Saturday, 23 October 2010

Wish list - Ankle strap shoes by Office

I tried on these shoes by Office when I was searching for boots. I want them but I have decided to wait until I have saved up for them or I get a discount voucher.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

When choosing a bag, style matters

I realise from a comment that I got on the O bag that my views on Brompton bags may be considered as a consumer test on which bag to buy and which bag is best. They are not. They are my views based on what I like and whether I would buy and use a bag. Whether it is in shoes or bags, style matters to me just as much as how practical or efficient a bag or shoe is.

I know that using a bag on the front block is more efficient and better for my back. But I don’t like the look of the bag in the front. The exception to this is the Brompton wicker basket which I don’t use so much now that I can get a ‘basket fix’ from riding the Trek.

Brompton provides a range of bags for the front and back for the bike. I feel that until recently the design of these bags never received the same attention as the design and look of the bike. The bags that were available two years ago also had drawbacks, 1. Narrow shoulder straps. The pannier is impossible to carry when commuting because of narrow straps. I had to buy an additional shoulder strap pad. This is an obvious and simple design feature that could have been incorporated at the beginning. 2. Black interior lining. The endless frustration of finding anything in a deep bag with a dark lining was too much for me.

I get asked questions about what bag to buy for the Brompton from those in the process of buying. My advice on this is to go without buying a ‘special bag’ until you get to know your Brompton and your way of riding and using it. This will probably take a couple weeks and not more than a month. Oh yes, get a bag block fitted so that you still have the option.

Here is a rough guide on how I use my Brompton when I am working:
  • Cycle to station. Fold bike and get on the train.
  • On arrival in central London wheel bike through interchange to another platform. This will involve carrying bike up and down stairs.
  • Or on arrival wheel bike through to the underground station to get tube using escalators.
  • Get on second train or underground train with the Brompton. If on underground, change trains and wheel the Brompton through the station and carry up and down stairs. Get on another train.
  • On arrival cycle to destination.
Note: All the various interchanges and tube journeys often require me to have the bag on my back.

I try to minimise as far as I can the number of changes I do or trains I have to use. I work across London and I cannot predict where I will be from one month to the next. My first Brompton bag was the pannier, but I soon discovered that I could not carry it comfortably when going through the various interchanges I had to make between the train to underground tube. I also discovered that I didn’t need such a large bag for my work journeys. But too late I had already parted with £70. I got the zip around bag (now discontinued) and found this was too small for my needs and it was still uncomfortable to carry because of the narrow straps and the hard frame on my back.

I did try wheeling the bike when partially folded with the pannier fixed to the front block. This only works until you have to use stairs and then you have to clip the bag off and on or risk falling over if you loose balance.

Two years ago I considered whether to make my third investment in another Brompton bag, this time the messenger type bag that was available. These came with wider straps but in dark grey with a Brompton logo on the front. I didn’t want to give Brompton any more money for a bag I really didn’t like the look of and given that I needed a bag I could carry on my back I then opted for a non-Brompton bag by a company (Timbuk2) that specialises in bags for people who cycle.

Personally I like riding with a bag on my back and this works for me because of the various changes and folding I have to do. I can fold and unfold and just get going. However if I just had a simple commute, for example, cycle to station get on train arrive and then cycle to destination then maybe I would have just stuck with the pannier. Or if I didn’t have to use the train and I had to cycle all the way and this journey took longer than 40 minutes then carrying a bag on the front or the back rack would be cooler.

Which is why I advise new users to get to know your travel style before parting with more money so you can be sure you have the right bag for your needs and quirks. I like to use a bag that I can carry on my back because of the numerous changes I make in the course of a journey. I now know that I like to ride in this way and as I said, I prefer the look of a bag on the back rather than the front. I also want a bag that is soft against my back, with wide straps and a light coloured lining and works well as a bag when I am not cycling.

I do what works for me and this may not be the best way but it’s my style.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

O Bag for the Brompton

While in the Cycle Surgery bike shop on Tuesday I saw this pink O bag designed by Ortlieb for Brompton, price £169.00.

The O bag comes in pink & black and black. I usually like vivid colours and I like the shiny surface of this bag but I personally would opt for the black. This bag is designed to go on the front of your Brompton and I am not sure if I would feel comfortable with a big pink bag in this position. Matching the colour of your Brompton to this bag will be tricky for those who do not have a Black Brompton which would be a good contrast.

I liked that Ortlieb provided inner pockets and a key holder and importantly a light coloured contrasting lining so that you can find your stuff in what is a deep bag. It is waterproof. Ortlieb has a good reputation in providing waterproof bags.

