Brim on a Nutcase

I love my Nutcase Watermelon helmet; it’s the one I wear all winter long.  At a bike expo last year, I bought a brim for it.

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The brim seemed like a silly idea:  How could something so small make such a difference?  It did, as it turns out; it blocks just enough light, and is kind to my eyes.

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The brim is just friction-fit to the helmet.  Over time, the slot appears to have widened, and the brim now has a tendency to slip out at inopportune moments.

I’ve actually found it on the ground a couple of times, when carrying the helmet.  That’s not good.

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Apparently, the styrofoam inner shell is compressing a bit, widening the gap into which the visor friction-fits.  That’s not a particularly cheering thought, though I suppose the square-inchage (so to speak) involved is pretty small.

I’m loath to use an adhesive to hold the brim in place; that could do a really nice job of neutralizing the foam shell.  Maybe Nutcase will come up with a better solution?  I’d like that — I’m quite used to the brim, and will miss it if it disappears one day.

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Second April Progressive

April 21st, 2014 2 comments

We are determined to make every one of BCP leader Tim’s progressive rides this month, so we were ready to go for the second, 35 mile/56.3 km ride.

sapThirtieth Street Station has wonderful wooden benches that, counter-intuitively, are actually quite nice to sit upon.  Also, two Bromptons fit nicely on the end.

sap-bnAs we left the station, much to our surprise, we spied two other Bromptons, racing green, with Brooks saddles:

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I instantly realized that I probably had met the cyclists who had (shudder!) so wantonly cast aside their Bs  whilst they went elsewhere.  On several different occasions, distant from Philadelphia, I’d met two fellows who had admired Basil (and, more recently, both Basil and Argyll), and who told me about collecting their own Bromptons in Scotland, early in the previous decade.

This was the clincher:

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Two identical, earlier Bromptons, labelled by an Edinburgh dealer.  What are the chances?!?  I was thrilled, of course, and snapped a whole bunch of photos.  These little guys are so identical to Basil and Argyll, and yet so not.  (Comparisons to come.)

sap-4bNaturally, I took a picture with all four Bs, and rode on beaming.  What a fine start to the day! (Meeting the cyclists was all well and good, but seeing their Bromptons — that’s the best!)

Not that the day needed any help:  The art museum was all gussied up in pink and greenery, and early morning shadows.

sap-amWe’ve got a good crowd for these rides now that the weather is behaving more reasonably.  It’s fun to see the new riders return, and to consider what a difference these rides may make to them as they gain cycling experience.

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Tim’s progressives changed my life, and I know I can’t be the only one who feels that way!

We headed out, passing, as usual, an example of one of the best features of the Philadelphia landscape: stone arches.

sap-arThey’re everywhere, but group riding does not necessarily favor snapping photos of them.  I was glad to get this shot today.

sap-smtWe often regroup at the old abandoned Shawmont Station.  This time, a train ran through, so we got the whole crossroads experience with flashing lights and gates descending.

Saul and Mike joined the group this time, and Saul suggested that I should get some shots of this cemetery.

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Saul waited patiently while I took photos.  I can’t find my way out of an open paper bag, so it was very kind of him to stay with me to make sure I didn’t end up in Connecticut’s Bridgeport instead of Pennsylvania’s.

He made sure I got the right shot of Basil, too:

sp-entThis area is commercial now (manufacturing, utilities, warehouses, etc.) with busy roads going past and above the graveyard; it’s no longer a quiet “resting place”,  just an almost-forgotten one.  But it is as full of character as it is of antique graves, and completely unlike the modern models, with their sterile level plates and unnaturally manicured lawns.

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Nostalgia was not the point of this run, though:  Doughnuts were!  Mike, Saul, and Tim illustrate the point (though Saul is somehow missing one of those sweet treats — perhaps saving it for later?)

Down the street at the Palm Tree Market we bought beverages, and more substantial fare.  There’s an indentation in the store-front that is perfect for parking big bikes

sp-bkbut the weather was so good that even the Bromptons stayed outside.

sp-baBack on the road, Saul pointed out a field of boom lifts he’d spotted on a previous ride.  He suspected that I’d be thrilled by the sight, and, of course, I was:

sp-crThe photo doesn’t do them justice.  They must be stored elongated as a matter of physics and balance, but that lofty reach is somehow so  graceful.   And why is the set on the left bent?   It looks like choreography to me, or perhaps some exotic form of communication between the groups.

