Brompton but for me at least (once you get used to them) they do seem like a much better bet.