Sunday 30 August 2020

Larger Brompton group cycling numbers allowed

Up until quite recently the number of riders that could cycle in a group was restricted to just six. From last Thursday this has been increased to 15 people!

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland 'Cycling UK' has issued new guidance that allows the number to rise from 6 to 15. This is good news. I have enjoyed some of the rides I have been on with just 5x other riders but that freedom to have more has meant that some were unable to attend.

Hopefully in the near future I will be able to see a Brompton peloton again in all its glory - with more than 5x people in front of me!

Stay safe out there people!!

Saturday 29 August 2020

Central London still quiet

Take a stroll into central London and things are still pretty quiet. Some of the large city institutions are shut and there are still low numbers of people milling around compared to what it is like normally.

Many office workers in the larger companies have been told that they will not be back in their offices this side of Christmas. One wonders when it will return to some form of normality?

For me personally, if people did start to use public transport in larger numbers, I would still be cycling there and back on one of my Brompton bicycles. It all seems a little chicken and egg at the moment.

Stay safe out there people!!

Thursday 27 August 2020

Greeting other Brompton riders on your travels

In the early 1990s I was gifted a Brompton. Back then on the few times I saw anyone on another Brompton pass by, it was almost like meeting a long lost relative. There wasn't just a nod of the head or ding of the bell but stopping to chew the fat for a while! Things can be very different today.

There are so many Brompton bike out there. If for example, you were cycling through Hyde Park either end of rush hour - and quire possibly in between - you will see lots of them. Some people ding their bells, others say hello, some nod their heads as they go past and many are either oblivious or don't care about such things.

For me personally it does depend on what I am doing. If it on my commute I rarely acknowledge other Brompton riders. If however it is when I am on one of my Brompton adventures, I do.

If you have a Brompton what do you do?

Stay safe out there people!!

Wednesday 26 August 2020

Wonderful overnighter to Whitstable on my Titanium Orange Brompton

Last Friday was a nocturnal ride to one of my favourite night ride to the coast locations, Whitstable. Many describe this as the Queen of rides and I would have to agree. It is one of my favourites and with only limited places available - due to the 'C' word - I was lucky to get a slot.

I decided to cycle in rather than take the tube and I am glad that I did. There still a breeze in the air - it had been very strong at times throughout the day - but it was much gentler.

Passing the Guards Memorial opposite Horse Guards Parade I stopped to take a photo and pause for thought.

In my formative years I pretty much passed this every day. In fact I would say hello to each of the five soldiers.

The meet point was not too far from the London Eye and the first group of 6x riders were getting themselves read to leave. One of their number was Sam who I had not seen since the last time I did the 'Tweed Run.' She looked well and was like everyone looking forward to the night ahead.

Our group was to leave a short time after. Our leader for the ride was veteran and all round good egg Ross. After a brief safety chat we headed off into a warmish night.

Our progress was swift - perhaps as there was only six of us - and we reached the familiar sight of the Old Vic theatre. On our Brighton rides, Dr John and I normally turn right at this point but se would go straight over.

Ross does lots of London themed rides in addition to leading the odd night ride to the coast and this was evident when we made a quick detour to Mandela Way to see the Russian T-34 tank that resides on the corner of Mandela Way and Page's Walk in Bermondsey. It seems that many years ago a gentleman was unable to gain the necessary planning permission to redevelop the site and decided to put a tank there with the gun turret pointing in the direction of the council buildings. Only in London! It has been a while since I have been there but the tank - which frequently gets repainted - was a totally different colour when I did.

We passed Greenwich and the Cutty Sark in what seemed like next to no time and soon arrived at Woolwich. On the distance the passenger ferry that takes passengers across the river Thames free of charge was illuminated. These are new and I have yet to travel on them. Every time I see them I say that this is something I must do!

The weather was very kind to us and it made for lovely cycling conditions. There was only the faintest of breezes throughout and made the entire experience that more enjoyable.

We stopped briefly the the bus stop on the Kent Fastrack and I could not resist the temptation of propping my bike up against the wire statue and taking a photo!

Not long after this, in fact on the stroke of 03:00 in the a.m. we arrived at Harmer Street with its clock tower striking the hour quite loudly. Sadly the pub called 'The Call Boy' had large wood coverings put up. I would imagine that it is in the process of being redeveloped. It will be interesting to see what it becomes the next time I cycle to Whitstable.