I liked the option of the handle on the top as well as a shoulder strap. There were additional pockets that came with the bag that if you wished you could put on the back. Ortlieb has provided a shoulder strap pad which is handy given that this bag is not light. However if you are a stripped down to the basics Brompton user possibly on a titanium bike you are not likely to opt for this bulky bag.

If I was a first time buyer of a Brompton and I wasn’t too bothered about the weight I would consider getting the O Bag in black. The big draw back is the price. You would add another £200 to the cost of buying a Brompton. If money is tight, I would choose a cheaper bag. I love accessories but even I would not part with this much money for a bike bag that can really only be used on the Brompton unless I really really really loved it.

The key question is, does this bag work on and off the bike? When I think of the various things I do and places I go to, this bag would not fit in some of those areas. It is not a bag that I can use with my Trek bike either as I can with my Timbuk2 messenger bag. The all black O bag would work better for me on and off the bike. But I also like to wear my bag across my shoulder and this bag with the frame is not built for this.

Again it is the price of the bag that puts me off. I would consider buying one if it was around the £100 mark. I don’t mean to sound that this bag is not well made or strong. It is and appears to meet Ortleib’s usual high standards. It’s just I like variety in my bags and I swap them around on a regular basis so I would be unhappy to spend so much money on a bag that I am unlikely to use that often.

The O bag is an investment piece for a Brompton user who likes the attention (get it in Pink) and just wants to stick to one bag.

Bags galore. I have been looking at lots of bags this week and I will be uploading posts on my discoveries as soon as I can.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Red, yellow and Navy Blue

Three Bromptons ready for sale in the Cycle Surgery bike shop in Spitalfields, London E2.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Blue Flowers on a bike

I saw this bike parked outside New Cross Gate station this week. The owner has done a good job of beautifying a metal bike basket. I have been on the lookout for plastic flowers for the bike. Fabric flowers are easy to find but those kitsch plastic flowers are rare.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

New winter boots

My M&S boots are now worn out. They lasted the year and I worn them constantly when out cycling, particularly when we had bad weather. I caught one of the ankle straps on the Brompton a few months ago which ripped it away from the seam and I have had to stick it back ever since. It lasts for a little time but then I have to re-stick it. The soft rubber sole meant that I could not get the shoe re-heeled. So I began the search for a replacement. Not easy this year despite the huge range of boots out there.

After a false start I have now brought these boots from Office. They are very close in style to my old boots and just as comfortable and weatherproof. I have used them on the Brompton and the Trek, particularly in the rain we have had recently.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

I wish the Cycle Show would leave me alone

I am annoyed because I keep getting emails from the organisers of this years Cycle Show.

I went two years ago on a discount ticket because I was a London Cycling Campaign member. It was ok but I didn’t feel it was an event that required an annual trip. Of course I got emails last year notifying me of the event but I didn’t go. This year the email traffic first notifying and then reminding me of the event significantly increased. In the end I asked to be unsubscribed but discovered that I still am getting email direct from the organisers without an unsubscribe button. I then sent a reply email asking to be removed from their list completely for this and all future events.

So I was not happy to get another email asking me to buy a ticket. (Are ticket sales down? )

I do not want to go and I want them to stop sending me emails.

Here is why I don’t want to go.

The Cycle Show is a shrine for all things connected to Sport cycling. Yes, I know Brompton is one of the sponsors but they are there to expand sales to those who would consider a Brompton a gimmick. The show gives a passing nod to ‘Cycle Chic’ because if they can find things to sell to this cycle group it will increase business, but it is not easy to sell to people who like to wear their own clothes, I don’t care to meet cycling sport stars because I don’t consider cycling to work a sport and I don’t want to watch people throw themselves around on BMX bikes. In short I think the Cycle Show makes a brave attempt to be all things to all groups of cyclists but it was not worth the price of ticket given I am not interested in most of what was on offer.

The show is there for businesses to sell more stuff to the cyclist. Fine. But I am lucky to live in London where if I wanted to watch BMX racing I can pop down to Brockwell Park for free, I am surrounded by very good cycle shops where I can also visit for free. I love my bikes and going to the show is not going to increase my affection or commitment to cycling.

I am not saying I will never go back to the Cycle Show, but it will be a very very very long time. Unless of course, Clark Shoes take up a stand at the show.

Monday, 4 October 2010


Over the past two weeks it has rained just about every day so I have either been a little wet or very wet while out cycling. The new boots from Office are holding up very well.