101 Uses for a Brompton: A little light mischief

February 14, 2018

I think I mentioned I had a small intervention planned – and last night saw me heading out on the Brompton with a fellow conspirator, a stencil and two cans of entirely temporary and not at all vandalistic chalk sprays to do my first ever (and I suspect last) spot of tagging.

It was all for a good cause – lovebombing the cycle paths of Bigtown for We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote, in an idea that made absolutely perfect sense to me when it popped into my brain in September. As the date got nearer and the thought of heading out to do something that would look from the outside very much like graffiti-ing things, I have to admit I got rather cold feet on the idea, but others seemed to think it was a good idea and I had a partner in not-actually-crime who was keen and so off we went into a freezing cold night to share the cycling infrastructure love.

pink spray on boots

Graffiti on the cycle paths officer? What makes you think I had anything to do with it?

Anyway, it turns out that if you’re standing on a bridge in some parts of Bigtown late at night, apparently blatantly spray painting it, then passers by take it in their stride, with nothing more than a faintly amused note to their ‘allright?’ as they pass on by (it was the other half, blamelessly sitting in the car doing the Sudoku as he waited for me to finish, who attracted the curiosity of the police).

ILOH in orange

I’d post some daylight pictures of the resulting work, but the weather today looked like this pretty much the whole day, so you’ll have to wait.

snow on window

This is what happens when you look out of the window and say ‘it’s snowing a bit but it’s not really trying that hard’

And now I’m very much relieved the whole thing is over. Just in time to head down to London for another #5goMad adventure. Watch this space.

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101 Uses for a Brompton: Going Singing

January 31, 2018

As I mentioned, I’ve been trying out a new choir (if it was the sort of choir where it was the other way round, I’d probably not have got very far, but they claim to be able to work with ‘the voice you have’ …). The main reason for choosing this choir, which is in Notso Bigtown (there are others which are nearer) is because a pal and ex choir member from Old Nearest Village found out about it and offered to give me a lift there and back. But this means her first driving five miles in the wrong direction to our house and then turning around to go back past her house on our way out. Clearly this is just dispiriting, even in a car, so after trying a few cunning alternative routes which turned out to be slower, I decided the easiest thing would be to ride the Brompton down to hers, at least on evenings when it isn’t snowing, pissing down or hailing frogs, all of which seem equally likely given the weather we’ve had recently (snowing again today, thank you, although none of it seems to have stuck around). It cuts out at least one of the unnecessary journeys, and crucially it’s almost all downhill, so it doesn’t feel like anything but a pleasure on my part.

So last night, I zoomed happily down the hill, blessing my new C&B Seen lights (which I should probably review one of these days), and arriving feeling refreshed and ready to head off for a happy evening of singing, and learning, and generally not looking at a screen, which is all good.

Even better is the fact that we pass through the village on the Big A Road that has recently had two Stoplights of Shame installed. These are amazing. If you’re detected doing more than 30 as you get into the village outskirts, they turn red on you and you have to sit there for all to see, having saved precisely no time. Instant karma. There was of course an almighty fuss when they were first installed and they were taken down to be tweaked after people complained they were stopping people who weren’t speeding, but they’re now back up again and working a treat. I have to admit I love the wonderfully sedate pace everyone now adopts through the village (there might even have been some unholy cackling), at least until the last SoS is negotiated. Why we don’t have these installed everywhere I have no idea. They’re bloody brilliant.

And the choir? Well they seem to be coping with the voice I have, which is only really an alto in the sense that I can’t hit any of the higher notes, rather than being particularly comfortable in the lower ranges. We’re learning some quite challenging-to-me stuff, but so far we have always managed to pass through the ‘God we’ll never get this’ stage, to the ‘hang on, that sort of makes sense’ stage to the ‘oh wow actually that managed to sound quite good’ part, at least for a line or two. And no being singled out or shamed, at least unless my pal puts her foot down on our way home.


