Category Archives: My Brompton

Bag & frame flexibility

Brompton luggage

“Oh dear! That didn’t work!”, were my words for a little tweaking I was trying in my quest for the perfect luggage solution.

Robinson, my original (used) Brompton came with a C bag & by chance this bag also suits my second acquisition, Ralph, a flat bar S-type Brompton. Normally the C bag ought not to be used with the S model Bromptons (owing to bag handle clearance issues around the brake cables) but because Ralph has a set of Shimano brake levers, the brake cable angle raises the cable above the C bag handle & avoids any conflict.

Mrs Aussie’s Brompton, Peregrine, is a standard S model & we purchased an S bag for her use. With the arrival of Clarence (an S model again) there was likely to be a need for another S bag, this time for my use. However, it seemed a shame that the C bag couldn’t be used with Clarence, as the latest brake lever design seems to allow more cable clearance & the cables aren’t snagging enough to start applying the brakes when turning the handlebars?

Yes, I’ve seen some C bag hacks on the Internet, where the handle is cut off & maybe replaced with a strap or cord arrangement? Maybe I could do better? Maybe it just needed the handle to slope forward a little more & provide enough cable clearance? With the handle of the frame clamped in a vice, I tried a little flexing to see if the handle could be made to bend forward? After a bit more pressure I had my answer when the handle snapped off the frame! Oh dear, bother, etc… (apologies for no pics of the destruction – “too occupied”?)

The opportunity to fashion my own strap was “now available” & I started giving it some thought. Before long I had my resolution with a couple of large cable-ties & the original handle…

Once the “Aussied” C bag was fitted to Clarence it seems an ideal solution, with the new handle being nicely flexible (& strong enough?) Will it work out? We shall see…

New home

Brompton storage

Our hallway has a funny little glass-panelled alcove beside the front door. A hat rack has lived there for some time but very recently Mrs Aussie made the observation that “a Brompton would look good there”! With me grappling with the “Brompton storage” demands of late, it seemed to be an inspired suggestion – but not for just one Brompton! Those cube-structures that you see at all the best Brompton shops would be ideal but as yet I’ve not seen anyone producing them for sale? I started thinking that I’d need to construct something so took to measuring up the space a Brompton occupies & deciding on the optimum sizing (eg not too squeezy, as some shop displays seem to be?).

While considering design & manufacturing requirements, I noticed that our IKEA “Billy” bookcases seemed to fit the bill very well – suitable width for a Brompton & a good match to the alcove size (width & height). Billy bookcases are also exceptional value when you consider the price of the raw materials I would need & so before long I was unboxing a new unit & looking very hard at the pieces! The taller Billy design has three shelves (at top, bottom & centre) bolting to the sides & 4 relocatable shelves, as well as a back panel which gives the structure some rigidity – & keeps your books from sliding right through? I decided to re-drill the sides so that I could move the central fixed shelf down to “Brompton size” & to dispense with the back panel to allow the frosted glass alcove to do its job. An upper relocatable shelf forms a “Bag shelf” with a Brompton-size space below. Voila! – a new home for Clarence & Peregrine & 2 large luggage bags!

The lack of rigidity was resolved by screwing the supplied fixing strap to the top of the alcove. The one fault with the Billy bookcase however, is that the shelf-depth is not really ideal for a Brompton! While the Brompton “base footprint” is about 50cm x 23cm, the Billy shelf is only 26cm deep, which means the folded bars protrude in front of the “Bromptoncase”. Fortunately our alcove has an extra 10cm at the rear before the glass & so I was able to slice up one of the surplus shelves & mount the pieces to the rear of the fixed shelves that the Bromptons sat on. (I used aluminium angle strips under the fixed shelf to support the new extended shelf portion – & disguised the slight gaps (my sawing quality?) with adhesive white cloth tape.) Now the Bromptons can sit further back on the shelves, contained within their Bromptoncase.

Clarence arrives

In my recent “New decisions” post I mentioned that a Claret Brompton (one of the colour choices that have just been replaced in the new colours range) was on its way to Australia in the next shipment – & it would be coming my way! Well, it’s happened & after Brompton’s Elves prepped it, yesterday “Clarence” arrived via a special courier delivery to supplement the Brompton family!

This stock Claret colour Brompton S6L (already including Kobie’s standard items of firm suspension & luggage carrier) will now get some upgrades that I’ve been collecting! Keep watching…

Pizza ramble

Brompton Australian Championship preliminaries

The BAC weekend promised/included lots of tidbits & treats. The first was a “Welcome to Sydney” ride on the Saturday.

