Tag Archives: travel

Six years on my Brompton and I’m still riding along

Brompton on wallSix years ago this month I made the switch from hiring Boris Bikes to my very own Brompton (Farewell Boris Bikes – hello to the Brompton folding-bike experience).

And after quite literally a shaky start (any bike with such small wheels is going to be wobbly), I have come to love my navy blue Brompton. The fact that I can cycle to almost any part of London within an hour is incredibly liberating. No longer do I have to crowd onto the underground or buses to get around town. But what about when it’s raining I hear you ask. With relatively a small expense on decent waterproof, but breathable kit, I can cycle in all but the heaviest downpour without getting wet. The latest clothing is surprisingly light and compact whilst still maintaining effective weather-proofing. So I always have a full set of water-proofs neatly folded in my backpack.

To be honest, when I first started riding in London I felt unsafe quite a lot of the time. The main cause was having to share the road with larger forms of transport such as four, six, eight and sixteen wheeled vehicles. Taxis, buses and lorries were the most worrying. Either not noticing me, and and squeezing me into the kerb, or in the case of several taxis I encountered, appearing to deliberately cut in front of me.

Bicycle traffic lightsBut these last six years have seen a big change, with two main causes:
One, the development of safer routes for cycles. These include dedicated cycle lanes that completely separate bikes from other forms of transport, plus cycle boxes at junctions, and even special traffic lights giving riders a precious few seconds lead on the rest of the traffic.
Two, there has been a massive increase in the number of cyclists commuting to work in London. On some days my route can actually get quite congested, just with other two-wheelers. And what a range of cyclists, from hard-core MAMIL’s (middle aged men in lycra) on their £8,000 racers, to whole families on riding to school and work (sometimes with toddlers strapped to the front and rear of the same bike). There are even few people dressed for work in smart suits and shiny shoes – that’s where I come in 😉

The proliferation of bikes has forced those hostile tin box owners to adapt their driving habits. They can no longer pretend they aren’t sharing the road with us pedaling commuters. In the past they would only come across the occasional cyclist, now we are everywhere they are. When cycles are literally filling up those cycle boxes the cars and lorries behind have no choice but to wait and follow.
cycle juntion box

Source: The Evening Standard Amazing new maps show huge demand for cycle lanes across London

Over the past couple of years the sheer number of riders have increased so much that the majority of my few near-misses have been with other cyclists, not cars.

Early on in my Brompton ownership I joined the London Brompton Club and Brompton Hacks groups on Facebook. I rapidly discovered there are many people out there with a serious addiction to these engineering wonders. Some have as many as 10 different models, often shown off in Ikea Kallax storage walls, which are the perfect size to fit a folded Brompton.

Bike Gang on Instagram_ “My #brompton wall. IKEA Kallax

Bike Gang on Instagram_ “My #brompton wall. IKEA Kallax

Fortunately I have a garage at home, so although I do fold my bike and tuck it neatly under my desk at work, I can leave it unfolded and ready to go at home.

As well as providing excellent advice for Brompton owners, these groups exposed me to the wide range of accessories available. There are endless debates on the pros and cons of replacing the factory fitted saddle with a Brooks. I admit they look beautiful with their polished leather and brass, but my bottom has been quite happy to save the £100 or so they cost.
Brooks saddle

I must confess to having made a few changes to my bike over the years. In particular a mirror so I can see who is coming up behind me (The safest thing on my bicycle is my Mirrycle). I also installed an ingenious device to improve the fiddly latches (Speeding up my Brompton folding with SpedDial). And I replaced the soft foam handle bar grips with Ergons which really helped on my London to Brighton charity ride.
Ergon grips

One issue I have become slightly obsessed with is visibility, both at night and in the day. I always wear a bright orange gilet, which I can see pedestrians notice when they are about to step out in front of me. For the night time I have a very bright rear light (My new Blazing Saddle ignited by my Burner light ), and two front lights (one to be seen, and one to show the way). I have also spent / wasted many hours experimenting with range of ideas, including luminescent paint on my tires, which literally glows in the dark.
luminous wheels

