Skip to content

Tag: cycling

New Brompton

I’ve had my Brompton Loki for over three years now. It has served me well. However, it’s had a number of changes to it since owning it after I figured out what I wanted:

  1. A dynamo and lights were fitted. The Shimano hub and lights have served me well, but made things easier in terms of lighting – I was never left without lights if I had gone out and I don’t have to worry about batteries at all.
  2. The handlebars were replaced with mountain biking bars so that it was of a similar height to that of the M type.

Overall, it’s done well. However, I’ve always regretted not getting the colour that I wanted when I purchased it and on occasion, I’ve missed not having a rack.

So, with a new job in Manchester, I decided that now would be the ideal time to upgrade, especially as I would be cycling to work on it daily.

Hermes

Hermes is the newest addition to the stable.

2017-06-19 08.21.48

It’s a Brompton M6R. M type handle bars, 6 gears and a rear rack.

I’ve named it Hermes – so, I’ve had one called that before…

Untitled

But then I rarely rode that one and I didn’t keep it for very long. So I’ve named this one Hermes.

2017 Brompton Model

I’ve already noticed that there are some benefits to the 2017 version of the Brompton.

The new brake levers and gears are a massive improvement over the older gear levers. In fairness, the ability to upgrade these would be well worth doing on an older model.

The newer M type bar is OK – I’ve not noticed a huge difference over the older versions that I tried, though it is a bit different to my MTB based one that I’ve just left. However, I’d say that it’s pretty good.

Overall

Overall, I’m impressed with it and I look forward to using it! Loki has now been retired from active service and has been sold off, so I’m down to just this one. Looking forward to using it!

Berlin Cycling Again

The past few days I’ve been travelling around Europe – through Amsterdam and Berlin. I decided to do the same cycle tour as I’d previously done when I was in Berlin two years ago. I’d done it before but I did enjoy it, and whilst the sights I would see again would be the same, I would have a different tour guide and therefore the tour would be slightly different. Eileen had also never seen the sights, so doing it with her would give us the chance to see things together.

At the same time, we purchased tickets to do one of the other tours that the Fat Tire Bike company do, around the palaces of Potsdam.

Berlin City Tour

The ride around Berlin City was cold – I’d learned from my previous trip and had brought some gloves (getting a pair of these from Decathlon in The Hague earlier in the holiday), though the firm now offer some fancy gardening gloves for those that hadn’t come prepared. Mind, we hadn’t quite considered that it would be snowing in Berlin when we arrived, but the temperatures today were about 5℃ so it was still chilly.

I didn’t get to many pictures this time around, mainly due to only taking my iPhone and the gloves not being able to operate the camera on the iPhone with them on. I did manage to get a few different photos however.

Brandenberg Tor

The route covered the main buildings in Berlin that you’d probably want to see whilst there as a tourist and some of the lesser known sights, all the while you get to hear some of the history of the city from your guide.

Berlin Siegessäule

It’s an interesting tour, and as expected, the tour guide gave slightly different facts and figures so even though I did it two years ago, the ride felt different (and there was a slight difference in the routes we took as well, so I guess it kind of was!)

Reichstag

Potsdam Tour

I wasn’t to aware of Potsdam, other than when I went through it on the train to Magdeburg that I saw it had some pretty fancy looking palaces and that I later discovered that it featured the Bridge of Spies, the Glienicker Brücke (Glienicke Bridge), where spies were transferred between the states of East and West Germany.

Yet, cycling around the palace gardens was an inviting tour and getting to see the bridge itself would be good, especially as Id recently watched Bridge of Spies.

The day itself was colder than the first tour and it was forecast rain – something that materialised just as we started the tour! Thankfully, it was a passing shower and it held off for the duration of the tour, only raining (briefly) when we were near the station and the end of the ride.

The ride took us around the palaces of the Prussian kings and the Kaiser. There were some impressive looking buildings there!

img-alternative-textimg-alternative-text

We stopped for lunch in a traditional German restaurant – run by a German brewery (Augustiner-Brau) which turned out to be nicely placed on the tour that we could warm up after the mornings ride! Gloves and hats were a must – there was no snow, unlike the Wednesday when we arrived in Berlin but it was still cold!
What I didnt realise at the time, was that Potsdam was the location where the Allies met to split up Germany after the war in the Potsdam Conference. The tour included a quick tour of the Cecilienhof Palace but we flew round it pretty quickly (as it wasn’t that busy but you also weren’t allowed to take photos without an additional photo ticket!)

