Wednesday 28 August 2019

Seiko Watch Review

Your eyes did not deceive you. This is nothing whatsoever to do with Brompton bicycles or cycling, so if this isn't for you I have given fair warning.

If you are still here as the blog post title suggests this is a Seiko watch review. Before start I will perhaps provide some background.

In my formative years I liked action films, the sort of thing where James Bond or Arnold Schwarzenegger was saving the world and/or running around blowing things up. Watches play quite a part in many of these films. Bond has been seen wearing some rather expensive wrist attire from Switzerland - and I have been there too - but he also wore lots of watches from Seiko. In fact a Seiko watch used by Schwarzenegger in several films has just been updated and re-released (yours truly is equally excited) with the nickname 'Arnie.'

So you could say I have a bit of a soft spot for the brand. One of my favourite watches is a very simple mechanical Seiko called the SKX007. I have had it for ages. It has never been serviced but still works faultlessly. Perhaps the link with Brompton bikes is the fact that this watch has a cult following and they can be customised with infinite options to suit the owner.

My new watch is the Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver's Green Dial - SPB103J. Like lots of other Seiko dive watches it has the nickname of 'Sumo.' The specifications are impressive:

  • Premium sapphire crystal glass face protecting against scratches 
  • 6R35 automatic movement, with 24 jewels and a whopping 70-hour power reserve
  • Screw in crown
  • Uni-directional bezel
  • ISO certified 200 metre water resistance 
  • 45mm case width 
  • 13.7mm case thickness
  • Steel bracelet with security clasp and wetsuit extension 
  • Lumibrite markings that are bright and last for ages
  • That green dial and bezel!!!

The photos in no way do the green dial and bezel justice. It is gorgeous! More a British Racing Green, it picks up the light in different ways sometimes making it darker and at other times much lighter.

I am no James Bond or Schwarengger and the last time I did anything approaching diving was snorkelling in the shallows of a rock pool off the shores of Malta on a holiday with my mum and dad when I was 10 years old! However, this watch is certainly going to cope with me cycling at all hours, in all weathers and with the occasional knock.

Safety clasp

Wet suit extension

If this is anything like my other Seiko watches it provide years and years of faithful and reliable service and not let me down.

Lumibrite - wonderful stuff

I got this one from a company called 'WatchO' who are based in Milton Keynes. Have to report that they are brilliant. The price for this watch was very competitive but the current 15% discount made things even better. Delivery was lightening fast and when I returned a totally different watch for a refund as it didn't suit, it was handled with equal efficiency. I will certainly paying them another visit.

Link to WatchO

Since I got this watch it has not left my wrist and I have been enjoying that wonderful dial and bezel. For a mechanical watch is very reliable and it has been running no more than 10 seconds fast - pretty amazing really - so I am very pleased.

I very much doubt that I will utilise this watch to its full potential, unless I have to - for reasons unknown - leap into the depths of the Serpentine while cycling through Hyde Park! Still...nice to know my watch would be up to the task, even if I were not!!

Sunday 25 August 2019

Early start, early finish Brompton London to Brighton

After what has seemed like ages, Dr John and I decided that Friday would be the perfect time/weather for a night ride to the coast - our favourite London to Brighton. As there had been some talk of train/tube lines been closed or disrupted, we chose to meet as close to 23:00 as we could and depart as soon thereafter.

Our meet location was the usual one not too far from the London Eye. Dr John was there before me and after a getting routes loaded, lights turned on, we were off.

The weather was as predicted near perfect - warm, gentle breeze and very much short sleeves. The first few miles up to Clapham South we took at a slightly quicker pace as we wanted to avoid the clubbers, taxi drivers and pedestrians that fill the area and occasionally do unpredictable things. This worked well and before long we were on quieter roads.

Our pace was purposeful and the miles flew by as Dr John and I chewed the fat about all sorts - which is always one of the welcome features of our rides together.

