Friday 31 July 2020

Richmond Park open again to cyclists

After getting on for five months of restrictions, West London cycling hotspot Richmond Park (and occasional Brompton training ground) will fully open to cyclists tomorrow.

It was way back in March that the Royal Parks announced that cycling was to be banned as cyclists were not sticking to social distancing guidance at that time. In June the restrictions were lifted slightly, allowing cyclists to cycle on a restricted circuit during weekdays only.

I will be elsewhere on Saturday. I would imagine that the lycra brigade will be out in force doing circuits on expensive bikes, wearing expensive clobber, thinking they are on Le Tour but hate it when someone on a Brompton dares to overtake them.

Stay safe out there people!!

Thursday 30 July 2020

North London hills on a Brompton

Yesterday I was up early and headed out for a spin on my back to factory settings Brompton - SON dynamo hub wheel and dynamo lights taken off. It was a lovely morning with the sun peaking through wispy clouds that floated by on a gentle breeze.

My route to Alexandra Palace involved quite a few hills and I certainly worked hard to get there. The view were wonderful! It was not hot enough for there to be a haze in the distance and as such the buildings of central London and Canary Wharf could all be made out pretty clearly.

Naturally, I stopped to take a few photos and then retired to a nearby tree stump to have a drink of water and graze on a flapjack Mrs Orange had made with the Orangettes.

I paid a quick visit to Belsize Park and my route from Alexandra Palace took me through Hampstead Heath and near Hampstead Hight Street.

Now I will quite possibly lose some readers over what I am about to write but here goes - and yes I know that I am generalising terribly. I am not a fan of Hampstead. In my book it is perhaps one of the most pretentious places in London.

I am not a customer or fan of McDonald's (yes the Golden Arches) but when in 1993 - after 12 years of battling the residents of Hampstead who rabidly opposed it - McDonald's opened at the top of Hampstead High Street I could not help but chuckle. I remember going out of my way there near the Christmas it first opened to buy a tea and stand outside drinking it.

Arriving at Belsize Park I stopped off for a cup of tea - one of the benefits of having several relatives and friends who live in and around London - and managed to come home with the Le Creuset mug I had been given. Yes it was orange!

Feeling rather pleased with my posh mug and the fact I had my Mini-O bag to carry it home safely I cycled to a nearby tube station and them on to home. (I'll be going back there soon to get their tea pot which is in the same fetching orange)! In all I cycled just over 20 miles and I have to say I enjoyed every minute!

Stay safe out there people!!

Wednesday 29 July 2020

My Orange Brompton back to factory settings

You may have read my recent blog post in which I toyed with the notion of taking the dynamo lights off my bike as well as swap the front SON dynamo wheel out. Well, today I made the changes.

Okay what have I done? First I removed the Edulux II front dynamo light and bracket and replaced it with the stock front reflector. Next the rear SON, LED light was removed in favour of the standard Brompton Spanniga Solo battery light with incorporated rear reflector.

Just the front reflector now

Simple but it works well for what it needs to do

The Edulux II front light is actually pretty good but I have would not have and have not relied on it alone to illuminate the path ahead. The rear SON light is nice and bright but does not have a rear reflector and the one that you can get for it - which I used - was a total pain as it sat too high and always scraped on the floor making that annoying fingernails down a chalkboard sound when the bike was folded. In fact in was cracked down the middle as a direct result of this.

The SON dynamo wheel I replaced with a black extra light version front wheel - the same one that is fitted on the CHPT3.  This has the hollow axle, secured with an allen bolt and the closest thing Brompton has to a quick release.

I am a fan of the Superlight front wheel

It certainly rolls more freely than the standard wheel and not having to bother with nuts and washers is better. The icing on the cake is that it is a little lighter than the standard wheel and much more so than the SON dynamo one.

It was also time to change the chain and rear sprockets so a new set were put on and things do feel a little better as a result.

The last change was to put the front carrier block back on. I will now finally be able to choose at will one of the many Brompton from bags I have at my disposal. With a working front carrier block the saddlebag was removed - for the moment at least.

It was really great to be finally able to use a front bag on the carrier block again!  I really did have to think hard which bag to take. I have a Mini-O in black and orange, the new Borough (which I think is the best of the bunch by a mile) and black Mini-O with reflective dots.

Yea...a front carrier block with bag attached!!

