Tuesday 30 June 2020

London at night on a Brompton in lockdown

When people ask what it has been like cycling in and around central London at the height of lockdown, my answer has been a little bit like the first few minutes of the horror film from 2002, '28 Days Later.'

In the few weeks at the start of lockdown, certain locations, even during the day, were eerily quiet with few people around - when there should be - apart from one or two others.

At night things have been even worse. Areas normally buzzing were shut and the people that would have been frequenting bars, clubs, cinemas, the theatre and restaurants were all at home, with the people that worked in these places all at home too.

I am not a believer in ghosts etc.., but I can appreciate certain locations, steeped in history that allow the imagination to run wild.

Stay safe out there people!!

Monday 29 June 2020

I don't recognise you without your Brompton and cycling gear!!

Contrary to what you might think, the only time I wear lots of orange is when I am riding recreationally on one of my Brompton bicycles. The majority of the time my daily wardrobe is devoid of all things orange - apart from the phone case, wallet, pens...ahem.

At the weekend I was in a small supermarket and saw someone with a black Brompton in their trolly wheeling it around. I knew this person and said hello. I could see by the expression on their face that momentarily they could not quite place me. It then dawned on them that they did in fact know me and we exchanged pleasantries.

It seemed that they had never seen me wearing civvies or without one of my Orange Brompton bicycles. They are not alone as people have shouted out a 'hello Orange' at me when cycling down the street and I haven't recognised them at all as they have not been on their Brompton and doing something ordinary and not Brompton related.

Has this ever happened to you I wonder?

Stay safe out there people!!

Sunday 28 June 2020

Readers photos of their Brompton bike

A few of you good people have forwarded some more photos of your Brompton bikes so I have posted them on the tab 'readers photos.'

I love getting these but have to confess I have been very slow to get them on to the blog. I'll endeavour to be better at this!!

It really is wonderful to think that we all have a common bond by simply owning a folding bicycle!

Keep sending them!

Stay safe out there people!!

Brompton rear battery lights

The stock Brompton comes with a rear reflector that can easily be swapped out for a combined battery powered light/reflector. I have always been a bit of a fan of these, especially if you are not into powering things by a front dynamo hub. There are a few available to consider.

The first is the '2C' by Busch + Muller. This is a USB charged light that has LEDs around the edges that are bright and do a great job at being seen from quite some distance away. Visibility is good and the light can be seen from quite a few angles.

The Z reflector does exactly what it should when the light is off and means you are compliant with the Highway Code.

The bracket that the light comes with is the permanent bit and fitting is easy. The light then snaps in and out and securely to allow you to charge the light via a USB cable that is included. This looks to be quite heavy-duty and I would imagine that things would not get loose over time.

The USB port is on the back and charging doesn't take an age. There are only two settings - on and off - and the light will run for 15 x hours before it starts to get dimmer and dimmer and then die.

Next up is the original Brompton battery light with build in reflector. This has been discontinued now but shop around and you can still find them. This is powered by 2 x AAA batteries and although it probably lasts as long as the 2C (if you use good batteries) it isn't as bright.

The original Brompton rear batter light/reflector

The final option is the Brompton Spanniga Solo - which is the current version of the rear battery light with built in reflector.

The version pictured below is the one I have on my Orange Flame Lacquer, powered by a front dynamo. The battery version is more or less identical in terms of size and looks but powered by 2 x AAA batteries.

This light has a horizontal strip of LEDs along the bottom of the light and it produces a good amount of light but I would have preferred the LEDs to be at the top instead.

In terms of cost:

Busch + Muller costs £22 - £25

Original Brompton light £15 (if you can find one)

Brompton Spanniga Solo £15

Out of these I like the 2C by Busch + Muller best. For me the USB charging is more convenient than batteries and the light is brighter and can be seen from further away. I also like the placement of the LEDs on the Busch + Muller light.

When it starts to get dark, I always have one of these types of lights with built in reflector on the rear (although mine are dynamo powered) and an additional flashing light. I think that the Brompton design is rather clever for being able to incorporate the light and reflector all in one without in any way interfering with the fold. If you only have the reflector these might be something to consider for convenience as much as anything else.

Stay safe out there people!!

Saturday 27 June 2020

Band members reunite for Brompton Box Hill adventure

A few weeks ago Mark (King of the hill) suggested a long overdue early evening ride - Kew Gardens - Box Hill - Kew Gardens. With the date in the diary pencilled in for yesterday evening, we were all set  to cycle a route that never fails to provide lots of memories!

I have cycled this route - or versions of it - more than eight or nine times and always enjoyed it greatly. Yesterday our route was just over 48 miles and would see us clock upon an elevation gain of 2,133 ft.

Along with Mark, the participants were Matt and Dr John. My partner in crime BumbleBee was due to come as well but a family commitment prevented him from attending sadly. Still it was a little like a reunion of the old band in many ways and was the first time we had ridden together (socially distanced of course) for ages and ages!

