Sunday 22 September 2019

London Car Free Day with come familiar faces

Today was a Car Free Day in London - well part of it - and as there was a Brompton ride with some familiar faces not seen in a while I decided to brace the elements and attend.

I set off in good time for the 09:15 meet time and as I cycled through Hyde Park the heavens opened (of all of about three minutes) and the bits of me not covered by my boil in the bag lightweight rain jacket was soaked.

As I neared Hyde Park Corner a cyclist asked for some directions. He wanted to go round the large roundabout rather than through Wellington Arch - the safe way. I did tell him that even at this early time of the morning it can be a little like tackling the North Face of the Eiger in a pair of espadrilles. He didn't listen and several beeps, shouts of expletives and then him riding up next to me as I waited at the lights after passing through Wellington Arch, told me I might go been right!

I arrived at the meet-up point, Kings Cross in good time and saw the familiar sight of my partner in crime, Andrew already there. With him was Chris B not seen in ages, Guy and Chris M. Not too long after that our ride leader and mile monster Jenny arrived.

We set off at about 09:20 heading towards Tooley Street near London Bridge. The rain was around for a short while and then things turned out rather nice and the sun obligingly came out.

Short rides of only a few miles are not really something I do very often now. I am more attracted to something longer and possibly with the odd hill here and there. I do however love rides like this where lots of Brompton riders are out in force. It again made me wonder whether I am missing out on excluding myself from them?

As we cycled along I chatted to some of the old crew and it was great to catch with them. We have to some extent, almost like a very successful rock group of old, gone our separate ways to work on solo projects. Despite this however, when we are back together it is like  old times.

We arrived at the Galleria opposite London Bridge Station and headed for a cafe that the lovely peeps at Brompton HQ had provided a complementary tea, coffee or whatever took your fancy. Thank you Brompton.

Andrew and I caught up with each other about what had been going on and as usual made provisional plans for a ride or two in the not too distant.

After a while the final members of the old group - David and Anne - arrived and it was lovely to see them again and catch up. Anne showed me some of the photos she has taken and they were stunners. It made me think that I really do need to get the big camera out and about again!

With my coffee and a particularly good maple syrup and pancakes eaten we headed off to the Brompton stand that was part of the Car Free London.

A single parking space occupied by 42 Brompton bicycles certainly made one think.

With some many Brompton riders around there were several photo opportunities and we were organised into various formations that the Red Arrows would have been proud of.

After the Brompton stand we headed off toward Covent Garden and the Brompton Junction store. Some members of Brompton staff were going to lead us to their other store in Westfield Shopping Centre.

After chewing the fat for a while I decided to call it a day, said my goodbyes and headed off.

It was a lovely way to spend a few hours and even better to catch up with some of the members of the old firm. Hopefully it won't be as long before we do something like this again...

Sunday 15 September 2019

34 miles on a Brompton fly by

The other day I was meeting a relative outside where he works in the buildings near St. James's Palace and as it was a lovely day I decided to take the scenic route. This would involve a 17 mile cycle ride.

Part of my route involved cycling on the Grand Union Canal. As I passed over a major road I could not help but be a little smug at seeing the lines of cars going nowhere, while I glided along at my leisure. I suppose part of the appeal of cycling is the freedom it brings.

Not long after I was feeling smug, my route turned cyclocross! A tree had fallen over and further along (not shown in the photo below) there was another one down.

After passing through my old haunt of Notting Hill I arrived at Kensington Gardens. As I cycled along I saw a young teenage girl walking quite happily speaking Russian into her phone. About 2 metres behind her were three rather scary looking gentlemen in suits following attentively in a delta formation, looking with suspicion at me cycling along on my Brompton and anyone else that veered too close to this young lady.

At Horseguards the Household Cavalry were getting ready to change. I cannot think how many times I have seen this over the years but when passing, if I have time I always stay to watch for a few minutes.

After a spot of luncheon with my relative as the day still looked lovely I decided the best thing to do was to cycle back a slightly different but equally scenic way.

Just off the Bayswater Road I past the building where Spike Milligan - I think - once lived and Eric Sykes used to have an office. Eric Sykes was a comedian, actor, writer and director. I recall walking up this street in my childhood/youth and always remember him being the most miserable of people every time I set eyes on him.