Cecilienhof Palace

After the lunch and the stop at Cecilienhof Palace, we moved on to the Bridge of Spies.

Glienicker Brücke

Overall, the ride was good and the rain held off. It was a bit longer than the Berlin one and the group was much smaller – I found that this was much better for speaking to the other members of the group, espeically at lunch where we were able to all sit together on the same table at lunch and therefore we were able to chat to each other. The ride was about the right length and was well organised by the guides. Id happily do another ride with them in a different country as they do have a few shops around the place.

LBC: London to Brighton Again

This weekend I headed down to Brighton with some of the London Brompton Club.

I’d offered this ride to some of my work colleagues as we did this ride last year and it was a great ride, thanks to David’s excellent navigating skills, and a couple decided to come along this weekend. I also offered it to the LBC as well, though I was aware that this would clash with the Dunwhich Dynamo that was being ridden that evening. In the end, there were three from the Brompton Club that turned up – Anne and David and Tom, who I hadn’t met before but it was nice to meet. From work, my mate Dan ended up coming along – slightly nervous as he hadn’t done a long distance ride for quite some time. I did feel that perhaps I was the odd one out – I was the only one riding a Brompton, everyone else was on full size bikes!

We met up at Richmond Costa where the weather was pretty good – sunny and not quite as warm as it had been at the start of the week. However, it was reasonably windy with the wind coming from the South that would make life difficult for the ride down. Yet, we left in good spirits.

Quick stop for food and drink

Loki having a rest

We carried on and got to Headley where we stopped at the village hall and stores for a quick ice cream and drink.

Headley Village Hall

Once we got past Dorking, we ran in to trouble. Dan had been struggling with a bit with some of the hills prior to this point and unfortunately we left him behind slightly as we climbed the hill. As we got to the top and started down the otherside, I got a text that he’d punctured. I rode back to meet him as he’d spoken to me the day before and said he’d left his pump in Scotland. I managed to fix the puncture and inflate the wheel – it seems my purchase of a Topeak Mini Morph at the end of last year was a good one. But after it was fixed, Dan decided to leave us and head back to Dorking station.

At that point, I rushed to catch up with the others, who had carried on to Newdigate where we would be eating lunch. It turns out I wasn’t that far behind the others and I got to the pub about ten minutes after them.

After lunch, we carried on. The road continued towards the big finale at the end of the road, Devils Dyke. The hill appeared on the horizon and slowly grew in size…

I been perhaps struggling a bit up until now – the final stretch before Devils Dyke was a killer last year and was a drag this time around as well – perhaps the heat had been getting to me both times at this point. However, with Devils Dyke coming up rapidly, I found my second wind – I didn’t want to be beaten by it. Last year, I had to put a foot down about halfway up where you have to turn right off the main road and up towards the golf course. This time, there were no cars coming and so I was able to make the turn and carry on up the hill. And finally reached the summit with no foot down.

And with that, we headed down into Brighton. The ride down as ever was pretty quick and before we knew it, we were at the seafront. We didn’t wait around and we headed directly to the station, as all of us (with the exception of me) had booked tickets. I made the mistake of trusting to my annual Gold card for travel discount and ended up paying over double what both Anne and David had paid for both tickets! Perhaps I should consider pre-purchasing next time!

Managing to secure a bike spot on the train, we headed back to Clapham where we parted ways. I considered cycling to Wimbledon but I’d had enough for the day, so I got the train back to Wimbledon. And with that, another London to Brighton had been completed.

Phone GPS

On the London to Whitstable ride, I made use of my Samsung S5. This let me make use of the apps on my phone, rather than my old Garmin unit for showing directions.

I sold my Garmin recently – this was partly down to the fact that I could use the Samsung for navigating and partly because I never seem to have the Garmin with me, but my phone goes everywhere. The Samsung is waterproof (and I’ve tested it – though, I’m not sure if it’s water resistant or water proof – there is a big difference!). However, there were a number of issues of using a phone as a navigation device.

Phone Navigation

The first issue I had to resolve was how to attach the Samsung to the Brompton. Obviously the Garmin came with the required kit to attach it to the bike as that’s where it was supposed to go. But the Samsung required some third party equipment to attach it. I spent some time looking around for a device and I came to the conclusion that either the Quadlock or what I went for in the end, the Tigra case for the Samsung would do what I wanted. There was little difference between the two but I went for the Tigra on the basis that I could see that I could charge the phone whilst it was mounted (I only assumed you could do it with the Quadlock) and that the mounting system looked more stable. The Quadlock seemed to be the same as Garmin – using elastic bands to secure the mount to the handlebars, whilst the Tigra used a tightened strap. It should be noted that whilst the Tigra can be fitted and removed from different bikes, it is harder to do so than on the Quadlock, so if you’ve different bikes you want to be using the phone on, you might want to investigate the Quadlock in a bit more detail.