As I got closer to Kew Gardens the heavens opened and the rain was heavy and constant for a good 25 minutes. I had my fingers crossed that it would stop and thankfully it did. For the rest of the ride the rain stayed away.

Setting off we cycled at conversational pace and it was lovely to catch up on what everyone had been doing and getting up to since we last saw each other.

We reached Bushy Park in what seemed like next to no time, cycling through with the sun in the west casting orange hues across the sky. The pedestrian gate would be closed by the time we returned this way so it would mean us cycling around the outside and adding a few miles to proceedings.

Thankfully there were few cars on the road which made things more pleasurable and it was turning out to be a great ride. Of course in the back of my mind was the dreaded Claygate Badlands - that we would be cycling through - and as I turned the pedals it dominated my thoughts.

The entrance to the Claygate Badlands is quite unassuming in many ways. It is approached by cycling along a quiet residential street and it sort of just appears. Tarmac is replaced instantly and dramatically by mud bridal path.

With the sun setting, every Hammer Film Producttion I had ever seen played in my mind. Thankfully the recent hot weather had at least made the surface quite hard and compacted and there were only a few patches of mud and water that could be negotiated with ease.

Taking a photo of Mark gazing wistfully at the setting sun, spreading its last rays of light through the trees was a lovely scene but remember the Hamer Film Production memory I mentioned. To me it made think that we had little time to get out of the Claygate Badlands before something flying through the trees, transformed and drained us of our blood! I pedalled faster believe me!

With our throats intact, we pressed on to the big draw of this ride, Box Hill. This involved lots of ups and a few wonderful downs that seemed to go on for miles. In the past it was on one of these downs - not far from the start of Box Hill - that my chain snapped and fell off. I passed the spot were this happened and where David valiantly tried to push me along as he cycled!

Reaching the base of Box Hill we readied ourselves for the big push. Dr John set a wonderful pace and Mark and I followed, along with Matt. I think it might have been one of my quicker ascents. Every now and then you could get glimpses of the views through the trees and the lights of buildings shining in the distance.

At the top we stopped at the view. There were a few other people enjoying it as well while we ate the tuck we had brought with us. After a few photos we decided to layer up a little as we all felt the chill of the night and needed more than just short sleeves.

We passed what wood normally our halfway stop the 'Smith and Western' pub. Sadly is was of course closed and at some point in the future I would love to do this ride all over again but of course pay it a visit!

The route back was glorious. I would like to imagine that it was downhill all the way but of course it had its ups and downs as well. Still, it was mainly downhill and we covered the ground quickly. The roads were still more or less empty and with pubs etc.., closed it was a very quiet Friday night. There were times when the ride felt a little like a night ride to the coast, in that it was eerily quiet with only the sound of our bicycles stealing through the night.

Reaching Claygate Badlands - this time in complete darkness, we stopped halfway through, before carrying on. I was glad to get going through it, just in case!!

We arrived back at Kew not too long after midnight and all thoroughly enjoyed another nocturnal adventure. After saying our goodbyes and having made provisional plans for future rides when the 'C' word subsides a little more, we made our respective ways home.

This was a wonderful ride! The route is of course very enjoyable but it was perhaps catching up with the old guard that made things even more special. Many thanks to Mark for navigating and for the company of Matt and as always Dr John.

One footnote to the ride. When I returned home I tried to be as quiet as a mouse. Apparently I wasn't. My Brompton put on the a wooden floor as I closed the door and my SPD shoes on said wooden floor made such a racket, Mrs Orange tiptoed halfway down the upstairs landing armed with her right winter boot, thinking I was a burglar! Needless to say I a very dutiful husband for all of today!!

Friday 26 June 2020

Increase in Brompton blog posts

I think that it is fairly obvious that I have increased my output over the past few months. This started out as something to keep a few of my loyalest readers occupied during lockdown.

As I type the blog posts for this year have already exceeded my total posts for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and if I can keep it up I will also exceed that for 2015.

This blog was started as an online diary for when I am old and grey (older and greyer that should be) to allow me to look back on all the adventures I went on. This blog still serves the purpose.

My daily posts have proved to be very popular with you out there and I thank you for continuing to read and interact with them, whether you are new or an old hand.

I will try to maintain the more frequent posts as much as I can but naturally work, family and life in general may mean that I ease off whenever the mood takes me.

I won't go into this at the moment but in the not too distant future I will have something rather significant to blog about.

Stay safe out there people!!

Thursday 25 June 2020

The best bike shops for the discerning Brompton user

You can buy a Brompton and spare parts from quite a few bike shops now. Brompton have their very good 'Brompton Junction' shops dotted around the world and you can now even buy direct from Brompton themselves. There are of course a few alternatives.

Over at Catford Hill in southeast London you have Compton Cycles. Owner Jim is a king among men and it is a shop that you really will be looked after in a way few other shops can. Compton Cycles was the shop I bought my Titanium Orange Brompton and my Surly Disc Trucker. If I ever bought a Brompton from a bricks and mortar shop it would be joint top of my list.