101 Uses for a Brompton: Coffee-Cup Holder

January 11, 2018

For a long time I have regretted that trips with my Brompton by train – requiring as they do two hands to lug both Brompton and Brompton basket up and down stairs – have precluded being able to drink coffee on the train, because obviously I can’t drink train coffee, and neither can I buy a cup of coffee at the station to take with me on the train.

But now – thanks partly to Blue Planet and the current tide of anti-plastic feeling – things have got better. Not (yet) for the poor baby albatrosses, but at least for me because I got a giveaway keep cup at the end of last year, and also you can now ask for your coffee in it without the embarassment of being That Person.

So behold, a Brompton with on-board coffee.

Brompton basket with coffee cup

So excited was I by this new development that I totally forgot to pick up any sugar so my enjoyment of the coffee wasn’t exactly unalloyed. Still, the technology worked and a world of productive train journeys has opened up ahead of me

Anyway, here I am in Inverness allegedly for cycle campaigning reasons but possibly also because I wanted to visit Leakey’s Bookshop (and test my new coffee carrying technology, obviously). Unfortunately, for reasons which really are too humiliating* to go into, I shall be visiting with almost no cash and no means to get hold of it until I get home.

This might actually be for the best.

* Put it this way – don’t attempt to efficiently sign your new debit card and cut up and get rid of your old one while you’re very jetlagged after 24 hours of travelling when the new debit card looks very like the old debit card. Just saying.


In the Midst of Life

August 24, 2017

gravestones

It has been a week for contemplating mortality – a graveyard tour of Bigtown last Friday (genuinely more fun than it sounds), and then I had to travel to York on Tuesday for the funeral of a good friend’s father.

I took the Brompton – something I ummed and ahed about, because I didn’t want to make a spectacle of myself on a solemn occasion but, after looking at Google maps and checking with the locals, I decided that I could get to both York crematorium and the hotel where the event-that-happens-after-funerals-that-doesn’t-seem-to-have-a-name was to be held looking reasonably respectable and without needing the services of the crematorium myself. It saved me messing about ordering taxis or working out buses, and as it happened I arrived at the hotel almost before anyone else, despite taking a massive detour to stick to the cycle paths as much as possible. York’s on-again-off-again cycling infrastructure (now it’s a shared path! Now it’s a pavement! Now it’s on the other side of the road! Now it’s paint on the road! Now it’s under a skip!) did enough to remind me of my own mortality without leaving me seriously fearing for my life, there was even cycle parking at both venues, and the main problem turned out to be that I had dressed for August in Scotland (bordering on autumn) and was cycling in August in England (Gas Mark 5), so had to do a hasty spot of delamination in the loos before the service. I had the bonus of a native guide to get me on the right road through York’s somewhat confusing city centre, and a reasonable map to get me back to the station, and in the end it all went extremely smoothly even if I did feel like I was indeed being That Person, the one who insists on turning up everywhere on a bike to make a point.

And in truth, although I might frame it as being entirely a practical decision about a mode of transport, there was another reason for taking the Brompton with me, which probably weighed the strongest. On a day that was inevitably about sadness and loss, about death and the past, simply being able to get on a bike and just move was exactly what I needed to do.

engraved stone

For in the midst of life, we are indeed in death. And in the midst of death, we are also still alive.


101 Uses for a Brompton: Flirting with Temptation

July 31, 2017

Attentive readers of this blog may have gleaned the information, if they read carefully between the lines, that our house is on top of a bloody big hill. I would be lying if I said that this doesn’t occasionally weigh on my mind when I’m planning my day’s activities, even if it does loom rather larger in my head than it actually ends up being on the road. I’ve tried various tactics over the last year to make getting up the hill easier – from attempting to distract myself from what I’m doing in the hope that I will look up and suddenly discover I’m almost home, to, recently, just going for it and attacking the climb to try and get it over with. These have had mixed success, and at the end of the day (and it usually is at the end of the day) the hill is still there and it’s still a bugger to get up, and I’m still in a muck sweat by the time I arrive home and collapse over my handlebars gasping for oxygen, with a little cloud of flies circling my head because that’s how slowly I ride.