The cattle grid at Farthing Downs in Coulsdon in the London Brough of Croydon always marks the point at which the urban really does change into the semi-rural and then rural. At the top we looked at views down to Croydon central. Gazing skyward we could see that it was cloudless with stars and constellations visible. I tried to spot a few from my memories of Sir Patrick Moore and his programme 'The Sky at Night.' Failing dismally, I used and app on my iPhone which indicated the Milky Way was to our right. I have had this app for a number of years and not used it in anger. Of course I could not see this with the naked eye but I was nonetheless proud of locating it for once!

As we cycled along Tawny Owls could be heard making their wavering 'boohoo' call. This was followed by foxes, bats and - the highlight - a young badger that ran straight in front of us.

Our normal halfway stop had formally been outside a scout hut in Burstow where we have brought our own food/snacks and eaten them while standing outside. Dr John did a little bit of research and found a 24-hour service station that had a seating area, toilet, food, snacks and a hot drinks machine. This came at almost 29 miles.  Sadly, the hot drinks machine was not working so we bought a cold bottle of water and bot of us had a chicken and salad sandwich - at least I think it was chicken! Feeling suitably refreshed we headed out to continue.

For the last few minutes inside the service station I started to feel cold. Dr John said that this might be due to the air-conditioning but I decided to put on a light packable jacket. I needed to as I felt really cold when I stepped outside. Added to this was the sudden appearance of fog. As soon as you hit it the temperature went down by a considerable amount. We pressed on towards Turner Hill, hoping the the exertion of making an ascent would warn us up. By the time we had reached the top it must have worked as both of us took off the boil in the bag jackets we had been wearing.

We were making wonderful timing and pressed on for perhaps the highlight of the ride - Ditchling Beacon. There are many climbs in the UK but Ditchling Beacon is rather famous - perhaps because of the annual London to Brighton charity cycle ride. At 0.9 miles it has an average gradient of 9% and a maximum of 16%. It isn't easy by any means and I suspect much harder on a Brompton!

The base of the Beacon came upon us quite suddenly and after a few last minute preparations we made our ascent in darkness. It was before 05:00 in the a.m. after all. We rode up the Beacon together and after its several false summits we made it. Still dark, with nothing to therefore see and take a photo of we cycled towards central Brighton.

Most of the last few miles are downhill and this was wonderful! Pedals could be turned easily on the flats and the last little bit into Brighton was all freewheeling. We decided to head for the station and at about 05.10 we had done it. With our train departing at 05:26 we had the time to buy a coffee and almond croissant before boarding our train - which must have been my earliest departure from Brighton.

The journey lasted a little over an hour for me and I spent some of this time calculating the quickest route home, barring in mind there were some part-closures of various lines. With my route sorted I said goodbye to Dr John and got off at London Bridge. I was home by 07:15 so was rather pleased.

Another great ride and many thanks to Dr John for agreeing to do this...again! I cannot think how many times I have written this but nocturnal rides are addictive. There is just something about them. Lots of people view the notion of cycling through the night to a seaside location and then getting the train back as insanity but they are great fun! Until next time...

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Passing a test before being allowed to cycle on London streets!

I saw a recent article that was titled cyclists should have to pass a test before they are allowed on London streets.

The article asks the rhetorical question, who hasn't seen cyclists breaking the rules of the road - from jumping red lights to cycling on the pavement or using the phone while riding. It goes on to point out that drivers have to pass their theory test, requiring a knowledge of the Highway Code. This all raises some interesting issues.

I have always lived in London and when I first took my bicycle out on the open road, I lived in as central London as you can get. I didn't take a theory test and used common sense I suppose. I went on to pass my driving test when I was 19 or 20 and continued to make the odd journey by bike. I suspect this is a similar journey to most cyclists.

As someone who cycles frequently on London streets, yes I do see all of the above but I see a much bigger and more significant problem every time I venture out.

From my experience as a pedestrian, cyclist, motorist and occasional user of public transport I see motor vehicles committing all sorts of rule breaking, selfish and downright dangerous driving more so that any other road user. I am sometimes left wondering whether those behind a wheel have ever had a driving lesson in their lives, let alone pass a test!

Sunday 18 August 2019

Bike theft in London

Sadly, if you live in London or probably any major city, bike theft is a bit of a problem. It does seem like there is a growing and worrisome new dimension to this all.

