Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Lots of readers - thank you!

Today was a little bit of a milestone for my humble little blog and I thought I would share it with you. 

This blog started off way back on the 18th September 2010 is which my first blog post informed the world that I had just ordered my Brompton. (Although strictly speaking I did own one a Brompton back in 1990). It was a vehicle for me to write my thoughts about rides I had been on, the people I met along the way and the adventures I got up to. There have been plenty!

I rarely look at the huge amount of data available, informing you about all sorts of fact and figures but today I recorded the highest monthly total of views for getting on for 6x years! There has not been huge spikes, just a consistent rise over the past few months. 

I am, as always, grateful for anyone to read my ramblings whether you be new to this blog or an old hand. Equally, I am grateful for your comments and the kind messages of support - usually via Instagram.

Thank you all again, keep reading and stay safe out there people!!

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Whitstable on an Orange Brompton

Despite looking forward to this one for some time, with a very busy week at work, I very nearly bailed before I set off. I just didn't know if my mind or heart was in it. I decided that it might do the power of good, so set off for central London with the prospect of a night ride to the coast making me feel better. 

My view just before I head to the start

When I reached the South Bank, London appeared to be almost back to what I remember it being pre-Covid. Sound systems blared out deep bases and there were lots and lots of people around. All good in my opinion. 

At the meeting point there were two groups. One was to leave at midnight, with the one I was in leaving 15 minutes later. Our ride leader Kim was readying the troops and doing the always entertaining safety talk. On this ride Jenny, Mark, Amy, Dr John and I would be on our Brompton bikes and Sam - who does own a Brompton - was on her Condor road bike. At midnight the first group left and bang on 15 minutes later so were we. 


It was good to catch up with everyone and at the Old Vic Theatre the sign reading 'Back Together' said it all. 


We arrived at Greenwich quickly and I couldn't quite believe how it popped up so quickly. 

Greenwich

From there we hugged the Thames for a while passing Woolwich, the free ferry that transports people across to the other side and later Woolwich Arsenal. 

Woolwich


The Ferry that I haven't been on yet!

Normally we cycle past the 'Assembly' statues by Peter Burke but as I was a little way ahead of the pack I decided to stop and take a photo or two. These are 16 cast iron figures installed in 2005 aiming to depict a collective human presence. For me they just make a nice backdrop for my Brompton!


Every so often we stopped to regroup and the ride was slick and free from any mechanical issues. The weather was kind to us too. There had been the prospect of some light rain at some point but it did not materialise and for the most part was quite mild. 


One stop was on the route of the Kent Fastrack bus service and we actually stopped about 100 metres before the wire statue. Jenny pointed out that the photo opportunity was about 100m away to our ride leader Kim, who kindly indulged all of us who wanted a photo!



Harmer Street proved to be as interesting as usual. The 'Call Boy' pub still seemed to be in under redevelopment and the full moon to the left of the large clock tower go almost everyone taking photographs!



Once we passed Gravesend the ride look on a slightly different turn in that there were more winding country lanes. In was on these that we saw to our left a bright, full moon that proved very difficult to get a photo of. As soon as you tried, cloud obscured it. Once your phone was put away and after a few turns of the pedals, it was out again!

Open roads

Our halfway stop came in the always welcome sight of the Church of the English Martys in Strood. There we were greeted by Friday night ride to the coast veteran and ride leader for the recent Ashford night ride, Tim. 


Home made rolls and cakes were on offer along with tea or coffee to wash it down, in my favourite half way stop. After a little less than an hour we stepped into chilly morning air, so people put on a later or two. 
 

One of the stranger sights that we got a very good look at because dawn was so early, was the former Soviet Navy, Submarine U-475 Black Widow.



Decommissioned in 1994 it was sold into private hands and originally moored near the Thames Barrier where it was actually open to the public as a museum. A couple of years later it was moved to Folkestone for the same purpose. In 2004 it was moved again to this location awaiting some restoration. I imagine that it would make an interesting day out if it were ever opened to the public again. 

Submarine!

Not too far way we passed Rochester Castle. We normally see this in half darkness but early on this morning we were afforded great views. Build about 1127 it remains quite a formidable sight. 


From here on we cycled on stunning country lanes with each push of the pedals bringing into view more and more stunning scenery. 




