Tuesday 23 April 2019

Brompton Bicycle Richmond Park Spin

Early on Easter Sunday morning, with the sun shining, blue skies and a desire to get out on my Brompton, I decided to head out to an old haunt. Richmond Park.

My original plan (which I will have to return to) was to cycle to Box Hill and back. Leaving it too late, I opted for Richmond Park and I have to report I am very glad I did.

When I thought about it, the last time I had cycled in Richmond Park during the day was over a year and a half ago at David and Anne's wedding. I thought to myself that this was far too long a break.

As the blog title suggests I took my Orange Brompton with me. As I parked the car I could see from the many cyclists going back and forth and those loading and unloading their cars, that I was as far as I could tell, the only cyclist on small wheels.

My normal route has always been clockwise - which in many ways is a little harder - but today I decided to do something different and try the traditional anti-clockwise route. Comparing the two, I preferred the anti-clockwise route and will have this as my preferred direction of travel from now on.

The sun was shining and it made for lovely cycling conditions. A gentle breeze made things even more enjoyable. Lots of cyclists were out and it was lovely to see so many enjoying the park. This also serves to allow you to check out the bicycle bling being taken around the park. There is just about every brand going and bicycles of all price brackets. There were occasionally a few cyclists on bicycles costing as much as modest second hand family car, I was able to overtake and stay ahead of. The look on their faces as I went past was a picture. Of course the same happened to me. I was travelling flat out at 23 mph and was overtaken by roadie who seemed to glide past and into the distance with what seemed like little effort.

On my second lap the path ahead was blocked by several deer who crossed the road. I managed to capture a little video footage and it took every ounce of willpower for me not to shout, 'FENTON!!' (Look it up on YouTube if you are not familiar with it).

For my third lap I stopped to take some water and a small chocolate bunny. I was enjoying Richmond Park and wondered why it had taken me so long to return to there? It is easy for me to get to, provides a demanding enough ride and is fairly cycle friendly.

My three laps came up and despite wanting to do one more, time commitments meant me calling it a day. I averaged 14.8 mph for my three laps, which I was pleased with. I don't think that I could have or wanted to go any faster today. Besides it's more about the experience than STRAVA segments - which I have no interest in.

As I exited the park, I knew that I would be back on a more regular basis. I think that it would provide a good way of maintaining/improving my fitness, in scenery that is lovely.

Saturday 20 April 2019

Brompton Duo London to Brighton

After last weeks overnight ride to Whitstable I managed to convince Dr John to join me for an overnight ride, on our Brompton bicycles, along a tried and tested route from London to Brighton. The ride would take place on Maundy Thursday, running through to Good Friday. 

Our meet up point was the traditional location for many a night ride to the coast, near the Royal Festival Hall. I had travelled there part-way by tube and things looked a great deal quieter. As I cycled to the start location it was again much quieter than usual. It then dawned on me that it was Thursday and not the usual Friday.

The start and checking things over

Dr John was already there when I arrived. After a few last checks and almost at the stroke of midnight, we were off.

Last weeks Whitstable run was notable for the chilling riding conditions. The weather had been milder in the days leading up to this ride and I wore a less insulated jacket as a result.

Our progress was very good. Dr John and I have a very good riding relationship and pace ourselves pretty well. One constant was the full moon that helped to illuminate our journey.

The ride was totally unsupported. I would like to say that this meant it was like one of those totally unsupported polar expeditions, but I can't. The route meant that we headed for the outside of the Scout Hut in Horley to act as our halfway snack-point.

At one point in the ride as we had turned off after Clapham Junction, our path was blocked by a police cordon and an officer telling us to turn back. Along with the several cars, blue lights flashing, it looked serious. A local - standing in her front garden and looking to see what was going on - helpfully gave us directions to roughly where we wanted to go. Using these and the line on the Wahoo map, I attempted to simply cycle to the line and join up with the planned route. It worked. Back on track we proceeded.

