Category Archives: My bikes

Lockdown learnings

Lots of Brompton fettling during our Sydney Covid lockdowns, mainly 3 older IGH bikes transitioned to Ti lightweights. Plenty of time to await parts, learn skills & tinker? New things for me were Ti fork & rear frame changes, lightweight headsets, Ti BBs & even wheel rebuildings. It’s all just Brompton Meccano really!

In preparation for finally being able to revisit our MidCoast beach unit (woopee, we got there last week!), I also resurrected some pre-Brompton steeds from storage, deciding that the coastal strip would be a good home for them.

The 20year old Giant MTB got by with a wash & lube & seems almost as new. I also had thoughts that the Trek TT bike would suit conversion to a single-speed beach cruiser, however plans got adjusted. The bike wash revealed an “exploded front hub” (something I discovered that era Bontrager aero wheel type was renowned for, but I could hardly claim warranty after 12years in storage!).

After retrieving another wheelset, I pushed on & stripped the TT bars & removed the large chainring. Instead of a single-speed setup, I used the rear wheel bar-end shifter & mounted it to the bullhorn bars (trying to make use of components wherever possible). With a single chainring & a 9speed rear hub, I cut back the cassette cogs to 7 to ease the chain line & dispense with the highest gears. Adjusting the derailleur limits for the 7cogs was perfect & it all seems to function well. (The setup has a 39T chainring & 13-23T gearing, pretty suited to my beach side cruising needs? – & now with a bike weight of 8.5kg)

Playing around with all this older technology made me aware of the likely difficulties of replacing parts in future, so decided to retain the Bontrager wheelset if possible. Finding a low spoke count front hub took time & when I dismantled the hub I discovered the rim used “hidden nipples” & that I couldn’t re-use the bladed spokes in the new hub! Very fast service from a WA spoke supplier & another wheel finished in quick time, if I may say so myself?

Only a couple of rides so far & I’ll need time to reacquaint with the twitchy TT handling – & I hope the locals aren’t upset about the rear hub buzz? (very loud; who needs a bell?)


Brompton Twins?

A lot has happened/changed in 2020 & our Brompton front is also rather different now.

Lots of tinkering has seen both Clarence & Peregrine swap from S6R models into lightweights with 3speed external gearing. Peregrine has lost about 3kg (now weighing 10kg) but Clarence has seen a bit more work in getting down to 8.7kg. Everything is running smoothly & delightfully after all the part sourcings & conversion work.

We also have 6speed lightweight twins (of sorts), after Rudolph has been joined by Ruby, a S6L-XD version that was obtained late-2019 in grey livery. Unfortunately the mainframe hinge had an issue & Brompton Australia (ta) obtained a replacement frame in House Red colour (grey no longer being available).

Having gained skills in rear frame & fork replacement, headset changes & external gearing tweaks, I’m figuring that wheel building skills ought to be next? How hard can it be? I’m nearly ready to go…

More electric

No change on the Brompton front (although little activity too) but thought I should post about our new wheels.

We’ve some riding coming up that’s more suited to MTBs so after sprucing up our (very) old steeds, I was almost ready to consider some “un-assisted” riding when I came across a couple of special-priced eMTBs. Sold!!! – following a brief test-ride & yesterday we ventured back to pickup our new toys.

The ferry ride home was a good time to contemplate the road/trail ahead?

Like the eBrompton (that may one day arrive in Australia?), our Pedalec eMTBs have 5 levels of assistance. However, since my brief test-ride the Bosch mid-drive motors have had a firmware upgrade to include an “eMTB mode” that automatically selects the level of assistance depending on the pedal pressure. Without even changing gear, heavy pedal pressure supplies Turbo mode – quite amazing!

I’ve been delighted with Ralph-e, my GrinTech-equipped electric Brompton. The assistance-level is programmable (although rarely changed after settling on a level that provides economical battery range) & the combination of a torque-sensing BB & the Alfine 11-speed rear hub provide riding bliss! How this compares to Brompton’s offering will be the $64k (or $5k?) question?

Our Brompton appearances at the Dungog PedalFest late last year was “interesting”. If it wasn’t for the generous helpings of scones with jam & cream, the rough roads could have seen some DNFs. At the time I’d thought that Ralph-e & Peregrine wouldn’t be back next time but now I’m sure the eMTBs will just love it?

Mungo tweaks

Pre-Brompton came Mungo, a Dahon Vector 27-speed 20″ wheel size folding bike. With thoughts of traveling & not wanting to go through the difficulties of transporting a full-sized bike via airlines & rental vehicles, Mungo gave me a near-road bike feel & with a good range of gears. However, Mungo also showed that it was still going to be a case of disassembly if I hoped to travel with an airlines-compatible single case or soft bag & avoid needing a larger-sized rental car. Fortunately, 2 Bromptons unexpectedly/miraculously came along via eBay “Buy now” purchases & Mungo lost out on seeing the world? (As has Daisy, a Dahon Vitesse 18-speed flat-bar model that Mrs Aussie also found via eBay.)

Another purchase for local travels & trips has been the Tardis, our VW T5 Campervan. While our T5 has a good spot for one Brompton in the rear compartment under the bed, a rear bike carrier is necessary for whichever of our bikes go with us on multi-day trips. Mungo & Daisy fit well with the Tardis trips; all-purpose bikes with mudguards, side-stands & nice rides but with the added benefit of foldability for storage when we don’t want to lock them (unfolded) on the bike rack.

Warning: some paragraphs follow that involve mathematics. Perhaps you may have a need to scroll/swipe to the last paragraph & pic?