As the invitation email stated –
“If you’re travelling from interstate or overseas to race, or you’re a local, we’d like to welcome everyone to Sydney with a ride and get-together.
We’ll be meeting at Cheeky Transport, 3a Georgina St Newtown at 4pm on Saturday the 18th, and riding to Batty St Park at Rozelle for fantastic pizza from Rosso Pomodoro and drinks from the Bald Rock Hotel, and a glorious view over the harbour and city as the sun sets.”

I don’t know how Brompton Australia do it? Everything stated above came off well, on a day of lovely weather. We met at CheekyT, chatted & kicked tyres endlessly until Adam led us through quiet back streets, lanes, cycle paths & bush tracks (I kid you not! How does he find them?). A convoy of about 30 Bromptons certainly got some attention through all the trails, with people stepping back to watch us glide through. Knowing our destination, didn’t help me determine where I was at any time; we were on a Brompton magical mystery tour.

Arriving at the park just started the next phase of chats but this time on a grassy knoll overlooking waterfront sights towards the city. With such distractions I was oblivious to the beer delivery until an opened bottle was waved under my nose. Shortly after, a pile of pizza boxes appeared & we all tucked in. With a fine array of empty & near-empty boxes, it was then that I remembered to take some pics!? Sadly there seemed little appropriate for the blog post so I apologise for my limited selection from the afternoon/evening – but then, similar difficulties arose on Saturday so maybe we need a “nominated photographer” for such gatherings?

Sunset & a cooling breeze were successful in breaking up the party & we dispersed to all corners of Sydney, mindful of the big challenges that lay ahead for Sunday. Thank you Brompton Australia, CheekyT & all the entertaining Bromptonauts!

Folding tricks

Brompton Folding Competition

Another of the fun events of the Brompton Australian Championships is the Folding Competition, held after the BAC race. The challenge is to be the fastest to complete the fold of a Brompton; in our case a white demo M3L. Some hot times amongst the initial competitors & seeing the standard folding pedal to be part of the fold (something I’ve always fumbled in my limited exposures – all my bikes use MKS removable pedals) had me heading back to chatting with BAC attendants. Later, I mistakenly strolled too close to the competition area & Adam from Cheeky Transport suggested I should participate. My excuse about the pedal was to no avail & Adam gave me a quick tutorial.

So, there I was: beside the unfolded bike & with the count-down starting. “How hard can it be?” came to mind (again) & I was off… Funny how a Brompton other than your own can feel “different”? With the M handlebar positioning feeling strange, in parking the bike I neeaarrly jammed the front mudguard between the wheels! Next I lifted the stem slightly & started undoing the mainframe hinge clamp. Wow, I forgot how my long-term use of Brompfication hinge clamps & springs eased the process. Here, I was noticing the extra turns of the hinge clamp bolts & the lack of spring pressure helping to open the hinge. A bit clumsy but I had the front wheel folded & mentally preparing for my next phase: flipping the stem/handlebar down while dropping the seat! Easy-peasy?

Whoa! Disaster! I couldn’t undo the hinge clamp! Dunno if it was sabotage but with the previous competitor unfolding the bike after their folding attempt, they’d done up the clamp “very firmly”! Precious seconds ticking away & I persisted; finally getting it undone once realising I needed to use far more effort. Another clumsy undoing of the clamp bolt & the seat down I was ready to face my nemesis: the pedal fold! Ooh, quite good really, I was surprised!

The clock was stopped & there was the evidence: 20 seconds?! Not too good but some satisfaction/relief that the effort was over! Next time…

Thanks to Adam for the excellent tuition & providing the video on my phone. A even bigger thanks to Adam, Donald & others for running the whole competition & getting over half the BAC participants to challenge/embarrass themselves? Oh, & congrats to the winner of the final, held as part of the BAC presentations (sorry, can’t recall who won: too busy laughing?)