Mounting to the Brompton was easily done and doesn’t really affect the fold on an S type. There’s some degree of touching but this hasn’t caused an issue yet.

Phone mounted to the Brompton

Phone mounted and displayed

Tigra mount on folded Brompton

Tigra with folded Brompton

With the phone mounted, the other two issues to address were navigation and battery life. Using the screen of the phone and the GPS will cause the battery to deplete pretty rapidly. On the London-Whitstable ride, the first two hours were on battery alone and the battery dropped by 50 percent – clearly not enough to get to the end of a 11 hour day (as the Whitstable trip was). So I’d purchased a battery pack on Amazon to plug into my phone. This would live in my Mini O bag that tends to go everywhere (at least in longer rides) with me and I’d run the cable to the handlebars. That was easily solved. Since writing this, Amazon have recalled the battery pack I’ve linked to above as there was a risk that is was damaged. Using damaged Li-Ion batteries is not recommended!

Battery pack in the mini O bag

The navigation issue could prove to be an issue – Google Maps offers turn by turn navigation but doesn’t have a full set of cycling routes built into it so it makes it harder to navigate. I looked at Strava and Ride With GPS as the navigation apps – Strava because I was already using it for day to day tracking and Ride with GPS because I used it for programming my routes, so it would seem the best option for riding the routes as well.

Strava

The Strava website features a route builder for creating and riding of cycling routes, but it does note that this is only in Beta at the minute, so I guess a number of teething issues are to be expected. However, it performs reasonably well for an item that is in Beta and the limitations are probably due to the mapping software they use (Google Maps), rather than the Strava website itself.

Creating a route in Strava is a bit of a pain – no importing from elsewhere so you can’t copy anyone else’s route and import it to follow without planning it yourself. However, you can (if you have a premium subscription, add other peoples rides on Strava as a route). I tried recreating Mark’s Whitstable route on Strava and was left plotting the route manually. However, issues arose where there were one way streets with counterflow bike paths and with cycle paths themselves (such as an area where we crossed the Medway on a cycle/footpath). These weren’t on the Strava/Google Maps route planner and the software would try to do a detour to get to where we wanted to go, clearly not ideal.

I tried it on a different route to see how the directions would work – how to get to cadets, something I know well as it is through Welwyn itself. Strava was a bit disappointing in that regard. The map was purely a “breadcrumb” trail – no directions or warnings, just a route shown on the map and you take responsibility for keeping yourself following the track. Rudimentary I guess but it does work. This is what happens on the Garmin when you put in a GPX file to follow, rather than a TCX file (in my experience anyhow). This means you’ve got to keep an eye on the track often, in comparison to if it was turn by turn with warnings. It also means that you have to keep the phone display on constantly to view the route.

Overall then, it’s not ideal, though it’s big plus is that it’s free. It would be nice to see some turn by turn directions and import but at the minute, it provides a basic route finding functionality. I know the routes for the RAFBF Challenge Ride are on Strava and Strava are mapping partners. However, I might be looking at other alternatives – though if it’s all on roads, I might be ok.

Strava (Left) compared to Ride With GPS (Right) whilst riding

Strava compared to Ride With GPS in the route selection

Ride With GPS

Ride With GPS offers the ability to plan your cycling routes online and then download them to your phone or GPS device to follow. It also offers cue sheets so you can print and have a copy as a paper copy in case your batteries die on your navigation device.

When planning your route, you can use a mixture of Google Maps. Open Street Maps and Ride With GPS’s own maps. This means that you can probably get exactly the route that you want or need as the Open Street Maps and RwGPS maps are actually very good with cycle paths and footpaths, something that Google seems to be missing in places.

In addition to the route planning, RwGPS let you follow directions to get to where you need to go. This route finding is only open to those with a premium RwGPS membership, which is available for a small fee monthly or yearly. This gives some benefit over and above using a Garmin as the maps are updated automatically for you and you can use one website/app to track rides and to direct you. However, I can understand some peoples reluctance to pay for a service when with the Garmin, you can pay for the device and then don’t have to pay anything for additional maps (if you use the freely available maps – Garmin and Ordnance Survey maps require ongoing payments for updates).

