Thursday 30 April 2020

Subsidy to encourage this Orange Brompton to cycle after lockdown!

Imagine a world in which the government actively encourages people to cycle after the lockdown to keep pollution levels down. France is.

A proposed scheme would see the French government, everyone would be eligible for bike repairs of up to 50 Euros and the funding would include paying for cycle training. At a local government level they will be encouraged to introduce new bike lanes.

This all sounds wonderful and I will be watching with interest to see what comes of it. It would be great if here in the UK something along these lines could eventually be introduced too.

With reports that London's transport system may find it difficult to deal with the increased demand - especially on the tube network - if it it likely social distancing needs to be maintained, I know how I would be getting around! It will be one of two Orange Brompton bicycles, I can tell you!!!

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Cycling during lockdown - be as prepared as a Brompton user!

One of the positive things I have seen during the 'C' word lockdown has been the increase in cyclists on the streets of London - many of which are on brand new bicycles. However, a little froward planning might be needed for those new to cycling.

Yesterday evening, when it had stopped raining for what seemed like the entire day, I was out for my daily exercise. My route was a quick circular journey of almost 15 miles. I didn't want to head out for any longer as various apps had predicted it to rain.

About 5 miles in I saw a couple at the roadside both with brand new bicycles but the obvious fact they had stopped due to a puncture. From the look on their faces they looked in a little difficulty, so from the other side of the road I shouted out to see if they needed any help.

It was the gentleman's bicycle that had a front wheel puncture to his spankingly new Boardman road bike but if anything the rear looked low as well. Asking if they had any tools etc.., the obvious reply came back that they didn't. I wasn't going to go any closer to them or their bicycle so I asked if they were close to home. They weren't 100% of that either as they had not taken a phone! I offered to ring someone for them but this proved fruitless as they didn't know by memory any phone numbers. (I am not sure I would remember any either). Getting their postcode and tapping it into google maps, they were just over 8 miles from home...ouch! I broke this to them as gently as I could and wished them well.

I continued my cycling and when I had just about reached the 12 mile mark, the heavens opened. Grabbing a lightweight waterproof from my Mini-O Bag and putting it on I thought about those two unfortunate people. I pretty certain they didn't have any!

Monday 27 April 2020

Orange Brompton Blast from the past #7 - Disaster going to Box Hill

Normal cyclists normally pay a visit to the famous winding road that leads to Box Hill by day. Brompton riders are not normal cyclists! Of all the times I have cycled to the top of Box Hill, the vast majority have beeb at night! One particular adventure I have never forgotten!

I think it might have been my idea to do these nocturnal Box Hill runs or maybe David - I am not sure? - but they were made all the better by doing them at night and having the reward of food in the form of a bar, grill and diner called the 'Smith and Western' at the top of Box Hill.

Ever since this ride my saddle bag always contains a brand new and sealed Brompton chain. Luckily I have never had to use it. I have been to and enjoyed going to Box Hill many times since and reading this old blog post from 2013 makes me want to go there and to get a burger from the 'Smith and Western.' When the 'C' word has eased I just might add it to the list of cycling locations.

Sunday 26 April 2020

Orange Brompton Changes after the 'C' word

During the last few weeks daily exercise in the form of walking and cycling has been quite a gleeful moment, mainly due to the huge reduction in car traffic. However, when the current restrictions are eased (let's not go for this too quickly as we don't want a second dose of it doing the rounds) things might be a little dicey for us cyclists.

There are reports that post 'C' word some people might ditch the buses and trains for the bicycle however a considerable amount more will be taking to their cars. This might mean that our roads are busier than they were before this all started which would be bad news for cyclists. A few of my neighbours have told me - from a suitable distance - that as soon as they are allowed back to work they will be taking the car and not the tube. 

One hope is that all the new cyclists I have seen out and about the last few weeks - many on brand new bicycles - might consider making more journeys via the human powered two-wheeled variety. 

For me nothing has really changed a great deal. I have never been a fan of public transport anyway and avoid it in favour of my Brompton. The one thing that has, is how much I have like walking and I can see myself doing a great deal more of this - time permitting.

What changes do you think you might make?

Keep safe people!!

Orange Brompton comments from readers - thank you!

It just occurred to me today that when my friend Geoff - who I have been with on countless cycling adventures over the years - commented on a blog post last Thursday, the number of comments received reached the 2000 mark.

Naturally, I have received other comments that have been less than helpful:
  • Special one time offer on this newly discovered serum to enlarge your penis
  • We can enhance your blog
  • We can direct more traffic to your blog
  • You have just inherited $4,000,000 from your next door neighbour's friend's wife of their third cousin's twice removed...please contact us
  • My name is Jacky and I am hot for you 
  • My name is Jack and I am hot for you
You get the idea I'm sure! 