We stopped to all take photos of a bridge. I speculated as to which bridge it was and was told by a very tolerant participant of the ride that it was not what i had just said. I still don't know what this bridge is called but it does create a rather fine backdrop for my Brompton!



I decided to take my Titanium Orange Brompton with me only because I had not had the time to give my Orange, Black Special Edition a clean. As always ti performed really well, but I did miss my other Brompton a little. There is always next time. 


When we reached Faversham Parish Church with its very distinctive spire we all knew that the famous left turn wasn't too far away. This church is quite unique and is the resting place for King Stephen making it one of the few churches outside of London where an English King is interred. 


The left turn came and the Brompton contingent worked as a little peloton driving forward towards Whitstable. With the help of night ride to the coast veteran and all round good egg Stuart at the front, we cycled at around a good 20 mph, trying to keep up with him, into a slight headwind more or less all the way to Whitstable town centre. 

Once on the road that would lead us to the finish, I peeled off with Dr John following and we made our way to the station for the 08:50 train to London. On the train our bikes were parked in a luggage rack and I had difficulty not falling to sleep. Thankfully a group of ladies friends, mothers and daughters - one of which was celebrating their birthday - boarded the train a couple of stops in. Their friendly banter was very entertaining and it kept me from nodding off for the most part. At St Pancras Dr John and I went our separate ways until next time. 

This was a wonderful ride and exactly what the doctor ordered. Once I got home I needed a few hours sleep to recharge the batteries and felt pretty good afterwards. As always, these rides are highly addictive and I already look forward to the next offering. 

Stay safe out there people!!



Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Getting ready for the Whitstable overnighter

Friday will see me taking part in possibly my favourite night ride to the coast destination - Whitstable. Many people go as far as describing it as the King/Queen of rides and I would not contest this. I am looking forward to it greatly. 

My view just before I reach the start location
The Woolwich Ferry on which you can cross the river Thames

The ride will start as usual near the London Eye and from there we cycle on quieter roads, following the river Thames towards Greenwich and the famous clipper ship, the Cutty Sark. 


We then progress towards Dartford and Gravesend. I particularly like seeing all the old industrial areas as we progress east. After Gravesend the route takes one a different vibe featuring quiet country lanes and wonderful views, especially as dawn approaches. 

Look carefully and you can see a submarine!

The halfway stop at the Church of the English Martyrs - possibly the best on any of these rides - will provide refreshment and sanctuary. 

Views!!!

Once we reach Faversham and its rather unique church there is a left turn where you cycle across the Graveney Marshes - at which you ride at your own speed - that leads you into Whitstable. 

Faversham

Cycling just after dawn with Whitstable not too far away

So, as I wrote, I am looking forward to this one and the only thing I need to do is to get the bikes ready and decide which I will take with me. Watch this space for my write up if it is of interest to you. 

Stay safe out there people!!















Monday, 21 June 2021

Continental Contact Urban tyres update

I fitted a pair of Continental Contact Urban tyres to my Orange Titanium towards the end of March and thought that I would give you a mini update on how they are going and what I think of them.

I have cycled getting on for 500 miles on them and this had included several night rides to the coast and cycling over road and less forgiving surfaces. I have cycled in the dry and wet and it didn't take long before I felt confident that they were robust enough to cope with the overnight adventures I am so fond of. So far no punctures and they look pretty much as good as when I put them on. 

They do seem to roll better than the standard Marathons I previously had on my bike and are are as grippy, if not better than, than them too.

If I did suffer a puncture I know that these would be a great deal easier to deal with than Marathons and that along is another plus point. 

I will ride on them a little longer and let you know how they wear but I have already reached the stage where I feel I can say they are a better tyre. I very much doubt if I could now go back to Marathons.

Stay safe out there people!!





Saturday, 19 June 2021

Making your Brompton your own?

For many, part of the fun of owning a Brompton is that you can really make it your own. There are so many after market parts and accessories out there, you are spoilt for choice.

The other day I saw a Brompton that was so heavily customised I had to give it a second glance to see if it was a Brompton. Now I am guilty of adding the odd after market accessory but this particular bike had so many clashing colours of bolts, grips, spokes, rack, suspension block, cables, seat post and seat, my immediate description could be summed up in just two words...pure toilet.

