Monthly Archives: August 2013

Village givens

A week spent in the Cotswolds is going to guarantee various things: historic villages & towns, congestion & tourists, local & quaint traffic, & too many tea rooms?

Sometimes the villages are over-run with tourists; sometimes you get lucky…

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The local traffic is going to include tractors, & you can’t avoid seeing Land Rovers…

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Australian Rugby hasn’t been going too well in Bledisloe Cup competition with NZ, but it seems Lower Slaughter has been holding it’s own?

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Canal views

We took a couple of excursions along the Kennet & Avon Canal. They weren’t very far but we took in some of the cycleway & some towpath & had good views of the countryside, the canal-boats, the rail-way & lots & lots of locks.

While riding from Bath towards Bristol (didn’t make it all the way) we came across this very serious engine driver & his train.

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Another visit was to the Caen Hill Flight of locks, where we walked up & down more than 20 locks & watched the canal-boats during their 6-7 hour journey through the locks.
From near mid-way, looking up…

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…& looking down

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Folders galore

Looking in on Brompton dealers can be an interesting event. Finding a B-spoke Centre (Brompton Premium Dealer) in Malmesbury, a small town in the Cotswolds, I just had to look around. Lo & behold, there in a cabinet was my first actual sighting of a Brompton Toolkit. Yes, still equipped with the tyre levers that are due to be replaced but here it was; available! In fact, they had “too many…” & so I promptly purchased two. Quite a little engineering masterpiece & far classier than my version of an on-board tool set? I cannot fault the new toolkit (well, maybe I need to test the tyre levers first but I’m pretty confident in them) & my version was always meant to be temporary, with awkward fit & removal & a basic, limited tool-set now able to be retired.

Along with many Bromptons on display (& another 70 in stock?) there was the usual local bike shop wide assortment of bikes. What was a surprise was the variety of folding bikes (& e-bikes), with many brands – & some unusual models?

Bromptons included a Nano e-bike

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How’s this for variety?

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Dahons in 14″, 16” & 20″ wheel sizes – & “interesting” fold designs

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So long London

Spending time in London is always entertaining, somewhat addictive & definitely wearying. Whatever time you schedule will not be enough & so it was for this nine-day stay. Our activities comprised RideLondon cycling & the Brompton factory visit (blog posts on both) & also more cycling, museum visits, city walks & shopping. Rather than write lots, here’s some pics & observations –

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The Waterloo train station bike rack was a mystery. Where were the owners? where & when did the bikes get used? was it a half-way stage before the owners jumped onto BorisBikes?

The BorisBikes rental system covers the central London area & has many, many docking stations. We didn’t use it but seems an impressive setup & good for regular transport around London. Has an access charge but as long as the rides are under 30mins then it’s free for you to just keep on bike-swapping at any of the docks.

Drivers are amazingly patient & observant for anything partially blocking their lane & the lane on the opposite side of the road. Makes being a mobile chicane & any minimal-sized onroad bike lane use a bit more confidence-inspiring – along with the “bike boxes” at the head of the traffic light queues?

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Had a ride along the Great Union Canal & as ever, loved checking out the locks.

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Great Windsor Park is great for riding, great in size & minimal traffic – but the “Long Walk” area has an unusual rule.

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Pre-London but a ride on the Centurion Way reminded me of the delightful sculptures to be encountered on rail-trails.

Moving day Friday & time to say “So long London, hello Wiltshire”, as we continue our push northwards…

RideLondoning

Pre-trip planning had highlighted RideLondon cycling events on the weekend following BWC2013 so what else to do but schedule some time in London? Moving into London on the Wednesday was going to provide just over a week to fit in lots of activities, including our Palace visit (ie Brompton factory) as well as the weekend cycling events.

Saturday was the RideLondon FreeCycle event, where tens of thousands circulated on a 8mile closed section of roads containing some of London’s best tourist-sights. From our Isleworth flat to inner London, we decided to try out traveling by train & Tube with Ralph & Robinson. The train was simple enough, with lots of non-folders trying to also squeeze in. At Waterloo we switched to the Tube & tested ourselves with regular fold & unfolds, up & down escalators & tunnels. I think we coped ok but perhaps we’d need to observe what happens for peak hour commuting before attempting any more?

Arriving at Green Park station, we managed to meet-up with some of the London Brompton Club members & started the ride together but got hopelessly separated before the first lap was done. Perhaps it was better that way, because I inadvertently treated one member’s Brompton with a lot less respect than he would have liked (sorry Andrew). I was assisting an enquiry about the price of a Brompton & scrambling for the likely UK price, I suggested that it started about £750 & was probably twice that for a high-end model. To which the enquirer asked if “…BumbleBee over there is one of the high-end models?” Oh no, said I, it’s just a… – before realising what I’d said about “The Legend”, that is CrazyBee’s pride & joy. Hopefully all will be forgiven next time?