Up until recently bike theft involved you leaving / locking your bike upon somewhere to discover that someone had managed to break the lock, chain - or whatever else was used - to secure your bike and made off with it. There is of course a whole industry devoted to bike locks that compete with each other to be top dog.

The new dimension is that there are now reports of gangs (for want of a better expression) targeting cyclists as they are riding their bikes. Some of these are on scooters and some all but ambush cyclists going by. They use the shock value of actually knocking someone off their bike to then make away with it. In addition there have been reports of a considerable amount of violence used to achieve this. Some thefts of this nature take place in broad daylight.

The Brompton is an expensive item and therefore very attractive to those who would want to steal it. I am sad to say that there are plenty of people out there who would be more than happy to buy one second hand, with a shady provenance, if it meant they could save a few pounds!

So, what can you do? As far as someone stealing your Brompton if it is locked up somewhere, I just don't understand this when you can simply fold and take it with you? In fact if I cannot go into an establishment with my folded Brompton, I turn round and leave. (It is perhaps strange to note that the locations you would expect a folded Brompton to be unwelcome are the ones that are the most accommodating).

As far as riding your Brompton along quite happily and a couple of shady types trying to take it off you on foot or on a scooter, you would have to weigh things up very quickly. My 9+ years of Judo and Karate in my youth taught me that it is better to take flight rather than fight.

Some people go down the GPS tracking route but these have limited use in the real world. Firstly they are small and discrete and as such the battery powering them has a limited life, so even if you can locate your bike you probably won't have long. I am sad to say that I have my doubts as to whether the police would be truly interested or inclined to act upon you showing them the location of your bike on a mapping app on your smartphone.

If you have a Brompton you can register your frame and serial number with them which is a start. If you are in the UK there are also registering schemes such as 'Immobilise' or 'Bike Register.'

As I mentioned the police might not be that interested in the big scheme of things and you might have to do some of the detective work yourself. Ebay, Gumtree is where you might want to look. Telling your friends and family to look might also help. In fact a few years ago a Brompton that was stolen from outside a location was tracked down by an eagle-eyed Brompton owner.

Terrible that this goes on but it exists. My advice for what it is worth is not be try and be a hero. Get away - with your bike - if you can, but if this isn't possible (as hard as it may be) let it go. The bike can be replaced. You can't!!

I welcome your thoughts on this one readers so please leave a comment.

Monday 12 August 2019

Amazing scenes at a coffee establishment.

Saturday morning should have seen me travelling back from a night ride to Whitstable but here in the UK there was a major electrical power cut to certain parts of the country on Friday which resulted in me being stuck in traffic - almost as if the apocalypse had arrived - trying to get back to London in time and failing. So, I had a little bit of free time to run an errand or two.

I started this by folding my Brompton and taking it into one of the generic coffee establishments that are just about everywhere in the world. On a table was a man with a laptop open, A4 notepad and pen (not of the fountain pen variety in his hand). Opposite him was another man. The laptop man was incredibly loud and it soon became apparent the he was interviewing the person opposite.

Now, I don't know about you but I have seem this happen several times. I have also seen people using the place as a mini-office, on the phone loud as you like, bleating on about something or other when everyone else is simply try to buy a drink or perhaps sit down and try and forget about the 9 to 5 for all of five minutes.

It was all too much for the lady in front of me. When the laptop guy asked a question, she would interject and offer - it has to be said a very good - response that the interviewee could use if they liked. Laptop guy said along the lines 'do you mind I am trying to conduct a meeting.' to which she told him in no uncertain terms that she was trying to buy a cup of coffee and didn't think it was appropriate for interviews to be carried out in a coffee shop. The barista at the till informed that laptop guy had been there since they opened and that this was interviewee number 3!

You really do see all sorts when out on your Brompton believe me! What are your thoughts? Who was right - laptop guy or the customer who objected?

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Reply anonymous reader about Brompton World Championships

I have getting on for just over 1000 comments on this blog. When I look to see whether anyone had left a comment, some are published while some are deleted. The binned ones are usually selling something - enhancement pills, finding a local date... A recent comment was received on the day after the Brompton World Championships and was anonymous.

