Category Archives: Bits

Sorry Miles

My original version of a Bidon Cage was fitted onto both Bromptons, Ralph & Robinson, & have proved to be an excellent setup (if I do say so myself!?). They were really meant as an interim solution, until Brompton released their rumoured “magnetic water bottle” or something else came along that I was happy with. One unit that I’d read about (but never encountered in Australia) was the Monkii bidon cage & Brompton stem mount adapter. The reviews were good & once seeing them with the designer, Miles, at the CycleMiles stand at BWC2013, I figured they would be a quality addition to my Brompton tweaks (or at least deserved an evaluation?).

Once back in Australia, I started to have some reservations but fitted one to Ralph anyway. My concerns were minor & there were some good points about the Monkii cage, so I just had to give them a go…

My evaluation went well for about a month & I became quite comfortable with their different operation to a standard bidon cage (ie the Monkii cage has a Velcro strap to hold it to the bidon & the cage clips onto an adapter bolted to the Brompton stem). I also found that I coped with (mostly) leaving the bidon strapped to the cage when off the bike & when using the Tardis “cup holder” (in our VW T5 Campervan). When folding Ralph, I made sure I unhooked the bidon/cage first & then clipped it back on after the handlebar was folded. (This avoided any fluid spill & accidental unclipping of the cage when the bidon was inverted with the handlebar fold.)

The turning point of the testing process came about when I needed to double-back on my ride to retrieve my bidon laying on the ground after being ejected vertically from the adapter clip through the jolt of riding up a driveway ramp! Not ideal & I could see no easy way of improving or tightening the cage clip onto the adapter lug. Sorry Miles, maybe I should have advised of my misfortune & maybe you’d already had a solution? With my version of a bidon cage having held up so well & so long – & survived all trips & travel without needing to be removed from Ralph or Robinson – it was a no-brainer to resume using it.

Refer pics of “Mr Aussie’s (non-)patented Brompton Bidon Cage” (ie 2 bits of bent alloy strip, some dense foam (with adhesive), stainless nuts & bolts, 2 O-rings & a proprietary standard cage)

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Minimalist multi-roles

Well, here we go again; another trip coming up in the Tardis , our VW T5 Campervan. This time however, the Tardis will be more of a T5 Transporter than Campervan, as we’ll have an extra passenger in Mrs Aussie’s Mum.

The trip with “the Mum” has highlighted what we seem to take for granted; that the step into the Tardis is a fairly tall one. Perhaps it was time to get ourselves a little portable step? Looking around I couldn’t see anything that fills our usual criteria of items readily integrating into the van & ideally having dual roles? (Our Tardis is deceptively spacious but can’t match its namesake!)

Another thing I’ve been meaning to do, is setup a support frame or such for when carrying a Brompton in the passenger area. Robinson fits neatly under the bed in the rear but Ralph usually just lays on the floor in the rear passenger area with some packing under the Alfine rear hub to avoid the pointy acorn axle nut digging into the floor. (Robinson is a rack model Brompton & when laid on the side, the rack/Ezi wheels & the MKS removable pedal adapter (with pedal removed) become three points of contact with the floor & makes for a stable package. Ralph has no rack & the wider rear frame with Alfine hub becomes one contact point, along with the MKS pedal adapter & Ezi wheel.)

After pondering the separate issues of T5 step & Ralph’s support system, I realised I could combine everything. I found that my wooden work stand was a good size for a step (albeit not really stable enough) & that the handle bar support legs where ideally placed for supporting a Brompton frame. Turning to my stock of timber off-cuts I then constructed some “support boxes” that would become leg supports for the step, supports for keeping Ralph’s acorn axle nut off the floor & also a seat protection pad for when using the work stand in its original role.

Enough of trying to explain all this in words, let’s see some piccies of the work stand in a multi-use way – step, mobile stand & support cradle (& when not in use can be stacked on the side door sill beside the sliding door).

