Sunday 30 April 2023

Why I passed on the Tweed Run this year

The Tweed Run returned to London yesterday. It is essentially a cycle ride through iconic parts of London with participants wearing as much tweed as they dare. Tickets usually sell out very quickly but this year I didn't even try. I'll explain. 

My first Tweed Run was over ten years ago and I have participated in several up until the 'C' word stopped all the fun. This year tickets cost £50 and despite being fortunate enough to be able to afford the entry price, I just couldn't bring myself summon up the enthusiasm to but one. 

The Tweed Run is great fun as you cycle around London and its iconic landmarks, making wonderful backdrops for photos but it is only about 12 miles and painfully slow. On several of the Tweed Run events I have attended, after taking lots of photos, saying hello to people I know and nodding at members of the public who are beguiled by so many cyclists decked in tweed, I have become so frustrated at the snail-like pace I have abandoned the ride as I had had enough. I suppose living living in London and seeing many of the iconic bits whenever I feel like it, had a part to play in this. There are many occasions where I find myself on one of my Brompton bicycles, in a suit, in London and get the same reaction from people as I cycle by. 

I think everyone should experience The Tweed Run at least once and I count myself lucky to have done so several times. However, I can easily get out a Harris or Donegal Tweed sports jacket with a hint of orange at will. 

Until next time, stay safe out there. 

Saturday 29 April 2023

Brutal Brompton visit

Last week I paid a visit to a friend at Barbican. Despite being there many times over the years, I always enjoy going there. I cycled there on my Brompton and parked it up, leaving it nice and secure and headed inside. 

Barbican is a mixture of residential properties and next to the Barbican Arts Centre and former Museum of London - now closed and will eventually move down the road to Smithfield Market. The whole site is a rather fine example of brutalist architecture and has a Grade II listing. The estate was built between the mid 1960s and 1970s and not intended as social housing. My friend bought their property a few years ago when it was rather expensive. It is now eye-wateringly so and as many are leasehold, various annual charges can be £10,000 plus. 

The Conservatory is always a particular favourite of mine. It is the second largest in London - the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens taking top spot. 

I am not really a fan of Kew Gardens and much prefer the brutal backdrop to the one within Barbican.  Unless you have a friend who lives at the Barbican Estate, there are only certain times that you can pay it a visit. It really is worthwhile. 

There is lots of access to the estate but naturally lots of it is not accessible to non-residents. Go there and you will almost certainly see many people, who are fans of all things brutalist, paying the estate a visit. 

The estate has been used many times in film and television over the years and I was amazed to hear that its most recent use was for the Disney+ series, 'Andor.' 

If you are in London and want to see something a little different, do pay it a visit. 

Until next time, stay safe out there people!

Saturday 22 April 2023

New bottom bracket for the Orange Special Edition

A few weeks ago I noticed a little play in the cranks when cleaning my beloved Orange Special Edition. This was a sure sign that the bottom bracket needed replacing. This Brompton is the oldest in the fleet and has covered many miles and been on lots of adventures. With the sort of rides I go on, it pays to have a Brompton that is in excellent condition all the time. Having all the tools needed to replace the bottom bracket, I decided to have a go myself. 

There are a few aftermarket options when considering what bottom bracket to go for, but I opted for a nice and new standard Brompton. At just under £20 they are more than good enough and as mentioned, it has served be well more several thousand miles. 

After watching a couple of videos tutoring you in the art of all things bottom bracket, I placed my Brompton in the work stand and got ready. 

The whole procedure was fairly straightforward. Having the correct tools is definitely a must before undertaking this. If you are thinking of ever doing this job yourself, there really isn't a great deal to fear. Just make sure that you know which direction loosens and which tightens and you cannot really go wrong. 

It didn't take too long to swap out old with new and the bike really did feel better to ride. Having now done this, I have the confidence to do it again on my other Brompton bikes. 

Until next time, stay safe out there people!

Wednesday 12 April 2023

The Cobblemonster 2023 on an Orange Brompton

Last Sunday was the Cobblemonster. I have been taking part in this event for many years. It used to be called, The London Classic but it's pretty much the same thing. The Cobblemonster is a bike ride around London inspired by the Paris-Roubaix. This means that the Cobblemonster has cobbles and a few lung busting hills. 

Up bright and after punching in the directions to the start point at Brixton Cycles on my Velo 2, I headed off for the just under four miles it would take me to get there from St Paul's Station entrance. 

