Wednesday 28 April 2021

Freitag F748 backpack for Brompton

When you buy a Brompton the initial reason might be the great multi-modal transport options that essentially gives you the freedom to go anywhere and change your plans. Cycle somewhere and it rains - fold and take the tube. See an old friend while cycling - fold and put it by the table outside the coffee shop of your choice. You get the idea. Once you have got this, you soon go to know a Brompton has a wonderful luggage carrying facility and some great bags to choose from.  The new kid on the block is by Freitag.

Freitag have been around for a while now and make bags and wallets out of tarp commonly seen covering various items on a truck. I have to report that I have owned a little credit card holder made my Freitag for quite a few years, that was a present. The word present is important. 

The bag itself is great. It fits on the carrier block of any Brompton and when not on your bike, becomes a rather usable backpack. It has clever magnets that move the straps out of the way when you don't want it to be a backpack. It comes in lots of colours and even if you are standing next to someone with what looks like the same bag, your one will probably have slight differences. The retail price is £320 and for me herein lies a problem.

For me £320 is too much - despite owning one could allow you to join the cool kids gang. Do I like the bag? Yes, a great deal however I wouldn't but one. 

I am certain that this bag will fly off the online and actual shelves but I will pass. If it were a present however...

Sunday 25 April 2021

Brompton Nocturnal adventure, London to Ashford

Friday marked the first official nocturnal night ride to the coast and I had been looking forward to it greatly. The meeting point was not too far from the London Eye and as it was such a lovely evening, I decided to cycle the just over 19 miles from where I had been based. Time would tell whether this was a wise move.

I briefly stopped at a few London landmarks - many more than the photos below suggest - before heading to the start point. 

There were lots more people out and about and although still nowhere near what it should be like in London, definitely increased numbers. This was good to see and hear. Many sat outside pubs with blankets around them as there was a little bit of a nip in the air. 

There were two groups, with one setting off at 23:45 and my group at midnight. I arrived to say hello and goodbye to a few people. Our ride leader was the gentlemen that is Tim and almost on the stroke of midnight, we were off. 

Dr John and I had been asked to take on the highly responsible role of Tail End Charlie. In our group of 10 or 11 (I cannot remember) there was not a huge amount of work for us to but when the opportunity arose I uttered the time honoured phrase 'all up!' in a gleeful fashion. 

There were a few people on the ride I had not seen in ages. Mark (King of the Hill), Jenny (The Mile Monster), Amy, Sam, Kim and James. They kindly hovered at the back so that we would able to chew the fat for a bit. It was lovely to catch up on all the gossip. 

We progressed at a good pace and as always, I enjoyed the company of my dear friend Dr John. As we cycled on I felt the cold. I had worn the same clothing as on recent (and quite chilly) rides with Dr John but I did feel the cold. The first half was billed as having more than a few hills and never have I relished an ascent! I used them to help increase the body temperature. 

Our half way stop - a 24-hour petrol station - was sadly shut so we went to an alternative that was also shut. The third was open and a near oasis. It was huge and in addition to hot drinks, sold pretty much anything the discerning nocturnal cyclist might want. 

After about 5 minutes I again felt the cold and resorted to a neck buff and light rain jacket. These remained on for the next few hours I can tell you!

I cannot explain why, but this ride reminded me of my first ever night ride to the coast almost exactly eight year ago to the day? I really cannot put my finger on it and tell you why? I have been on more night rides to the coast in the proceeding eight years than I can remember but this one reminded me of April 2013 when I rode to Brighton on an Orange Titanium with Mark (King of the Hill). 

With dawn approaching we reached a medieval bridge in rural Kent. This county, is perhaps one of the most beautiful in terms of it scenery, and it didn't disappoint. We were all there taking photos and recording the sound of the dawn chorus. 

Every resourceful, Dr John had kept himself warm, by using a free newspaper he got from the train station to stuff down his front and thus acting as a wind insulator. 

Little villages came and went, all competing with each other for the top place in the picture postcard competition. Oast houses - a feature of Kent - designed for drying hops as part of the brewing process, were everywhere. This spurred Jenny and myself to go into photograph anything and everything. 


With a good few miles to go before the finish, James had an issue with his pedal and crank. It appeared the pedal had been cross threaded and thus kept unscrewing itself. For him the ride was sadly over and he and Kim made there way to a station that was luckily not too far away. 

A little llama proved to be very photogenic and I think most of the Brompton riders took a photo. I am convinced that it even tried to smile for us.