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Hopefully that’s all made sense, although perhaps I should clarify:
The work stand fits any of my bikes & usually sits in the garage but I’ve often missed it while on a trip. Now, with the recent Aldi purchase of a work stand, my mobile work stand may stay in the Tardis?
I don’t expect to carry both “the Mum” & Ralph on the next trip (Ralph will stay home & other bikes will be on our rear bike carrier).

Up-market servicing

It was meant to be, it was fate! After many years making do with cobbled bike work stands & support systems, it was pointed out to me (while in the shopping centre) that Aldi was having one of their bike stuff sales – & that a work stand was included! I’d never been enthused to spend lots of money on a super-duper work stand but maybe this one would do? Finished my coffee & trotted along & sure enough; a cheap work stand & probably good enough? After all, it did say, “Fits all bikes” on the box?

Back home & assembling it but noticed that the in-box instructions now said, “Fits bike tubes from 25 to 40mm”!? Oh well, maybe ok for the other bikes, if not the Bromptons? Here’s a pic of the assembled unit (with some irrelevant extra bits):

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Trying the stand with Ralph highlighted a few things. The bike tube clamp was just big enough for a Brompton, although it would have better that the hinge have a cantilever arrangement in order that the clamp jaws were centred on the tube (ie the shape of the jaws ideally suit the smallest tube size but when the clamp is opened fully, the jaws give the impression of “fingers squeezing a lemon pip”?) I will probably fabricate something to get the clamp hinge further apart? Soon…

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The alarming thing I found with using the stand with a Brompton, is that the clamping area on the mainframe tube is not the balance point. With more weight to the rear, you have to have all clamps done up tight to avoid the Brompton rotating! I pondered this for a while & then rummaged around the garage, resurrected my first version of a luggage block adapter, bolted a bidon cage to it, popped in a large sized tool container & filled it with garden pebbles. Hey presto! – a counter weight.

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New old new levers

I’ve recently received a new set of the original Brompton Toolkit tyre levers. As mentioned in my blog post “Toolkit testing”, I’d had a little whoopsie when trying to remove a Marathon Plus tyre from the rear Sun rim on my Alfine 11-speed Brompton & was left with a broken tyre lever. When Brompton withdrew the Toolkits from sale, until the latest design of tyre levers is available, I was under the impression that Brompton would eventually replace the levers for current owners of the Toolkits. Initially I was happy to await the release of the new levers but then I decided to email Brompton to confirm how the replacement process may take place & to flag my ownership of some Toolkits. The communications raised some interesting aspects to the likely outcome.

First, the Brompton prompt response to my query disclosed some information I wasn’t aware of. Their email said,
“Thank you for your enquiry. As you may be aware we have offered temporary replacement tyre levers (the lever has a longer metal tip than the original) to customers via their Brompton dealer or distributor who have experienced a snapped tyre lever. Once the improved version has been finalised and passed inspection we will be issuing dealers and distributors with the tyre levers so they can forward this onto customers who have a Brompton toolkit. I would recommend contacting the dealer you purchased the toolkit from or the Australian distributor for a replacement.
Also I noticed on your blog post you mentioned that you used the tyre lever on a Marathon Plus. We would not recommend using it on a product that is not used or recommend by Brompton (Standard Marathon, Brompton Kevlar and Kojak will be fine).”

So, there have already been changes to the levers? – & I believe my broken lever was of the later design, rather than photos I’ve seen of broken levers that seemed to be composite material? (double-whoops?) Next, my use of the levers is not recommended for Marathon Plus tyres? – & I guess that includes any other rim, tyre or bicycle type? Hmmm…

Anyway, I thought I’d contact the Australian distributor (rather than the UK dealer where I’d purchased the Toolkits) & check what they could do. However, the response here was that as this part of the world never received any Toolkits they also were never supplied any of the replacement levers that Brompton’s email mentioned. All was not lost as they would happily provide new replacement levers when they came available if I was unable to obtain replacements from the UK dealer or directly via Brompton.