On my way, I stopped for a photo where an unofficial blue plaque was located to commemorate the artist Damien Hirst, who worked there between 1999 -2010.

The start was outside Brixton Cycles and yet again I didn't come away with a Brixton Cycles cycling top. (I will have to get one of these at some point). A set off on my own at a leisurely pace as the end of the ride was gain going to be Herne Hill Velodrome where from 13:00 participants who had completed the Cobblemonster could cycle one lap around the famous circuit. 

The sun was out for this ride and the early morning chill was starting to fade as blue skies were only slightly inconvenienced by the occasional wispy clouds. 

The first cobbles arrived at Covent Garden. In the photo below I stopped to compose my shot and a police car rolled past. I heard one of the officers say remark that my outfit matched my bike. He knows me all too well I thought. 

On Grays Inn Road I had to stop at Condor Cycles. I do own a rather lovely Condor road bike that hasn't been used for....more time that it is polite to say. Ironocally, in the window was a rather lovely bike in orange.

The route took me past Smithfield Meat Market, that will eventually become the new home to the Museum of London, and Charterhouse Square. This is home to Florin Court that was used as the location for the London home of the consulting detective, Poirot in the television series starring Sir David Suchet. 

Not too far away was the sad sight of the now closed and deserted 'Look Mum No Hands.' In times past this location would have been very busy with many riders taking part in the Cobblemonster using it as an early pit stop. A real shame that it has gone. 

Further along I arrived at Wapping - always an interesting area and one with its fair share of cobbles!

I stopped outside a pub called, 'The Prospect of Whitby.' I decided to walk along the narrow passage leading from the street to steps that descend down to the beach of the river Thames. This location certainly has atmosphere and there is no way I would go down there after dark!

Luckily, it was low tide and the beach was exposed. An older lady was busy mudlarking and I was soon to be busy in my own way...taking photos of my Brompton!

The views were wonderful before I left under the careful instruction of the lady I met, I joined her mudlarking for about five minutes. She told me that you can usually find old bits of crockery and parts of pipe. You cannot disturb the surface to find things and anything perceived to be of valuable or of historical interest will require you informing someone. I didn't find anything sadly. 

The pub itself claims to be the site of the oldest riverside tavern, dating back to the 1520s. In the 17th century is was a favourite haunt of 'Hanging' Judge Jeffreys. A replica gallows hangs by one of the the windows. Whatever its history, real or embellished, I wouldn't fancy being there alone once the sun has set!

At Bermondsey I sat down next to the statue of Dr Salter looking out towards the Thames with statues of his wife Ada and daughter Joyce. The main feature for me was of course the family cat looking ever watchful. 

Maze Hill provided the first of a series of ascents followed by a cobbled street that reminded me of an old 'Hovis' advert from many years ago.

Perhaps the most infamous of all the hills on this ride was Canonbie Road. This starts quite steep and then a sharpish left turn heads ever upward. I remember the first time I cycled up this road but having done this so many times, it wasn't really that bad. 

The views from the top, once you turn round and face the other way to that you have cycled, are really good and well worth the effort. 

As I took a photo or two, another participant could be just about seen making theri ascent. Like someone in port watching for the arrival of a ship on the horizon, I first caught sight of the top of his head, then his shoulders, handlebars and eventually the rest of him. In between breaths he asked what I thought would be obvious, 'did you cycle up on that!?' 

From that point, it was almost all downhill. I stopped very briefly at the gates to the entrance of Dulwich College. Much is made of Sir Ernest Shackleton having attended. For me the greatest former Dulwichian - to use an older term for them - was Sir P G Wodehouse. Of course the best people who ever went there were the ones asked to leave.

I arrived at Herne Hill Velodrome just before 13:00 and had timed things very well. How the Velodrome has survived the property developers over the years I will never know. 

I was allowed one lap of the famous circuit, built in 1891, and it was definitely a privilege. 

I stayed pretty much on the level part of the track - perhaps that bit isn't even regarded as part of it - and was happy to saunter around, taking some more photos. 

There was some lovely food being prepared but knowing but knowing there would be something better waiting for me not too far away I headed out of the velodrome. 

The Cobblemonster is a lovely event and great it is back every year, after a few when it was but a memory. I hope it returns next year and it if does, I will hopefully take part once again. 

Until next time, stay safe out there people!

Monday 10 April 2023

Overnight London to Felpham...nearly!