The next few miles we pressed on, rolling through beautiful countryside with the sun rising and birds happily singing away for the start of the new day. It was stunning and again one of the draws of a ride of this nature. 

After clocking up just under 67 miles we had reached Ashford and posed in front of a large WWI tank. That done and wanting to get the 09:16 train back to London I headed off to Ashford station with Dr John. At 09:54 we arrived back in London at St. Pancras. Less than 30 minutes later I was back home. 

This was a wonderful route and a great little ride. I think that the 19 miles to get to the start was fine and didn't create any issues for me. After a shower and some food I had a few hours sleep and felt pretty good afterwards, considering I had cycled almost 90 miles in total.  Many thanks to Tim for leading the rode and to my fellow participants. 

The next official ride is in a few weeks time and I look forward to it. Of course, I may well be able to get in another before this. 

Until next time, stay safe out there people.

Monday 19 April 2021

Too much wildlife at the London Wetlands Centre!

The London Wetlands Centre is a location that is rather special to me and my family. Opened in May 2000 I think we became members a year later. Not long after this, number one Orangette was pushed around in her pram, carried on one of those front baby carriers and then quite happily  walking around the place on her own. She was joined a few years later by Orangette number 2 and much the same happened. 

Although the Orangettes have been there less over the years, they still like paying the place a visit and we all enjoy going there. I have been know to cycle there in good weather and put my bike in one of the little secure cages just outside the centre, locking the bike up with so many locks that Houdini himself could not break free from!

It really is a little oasis of calm and at times hard to believe that you are in a busy part of London. I have a friend who has a house that backs on to the Wetlands Centre that is rather nice to say the least. On days when there is good weather however he has been known to head there with a backpack filled with laptops, mobile phones and a few files and carry out his work there. 

Anyway, on the day we visited we had just partaken in a cup of tea, Cornish pastie and cake and were heading around to see what birds we could spot. Ducks dabbled, and a Grey Heron stood motionless - as they often do. The next thing we saw was said Heron fly towards the ducks and then land not too far away. A scream from a female Mallard could be heard, drawing the attention of all onlookers. What happened next was of course part of nature but a little bit too Sir David Attenborough for that time of the a.m. in SW13!!

The Heron had in its mouth a baby Mallard - held by its neck - and then proceeded flick and with one motion swallowed it whole! Two young children looked on at this speechless, opened mouthed with one placing their hands to their face Edvard Munch, 'The Scream' style. 

We didn't hang around but when passing the young child I said that I thought it might be a frog as if to offer some bizarre compensation?!

So, if you are ever in London and want something a little different, you could do worse than give the Wetlands Centre a go!

Saturday 17 April 2021

Second nocturnal London to Brighton on an Orange Brompton of 2021

After the last overnight London to Brighton, this one should have been to Whitstable. The trains however were not really cooperating and would have made it difficult for Dr John, so I offered Brighton again instead. 

We met at the usual start location near the London Eye. Getting there I took the tube and cycled the short distance to meet Dr John who was already there at 22:50ish. On the way, crossing the Thames, I stopped on the bridge to get a couple of photos of London at night. 

The whole of the Southbank was rather busy and although nowhere near as busy as it should be, it was lovely to see people out and about again. 

We set off almost straight away and made good progress to the right turn at the Old Vic theatre and later on the right turn after Clapham Common, where quieter roads greeted us. As per usual, on this road we also chanced on a lone fox strutting across the road. 

Again, the cattle grid on Farthing Down arrived quickly and in addition to taking the odd photo we had some fluids and a little bit of food.  The miles and the time flew by and before long we reached the halfway stop at about 03:00 in the am. I was glad of this. I wasn't starving to death but I was rather hungry!

Leaving after our refreshment I again felt the cold and had to resort to wearing my lightweight rain jacket again. Dr John had brought 3x pairs of gloves, one of which was that lobster claw type that you wouldn't see me dead in. He changed them periodically throughout the ride and swore by the lobster claw ones!

Once we reached  the top of Turners Hill the extra layers came off as I felt fine again. (The lobster claws were replaced with a more usual style of glove)!

We reached the foot of Ditchling Beacon in near record time and made our ascent together and still in the dark. 

Ditchling Beacon is still quite the hill to ascend on your bike - perhaps more so on a Brompton - and despite having ridden up now more times that I remember, there is still a sense of achievement when eventually reaching the top.  

With the Beacon tamed we headed into a rather quiet Brighton with very few souls about. Not stopping for photos this time we headed for the station where I boarded the train bound for Victoria. Dr John was sadly on a different train this time. 

