Flattening the Tyres…

May 3, 2020

So today’s excitement was the chance to ride down to my pal with the hens to deliver some of our empty egg boxes and surplus chilli and tomato plants, in exchange for some eggs.

plants in Brompton basket

When it comes to transporting tender young plants, the Brompton – or rather its basket – comes into its own. With six pots each wrapped up in a protective sleeve of newspaper and snugly sitting in the basket, all was well until I was half way down the road and heard the all-too-familiar bump-bump-bump of a flattened back tyre.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may be aware I’ve been plagued by punctures recently, compounded by my inability to do even the most basic bike maintenance. Over the last couple of weeks I have spent a total of two and a half hours effectively turning two fast punctures into two slow punctures, one on the front tyre of my big bike and one on the bike trailer. During the course of this effort, I have also run out of patches in my various puncture repair kits and discovered that I am now managing to fail at the one part of the puncture repair process I used to be vaguely competent at – actually patching the hole. This means every trip out on my big bike now starts with pumping the front tyre back up to a reasonably pressure and hoping it holds for long enough to get me home – a recipe for disaster, as I well know, but still preferable to spending any more time swearing at inanimate objects in the hope that that will work where brute force, cunning, and supposedly failsafe methods have all failed (actually, sometimes it does) (and before you dive into the comments, thank you but I am already using the puncture resistant tyres you are about to recommend, and have tried slime, and I’ve watched the video with the zip ties, and the problem is I’m just very bad at fixing bikes and blackthorn will go through anything).

Anyway, the good thing about puncturing the Brompton back wheel is that I have absolutely no intention of fixing it myself or even pretending that I wished I could – much to the disgust of some of the more old-school members of the Bigtownshire Cycle Campaign – so I won’t be wasting another hour or more of my time wrestling with another Marathon Plus tyre (on the other hand, I will probably be waiting a week before the bike shop can get to it – one of the downsides of everyone discovering the joys of cycling during lockdown has been that the few bike shops still operating are operating a waiting list). And the other good thing is that Bromptons are easy to just throw into the car so I avoided the walk of shame and sent the other half home to get the car and pick me up – the first time I’ve actually been driven anywhere for six weeks.

scenic route

And then we took the scenic route home so we could charge up the car’s battery properly after six weeks of nothing but short weekly trips to the supermarket and back. We weren’t sure if it was entirely necessary but decided better safe than sorry, the way the last two weeks have been going … and some flats are easier to deal with than others.

N Plus Marathon Plus

November 24, 2017

Regular readers will probably be aware that if anyone’s keeping the UK retail economy afloat, it’s not me. The combination of a fairly frugal nature, a desire not to throw things away when they’re still usable, and (if I’m really honest) the ability to put off until tomorrow what really needed to be done today makes me a reluctant shopper. So you won’t be surprised to discover that, two and a half years since I was told that the Brompton back tyre needed replacing, and about six months since it developed a regular slow puncture, and approximately three months since I arranged with the bike shop that if I sorted out ordering a Brompton tyre, they would happily replace it for me (look, it’s a hub gear, it’s the rear wheel, and anything to do with a Brompton is extra fiddly) I have done nothing except look online at Brompton tyres, realised that I had to decide between various different types, gone ‘how much?!’ at the price of any of them and decided to sort it out another day.

hedgecuttings on road

So when our road was looking like this,* I have absolutely nobody but myself to blame when I got precisely 100 yards down the road yesterday before my Brompton’s back tyre went completely flat (it’s never a good sign when you try pumping it up and you can see the air bubbling out of the tyre in multiple places). This was unfortunate as I was on my way to catch the bus to catch the train to get to Embra for two different meetings which were more than two miles apart and for which a Brompton would have been very handy. Having had to route march a combined distance of almost 4 miles to make it to a meeting and then catch the last train home, I was pretty weary when the train finally pulled in.

Still, at least this has made my mind up to get the Marathon Pluses for the Brompton. They may not be entirely thorn proof, but they have proved a lot better than anything else. Especially if you can get someone else to fit them. Although that said, it was snowing last night and our drive looked like this this morning so it might actually be time for the winter spikes …

icy puddle

There’s a joke among cyclists that the ideal number of bikes is N+1, where N is the number of bikes the cyclist already owns. On the whole, I’ve resisted this tendency and have stuck with my two – the big bike and the Brompton – without too many envious glances at other people’s steeds. This is partly because I don’t do that many different kinds of riding, so I don’t need multiple bikes, combined with the aforementioned frugality and sheer idleness. But it’s also because I know that if I started multiplying the number of bikes I had then the ideal number would indeed be N+1, where N was the number of bikes I had sitting unrideable in the garage while awaiting some minor but fiddly repair …

* As I set out gingerly on the big bike (with the ice and snow mostly melted) to brave the Bastard Big Thorns on the way to get the paper today, I was greeted by the sight of the two farmers from down the road, carefully sweeping all the hedgecuttings up by hand. This actually made me feel quite bad (I had had a bit of a moan yesterday after the Brompton puncture even though it was largely my fault) although not so bad that I didn’t let them get on with it.