The RwGPS app took some setting up and getting used to. To start, it can override the Android devices functionality of turning the screen off. However, this seemed to need some playing about to sort out, as it could be set to be always on, only when the device is navigating or following a route and it could be set so that it only lit up when the directions appeared on screen. Likewise, you can adjust whether the track follows the directions (so your direction of travel on the screen is always up). When riding, I find that occasionally I didn’t hear the warnings for the turns so I ended up missing them, however, I adjusted this for the Mosquito Practice Ride that I did and I ended up hearing the warnings then – the warnings are displayed on the screen.

The warnings and turn by turn directions are ok, but they can (especially in the case of warnings of off course), take up the whole screen and make life difficult to correct your course without pressing the dismiss button.

A feature of RwGPS that attracted me to it was that it can download the routes you ride and store them offline – this includes the maps. This means that you can go out cycling and be happy that if you don’t have a mobile data signal, you can still find your way around. However, this seemed a bit awkward until I figured things out – on the Whitstable ride, I left data on and I managed to lose signal along the way – the maps disappeared but the route remained as a red line on a grey background. Not the most useful tool then, but would allow me to follow the route. I find when doing a later ride, that the trick is to switch off data. This then forces the app to use the download map tiles and I didn’t have any issues then at all.

For me, RwGPS is a much better tool for navigating with. The route finding was better online and the maps are much better for following, though it comes at a cost. However, Strava does display information better for just wanting to know your riding stats, such as time, distance and speed as it has a single page for this, whereas RwGPS displays the data along with a map.

Conclusion

Using a phone as a navigating tool on one hand beats using a Garmin – the screen sizes of the smart phones I have (iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung S5) are significantly bigger than the Garmin and so allow a much greater ability to see where I’m going. However, they’re let down by the water “proofness” of the phones themselves and the battery life. Without a battery pack, using a phone to navigate might see you run out of juice before the end of the ride. I found that using the battery pack above, I was able to charge my phone whilst I was riding and it would end up slowly charging the phone as well (so it was supplying more power than the phone was using whilst cycling).

Whilst you might have a smart phone, a mapping Garmin is likely to cost you £200-£300. At that rate, you can use RwGPS paid for version for about 6-7 years (£30 a year for RwGPS) before you’ll equal the cost of the Garmin. You also have the ability to upload and download data to the phone on the fly if you need to or to upload your Strava rides!

Accuracy seems reasonable to me – it allows me to navigate successfully and that’s the big question. I have noticed that Strava uploads that peak speeds seem perhaps a bit far out and that occasionally the tracks in Strava seem a bit less accurate using my phone than perhaps if I’d used a Garmin. I don’t think that’ll put me off to much though.

I think for now I’ll continue with the phone – after all, I always have my phone with me, but I rarely carried the GPS.

Month of Cycling

So July is upon us already and with it some of the hottest days of the year, with temperatures reaching 36°C in places!

Anyhow, taking the idea from earlier in the year from the 30 Days of Biking challenge, I’ve decided that July that I’m going to try to and ride every day for the month. That means a tracked ride in Strava and not just the commute to work. I didn’t do it in April as I was away for business part of the time. However, this month I should be ok to go.

My total distance for the year to date is 1574.3Km, I’ll see what I can manage this month (with two, longish, rides planned).

I’ll update at the end of the month as well, but to date I’ve achieved:

Day Distance (Km) Cumulative Time
1st 22.4 1
2nd 15.4 3

I’ll be writing a completed update at the end of the month!

Cycling in Berlin

I spent last weekend in Berlin, as part of a work trip to Germany for a conference. Whilst I was there, I decided to spend some time cycling around Berlin with Fat Tire Bike Tours.

I’d spent a few days walking around Magdeburg whilst I was there, mainly from the university (where the conference was) to the hotel, making sure I got to see the sights along the way. I’d considered taking the Brompton with me, as my flight tickets included a checked bag, but I decided not to this time around.

I’d looked around prior to going to Berlin to see if they have a bike hire system like the London Boris Bikes – I think they do, but it seemed that it was a lot cheaper and easier to just hire a bike for the day instead (my hotel for example, rented bikes out for €12 a day). Cycling seems a lot more common (or at least a lot safer and more accessible. The lack of hills in Berlin might help as well!) than in London so it wasn’t hard to find myself a bike. However, as I wanted to do a ride around Berlin to see as many sites as possible whilst I was there, I came across, and decided to go on, one of the Fat Tire Bike Tours. They seem to have tours in a few major cities in Europe and it had good reviews on TripAdvisor.

Tour

I walked to the Alexanderplatz where we started the ride. Alexanderplatz is the site of the famous TV tower, the tallest structure in Germany.