The gist of the comment was that they didn't get into the BWC and they weren't pleased about it as lots of participants who did were - and I quote - 'too old, too fat and too slow' did. Seriously!? What would this person suggest? That participants can only enter if they meet certain age, weight and speed requirements?  The writer of this comment misses the point about what type of event the BWC is, or for that mater the entire Ride London weekend. It is meant to be inclusive. We are all on the same team!

To the writer of this comment I wonder why you hide behind the veil of anonymity? I assume you own a Brompton? If you do perhaps you'd like to join one of our London rides where you will meet a diverse group - ages, sizes and cycling ability - that is welcoming and friendly. Maybe after a few miles you might change your view?

Monday 5 August 2019

London Ride46 on a Brompton

Sunday, 4th August 2019 was the Prudential Ride46 (and Ride100) and believe me it was a day to remember.

I got up at an ungodly hour and headed off to central London with everything I felt that I needed. London was very quiet when I arrived there just before 06:00. Putting the location to near where my wave was starting at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park roughly ten miles away, I headed off at a very sedate pace.

The route it took me on was all but the same as that to get to the start of the Dunwich Dynamo. A few other cyclists where along following this route and we exchanged wishes of good luck.

Knowing I was early - as I did not want to be late - I looked for a few photo opportunities. The first came in Victoria Park. As I took the photo below I jogger went past in quite literally bra and pants - not of the sports-clothes variety. Being the polite sort of chap I am, I simply said 'morning...lovely day for it' as she passed by.

Part of the route was on the Greenway Cycle Path that I have been on several times before with the Brompton crowd. I arrived at the Olympic Park in very good time - still too early - so decided to park the bike up and watch the world or in my case cyclists go by.

My last bit of the route to my start point was back on the road again and it didn't take too long to find it. I arrived a few minutes before it officially opened so I sat down and waited.

I had decided to take my Orange Flame Lacquer for this ride. I took the view that my Orange Special Edition went to the Dunwich Dynamo, so it was only fair I bring my new addition out for a spin. I tried to pack as minimalistic as I dared. One water bottle and a incredibly small Specialized saddle wedge that held my spare inner tube, CO2 bottle and a few other essentials.

The waiting then began. It was during this waiting I actually started to get nervous about the ride. It would be true to say that 46 miles is not really anything to me. I have cycled this just to take some photos of my Brompton bikes. Perhaps tit was the excitement of the ride ahead and being keen to get going but the butterflies were there. Fellow Brompton rider Jenny who was doing the Ride100 posted on her Instagram feed that she was feeling the nerves too. I have to say that I would have been feeling them too had I being doing the longer distance.

A few people were kind enough to say that they liked my Brompton and asked about it. This was to happen quite a bit throughout the entire ride and I felt at times like an unofficial ambassador for brand Brompton!

As I gazed around I was in a sea of carbon road bikes. Almost all were lighter, had more gears and would complete the 46 miles quicker and with less effort. As I looked at my Flame Lacquer Brompton I could not help my biased opinion that it was better, more stylish, more original and dare I say, less dull.

A good 30 minutes before the official start time of my wave we started moving. This made the time fly by. Before we knew it we were close to the start line, music blaring out and countdowns to be heard of the other waves getting off. I wanted to get going and was excited.

The moment came and almost to the very second we were off on the advertised start time for our wave. The first few miles were glorious. I was in my element and cycling along at well over 20 mph. I relished in cycling at speed and keeping up with and in some cases overtaking some fellow participants on road bikes. One roadie commented on whether my Brompton was one of the new Brompton Electric bikes as he seemed amazed a Brompton could roll along at over 20mph and keep up with him for a while.

For the first ten or so miles I was averaging 19 mph - which is what I had done on my Condor road bike the last time I was fortunate to participate in the Ride46. To do this I had to work hard. My brain started to engage and I realised - with some disappointment - that there was no way I could sustain this pace. As such I eased off...slightly!

At Richmond Park I was on familiar territory and it was wonderful seeing so many cyclists all around me and in front of me.

