Sunday 24 February 2019

Orange Brompton 113km Audax

During the week Dr John kindly invited me to an Audax that was taking place yesterday, starting and ending in Aylesbury that would be 113km or about 71 miles in old money. The ride would be Brompton bicycles and apart from the challenge of it all, my two old Orange Brompton bicycles that I had sold to the gentlemen that are Steve and Simon, would be ridden by said gentlemen. Checking logistics, I was in.

I set off early, driving to Aylesbury. Parking the car in the recommended car park I could see lots of other cyclist on all kinds of bicycles. Steel, titanium and carbon were all very popular but Dr John, Steve, Simon and I would be the only people mad enough to do it on a Brompton!

This would be my first Audax. In truth apart from knowing it was long-distance cycling I didn't know too much about it other than people did it to qualify for famous events like Paris-Brest-Paris. It was therefore a shock that this ride had to be competed in a set time, answers to questions only participants who had complete the could answer and proof that you had been to certain locations by obtaining a receipt from a shop. 

Where I arrived at the official start, Walton Parish Hall Dr John was already there along with a few participants getting ready. There was a very friendly atmosphere and tea and the light refreshments were provided as part of the entry fee. 

My Orange Brompton All Black

Soon thereafter Steve and Simon arrived with some familiar friends. It was lovely to see the old bikes again and I was happy they they had both gone to great homes.

I recognise this one!

I recognise this one too!!

I had stupidly left my water bottle in the car so had to make a mad dash to go and retrieve it as we were nearing the 0900 start!

With bottle secured we headed off. For me this would be the unknown. Enquires as to whether this ride might qualify for a place on Paris-Brest-Paris were greeted with a polite no and hearing about what one does need to qualify for it, a cold shiver travelled down my neck.

A very friendly setting off point
Our progress was brisk and the countryside was lovely. My usual weakness of stopping to take photos was impossible as we were on a strict time limit.

Country lanes

After a few miles we stopped to regroup. Steve and Simon were formidable cyclists and set a great paced for the rest to follow. When we did stop Dr John proceeded to prop his leg up on anything that didn't move so that he could stretch his legs. It was for me but a step away from the late Dame Margot Fonteyn.

After only a few miles the roads were engulfed in a heavy fog that brought temperatures down a tad. For me this only added to the adventure.

At roughly 20 miles in the hill that on the ride profile looked formidable, proved to be formidable! It was a long and gruelling climb well and truly up into the Chilterns. I soon bottomed out on the 6 gears my Brompton possessed and then it was a case of just trying to keep going. Large Red Kites who had been our constant companions throughout the ride almost seem to be laughing overhead at four people doing this ride on Brompton bicycles.

The the top finally arrived we headed towards Reading and passed a large common of land where the fog was back and even worse than before.

Yes he's at it again

The next few miles proved to be easier and at Caversham we arrived at the official Audax control where one had to buy something and get a receipt to prove you had been there. I am not sure I have ever stepped a foot inside a 'Budgens' before but it was an oasis. The ploughman's roll was eaten with enthusiasm on a park bench not far away.

While there we talked to a lovely lady who asked about what we were doing. She told us that the last time she had a bike was during the war. It was a heavy steel affair with a metal seat. I could relate to what this might have been like as I eyed the Brooks saddle on my beloved Orange Brompton All Black. When I cycled to Whitstable on it, I would have suggested it might have been made of metal too!

As we started the return back to Aylesbury the sun shone, the fog was gone  and it was a glorious day for cycling. Snowdrops and crocus were out in bloom adding to the countryside idyl.

We came upon the hill that we had climbed earlier in the day and descended this at speed. As I made my descent I could not believe that I had cycled up it at all. The descent seemed to go on and on and and as I got glimpses of cyclists making their ascent on the other side of the road, I could see how hard it was on their faces.

We stopped briefly at the final control which was a garden centre where again we had to buy something and get a receipt.

I have to confess I found the last 30 miles hard going and could not seem to go faster than the pace I was feeling comfortable at cycling. Dr John almost at the end of the ride was complaining of cramp. With about 5 miles to go I had a second wind and found that I could keep just about pace with Simon and Steve. We remained in a little peloton until Walton Parish Hall came into view.

We had done it with some time to spare. I had completed my first Audax. We retired to the seating area and had a few cups of tea, and light refreshments that were in abundance for those who had completed the event. After chewing the fat for a while and hearing the truly epic plans Steve has - some on his Brompton - we went our separate ways and headed home.