The weather was strange at times. Every so often not became bitingly cold, only for it to return to normal not long after. At just over 25 miles or so we reached the Scout Hut at Horley. There we ate with some enthusiasm the snacks we had brought with us. Before setting off again we added an extra layer as we were both feeling the cold.

Inside the lovely Scout Hut!

Turners Hill was 8ish miles away and this would provide a suitable challenge and wasn't too bad on a Brompton. Dr John who missed Whitstable last week was still recovering from a nasty cold and chest infection and probably longed for his road bike. I have completed all rides this year on my Brompton and really enjoying it. Yes I have a couple of road bikes but I am having such fun using the Brompton at the moment they are gathering dust. I suspect both will be used in the future however I find that I am happier on the Brompton.

As we closed in on 50 miles cycled Ditchling Beacon loomed ever closer. It had been ages since I tackled Ditchling Beacon on a Brompton and when I thought hard about it, that  was back in 2016! (Way too long people)! I had completed my accent using one of my road bikes. I wondered how hard I might find things and whether my foot would touch the ground?

We reached the car park at the base of Ditchling Beacon at 05:30. We took some time to get ourselves ready. Snacks were consumed water was taken onboard - and also got rid of! Once ready we set off.

It's that way!

The Beacon ahead!!

I decided to use the map profile feature on the Wahoo. This is pretty good and the little triangle points to your position on the gradient. I have little regard for segments and couldn't really care how long it took me to ascent the Beacon - as long as I could. I therefore set a steady pace and kept to it. Dr John - who was on my read wheel - I think was at this point wishing he had brought his road bike. I don't think I have ever reached the Beacon so early in the day and the views as we made our ascent with the colour of the sun creating a red and orange backdrop was glorious. In addition to the visuals, birds sang away and I tried to identify a few. With the last incline ahead we had done it. Ditchling Beacon conquered on an Orange Brompton once more.

We took a few photos before heading into Brighton. As always the scenery was wonderful. As I looked at my Brompton parked in my favourite photo spot, memories of other rides came into view.

Our journey into central Brighton was almost traffic free at this time of the day. Stopping to take a photo of my Brompton in front of the famous Pavillion and Pier was the only sightseeing I wanted to do. There was a train at 06:59 and despite Dr John wanting a sit down breakfast I pressed on to the station. There we were able to get some food, board our train and almost have the carriage to ourselves. The train was bound for St. Pancras but at Farringdon Station I said my goodbyes.

Many thanks for Dr John for coming with me - and using his Brompton! This ride felt pretty good for me on a Brompton. I am hoping that by completing rides of this nature, I am building up to have a very comfortable Dunwich Dynamo.

Sunday 14 April 2019

Tweed Run - some tickets available

I think I have attended five Tweed Run events and always enjoyed them. The Tweed Run is and event where participants dress up in their finest - hopefully with a little or lots of tweed - and cycle around London at a fairly sedate pace. It is great fun to be part of and the look on peoples faces as a peloton of tweed passes by is a slight to behold.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the Tweed Run to be held on Saturday, 5th May the day they were released and as always is the case for the Tweed Run they sold out very quickly.

If you are available for this date, the people at the Tweed Run have released a few more tickets. I am not sure that many people are aware of this as they have probably assumed they have sold out. The tickets are £32.57 and available on their website. I would imagine that they won't be available for long.

Brompton Overnight London to Whitstable

As you know nocturnal cycling adventures to the coast is something I like a great deal, with the London to Whitstable run being a particular favourite. Friday night was the start time for this ride and despite it being quite chilly I wrapped up and headed out.

I departed from my base in SW7 far too early. To kill some time I headed into Hyde Park and and cycled to Hyde Park Corner. From there I travelled along Cycle Superhighway #3 as far as St Paul's Cathedral and then walked the bike over the Millennium footbridge. As I cycled along the south side of the river I was feeling cold - and this after cycling for a few miles. Despite this things seemed to be very busy and there were lots of people about.