Over in Chobham, Surrey sits Brilliant Bikes. They started out as a mail order company where you could buy pretty much every Brompton spare part you can name - in fact they still do. They now have a physical shop. I have taken my Brompton bikes there to be serviced and like Compton Cycles, they really do look after you! Mike can usually be found there and again like Jim at Compton Cycles, he is brilliant. In fact everything about Brilliant Bikes is brilliant.

If you search Brilliant Bikes on YouTube you will find lots and lots of helpful, entertaining videos about all things Brompton. They really are worth a watch and the lady who presents them does a wonderful job. (Some have out takes which are equally as entertaining).

Both shops do of course sell other bikes apart from Brompton but the small-wheeled wonder is what I know them best for.

Now, in case you wonder, I have not been paid, threatened or cajoled into writing this. I recently placed an order with Brilliant Bikes which as always got to me in record time. When I thought about a blog post about the best bikes shops that do Brompton, I had to mention Compton Cycles too.

Stay safe out there people!!

Wednesday 24 June 2020

A clean Brompton is a good Brompton!

Last Sunday I embarked upon my usual cleaning ritual. As I am sure you are aware I have two Brompton bicycles. One is an Orange Flame Lacquer, the other an Orange, Black Special Edition. The Flame Lacquer has become my commuter bike and what a bike to have as your commuter hack! The Orange, Black is everything else.

For me the jury is still out as to whether I prefer the black parts or the classic sliver parts. Certainly the silver parts are easier to keep clean - possibly as the dirt isn't as visible. It is a hard one but I am coming down on the side of the classic silver.

It was a lovely sunny afternoon on Sunday and I had an audience of cats lined up along the widow watching me from inside as I went through the actions of cleaning my bikes.

Of course I know people with a Brompton whose idea of cleaning it is to take it out in the rain. I like to keep things looking good. So, if I go on a ride that makes the bike dirty, I clean it as soon after as I can. In the case of the Flame Lacquer I wash it down once a week.

I now have the Orange, Black cleaned and waiting for an adventure and the Flame Lacquer that hasn't really got that dirty since I cleaned it on Sunday.

How often do you give your Brompton the attention it deserves?

Stay safe out there people!!

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Overtaking other cyclists on a Brompton

The great, Victoria Pendleton - two-time Olympic gold medalist - recently shared a story which spotlighted the sexism she encounters as a cyclist, with male riders she passes on the road refusing to believe they could have been overtaken and speeding up to try and accelerate past her. This did make me think about being out and about on a Brompton.

Someone on a road bike can travel much faster and cover distances a great deal more quickly than someone on a Brompton. There I have said it and it is true. However there have been occasions where I have overtaken a roadie. When this has happened I too have heard the gears grinding and after a while, the scalped rider overtakes me again. 

When traffic lights turn green - with a Brompton being able to accelerate swiftly - the prospect of being first off the lines is high. It is at these moments that you know someone behind you is going to try their best to go past. It is all rather sill really.

Have you ever encountered this on your adventures?

Stay safe out there people!!

Monday 22 June 2020

Restrictions for Brompton cycling in Richmond Park relaxed...a little

Since March cycling in Richmond Park has been restricted as a result of lockdown and the 'C' word. From today cycling will be allowed once more during opening hours - during the week.

I was in Richmond Park a few weeks ago when trying to get somewhere else. Walking my bike in I soon had to walk it back out again and find an alternative route skirting the outside.

Back in March the Royal Parks, the organisation who look after Richmond Park, said that riders had not been sticking to social distancing guidance. Someone out there put in a freedom of information request that said park staff had seem cyclists cycling at excessive speed and using their mobiles while  on the bike.

As yet there is no date for when cycling will be permitted during weekends so the carbon fibre, Lycra brigade will have to find somewhere else to go.

Stay safe out there people!!

Sunday 21 June 2020

Why I sold my Titanium Orange Brompton

A few people via this blog and a couple on Instagram have asked my opinion on Titanium or Steel as far as all things Brompton are concerned. So, here are my thoughts as in the past I owned a Superlight.

It was way back in 2013 that I bought my first and only Superlight Brompton with the rather lovely titanium fork, rear triangle and stays for the mudguards. Mine was an M6L X. Naturally it cost more than the standard steel Brompton but as soon as I collected it from Compton Cycles - along with Brilliant Bikes - possibly the best Brompton dealers ever, it felt much lighter. That 'much lighter' equates to getting on for 800g. Doesn't sound like a great deal but it counts.

Where possible this bike never saw a bead of rainwater and I loved it. It is said that the Superlight version rides a little differently to the steel version, with the titanium soaking up some of the vibrations. This was true to some extend but not so noticeable to me that it would have made me rush out to buy one for that reason.

Back in 2013 and 2014 entry to the Brompton World Championships was pretty much guaranteed and held a the Goodwood Race Circuit for both of these years. In 2015 it moved to the iconic surroundings of London and it was to be the last time I raced at a BWC. At all of these and a few events outside of the BWC I used my Superlight.