So I am officially e-bike curious and when a friend from Old Nearest Village posted this on her Facebook timeline, I knew I was going to have to have a go.

e bike

As it happened, I had a meeting out west this morning and I was getting a lift from another friend who wanted to go into Bigtown shopping on the way back, so I took the Brompton, and was dropped off at the road end. That meant, by happy coincidence, I’d be riding right past her door so I arranged for a little test jaunt…

There are dozens of reviews of e-bikes out there, much more comprehensive than I can report on after a quick go up and down the nearest hill, but for what it’s worth, I can confirm that they’re a lot of fun, and that it genuinely is like having a permanent tail wind. I actually found myself out of breath as I tackled the hill, which surprised me, but then I looked down and realised I was going at over 14mph. My friend is finding that for her it smoothes out the hills and makes them all but disappear, but my instinct had been to accelerate when I felt the motor kicking in and just power up it. It was only when I eased off a bit that I felt that wonderful sensation of the bike pushing willingly on, like a horse that knows its stable is just around the corner. I can see how welcome that would be on a long and grinding hill. Well that, and blowing the cars off at the lights in turbo assist mode, of course.

The bike has many other nice features, from a wheel lock to ‘walk assist’ which is useful for pushing it up hills and ramps. I’m hoping to get another go, this time on our actual hill, just to see what it would be like, and to see whether it’s possible to take it steadily enough that I’m not a sweaty mess at the top. I think that I’m not quite ready for an e-bike yet, if only because I know that once I’ve got one, I’d never ride any of my other bikes again, and I love them too much to do that quite yet. But it’s good to know that the option is there, and that it’s opening up cycling to people who otherwise couldn’t ride a bike, because one day that person will be me.

 


101 Uses for a Brompton: Ferrying Cake

July 8, 2017

I’ve long argued that the rural economy around here runs largely on tray bakes and our local summer bike rides are no exception – since we’ve started providing home baking as part of the package, numbers have gone from strength to strength.

There’s just one problem: much as I love my cow pannier bag, it’s exactly the wrong shape for carrying cake tins, so everything I bake has had to be robust enough to handle being stuffed into it sideways. There’s a reason why cyclists are so fond of flapjacks, which are effectively indestructible. This week, though, I was experimenting with iced lemon cupcakes* which meant a more civilised conveyance was required. I’m pleased to report that the cakes made it down intact, and the leftovers were also safely carried back up the hill to home, where I suspect they will not last long.

cake tin in Brompton Basket

*top tip: lemon curd combined with icing sugar makes a wonderfully quick and easy lemon icing**

** top tip no 2: don’t try and eat the surplus with a spoon when you make too much though. A little goes a loooong way


101 Uses for a Brompton: Avoiding Road Rash

June 20, 2017

Ordinarily, if someone had told me that the main road to our house was to be made 20mph and have the white line removed from down the middle, I would have been delighted.

skid risk

Unfortunately, it’s only temporary, because they’re surface dressing it (so named because after a cyclist has skidded on the loose chippings that result, or has been sprayed with gravel by the passing drivers who consider speed limits to be for other people, they are likely to need dressings on a large proportion of their surface).

This basically starts from our turnoff, and goes halfway down the hill, which almost feels pointed on the part of the coonsil. It’s on a long and winding descent which is ordinarily fun, if a little white-knuckle if you’ve got a 4×4 behind you attempting to overtake on a blind bend. Throw in a loose surface chipping surface, though, and you’ve got a cycling disaster on your hands, especially if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere.

Today I had a train to catch for a meeting in Glasgow, so I took the coward’s way out – threw the Brompton in the car and got a lift past the danger zone. Cycling up wasn’t too bad this afternoon as nobody overtook me and going uphill meant I didn’t have to worry about braking or slowing down for the bends. Tomorrow, hopefully, the traffic will have bedded it in enough that I can keep the rubber side down. But I’ll be allowing plenty of time for the descent …