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Back on the trail, I set off in hot pursuit of this recumbent, a beautiful, brand-new, vehicle.  It’s a tadpole trike, with two wheels in front, one in back.  The rider was zipping down the path in excess of 15 mph/24.1 kmh and faster; he soon disappeared, but not before I managed to get this shot.

sp-cormBack next to the Schuylkill River, Dr. Diarist spotted this Double-Crested Cormorant, the first I can remember seeing, although they are apparently a common bird.

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Sailing birds were not the only signs of renewed spring activity along the river.  It’s possible to rent quadricycle surreys to ride along the trail.   This cheery model was only one of three we spotted as we got closer to the city.

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Back at the train station, our own small eccentric vehicles waited to board for the journey home. Today’s ride was 36 miles/57.9 km, well done in fine weather, with great companions!

(Basil and I are out of town this week, so response to comments and email will be slow — well, to be frank, non-existent — until our return.)

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Update: Dual Water Bottle Cage

I wrote about this dual water bottle cage last year.

pd-btI finally got around to taking pictures of the mount for the rings.  It’s under my Brompton’s saddle, and stays permanently  on the bike.

bclgThe support isn’t in the way when the cages are detached, and I don’t notice it when my bicycle is in everyday use.

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When attached, the cages add minimally to Basil’s length, and slightly to his weight; those premiums are not too much to pay for the convenience of having three full water bottles handy on a hot day.

pd-ov This is also a convenient way to go at an event where hydration bladders are banned, as they are at the 5 Boro.  The 5 Boro administration recommends carrying three water bottles, but does not allow packs or panniers; Basil also has a trim water bottle holder on his handlebars, which, combined with these cages, allows me to carry all three bottles directly on my Brompton.

Categories: 5 Boro Tour, Gear Tags:

Spring-for-a-Day

April 19th, 2014 1 comment

Some of us went cycling in our shorts recently, with actual bare legs.

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Dr. Diarist took a spin on Basil, since I was going to be taking Argyll to New York on my own soon, and needed a bit of practice on Argyll’s taller handlebars.  (We traded back quickly; Dr. D. really needs that taller reach, and I really don’t!)

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We saw actual grass.  All that green was almost dazzling; we’d begun to think that the color of outdoors was always going to be white.

spr-skWe revisited the skunk cabbage, having read up about them, and identified it properly.  The proper name is Symplocarpus foetidus, apparently because it stinks just like foetidus (or a skunk, as you prefer) when the leaves are crushed.  (No cabbage were hurt in the course of our investigations.)

spr-spthPossibly the best thing about the skunk cabbage is its vocabulary:  That mottled purplish, penguin-shaped capsule is called a spathe.

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The prickly orb within — actually bright yellow in real life (as opposed to my photo) — is called a spadix.

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More neutral colors still abound elsewhere on the trail.  At this time of year, this section looks like a fairy-tale forest to me (at least if you imagine the asphalt as some more organic surface).

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Birds are twittering, and we saw our second cardinal of spring — a flash of scarlet in the tangled branches — so there are unmistakable signs that spring is on the way.

This year we’re not feeling very trusting, though, no matter what the skunk cabbage think.

Categories: Brompton Duo Tags:

A Screw Loose (and lost)

April 18th, 2014 2 comments

Dr. Diarist and I, and our Brompton bicycles, Basil and Argyll, took a jaunt on the newly opened section of the Chester Valley Trail on a blustery day.

a8cvWinds were about 16 mph/25.7 km, with gusts to 25 mph/40.2 km, but you’d never know it from looking at this photo.

a8-cpThe trail wends next to corporate parks and next to a major highway.  Someday, once it is completed, this may make a good commuting option for the vast number of employees who work in the valley.

a8-sbHuge ugly concrete walls line portions of the trail.  They function as sound barriers, blocking the noise from speeding (or gridlocked) vehicles on the roadway.

