Category Archives: Tweaks

Introducing Ralph-e…


i.e. “Ralph” (my Brompton Alfine 11speed) plus a Grin Technologies Brompton conversion kit equals “Ralph-e”

My previous blog post on “Electric patience” mentioned a coming electric conversion of one of my Bromptons, rather than wait out the eventual (?) release of a factory electric Brompton. What I’ve now got from Glow Worm Bicycles (thanks Ali, Maurice, Tim, Manny, et al) is possibly my ideal setup: a Pedelec Brompton, requiring that I still have to pedal everywhere but providing electric motor assistance for hills, etc.

Ralph-e has a torque sensor bottom bracket (& no throttle control), a comprehensive computer display & a whopper battery. There, that’s my technical info nicely simplified – until a future post? (Oh, & the setup is capable of regenerative braking if I add the e-brake levers but for now I’m unsure if I’ll bother.)

So far my little solo test riding has shown an enhancement to my “Brompton Grin” & I’m quite hopeful of comfortably keeping up with Mrs Aussie? We’ll see.

Electric patience

I’m trying to be patient & any day/week now there should be a call? My patience for the electric Brompton has been frustrating, with so many rumours & release expectations. It’s been a constant for many years, as has my need for low geared bikes to provide assistance for riding with a heart condition. I can choose between six-speed Bromptons with 40T cranksets or an Alfine 11-speed with 44T but under some riding conditions I’m still struggling at walking pace. So the desire for a Pedelec Brompton (one that I still have to pedal to get electric motor assistance, rather than just push/twist a throttle) has been a hope for “normal cycling”. Will the electric Brompton dream eventuate?

Recent news from Brompton on a likely introduction is the latest release info, but wasn’t very encouraging from my point of view. The Brompton announcement (http://www.brompton.com/News/Posts/2016/Electric-bike/) has expressed the release as “selected European cities in Summer 2017” (i.e. maybe July 2017?) but who knows when for the global market?

Armed with some “UK-trip scuttlebut” & fresh research, I decided to check out local offerings for the possibility of a Brompton conversion. My initial findings weren’t very encouraging for obtaining a satisfactory product – but then I visited a shop where their conversions matched my quality & engineering expectations. At present I’m not going to mention the business name owing to various reasons – & Brompton restrictions? – but suffice to say they now have one of my Bromptons for conversion.

Progress has been slower than I’d like due to workloads & component supply but really, everything is bearable in comparison to the alternatives? The conversion components are from Grin Technologies, a Canadian company that offers a Brompton kit (http://www.ebikes.ca/product-info/brompton-kit.html/) with various options; my choices to be revealed once my Brompton is completed. Fingers crossed for that call soon?

Clarence mods

Clarence, my new Claret colour Brompton S6L, has undergone some recent mods. Before I get onto telling what I’ve done to Clarence, I’ve got to thank Brompton Australia for their efforts. In my blog posts I’d previously mentioned my liking for the colour & that I’d been offered the stock bike currently on its way to Australia. What I hadn’t mentioned was that the bike arriving was an M6L & that Brompton Australia had offered to convert it to my preferred flat bar S model. With the cessation of the colour choice, it was a deal that I couldn’t resist.

So what have I done to my newly converted S6L? Some of the mods are simple additions or replacements that may or may not show up in the pic below? They include an AussieOnABrompton.com frame decal, Brompfication hinge clamps, front & rear lights, Cateye Strada computer, Brompton Eazy wheels, my Bidon cage setup, Presta-valved tubes & a Tiller Cycles 40T crankring.
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For two of the important body-contact areas (bum & hands) I just had to repeat mods from other Bromptons: a Brooks B17 saddle & Ergon grips. It took some time to decide the saddle colour but I eventually settled for black. However, a set of Ergon GP1 grips was a harder mod than I expected. Whereas Mrs Aussie’s Peregrine setup with Ergons was straight-forward, Clarence proved difficult. The pic below shows the state of the original grips removed – & probably indicates that Brompton Australia’s budget for handgrip adhesive (used during the conversion from M to S bars) is far too high?
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Finally, a comment on two mods that I haven’t made (for the moment). I’m sticking with the standard Brompton tyres (whereas Schwalbe Marathon & Marathon Plus tyres are used on our other Bromptons) & it will be an interesting evaluation/comparison? The standard Brompton pedals too are an experiment; my usual choice is MKS removable pedals where I use flat or clipless versions as required (mostly clipless). I have no idea how long this trial will last.