Although they looked great, sadly they just weren’t bright enough, and the paint didn’t last. So I switched to reflective stickers instead. I think you will agree they are really much brighter.
Brompton at night

So everything about my Brompton is great… except that for the last seven weeks it has been languishing in my garage due to coronavirus lock-down.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can start riding it again. But I heard on the news today I’m likely to have a lot of company on the roads for my daily commute. According to the BBC, fear of catching coronavirus on public transport has helped lead to a boom in cycle-to-work schemes. With a 200% increase in bicycle orders from people working for emergency services.   Coronavirus: Boom time for bikes as virus changes lifestyles.

If this means less cars on the roads and more cycle-ways, I will be quite happy wobbling along on my Brompton together with these new converts to the joy of two wheeled transport.

Update:
Just a couple of days after publishing this post the Observer newspaper had the headline, Coronavirus cycling boom makes a good bike hard to find – Would-be cyclists keen to exercise during the lockdown have cleared stores of their stock.

London cyclists

monkey-light-pro

How to be seen on the dark streets of London town

winter sun

Source LibreStock.com

The shortest day of the year is rapidly approaching. Winter Solstice is on 21 December to be precise. That means both my morning and evening cycle rides are in darkness or gloom.

I have taken several measures to improve my visibility to other road users, particularly car and lorry drivers, and of course those suicidal pedestrians with eyes glued to their smartphone screens.

altura-night-vision-safety-vest-cycling-giletI have recently replaced my Altura Night Vision Safety Vest Cycling Gilet, after leaving one behind on a cancelled train. And I’m confident it takes less time to be noticed than to say it’s name. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen people about to cross in front of me, stop, and do a double-take as the bright orange and yellow of my Gilet sears into their consciousness.

I have upgraded my rear visibility by adding a Blaze Burner light to the standard Brompton one. I’m still really happy with it despite some initial production problems. In fact I’m still running on my first battery charge after three months, which is pretty impressive.

 

fwe-20-lumen-front-tlight-black-ev244783-8500-2More recently I have added an additional front light which is designed for being seen, and not for showing the way ahead. In fact Evans describe the FWE 20 Lumen front light as the “definitive bright back-up safety light, taking up very little space on your bars but making sure you’re seen at night”. The 20 lumens is surprisingly bright, but the small form factor means it has run out of puff after just one week.

A couple of weeks ago I also replaced my reflective spoke clips, as the old ones were starting to lose their shine.

brompton-spokes-at-night

I think they look pretty good on my Brompton, and help when crossing T junctions.

Should I be doing more?

When I am out on the mean and dark streets of London, I wonder if I am doing enough to draw attention to myself. I have seen quite a few fellow cyclists who are outdoing my humble effort by a quite a margin.

Here are four examples:
The Lumos helmet means you carry all your lights on your head, instead of scattered around your bike. So you don’t have to worry about them being stolen or the hassle of taking them off to charge or the change the batteries. It also includes left and right indicators with a handlebar controller. Yours for just 179 US dollars.

Lumos helmet

And if you just want to let people where you are going next the the Cyndicate system is for you.

cyndicate

This realy can save lives

Posted by Cyndicate on Thursday, April 28, 2016

 

But by far the most impressive sight I have seen are Revolights.

revolights

They look pretty spectacular in the photo above, and even more so in the video below.

But when you actually see them on the road they are truly stunning. Sadly they don’t currently make a size to fit my bike, and they cost 199 US dollars. A tad more than my admittedly less awe inspiring reflector spokes above, but maybe I should start saving.

Monkey Light Pro Wheels

I haven’t actually seen any Monkey Light Pro wheels from Monkeylectric on my rides, but they do take attention seeking to the next level.

monkey-light-pro

Have you seen anything brighter on your travels?