The photos here - if you look very carefully as they were taken in darkness - is of a Russian submarine...yes a submarine. This found its way into private hands and after being moored near the Thames Barrier and later Folkestone, it is now sitting on the River Medway in Rochester. It was formally a museum open to the public but is now in need of some TLC.

Our halfway stop was in Strood in the familiar and very welcome surroundings of the Church of the English Martyrs. Ride to the coast veteran and facilitator of the best halfway stop bar non, Tim, had got up at stupid o'clock to provide us with some lovely refreshments.

Strangely we had somehow beaten the first group to it and they arrived about 15 minutes after we had. Socially distanced on separated seating areas we consumed cheese rolls, tea, flapjacks and quite possibly the best slice of Victoria cake, south of the River Thames!

The first group left before we did and not too long after that so did we. Normally I feel the cold after resuming the cycling after the halfway stop but on this occasion I was perfectly fine, requiring no additional layers.

With dawn on its way the countryside was illuminated in all its glory and things got very picturesque to say the least.

With the sun rising, it was very obligingly casting an orange glow in the distance making just about everyone get out their phones to snap a few photos.

Arriving at Faversham and its rather interesting church with that rather interesting spire, we didn't have too much more to go.

The last left turn towards Gravney Marshes normally means a sprint to the finish for anyone who wants to do this. This time we kept together but upped the pace slightly. The air was fairly still and if anything it was behind us, ever so slightly pushing us along.

We made very good progress and when reaching the last stretch towards the end and breakfast stop, I waved my goodbyes and headed off straight for the station.

I got the first available train and with the carriage more or less to myself settled back until the train rolled in to Victoria. From there I had a few miles more to cycle - as I had vowed not to use the tube to get home.

London to Whitstable was 67.5 miles but with the extra milage I totalled up 104.5 miles, so pretty good.

Another great ride and many thanks to Ross for leading, my fellow participants and Tim for the lovely food stop/refreshments.

There really is something quite addictive about night rides to the coast. In paper many people stare in disbelief at the prospect of me doing these and there is little I can do to convey just how enjoyable they are. Perhaps it is something you have to experience for yourself?

Stay safe our there people!!

Thursday 20 August 2020

Brompfication Hinge Clamps back on a Titanium Brompton

I think it was 6 years ago that I had a set of these Brompfication hinge clamps on my first Titanium Brompton. When I turned it into a black version, these came off and were put away for a rainy day. That rainy day turned out to be yesterday when it poured almost constantly.

I was looking for something else in the garage and stumbled across these with their titanium bolts, pretty much in the condition I left them in. I gave them a quick clean and they looked rather good.

I remember when competing at a couple of the London Nocturne events getting off to a terrific start - mainly as these made the process of assembling your Brompton that bit faster.

It only seems fitting that I use them on my new Orange Titanium Brompton. I mean they do offer over 20 grams of weight saving over the standard set!

Stay safe out there people!!

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Too many Brompton Bags!!

On the rather good ride last Thursday, the topic of conversation was Brompton bags. Chris commented that he had 13. I was amazed by this and when I was tidying my study I was amazed by the amount of Brompton bags I have accumulated!

The Brompton front carrier block is a wonderful invention and it works so well with the Brompton and the whole multi-modal transport vibe. I would say that it is better system than pannier bags for its ease of use. Naturally there are occasionally colour options to colour coordinate with your Brompton.

Currently I have the following front bags:

  • Brompton T Bag
  • Brompton Borough Waterproof, small navy
  • Brompton O bag in black and orange
  • Brompton Mini O Bag in black and orange
  • Brompton Mini O bag in black

Current saddle bags:

  • Carradice zipped roll x 2 in orange and black
  • Carradice zipped roll in black
  • Carradice Super C in orange and black
  • Brooks Isle of Wight

So, as you can see I too have quite a few bags!

I think that I am going to have to sell some of these at some point as I don't use some of these a great deal any more.

Stay safe out there people!!

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Almost a drowned rat on my Brompton!

Today I was out on my Brompton for a quick errand and got caught in an almighty thunder storm.  Ironically, I took sanctuary near but not in the Brompton Oratory. It was my intention to take a few photos but this was cut short by near biblical bolts of lightening and rain that poured down.

I had taken my Orange Titanium with me and was lucky enough to seek shelter moments before the heavens opened. Had I been caught in this while riding what is my new Brompton, the rainwater might have just hidden the tears that would have surely fallen, if any precipitation of this force hit my bike!