This is of course being unkind. I mean, you are probably wondering why I have a thing for the colour orange? I do however tend to think that less is more. I do remember getting some orange mudguards and being terribly excited at fitting them only to have done so and looked at my Brompton in horror at the result. They were instantly taken off. A Brompton looks so good anyway, in my opinion it needs little to make it better. 

This got me thinking about my Condor road bike. I could be wrong but it is my understanding that you wanted to have your bike resprayed by Condor themselves, it is subject to their approval. This might mean your exotic colour combination might not meet the threshold of the Condor style police. It's a good job that Brompton do not offer this service as I suspect the owner I mentioned might be sorely disappointed. All in the eye of the beholder I suppose.

Stay safe out there people!!

Friday, 18 June 2021

Brompton bikes, far too good for wet weather!

It has been said that the English are obsessed about the weather. Sit on any bus, train carriage or simply line up in a queue and the subject of the the weather - the universal ice-breaker here in England - will probably be the opening line for many. 

I have four weather apps on my iPhone that are consulted frequently, especially when there is a cycle ride on the cards, and I refer to them a few days beforehand to see what they say. My usual default position however is to stick my head out of the door moments before going outside to make my own judgement. 

Almost exclusively I use one of my two Brompton bicycles for pretty much all my cycling. I do own a couple of road bikes, one of which is a rather fine Condor, steel Fratello Disc. If raining or going to rain I take my Orange Black Special Edition. I just don't want to get my Orange Titanium dirty I suppose. If going out for a quick spin somewhere and I know the weather is going to be bad, I would opt to take one of my two road bikes instead. I suppose that I hold my Brompton bikes much higher up in the pecking order!

As I type this, outside the rain is hammering down here in London and I do need to nip out for a quick errand. I can assure you,  I won't be using one of my Brompton bicycles! How telling that I would be more likely to use my Condor instead!

What do you think? Arte any of you out there the same as me?

Stay safe out there people!!

Far too good for wet weather!!


Wednesday, 16 June 2021

So, what is it about Brompton night rides that you like so much?

I don't really pay too much attention to how many pages views I get on this blog but when I did have a look the other day to see how things were going, the number of views per day, week and month were probably at their highest level for years and years. I think I have gained lots of new readers, perhaps with new Brompton bikes (welcome by the way and keep reading) and one question that I have been asked more times than any other are versions of the title to this blog post.

If you read by back catalogue as it were, you will find countless post for various night rides - mainly to the coast - and I suppose I must like them a great deal as I keep going on them. I have been here before but I will try to explain why.

A night ride is rarely a spur of the moment decision and usually planned a little  in advance. This build up and anticipation is something I actually enjoy too. Planning what to wear/take with you, charging the lights, making sure that the bike is match fit, all add up to making the day the ride is on different and special.  

Travelling to the start location can in itself be an adventure and cycling past people, you wonder whether they would believe you if you told them you are about to cycle 60 - 70 miles starting at midnight, to return to London the next day by train. 

I rarely tell people I am going on one of these rides but will do so if asked what plans I have for the weekend. Their face when I explain what I am going to do if often quite the picture. I suspect this is also part of their appeal. 

The actual ride itself rarely disappoints. Cycling in the city, then the outskirts and finally the countryside is special. Often you find yourself cycling on empty, narrow country lanes, illuminated by whatever your front lights can muster. 


If on a group ride you get to speak to old friends, acquaintances and people you have never met before. If you want to chat you can and if not you can enjoy your own thoughts, mulling things over, putting the world to rights or simply thinking about what you might have for breakfast? Often I go with my dear friend Dr John and the simple pleasures of a friends company is special in its own right. 

On these rides you experience the transition from darkness into dawn into sunrise. The dawn chorus sounds can be like a symphony with few equals. The sun rising and casting beautiful colours can be breathtaking and experiencing them without any other external interference - apart from the sound your bicycle makes - is a huge part as to why people do this sort of thing time and time again. 



I rarely stay for breakfast when I reach end of the ride, preferring to get back, but when I do even the simplest of food is transformed into that fit for he Gods. 

Yes, there is something addictive about these rides. They are not of course for everyone. Some people go on one to see what the fuss is about but do not return for a second. After my first I signed up for another and have been doing so ever since. 