As for illumination, I am not short of options. I have the Exposure Toro which is a beast and can happily pump out several hundred lumens for almost 10x hours - more than I would ever need. Once light I have had for a while but not actually used a great deal is a Lezyne light that isn't that big or heavy and yet can pump out 450 lumens for 8 hours - and possibly more. I also have an even beefier Lezyne light in the form of the Mega Drive so I am spoilt for choice.

I will be keeping the SON dynamo wheel and the set of dynamo lights as hey I might put them on again at some point. For me at least I am happy with the no dynamo setup.

Taking it all out for a 20 mile spin in which I encountered lots of the hills of North London, I cannot really say that there is a huge difference in the bike. It does feel a little lighter and that Superlight front wheel spins so freely it was as if the bike rolled a little better.

You could say that my Brompton is now back to factory settings.

Stay safe out there people!!

Tuesday 28 July 2020

£50 fix your bike voucher and bike on the NHS!

Wow! It seems that there are even more plans to boost cycling. The government recently announced that they would be launching the scheme that had been talked about during lockdown of a £50 repair voucher. There will be an initial run of 50,000 of these vouchers released later today on a first-come, first-served basis. The voucher will cover a standard service and is a pretty good idea but I do wonder where the money will be coming from?

Also announced is for doctors in areas of England with poor health (wherever that may be I don't know) to be encouraged to prescribe cycling, with patients apparently being able to access bicycles through their local surgeries.

Both are good ideas on paper but for me I would put be putting my efforts into making cycling safer and more accessible by improving the cycling infrastructure - more shared and dedicated cycle lanes that incorporate walking routes too.

Stay safe out there people!!

Monday 27 July 2020

New Orange RidePac by VeloPac

A few years ago - 23/12/16 to be precise - I posted a review of the 'RidePac' cycling wallet by 'Velopac.' CLICK HERE. Needing a second to store a few more bits and pieces in I searched straight away to get another one.

My original RidePac has been with me on every ride I have undertaken ever since I got it. It is still quite brilliant with the small VeloPac lanyard on the zip coming off being the only thing that hasn't survived. I have a few cycling wallets by Rapha and Bellroy but none are as good as these.

The dimensions are 100mm x 185mm and the internal dimensions are 85mm x 170mm. I can fit my iPhone 11 inside if I wised with ease along with quite a few other bits and pieces.

The new one is made out of a different material to my original one and I have to say I like it a little better. It is a waterproof Ripstop fabric that has inner padding and bound seams.

The inside has a bright olive material making things inside easier to see and better than the original which was black.

My original RidePac is packed to bursting point with:

  • Spare Brompton chain
  • 2 x Brompton inner tubes
  • 2 x CO2 cartridges
  • CO2 inflator
  • 15mm and 10mm spanner
  • Park tool hex keys
  • Tyre boot
  • Rubber gloves
  • Self-adhesive patches
  • Spare set of contact lenses 
This new version seems a little bigger and has obviously evolved into something that to me looks better - if that is possible.

In case you are wondering I bought this with my own money and my opinions are my own based on almost four years of using the original RidePac. 

I even like the colour! (Other colours and designs are available of course). It costs £20 and for this it is a bargain!

Stay safe out there people!!

Sunday 26 July 2020

Early morning Brompton spin heading east

Setting out early this morning I cycled through part of Hyde Park, past Buckingham Palace and onwards towards St. Paul's Cathedral. From there I crossed my favourite bridge spanning the Thames - the Millennium Foot bridge.

Naturally I had to take quite a few photos and by the look on their faces bemused joggers just couldn't quite comprehend the notion of taking a photo of a bicycle and not just the view. What do they know!

The picture below has been done to death by many an amateur photographer and it is the spot where tripods are set up to capture all sorts.

I had much of the first part of my route to myself and didn't really see anyone at all. Heading towards Tower Bridge things were even quieter. There were not the usual tourists taking photos or selfies and the number of cars heading back and forth across the bridge were few and far between.

I stuck to the Thames Path for the first half an arrived at the foot tunnel entrance which allows you descend down and walk underneath it.

The lift on the north side of the tunnel was not working but I hardly ever use it on this side anyway. I walked along the tunnel and it was rather disconcerting as there was no-one ahead. Stopping to take a photo, some rather tolerant tourists - who unbeknownst to me were standing behind me - waited while I took this photo.