Along some stretches of the trail, they also block other things.  That’s the back of a Barnes and Noble bookstore (and coffee shop) below.

Books and coffee: so near, and yet so far.  There’s no way to get to them from the trail!

Basil considers the issue:

a8-ctlIt is perfectly obvious that a small Brompton (or two) can easily slip through the rails of this fence and make its way down the short hillside to the parking lot below, and, from thence, across to refreshment of various kinds.

Basil and Argyll were all for it, but more responsible assessments prevailed.  It’s not nice to destroy the new turf alongside a new trail. But gosh, all that’s needed for access is a relatively small set of steps.  Barnes and Noble, you’re missing a trick here!

Nobody had any qualms about crossing a construction lot at the end of the trail so that Argyll and Basil could pose with a conglomeration of enormous metal spools.

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Then it was back to the trail, where I happened to snap Dr. Diarist just as he rode along an uncharacteristically empty stretch of the highway.

a8-hwWhere there no sound barriers, highway is all too evident.  I’m not sure which is worse, visually.

This particular highway is a pet peeve of mine.  Every few years it is rebuilt (and regularly enlarged).  It’s a critical commuting corridor for suburban dwellers, but a far better solution to the continual re-vamping would be to put a light-rail system down the middle.  (Or beside the road; I’m not particular.)

Thousands of commuters would be grateful to be spared the hell that is this roadway during commute hours (and the endless construction), and the consequent reduction in pollution and gas consumption would be huge.  But nooooo . . .

a8-clFortunately, there are other things to observe on the trail.  That green sign above says “Contention Ln”:  it’s naturally appealing, especially after mentally ranting about the highway.  I don’t know which I like more:  the decaying bridge or the name of the lane.

a8-pdWe were just about three-fourths of the way through our ride when disaster struck.  I lost a screw from one of my Zefal toe cages.  They’re recently installed; I haven’t had a chance to post about them yet.

a8-tlRemoving the disabled cage required the second use of our lovely, elegant Brompton tool kit in as many days. That’s probably the most beautiful ratchet wrench I’ve ever seen.  Or used.

I went looking for the missing screw, but the wind was high and the bit very, very small, so had no luck.  a8-gr

While waiting for me, Dr. Diarist made an interesting discovery at the intersection we’d just crossed.  The grimy grid above is a plate laid between a sidewalk and street; apparently it’s meant to warn pedestrians that they are about to enter an alternative travel area.

Dr. Diarist hates these plates because they are used between trail and roadway, too, and are awful to navigate on roller blades.

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We had both thought they were concrete, but we learned on this day that they’re actually some kind of vinyl.  A really poor quality vinyl, apparently, which is disintegrating messily.  I’m guessing this is post-consumer waste, but maybe making infrastructure of such rapidly degrading material isn’t a very practical use, even of waste products, after all.

We stuck the now-useless toe cage into Basil’s saddle bag and headed onward.

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We hadn’t noticed previously that this underpass was lit; a lot of work has been done at this point on the trail so the lights may be truly new, not just new to us.

The trip from the Exton commerce park parking lot to King of Prussia and back is just over 22 miles; a perfect mid-week exercise run.  I made a note to pick up some thread-locker before the next outing; it’s possible to ride using just one toe cage, but the experience is a bit odd.

Categories: My Brompton Tags:

Litter Run

Last weekend I joined up with a few members of a couple of area bike clubs to do some road clean-up in Valley Forge Park.

a6-sBasil didn’t come with me; I live too far away to ride to the site.  As a result, I had the opportunity to explore a little while waiting for the cyclists to arrive.

a6-trThe original date had been the previous week, but postponed because of rain.  This Sunday was beautiful; a perfect day for a ride, actually.  Or for litter-picking, as it turned out.

a6-bd2There were signs that spring is well and truly on the way.  Birds were nattering like crazy all over the place, too.