Things then got a bit more confusing with emails between all parties. I was trying to say that I was happy to wait for the replacement levers (or obtain them via a trip to the UK, whichever came first?) but I’m unsure what others thought “replacement levers” meant. Before I knew it, Brompton were sending some directly to me (with the explanation that, “…we do not offer direct warranty replacements as the contract of sale is between the end user and the dealer. However given the circumstance I am happy to send you a set of replacement tyre levers…”!?

Overall, a very impressive customer-contact process! Perhaps even “very Brompton-esque”?

Toolkit testing

I think the Brompton Toolkit is a lovely piece of equipment. Nicely engineered & well thought-out – but with flaws included? The tyre levers have certainly come under criticism owing to breakages & I await the production of redesigned levers. (Having purchased 2 toolkits in the UK recently, I’m no longer awaiting the re-release of the toolkit; just the levers.) My toolkit purchase was made with the knowledge of the flawed levers & their expected replacement, but I thought that the levers may be sufficient “as is”? (& the rest of the toolkit was irresistible?)

The lever design is interesting; fitting together to minimize space within the storage housing & meant to be kept together when commencing a tyre removal. Once the tyre bead is levered over the rim, one lever can be clipped to a spoke & the other lever is then slid around the rim, progressively pulling the rest of the bead over the rim. However, stage 1 of the flaw is that users will read the instructions & follow them. The next stage is that the levers are not strong enough to survive usage that fails stage 1. Personally, I believe that there is a further stage in that the Brompton tyre levers weren’t designed to operate on anything other than stock Brompton rims (more later).

As for other flaws, perhaps it’s nit-picking to say that the ratchet & removable bit usage is going to be compromised depending on the positioning of the item being adjusted/removed/whatever? Time will tell, hopefully not at the wrong time & place?

The spanners that are cleverly combined within the tyre levers have been ok for my minimal use & the wheel spanner (when still fitted in the case) is very comfy – as compared to gripping it when removed?

On-bike storage within the front section of mainframe is neat & effective (far easier than my previous on-board tool set: wheel spanner, tyre levers & Allen key-set tied with a rubber band, wrapped in disposable gloves & maneuvered into the mainframe front section). I haven’t “lost” the disposable gloves; they’re now included with a spare tube, wrapped In a piece of fiberglass mesh & stored in the mainframe rear section. (The mesh makes it easier to insert the items in the frame & gives me something to grip when extracting everything.)

Testing:
As an on-bike emergency toolkit, it’s seems ideal – but to date my toolkit testing has all been done in my garage & mostly of an elementary effort, although the tyre levers have been used a number of times.

Unfortunately I have to divulge the test score as:
tyre levers 3, Brompton single wall rims 0
tyre levers 0, Sun rim 1
That’s correct, the rear wheel on Ralph, my Alfine 11speed Brompton, has defeated one of the levers & snapped off a piece. Owing to the rim having a rather flat profile, there’s very little well for the tyre bead to sit in when removing the tyre & hence getting the bead over the rim is “difficult”. From what I remember, the pair of levers were good enough to get the bead over the rim initially, but when I tried to slide one lever sideways (very difficult), the thinner lever couldn’t stand the pressure between the rim & tyre (a Marathon Plus) & the end snapped off! (Ralph &/or I shall be carrying a separate set of tyre levers until further notice!)

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Brompton goodies

Our 2013 UK trip managed to accumulate a variety of Brompton goodies & cycling related items. Aside from the BWC swag, everything else came from browsing during bike shop visits.

It all commenced in Singapore, with a pair of BWC2012 socks (christened in the BWC2013 event) & the local Velcro straps.

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The BWC event delivered some rewards, while the registration Musette bag probably should have been photographed then & there before various things were consumed (including the post-event vouchers for the Brompton afternoon tea & the Gin & Tonics).