At the lift on the south side - which again I didn't use - there was a little unpleasantness. A cyclist who shot past me as I neared the lift entrance shouted out to the person in the lift to hold the door. He didn't and the lift rose upwards.  The cyclists raced up the stairs swearing his head off with me following. When I reached the top I could hear raised voices as the pair of them shouted obscenities at  each other. All very unnecessary I'm sure!

Pressing on I stopped to take a photo where I have done many times of the Canary Wharf skyline. It really has changed over the years and is evolving. New building seem to go up all the time.

Reaching the O2 Arena I headed back but decided to let the Wahoo decide the route back for me. It chose - as always - a great one that was on quiet roads and totally different to the one I had just taken. I think I would use it again. In all I cycled a little shy of 20 miles.

Stay safe out there people!!

Saturday 25 July 2020

This Orange Brompton thing is going too far!

I make little secret of the fact that the colour orange plays a rather significant in my consciousness. Many have asked why this is. It is a little bit of a family thing and has its origins in WWII, however I don't propose to go into any explanation other than that.

Imagine my surprise when I popped round to my in-laws and discovered that they had a pack of disposable orange. Not only in orange but at a size my huge mitts would fit into without cutting off the circulation to both hands!

Using the standard Marathon tyres punctures are pretty rare for me but if the puncture fairy does ever pay a visit I can at least repairs them in style!

As for my in-laws supply of these gloves, I suspect...ahem...they may start to get smaller and smaller!!

Stay safe out there people!!

Friday 24 July 2020

Brompton Cateye Volt 400 front light set

You might have read my recent bog post in which I am considering taking off the dynamo hub wheel and lights. The Brompton Cateye Volt 400 Front light set arrived in record time from and may provide the solution I am after.

The set comes with:

  • Cateye Volt 400 front USB rechargeable light
  • Mounting bracket
  • Front reflector
  • UBS cable

The bracket is particularly good in that it is a solid, shaped piece of metal that definitely won't shear off as the wire brackets are prone to do. Fitting is pretty easy. All that is required is for you to undo the front brake calliper fit the bracket in place and then tighten things up.

It will take any Cateye light but of course certain lights would result in you being unable to utilise the front carrier block if it were one of the larger types. Luckily, this set up also means that I could use my old Cateye Volt 300 that I have always liked and is still going strong!

The light itself is pretty good for its intended purpose - sitting low just over the wheel and illuminating the road ahead. The light has the following modes and run times:

  • High: 2.5 hours (400 Lumens)
  • Low: 13.5 hours (100 Lumens)
  • Hyper-constant: 12 hours (400/50 Lumens)
  • Flashing: 100 hours (100 Lumens)

It is pretty small and only 93ish grams. I also like the Brompton livery on both sides of the light.

For the sort of night rides I do the only thing I will want to use/need is the low setting with that 100 Lumens lasting 13.5 hours. The Edulux II pumps out slightly less than this in terms of brightness but I do not rely on it solely and always beef things up with a light attached to the handlebar. I will of course do the same with this one. I will have to give it a go at night to see what I think of it.

Stay safe out there people!!

Thursday 23 July 2020

London car-free zones for the Brompton user (and other cyclists too)!

It seems as if by early August there are going to be some substantial changes to car and cycling traffic flows between London Bridge and Shoreditch.

There are plans to widen pavements along the mile-long route of the A10 to provide additional space for cycling. The aim is apparently to make a large part of the Square Mile one of the largest car-free areas in any major capital city in the world.

If this all happens it will certainly be good news for Londoners as is the general direction of travel to create more cycling routes. I suspect there will be some ferocious opposition from the usual suspects but I do hope that these car-free zones continue.

Stay safe out there people.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

I might swap my Brompton front wheel out

My Orange Black Special Edition originally came with a standard wheel. Almost immediately this wheel was off and I replaced it with a SON dynamo wheel. I also fitted an Edulux II front light and a SON rear LED light. Recently I have been thinking of going back to the original wheel and taking all the dynamo lights off.

There is of course nothing wrong with the SON wheel or light set up and if anything they are very convenient. The words fit and forget spring to mind. I do however have a few niggles with this setup.

The first is that that the wire bracket supporting the front light frequently snaps. I have gone through loads of them on this bike and my former P-type that had the same light. It got so bad that I actually carried a spare wire bracket with me just in case! I know a few other Brompton friends that this has happened to and I don't know whether it is just me or the type of adventures I embark upon but the problem is there. 