This has been my longest ride this year and it was hard earned. When I got home my legs were telling me that I had just done 71 miles. I didn't take enough water was my first thought and if I do something like this again, one bottle isn't enough for me at least.  I enjoyed this ride. It was a challenge, the company was great and it was my first Audax. Would I do another? I am not sure that anything longer than the 100km events is for me if I am honest. I like doing things on my terms rather than to a schedule. If I could find a 100km event and get someone to go with me (I wouldn't like doing this alone) I probably would give it a go.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Moon Meteor Storm Front light for Brompton

I have been using my Cateye Volt 300 for a number of years as a commuter flashing light but have found that the battery has all but given up the ghost. I have therefore been on the search for something to replace it. My search brought me to the 'Moon Meteor Storm.'

I actually bought a Moon rear light last year and was very impressed with it, so I was already aware of the company based on the quality of that light, felt that their front lights deserved a look. With a £30 'Evans Cycles' voucher not used I saw that the Meteor Storm was on offer for £54.99 and had been reduced from £99.99 at some point in the past. This meant that the light would only cost me £24.99.

The light is not the most powerful of the ones that Moon do but it does have some pretty good statistics. I won't use it but it does have a boost function that can pump out 1700 lumens for two hours. The other runtimes were more appealing:

Mode 1  1300 lumens for 3 x hours

Mode 2   850 lumens for 4 x hours

Mode 3   600 lumens for  5 x hours, 30 minutes

Mode 4   300 lumens for 11 x hours

The flash modes are even more impressive in terms of run time / lumens and these are probably what I will be using the light for the most:

Flash 1       100 lumens for 120 hours

Flash 2       400 lumens for   45 hours

Flash 3       800/20 lumens for 28 hours

Day Flash 1700 lumens for 50 hours  

The Meteor Strom

The light is substantial in terms of built quality with a CNC aluminium alloy body. It weighs about 200 grams and is 115 x 48 x 34mm (W x D x H) in size. It is a solid, well made light that looks as if it could stand up to the rigours of a daily commute light. It is water resistant and the rubber USB flap is magnetic so quickly snaps into place.

The light has a very good mounting system and I don't think that there is much chance of the light coming loose or the handlebar bracket for that matter. It was actually quite difficult at to get the light off the mount but I suspect that was as it was new. After a few days of use it was much easier doing this, more so that I was more used to the way it went on and off.

Robust mounting system

Excellent handlebar mount for lots of different bar widths

Magnetic USB flap

The top of the light has a matrix LED display to show what mode you are in and the status of the battery. This took a little getting used to. For example mode 1 has 5 x LEDs displayed, mode 2 has 4 x LEDs and so on. Just a case of getting used to it. Charge times from empty to full was about 6 hours (I think) as it has a cutoff when it has reached full charge.

Incidentally, I found out when reading the very simple one she of A3 instruction guide that you can get replaceable batteries for this light. I am not sure it is worth it as two batteries needed to power the light cost about £40. It remains an option though.

Matrix LEDs

The light has 2 x CREE XM-L2 LEDs (whatever that means) but I can tell you the light output and the runtimes are impressive to say the least. My Exposure Toro Mk 7 is an incredible light but the flash modes on the Meteor Storm are much better and the lumen verses runtime is not too far behind. I had bought this light primarily for is flash modes to replace the Cateye Volt 300 however I could happily use this light for night rides to the coast as a light in itself.

Bright, with excellent run times 

One really goo thing about the light is it comes with a few extras. The first is a USB remote switch. This is small rubber coated and would allow you to cycle through the different modes quite easily.

The USB remote

The next is a helmet mount. I am not overly sure I'd use this but you never know and it is great that it is included.

Helmet mount

Okay the all important question. Do I think the light is worth £54.99? I would have to say absolutely. It's a solid performer and having used it on a 10 mile night ride yesterday I came back liking it a great deal. The fact that I was able to get it for £24.99 as I had a voucher left over from Christmas was a bonus.

The light is available from a few retailers and if you shop around you might be able to get it for slightly less than the 1p under £55 asking price. There are lights out there costing a great deal more that are nowhere nearly as good. Highly recommended.

Monday 18 February 2019

Brompton Evans Cycles 'Ride It' West London Sportive

Evans Cycles have been putting on their 'Ride It' events for a few years and I have attended several of them. The West London version starting and ending at Osterley Park would be the fourth time I have participated in it.

