Farewell Boris Bikes – hello to the Brompton folding-bike experience

Brompton logo smallDuring my daily commute from Eastbourne to St Pancras and all the way back, I have been doing some ‘commuter observing’. And I have noticed most ‘hard-core’ travellers have two specialised devices in their possession. The first is a computer screen of some kind, to help distract from the long train journey by delivering various forms of entertainment.

This can vary from reading ebooks on a Kindle or similar, to watching the latest instalment of Game of Thrones on an iPad or Andriod tablet. Occasionally I have even spotted commuters actually doing work on the train.

Now that I have settled on my somewhat garish clementine orange Yoga Pro ‘laptop’, it is time to move on to the second of these devices.

And that takes us from new technology to an invention nearly 200 years old – the velocipede, more recently known as the bicycle.
Brompton Logos B&W on top

But for the serious commuter just any old bike won’t do. Or more specifically, won’t be allowed by the train operating companies. Having endured standing room only on trains for many years, I am sympathetic with banning of full-sized bicycles during the rush-hour times. Although, perhaps bringing back the guard’s van would be a way of accommodating conventional two-wheelers.

In the meantime, the only solution is a folding-bike, and this explains why they are such a common sight on my morning and evening journeys. With the rapid increase in cycling in London over the past few years has come an increasing choice of bikes, and folding-bikes in particular.

Using my information search skills I conducted thorough research into the subject, and came up with a shortlist of two manufacturers. Both had excellent reviews, and both cost just under £1,000. The first was of course the Brompton, which is by far-and-away the market leader. And a proud ‘made-in-Britain’ product exported around the world.

So being perverse I decided to go for the alternative brand. I found a shop near Eastbourne which stocked both makes, and explained my wishes to the salesman over the phone. He assured me that I would come out of the shop with a Brompton rather than the brand I wanted. And it turned out he was right. After a short discussion, the superiority its ingenious folding system and 25 percent smaller size when folded, won me over to the Brompton.Brompton folding bike

But why I hear you asking, have you abandoned the wonderful Barclays Bike Hire Scheme you blogged about in 2010? The answer – sadly, is that the Boris Bike service (which should really be called ‘Ken Bike’ in recognition of Boris’ predecessor Ken Livingston’s decision to implement the project) is not reliable enough for my needs.

A combination of glitchy technology and lack of bikes has always been something of a problem. But  since moving to Eastbourne, at least fifty percent of my attempts to hire a bike have failed. And doubling the annual subscription to £90 has only added insult to injury. The unreliability of the Barclay’s scheme added significantly to the stress of my morning journey. And as the secret to successful long distance commuting is to remove as many variables as possible, it had to be replaced with something more reliable.

Today is only day-one of my folding bike commute, so it is too early to say how effective this serious investment in improving my commuting experience will  turn out to be.


Boris boots up Business Bootcamps at the British Library

Boris JohnsonWe were honoured to have Boris Johnson The Mayor of London visit the Business & IP Centre on Friday to launch Business Bootcamps.

The Bootcamps will cover a wide range of sectors, including digital and mobile technology, fashion, hospitality, entertainment, creative and bio-tech industries. Co-ordinated by Capital Enterprise, Business Bootcamps will see a total of 27 sessions being run over the next 12 months to provide intensive training.

The programme, with £275,000 of funding from the Royal Bank of Scotland and £135,000 from the EU’s Interreg scheme, will give around 1,000 new entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop the key skills they will need to build successful businesses.

We will be running our own bootcamp, focusing on the professional services, giving intensive training on finance, marketing, branding, business planning as well as strategic decisions and planning.
In his speech, Boris wished there had been bootcamps when he left university in 1980.

“There was a craze for rustic tile kitchen splashbacks back then, So I rented an old RAF hanger, and set up with a couple of friends and my mother designing the tiles, and was all set to storm the market. Then I realised we hadn’t a clue what to do next—it ended 24 hours later, just one night ‘on the tiles’.”

He revealed that he might not have gone into politics, if he had become a successful entrepreneur as “Britain’s rustic tile backsplash king.”

The professionals: business bootcamp

Put together by experts and business owners, this two day bootcamp is designed specifically for sole traders in the professional services, from IT consultants, marketing freelancers to accountants. In times of recession, many people are setting up their own businesses, based on their professional skills.