Finally, a YouTube link to the video of – My attempt

Peregrine down

What a day we had at the Brompton Australian Championship 2014. Lots to post about, from the pre-race meetups, the actual BAC & the various post-race activities (including my slightly embarrassing attempt in the Brompton Folding competition?) – but all revelations to come later…

First off, the major happening was at the end of the day, when Mrs Aussie misjudged a driveway ramp angle & came to grief, launching herself onto the pavement! The ramp was pretty slippery with a fine grit covering which dumped her pretty heavily & rapidly onto her left side. A few abrasions from knee to head & a rather sore hip & arm but we loaded the bikes into the Tardis (parked not too far away) & headed for home. After a cleanup it was decided to get the sore arm checked out. A few impact-area X-Rays at our local hospital & the crack to the radius head at the left elbow was disclosed (cue pic of patient -)

The initial appraisal needed confirmation with a specialist & today he arranged CT scans which showed the sorry state of a “mushed head”, with a piece requiring relocation & pinning! The specialist will be operating on Wednesday & so Peregrine will be “taking a break” for a while?

For reference, Peregrine’s condition doesn’t appear to require much surgery, with some scuffing to Ergon bar-end & Brooks saddle…

BAC prep

Brompton Australian Championship

I do believe Ralph is ready for the weekend activities. My bike/blog decal has gone on –

…& the GoPro has got a K-Edge adapter (to replace the fragile GoPro adapter) ready for the pavé on the race course?

As for our Sunday outfits, yes everything is to hand – bring it on!

Training? Mrs Aussie has been quite diligent. Me? Hmm… does Lawn Bowling count? Hopefully I won’t get in the way when being regularly lapped?

An on-going interim

Brompton bidon cage system

My interim solution before Brompton introduce their magnetic water bottle system*, is heading towards its second birthday. It’s given excellent service & still (in my opinion) betters any bidon carrier for Bromptons that I’ve observed. Being an assumed temporary system, I’ve been surprised at its effectiveness & durability.

That is, until a few days ago! It was somewhat shocking to realise that the dense foam insulation used to pad the bidon cage legs from contact with the Brompton stem, was not going to last much longer! The foam had long shown evidence of compression but now was breaking up under the forces applied from bidon weight & cage movements. (The bidon cage is normally positioned directly behind the stem but is often moved to the left or right to suit practicalities of bike storage, access, etc – an aspect that has become a great “feature” over the rigid mounting of other systems?)

There was no other choice than to “improve my mousetrap”, rather than just replace/refresh the foam padding. A visit to a rubber materials outlet & thorough browsing through the range of rubber extrusions has provided the latest solution: a firm, solid rubber u-shaped channel. (I had been thinking of a rubber tube to slide over the cage legs – while leaving enough of the leg ends free for the O-rings to hook over – but couldn’t locate something of a suitable size & material.)

Along with addressing the cage leg padding issue, it was an ideal time to produce some more legs. Ralph & Peregrine have been wearing my only two cage units & Robinson has been somewhat naked since donating its cage to Peregrine. Readers of my previous post may remember that there’s also another Brompton on the way, so I’ll soon be needing another bidon cage anyway? Accordingly, I cranked up my production line & fabricated the required legs – & some “spares” (an enquiry from Mrs Aussie coming up very soon?)

* Is the mythical Brompton magnetic water bottle system any closer? Who knows? – although some interesting/intriguing tweets took place recently! (snips below)

Late August from @BromptonBicycle (in connection with the new colours advised at Eurobike) – “…We’ll be sharing details of a neat new accessory later today. Stay tuned!”
2 weeks later (from me) – “…I stayed tuned & I’m still waiting… (the water bottle?)”
Response from @BromptonBicycle – “…we’re working on the release materials at the moment. it won’t be long!”

So, the release info of something is in the pipeline? None the wiser but just as curious?

New decisions

40T cranksets for Brompton

A parts delivery arrived from TillerCycles recently, even though I’m still not entirely sure what I’ll be doing with them. The items are a 40 tooth crankset to suit the one-piece crank Bromptons & a 40T crankring for the latest “spider” crank model (both with chainguards).

Both Robinson & Ralph use the old model crankset; currently 44T with a 6-speed setup for Robinson & 50T for Ralph’s Alfine 11-speed hub. My desire is to lower the gearing range for Ralph & so now I’ll have to decide whether to use the 40T or whether to swap Robinson’s 44T into Ralph & use the 40T in Robinson – some work with a hub gear calculator coming up & then probably some testing?