It has been really great to get the odd comment from people all across the world. Some are regulars (a big thank you), some occasionally comment and some comment for one night only. I am very grateful if you have taken the time to do this and it is really appreciated.

Keep safe people!!

Saturday 25 April 2020

Brompton Unfold/Fold 2.6 Challenge

On the weekend that the London Marathon was due to take place, Brompton have set up a charity raising drive to help plug the £66 million that would have been raised.

There are a few steps to getting involved:

  • Record your attempt at the 26 second unfold/fold
  • Donate £5 to @PancreaticCanUK and a further £1 for every second over the 26 second competition target
  • Nominate 3x friends to have a go and share it on social media
I am wondering what my time for the unfold/fold would be as I really do not know? Great practice for the BWC - whenever it is on again. 

The link to the JustGiving page is below

Friday 24 April 2020

Orange Brompton Blast from the past #6 - Thames Triple Chaser

The Thames Triple Chaser was the brainchild of yet another good friend, Mark (King of the Hill). As you have probably gathered, it is quite amazing how so many friendships have come about from owning a Brompton!

Along the river Thames

The Thames Triple Chaser is just a brilliant idea. Cycle along, under and travel over and on the river Thames.

Under the river Thames

I have now done this ride several times and if you have read my blog you will know that the Thames Path route from London to the Thames Flood Barrier and back is a particular favourite.

Over the river Thames

Mark tries to put on one of these every year - if he can - along with his daytime ride to Whitstable (which may well appear in another blast from the past).

On the river Thames

Thursday 23 April 2020

Brompton Marathon Racer Tanwall folding tyre

The Brompton Explore was out last year and as predicted sold well, despite not really being my cup of tea. One feature I know many showed an interest in was the tan wall folding tyres. These have been available to buy for a number of weeks...but at a cost.

The features are as follows:
  • ETRTO size: 35-349 
  • Tyre pressure: 65 -110 psi or 4.5 -7.5 bar 
  • Bead: Folding 
  • Casing: Classic Skin  
  • Compound: Addix SpeedGrip 
  • Average weight: 260g (9.2 oz)  
  • Suitable for all Brompton bikes, including the Brompton Electric.
Now these are lighter than the standard Marathon (that I actually have on all my Brompton bikes and rate very high) and do have 'Raceguard' that offers good puncture protection. 

A nice tyre, that is very useful as a spare as they can be folded, but they are only available in a few locations and cost £40 a piece. I think that this is rather steep when you consider the ordinary Marathon Racer (which doesn't fold of course) can be bought for £22 or less.

The only other tyre out there that looks like these are the tanwall Kojak ones - that cost even more. For me, I will be sticking with the ordinary Marathons!

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Orange Brompton Blast from the past #5 - Dunwich Dynamo

The Dunwich Dynamo is an annual cycling event.  Legend has it that it all started back in 1993 when a group of London bicycle messengers left London from Hackney Fields for the Sussex coast - some 112 miles away. The only thing that is organised are the coaches back to London (if you choose to use them) and part from that it is more or less organic.

I have a bit of a love hate thing going on with the Dunwich Dynamo and I suppose lots of that has to do with the getting back to London part.  I have completed it four times all with fellow Brompton rider and gentleman that is Geoff.

I first met Geoff back in 2012 when we went on a London to Cambridge ride. Since then we have been on countless nocturnal adventures to various coastal towns. It is no exaggeration that in all five of the Dunwich Dynamo rides I have completed, I could not have done it without him. Thanks Geoff!

I was due to do it all again later this year in July but I have my doubts as to whether this will go ahead with the current situation the world finds itself in. We'll see.

Below are links to blog posts of the Dunwich Dynamo rides I have completed to date should you care to.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Sunny Brompton daily exercise

Last Sunday,  the sun was out so I took my Orange, Black Special Edition Brompton out for an early morning spin.

Part of my route was circumventing a rather large lake but getting there proved to be more than a little interesting! My route went from road to shared walking path/bridal way/cycle path. This started out with a tarmac surface, moved to gravel and ended up being bare soil - that lucky was firm and dry despite a little rain on Saturday morning.

The path started to get steeper and steeper to the extend that I could not keep at weight over the front wheel and it started to rise! At this point I had to get off the bike and push it up one of the most brutal gradients I have experienced. Mountain bike territory...perhaps!

Once this had been negotiated what greeted me was a truly lovely, picturesque route. The lake was stunning and on it I could see Tufted Ducks, Swans, Canada/Greylag Geese, Great Crested Grebes, Pochard and the highlight a lone Kingfisher that darted across and then perched obligingly on a nearby branch that overhung the lake.