DSCF0414

Bikes for the day were Dutch style bikes.

2015-03-28 10.55.45

Scarlet (as mine was called) actually turned out to be very comfy and a fantastic way to see the city. With only three gears, there’s wasn’t a huge scope for speed or climbing potential, but Berlin is extremely flat, so that wasn’t an issue!

We left Alexanderplatz and cycled around Berlin. This was a quick tour, so there wasn’t a huge amount of time for photos at each stop over but I did manage to get a few here and there.

Checkpoint Charlie was interesting and our guide managed to give a good background to how the wall came about which was interesting and not something that I’d really learnt in school, so it was really interesting to find out about it.

DSCF0400

DSCF0401

We passed onwards passed onto the memorial for the Jewish Holocaust victims (there are other memorials for the other victims of the Holocaust through Berlin, some near to this one).

DSCF0407

A quick ride through the Tiergarten and then a stop at a nice cafe which I had some pretty tasty Hackbraten (meat loaf). We then came back into Central (or Mitte) Berlin, stopping off at the Riechstag and Brandburger Tor on our way back to Alexanderplatz.

DSCF0410

DSCF0385

Whilst this was just a quick tour of Berlin, I would love to go again and visit. There seemed to be lots of interesting architecture about (the Hauptbahnhof puts some of the London stations to shame!).

2015-03-25 15.48.48

2015-03-25 16.03.04

I would love to go back and investigate some more (by bike of course). Fat Bike Tours also do a trip to Potsdam – I went through this on the train to Magdeburg and it looked like that was well worth visiting as well. Unfortunately, my visit was in March when only the basic bike tours were being run and the tourist season it seems doesn’t start until April. However, that does give me the indication of when to go back next time!

I forgot to start Strava quite at the beginning, so the route isn’t quite the full route!

Teva Shoes

Shoes don’t seem like an interesting blog post – however, I sometimes think I’m guilty of being the wrong sex, as I seem to have a few shopping habits that the fairer sex are often stereotypically attributed with – that is, I have a thing for good bags. However, shoes (the other vice women are usually labelled with!) are not something I usually get excited about.

However, this is potentially due to the fact that I could never find a good pair – I would settle for a cheap £20 pair of Airwalk’s from Sports Direct as I seem to destroy shoes (the soles would wear through within a month or two). This was the case, even with expensive brands, such as Vans. This however, changed when I discovered Teva. Now I seem to get all my shoes from there!

Teva

Teva (apparently pronounced “teh’-vah,” not “tee-vah” – apparently from the Hebrew word for nature), are an American company (owned by Deckers Outdoor Corporation, the makers of the horrendous looking Ugg’s!). However, I don’t hold that against them, as the shoes are decent.

It all started in 1984 with the creation of sports sandals. Now Teva make a range of shoes, mainly focused around water. However, they also have a range of multi use shoes, some of which are marketed as cycling shoes (see where this is going?)

I think I stumbled upon Teva due to a post I’d seen somewhere on Reddit or on cycle touring where the Mush Frio was praised as a lightweight shoe that was really handy for dropping in panniers or similar. I decided to buy a pair in from the Natural Shoe Store in Covent Garden and that made me decide to check out the rest of the shoes they offer.

Mush Frio

I picked these up in a sale as I wanted a lightweight shoe that I could wear with no socks during the summer. I’m not a huge fan of flip flops and I’ve never really worn sandals but I still wanted a shoes that was light weight (I blame getting into barefoot running). The Mush Frio’s fitted the bill and I managed to pick up a pair from the Natural Shoe Store.

https://i2.wp.com/farm3.staticflickr.com/2941/15103726677_b373f59809_z.jpg?resize=480%2C640&ssl=1

Yes, they do seem to match the carpets in my house as well!

They are like flip flops – well, the soles are. The soles are basically that sort of foam that some sandals and flip flops use and the rest of the shoes are canvas. I’ve not worn these two much during the summer but they will be making an appearance in my touring kit bag as they are lightweight and pack down nicely.

Crank

I ended up buying a pair of Cranks as they were on offer and I thought I’d risk buying them to see how they would compare to the cheap, £20 Airwalk trainers I’d been buying from Sports Direct. Well turns out to be money well spent.

https://i0.wp.com/farm4.staticflickr.com/3897/15289894302_3688c3aa8e_z.jpg?resize=640%2C480&ssl=1

Not only were the shoes comfortable, I still have my original pair, probably approaching two years after I bought them, though in fairness, the original pair have now been regulated to the cupboard for cycling or other muddy jobs (mainly because they’re a bit grubby now, not that the sole has a hole in). I liked them so much, that I bought a second identical pair in a sale soon after I bought the first pair and I’ve purchases a third pair in a different colour for other occasions! Either way, the Crank has become my go to shoes for day to day wear, though for the office, I’ve decided I need a slightly better looking pair.