My wife’s Peregrine is a stock 50T 6-speed Brompton & so far, she’s been coping well with the 50T (having been using Robinson & the 44T setup previously). I had fully expected that my offer to fit a 44T crankring would be taken up but so far…

Ordering the 40T spider crankring from TillerCycles was really just a case of getting it while I was obtaining the one-piece 40T crankset & having it available “in case” (& decide between 44T & 40T when the time comes?). However, some news…

Brompton colour changes

Brompton has recently been teasing some new colours for 2015. From what I’ve seen, my favourite is still the Claret colour but horrifyingly, I’d also been seeing various comments that in fact, the Claret colour is one of 8 to cease?! (refer pic of the expected colours to be withdrawn)

Being an “extra cost” colour option, I’ve never expected the Claret colour Brompton to be a stock bike anywhere & so far less likely to come into my possession. (Yes, I know about B-spoke Brompton orders but I’ve never personally been happy with that system for this part of the world.) A chance meetup with Lincoln from Kobie International (the Australian Brompton Distributor) led to a decent discussion on various Brompton matters & revealed that in fact, a Claret 6-speed was on the way in the next shipment!! Some emails later & a Claret S6L will be coming my way in about a month!? Guess where the 40T crankring will be going…

Ignorance is ok

Ralph’s serial number reveals a September 2011 build but I’m unaware of any info about when the conversion to an Alfine 11-speed came about. When I acquired Ralph in Australia in late 2012 I’ve concluded that the local seller had the Brompton about a year. Within that time Ralph probably travelled a lot as cargo (courtesy of the owner’s profession) & I suspect the on-road kms weren’t excessive? From my observation the Alfine rear hub operation seemed fine – although I’ve been puzzled how the right side hub cap/seal came to be butchered (replaced earlier by me – refer “Ralph refreshed” posting – & my assumption is that it was removed & replaced without use of the special tool?). No service history is known & I expect that nothing was due for the hub, considering the likely non-excessive use?

Rear hub gear lubrication is usually via the hub being packed with grease but for the Alfine 11-speed (& the Rohloff 14-speed) the lubrication comes from the hub containing oil. Instead of dismantling the hub, the Alfine 11-speed has an “oil port” in the hub shell & the design provides for oil to be injected via a syringe. Shimano has produced an oiling kit & a special oil (no spec stated but it seems akin to an automatic transmission fluid?). An Internet search located the basic kit at a very reasonable price (with 50ml oil rather than the commercial 1 litre can) & my purchase duly arrived – from Estonia!?

Why have I purchased an oiling kit? Ralph had developed an occasional “gear skip” when changing into 6th gear & I suspected that an oil change may be in order? (contrary to my assumption of limited kms but…)

The oiling kit instructions seemed straight-forward: basically the syringe is connected to the oil port & used to suck the oil out of the hub & then fresh oil is injected via the syringe. However, some practicalities didn’t seem to match the simple steps but fortunately, I discovered a web blog from a young lady who gave far more detail on the difficulties she encountered when servicing her recumbent trike. Her revelations warned me of the need for patience when using the syringe to withdraw or inject oil (owing to pressure in the hub).

Here’s a pic of Ralph with syringe connected, ready to have the old oil sucked out of the hub

In extracting the oil I was surprised to only get about 5ml of oil & that it looked fairly clean? (I was expecting 25ml & that the oil would be black – ie “dirty”?) The next stage of an oil change was to inject 25ml of clean oil, drive the hub while changing gears for a minute & then extract that oil (ie to “flush” the hub). With the seeming cleanliness of my initial extracted oil, I decided to inject about 15ml & see how the extraction went. After the hub & gear operations, the extraction process showed about 15ml of really clean-looking oil. From this I concluded the extraction process was working ok (& my initial 5ml extraction was probably all the oil that was in the hub?) & that the hub was fairly clean inside (as evidenced by “flushed” oil looking pristine?).

With my limited stock of (normally rather expensive) oil, I resolved to re-inject the 15ml & then top that up with another 10ml. (If the hub required extra work then I would still have another 25ml of oil to use.) Here’s a pic of Ralph with the syringe ready for an injection

On completion – & with some trepidation & curiosity – I took Ralph out for a little test-ride. All seems well; smooth changes & no skipping! Phew!

So, quite a mystery how Ralph came to have so little oil in the hub? From the oil cleanliness it seems to confirm the limited kms of riding (pre-purchase & my own use). I’ve read that Shimano Alfine hub seals can leak but I’ve only seen the slightest of evidence with Ralph. Was the limited oil via servicing? (still puzzled as to who butchered the hub dust cap? While the cap wasn’t intended to retain the oil, it’s mangling was indicative of someone “servicing” the hub!) Maybe the lack of oil came from the initial Alfine conversion company? (or Shimano not filling the hub initially?)

Sorry Ralph, hopefully all’s well?