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All “couldn’t resist….” items – clockwise from top left:
Kojak folding tyre (travel spare?)
Lezyne Micro Drive front light (no fold interference?)
Endura Argyll cycling socks (Tweed ride or BWC use?)
Montane Featherlite jacket
Brompton toolkit
Monkii bidon cage & Brompton stem mount adapter

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Another “couldn’t resist….” item was this genuine Brompton polo shirt. (It was on display, had a price tag, in my size & they let me buy it – so who was I to point out any mistake?)

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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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Thumbs up

My thumbs have survived today’s task: fitting Marathon Plus tyres onto Ralph, my Brompton Alfine 11-speed. No big deal, you might say? I’m sure some would understand the struggle & pain that can accompany M+ fitment but I’m also sure not many would recognise the significance of my achievement; my Alfine hub is laced to one of those wonderful Sun rims – that have virtually no well, or valley, to the rim profile! Boy, can they be tough for fitting any tyres, let alone the rugged M+ tyres?

I recall the pain when I fitted a new Kojak to the rear wheel. I have never damaged my thumbs as much with a tyre fitting! At the time I hoped never to have to go through that again but now Ralph needs to be readied for an all-terrain trip (& I’d been getting nervous about retaining the Kojaks for it). However, I was confident (or maybe just hopeful?) that I had the answer? You see, some time back I came across some much thinner rim tape – & promptly squirreled it away for future use. Fingers crossed today!

I can’t say that it ALL went well; just the fitting! When I had trouble fitting the Kojak, I never expected to have trouble getting it off! So it was: I actually failed (initially) to get the tyre off with tyre levers! My usual practice is to use a pair of Michelin plastic tyre levers – but no luck! I thought a third lever may do & I then proceeded to destroy a few non-Michelin levers before turning to another Michelin set. Ouch, a Michelin bent & ruined?! At this point I stopped to rest & think. Of course, get rid of the rim tape! A slash & tug of the Velox rim tape & I soon had most of it out – & then had no trouble removing the tyre with my remaining Michelin levers!

From this point it was all straight-forward; first rummage into my squirreled bits box & extract my expected salvation – some BBB 16mm rim tape! (16mm width to suit the flat profile Sun rim, as compared to the 13mm I use on the Brompton rims). On went the tape, hey presto with the tyre (well, a teeny bit of a struggle – after all, we’re talking about M+ tyres!). The front wheel was next & here there’s nothing much to say – easy enough & the thumbs were holding up fine!

The important stats: (rim tape thickness)
Velox – 0.60mm
Zefal – 0.60mm
BBB – 0.35mm
– it made all the difference!

Updated: 29/6/13 – pic of Sun rim profile –

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Ergon grips fan

Ergon hand grips? I’ve found it bloody hard to do a concise write-up that covers all aspects – so I’ve given up & just present these pointers, comments & notes –

My favourite? GP2-S (wonderfully comfortable for me on Ralph, my S bar Brompton – more so than I expected? because of increased body weight onto S bar bikes, definitely a must!?)

S = small grip size, concentric along length of grip
L = large grip size, ovalised along grip (messy for trimming length?)

GP1 has no bar end, uses cap
GP2 has shortest bar end & likely suitable for S, M or H bar clearances when folded (using them on S & M bar bikes)
GP3 is longer bar end & tried on S bar bike without fold issues – although GP3 does get close to the rear edge of the front wheel when folded (but I didn’t need the longer bar ends)
GP4 & GP5 are longer (make sure they work with the fold! do you really need them?)

I expect the bar caps & ends are all interchangeable (I’ve swapped between 3s & 2s without swapping grips).