A year after owning it,  I converted it to an S-type and by then for me this particular bike had lost its sparkle. This was nothing to do with the lovely titanium bits or how it rode. It was as if the bike was a little bit  of a Jonah - bringing bad luck to me. The bike just seem to fail when I needed it most in a way no other Brompton I have ever owned had. This is of course a perception and all in my mind I am sure however the thought lingered.

In an attempt to make it different and change my view I used lots of black Brompton parts I had acquired and been gifted to turn it into my own Black Special Edition. The results...I hated it even more! Should have left it as it was.

I ended up selling it and relying upon one Brompton, which like every other Brompton I have owned, was a friend that could be replied upon for literally anything!

A steel Brompton is the luxury end of the folding bike market. Let's not mince words here...it is the best there is. It is as simple as that. The titanium Superlight version goes beyond that as it is more expensive and a less common sight on the road. Is it terrible to say that I liked that fact it was a somewhat exclusive club owning one? Probably!

Is it worth the additonal money? Only you can answer that if you are thinking of buying one. I did like mine but all my other Brompton bicycles have been steel versions.

Would I buy a Superlight again? Never say never, however I do own two Brompton bikes already and a third might not work for me. If I did I would buy an M6L and do very little to it other than stick a titanium railed Brooks B17 on it. Naturally, it would of course be in orange!

Stay safe out there people!!

Saturday 20 June 2020

Witnessing road rage and bike rage on a Brompton.

Yesterday after work I nipped out for an errand that was at the tail end of rush hour  - what is left of it during the current situation we find ourselves in. I had been scrabbling around to try and find a couple of power supplies for a PC that had died.  Sadly I was to witness another incident where no road user really comes off that well. (I am sure that all major cities have incident like this every day but sadly they seem to be on the rise here in London).

To cut a long story short, the economic version was that I was sitting at the front of the traffic lights waiting for them to turn green. A cyclist was roughly 5m behind me. A car coming to a halt was too close to the cyclist and made contact with his rear wheel. (A rather stupid thing to do). The cyclist - understandably - was not best pleased and started calling the motorist a few choice names. Motorist takes exception to this and had apparently apologised while still in the car but got out and the two had a slanging match there and then. I have seen something like this a few times before.

With a few cars behind beeping the lights went from red to green and back to red and they were still at it. I got off my Brompton (Orange, Black Special Edition) and went over to them to try and calm things down a little appealing to their better nature that it wasn't really worth it.

The cyclist cycled off through the red light and was gone. Back on my bike, with the lights green I cycled off too, with the motorist following. Not far down the road the motorist was parked up and when I passed he beeped and gestured for me to come over. I stopped and chatted through open windows. He actually apologised to me and thanked me for trying to sort things out. I said that I would probably have been annoyed too if that had of happened to me and may have said something as back as well. I said that getting angry like that just wasn't worth it and that like it or not we're all on the same team - using the road.

Not sure how you would reacted in this situation if you had of been the motorist making a stupid error and not paying attention or being the cyclist on the receiving end? I do think that it is all too easy to see red but invariably it won't help.

What you you think?

Stay safe out there people.

Friday 19 June 2020

Dunwich Dynamo in less than two weeks?

The 'C' word had quite literally obliterated cycling plans for the first half of 2020. Ride after ride was cancelled and although there is some light at the end of the tunnel, things won't be getting back to anything approaching normal soon.

The Dunwich Dynamo was to be in just over two weeks time on the 4th July going in to the 5th July. At the start of 2020 when I had booked my coach ticket, for once, I was actually looking to it. I had roped Dr John in and I would have tried my utmost to get the gentleman that is Geoff (who I have ridden with on all my DD attempts) to join too.

Of course the Dunnwich Dynamo has been cancelled for this year. When I used the word cancelled, it probably needs a little more explanation. The DD is not really an organised even at all. It is more a turn up and go arrangement. Most people who take part book transport home - mainly by coach - and they also use the many pop-up vendors selling all sorts of rather good food along the route. The cancelled bit really means all coaches back have been cancelled and there will be no-one selling food. 

Does all of this mean that you can't go? If you are one of the people that gets to Dunwich Beach, turns round and pedals all the home, probably not. There have been calls, by many along the route and especially at Dunwich for cyclists to forgo the DD this year and respect the wishes of locals. Will this stop some and will they listen? Probably not. 

I am pretty sure that if you were to pay a visit to the official/unofficial start in Hackney Fields in London at about 7:30 pm you will find more than a few cyclists getting ready. Some may take the view that if they are able to be totally self-sufficent, not need transport back, not need any of the facilities normally available on the entire route and respect the locals by passing through sleepy villages without a sound, it will be viable. I won't be going because I would need the transport back and probably need to stock up on fluids.

If anyone is still doing the DD, I just hope that they don't annoy the locals so much that there is the start of movement to restrict things for the future - trains are no longer an option to get home when they were for several years.  What are your thought?