I arrived at the meeting point near the Royal Festival Hall just after 23:30. Sadly Geoff and Dr John were unable to attend but Jenny (the Mile Monster) was out on on her yellow Brompton. Roger - perhaps the most stylish rider ever to grace the folding bike race at the Nocturne - was there for this first ride with this group and it was good to see him after a few years. There was also Bob and recumbent Bob.

After the interactive briefing I got myself ready and deliberated about whether or not to put on the paper thin jacket I had brought in order to provide some extra warmth. I did and also put on a neck warmer for good measure.

The sound of cleats, clicking into pedals and various GPS devices bleeping into action signalled that at just after midnight, we were off.

As for the Southend run a few weeks ago I decided to take my Orange Brompton with me again. I have used my Brompton on almost all rides this year so far and my Condor and Surly road bikes have been gathering a little bit of dust. I have to report that this is set to continue.

In terms of weather it was a dry but chilly night and it stayed like this for the entire time. Our ride leader Rob asked me to mark a few corners. Waiting for the tail end Charlies to give the 'all up' shout I would accelerate off back up to the front of the peloton as a way of trying to get warm. It worked on the whole.

Before long we arrived at Greenwich and progress was very good. There were few mechanicals and punctures on this ride which certainly helped.

Following the Thames east we came to Woolwich and the free ferry terminus. One of the two new ferries 'Ben Wollacott' was moored and I made a mental note to cycle from London to Woolwich so that I could use the ferry to cross to the other side in the near future.

Further along we had a short rest / re-group at a a location I always get a photos of with a sculpture made out of metal. I was not alone as others decided that this was too good an opportunity to miss.

Further along in Gravesend we stopped at the traditional re-grouping point outside a pub called 'The Call Boy.' Build on the site of a former theatre the pub - if memory serves me - now remains occupied but unused.

Harmer Street in which 'The Call Boy' pub stands does have some interesting buildings. Constructed in the 1830s it is part of a conversation area. The Clock Tower at the end of the street was still working and we were there to hear the bell chime for quarter past and half past the hour.

Sanctuary from the early morning chill came when we arrived at the halfway stop at The Church of the English Martyrs in Strood. Perhaps the best halfway stop we were spoilt for choice with several homemade cakes and rolls for the bargain price of £6. Veteran of these rides, occasional ride leader and Brompton owner Tim and his wife got up at stupid o'clock to receive us - in addition to arranging all of the food.

The proceeds from the £6 went towards a charity called 'Step and Learn' which does wonderful work but of course costs a great deal to run. You can read more about what they do HERE and if you could do worse than dropping them a donation if your feeling charitable.

Conversation during the halfway stop - for me at least - was non-existent as I battled trying to keep my eyes open. At one point I actually think I nodded off, being awoken almost instantly by that falling sensation. After that I was wide awake.

Saying our goodbyes and thanks to Tim and his wife we headed out into the early morning with dawn approaching. More often than not after the halfway stop and being inside in the warmth you can feel the cold. This was certainly the case with me. I put on my light rain jacket and instead of my neck warmer I opted for my almost SAS balaclava! Even with this on I still felt the cold and made it my business to pedal hard as soon as I was able.

Passing through Chatham, Gillingham and Rainham we made very good progress. Birds started singing and cycling through the emerging dawn is one of the aspects of these rides that makes it all worthwhile.

Occasionally for a few stretches I cycled alone with riders behind or in front of me. These I also enjoyed with my mind mulling over all sorts.

For this ride I decided to try and keep at the front half of the peloton which worked well. Occasionally I would come across a view that was worthy of a photo - invariably with my Brompton stuck in from of it - so I would stop, take my photo and try and get back to the front.

Arriving at Faversham we regrouped and were again told about the last turn at Graveney. From this point you could - if you wished and knew the route - could go ahead of the ride leader at your own pace. This is always something I enjoy doing.

When the turn came I pedalled as hard as I could and maintained a pretty good speed almost all of the way. There was very occasionally a strong headwind however in the past I recall battling strong headwinds all the way to Whitstable.

