Thursday, 29 October 2009

Brompton bag vs Timbuk2

It’s been a busy week on and off the bike. After my recent post on the rack and front bags I got out my zip top Brompton front bag and used it on a recent journey to Dagenham.

I know why I don’t use this more often.

  • It is not big enough for all the stuff I like to carry around. It is like packing a suitcase that you don’t want to open more than once. I lost my first iPhone when I unpacked the Brompton bag to get out my purse and I left it behind. When I went back it was gone.
  • The Brompton bag has a dark interior means I can’t just look in and see where anything thing is. This a minor but important design point. The bigger the bag the more important the interior is a bright colour, especially if you are looking for things like keys. The Brompton zip top doesn’t have a key holder like my Timbuk2 bag.
  • I can’t get anything else into the bag should I stop off to do some shopping. With the Timbuk2 I can always get more in and expand the straps to everything hold in. As demonstrated yesterday when I had to get a t-shirt from H&M, stop off to get printer inks and then pop in to get lunch from M&S. All got thrown into the ever expanding Timbuk2 which was already carrying the bike lock, papers and my Asus Netbook.
  • All Brompton bags come with a frame that allows the bag to sit on the front block. It is a great idea, but in practice it is not comfortable when you have the bag slung across your back when the bike is folded. This is because it is not really designed to be used in this way so I can’t really complain. But the discomfort is enough to put me off using it.
  • All Brompton bag straps are too narrow!! Big no no. Even if you are not using the bag as a messenger bag at some point you do have to carry the bag because you are folding the bike and the strap just cuts into your shoulder. Brompton should have provided wider straps like those with my Ortlieb and Timbuk2. In fact the Ortlieb comes with a detachable pad for the shoulder strap which I use on my Brompton bags. I don’t need it for the Ortlieb which is nice and wide.
I am now so used to either carrying my bags on my back or strapping them on the back of the bike that I don’t find it easier to hook a bag on the front any more.

1.  Me with my second iPhone and M&S leather boots
2. The Brompton zip top front bag and frame.
3.  The Timbuk2, now approaching it's second winter

Monday, 19 October 2009

Brompton rear rack and bags

I got a question from J today asking me how often I use my rear rack.

Answer. A lot.

Although I wax lyrical about my basket I don’t use it for everyday ‘got to get to work right now’ setting. In fact I don’t use my Brompton pannier or Brompton zip front bag that often either. I will use my black front bag for the odd occasion when I need to look professional for work as it carries papers and folders and looks smart.

The bags I use most of the time are my messenger bags and now I have added my non messenger shoulder bag by Esprit. I used my Timbuk2 bag all through the winter last year. When I wasn’t using that I used the Ortlieb zip city which always provokes a where did you get that bag question from non cyclists.

You can see from the photos why I need the rack. I carry a lot of stuff or acquire stuff during the day. I start out in the morning with the bag on my back, but by the end of the day I put it on the rack for the final journey home.

Why use a messenger bag and not just the clip the bag on and off the bike at the front?

I prefer the look and style of a messenger bag. I find it surprising that Bromptons come in a wide range of colours but the bags are a little dull by comparison. (I have heard that this is about to change very soon.) It is also faster not to have to remove a bag and fold the bike quickly when I have to get on a train or the tube. Of course this doesn’t work when I have to strap a bag on the rack.

So if you aren’t going to need to carry a lot of stuff and can get away with just a front bag and/or a messenger bag then save the cash. I don’t regret getting the rack and I would do it again.

Buying a Brompton

A couple weeks ago I got an email requesting advice on buying a Brompton from someone in Canada. Here is the response I sent, but I don’t know if it was helpful as they didn’t let me know what happened.

Dear M

I have a 6 speed Brompton, M Type with tyre dynamo lights and Eazy wheels. As you can see I got the basic Black but there are lots of fabulous colours to choose from.

If I was starting again I would still go for the M Type, but with Titanium frame because I do a lot of folding and carrying of my bike when I am travelling across London and using public transport. I am now used to the weight of the bike but it is heavy to carry up and down stairs. For the first few months I was really tired.