Living in London I am only 55 - 75 miles away from some of the most famous seaside resorts and the whole notion of cycling from central London to the seaside is doable. Wherever you live you might want to give it a go. (It does not have to be to the coast. In fact some fo the best night rides have been near Christmas where participants have cycled around central London taking photos of the Christmas lights). 

Let me know if you have given a night ride a go, tell me what you thought and where you went. I would love to hear from you.

Stay safe out there people!!


Sunday, 13 June 2021

A Maharajah's well, a statue, no Golden Arches and views! - the Reading to Oxford loop had it all.

After another busy week Friday was very much a day to look forward to as it meant a night ride, not to the coast but a loop from Reading to Oxford and back again to Reading.

It did feel rather strange to be setting off for a night ride when it was still light outside. Normally, I am always heading out when the sun has well and truly set.  

My train was the 22:22 from Paddington which would take only about 25 minutes. I set off in good time but forgetting a suitable face mask I had to turn back home to get one. This then meant a frantic dash to Paddington and at one point I thought I might have to take a later train. Thankfully I made it and saw Dr John and Jenny (The Mile Monster) on the station concourse.

We boarded our train and with only a few others we had the train more or less to ourselves. It was lovely to catch up.

Just after 23:00 we arrived at Reading and getting off the train there was a strong breeze that actually made me feel a little chilly.


There were a few participants waiting outside the station and Nick, a local to reading, took us on a little tour of Reading - more to help warm us all up. I am sure that with more time we would have seen a great deal more of what Reading had to offer but our tour was quite short consisting of an ancient wall from an Abbey, a river with lots of modern developments built along it and a church tower. 




After a safety talk and briefing by Bob the assembled riders - 5 of which were on Brompton bicycles - we were off. 


Getting out of Reading we travelled across a bridge that proved a draw for those of us wanting to take photographs and not long thereafter we seemed to leave the urban behind and all was countryside before us. 




Our pace was purposeful and it was great yet again to be riding through the night with a group. 


Our first stop of interest was The Maharajah's Well in the village of Stoke Row. Naturally, it had to be photographed!


Moved by the story of a small boy being beaten by his mother for drinking the last of the water in their house during a drought, The Maharajah of Benares agreed to fund the sinking of a well. It stands to this day and is recognised by the golden elephant that adorns it. 


Pressing on it didn't seem to take us too long to get to the less than dreaming spires of the outskirts of Oxford and before long we arrived at the more picturesque bits. We didn't stay too long in Oxford but did have enough time to take a few more photos of some of the touristy bits. 





'The Handle Bar' which is a little bit like 'Look Mum No Hands' here in London looked good and I recall going there on another one of Bob's rides a few years ago. 




At just after 04:00 in the am with reached the halfway stop at 24-hour drive through. Sadly, they did not open until a couple of hours later and wouldn't allow bicycles to use the drive through. 


An alternative was found not too far away in the form of a 24-hour service station. Here we stocked up on supplies and hot drinks. 

Almost immediately before setting off again I felt a chill so donned a boil in the bag jacket. This didn't stay on too long as a hill not long after we set off soon warmed me up again. 



Sunrise was at about 04:40 and the scenery was beautiful. Each turn of the pedals brought more and more views. Just when you thought it couldn't be bested, another came along to do just that. 


Long and empty country lanes, devoid of traffic stretched for miles and made the cycling that bit more enjoyable. There were a few hills on this ride but I think that all the practice recently going up Turners Hill and Ditchling Beacon on my London to Brighton ride with Dr John really helped. 





What was originally billed as aliens in a field turned out to be a piece of artwork by John Buckley (famed for his shark coming out of the roof of a house). 


The artwork titled 'The Nuba Survival' near a derelict barn is actually two skeletons embracing portraying the plight of the Nuba peoples of Sudan after he spent some time there. 



It is a strange location, made even more particular by no signs pointing to it or information nearby to say what it actually is. 
 

Arriving back at the bridge and later Reading station we had travelled just over 69 miles.  This was a great ride with great company and a wonderful route. Many thanks to Bob for leading and organising. 


Dr John and I decided not to stick around in Reading, instead heading for the first fast train back to London. At Paddington we cycled the short distance to Baker Street where we had a breakfast before heading off on our separate ways. 

A really lovely ride and after some sleep yesterday I feel pretty good today. Until next time, stay safe out there people!!