The route back required me to retrace my steps. The gradient I experienced on the way up was terrifying on the way down and as I knew that there was a gravel surface halfway down, I decided to dismount and walk down. Even this was problematic as I found it difficult to hold on to my Brompton on the way down!

I really enjoyed the lake but I think that if I go that way again, I will try and bypass that short but terrifying little hill!!

Monday 20 April 2020

First Brompton commute in a while

With my Orange Flame Lacquer kitted out with its T-bag, packed and ready, today I took my Brompton on my daily commute to work for the first time in ages.

Up to a few years ago I rode a Brompton to and from work every day, all year round, in all weathers. Mentioning weather, the only thing that stopped me was snow, ice or heavy fog. Apart from that I cycled.

I won't bore you with why I stopped doing this but there were several reasons that all conspired to make this something I did less and less.

Today felt like old times and I really enjoyed my commute. On the way home I felt as good and the last 3 minutes before I knew I would be leaving work, I was activity looking forward to it. I even decided to talk the long way home as it was such a lovely evening.

While I cannot say whether I will be able to go back to a daily commute on a Brompton, I will certainly try!!

Sunday 19 April 2020

Top 3 things to watch for when wearing business attire on a Brompton

Over the years I have embraced the many 'technical' fabrics that dominate cycling clothing. For the longer rides that I tend to do, I think that they do work in making the whole experience more  comfortable than wearing a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. However, there are times when I have to wear a suit for shorter journeys and this can be quite a thing!

There are possibly three main things to look out for if you do this:

#1 Photos.  If in central London (or major city) and tourists are out and about, I have found myself the target of people wanting to take my photograph. Perhaps it is the sight of a chap in a suit, riding a little bicycle that does it but whatever it is, be prepared.

#2 You aren't what you seem to be.  I wear SPD shoes even when wearing suit and many cyclists see this and regard you some suspicion, as a bit of a wolf in sheep's clothing perhaps. They have heard of small wheeled folding bikes racing at the Nocturne and BWC. They might have even seen a dedicated Brompton peloton at the Dunwich Dynamo?! Get ready for some looks to suss up whether you will beat them off the lights!

#3 BWC? If you have ever competed in the Brompton World Championships you will know that the top half at least is business attire. If like me you only wear a suit on a Brompton occasionally, you may find that the uncontrollable urge to race takes you over. This will naturally confirm the worst suspicions of #2 and induce people to start snapping away #1.

When the 'C' word subsides you might want to give wearing business attire a go to see whether #1, #2 and #3 apply for you too.

Keep safe people!

Saturday 18 April 2020

Why a Brooks saddle for your Brompton?

The stock Brompton saddle is pretty good for shortish journeys and I really do like the little ergonomic carrying grip it has under the nose but for me at least I found it to be hard and uncomfortable for longer rides. Step forward Brooks.

At the moment I have the following Brooks saddles on my Brompton bicycles:

  • B17 black standard - on my Orange Black Special Edition
  • B17 black, titanium special edition - on my Orange Flame Lacquer

If I talk about the saddles on my Brompton bikes over the years I have never used any other saddle other than the B17. Normally I have gone for the 'Special Edition' versions which have the lovely copper rivets and for reasons unknown, they have all required nothing in the way of breaking in and been comfortable as soon as I started riding. Incidentally, the same could not be said of the standard B17 which believe me did!

Over time the leather on a Brooks saddles really does mould itself into the shape of the its owners posterior end and this making the whole cycling lark that bit more enjoyable. The only thing you have to do from time to time is rub in a little proof hide. I have met people with B17 saddles that have been around for 35 years and still going strong - they really do last. Many take their trusty saddle with them to their new bicycles when the time comes.

I suppose the big draw is that Brompton is a British bicycle and Brooks is seen in the same light. They complement each other really, really well. A Brompton is almost incomplete without one. The build in saddle bag loops means you can attach a Carradice or even Brooks saddle bag to enhance this vibe even further.

Of course there are some negatives. You can get cheaper saddles however it really is a case of buy once with a Brooks. They are much heavier than some carbon fibre razor blades oft seen on road bikes. Of course a Brompton - made primarily of steel - ins't exactly a lightweight, so does this really matter? 

I would not use anything other than a B17 on my Brompton. They have served me well. Personally, I would pay that little bit more for the 'Special Edition' versions. I do thing they look a little better with those orange copper rivets and as I have written, for reasons unknown to me, with absolutely no proof whatsoever, they have been more comfortable out of the box.