I would also not have the dynamo lights to cut down the weight for me. I have additional battery lights and find LED lights are much better and safer than dynamo lights

What I found very useful was the Eazy wheels. When the Brompton is folded and you just need to push it along these wheels turn the bike into a little trolley. Be sure to check you have the Eazy wheels which are larger than the little wheels that come as standard on a Brompton. A few Brompton owners have asked me how come I was pushing my Brompton as a trolley much more easily than they could then they noticed they didn't have the same wheels. Oh yes I forgot I have a rear luggage rack too.

As for handling and cycling. The 6 speed has been brilliant for me as it gets me up most hills. Despite what I said about the weight of the standard frame for carrying, the Brompton is a fairly light bike for cycling and if you have the leg power and inclination you can speed along with the Sporty types. When cycling in rush hour in the city of London I have noticed that other non-Brompton cyclists are surprised that I can keep up with them or in some cases move faster, even though I have not trying to race them.

As you can see from my blog I also have a Trek bike but this is definitely a slower ride compared to the Brompton.

I haven't had any problems with the gears or the bike itself. It is tough. I have had to replace the seat. You will see that Brompton have now upgraded the seat and it is much stronger. I did have a few problems with the dynamo lights due to loose wiring but were easily fixed at no extra cost to me.

As for bags, I personally didn't like the Folding basket. I think is is a little overpriced for what it does and it is not as attractive as an actual wicker basket. The one I have is not by Brompton. When I first started cycling I got and constantly used the Touring pannier, which is easy to clip on and off, and does carry a full load of shopping. Eventually I didn’t want to carry something, which was that large, and I got a smaller Brompton zip top bag, which they don't seem to make anymore. I love mine because it comes with a strap for my shoulder. I think the new messenger bag on the Brompton site is the replacement.

While it is great to have a bag when you buy the bike, get the bike first and find out what your needs are before investing in a bag as they are expensive. You will then know whether you need or want a bag or whether you can get by with strapping an ordinary bag on the back or carrying it across your shoulder.

The one item I brought but never used was the bike Cover and Saddlebag. Some rail networks in the UK require your folding bike to be covered when you are travelling by train. But I discovered that this isn't a problem for any of networks I use in London.

I do love my Brompton and it is always a thrill to see another owner when I am out on the bike. If I got another one I would go for a colour, like, orange or blue.

Finally, I do have a super strong (and heavy) D ring lock. But recently I have not been carrying the lock with me because I can fold the bike and push it into a shop. At work I just fold it completely and it can be tucked away in a corner or under a desk. When I went to the Tate Museum recently the bike was put in the cloakroom for free. When folded the Brompton is smaller than a lot of suitcases and lighter too.

I hope the above has been helpful. Enjoy your test ride

Suede shoe.

Above is a photo of my Brompton when it was all shiny and new, with the large pannier I now rarely use, the old saddle before it split, and the bike pump before it got mangled.  Still loved by me.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Looking after shoes - the bare minimum

Looking after shoes is painless compared to a bike. First thing I do with a new pair shoes is to spray them with a leather protector. This keeps the rain and light dirt off. If I spray well enough it should protect the shoe in a good down pour. I mean a light spray that is then repeated an hour or more later. The only pair of shoes I haven’t sprayed immediately are my new M&S black suede boots which come ‘protected’.

I keep most of my shoes in boxes. I will use the box they came in until I get a set of shoe boxes from Lakeland. These are clear and I can see where each pair are. I now have boot trees to support my boots when I am not wearing them, but before this I found that a couple of thick magazines rolled up does the same job.

I use a wire brush for any suede shoe and for leather shoes I will eventually use one of those sponge polishes in neutral.

Easy work.

'Tate Shoes' by the Spanish shoe company 'Art'.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

It's getting colder and darker

I can’t deny it any longer, autumn is here. How do I know this? 1 The large range of coloured tights that has appeared in H&M. 2 I went out to get groceries on the Trek at 3.30 pm when it was daylight but had to get out the lights at 6 pm to get home.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Raleigh Cameo

I almost fell over when I saw this bike parked beside my Brompton outside Selfridges in Oxford Street yesterday. It is a Raleigh Cameo which was the second bike I brought and owned until I sold it 1992. By this time I had passed my driving test and I didn’t think I would be cycling anymore. Before I got the car I did most journeys on my Cameo. My bike was made in the early 1980s but I am not sure when Raleigh stopped producing them. I had a quick trawl on the web and I can see that there are a few around for sale because they are beautiful classics.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Satelite navigation and cycling

My work commitments send me all over London and I am always printing off maps to take with me on the bike. This works well for 99 percent of the time. I have recently discovered the joy of my Google Map satellite navigation application on my iPhone. Twice when I have found myself cycling in the wrong direction I got out the iPhone and hey presto I could see exactly where I was and make the necessary adjustment.