Stay safe out there people!!

Thursday 18 June 2020

Lubing up on my Brompton!

What an unfortunate title for a blog post! I thought I would start with that. Now if you thought this was something else I am sorry to disappoint you and if you did think it was something else...well really!!

After cleaning the chains on my Brompton bicycles I used to simply give them a generous coating in GT85 and that was pretty much it. This didn't last long because as soon as there was a bit of moisture in the air you could almost hear the chain grinding away.

For a few years I have been using 'Pure Dry Lube' which I have found to be pretty good. More recently I bought another dry lube by 'Finish Line.'

For the moment at least my newer addition seems to be pretty good. Last week I was caught in one of the heavier showers and my chain held up pretty well and there wasn't that grinding sensation that means the chain has run dry.

What do you on your bicycle? Do you have an opinion on dry / verses wet? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Stay safe out there people!!

Wednesday 17 June 2020

'Me, Myself and I' ride this Brompton!!

Those of you of a certain age may of course get the song I referred to in the title of this blog. Back in 1989 I was gifted a Brompton which I was to gift away two years later (wish I had kept it) and my favourite songs at the time was 'Me Myself and I' by De La Soul. Memories of that bike and that song go hand in hand.

Okay, back to the blog post. I don't let just anyone have a go on my Brompton bicycles! The only people I would happily allow would be Mrs Orange and the Orangettes - but fortunately they don't really share my interest so I think I am safe.

There are of course people who have asked, people who aren't family. I have politely but firmly declined. I feel guilty about this for all of two seconds and then revert to 'Me, myself and I.' The only person allowed near my bikes is me!

The recommended rider limited for a Brompton - weight of rider, combined with any luggage - should not exceed 110kg or 242 lbs or 17 stone. I am pretty sure that the Brompton could happily allow someone to exceed this as they are built like tanks. I however am not prepared to chance it.
I have a relative by marriage who must weigh 6 - 8 stone over this limit and there is no way I would let him near any of my bikes!

The trouble is you just don't quite know what someone will do?! Will they crash? Will they break something off? Heaven forbid, will they scratch the paintwork?! It is a dilemma.

So, in the same way that I wouldn't let someone use one of my fountain pens, or my phone...my Brompton bicycles are for 'Me, myself and I.'

Are any of you like this with your Brompton or other bicycles? Let me know.

Stay safe out there people!!

If I travelled back in time and met him on my Brompton and he wanted a go, guess what my answer would be!!

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Where do people come from who read my Brompton blog?

Blogger gives out lots and lots of statistics about your blog. I think I take a look at some of the facts and figures about once a year - if that. (Should I be looking at it more)? Today I had a look at where people come from who read my blog. The results are below:

1.   UK
2.   USA
3.   Singapore
4.   Germany
5.   Ukraine
6.   France
7.   Japan
8.   Russia
9.   Spain
10. Hong Kong
11. Australia
12. South Korea

There aren't really too many shocks here as over there years you kind readers have often told me where you are from. (In some cases you are quite literally the only person you know in your area who owns a Brompton). 

The bulk of my readership comes from the UK by my American cousins are not that far behind. If you group together Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea the numbers of people reading my humble blog more or less match that for the USA. 

I can't say that I will lose any sleep over all this and it will probably be this time next year before I look again at this all. 

Wherever you come from, thank you for reading and continuing to read. Let me know where you come from by leaving a comment, especially if you are from somewhere not listed above.

Stay safe out there people!!

Monday 15 June 2020

Hydration tabs for Brompton rides

When I go for a longer ride (which before the 'C' was quite often) in my water bottle I always use a hydration tablet. There are lots of different types but I go for electrolyte tablets and I will explain why.

I am convinced that they actually help one suffering cramp after a long ride. I recall coming home from an overnight London to Brighton (where I had just water and no tablets), getting home and sitting down with a nice cup of tea. I got up far too quickly and vigorously and my left hamstring instantly went into spasm. This was so bad that I didn't know what do other than hobble to a nearby wall and just stand there holding on.  I started to sweat and feel clammy. The colour drained from my face. Mrs Orange and the Orangettes found this all so funny, one  by one they had to leave the room laughing. Memories of when football players with cramp stretched out their legs when they got a dose of it during extra time of a World Cup final flooded back. My attempts to copy them didn't last long as the air was filled with language the like of which the world has never seen the like of which! At this moment if someone had a cure, I would have gladly given them the pin to my cash card and the last three numbers on the security strip on the back!!

It has only been the rides where no tablets were placed inside said water bottle that the above happened. So, you can probably see why I have faith in them.

Until last week I had been using hydration tablets that cost upwards of £8 - £9 a pop. Having a look on the 'Wiggle' website for something totally different I saw that they had their own brand for £3.99. Having used them a few times on some of my more recent adventures, I think they are pretty good. For the price you cannot really go wrong. With some longer rides in the pipeline I will let you know how I get on. if they do not work...you'll probably hear me!!