I had actually booked a place on this event ages ago. In fact, during the Christmas period I decided that this would be a great event to out in the diary, as it would be only a few weeks into 2019. My view was that it would start the ball rolling on the rides that would hopefully follow.

Up bright and early, the sun was already shining and it was set to be a lovely day - which it was. Saying goodbye to Mrs Orange and the Orangettes, I drove to Osterley Park in good time as there was little in the way of traffic. Arriving there just after 0800 I could see lots of other riders unloading bicycles. Virtually all other riders were on road bikes, with just a few on hybrids. I was the only person on a Brompton.

The start and end point

Always more fun on an Orange Brompton

Registering for the ride, a member of the Evans staff enquired whether I was part of the London based Brompton Club. I think another member of staff asked if I were the writer of this blog. I timing-chip sticker was placed on the side of my cycling helmet and I was given a rider number to attach to the handlebars. (More about the handlebars later).

I was one of the few people taking a photo of their bicycle!

The start line 

Making sure all was good with the bike - and me - I made my way to the start where we had a talk about the route markers and some adjustments to the route. This done, along with the other riders our barcodes were scanned and we were off.

As it was such a glorious day I opted for the medium 52 mile route. Had it of been different in terms of weather I would probably have done the short 42 mile version.

The last two times I took part in this ride I opted for the short route - the first due to weather and last year due to commitments later on. I have always come away feeling that the route was far from scenic. I don't know what was going on today but the route was...lovely! There was plenty of green stuff and what green stuff there was as I cycled along was very picturesque.

Glorious scenery and weather!

As I cycled along a lady from the Friday ride to the coast group said hello as she recognised me. This happened a few times throughout the ride with some kind enough to say that they enjoyed reading my blog.

Several riders could not believe that I was participating on this ride using a Brompton and asked how the bike was for longer distances. I didn't tell them about all the other distances I have completed on my Brompton and just said that it was fine.

Obviously I took my Brompton on this ride. It was a good opportunity to try out my new Joseph Kuosac handlebars and Ergon grips. I liked them both and found felt very comfortable for the whole ride. I suspect that I would not have enjoyed the ride as much on an S type and I was glad at the end not to suffer from shoulder and neck ache.

The temptation to take photos was great! The first location I gave way to was when I saw the sign for Pinewood Studios. Across from where I took the picture below I could see the 'Roger Moore Stage' and thought if only I could get in there to take more photos!

The first feed station was at 20ish miles. Here you could top up your water, have some slices of cake, crisps, jelly beans, banana and a few energy bars. It was all very friendly and there was more than enough of everything.

Feed station #1

Feeling suitably refreshed I wasted little time and headed off again, not as I was in a rush but more that I was really enjoying the ride and wanted to see what was next.

The next feed station was outside a branch of Evans Cycles itself in a retail park at about 30 miles. Again there was lots of food and friendly and helpful staff.

Feed station #2

The route had 522 metres of elevation which I enjoyed. There were some ups and downs for the first 35ish miles but nothing too bad. Saying that there were a couple of very steep ascents. One in particular (I don't know where it was exactly) was a beast. It was steep and just went on for ages. The narrow road with many impatient drivers wanting to pass and then halt in front of you to let other cars go past, resulted in me grinding to a halt and having to get off.

It really did seem to be freak weather - especially as I type this on a grey, dull and wet Monday afternoon - and a layer was taken off pretty soon into the ride.

There were a few long stretches where there was a considerable headwind. I tried to tuck behind some roadies but after three miles of keeping up with them, they slowly broke away and were gone. One thing I noticed about those on road bikes was the large number parked up by the roadside, wheel off and repairing a puncture. Several times throughout the ride those on road bikes would pass me, only for me to pass them when they had a puncture.

With the sun shining and the back of the ride broken I cycled the last few miles. On the outskirts of Osterley Park I saw the familiar face of the gentleman that is, and fellow Bromptonian Andy. We had not seen each other for years. Saying goodbye I headed back into Osterley Park and collected my finishers medal. If you have ever read my blog for a few years you will know that I do like a medal.

The reward

The 52.1 miles took me 4 hours and 17 minutes at an average speed of 12.2 mph and a maximum speed of 29.7 mph (one of the more tasty descents).

I have another of these rides in April, the 'Evans Windsor Ride It Sportive' and I do look forward to it. The organisation of these rides is extremely good and with the odd discount code it was £20 well spent. Until next time.

Map of the route