I arrived at Whitstable just before 08:30 and rather than stay for breakfast, wanted to get on the next train for London. I therefore headed straight for the station. When I got there  with 66.46 miles showing on my Wahoo, I could see that a few other riders must have had the same thoughts as we stood at various points along the platform.

The 08:59 train pulled into the station and putting my Brompton in a nearby luggage rack I retired to a nearby seat. The journey would take and hour and twenty minutes and my carriage was busy to say the least. I am so glad I had my Brompton! I really don't know what I would have done if I had of taken big wheels?

When I got to St Pancras the joy of the Brompton and its portability again came into play as I boarded the tube for home. There is just no way I could have done this as easily or street-free with big wheels. Arriving home at about 10:45 I was rather pleased with myself for making such good time.

When I got home I had a quick shower and an email informed me that a package that was scheduled to be delivered on Monday was going to be delivered before the end of the day. With Mrs Orange and the Orangettes out until later on, I waited for it to arrive, trying not to go to sleep.

This was another great adventure. I always enjoy the Whitstable run and this - despite the chill - was a good one. Many thanks to Rib for leading the ride, Greg and Stuart fro acting as Tail End Charlies and Tim and his wife for the lovely refreshments at the halfway stop.

The next nocturnal adventure is in a few weeks time and will involve bridges, visiting another country, an interesting halfway stop, epic train journeys and ponies. Watch this space for that one!

Thursday 11 April 2019

Brompton Toolkit Still Brilliant

When the Brompton Toolkit originally came out, many of us Brompton types looked upon it with glee and bought one. I had one of the original ones with the tyres levers that many reported snapping when they attempted to take a tyre off. Brompton replaced them for the all steel ones we have today and not thinking I needed it anymore, I sold it. Zoom forward to this morning and I found myself in a cycle shop on Great Portland Street with an unused £25 gift voucher and within two minutes I was all but reunited with an old friend.

The Brompton toolkit is in many ways pure indulgence. It is sold for anything between £50 - £55 (and if you are silly enough even more) so it isn't cheap by any means.

The plus point is that its clever design means that it can be stowed away neatly in the top tube of the frame and thus always there whenever you need it. This cuts down on the need to scrabble around in your saddlebag for a spanner and tyre levers.

The tyre levers have a magnet so that they stick together neatly when in its little tube case. The levers are not just pretty to look at, they work. I have used them to take off a Marathon Plus tyre.

The levers also have the function of 8mm and 10mm spanners.

The toolkit contains the following:

  • Tyre levers with integral 8mm and 10mm spanners
  • 15mm spanner (for wheel removal) with integral ratchet driver
  • Pozi drive and flat head screwdriver bit
  • 2.5mm and 5mm Allen key / hex wrench bit
  • 2mm and 6mm Allen key / hex wrench bit
  • Puncture repair patches (glueless) 
  • Sandpaper
  • All held in a strong metal tube

I have a dynamo front wheel and the toolkit contains the necessary Allen key for me to use to take it on and off. This means that I could quite easily get away with not taking a dedicated tool that contains lots of different Allen keys.

Space in my saddle bag (usually a Carradice Zipped Roll bag) is sometimes at a premium. This is usually when I am carrying some wet weather gear and a few snacks. I have been trying to carry the bare minimum and the return of the Brompton Toolkit will certainly help that minimalist drive. Of course, if you have ready my blog you will know that when cycling through the night in the middle of nowhere, having good tools readily available is important. This for me is the killer feature of the Brompton Toolkit.

Perfect fit

Always ready

The end magnetised so it stays in place

So, do I think it is worth it? For me at least, yes. I like the idea of having many of the tools ready and waiting in the top tube without me having to give a great deal of thought as to where they are or whether I have taken them with me. The quality shines through - this is something you will probably buy once. It is quite expensive and you will have to weigh up whether you want what I suppose is a luxury item. I am very pleased to have the Brompton Toolkit back in my possession.