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 …


101 Uses for a Brompton: Parading

June 17, 2017

LOVE - BIKE

I’m ashamed to say, we’ve lived in the area for 9 years now and this was the first year I’ve ever been to the annual only-slightly-made-up historical celebration of ancient traditions dating all the way back to, ooh, 1932, aka Guid Nychburris.*

Buds of Anarchy float

Today, though, our local cycle campaign were taking part in the parade alongside Buddies, an organisation for people with learning difficulties who last year started a bike project. We’ve been helping them get riding (it’s amazing how many of their members have been confidently told that they’ll never ride a normal bike who turn out to be perfectly capable of it, with a bit of practice and some patience). The Buddies had decided they wanted to celebrate their biking project by dressing up as the Sons of Anarchy (‘Buds of Anarchy’) and we followed along behind as the ‘Hell’s Bells’. Like most of our plans, this all made a lot more sense in the pub when we first discussed it.

Brompton and float

Brompton ready to rock

Anyway, my touring bike, beautiful as it is, didn’t seem quite suitable as part of a biker gang, so I took the Brompton instead, lowering the seat to give it a bit more of a Harley Davidson feel. I’m not sure I quite rocked the ‘biker chick’ look myself, but others had made a more convincing effort and we set off in the sunshine at about 5pm for our slowest bike ride ever.

I hadn’t quite understood what a big deal this parade is for Bigtown. It helped that it was an absolutely glorious day, but the entire route was lined with crowds of people. We could have given out ten times the number of flyers we’d brought, and it was good to be part of a huge civic event, showing that cyclists are as much a part of the life of the town as the local Brownie pack, the young farmers (and boy were we glad not to be the ones dressed up in cow onesies this afternoon), the nearby wetland centre and the Cat’s Protection League

And I suppose it counts as a miracle that, given the many thousands who had lined the streets to watch, only one person felt the need to shout out ‘helmet’ as we passed. Because apparently even when moving at 4 miles per hour on completely closed roads and while dressed up as an anarchic biker gang – you need a magic plastic hat on your head.

biker gang

*I’m only bitter because every time I have to write about it I have to google it first to remind myself of which cod spelling of ‘neighbours’ they’ve officially used as its name. I’m all for Scots being used in the vernacular but given even the locals simply pronounce it ‘good neighbours’ I think they’re actually just spelling it that way for a bet.


101 Uses for a Brompton: Being Left Behind

February 12, 2017

I am in London for a couple of days, having barely been down at all for a year now. And this morning, as I was setting off, I decided to do something unthinkable and head off without the Brompton. I realised that there was no really obvious journey I would be making that wouldn’t, realistically, just be easier on public transport. And while riding a bike instead of taking the tube would save me money, equally not lugging a bike about would save me from collecting another fine set of Brompton bruises.

It felt a bit weird to be able to just hop on a train without the usual encumbrance, and it did mean that I could – luxury of luxuries – stop and buy a non-train coffee while changing trains at Carlisle, something that requires a third hand when also lugging a Brompton on and off the train. It also meant descending into the third circle of hell that is Euston underground and shelling out zone 1 money for my Oyster* and saddest of all, not getting to play on the new Superhighways, which weren’t quite finished last time I had to cross the Thames. But for every blissful traffic-free moment on the Superhighway, I would still have had to spend several eternities watching my own and other people’s lives flashing before my eyes on the rest of the route between Euston and Vauxhall (I am still scarred from watching a lorry overtake and then turn left across a woman cycling in front of me, forcing her to hop up onto the pavement to escape its back wheels).

So on balance, I think I made the right decision, although as the Brompton functions as much as a badge of office as a means of transport, I might have difficulty getting into the Cycling UK headquarters tomorrow when I show up for a meeting. Then again, they are in Guildford, which if memory serves is one of the least cycle-friendly places on earth, so they may be used to it.

* and the bastards charged me for going through the ticket gates at Vauxhall, realising I needed to go out again and buy something from the shop and then going back in again. Daylight robbery.


101 Uses for a Brompton: (Not Quite) Wimping Out

August 20, 2016

brompton under treeToday was supposed to be the last of our summer rides – and to describe the forecast as not looking promising would be an understatement. For a couple of days it was predicting ‘heavy showers’, but this morning – as I woke to the sound of rain on the skylight – it had settled on just heavy rain from ten in the morning onwards, and by mid morning it had thrown in a couple of yellow weather warnings for good measure. Contemplating the thought of cycling six miles in the pouring rain to spend twenty minutes waiting for people not to show up, followed by six (uphill) miles in the pouring rain home, undoubtedly with a headwind, I took up the other half’s offer of a lift into town with the Brompton, with the hope that nobody would show up for our advertised 11 mile ride.

rain on the river

And come 2pm, when the ride was due to set off, it began to look as if that was indeed what would happen. My fellow ride leader had gone for the folder-in-the-car option too, while another local member had come by largely out of curiousity to see if anyone would turn up. We stood under a tree and watched the rain sheet down so hard that even a dog – a dog in a rain jacket, no less – was refusing to go for a walk in it. And we were just about to call it a day and head home with some relief, when three figures on bikes – mum and two kids – hove into view with waterproofs on and raring to go. The prospect of a cosy ride back in the car evaporated. We were on, every soggy sodden mile of it. We were going to do this family bike ride if it killed us

And you know what? It was great. It was, as someone pointed out, quite warm rain (and tbh only the Scots consider this to be an improvement on the regular kind of rain). I’ve been cycling back and forth on the same road for too long for the past few weeks, so it was good to get out and go somewhere else, just for the hell of it. The older child had a new-to-her bike and was getting used to the gears so we were riding along practising going up and down through the cogs, while her younger brother bombed ahead, his jacket discarded, having decided just to get drenched. And when the inevitable puncture came as we reached our destination, we were near to a shelter and could sit under a roof eating brownies and making helpful comments to the person fixing it, and watching someone else have what was possibly an even worse weather-related afternoon:

bride in the rain

By the time we were back on the road, the rain had briefly passed, the sun had almost come out, and I discovered a new route back to the house, by way of some lovely empty tiny roads. I’m still not sure it was exactly how I would have planned the afternoon – but it just goes to show that no day with a bike ride in it is ever entirely wasted.


101 Uses for a Brompton: Redecorating

July 6, 2016

Brompton outside house

Although to be honest, it’s not all that handy with a wallpaper stripper (although it is rather decorative).

wallpaper stripping

Wallpaper. Why?

Now that we’ve got the keys to the house and started to take stock, it is revealing itself (in the words of the other half) as a magical box that contains an infinite number of DIY projects. He’s been working away at it fairly solidly but I’ve had a few other engagements which has made it helpful to be able to throw the Brompton in the boot of the car when we go up to the new house so that I can then ride off into town for meetings as needed.

road from the house

Downhill all the way

And I say ‘up to the new house’ advisedly. The direct route from the new house into Bigtown is a splendid no-need-to-turn-a-pedal downhill run complete with a prevailing tailwind. Riding home in the future may turn out to be a bit of a challenge…