Friday 17 April 2020

Owning a Brompton - some things might not ever be the same

Those of you who have read by blog for a while will know that I have never liked public transport a great deal and it was one of the reasons why I bought a Brompton. It isn't that I think public transport is in any way bad but more me. I am not a fan of packed trains or buses and possibly a little claustrophobic under such conditions. Whenever I have arrived at a tube station or been on a tube train and found things too busy for comfort, I have simply got off, unfolded and pedalled away. Almost instantly I have felt better.

When we get to the other side of the 'C' word - and hopefully the will in the near future - for me, where possible, I personally don't think I will go back to using public transport anytime soon. This is is purely because in the last few weeks of lockdown I have been forced to use my Brompton to get me to locations where I would have normally have had to use public transport and I have enjoyed just cycling much more.

There are many studies that point to the benefits of cycling - both physical health and mental - and the cycling I have done as part of my daily exercise has been very enjoyable. I have liked exploring new routes, seeing new sights, taking the longer route home and using the extra time taken relax. I can therefore see myself cycling to the meeting point for rides and when they are finished cycling back home much more often.

I know a few people (who are key workers) who have bought a Brompton and other types of bicycle in the last few weeks to get to work and they have told me that they intend to continue cycling to work when things get back to normal.

What about you dear reader? What will you do?

Stay positive and keep safe people!!

Thursday 16 April 2020

Navigation on a Brompton

If you have read some of my back catalogue as it were, you will know that navigation has been something I have struggled with in the past. This isn't anything new. As I young rapscallion, I remember being lost in Hyde Park - a location I was supposed to know extremely well - once and almost having to be recused. Things were not really a great deal better when I bought a Garmin 800 and 810. While many could use them quite happily to navigate to almost anywhere, yours truly found it all but impossible.

Using my iPhone and Google maps was much more successful but less than ideal. Added to this was the possibility of the battery running out on my phone. It wasn't until I bought a Wahoo Elemnt that things really did take off in a big way for me in terms of navigation.

Using the Wahoo together with the app/website 'Ride with GPS' I found that I could actually navigate. I remember trying this out on short journeys and then attempting longer ones like Kew Gardens to Box Hill and back. The elation at being able to actually do this was great.

Of course what I really wanted to do was a night ride to the coast. Eventually I summoned up enough ginger to have a go and took Dr John with me. We made it all the way from Central London to Brighton without a wrong turn. 

Since them I have done several night rides too the coast as well as several rides where I have not had a clue how to get there but put faith in my Wahoo. Invariably is has and provided a very cycle-friendly route.

The Wahoo spits out a route so much faster than the Garmin devices I used to own making the Garmin 800 and 810 appear as if they had come from the early 1990s. The route may not alway be the quickest but as already mentioned it is very cycle friendly, normally on a much quieter roads.

With the addition of 'Ride with GPS' I can search lots of different existing rides people have been on to all sorts of places and have them on my Wahoo faster than it takes me to turn it on.

So now I can actually navigate - using a trusty Wahoo Roam that is!

Wednesday 15 April 2020

Orange Brompton Blast from the past #4 - Surrey Hills

I cannot remember when I first met the lovely people that are David and Anne. Over the years we have been on countless Brompton adventures together. In fact I could list a blast from the past featuring a 'David' ride  every day for the next two months...quite easily.

The rides have dried up in terms of their frequency and the 'old crowd' have - like a successful group from the 1980's - moved on to other projects. However, we still go on rides together occasionally and it is always lovely to see them when we do.

As I indicated there are so many rides I could mention. The time in the middle of the night as I was cycling to Box Hill my chain snapped and David attempted to push me along. The time when we went along one of David's legendary routes where the mud was so thick, a tank would have had trouble. The time when we could not get home from a lovely ride to Whitstable as a fight broke out on the train we were on and anarchy ensued. Or the time when our route took us perilously close to a train track and Anne and I feared that we may appear as a new story in the local press!

This blast from the past was when we tested our Brompton bicycles on Box Hill and Leith Hill - two hills featured in the Ride 100. As so often is the case when David is leading a ride, the photo below was a common and welcome sight - me trying to keep up with David, while having a nice chat with Anne.

As with the other blasts from the pasts, it is strange to think that such lasting friendships could be forged from a small. folding bicycle with 16 inch wheels!

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Visiting the resting place of the explorer Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton

Lowther Lodge, more commonly known as the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society has been one of my favourite places in London for as long as I can remember. As I small child I can remember walking past catching sight of the statues of Shackleton and Livingstone and having the names and exploits of other Gold Medal winners: Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Sir Wilfred Thesiger and Sir Captain Richard Burton in my head as I made up my own adventures when walking through Hyde Park across the road. Today when I thought of where my daily adventure could take me I decided to pay a visit to the last person I listed.

Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton was a quite a character and I think a hard person to get on with. He was one of those people who found picking up languages easy and spoke 26 of them or getting on for 40 if you count different dialects. 

Although I don't necessarily approve, he is famed for going on Hajj to Mecca - and then writing about his experiences - in disguise at a time when he could have been put to death if he had of been found to be an imposter. 

His tomb is in the cemetery of St Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Church in Mortlake and it is rather special. The tomb is in the shape of a Bedouin tent, designed by his wife.

As if to acknowledge the curiosity of an explorer a glass window and ladder to reach it allow visitors to get a rare look inside a Victorian tomb.

The coffins of Sir Francis (right) and his wife Lady Burton (left) can be seen along with camel bells and religious symbols.

If my memory serves me there was a Brompton Club ride, that sadly I could not attend, several years ago in which possibly 15 or so Brompton riders descended on the tomb as it was on the way to somewhere else they were heading for. I remember then wishing that I had been able to go and happy that I now have.

If you ever get the chance to pay this a visit it is well worth it as both the tomb and its occupants were certainly unique. 

Sunday 12 April 2020

Central London Brompton Exercise

For my daily exercise I decided to head into London. This was only a few more miles to get there and I knew that if I cycled at a purposeful pace I would easily stick to the current guidance.

Cycling through Hyde Park was quite busy. I had set off early and but there were loads of people out and about -  cyclists, walkers, skaters, skateboarders, joggers, dog walkers and that strange group of people that just don't seem to be doing anything at all.

However, I reached a very quite Westminster and when I got to the London Eye the entire area, normally quite busy even early on a Sunday, was deserted.

The meet point for the night rides to the coast near the National Theatre was tapped off as were the wooden benches adjacent to the river. I fancy I could almost hear the sound of about 50 riders clicking into their pedals.

I headed east and the further I got the fewer people I saw. Lockdown certainly seems to be doing its job.

Since I was there last one of the bascule bridges at Shadwell Basin had been on the receiving end of a lick of paint and resplendent it was too.

These bridges were installed as they could be raised entirely at a pivot point allowing taller ships to pass by. These bridges are no longer operational, with the weight in the counter balance long removed. Of all the bridges in London, it is the few remaining bascule bridges that are my favourites.

When heading back I went through London's East End and more specifically Whitechapel and Spitalfields. The former Truman Brewery building has a large clock on the other side of this photo. At the inquest to the murder of Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Long was a witness. On the morning of 1888 at about 05:30 a.m. Elizabeth Long was on her way to Spitalfields Market and saw the deceased and a man chatting outside a house - the man had his back to her. When questioned about the time, Elizabeth referred to the Truman Brewery clock which had struck the half-hour when she passed by. Could Elizabeth Long have seen the infamous, Jack the Ripper?

In all I cycled a brisk 16 and a half miles in glorious weather. As I type this there is a thunder storm raging outside so I picked a good time!

Be safe out there people!!

Saturday 11 April 2020

Ride cancelled? Perhaps you should use a crystal ball

My daily exercise today took me back to home turf in SW7 rather than further afield. I took my Orange, Black Special Edition with me and enjoyed the quiet roads and - to use common parlance - headspace that cycling around with nowhere in particular to go brings.

As I cycled around some of my route made me think of the Tweed Run when there was a group photo on the steps with the Royal Albert Hall in the background. When I stopped to have some water I had a look on my phone at the Tweed Run website to see whether a decision had finally been made to cancel it. No, nothing. I had a look at Twitter and saw that the last entry was January 2018! Instagram had nothing either but a few people had left comments about whether the event was going to take place.

The only information put out by the Tweed Run was apparently on FaceFriend. On the 28 March a post was place informing that it was looking unlikely that they would be able to host the event and that they were looking to reschedule for the autumn.

I am not on FaceFriend and I suspect many participants of the Tweed Run might not be too. Does make you wonder how you were to find out? (If you paid for ticket let me know if they have emailed you).

I know that the 'C' word is causing havoc to lots of things in our life at the moment and a cycle ride is so low on the pecking order that it is insignificant, but Evans Cycles cancelled their Ride It Sportive events ages ago, informing by email and issuing a refund.

If you are taking part in the Tweed Run perhaps you should harness the Force or invest in a crystal ball?!

Friday 10 April 2020

Never say, 'see you at the top' to a Brompton user!!

After a chat with my friend Dr John, today for my daily exercise fix I again took out my Orange Flame Lacquer. Yesterday, I  enjoyed the rather quick pace needed to try and get to and from Harrow on the Hill in a reasonable time and not take advantage of the lockdown guidance.