Thankfully it was all over in about 15 minutes. Rather than stick around I decided to head home, for fear of another unpredictable downpour!!

Keep your powder dry as they day!!

Stay safe out there people!!

Sunday 16 August 2020

London Street Songs Brompton ride

Today was a very different sort of ride and one with a theme - songs associated with London street names. Setting off I was wondering if the predicted rain would stay away for the majority of the ride...

There were two separate groups doing the ride. Big wheels staring at Hyde Park Corner, which I passed when travelling to the small wheels contingent at Russell Square. When I arrived everyone was there and after a quick coffee and almond croissant, it was decided that both groups would meet up but ride as two totally separate groups where social distancing prevailed!!

As we set off the sound of the first song was played through a bluetooth speaker. 'Streets of London' by Ralph McTell. This wasn't assigned to a specific street and served more as an introduction to what was to come.

'Baker Street' by Gerry Rafferty has a rather famous saxophone part that urban legend asserts was played by the late Bob Holness - who was a host of a popular quiz show with a bit of a cult following called 'Blockbuster.' (I wish it were true)!

'Warrick Avenue' by Duffy is an area of London I know rather well having lived not a million miles away when I was growing up.

The song title refers to the tube station of the same name.

Not far from the picture below is 'Portabello Road' by Yusuf/Cat Stevens. This famous market was a location I used to visit early every Saturday morning with my dad. He loved it there and bought almost all of the fruit and vegetables we needed.

'Notting Hill Gate' by Quintessence was a band I have never heard of I must confess. The area Notting Hill Gate is however one I know very well.

'(Sunny) South Kensington' by Donovan. This was home turf for me for several years and although it has changed quite considerably over the years, I am still rather fond of it.

A bonus for me before heading across Albert Bridge was seeing the house where Bob Marley used to live. I think I have written elsewhere on this blog that when I was a great deal younger, I attended a Sunday school / Church that was almost exclusively made up of members of the Afro-Caribbean community. I have very fond memories of listening to all sorts of music but can still remember hearing Bob Marley being played through a large  sound system for the first time!

'(Misty morning) Albert Bridge' by the Pogues is a rather good song and I hummed it as I crossed the bridge.

Again going off the list of songs I spotted a cafe named 'Shalamar' and this made me think about the group 'Shalamar.' I remember seeing Jeffrey Daniel doing what was to become the moonwalk for the first time with me memorised and moments later trying to do it myself!  I asked Chris whether Michael Jackson got it from him and it seems he did.

'Electric Avenue' by Eddie Grant is a song with a very important message but back in 1982 I merely sang along to it as it is a wonderful song. As I type this I know that this song is going to stay in my head for about another two weeks!!

'59 Lyndhurst Grove' by Pulp proved to be illusive. At first, it was suspected that 59 was the pink house below.

This was disputed and conversations were had.

Eventually, the real location of 59 was located. I have to confess to not never being a fan of Pulp or Jarvis Cocker though.

(Maid of) Bond Street' by David Bowie had me thinking that it was not David Bowie but Tommy Steel. A tolerant member of the ride pointed out that it was in fact David Bowie being heard through the bluetooth speaker. (Sounded a lot like Tommy Steel if you ask me though)!!

'Soho Square' by Kirsty MacColl refers to waiting for a lover on a bench. Fans gather there every year on what would have been her birthday.

This was a great 22ish miles and the theme part of the ride was such a great idea. The rain did hold off and by the time I got back to the car I had cycled close on 30 miles. Many thanks to Nick for organising and to my fellow riders. 

All the way home I was singing 'Electric Avenue' and Mrs Orange wondered why later on she was humming it too!

Stay safe out there people!!

Saturday 15 August 2020

Water, water, every where...on a Brompton!

With the hot run seemingly at an end and the monsoon season upon us, thoughts have turned to the waterproof jackets I have.

When I am packing light - especially during the summer months - I tend to rely heavily on those very thin boil in the bag type of jackets. These are typically inexpensive and okay if you happen to be caught in a deluge when out and about. They are not really up too the job if cycling for another 20 or 30 miles!

For longer rides I try and take one of my Proviz jackets. These have better waterproofing prowess, with the killer feature of all those reflective bits. They have limited breathability but are better than the boil in the bag types - which are wonderful if you are feeling cold on a ride incidentally.

There are of course jackets that boast breathability and waterproof qualities someone working on a winter fishing vessel on the North Sea would be kept dry in but they tend to cost a small fortune.

