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.


Kill or Cure

October 29, 2016

So we made it home on Thursday despite late-running flights and then hitting rush hour traffic in Glasgow (you’d think the only congestion in the area was caused by the Bearsway Cycle Route but I don’t think anyone’s built a cycle track on the M74 yet, so it must have been something else*). I was hoping that the jet lag wouldn’t be too bad having slept eight hours and waking bang on my normal time on Friday morning, but then it kicked in properly and I couldn’t get to sleep till gone midnight and I woke up groggy and late this morning

Not only that, but someone had stolen our view

Which was annoying as I had a 38 mile round trip to Notso Bigtown for a cycling meeting today which would have been nicer without that sort of mizzle that doesn’t exactly fall on you but which just hangs there in the air until you cycle through it, getting you just as wet as the other kind of rain. Something involving blue skies and sunshine and warm winds, say. Something like Colorado …

Still, here I was in Scotland and what did I expect, so I put on my jacket and hat and gloves and set off. I was meeting up with a couple of folk en route and I set off late enough that I had to ride quite hard to get to the rendezvous on time. And the route was along the Old Military Road and while I know in my head it goes up every unnecessary hill, I hadn’t really taken it on board properly until I found I was having to power up every single one of them if I wasn’t going to be late. And I realised that two weeks of pootling along largely flat river paths in the sunshine and stopping for coffee and treats at frequent intervals, even at altitude, doesn’t really prepare you for an 18 mile hilly ride into a damp mizzling headwind. Also, that I had forgotten to get anything for lunch. It’s one way to burn off all those surplus US calories, I suppose.

One meeting, several biscuits, and an emergency pork pie later I was ready to tackle the homeward route. We decided to avoid the worst hills by taking a slightly longer route, taking in my old papershop run, and all was well until my companions and I parted ways at what used to be Nearest Village. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to ride a tired horse past its stable once its ears have pricked up and it’s realised it’s almost home – but that was how my legs felt as I pedalled reluctantly past our old house. Indeed worse, because my legs knew it was another six miles, almost all uphill, before they and I made it home. Oh, and it was still raining**

autumnal road

Reader, I made it. I may have stopped to take the odd blurry photo here and there and to take a drink and generally have the opportunity to stop pedalling for a few seconds, but I didn’t get off and push even on that last little steep kick up just before our house. Eventually I will even be able to lever myself off the sofa and cook supper, although not perhaps for a while. I’m trying not to think too hard about the fact that I’m signed up to lead a 26 mile extra evening ride tomorrow (not counting the 16 mile round trip into Bigtown and back… ). And I will definitely, DEFINITELY, sleep well tonight.

* possibly – just a wild guess here – TOO MANY CARS? And yes, I’m aware of the fact that we were one of them and thus part of the problem…

** I appreciate that anyone who has spent two weeks posting sunny holiday photos gets zero sympathy here.

Patience is a Virtue. Well, Sometimes

June 27, 2013

I think I may have mentioned this before, but some non-cyclist deemed that it would be an excellent idea to site the nearest doctor’s surgery in a village that’s perched up on the top of a steep hill. This means that I can only really visit the doctor’s when I’m in peak physical condition – which I suppose does save the NHS some money – and I have to make sure I arrive for my appointments about 10 minutes early, to allow my heart rate and blood pressure to get back down into the normal range.

There are three roads into the village, and all of them are bastards, but the most direct route is the bastardest of all, and that was the one I was plugging my way up this morning. It’s the sort of hill that starts steep and then goes round a corner and kicks up a notch more, just to break your will. It has not one but two false summits, and a number of identical looking houses along its length so you keep thinking you’re nearer the top than you are. The only way to cycle up it is to suffer away at your own pace, while doing your best impression of Thomas Voeckler valiantly defending the yellow jersey on the first real day in the mountains in the Tour de France and pulling a variety of theatrical grimaces (can anyone explain why gritting your teeth and gurning helps you cycle up a hill? Because strangely enough it does). And the absolute last thing you need when you’re doing this is someone driving along patiently behind you in their car.*

I know what you’re thinking. Bloody cyclists are never satisfied. If you squeeze past them they moan about a close pass, and if you patiently hang back waiting for the road to widen then they complain about that too. And it’s true that I’d rather not be swept off the road by some oblivious 4×4 in a hurry. But there’s a world of difference between sweeping past a cyclist regardless of pot holes and blind bends and calmly overtaking them on some straight bit of the road where there’s room to do so without leaving the imprint of your wing mirror in their backside.

Unfortunately, this driver seemed unused to our narrow roads and didn’t pass despite several pointed looks over my shoulder. And there was no way I was stopping on that hill to let them past, so we had to carry on together, me feeling obliged to at least look as if I was making an effort to go at something above walking pace. By the time they’d finally summoned up the nerve to overtake (on a nice narrow bendy bit of the road, naturally) my legs were ready to explode. I should probably apologise now to the poor people in the health centre who got to sit next to me as I cooled down from the sweaty red-faced mess I was when I arrived, not to mention the doctor… it’s hard to demonstrate the joys of cycling as a regular mode of transport when you’ve just had to wring the perspiration out of your cap.

That said, anyone looking for the real joys of cycling should have seen me on the way home. Barely turned a pedal, just glided the whole way down. Magic.

* I mean, unless it contains the team manager and spare bikes and a mechanic and you actually are Thomas Voeckler in which case it would be quite handy

Advice to Cyclists

August 14, 2008

When the Met office weather site says ‘partly cloudy with sunny intervals’ and the great big black lowering cloud hanging over the hill says ‘pissing down shortly’?

Go with the cloud.

Also, those little contour lines on the maps? It’s always best to look at them before planning your route, and not, say, after you’ve come home cold, wet, and with shaking legs.

Looking on the bright side, however, I have not yet been savaged by any cats.