I had the roads pretty much to myself and for the second day running wore civvies - pastel pink shorts and a white polo shirt. When I reached the high street and could see the first of the school buildings, this colour combination seemed rather apt as if memory serves me the colours of Churchill's House when at the school was pink and white.

Again I very much enjoyed the climb up to the the church at the top and if anything it felt much hotter than yesterday. I was glad of the water I had brought with me. When I gazed westward into the distance to where I knew Canary Wharf was supposed to be, all I could see was a hazy glare of buildings all merged into one.

Doing a circuit at the top of the church I headed back down a very (and I do mean very) steep little footpath. Gingerly I took a photo - which does not do its steepness justice in any way - before carefully making my way to the bottom. I think you can predict that when I reached the bottom I had to give this a go.

As I got myself ready, a man clad in tight fitting Lycra and sitting on an expensive looking carbon fibre number went past and in a mocking fashion uttered the words, ‘see you at the top.' Sadly in spitting distance of Holy ground and on Good Friday I thought, prat.

I set off behind him with no intentions to race him as it was a battle I would not win on 16 inch wheels and 6x gears. Anyway I was merely doing this for the personal challenge. Imagine the look on my face when the roadie wobbled, was out of his seat, ground to a halt, put a foot down and held on with his left hand to the wall to steady himself. I merely cycled past, saying nothing but dinging my bell and reached the top.

To be fair, I suspect that the roadie had got into the wrong gear or done something silly like trying to change ring when ascending which caused the issues he had. Of course maybe he did none of these things. Still, a scalp is a scalp and his was well and truly taken. After taking in the views at the top one last time and having a swig of water I headed back in the glorious sunshine.

Thursday 9 April 2020

Daily Exercise to Harrow on the Hill

Today my allotted one form of exercise took on a very different turn. I usually carry a fountain pen with me at all times and when I reached into my Mini O bag I discovered that I was carrying a rather rare pen made by the no longer with us company called 'Conway Stewart.' The pen in question was the 'Winston' named after the politician of the same name and after a few moments thought I decided that if I cycled fast enough I could make it to the location of his former school, Harrow.

The Conway Stewart, 'Winston.'
It was a lovely day and my route there - and back - was almost devoid of cars. There were a few other cyclists around and a few people doing what I was doing (although not with a fountain pen)!

The road leading up to the main school buildings and St. Mary's Church, the spire of which can be seen from miles and miles away, is very steep and gets to 14% in places. It isn't that long but I did enjoy ascending it a great deal.

St. Mary's Church

I have always found that many towns with a famous public schools don't really have a huge amount there apart from the famous public school. Harrow on the Hill is that place. Of course the area surrounding the school and church is stunning. 

I have not been here since I was about 13 or 14 and the place hasn't really changed a great deal. It is dominated by St.Mary's Church. Being the highest building in Middlesex you can see Central London and on a clear day such as today I could just make out Canary Wharf.

Sir Winston Churchill went to Harrow school in 1888 and was in the Head Master's house and didn't particularly enjoy his time there. Still, he was the right person for the job when he became Prime Minister in 1942.

If you go to this location in term time when the school is open, you will see boys with their ghastly Harrow Hats made out of straw but a step away from something Worzel Gummidge might have worn. Saying that travel a few nile away to Eton and you will see them wearing those godawful tailcoats that make them look like overdressed undertakers.

Just about see the views west into Central London

The church grounds were very peaceful and I came away with the feeling that back in 1572 they really did pick a wonderful location.

Today I didn't wear any cycling specific clothing and opted for civvies instead while out on my Orange Flame Lacquer. I quite enjoyed this change. A gentleman walking with his two children enquired about my bicycle. From a safe distance I told him about it. When he asked the obvious question, how far can you comfortably cycle on it, I told him about doing London to Brighton, London to Whitstable etc.., and I am not sure he believed me.

Cycling back I was a gleeful experience in this lovely weather. As I cycled long I thought about where I might be able to go tomorrow for my daily exercise and whether I would take my Orange, Black Special Edition?

Wednesday 8 April 2020

Orange Brompton Blast from the past #3 - Brompton duo London to Brighton overnight

For few years my good friend Dr John and I have been going on all sorts of duo adventures. These started out as being cyclic rides we were able to do at short notice - and because nothing else was taking place that we fancied - but they have grown into something bigger and better.

We have have now been on several overnight rides to the coast, with our favourite being the classic that is, London to Brighton. We normally meet at the same start point and time as the larger attended rides (we also go on those too) and more or less follow our favourite route which we have made little alterations to. Dr John is excellent company and the hours cycling fly by quickly.

This particular blast from the past is not the first London to Brighton we have embarked upon but was our first on Brompton bicycles - something we have stuck to ever since. I have probably bored you to death by saying that night rides to the coast are additive but they are. This has been magnified by the situation we all find ourselves in at the moment.