That happy medium of excellent waterproofing, some breathability and not costing a fortune is one that has eluded me so far. The search for this jacket does however continue...

Stay safe out there people!!

Friday 14 August 2020

Brompton introducing subscription service

Brompton has had their popular bike hire scheme for a while now but they will be introducing a subscription service in the next month or so.

The way it works is you can hire an M3L bike for two types of subscription. If you go for the 12 month option it is £30 a month. For a lesser commitment £42 a month gets you a rolling monthly contract.

Things like insurance, repairs and servicing twice a year are included which actually make the cost pretty fair.

I would imagine that in the current climate, this is going to be incredibly popular and the limited initial run of availability will almost certainly be oversubscribed.

To me this seems like a great idea. My basic calculations tell me that it is less expensive than the monthly costs of getting a Brompton (assuming you can buy one at the moment) on one of the bike to work schemes. Of course with this subscription service, the bike does not belong to you.

I can see several different groups of people this would appeal to:

  • Those who want the convenience of the best folding bike out there but no commitments about maintenance, repairs, insurance 
  • People reluctant to use public transport in the current climate
  • Those testing out whether a Brompton is for them
  • Casual users that may not need a Brompton in three months time
Once you see how good a Brompton is and how useful and fun it is, I can see many heading off to Brompton Junction or their local bike shop to order their own.

There are plans to launch this at a later date in Germany and the USA. I suspect other countries where Brompton has a presence may get it too. 

Not sure that this will be a long term thing for Brompton? Will they be doing this fives years from now? For the moment however it is a really good idea.

Stay safe out there people!!

Thursday 13 August 2020

Fun and shocks on the Brompton London Icons ride!!

Today was rather busy for yours truly. In the morning I was meeting an old friend and later on I had two rides to get to - the all Brompton London Icons ride and then a cycle event where you were allowed to cycle in the grounds of Kew Gardens. (I ended up only going to the first of these).

I managed to get myself to the start at Russell Square knowing that my fellow Brompton riders would have started already and be further along the route - which was lovely one.

Despite this, I felt compelled to take the odd photograph as I went along - I mean this is the Brompton way after all!!

Somewhere heading east about 15 miles in to the 30 mile route I caught up with the group, the rider leader of which was Jenny aka The Mile Monster. It was great to catch up with everyone.

Quite soon after joining the pack we came upon the next icon along the route, the Cable Street Mural. On the recent Jack the Ripper ride this had been featured so I recalled what I remembered.

Our luncheon stop was a part of London I do not think that I have ever been to, Trinity Buoy Wharf. We parked our Brompton bicycles at the 'Fat Boys Diner' and ordered a pretty good burger and chips and several cold drinks.

We chewed the fat for a while and thankfully large parasols provided the shade we needed to keep ourselves cool.

The little lighthouse was built in 1864 - 66 and served to test lighting systems used in other light houses and to train would be lighthouse keepers.

The views across to the O2 and beyond were stunning and I made a mental note to come back this way again at some point.

We set off for the last part of the ride which would take us back to Russell Square. It was then that I received a shock the like of which the world has not seen the like of which!!

Before leaving 'Fat Boys Diner' I decided to buy a bottle of water. They did not have any more still water but had sparkling. Are you seeing where this might be leading?!

We cycled along quite happily and Jenny and I discussed the area - which could at certain times be on the rough side. Without warning and rather suddenly the top portion of my water bottle exploded upwards in a violent eruption I would liken to a drive-by shooting you see on television or canon being fired! 

There was an almighty bang and the entire top section travelled at some velocity I can tell you straight into my chest and then hurtled upwards and then down many metres away. For a new brief moments I was all but transported to the Battle of Trafalgar! It was only realising my surroundings that I did not say, 'They have done for me at last, Hardy.'

Once I had recovered the top of my water bottle and composed myself we continued our journey.

As we cycled along back towards the square mile the wind started to pick up a little and the reasonably blue skies turned to grey.

Reaching Russell Square we had a few more refreshments and waited for Mr W to arrive. He was already there and sitting in the middle of the square. It was lovely to see him again and catch up.

With that the rain fell and I decided that I would not cycle to Kew Gardens and that I could live without cycling in its grounds - even though it was a rather special thing to do.

This was a lovely ride and a particularly good route. In all I cycled just under 38 miles today, so not too shabby. Many thanks to Jenny and my fellow participants.

Make sure you never put sparkling water in your water bottle! Stay safe out there people!!