The train left on time and it was a very quick journey back to the big smoke. As for last time, there were few other passengers on the train and even Victoria seemed subdued. 

As I cycled past Buckingham Palace there were a few people putting down flowers for the Duke of Edinburgh. I think is well known that he was a fan of the small wheels, having visited Brompton HQ a few times over the years. 

Another great adventure and again my thanks to the ever brilliant company of Dr John. Our next ride will be next week with more participants. Hopefully Dr John will not get a rush of blood to the head and bring big wheels in favour of a Brompton! 

Until then, stay safe out there people!!

First nocturnal Orange Brompton rode to the coast for 2021

With some of the covid restrictions lifted, I had arranged in advance with Dr John for us to begin our very own season of night rides to the coast with the classic London to Brighton.

Along with setting this date up in advance, I already knew which of my bicycles I was going to take with me - my Titanium Orange Brompton. I didn't need to prep this bike at all other apply some oil to the chain and check the tyre pressures. 

I decided to cycle to the start location near the London Eye which would involve almost 20 miles of cycling. I did take it easy and didn't push things but I am not sure that doing this before almost 60 miles during the night was the bets of ideas?

I arrived at at the start just after 23:00 and Dr John was already there. It was great to be finally embarking upon a nocturnal adventure to the coast and even better to see Dr John again. We set off almost straight away, once I had managed to load the route into my Wahoo. After so long I had almost forgotten how to do it. Thankfully, the chevron line to follow came up and we were off. 

The traffic was thankfully pretty light and we made excellent progress. We reached the left turn on Cathless Road in record time having past the stations Oval, Stockwell, Clapham North, Clapham Common and Clapham South. We passed through Tooting Common and this point always marks the slight change from busy to quieter roads. 

Dr John was in good form and we chatted away about what we had been up to and general Brompton gossip. This made the entire ride seem to go by quickly and it was more about the simple pleasures of two friends catching up and cycling through the the night than Strava segments or times. 

We reached Farthing Downs and the cattle grid at just after 01:00 a.m. and the urban was left behind. Once at the top we stopped for a snack and to take a few sips of water. After a few photos we pressed onwards. 

From this point on it was countryside all the way. Owls, foxes, rodents and badgers made themselves known. One particular badger darted this way and that and at one point I thought it was going to head towards us. This induced much cursing and alarm from yours truly! Luckily it made its mind up and headed for a hedge and was lost to the night. 

Many times when cycling this route we have passed a windmill. This time we stopped at Outwood Windmill. This Grade 1 listed post windmill is Britain's oldest working example and was built in 1665. Legend has it that the builders actually watched the Great Fire of London glowing in the distance, some 25 miles away. I managed to get a photo with Dr John shining his front light in its general direction. 

Our halfway stop came not too long afterwards at a 24-hour petrol station off the A264. There we partook in a coffee, generally recharged the batteries and ate our snacks. At the point of leaving I started to feel the cold. I had been telling Dr John that it wasn't any such thing for miles but I felt frozen and uttered sounds that might have come from the late Frankie Howerd! Various oooh's, aaah's, shocking and oh no could be heard. I put on the light rain jacket I had stowed away and a neck warmer for good measure and did not feel back to normal temperature until we had reached the top of Turners Hill some 9-10 miles away!

At Turners Hill, no Strava personal bests were broken (not that I do Strava) and we glided up and made good our ascent. 

At the foot of Ditchling Beacon we remarked how quickly it seemed to have arrived. With us both chatting away, time flew by and we got ourselves ready for the biggest climb of the ride. We rode up together, still chatting and before long the top was reached - still in more or less darkness. No arty photos of sunrise. In fact the photos below are not really what it looked like at all but more a showcase of how good my iPhone 11 camera is at taking photographs in extreme low light!

After a few more photos we rolled down into Brighton with the roads pretty quiet and almost no one around. We stopped at the Pavillion and Pier to get some photos before heading to the station. After stocking up on a bacon roll and coffee we boarded the 07:12 a.m. train for Victoria - with no more than 4 or 5 other passengers.

At Victoria, John got the tube to Euston while I cycled to a tube station to get home. Arriving back at about 09:15 I was rather pleased. After a shower, cup of tea and then a few hours sleep I felt pretty good for having cycled 82 miles in all. 

It was a great ride and as always I enjoyed it and the company of Dr John. We have another ride scheduled pretty soon which will probably feature a different coastal location. until then, stay safe out there people!!