It turns out I now have a total of five pairs now of the Cranks in various colours and state of use! They’ve become my shoe of choice.

https://i1.wp.com/farm3.staticflickr.com/2941/15103525119_93e3f9b178_z.jpg?resize=640%2C480&ssl=1

Carbon

Carbon’s are probably the only Teva pair of shoes I regret buying and that’s pretty much down to styling, rather than the actual shoe itself.

I bought them to wear into the office as I thought they were smart enough. I’m not entirely sure they are but it turns out, I’m not a fan of the grey and black styling either.

I made a mistake when purchasing these as well and ordered a Size 10, compared to 11 in the Crank’s. Well, I managed to tear up my heels wearing them so I can only assume the size was to small or the shoes requiring some breaking in, something the other trainers don’t need to do.

Overall though, the shoes compare well enough to the rest of the shoes I’ve had from Teva. The soles are grippy enough and these are aimed at the cycling market – with small reflective patches applied to the shoes on the sides of the soles. Mind, these aren’t particularly big, and I’ve not seen them in action (as I’m on the bike wearing them!). It’s an interesting touch though and I wonder if other cycling shoes out there are incorporating it – as the patches are fairly unobtrusive during the day.

In the end, I got rid of these fairly quickly to a charity shop.

Roller Suede

These were bought to replace the Carbon’s that I disliked. I thought that these were pretty smart to wear in the office and I’ve been wearing them there for probably about 6 months.

https://i1.wp.com/farm4.staticflickr.com/3901/15103727797_d9971e8bab_z.jpg?resize=480%2C640&ssl=1

They seem to be fairly decent with a pair of chinos and a shirt for a fairly casual look in the office.

I’ve bought a pair of the Roller Mesh shoes to replace these ones, as they’re perhaps beginning to look a bit tired (and the soles on these are wearing down).

Roller Mesh

I bought the Mesh ones to replace the Suede ones, basically because I thought I’d give them a try over replacing them like for like.

https://i0.wp.com/farm3.staticflickr.com/2941/15289897422_f9e948bbb9_z.jpg?resize=480%2C640&ssl=1

The difference is fairly minor.

Comparison of Teva Roller Suede and Teva Roller Mesh

Perhaps the other Suede ones are perhaps a bit smarter, but these should be up to the task as well. Only time will tell!

Conclusion

Teva have won me over with reasonably priced shoes that perform fantastically (in my probably abnormal wear frequency!). Not only are they reasonably priced, they’re fashionable (and some of the “smarter” trainers are ideal for work) and they’re comfortable. Far cry from some shoes I’ve worn that seem to forget that main aim of wearing shoes is to protect your feet but to be comfortable enough not to realise they’re there!

Thames Triple Chaser

Went for my second ride with the London Brompton Club today. Was a fairly long ride, the Thames Triple Chase – 25 miles or so from Central London out to Stratford, West Ham and then down across the river on the Woolwich ferry, down to the O2 and across on the cable car and then heading back towards London before crossing over finally into the Greenwich foot tunnel.

Well attended ride! I believe there were thirty odd Bromptons at one point.

Untitled

Untitled

The start was quite good fun – we arranged the bikes along the top of the steps in Trafalgar Square. Turns out there were so many of us, that tourists started taking pictures of us!

Anyhow, got going and with a few minor diversions thanks to some roadworks down by Cheapside and Poultry, we headed out to the canal paths.

Untitled

Untitled

Once we made it to Stratford, we stopped for some tea and cake at the viewtube cafe, which has some fantastic views of the Olympic Park. Or at least will when the contractors disappear!

Untitled

Untitled

Shortly before passing by some of the projects I’ve worked on in Stratford and my own first project that I managed with my company on Roman Road, we made our way into Woolwich and waited for the Woolwich ferry. Seeing so many Bromptons stream off the ferry must have been a sight to see for those on the other side! To be fair, seeing so many Bromptons stream on to the ferry must have proved amusing!

Once on the other side of the river, we visited one of the most interesting civil engineering projects for London – the Thames barrier.

Untitled

It was the first time I’d been up close and personal with it and I have to say I was fairly impressed. I wouldn’t mind visiting it again for a more in depth look but that might have to wait as I’ve a list of other things to crack on with!