What an all-purpose bike also needs, is a range of gears that will suit most terrains that our trips take us to. Rather than just test riding a bike up every hill you can find, to see if the gear ratios are suitable, a means of comparing gear ratios is to obtain/calculate the “Gear Inches” (GI) by multiplying the gear ratios for bottom & top gears by the diameter of the wheel. For some people this may be somewhat difficult but for me I’ve already dug out the hub gear info (eg via Hub Gear Calculators on the Internet), I can count the teeth on the rear cogs & chainrings, & I can measure the wheel diameter. Actually, this last item is usually very difficult if you’re resorting to a tape measure so the best way is to calculate the diameter from the ETRTO size on the tyre. The ETRTO size for a Brompton Kojak is 32-349 & the formula for calculating wheel diameter in inches is (2×32+349)/25.4 (ie 413/25.4 = 16.25). An additional tip if you want to set your bike computer wheel size, is that the wheel diameter of 413mm can be multiplied by Pi to give the wheel rollout distance of 1297mm. How’s that? & all without needing a tape measure!

Getting back to the GI calculation & using Ralph, my Alfine 11-speed Brompton, as an example, the low speed GI is 50/18×0.53×16.25 which equals 24 (ie chainring teeth divided by rear cog teeth times hub low ratio times wheel diameter). The top speed GI is 50/18×2.15×16.25 = 97 & therefore the GI range can be expressed as 24-97. Once we get the GI for other bikes you can start to compare how the bikes would cope with hills (or even how they might compare for top gear speed?)

Before I eventually resume my tale about Mungo, let’s compare some GIs. A typical road/race bike that uses 53 & 39 teeth chain rings & an 11-25 teeth cassette has a GI of 41-126. A mountain bike could be about 17-105, while Robinson, my 6-speed “reduced gearing” Brompton is 29-88 & a 3-speed Brompton would be about 44-79, depending on options. As you may see, nothing beats an MTB on being able to climb hills – just as long as you can keep the front wheel on the ground? Also, if you want to go fast on your Brompton on the flat then you’ll have to pedal like crazy to be ahead of the race bike.

The beauty of Mungo is the feel of riding a road/race bike with similar gear shifters & fairly light weight, as well as a GI of 28-123. This comes from the small wheel size, a 53 teeth chain ring, an 11-26 teeth cassette & 9-speed rear derailleur but also with a 3-speed SRAM dual-drive rear hub (similar to the 6-speed Brompton with a 2-speed derailleur setup & a 3-speed hub?). A scan of the above GI figures should show that Mungo is ably suited to getting up hills, as well as being pedaled fast.

Unfortunately for me, my heart-related limited blood/oxygen capacity (refer earlier blog post Hill performance for info) still puts Mungo (& me) at a disadvantage when I compare it to Ralph’s low speed gear climbing ratio. Having resolved Mungo’s original tendency to drop the chain when in top gear (by fitting a fixed front derailleur to contain the chain onto the front chainring) & considering that Mungo’s missed out on any overseas trips, it seemed a shame that Ralph could be preferred for climbing hills reached while on Tardis trips? No, Mungo wasn’t going to lie down & its standard crankset size suggested to me that a 39 teeth chainring from my box of bike bits was going to be a good swap with the usual 53 teeth item? So, here’s a pic of Mungo now equipped with the smaller front chainring (which provides a GI of 21-90, seems to escape the MTB tendency to wave the front wheel on steep hills & still gives a top gear “adequate” for my current capabilities?). Mungo rides again?!


Bigger little wheels


My 20″ Dahon Vector X27h preceded my Bromptons & was an easy choice for a folder when most of my bike-time was spent on a carbon frame race bike. It has a great road-bike feel & the specs make it one of the best performance folders you could ever want (well, until it’s superseded via the usual later-model upgrade-cycle?). Funny about the 20″ moniker though; the wheel size is 18″ on all the Dahons (& Terns) that I’ve seen.

To say, “what lets it down…” may give the wrong impression; it’s a great bike – it’s just that Bromptons are so good & show it up in the fold & engineering departments. However, being a performance bike it probably lacks some of the versatility that a good folder needs. My Vector has also had a number of upgrades (sometimes just to “correct” the engineering?) & our lives together have been a learning experience (often frustrating but better for the learning?). The one aspect of the spec that is pretty unique is also the item that is (almost) the “Achilles Heel” – the 27-speed transmission, with 3-speed hub gears & 9-speed rear derailleur. Once sorted & aware of the quirks; no problems?

Without any great detail, here’s some notes about what’s gone on –

  • Fitted MKS removable pedals – none supplied (just like a big performance bike?)
  • Added mudguards – for my comfort
  • Added side-stand – so convenient
  • Changed saddle – race-type Kore System saddle swapped to more comfortable saddle “that I just happened to have laying around” (but first needed an adapter to convert Kore System to standard rail system)
  • Swapped to Kojak tyres – great ride on Sydney roads after the rock-like Durano tyres?
  • Installed front derailleur – not for derailing the chain (bike only has single chain ring); just for holding the bloody chain in place (a flaw in short chain-stay bikes having multi-speed rear derailleurs which force the chain to extreme angles?)
  • SRAM dual-drive rear hub – similar ratios to Brompton standard 3-speed; hub changer gearbox with actuator rod & push/pull connection to Tiagra shifter not ideal (too much friction? inadequate cable retention at shifter?); initially very finicky in maintaining adjustment but learnt that axle gearbox needs to be squeaky-clean & well lubed?; rear wheel refitting requires precise gearbox handling to avoid reassembly issues? (acquired skill?)