It’s great that I can pinpoint precisely where I am, but I also find it slightly unnerving in a Will Smith Gene Hackman ‘Enemy of the State’ kind of way.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Cycle Show

I went to the Cycle Show at Earls Court yesterday. Not sure, is my verdict. Lots of events and bikes but not a lot for everyday slow speed cyclists like me. But the purpose of the event was to promote cycling in all it’s forms and that is a good thing.

  • The Brompton bike park. Brompton was one of the sponsors of the event and it provided a free secure space for everyone to park their bikes.
  • The Ortlieb stand where I got a new catalogue and was able to see the full range of bags. I feel a purchase coming on.
  • The multi coloured Pashley bikes and the very cute child’s tricycle called Pickle. I wished I was 4 again.
  • The Transport for London, bike for hire stand. Bikes you can hire will soon be available at various points in London. Can’t wait. Not that I plan to use them, but I hope the scheme will get more people riding.
  • The Brompton stand. I talked with R. one of the guys from the workshop who I met last week and he advised me on how to upgrade parts on my existing bike to titanium and make it lighter by 1 kg (2.5 lbs).
Will I go next year? I don’t think so. As I said the event is to promote cycling in general and the event is mainly geared towards sports type cyclists. These cyclists spend more money on their bikes, special clothes and accessories. Slow cyclists just get on any old bike in what they are wearing, find a suitable lock and off they go.

I think what I would like is a Slow Cycle Show. With Dutch type old fashioned bikes, or just general slow speed (nothing over 6 gear) bikes. I would invite Copenhagen Cycle Chic to provide a photo or slide display and instead of celebrity gold medal cyclists I would invite celebrities who just cycle like, Will Self, Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes.

1. Purple Brompton - favourite colour this week.
2. Transport for London Bike Hire Stand
3. Green bikes by Dutch ID
4. Blue Ortlieb Zip City
5. Baskets at the Bikecruiser stand
6. Pashley Pickle trike.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Camper boots

I am very happy with my recent boot and shoe purchases but that doesn’t stop me from looking at shoes and boots and thinking about the next pair. I am wearing my M&S black leather boots so much they will wear out by December.

I tried on these boots by Camper and they are called Helena. I like Camper shoes. I have always wanted a pair of Camper shoes. I have tried on many pairs over the years but I haven’t made that first purchase.


They are beautifully made and well designed shoes but I think the styles look better on small feet. I don’t have small feet. They always have my size, but their shoes don’t look as nice in my size on my feet. Well, that’s my theory.

These boots are ok but I didn’t get a thrill. They would have to be very cheap before I got them and Camper shoes are not cheap.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Brompton World Championship -The London bike ride

At 6.30am on Saturday 3rd October I found out there was to be a cycle ride in the afternoon for Bromptons in London as part of the Brompton World Championship. A big race for Brompton owners which happens every year. This year at Blenheim Palace and hosted by Brompton. A reader had kindly sent me details about the race but it was full up when I went to check it out.

The cycle run started from Jubilee Gardens by the London Eye. About 50 Brompton owners turned up to cycle around the Southbank, Fleet Street, Bank and back again. Everyone I met had travelled either from outside London or from abroad. I met people who use their Bromptons, in Geneva, Milan and New York.

I felt guilty about not using the Brompton beyond London when clearly this bike can be taken around the world. I heard a rumour that the Championship is considering going to Japan. I will like to go to the Championship next year, if it is still in the UK.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Refund please

I arrived at Woolwich this morning with the Brompton to discover that there were delays on the Docklands Light Railway. The indicator stated 9 minutes until the next train, then went down to 8 and back up to 9 minutes. In the end I had to get a main line train into London Bridge at an extra cost to me because I can’t use the Oyster card. I was given a form to apply for a refund but I suspect that there may be some loop hole that says I don’t qualify.

I can’t wait until the New Year when the Oyster will be valid on all London networks.