Fed up with this I replaced it with a much stronger one that eradicated this problem but created another. With this new, stronger bracket I could not use the front carrier block with a bag attached as the light would rub against it. The trouble is I do want to use a front bag now and then rather than a saddle bag.

The light output for the front and rear lights is pretty good and the fact you don't need to think about  batteries or charging your lights is a bonus. For me - others may disagree - they are not good enough on their own for the sort of riding I like to do, which are night rides to the coast. On these I put my faith in a good battery light to illuminate the path ahead. 

So, what am I going to do. Well, I want the front carrier block on this bike again. I think I might try out the wire bracket and see how things go. If it snaps again in the near future I think I may well swap the wheel over and take the dynamo lights off. Watch this space.

Stay safe out there people!!

Tuesday 21 July 2020

This Bromptonian will wear a mask!

In a few days time it will be compulsory to wear a face mask/covering in shops. This has already been the case for a few weeks on buses, trains and the tube. I have only been on a couple of journeys on public transport - I have my Brompton to thank for keeping this number down - and have been happy to wear a face mask.

I am sure that there will be reports of people refusing to abide by this, will argue the toss and have no genuine reasons for not wearing a face covering. I suspect that when Monday arrives there will be many poor members of staff - who aren't security guards etc - terrified and placed outside establishments given the job of checking to see the rules are being kept. I hope people don't give them a hard time!

I have two options. An all black face mask that a kind neighbour made for me or an orange cycling snood. Either option allows me to colour coordinate with my Orange Black Special Edition!!

Stay safe out there people!!

Monday 20 July 2020

Short Brompton round trip

This morning I ventured out nice and early for a quick errand. It was a quick four miles each way so I wasn't out for long.

Going through Hyde Park the lovely weather had not really induced too many to venture out and the place seemed quieter than it should. The only other bicycle I saw were of the hire variety that were invariably ridden in an interesting manner!

Cycling through Hyde Park Corner I soon arrived at Buckingham Palace. Many people think that if the Union flag is flying, it means that the Queen is in residence. It doesn't necessarily and the Queen has been staying at her other pad - Windsor Castle - for a few weeks.

It was a really lovely morning in London. The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze. It made the cycling that be better.

At the London Eye I stopped to take a photo and a couple of tourists asked me about the bike and where you could get one from. I told them as much as I could before wishing them a lovely holiday in London.

With my errand complete I cycled back taking full advantage of the fact that London is still a great deal quieter traffic-wise that normal.

Stay safe out there people!!

Sunday 19 July 2020

Brompton wins in copyright case

There are folding bikes and then there are folding bikes. I think it is true to say that I am an unashamed, biased Brompton fanboy and as such what I am about to write you might acuse me of being all of these. However, I do speak from some experience.

A little over ten years ago I bought a secondhand Dahon D7. It was alright I suppose but (and here it comes) it wasn't a Brompton. When I sold it not that long afterwards and bought a Brompton the differences were vast. In comparison the word I would use to describe the Dahon, I won't repeat, but to give you a clue it was...ahem...something you might step in! Since then I have seen all sorts of folding bicycle and none come close to the Brompton.

It would seem that Brompton have won a copyright infringement case against 'Get2Get' a South Korean company who produced a folding bicycle following the expiry of a former patient. The Court of Justice of the European Union concluded that copyright protection was applicable for items whose shape was required to obtain the technical result of the whole.

This is good news and it might result in other companies blatantly ripping off the unique design that is a Brompton thinking twice about it.

A Brompton bicycle is an iconic brand and the fact it is still build in the UK does mean something - perhaps more to overseas buyer than us in the UK.

A Brompton is not an inexpensive purchase but if you need a folder for practical reasons, to join the near-ecosystem that is owning a Brompton or simply want to pose as you cycle to get some organic coffee beans grown by hipsters in Hackney Fields, the Brompton is the bicycle for you!

Stay safe out there people!!

Saturday 18 July 2020

First overnight Brompton London to Brighton of 2020!

The last time Dr J and I had gone on our duo overnight London to Brighton was back in August 2019, so this was long overdue. With the forecast set for near perfect weather conditions this was something very much to look forward to in the days leading up to it.