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Unfortunately, the FreeCycle event wasn’t exactly traffic-free as it seemed to be almost wall-to-wall bikes, including family groups taking the chance to escort little Brad or Victoria on their maiden rides – or so it seemed? Highly entertaining for most but frustrating for anyone wanting to set a new record (certainly not me) or drop out/in as the sights dictated (maybe me?). Very well marshalled but barrier controlled to the point of dictating where you could leave the course? Probably very necessary – & it certainly kept those pesky pedestrians at bay & allowed “us bikers” our own piece of London (for about 7 hours). I’m not a fan of family rides although when they are point-to-point – such as Sydney’s “CycleSydney” event – maybe it keeps people focused on moving along? The London ride certainly had a different feel – & it could be conveniently handled in small dosages (between those essential coffee & food stops).

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Sunday was more my cup of tea, so to speak, as the RideLondon Surrey Classic race was going to follow the 2012 Olympic course. Featuring 8 Pro-Tour teams (& lots of other Pro teams) meant for a serious cycle race. We figured to catch the action out on the course at a couple of locations – & definitely skip the crowds at the finish on The Mall – so headed out on Ralph & Robinson from our flat, intending to also include a bit of Thames touring. First off we navigated back to Richmond Park & this time (rather than driving there in Kanga) we managed to ride up Nightingale Lane! (well almost, but three-quarters of the way up is a bit of a win for both of us). In Richmond Park the course was fully barriered so we settled in at a corner that included a lovely chicane of cobblestones. No dramas with the Pros however, for they swept through rapidly – with an Orica-Greenedge rider trying to make a break on the field.

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Once the whole race circus was through, we rode back down to the Thames & ambled in the direction of Kingston. It seemed that a sunny Sunday in London was a magnet for crowds relaxing along the river & our progress was rather (pleasantly) slow. It’s certainly well-equipped along the way, with hotels, riverboat dining & cafes – but still has open areas & even some “off road” tracks through bush. Eventually we found Kingston-on-Thames & joined in the festivities that were arranged – not just for us, for the race made two passes through Kingston & so the town certainly went to some effort!

As is usual with cycle racing, we had a group to observe coming through the town before the peloton swept through & then a number of small groups made their way toward London. Once the last solitary rider was gone (closely followed by a broom-wagon?) then it was time for us to retrace our steps/tracks all the way back home. Quite a grand day out?

Truly home

The invitation from Will to visit the Palace was definite; 1:30pm Friday. Fortunately, the possible conflict of an invite from Will, Kate & George to visit that other palace was averted & so we were free to get along to the Brompton palace, or factory.

First off for the day was a revisit to Richmond Park, where I had once done laps on my race bike wearing club kit, seemingly “another lifetime ago” (ie pre-Defibrillator days). This time it was after driving Kanga through a Sat-Nav guided tour of so many back streets & finding ourselves on a rather steep ascent – “of course, THE Nightingale Lane… now I understand…”. Onward to the park & unloading Ralph & Robinson, for at least one lap? (The drive turned out to be one of those, “faster to ride…” trips & we couldn’t miss seeing Will later?) Hmmm… steeper climbs in the park than I remember – & the stags seem to have had a busy time (& acting like they owned the place?). Oh well, another lap on another day? Back to our flat & then point our bikes towards the main event.

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We struggled a bit to find the Brompton factory. After all, there’s no LED-guided pathway & they prefer to produce bikes rather than entertain casual visitors to reception? Also, Ralph & Robinson were of no help; they may have truly been “going home” – but had forgotten the way! Once parked inside at reception, our host Will (“World’s fastest MD”?) was soon on hand to provide a comprehensive tour. Amongst the memorabilia, I thought Andrew Ritchie’s listing of funding requests, replies, interviews & rejections was rather telling?

I had imagined that my background in engineering & systems (& my wife’s lack of same) may have dulled things somewhat, but no: we encountered an impressive array of sights & facts that were captivating. No previous reports on the brazing systems had accurately conveyed the sophistication & workmanship employed. Quality control & build development was far more effective & concentrated than is obvious in the seemingly unchanged production models. Yes, some new products of late but the ongoing development & “finessing” are worthy recipients of the staff efforts & so encouraging to encounter. So much to the whole visit – operational restructuring & improvements? shifts for the 7-day operations? staff recruitment, motivations & sharing? (all discussed but damn, I should have had a recorder running throughout?).

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Sadly, I was not left to my own devices to endlessly wander the factory for the whole day (& then some?) but was truly appreciative of our tour & personal attention. Thanks Will, thanks Brompton – please keep those little wheels rolling out the door.