The bootcamp will give you all the tools needed to grow your business beyond your existing client base. The content will be tailored to your key information needs based on the few questions that will be asked when booking.

This is an intense and effective way to spend your time which in the long-term will save you significant time and money. The content across both days covers all of the essential issues you are facing as a new business.

Along with practical exercises and inspirational presentations, you will receive a fact-file of research reports and guides to use afterwards.  This information alone would cost in excess of £500.

The benefits of the bootcamp

• Meet with like-minded people
• Understand how effective networking can boost your business
• How to present a perfect pitch
• Best practice look at financial viable models
• Get information on professional service delivery from the experts
• Discover more about how to refresh your business plan
• Introductory guide to intellectual property
• Develop a strategy to carry your business forward.


Johnny Martin – get to grips with your finances with the no.1 small business numbers coach.

Nick Winton – understand how to grow your client base and potential profits with clever strategy and lead generation.
Rasheed Ogunlaru – how you can learn to ‘be your brand’ and grow your profile with effective networking.

Breakfast with the Lord Mayor of London

Thanks to my friend Chris Seow, who is currently Chairman City of London Branch of CMI, I was lucky enough to attend a breakfast talk on Tuesday morning, by the Rt Hon the Lord Mayor, Alderman Nick Anstee. The event was held in the heart of the City of London at Stationer’s Hall, belonging to The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers.

The talk was entitled What now for the City, and gave a helicopter view of the City and how it is regarded around the world. He also talked about how the City is regenerating itself and what is over the horizon. Just to avoid any confusion, you should be aware that the Lord Mayor of London is not the same as the Mayor of London (currently Boris Johnson).

As head of the City of London Corporation, which provides business and local government services to the City, the Lord Mayor of London’s principal role is ambassador for all UK-based financial and professional services. This building of  trade relationships and partnerships around the world, is something the Lord Mayor takes very seriously, and by the end of this year he will have visited 23 countries and 43 cities.

The issue of public confidence in the City was addressed at the outset of the talk, and he wanted the focus of the City of London Corporation to be restoring the trust between the City and wider society. But he felt that politicians had avoided their responsibility in this area, often scapegoating the City, and risking driving away the economic prosperity it provides to the UK economy of 8.3% of GDP and £61.4 billion in tax revenue.

However, he also recognised that the impact of the City must be socially useful as well as economically significant. Although the City retains its position as the worlds’ leading financial centre, despite the economic crisis, it needs to communicate its’ value to the public. To help this process they have created TheCityUK, an independent membership body, promoting the UK financial and related professional services industries.

After the short speech, there were some interesting questions from the audience:

Please comment on current press speculation about regulation of the finance sector,  is the City obliged to educate the public.
We have to engage and inform the public, but also recognise that financial institutions need to do their part. We are looking at challenging the ethics and code of conduct of staff. We are also investigating possible changes to recruitment policies for City institutions. A conference is planned for 7 July covering this area.

Please comment on the rising mortgage default rate in the US. Are we not out of the woods yet?
There is a risk. The US economy is moving out the recession at a reasonable rate. But concerns about regulation may be leading US banks to hoard cash. That cash needs to be freed up in order to stimulate the economy, e.g. invest in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.

Stationers Hall in the City of London

Goodbye Ken Livingstone hello Boris Johnson

As a resident of rural West Sussex I had not been following the recent London Mayoral elections with as much attention as I should. So the election of Boris Johnson came as a big surprise to me.

By chance I had a meeting yesterday at Boris’ new home at the GLA (General London Authority) City Hall. The whole building seemed tense with excitement, with great change expected after eight years of Ken in charge. The 800 staff were preparing for an all-staff meeting at 3pm that day to hear the thoughts of their new boss Boris.

As it turned out Boris has been active and created several new roles as well as replacing many of Ken’s lieutenants.

He has also banned alchohol from all London tubes and buses from next month in a bid to crack down on anti-social behaviour. As might be expected the London Evening Standard is following developments closely.

It will be interesting to see what Boris changes and what remains the same in the next four years for London.

One thing I can say for sure is that he will have one of the best views of London from his office.