Thursday was quite a busy day. I had been out with the family visiting a few places but I had been very organised and had the choice of either of my two Orange Brompton bicycles, both clean and raring to go. This ride to Felpham, not far from Bognor Regis was to be the first night ride of the season as the previous ride to Southend - which would have been the first - was cancelled due to poor weather. I set off with my Orange Titanium and made it to the start point in good time. 

At the start I was very pleased to see Geoff, who I had not seen since last year and our trip to Dungeness. Far too long. Sadly, Dr John wasn't well so could not attend. Jenny and Paul were the only other participants on small wheels with Samantha making up the old Brompton crew, albeit on big wheels. 

Our ride leader was Bob and after the safety tak and briefing about the ride we got ourselves ready and just after midnight we set off. 

We got as far as Clapham Common before for a regrouping and the dreaded 'P' word travelled up and down the ranks. One rider had succumbed to a puncture. This was not the only person to have suffered a visitation from the 'P' word but I believe this rider only had some tyre patches (for me a last resort when all else fails) and no inner tubes. This was to be a theme for the first part of the ride up to the refreshments stop at Burstow. 

Much of the ride followed the route that Dr John and I take on our rides to Brighton. I have to confess to missing my friend and will definitely need to arrange one of our duo rides. 

We reached Farthing Down and the cattle grid entry and exit a great deal later than we should, sadly due to punctures and waiting around. Normally, it is when it rains that there seems to be more punctures. Although quite chilly, the rain stayed away and it was just going to be one of those nights. 

We arrived at the sanctuary of Burstow Scouts a little before 04:00 - a great deal later than I can ever remember. As always the welcome was friendly and the refreshments just what we needed. The Tail End Charlies had not arrived until nearly an hour later - assisting with you guessed it more punctures - and just after 05:00 we departed having completed less than 30 miles with a little over 40 to go. I have to confess I did speculate about just bailing there and then, cycling on my own to Brighton. The train from Bognor to London Bridge take almost 2 hours. 

In the end I cycled for only a few miles more at after I took the photo below I bailed. I said my goodbye to the new Tail End Charlies - the originals were somewhere further back dealing with more mechanicals - and made by way to Horsham Station. I arrived at about 06:30 having only cycled 39.9 miles since London. Wow! The train was empty and I got into London and then home at a decent time. 

I am sure that the chap with all the punctures will be better prepared next time but it really was a complete pain in the arse that the ride was delayed for so long. The next ride will be to Burnham-on-Crouch in a few weeks time and already I look forward to it. Let's hope that we don't have a repeat of this number of mechanicals!

Many thanks to Bob for leading the ride and a special mention to the Tail End Charlies, Ross and Greg who both deserve an OBE!

Until next time, stay safe out there people (and always take a f*&%#@! inner tube)!!


Wednesday 5 April 2023

Amble on an Orange Brompton

The other day I went on a little amble with nowhere in particular in mind at all. I decided to test out the Velo 2 that the lovely peeps at Beeline had sent out to me to test, so I decided to be give it a try. (Much more on the Velo 2 at a later stage once I have really given it the once over, so keep coming back to read about that at some point). 

I started off at Finchley Road just on the border of NW8 and cycled down past Abbey Road and its famous studios. there was no one there taking a photo on or near the famous zebra crossing for once. From there I cycled past Regents Park, the British Museum, through Clerkenwell and then to Barbican. There, I had to stop off at Florin Court which to those of you who are fans of the television series, Poirot will know that this was used as the home of the famous detective, Whitehaven Mansions. 

The little Velo 2 did a great job of getting me to various locations that popped into my mind and I enjoyed its simplicity. 

Heading south across the river I found myself cycling past Millwall Football Club. I didn't particularly want to cycle past this but the route was a good one and it got me target of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel - south side. I found an old Victorian archway and decided to stop and take a photo. A couple walking the other way looked at my taking a photo and the lady shouted out, 'nice bike.'

I headed into the old Naval College at Greenwich for a few more photos and wondered why tourists firstly don't hire a bike to see London and second don't get up as early as myself to have lots of these locations all to yourself?

Cycling further east towards the O2 I stopped for the photo below. I can honestly remember the first few times I cycled this way and sure it was but a step away from a derelict building site. (In truth it is not much more now). 

At North Greenwich I stopped for another piece of 'Labyrinth' art by Mark Wallinger. I really like these. I am not sure I will ever managed to get a photo of them all, but on the rare occasions I use the tube, I see if I can find one. From there it was a quick few stops on the Jubilee Line back to NW8 as I did not have the time to cycle back. Another time perhaps.

Until next time, stay safe out there people!