Stay safe out there people!!

Sunday 14 June 2020

Early morning Brompton ride in London

Today I was up early and off for a Brompton ride in London. Cycling through Hyde Park there were loads of people out and about and quite a few on Brompton bicycles.

My first stop was to take a picture of the Millennium footbridge as it makes its way to St Pauls' Cathedral in the distance.

The Shard is the tallest building in the UK and I have to say I am not a fan. I cannot out my finger on it but it just isn't for me. I also think that it looks better from a distance than close-up.

Tower Bridge I do like. Built between the years 1886 and 1894 I suppose it is one of the many iconic buildings that make the London skyline.

At the same spot I took the photo of Tower Bridge I turned to my left to take a photo of the buildings that are very much in the City of London.  Sadly, from some vantage points a few the buildings are now obscured.

Later on my ride took me over Tower Bridge but before I did this I took a few more photos where you get little glimpses of it through gaps in buildings.

The bascule bridge at St Katherine's Docks was actually being opened when I got there - a first for me - so I stopped for a few moments to take some pictures. I imagine that one of the boats was on the move and off somewhere else.

As I cycled east over the many cobbled streets of Wapping I arrived at an historic pub called 'The Prospect of Whitby.' Adjacent to it is a narrow passage that leads to the foreshore of the river Thames. It was more than a little atmospheric and I cannot imagine me wanting head down that way after dark!!

It claims to the the oldest riverside pub, going back to the 1520s. There is a replica gallows and noose that can be seen hanging. This is because in the 17th Century the infamous Judge Jefferys lived nearby and the noose is there to pay homage to his custom.

The execution dock for pirates was not far away - Wapping Old Stairs. There they would be hung and left there until three tides had washed over them!

Almost in front of me as I cycled east a bascule bridge was quite resplendent in its new lick of paint. These are more for show now as the mechanisms that worked them are long gone. I do like them and glad they are being cared for.

At Canary Wharf I always take a photo my my Brompton in this spot as for some reason it always reminds me of 'Star Wars.'

Canary Wharf was a ghost town and the only other people I saw were the many security guards with not a great deal to do.

The 'Traffic Light Tree' by the French sculptor Pierre Vivant always brings a smile to my face and I never tire of it. The lights randomly go on and off and in my opinion the whole things looks even better at dawn/dusk.

My ride today was 18.5 miles and I enjoyed stopping and taking the odd photo. The thing I have found about owning a Brompton is that you usually stop when you see something that would make a great photo...and then place your Brompton in front of it!! Are you like that? Please let me know.

Stay safe out there people!!

Saturday 13 June 2020

How does the Brompton stack up against other bicycles?

Steel yourself for this but I own other bicycles apart from a Brompton! There I said it and please don't judge me. Even though I have a quite lovely Condor Fratello, steel/carbon fork road bike and a Surly (Zombie Apocalypse and tank-like) Disc Trucker, I rarely use them. I thought it might be fun to try and see, in a totally unscientific way, why this is the case.

What I propose to do it to judge each of the bicycle types I own/have owned against a series of criteria. Each criteria will be awarded a maximum of 10 points, so the better it is the higher it will score. Of course this is all very subjective but I will try and be as fair as I can.

The criteria:

  1. Cost - how much it is to buy
  2. Running costs - what are bike services and parts going to cost you
  3. Resale value - when you have had enough what do you get back?
  4. Ride comfort / Distance - what it is like to ride over longer distances
  5. Your commute - are you going to get wet, can it carry your laptop and packed lunch?Can you get in on a bus, train, the tube, the boot of a car when you've had enough?
  6. Personalisation - can you make your bike your own?
  7. Speed - if you want to go fast, can you?
  8. Reliability - you have had it for a couple of years, is it still all working?
  9. Street cred - Does it cut the mustard when you are out and about?
Okay, there are 90 points available so let's see how some different bikes types stack up against the Brompton.

1 Cost 

Brompton 6/10

A Brompton isn't cheap. They start at £745 for the B75 and go upwards over £1800 if you go for the titanium version or the new Brompton Electric. You can buy much cheaper bicycles but I wouldn't fancy tackling my daily commute on a £49.99 supermarket number let alone more demanding rides like London to Brighton! You get what you pay for and for a folding bicycle the Brompton is the top of the tree.

Road bike 7/10

You can buy on for £99 or you can spend thousands. Invariably you get what you pay for and a higher cost will have better wheels, group set etc..,

Hybrid 8/10

A little like the road bike in terms of the range of how much you can get one for but you can definitely get a descent bike for less than the cost of a Brompton or road bike. 

Mountain bike 8/10

A little like the road bike in terms of the range of how much you can get one for but you can definitely get a descent bike for less than the cost of a Brompton or road bike. 