The many people lining the route were wonderful. There were cheers and incredulous glances when I rolled past...on a Brompton. Lots people were lining the route, with posters up for their loved ones. It was also quite humbling that many riders were riding to raise funds for charities that were very specific and personal to them.

For some reason the hills that I remember from last time - the one near Wimbledon especially - didn't seem half as severe. I like hills and have had lots of practice this year and made my ascent steadily. A few roadies also on the Ride 46 were off their bikes or quite slow. One rider was not pleased - not in a joking way - that a Brompton had overtaken him and shouted out 'bloody Brompton!' Later on when we made the descent he overtook me, shouting out 'not so fast now!' I took the view that he must have several issues!

I stopped for water twice and boy did I need it. The volunteers running all the water stations were excellent and it was great that a few of them were Brompton riders as well and giving me encouragement for the rest of the ride.

At a certain point in the ride (I cannot recall when) the Ride46 and Ride100 split. As I cycled along I was in awe at many of the cyclists who had almost broken the back of the Ride100 and yet looked fresh.

The last 7-8 miles I started to speed up again and resisted the urge to either chat to people about Brompton bikes, take photos or videos! This is something I really have to suppress on rides like this! With The Mall coming into view I got my phone out to take a short video and photo of the finish straight. I tried to take a selfie as well - it is the modern way - but ended up taking a blurred photo of my feet.  I have spared you that one! I did it. The Ride46 was conquered.

It took a little while to get my medal due to the huge number of people also finishing but with my medal round my neck I walked the bike up towards Hyde Park Corner and then cycled home. 

This was a lovely event and I am really pleased I got to do it a second time. The organisation in the build up and on the day was excellent, so many thanks to the many people that make this possible. 

Ironically as I waited in line at the start I got an email informing me that you could sign-up for the Ride100 in 2020. I did. If I was lucky enough to get in, I think that I would have to have a go at doing it on a Brompton and try and raise some funds for a couple of charities. So, in the meantime I think that it is only prudent to cycle the Ride100 route on one of my Brompton bicycles as a way of preparation just in case! Hope to do this before September if possible...

Thursday 1 August 2019

Collecting my ride numbers for the Brompton Ride46

With the Ride46 happening on Sunday, today was the day I went to collect my ride numbers at ExCel in east London.

Getting there was a fairly painless affair and I arrived just after 10:30 a.m. There were lots and lots of people doing the same and as such when I boarded the Docklands Light Railway train from Canning Town to Custom House, almost everyone was either on the train to do the same as me or go to the Cycle Show that was also taking place.

Making my way to the registration area I could see that the Ride46 was very much the country cousin to the Ride100. There were only four booths where you could register for the Ride46 compared to those of the Ride100 which had lots and lots.

Registration was quick and simple and the staff were really friendly and helpful. In less than a minute I had my clear plastic drawstring bag, containing my all vital ride numbers and I was off.

I had a very brief look around the Cycle Show but there was little of interest to me. A few years ago I remember this location being the home to an indoor version of the Nocturne Folding Bike Race.

Brompton were not there but a pop-up Evans Cycles store was and had a few of them dotting around. I had another look at the Brompton Electric. It really does look great but almost £3000 price still causes me to take a sharp intake of breath.

I didn't cycle to Excel but had thought about it. I decided against it as I knew I had to be elsewhere where even a Brompton would not be welcome. One very strange sight was seeing a pigeon walking up and down a tube train carriage, with no intention of leaving. I think it was on a Circle Line carriage. How it got down there I do not know?

Before heading off to my meeting I stopped off at a non pop-up Branch of Evans Cycles to buy a 'Rixen and Kaul' bottle klick. This allows a more traditional bottle cage to used on a Brompton stem. I do like the Monki Clip that is currently on there however I want to be drink while cycling which is much easier using the Rixen and Kaul.

I haven't trained for the Ride46 but I have certainly put in more than enough miles to cope with it. The 46 miles doesn't really hold a great deal of fear for me and as long as I can fill up my water bottle at certain points I'll be happy.

If you are at the Ride46, Ride100 or just watching out for someone who is. should you see chap on an Orange Brompton, shout out hello as it may well be yours truly.