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

Any Ford in a Storm

February 4, 2017

A visit to my parents this weekend gave us a chance to reunite the Brompton with a comrade in arms.

Brompton and Paperbike

My parents had gone to visit friends of theirs in the next village along, so we pedalled out to join them for a cup of coffee and to swap tips on gardening (they’ve been using old carpets on their veg bed for 30 years and it’s not done them any harm), sci fi (they were very keen on the Martian, although mainly from the potato growing angle) and linux distributions (no idea – when I want a hobby instead of an operating system, I will put linux on my laptop).

The route there takes you past a ford, although what use a ford is without a measuring gauge, I don’t know.

Ford near Duns

Still, for those of you getting ford withdrawal symptoms, I post this here for what it’s worth.

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…

I’m Not Convinced…

June 20, 2016

X95: where every journey is an adventure

…That as bus route straplines go (and since when did bus routes start having their own straplines?), ‘Where every journey is an adventure’ is precisely what I want out of a bus journey, but that may be why I’m not in bus marketing.

brompton on bus

Fortunately there were no unexpected adventures for the Brompton and me as we made our way multimodally from Duns to home. By car this is a 2.5 hour drive, 3 hours if you stop for coffee in Moffat. By public transport this meant a 45 minute drive to Galashiels, 2 hour bus ride to Carlisle, 40 minute wait, 45 minute train journey to Bigtown and a 45 minute cycle home (OK, so maybe that was a bit of an adventure).

Still it made for excellent progress on my sock, which has been sadly hampered by my failure to get selected for jury service earlier this month.

sock progress

Knitting: Turning every inconvenience into a sock

Not So Fast

April 15, 2016

Alert readers may remember I de-nosed my Brompton saddle back in March which is hardly any time at all in bike-maintenance weeks, especially when I don’t normally ride the Brompton much when I’m at home, and besides the de-nosed Brompton saddle has been proving surprisingly rideable, at least when the alternative is figuring out how to fit a new saddle.

But I had been fortunate enough to receive a lovely new Brooks B17 from my mum for my birthday. All I had to do was order a Pentaclip to attach the saddle to the seatpost, which took me longer than I’d thought because they turn out to cost *how much* and by *how much* I mean far more than you’d expect to pay for something that is called a clip that doesn’t come qualified with the word ‘diamond’.* But I need the Brompton for POP next weekend and I wanted to look its best so last week I finally brought myself to shell out, the Pentaclip duly arrived and – with dire warnings about what happens if you allow the Pentaclip to disassemble itself spontaneously ringing in my ears – I persuaded the other half to affix it to the saddle, while I Proofided the leather and generally admired it as a thing of beauty and hopefully a joy forever.

New Brooks saddle

Yesterday I was up against a bit of a work deadline but I did have to go and get the paper and the sun had briefly emerged so I thought it might be an opportunity to try out my new saddle. I know that Brooks saddles have a bit of a reputation for being hard work to break in but my other one had been comfy from day one, so I wasn’t too worried, although it is a different model. I got the Pentaclip onto the Brompton seatpost with no trouble at all – which in itself was slightly concerning – and set off to ride the five miles or so to …


Oh no, that isn’t right at all.


I *think* it’s just the rake – and come to think of it, it took a few goes to sort out the rake on my old one – but I didn’t have time to do the painstaking adjustments required to sort it out so the Brompton went back in the shed and I settled myself comfortably into the embracing leather hammock that is the saddle on my other bike. Ah, like coming home …

Old saddle

Hopefully I will have time to get this sorted before Saturday or I’ll have to do the whole of POP – cobbles and all – standing up …

* the word ‘Brompton’ appears to work in the same way


February 3, 2016

Berwick's bridges

In a change from our usual programme of moaning about the weather, the Brompton and I have been gadding about again

There are no trains to Edinburgh at the moment because storm Andrea or Billy or Fred or whoever damaged a key viaduct on the West Coast Mainline* so that meant taking a three-hour bus trip from Bigtown, which is not my favourite way to travel although I have to admit it is scenic in parts

Dalveen Pass

The bus stopped half way at a service station in case anybody needed a comfort break, and also so that the bus driver could emerge from her cab and reminisce with the other passengers (clearly regulars) about the night they all got stuck in the snow going over the Dalveen Pass.

Dalveen Pass

the Dalveen Pass

Once in Edinburgh, there were other, rather more civilised conveyances on offer, although I decided to stick to the Brompton.