We ended up stopping for lunch at the O2.

Untitled

This did lead to my first interesting “argument” with a Brompton. I walked into the O2 with my bike, wheeling it along trying to find myself a loo for a quick loo break. I was stopped and told bikes weren’t allowed within the O2. Oh, I said, what about now? (and proceeded to fold it up). The security guard seemed a bit flummoxed to be fair and had to check with a colleague! As long as I could carry it, it was fine apparently! At this point, I keep forgetting I’ve got the Eazy wheels on the bike! However, it was good to be able to carry it around and not have to lock it up – after all, I don’t carry a lock with my Brompton at all. I have to lock it up in secure bike parking at work and that’s where my lock stays.

We then proceeded to cross back over the Thames using the Emirates Airline, managing five Brompton riders and Bromptons per pod. We managed to catch the end of a boat race alongside the side of the ExCeL centre.

Untitled

There was some form of festival or something going on there with many jet skis and other water based machines crowded one end of the basin.

Finally, we reached the point where we then could see our final destination – the Greenwich Hospital.

Untitled

Another fantastic piece of Christopher Wren architecture, the hospital marked the end point of our ride, alongside the nearby Cutty Sark.

Untitled

At this point, we all stopped for a photo in front of the bow of the Cutty Sark before all heading our separate ways. A group stayed for drinks but I felt it more prudent to head back into London along with a small group of riders. Pace was a bit quicker heading back with less of us and was good slog back into London. Leaving most at London Bridge station and then dropping the rest at the other end of London Bridge, I made a quick detour via Holborn/Covent Garden to nip into the Brompton Junction to pick up a T-Bag and then headed back to Kings Cross to complete the day.

Overall was a really great day and I was surprised at the number of cycle paths that we were able to cover on the route – it was very rare that we were actually on the road after getting out of the City of London! We couldn’t have really asked for better weather.

This was my first long distance ride on the Brompton – well, a total of 60Km for the day, so maybe not the longest distance I’ve done overall but it was a good time out on the bike (arrived in London at 9 and got home about 6 so we’re talking a full work day!). I think there were some learning points for me for the ride.

Firstly, hydration. I know I should hydrate a lot when exercising but the issue I came up against was where to mount drinks. I ended up with a bottle of water within my mini O bag but this wasn’t ideal as I couldn’t drink on the way round, only when stopped. A number of riders have velcro mounted or other mounted bottle holders – however, these might affect the fold which makes them harder for me to use if I have use the trains to get into London.

I think I’ve got two options really – a Camelbak style hydration bladder, similar that I would use for mountain biking or a triathalon style bottle cage.

The triathalon bottle extension, shown above would allow me to use all my existing bottles on the bike and doesn’t look like it would affect the folding of the Brompton which is good. However, the Brompton is less stable than the bikes I’m previously used to and perhaps reaching around behind me when moving might prove problematic.

I’m more tempted to head down the Camelbak, even though at the minute I’m enjoying cycling without a backpack on. I think this is winning out as I should be able to use this for different activities as well, other than cycling. It also gives a bit more flexibility for carrying stuff – I struggled yesterday to fit my jacket into my Mini O bag.

Second learning point – make sure that you pump your tyres up before hand! I got to Kings Cross early to pump my tyres up using the pump we keep in the office. I was disappointed that it was poor and spent today finding myself a new one to keep at home (I settled for a Topeak Joe Blow 2). This performed far better than the office pump and be making sure to use it regularly!

Overall it was a fantastic ride and I look forward to some more in the future – next week sees me taking part in the London Classic with a few of the LBC.

Creepy Tunnel Ride

Today’s ride was another slow ride around the local area, to warm the legs up before trying to get back on the road bike. Was a fantastic day in terms of weather after the storms of last week and the week before that – that was seen in the number of people out on bikes. Went past quite a few club rides out on the roads.

Route consisted of some busy A roads around Cockfosters (which I’m not keen on and I think I’ll perhaps be avoiding in the future if I can), some quieter roads around Barnet and then a stretch along the NCN Route 12.

2014-01-11 10.48.23

Route 12 runs from Enfield to Peterborough via Hatfield and Stevenage. According to the Sustrans website, the route itself isn’t yet complete (and there’s some big gaps after Letchworth upto Peterborough it seems) but it’s not to bad at this end.

However, the route isn’t all that suitable for road bikes – as can be seen, some aspects are quite muddy!