2 Running costs

Brompton 8/10

I know people who have owned a Brompton for 15 years and the only thing that they have periodically replaced is the chain, sprockets and brake pads, tyres and inner tubes. The bike has needed little else - and this is a bicycle that has been used almost daily. You can buy a new chain for £12, sprockets £10 and brake pads for £8 so it isn't going to break the bank. Tyres and inner tubes are a great deal cheaper when compared with bigger wheeled bicycles. In addition most Brompton users I have come across service their own bikes so taking it to a bike shop doesn't factor in. 

Road bike 6/10

Hybrid 7/10

Mountain bike 6/10

3 Resale value

Brompton 9/10

A Brompton really does hold its value on the second hand market. Generally there are much fewer of them available than other types of bicycle and even older versions can command keen prices.

Road bikes 6/10

Hybrid 5/10

Mountain bikes 5/10

4 Ride comfort / distance 

Brompton 6/10

I have ridden well over 100 miles a few times on my Brompton and found it perfectly fine and not suffered. For distances over this benchmark I think bigger wheels would be an advantage. Saying that not many Brompton riders are as crazy as I or my many friends for completing longer distances.

Road bike 9/10

Hybrid 8/10

Mountain bike 4/10

With the gearing on many mountain bikes, the larger tyres and even with locked off suspension, they are not really meant for huge distances.

5 Your commute

Brompton 10/10

The Brompton is nippy and agile in traffic. Most have mudguards so you don't get as wet and the front luggage system means you can carry a dedicated bag that holds a great deal, while not doing anything to the handling. If you need more space for luggage a rear rack option allows even more to be carried. 

The trump card for the Brompton is that it can be folded and taken on any form of public transport in rush hour. If you get fed up of that you can cycle. The freedom of choice cannot be highlighted enough. This cannot be said of the other types of bicycles. 

Road bike 7/10

Hybrid 7/10

Mountain bike 6/10

6 Personalisation 

Brompton 10/10

Do I really need to write any more here?! If you buy a new Brompton there is a vast pallet of colours to choose from and there must be hundreds of combinations. Just take a look at my riding partner BumbleB to see how personal the customisation can go! 

Road bike 6/10

Hybrid 4/10

Mountain bike 4/10

7 Speed

Brompton 7/10

On the flats I can comfortably glide along at well over 25 mph. My Brompton bikes have 6x gears but  the ratios are excellent and mean you can cope with almost anything. A Brompton is not built for speed but have a look at the many Brompton World Championship videos online and you can see that some can go much faster!

Road bike 10/10

They can go considerably faster with less effort, for a longer period of time. A Brompton cannot compete with a road bike for speed. 

Hybrid 8/10

Mountain bike 6/10

8 Reliability 

Brompton 9/10

No bicycle is perfect but the Brompton is build like a tank, built to a high standard and they last really well. As I have seen Brompton bicycles from the 1990s still going strong. 

Road bike 7/10

On any ride I have been on it is the road bike that is sat with a wheel off having a puncture repaired, or where the derailleur is hanging off, or where a spoke has snapped...

Hybrid 7/10

Mountain bike 7/10

9 Street cred

Brompton 9/10

The Brompton is the brand of the moment. As in yesterdays blog post simply folding up your Brompton can still bewitch onlookers. A Brompton peloton garners more attention as it goes past than any group of roadies. 

Road bike 7/10

Hybrid 5/10

Mountain 6/10


Brompton - 74

Road bike - 65

Hybrid - 59

Mountain bike - 52

So for me the Brompton wins. I am sure that if you asked 10 cyclists you would have very different scores. Let me know what you think. Do you agree or disagree?

Stay safe out there people!!

Friday 12 June 2020

Didn't know I was a magician on my Brompton!!

After work today I headed towards SW7 to run an errand. When I reached my destination I stopped, got off my bike and started to fold it up. As I did I had an encounter that was and interesting as it was amusing.

As I unfolded I heard a heavy American ascent shouting out to the people he was with that there was a guy there, '...breaking his little bicycle!'  Half laughing I informed him that it was a folder and I was simply folding my bike up to take inside. This only served to induce a greater level in incredulity,

I ended up demonstrating how it unfolded and then folded. The gentleman said that he had never seen anything like it and that I must be a magician. Ironically a lady on a Brompton cycled past and I pointed it out. When I said that that bicycle also folded he eyed me with suspicion.

Answering questions about how far you could go on one of these, my reply that I had done 100 miles a few times was met with the shaking of a disbelieving head.

The person I spoke to was called Leroy and he and his wife have been staying with a relative here in London since the beginning of March. They plan to return to Missouri at the beginning of July. He was a true gentleman and again I hold firm my view that I have yet to encounter anyone from America I have not instantly taken a liking to.

It doesn't happen that often nowadays as there are lots of Brompton bikes out there but from time to time it does still happen. Have you ever had to demonstrate the fold/unfold to anyone? Please let me know by leaving  comment.

Stay safe out there people!!

Thursday 11 June 2020

I take better care of my Brompton than my car!

This morning I cycled to work as has been customary for quite a while now on my Brompton. By lunchtime I knew that I would have too much to carry home - even my T-bag would be unable to cope - so I cycled back home to collect my car. This got me thinking.