Urban Arrow cargo bike

Then it was on to the East Coast Mainline to Berwick. I had half an hour to kill before an appointment and spent it enjoying the winter sunshine.

Berwick Viaduct

Hopefully Storm Ignatius or Jason or Xerxes or whoever is next will leave this viaduct intact.

* and can I just pause here to have a small moan about the fact that when the Forth Road Bridge was closed for a couple of weeks before Christmas you would have thought that civilisation was on the verge of collapse as Scotland’s entire transport network was severed at a blow, whereas we’ve now been without a train connection except for the scenic but not exactly speedy single track line up to Glasgow since 2015 and where are our emergency debates in Parliament? Not sure whether it’s because it’s just trains and everyone knows that important people go around in cars, or because it’s Bigtownshire and nobody else in Scotland has noticed, but either way…

Old Habits Die Hard

May 6, 2015

Cherry trees in the Meadows

No rest for the wicked: today I had a flying visit to Embra to get the Brompton serviced (it has, after all, only been about a year since its derailleur stopped working properly, leaving me with just the 3 gears, but what’s 12 months between friends), and do some advanced plotting with @Backonmybike about the Women’s Cycle Forum which will be steaming back for another triumphant run at the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling (available for booking now! Come on, you know you want to…).

I should probably have done my usual multi-modal bike-bus-train route to Edinburgh (and by ‘usual’ I mean ‘haven’t actually done it since the other half has been around to give me a lift to the train station’. Oops. I do mean to, but there’s always a good reason) but it was raining and I had slept in, so I ended up getting a lift to Lockerbie (these are the sort of good reasons I mean). We had left plenty of time, or so I thought, but as we pulled up at the station I saw what looked like my train arriving at the platform. Thinking the trains must be seriously messed up, I was taking no chances. Out I hopped from the car, grabbed my Brompton from the boot, kissed the other half goodbye (these things are important even if you have a train to catch) and dashed onto the platform and into the train before I thought to ask ‘this is the Edinburgh train, isn’t it?’

Mental note to self: you are not a London commuter any more, and you do not have to treat every train like the last helicopter from Saigon. Fortunately, the doors hadn’t closed so I could get off what turned out to be the Glasgow train and go and buy a ticket for Edinburgh at a civilised pace.

pub puppy

Anyway, Brompton and I made it safely to the Brompton dealers (by walking; the one-way system around Haymarket is INSANE) where I was lectured about proper chain maintenance and then on to a pub with hot and cold running puppies, well, puppy, but a seriously cute one. The Brompton dealers relieved me of a not insignificant sum of cash (but I’ve still spent less on both bikes this year than we will on servicing the car) and I got to watch a newly minted Brompton owner take charge of his first fold (ah, bless … almost as sweet as a puppy) and then ride back to Haymarket on a freshly fettled but, disturbingly, still a bit squeaky Brompton. All in all, a satisfying day out for all concerned.


March 14, 2015

There are relaxing ways to spend the weekend – and then there’s manning the Bigtown Cycling Campaign stall at the Environment Fair for the whole day. My Brompton had a starring role in the Brompton folding-and-unfolding race, which meant I had to demonstrate the fold to several million people and then talk them through the process as they attempted to beat the record of 43 seconds set by a fellow member (and Brompton owner) using an innovative technique that involved undoing all the catches at once and collapsing it in one fluid move – possibly not something to try for the first time when you’ve a train to catch and a platform full of curious people watching.

Trying to help the others, I realised how unconscious the whole folding and unfolding process has become to me. For instance, it was only on about the ninth or tenth demonstration that I realised I was using my knee to gently hold the frame down as I swung the front part of the bike round. Nor had I really realised that you have to stand on one side in order to fold it, and it’s impossible to do it from the other. Or that, if you don’t just let the handlebars drop down and click into position with the right satisfying clunk, then it just isn’t right, somehow, although that’s more of a stylistic point than a practical one. Either way, trying to help someone else is like trying to teach someone to knit – it’s almost impossible without taking it out of their hands and just doing it for them…

The other thing I realised is that standing around talking to people all day is absolutely knackering. Even when you’re talking to them about bikes. Add in 18 miles (and Brompton miles count double) and my final errand and it’s no wonder I’ll be spending what remains of the weekend on the sofa … I am DONE.

Brompton outside post office

Errand 11 – post office, category: non-store errand, observation: it’s amazing how quickly people can move to get in front of you in the queue for the counter and then how slowly they move thereafter

Brompton folding races

Errand 12 – Environment fair, category: wild card, observation: I may be the least handy person ever, but I have at least managed to learn ‘the fold’. Therefore I conclude that, with time, anyone can fold a Brompton

Total 18 miles.