Perhaps foolishly I needed to cycle 18 miles to the start near the the National Theatre and the foolish part was leaving later than I would have liked and subsequently having to turn the pedals at a pace in order to get to the start at the allotted time of 22:00.

I had toyed with the notion of taking the Flame Lacquer with me but couldn't resist the draw of the pure orange, so opted for my Orange, Black Special Edition.

When I arrived in central London things were busy to say the least, perhaps because it was such a lovely night. Arriving at the South Bank and the National Theatre, there were hundred of people all around and any form of social distancing was not on their minds. Seeing Dr J I said hello said let's go and that I would meet him at the bottom of the road running parallel to it.

After a few minutes tying to get the route loaded on the Wahoo - which I had not done earlier - shortly after 22:00 we were off on another nocturnal adventure.

I had proposed the earlier start time for several reasons. I knew that Dr J had been a little reticent about traveling on public transport and felt that this 40ish minute train journey into London would be less busy earlier. In addition by leaving almost two hours earlier than usual for this ride (which is normally midnight) when we arrived at Brighton, the trains would surely be empty.

At the traffic lights opposite the Old Vic Theatre, I rushed to take a photo. I need not have been in haste as the lights must have taken a good five-minutes to change!

Pressing on, we cycled purposefully to get past Oval and Clapham as we knew the area to would busy - it was - and the left turn into more residential streets would be a great deal quieter and the pace could lessen.

As always Dr J was excellent company. It was lovely to catch up and we kept each other entertained throughout the entire journey.

The cattle grid at Farthing Downs in Coulsdon was again a welcome sight as it marked the turning point from urban to more rural. We stopped at the top and took in views of Croydon down below.

I had taken my Lezyne 1800i Mega Drive front light and the 'Enduro' setting pumped out a serious amount of light for the entire ride. I was rather impressed.

While at the top we had a snack and some fluids and that done we pressed on towards our halfway stop.

We made excellent time and the miles started flying by. Along the way we spotted lots of wildlife. Foxes, rabbits, bats, heard owls hooting in nearby trees and the highlight a very large deer that darted across the road.

Our previous halfway stop arrived at about 29-30 miles. This has evolved from standing outside the scout hut in Burstow to a 24-hour petrol station. The latter now sadly closed at 23:00 but the ever resourceful Dr J found that there was an alternative not too far away that would be open at 02:00 in the a.m.

This place was an oasis! I bought a Magnum lolly, a bottle of water to top my main bottle up and a cup of tea. The Magnum was divine and the sandwiches I had brought washed down with a hot drink was the icing on the cake.  We retired to a seating area and there we recharged the batteries for a short while.

Setting off I instantly felt the cold and considered putting on the boil in the bag jacket I had brought with me. Deciding against this we pressed on and within a minute felt fine again.

Ditchling Beacon really did appear quite suddenly - possibly because we were chatting away - and at the base we stopped for our customary regrouping and powdering of noses.

It was just after 04:00 in the a.m. and we saw a roadie flying down the Beacon only to cycle up it again. He must have done this 2 or 3 times while we were making our ascent.

Dr J and I rode together and chatted as we cycled up. This took my mind off proceedings and it was a bit of a shock when we reached the traditional stopping point at the top. We had done it and the Beacon was conquered again.

The views at the top were stunning and with the sun rising it was a beautiful sight. We had the top of the Beacon to ourselves for quite some time before a bemused dog walker, parked up their car in the car park opposite where we (I) had been taking lots of photos.

The next few miles into Brighton were lovely. More or less downhill the entire way we could freewheel for much of it.

My plan to get to the station early had been realised and with our train at 05:25 a.m. there seemed to be few people on the platform and even fewer on the train. For the entire journey into London there could not have been more than 12 people.

Roughly one hour and 15 minutes later I we arrived at Farringdon where I got off and said my goodbyes to Dr J. My journey home there after was quick to say the least and I was opening the door not that long after 07:20.

We cycled 58 miles and despite not having too many longer rides under my belt for 2020 I felt fine. After some breakfast and a shower I retired for a few hours sleep and feel pretty good as I type this.

As always, many thanks to Dr J for his company and being a little unhinged like myself to think that this is all great fun. I suspect that we will be going on many more nocturnal adventures in the not too distant future as well as some day rides too. I am sure that Brighton will feature as a location but I am sure other coastal routes from the past might have to be done too.

Stay safe out there people!!