Every other morning I am there with my track pump pumping the tyres of my Brompton so that they are at my preferred 110 psi. I cannot think of when I last inflated the tyres on my car?

After a ride in wet or muddy conditions I can be seen with my Brompton sitting on my Park Tool work stand ready to be cleaned. I think I wash my car every other week!

There is a theme here isn't there. I am sure that if I were in to cars things might be different but I do think it is rather telling where my priorities are! 

Are you the same? Do you rush for the cleaning products after a ride in rain? Let me know by leaving a comment. Surely I am not alone?!

Stay safe out there people!!

Wednesday 10 June 2020

A GoPro for your Brompton?

Quite a few years ago I owned a GoPro. I enjoyed using it to film rides, do time lapses and strap it to my Brompton when participating in things like the Brompton World Championships and London Nocturne. I have however given some serious thought to getting one for very different reasons.

Today on my my commute a van made an inconsiderate pass but what almost made my heart stop was the stupidly close pass it made of another cyclist about 50 metres ahead  of me!

Lots of car drivers have dash cams and I regularly see motorbikes and cyclists with helmet cams. I suspect that most of these are for similar purposes to a dash cam.

It is a pretty sad sate of affairs to even have to consider this but I think I might. Of course saying that I am not overly sure what I would do with the footage? 

What do you think? Do you have one and what do you use it for? 

Tuesday 9 June 2020

New wrenches my Brompton toolkit

When I first bought a Brompton bicycle ten years ago (I did actually have one back in 1990 but the same applies) I did not know how to do anything in terms of repairs or maintenance. During this time I have likened myself to a character from a Jane Austen novel, who if encountering a rear wheel puncture, would probably have got light headed, reached for a laced handkerchief and fainted! I was that person. Thankfully, over the years I have acquired enough knowledge to carry out most of the major repair and maintenance needed to keep my fleet in good condition, that would otherwise require a trip to the local bike shop.

Over the same period of time I have built up a small collection of tools very specific to the Brompton. A couple of new purchases have been wrenches by 'Park Tools' with the addition of a ratchet.

I have one in 15mm and the other in 10mm which is really all you need to replace wheels and performs a few other tweaks.

The addition of the ratchet - which I have to say works really well - makes things easier and a little quicker. I have a few other items by 'Park Tools' and have always found them to be built to last.

Prices vary for these but £9.99 is about right for each. Well worth looking up if you don't have any of these or want to replace what you have.

Stay safe out there people!!

Monday 8 June 2020

It's busy out there on a Brompton!!

There does seem to be a glimmer of hope as far as the 'C' word as for the past couple fo days the number of deaths have reached levels not seem since March! People are gradually getting back to some form of normality and I have noticed a dramatic increase in how busy it is out there!

I think for the last few weeks we have bee spoilt by roads almost devoid of cars. This has definitely changed as on one stretch of road there seemed to be more cars than I remember pre-lockdown. I have also noticed a huge number of cyclists joining me on my commute.

The reason is quite simple. Lots of people would prefer to travel on anything rather than use the bus or tube. I don't blame them. If I had to use public transport I would be on my Brompton!!

The increase in cyclists has been a bit of a shock. I lost count of how many I saw this morning and gave up trying to count. This is a good thing but I hope that the proposed pop-up cycle lanes etc.., materialise as this would make things a greta deal better.

What has it been like on your commute and have you noticed a difference?

Sunday 7 June 2020

Reviving the 'London Classic' on a Brompton

This morning I was clearing out one of the draws in our study and I found a route guide from the 'London Classic' that I got when I did it in 2015. This got me thinking - always a dangerous prospect!

The 'London Classic' was once an annual event that started and finished at the Gipsy Hill Tavern not far from Crystal Place in Southeast London.

The event involved cycling over numerous cobbled sections of road - there are quite a few of these still left in London - and ascending more than a few hills!! It was an homage to the Tour of Flanders and although most participants completed it on road bikes, I and many of my friends did so on our Brompton bicycles.

The route was only about 35 miles in total but the cobbles and the hills - the worst which appeared in the last 10 miles of the ride - made it a demanding few hours.

The route looped into central and east London to get all the cobbles before heading back up to Gypsy Hill. One infamous road that struck fear into all was Canobie Road. This started off quite steep and then a sharp turn to the left revealed an even steeper section of road to ascend. It was brutal and took the scalp of many a rider. (Me included the first time I tried it).

I have been up Canobie Road quite a few times since and even now I still treat it with some respect. Once up at the top turn around to face the way you just came and you are afforded solemn wonderful view of central London.

When I get a free weekend in the coming weeks I have set myself the challenge to complete the 'London Classic' route once more. Rather than start and finish at the Gypsy Hill Tavern, I will have my start and end point somewhere much more central - probably near to Leicester Square.

Again I will complete it on a Brompton and if social distancing cycling is feasible, I might invite a few fellow Brompton riders to make proceedings more interesting.

Stay safe out there people!!!