Saturday, 28 June 2008

More Bromptons

I saw another Brompton cyclist in Woolwich today.  I was in my car on the way to do a piece of work in Peckham.  I don't think I have seen another Brompton cyclist in South London.  Plenty in Central London.   The best time to see another Brompton rider is at train stations in the evening doing what all good folding bikes do,  get us home in style.  I want to take more photos but I am not fast enough with the camera.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Bike Shops

I visited six bike shops in Central London over the course of two days this week. Seven if I include a return trip to Velorution on Monday. What I found that it helps to find shops that will meet your needs as a cyclist and the shop is keen to keep you as customer regardless of what kind of cyclist you are.

I went to Bobbins in Clerkenwell to buy a reflective sash. Bobbins is not a shop but a tiny bike workshop and they sell beautiful traditional sit up and beg type bikes from Holland the land of the traditional bike. I had to telephone to book an appointment, in case I clashed with someone in the process of buying a bike. Bobbins had a beautiful range of baskets and I was able to get extra bike straps for mine. My verdict is 6/10 for service and range of stuff on offer. Sadly I can give higher because I am a Brompton owner I am unlikely to use the shop again because they don’t cater for Bromptons.

Bobbins were still better than Evans cycles at London Bridge, where I was told in response to obtaining spare basket straps that ‘We don’t do baskets’. I know there are various Evans shops through out central London but I have never felt comfortable in any of them and they sell Bromptons. I am not a sports cyclist or urban commuter wanna-be sports cyclist. Verdict for Evans for me 3/10.

Which brings me to On Your Bike also at London Bridge, 2 minutes away from Evans. I used to really like this store because they have a wide range of Bromptons and accessories for the Brompton. They also had a range of Timbuk2 bags which I prefer to the Crumpler. This week I discover that they no longer have Timbuk2s and like Evans didn’t have any spare basket straps although they sell baskets of all types. I felt that this is primarily a sports bike store but they can sell other types of bikes. The staff are friendly. Verdict 5/10.

I went to Cycle Surgery in Proctor Street in Holborn. Another sports bike store. The staff say hello but leave you to browse. They had a small range of Timbuk2s. They carry a large range of Bromptons and all the accessories. Verdict 6/10 because a staff member came up to me and asked my about my new Brompton basket. I was impressed that he had noticed.

My lowest point was Condor Bikes also in Clerkenwell. Scary sports bike store. I was ignored by staff. But I was wearing a dress, red cardigan and heels unlike the Lycra wearing customers. They had a range of Timbuk2 bags but I will not be returning any time soon. Verdict 2/10 only because they had the bags, but I wouldn’t want to spend money there.

My surprise visit was Brixton Cycles in Stockwell. Although they are what I would call a sports bike store they are very friendly and clearly concerned to provide a service to all cyclists in the area. I was impressed when the sales person ignored my sarcastic response when asking what kind of Timbuk2 bag I wanted, (I was expecting him to be patronising) and then ran up and down ladders to bring out all the colours they had. He also didn’t hurry me although it was approaching closing time. Verdict 8/10 for service. They can’t get higher because they are not a Brompton stockist.

I shall be making trips to local bike shops and probably doing return journeys to most of those above just to see if my impression is still the same.

Monday, 23 June 2008

A basket for my Brompton

The one small regret I had about my Brompton was that it didn’t have basket. I’ve always had baskets on my old bike. I got through a series of cheap wire baskets as eventually one of the attachments would snap and I have to get another. Cheap but I loved them anyway. I was resigned to being without a basket for the Brompton because although they make a small basket type carrier in basic black canvas it is ugly and overpriced for what it is. So I was delighted to discover in Velorution a quirky bike shop in Gt Titchfield St W1, that someone has made baskets for M type and S type Bromptons. Not cheap at £50 but beautifully well made. It was an instant sale.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Us and Them

I was talking to a woman today and discovered that she was a ‘hard core’ cyclist. She cycled to work everyday from South to West London. She loved to cycle in all weathers and had been trained to do hills and distances by her grandfather. She had three bikes once of which was over 1K. I was impressed.

I then said I had a Brompton and I used it to get to North London. She then said that she didn’t take cyclist like me seriously. (’I’m not being funny’.) I think she said ‘fair weather cyclists’. I laughed and said something like I know that I am not in the same league and I knew my limitations.

But now I am wondering that I should have something more affirmative. It is the Us and Them game that exists amongst cyclists. The ‘hard core’, hard men and women who have specialist bikes and specialist equipment and they ride in all weathers. They also look down on cyclists like me. Cyclists who don’t clock up serious distances, think twice whether it is worth getting wet, wear our own everyday clothes and cycle around on bikes as if we’re extras in an episode of ‘Miss Marple’. (More cake Vicar?)

I like to cycle and think that being a fair weather cyclist is better than not doing any cycling.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

City Cyclists are scary

I have been trying out a new route to get to Seven Sisters. Instead of going by tube from North Greenwich to Seven Sisters, which involved a change at Green Park, I’ve been getting the train to London Bridge, cycling to Liverpool Street and then getting the mainline train to Seven Sisters. Going over ground is great. No crowds, plenty of seats and I get to read. The scary thing is the cycle route between London Bridge and Liverpool Street Stations.

I can deal with the traffic, it is other commuter cyclists that I have to watch. Most are fast and will even overtake on the inside if I am not careful and I am learning to keep out of the way. There are times when there is a group of us are in the bike box at traffic lights when I get the sense that some cyclists are competing with the rest of us. This is a shame as all the zipping through traffic and going through red lights is the kind of thing that gets up the noses of drivers. It is a complete contrast to a city like Amsterdam where cyclists looks out for other cyclists and using a bike is everyday mundane occurrence and not a sports event.

Being ill

I have been struggling with a cold for the past two weeks and barely being able to stay upright on some days let alone keep my balance on the bike. Cycle training has been cancelled this month for some reason too. Just as well I couldn’t go.