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…
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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…
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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!
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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.
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BAC prep

Brompton Australian Championship

I do believe Ralph is ready for the weekend activities. My bike/blog decal has gone on –
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…& the GoPro has got a K-Edge adapter (to replace the fragile GoPro adapter) ready for the pavé on the race course?
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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.
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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?)
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* 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).
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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)
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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!?
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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
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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
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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?

Marathon setup

This blog post is intended as an update to my previous post, “Puncture practice” (the sorry tale of on-road tube replacement?). My order for Schwalbe Marathon tyres for Ralph was delivered within a few days from Kobie, the Australian Brompton Distributor. While our other Bromptons have Marathon Plus tyres fitted, I decided to replace the Kojaks on Ralph with Marathons for a variety of reasons. First would be the likelihood of better puncture protection than the Kojak tyres & second, they may be easier to fit onto the Alfine 11-speed hub Sun rear rim than the M+ tyre. With Brompton recommending the M tyre in preference to the M+ & the distributor offering the M tyre for shipping, my mind was made up! I’m guessing/hoping that the on-road performance difference between M & M+ tyres won’t be noticeable. We’ve had no issues with the M+ operations & if it was any other Brompton than Ralph then I would probably stick with M+ tyres?

The removal of the front & rear tyres was only slightly more difficult with the rear Sun rim & to prove that I wasn’t imagining/exaggerating the difference between the rims, here’s a pic of the Sun rim & the old-style single-wall front rim (both fitted with thin BBB rim tape) to illustrate the profile comparison.
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Fitting the M tyre to the front rim was straight-forward & by ensuring the tyre is squeezed into the valley of the rim while the remainder of the tyre is “thumbed” over the rest of the rim, the assembly was rapid. Probably a Kojak may have been easier (sorry, I’ve had no experience with fitting Brompton’s own brand tyre) but I can’t say that the M tyre was any easier than an M+ (apologies that I wasn’t attempting a back-to-back direct comparison).

As for Ralph’s rear wheel, I can only repeat a portion from the previous sentence, “I can’t say that the M tyre was any easier than an M+…” – & from my experience it’s still bloody hard! That Sun rim is terrible: the lack of valley means that the initial tyre fitment stops with about 40cm still to be pushed over the rim. From there it’s a case of rest, squeeze tyre into the well, push tyre further onto the rim & then repeat (& keep repeating). One difficulty-factor is that the tyre is new & “un-stretched”, whereas next time it should be a little easier?

Remembering my first attempt at fitting M+ onto Ralph before last year’s UK trip, I had bruised & raw thumbs. On later tyre changes, I’d installed much thinner BBB rim tape & now it’s tough for the thumbs but ok (not quick, not easy – just ok). For some time I’ve wondered how long the Sun rim will last before being worn out & have researched that Velocity Aeroheat rims are available with the 36 spoke holes required for the Alfine hub. Perhaps I should start checking whether the Velocity rim has a better profile than the Sun rim?

Another of my issues during the roadside tube replacement recently, was my CO2 cartridge tyre inflation “hiccup”. At home in the garage seemed an ideal time to get the practice I needed? I used cartridges to inflate both tyres & the results weren’t very comforting! For one I managed to get 7 bar pressure (100 psi?) but for the other, it was only 5 bar (this measured by connecting my floor pump & checking the gauge). This maximum inflation of 7 bar was what I would want in the tyre but it seems a bit “hit-&-miss”? Whereas my road bike inflations have always seemed successful, I think the greater number of spokes & the cramped space on the Brompton wheels make the exercise more fiddly? Thinking about it now, I should have first secured the Presta valve with the locking ring (or partially inflated the tyre with a hand pump?) to ensure the CO2 adapter pressure against the valve was stable – drat, more practice needed? (For the uninitiated, tyre inflation with a CO2 cartridge is almost instantaneous & if you don’t get it right – or you haven’t ensured the tyre is properly mounted, the tube isn’t pinched, etc – then your inflation result may not be “as expected”?! (Taxi?!…) Another caution to the “almost instantaneous” inflation is that the cartridge becomes freezing cold very quickly! – refer pic showing 2 cartridges: one unused, one just emptied)
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Just for confirmation, here’s Ralph now fitted with a new set of Marathon tyres:
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