Ergons available in 2 lengths: shorter for bikes with grip-shift gear changers, longer for everything else (although I’ve just remembered that there’s a 3rd version that has grip-shift length on one end only!). The shorter grip-shifts may not suit larger hands but don’t need trimming for length to fit with the brake levers (hope I’ve got that correct?). Longer grips will probably have to be shortened for any model bars, depending on brake levers used (& width of hands?). eg My S bars have Shimano brake levers (similar to the latest Brompton brake levers?) with more clearance than earlier Brompton brake levers but moving the levers inwards to avoid cutting the grips wasn’t desirable (fold clearances to cables? grips too wide for my ergonomics?). Moving levers further inwards probably impossible with M or H bars? Grips may be better “notched” (rather than a straight cut) when used with earlier brake levers?

No experience of BioCork grips. May have seen negative comments somewhere about their suitability in sweaty conditions?

Notes:
1. Ergons only clamp to the bars on the bar cap/end area. Make sure you trim enough grip length to ensure the grips are properly clamped!
2. If I was shopping for another set of GP2-S for my bikes & all I could see were GP2-L, GP3-S or GP3-L grips then I’d take them & don’t expect that I’d have any issue for comfort/use?

M bars GP2-L with late model 30° brake levers (my trimming not the neatest?) –

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S bars GP2-S with Shimano (Alfine) brake levers –

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M bars folded – GP2-L close to ground but ok (bar ends rotated upwards for riding would probably contact the ground when folded?) –

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S bars folded – GP2-S plenty of clearance to ground –

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Extra tools

I needed an extra tool for maintaining my Bromptons recently & thought it was time to think about serious servicing (ie just preparing; nothing necessary yet). Aside from a sole Brompton dealer in the city area, I’m probably now more knowledgeable about Bromptons than most local bike shops. Converting Robinson, my first Brompton, from 3-speed to 6-speed BWR was an interesting first-up project & it was “highly educational” in researching specs, gear ratios, parts requirements & sourcing. Obtaining parts & accessories has been an issue, with choices of traveling for them, ordering locally (too slow/traumatic?) or ordering online. Here I’ve found a good appreciation of Bromptons is really handy in ensuring I end up with the correct parts. I expect that taking a Brompton in for major servicing is going to very inconvenient for travel or turnaround time (not to mention the worries of local shop service quality or understanding?) & so who better to trust with the work than me? “How hard can it be…?”

So, I’ve now got myself prepared with the various specialised tools that I’ll probably need. (Of course, whether I take the plunge & use them is another matter but we’ll see.) I’ve also found that Internet research on maintenance issues beforehand is a wonderful thing – as long as you think to do it. My recent boo-boo with Ralph’s Alfine 11-speed rear hub dust cap was a bit sobering but it just looked so much like a snap-on rubber seal & it came off & went on (mostly) & all was well – until I put the rear wheel back on. Hmmm… lots of drag in the chain & unrideable? Numerous strip-downs & reassemblies later, I turned to the Internet & found an exploded diagram of the hub parts – & noticed a funny-looking tool. More research & then it hit me: it was to screw on the dust cap! And who would have expected the cap to be secured with a left-hand thread? Hmmm… (Something in my defence was that the dust cap was rather chewed-up & the “tighten/loosen” directions were unreadable. I had thought the marks on the dust cap were from the chain coming off (Ralph does some funny things at times) but on closer inspection I think someone’s “butchered” the cap through not using the correct tool for removal/installation? A new dust cap – & the correct tool – later & Ralph is purring like new.)

Here’s my Brompton “extra maintenance” tools collection (some new although others have seen service on other bikes) –

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Top row –
Alfine hub right hand dust cap tool
36mm headset spanner set (thin & thick)
Crankset removal tool
Bottom bracket spanner
Bottom row –
Cable cutter
Circlip pliers
Relevant cone spanners

I’m still undecided about the Alfine 11-speed hub lubrication plans… create a DIY oiling kit? purchase the genuine Shimano item? & of course, sorting out the oil to be used?

Finally, a pic of my “office” – ideal for little wheels TLC?

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