2014-01-11 10.50.39

2014-01-11 10.50.48

Once you get past the mud, not to bad on the hybrid to be fair but a bit slippery in places, the track reverts to a gravel based path until you get to the M25 crossing and you have to go through a tunnel. And the namesake of this ride!

2014-01-11 10.53.52

Looking down the tunnel, all the lights are off making it fairly dark in there and you could just about see the water was still over the end part of the tunnel. I got off and walked the bike through this as I didn’t want to test the depth of the stream/river next to me! The floor was muddy underfoot and it was clear that the stream had overflowed in the past few weeks – understandable with the rain.

2014-01-11 10.56.36

As you can see, the final section is still underwater, thankfully not to deep and I just about splashed through the water and back onto the path.

From the tracks in the mud in the tunnel, I wasn’t the first cyclist though there recently.

However, after this, an issue arose with the bike – my feet would keep slipping from the pedals! Cleats are currently reserved for my road bike (and when I had it, my mountain bike) only as this one I commute the 2Km to the station every morning and it seems silly putting cleats on for that. It currently has the following:

2014-01-11 11.26.40

and as you can see, there is practically no grip at all! The shoes I use (an old pair of Teva Crank trainers) are designed for pedals and actually work pretty well on the pedals, but with the mud, my feet ended up all over the place. Making me think the cleats are probably a good idea and that I should get them. Though I was looking at getting rid of this bike when I move soon as I just wont have the storage space. A shame, as I’m beginning to think a hybrid would be a better option that my road bike – after all, I don’t always like sticking to the roads (as can be seen here!) and I think a hybrid would be quite good for touring. But I’m also hoping that the new bike would be able to handle some touring demands as well…

Cycling Gloves

So a fairly boring blog post perhaps on gloves.

It’s very rare that you’ll catch me out on a bike without wearing gloves. Not 100% why but I also think it’s better to wear gloves as if I come off the bike, the first part of my body that I’ll move to try and stop myself probably is my hands. And considering I use them everyday, I kind of want them to not be to damaged.

Anyhow, summer gloves are never really an issue for me – I have a fairly old (and by now, pretty tatty) pair of Fox gloves but these are to thin for winter riding. I bought a pair of gloves (can’t recall the brand name now) at the London cycle show last year and they weren’t to bad. However, during windy days, or just fast downhill descents, wind would just tear through these and make it feel like you were wearing nothing at all. They did come with a rain cover type cover that was attached near the wrist of the glove and would unroll and cover your hand like a mitten. Nice idea (as these were also reflective, ideal for commuting). The major downside was that they were a bit small and really restricted your handling of the bike so I ended up never using those “flaps”. When they ended up getting a hole in last month, I didn’t think it was worth fixing and decided to buy a new pair.

2014-01-10 18.39.02

Winter Gloves

Anyhow, so along I went to the local bike shop and bought a no name pair of gloves. Waterproof, windproof, the lot.

2014-01-10 18.38.45

They’re pretty warm and do the trick of keeping the wind out. Waterproof seems to be fairly good as well by can’t comment to much as I’ve not worn them in the rain much (I barely rode at the end of last year). However, I’ve got a big issue with them and that’s the sheer bulk of the glove. With the gloves on, I can’t attach my lights, I can’t even open the garage door to get the bike out! And then when I’m on the commuter bike, I’m just about able to operate the gears – I’d hate to ride the road bike with these, there’s almost no chance I’d be able to operate the gears nicely with these! It looked like I was doomed to having fat finger syndrome or hypothermia in my hands!

Rab Powerstretch

That is, until I was in Go Outdoors over Christmas. Now I’m a big fan of Go Outdoors (in fact, I love all outdoor shops). I was browsing the gloves and stumbled upon the Rab Powerstretch gloves.

These seemed almost ideal for cycling, even though they aren’t cycling specific gloves. Maybe thats where I was going wrong, only looking at the specific ones, when I should have been looking at all gloves.

2014-01-10 18.39.55

Whilst these aren’t waterproof, having worn them in a torrential downpour, I can say that it takes a while for the water to soak through. In addition, they aren’t pretty windproof – not so much as the thick gloves above, but they do a pretty good job at keeping the biting cold air out. Which, after all, is the main reason I got them. Thankfully as well, they don’t give me fat finger syndrome. I can happily operate all the parts of my bike with them on and I can even fiddle with my Garmin cycle computer. So that’s a plus.

They are missing the ever helpful terrycloth on the thumb for nose wiping (espcially helpful in the colder weather!) but I can miss out on that for having warm hands that I can actually use for operating the bike comfortably!