It is such a simple idea to cycle approximately 60 miles through the night at conversational pace towards the coast. On the way you leave the city behind and experience dawn in a unique way. In addition arriving at the coast and smelling the sea air is rather special.

Ironically, this ride took place on Maundy Thursday into Good Friday and Dr John and I had planned to do this very ride tomorrow night. When the lockdown ends (as soon as we are both available) this will almost certainly be our first ride...

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Sad Brompton news

Today I found that that Alan, gentleman and Brompton legend, sadly passed away yesterday after battling cancer for two years.

I met Alan a few times, at the Brompton World Championships, a Brooks Saddle factory ride and perhaps the most memorable being the ride he organised in Sheffield.

A true gentleman, with an encyclopedic  knowledge of all things Brompton. He was a great ambassador for Brompton and I know he will be missed by many.

Below I have provided links to my original blog post on the very successful Sheffield ride and one linking to a video I made of the day.

RIP Alan.

Monday 6 April 2020

New pedals for my Orange Flame Lacquer

Almost a week ago I posted a blog post in which I contemplated putting the original Brompton pedals back on to my Flame Lacquer. I have posted a link to that blog post below if you have not seen it already.

I did put the original pedals on for all of one quick test ride and I didn't like them at all. Compared to the very firm platform afforded by SPD pedals and shoes, they felt a little spongy. So it was a case of back to the drawing board.

A few internet searches later and I found a pedal in the form of the 'Shimano SPD PD-T8000 Deore XT' but at around £60 - 70 a pop were too expensive. Searching a little further I found a pair that were billed as coming without a box for £24.99 but otherwise brand new. I took a punt and ordered them.

They arrived a few days later - despite the 'C' word locking almost everything down and I was pleasantly surprised. The box the pedals came in was damaged but still there. The pedals were definitely new.

I have had a pair of XT pedals before and always liked them. The sealed bearings are pretty much fit and forget.

One side has the SPD pedal and the other side doesn't. This has 8x little screw in studs that are surprisingly grippy.  The reflectors within the alloy cage are a bonus.

A set of SPD cleats and extra set of studs is always welcome.

With the pedals fitted I went out for another test ride. My only concern was that being only one sided for each, would they be difficult to engage the correct side when using SPD shoes and non-SPD shoes? I need not have worried and whether wearing SPD shoes or trainers, I always found the correct side pretty fast.

The only downside is of course the left pedal not folding and there fact that they extend about 1cm further out that my current pedals. The plus points the the very stable platform for non-SPD shoes, the build in reflectors and overall convenience.

For £60 - 70 I would give them a miss - although they are among the best double-sided pedals with reflectors - but for what I paid I am more than happy.

Trying to love the original Brompton pedals Blog Post

Sunday 5 April 2020

Orange Brompton Blast from the past #2 - First overnight Brompton ride to the coast!

Firstly, thank you for the kind words regarding my first blast from the past. Even my cycling partner BumbleBee said that he could feel the love from where he was in lockdown.

Blast from the past # 2 is from 2013 and was the first time I ever went on a night ride to the coast and my first ride with the lovely 'Friday' peeps. Since then I cannot count how many time I have completed night rides to the coast and London to Brighton is probably the one I have completed the most.

My first all night ride was with - you've guessed it - my partner in crime, Bumblebee when we took part in something called the Velanotte but this ride was the first overnighter to the coast.

Bumblebee was on this ride too along with my other good friend, Mark (King of the Hill) on his apple-green Brompton. I remember signing up for this and thinking what have I done? The actual day fo the ride I didn't really think of a great deal else and when I got to the meeting point at Hyde Park Corner I was nervous! I think all three of us were.

It is a special ride as it was the one that opened the floodgates to Brompton nocturnal adventures. A few years ago another good friend - who you have probably read about on this blog - Dr John started doing our own due rides to the coast, with the London to Brighton run being a particular favourite.

So, below is a link to the original blog post should you choose to have a look.

Saturday 4 April 2020

Orange Brompton Blast from the past #1 - First cycle ride with The Legend

With lockdown pretty much everywhere a few loyal readers have been corresponding with me about some of my favourite - or not so favourite Brompton adventures. This did get me thinking and I decided to have a look back to see what I got up to.

I started this blog to serve as a way of an online diary of what I got up to. I have to confess that I rarely look back at any of the posts however doing so has certainly brought back a few memories.

So, blast from the past number 1 is in many ways a rather special one. The 28th April 2012 was my first ride with the person who would become BumbleBee.