When cycling along in London you often pass locations you might not have been to for ages but have significantly changed. The properties on the street below used to be single dwellings with one family living there. Now they are all converted into several flats.

This is the beauty of a Brompton. Ride as much as you fancy and if the weather or inclination takes you, there is always the option of other forms of transport.

Sunday 8 September 2019

Thoughts on another new Brompton Special Edition

Over the last few years Brompton have released lots and lots of 'special edition' bicycles. I even bought one myself in the form of the black special edition which you can see in the photo below. I am very happy with it but the recent announcement of the new 'Brompton Explore' did induce me to raise an eyebrow!

Now I won't post a photo of the 'Brompton Explore' as I would be copying one from the Brompton website which isn't cool, so if you click HERE it will take you to the Brompton page all about this bike. (If I see one in the flesh I will of course post a few photos of it).

The 'Explore' is 'kitted out and ready for you to either find a new route, or plan your next escape.' They have teamed up with all round good egg and adventurer Alastair Humphreys to create a special edition ready for anything. 

The details of the bike are at the bottom of this blog post for the M6E version which costs £1525 and it is with some of this I raised an eyebrow. 

I would question why standard Marathon tyres weren't used as they offer better puncture resistance? Why no rear rack? In addition - although there is a mudguard version - why no mudguards? I am fortunate enough to know several truly hardcore Brompton riders, who have gone on adventures that many can only dream of. I am not sure the 'Explore' would be good enough with these omissions. 

Of course I would also question why a dynamo hub and lighting system was not fitted. This has been a godsend on many an adventure - not having to worry about whether batteries will last. 

The luggage looks great, as does the spares kit but I do wonder whether Brompton has rummaged around in the spares bin for discontinued colours and simply done what it has done for a few years which is non-standard paint job labelled 'Special Edition..'

Don't get me wrong, I am a Brompton fan boy through and through but the special editions are bordering on the comical. Many equally keen Brompton types often joke that the Costa Coffee, Greggs, Argos and Subway special editions are surely but a step away?! 

I suspect what people really want is a little more innovation. For things like a double chairing with derailleur or disc brakes for example you have to go to hardened Brompton fans or independent shops offering these enhancements. Should it be Brompton that leads the way on this?

The 'Explore' will be a popular bike and sell out quickly but if you own a Brompton already it wouldn't take a great deal of effort to kit your existing Brompton out so that it was ready for truly epic adventures.  

  • Edition: Brompton Explore
  • Model: M6E
  • Handlebar Type: M type (1015mm)
  • Gears: 6 speed
  • Mudguards / Rack: version E (no mudguards or rack)
  • Frame Material: Steel
  • Colour: Distinctive colour scheme - Forest Green with Explore Orange highlight front frame and bespoke graphic
  • Gear Ratio: Reduced (-12%) 6 speed with 44T chainring - Lower gear range aids climbing and luggage
  • Saddle: Brooks Cambium C17 - All Weather Saddle in special Giallo finish
  • Seatpost: Extended (inside leg up to 35 inches)
  • Lighting: Reflectors only
  • Tyres: Marathon Racer Tanwall folding tyres
  • Grips: Gum rubber grips - softer compound for increased comfort
  • Folded Dimensions: 565mm (H) x 585mm (W) x 270mm (D)  (22.2'' x 23'' x 10.6'')
  • Weight (approx.): 11.88 kg

  • Front Carrier Block: Yes
  • Explore Edition Metro Pouch:
    • New pouch, designed to fit under seat, on handlebar or inside larger luggage
    • Includes magnet to avoid bouncing
  • Explore Edition Borough Rolltop 28L bag:
    • Big capacity with lots of sections, ready for any adventure
    • Custom camouflage fabric
    • Fidlock closures on rear pockets
    • Integral water bottle sleeve
    • Laptop sleeve
    • Extra load strap system for securing other items
  • Spares kit
    Everything you need to keep you on the go:
    • 2 x Impac Inner Tubes
    • 4 x Spokes (2 front + 2 rear)
    • 1 x Chain Power Link
    • Replacement Brake Pads (front and rear)
    • Rim tape
    • 1 x 3-Speed Gear Cable
    • 1 x Rear Brake Cable
    • 1 x Marathon Racer Folding Tanwall Tyre
    • 1 x Brompton Toolkit with extra puncture repair patches
    • 1 x Brompton Pump