I had actually met Andrew a few weeks before on a different ride in which we were put into groups but we didn't ride together. If memory serves me, back then we did not have phone numbers etc.., but we messaged each other via Twitter and arranged to meet and go on this ride.

It was a dull and rainy day but neither of us cared a great deal and it was to become the start of a beautiful friendship. I cannot think how many adventures Andrew and I have gone on together. It amazes me how the simple fact of us each owning a Brompton bicycle turned into a friendship that lasts to this day. We may not go on as many rides together but I am happy in the knowledge that I have made a friend in Andrew. Perhaps when we are older and greyer we will still be reminiscing on all of the crazy things we got up to.

Sadly, the blog post below does not have any photos anymore. This is the case for many of my oldest blog posts.

Link to blog post

More rides cancelled

Yesterday two of the Evans Cycles,  'Ride It' events I had signed up for before Christmas were cancelled quite rightly as a result of the uncertainty over COVID-19.

The rides were the Windsor  Sportive - on the same day as the Tweed Run - and the Hatfield Sportive which was to take place on 14th June. I wasn't going to the Tweed Run this year but it does make me wonder when, with four weeks to go, it will be cancelled?  Even Wimbledon which was due to take place between 29th June and 12th July has been cancelled - the first time since World War II.

I do wonder when the decision will be made for events like the Dunwich Dynamo - where many participants have paid for a coach ticket already - and the Ride 100? I know that no-one can look into the future and see what will happen but it does seem that there is a great amount of dithering going on. Just get on with it.

As far as I am concerned these events I have named shouldn't go ahead. Make the decision, cancel and refund. I doubt very much whether the world will have seem the back of the dreaded 'C' word by then. As far as the UK is concerned, the emergency services and our poor NHS will need time to lick their wounds and recover. There is always next year...hopefully.

Friday 3 April 2020

Orange Brompton daily exercise allowance

Like many of you out there I have been trying to get my daily dose of exercise. For my daily exercise allowance I have followed the advice and kept local to where I live.

My route involves me doing circuits of the crescent that starts outside my front door and is roughly 0.7 of a mile to complete. I normally cycle until I have reached five miles - which takes 20 roughly minutes - and then call it a day. I keep my ride to under 30 minutes for more the sake of convenience than anything else.

My route is quiet at the best of times but even more so now, with only people walking, walking their dogs, joggers and an occasional cyclists to be seen. Each circuit has a small hill of about 200 metres in length which adds a little something to proceedings.

I have tried to alternate which of my Brompton bicycles I take with me and as yet have not taken either of my two big-wheeled bicycles out at all. (I probably will if and when it rains as who want to get their beloved Brompton wet unnecessarily)!

Many weeks ago my friend Dr John and I had arranged to go on another duo nocturnal adventure - probably London to Brighton - which would have been tonight going in to tomorrow morning. Sadly this is of course not going to happen and I suspect it will be several weeks before it will. As I cycled round thoughts did turn to this ride and little snippets of it replayed in my head.

One elderly couple has been out walking circuits as I have been cycling. We have said hello as we have passed each other. Yesterday they shouted out questions they had about my Brompton as I passed them on my circuits. After this happened a couple of times I stopped and keeping safe distance I answered questions about the Brompton and cycling in general. They said that they have a pretty good exercise bike at home and they both use it to complete virtual challenges. They have both used their exercise bike to complete some quite amazing distances to keep fit. They told me about the almost 300 mile Grand Canyon challenge, 90 mile Hadrian's Wall and the one they are working on now is the virtual Lands End to John O'Groats! 

When I was out today they showed me one of the medals (they had one each) that you get for completing the challenges. I have to say that it was a Bobby Dazzler and Mr T would have been quite pleased to have had it round his neck back in the 1980's!! Perhaps tomorrow I should take my three Brompton World Championships medals for competing the 'Brompton Triple!'

Whatever you are doing to cope with the lockdown, wherever you live, keep safe and stay positive. Hopefully we will all get through this and to the other side. For me at the moment the thing I am looking forward to most is being able to smell the sea air after a night ride from central London. 

Thursday 2 April 2020

A great cause from Brompton - Wheels for heroes

I think anyone reading this blog knows already that I think Brompton bicycles are wonderful. Over the past few years my experience of Brompton - the company - would probably have a similar description.

Brompton HQ have set up a crowdfunded for a quite brilliant cause. Two weeks ago Brompton Bike Hire approached a London hospital and NHS London to provide Brompton bikes for their front-line staff so that they could avoid crowded buses and trains.

This has now gone national, with Brompton donating up to £100,000 for manufacturing costs. The crowdfunder has been set up to extend this. It is a great idea and I will be donating.

I have posted a link to the crowdfunder below where you can find out more about it. It really is a great idea and well worth a look.