This section of Pennsylvania is known for its covered bridges.  They are charming things in all sorts of shapes and sizes, mostly cobbled together sturdily, but rather crudely.

a6-cbThis one is in Valley Forge Park, historic site of an infamous winter during the Revolutionary War.  The park itself, though beautiful, is a major traffic route, too.

a6-otI don’t know if there is a typical covered bridge, in terms of architecture or style.  I like the open-work on the side of this one; it looks a bit like very sturdy lattice.

a6-inThe bridge is wooden, of course, but there’s a lot of hidden steel reinforcement going on, too.

a6-rdLarge bolts and a lot of steel rods are visible on the inside, though everything is painted over.

a6-bltThat’s a steel joint plate holding two beams together on the upper right.

a6-bmThe upper struts are purely functional, of course, but I think they have their own primitive beauty, too.

The driving surface is made of sturdy planks, just one lane wide.

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The original use would have been by  horses, buggies, and wagons, of course, not multi-ton SUVs.

On the litter crew, we picked up mostly cigarette butts and the occasional beer bottle, but also discovered this rather unusual bit:

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My litter partner and I initially couldn’t figure out what it was, but I noticed that the word “spreader” was imprinted on one arm:  That was all the clue we needed.  We looked to the heavens, and this is what we spied:

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Yep,it was  a utility line spreader, all right.  I wonder how often they fall off? Those open ended hooks look a little suspect, and we know they lost at least one.

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Here were the fruits of our labor.  It wasn’t  much, really, especially considering that this was the end of winter, during which there had been no litter collection.

It was a little discouraging to see how many people still think its just fine to throw tobacco butts (including plastic-tipped small cigar butts) out a vehicle window — filled as they are with carcinogenic chemicals captured by the filters (the rest are in the lungs of the smoker, of course; that’s pollution of a different kind).

a6-edMost people, though, are kind to this stretch of road, and to the park in general.  In fact, it looked so good when we arrived that I wondered what we’d do as we walked along.  As it turned out, there was plenty of debris to salvage; in the end, we knew the area was actually just as clean as it looked.  It was a good few hours’ work.

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags:

First April Progressive

April 15th, 2014 5 comments

We’ve already been on the second, but I’m behind on posting and racing to catch up.   We met up with Tim, of the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia, on the first Saturday in April, for the first in his new series of progressive rides,  beginning with 25 miles/40.2 km, and adding ten miles/16 km further each week.

a5-ltCatching an early train means lots of exposure to golden light.  Also, plenty of room on the train for Brompton bicycles and gear. (But of course, there always is!)

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This particular ride turned out to be an excellent one for train-spotting.  We rode alongside this freight train, which was passing through the city, on our way from the Amtrak station to our meeting point on the Schuylkill River Trail.

a5-frThe weather is warming up, so the crowd at the entrance to the Azalea garden was larger than it has been.  Tim got every one oriented as the morning mist began to lift.

ar-mtOn the way, we passed a regional rail train, too, just like the one we’d taken to Philadelphia, though this one was running a different route.

a5-stThat nearest patch of rail was a bit disconcerting; that’s an impressive wash-out, just feet from the rail that is actually in use.

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Though that’s a lovely reflection in the water.

Our destination was the Outbound Station, just off the Schuylkill Trail in Conshohocken.  Coffee, treats, nice people, and lots of bicycle-themed decorations on the walls.

a5-obThe wind sock outside did not cooperate.  It was almost horizontal when I realized that I should be aiming my camera; this shot lacks the dramatic wind-strength illustration I was hoping to capture.

a5-wsAt Shawmont, on the way back, the crossing bars dropped, bells rang, and we waited for another regional train to pass.

a5-shAt one time, canals were as important as trains to transport in the area.  (And, at one time, trains were a lot more important, too.)  We often see attempts to burnish business along the waterway, not all (or perhaps even most) successful.

a5-rtLovely, newish, canopies by the water here, but in spite of the effort, this still appears to be an abandoned building.

The tow-paths have been re-purposed more effectively, as our own excursion demonstrated.

a5-tpThe winds were a bit fierce on this trip.  That was quite rewarding on the trip out, but Dr. Diarist and I both struggled a bit on the return.  It’s good training, though, so we merely noted the conditions and carried on.a5-30

Basil and Argyll were unaffected; wind means nothing to a sturdy little Brompton.  They were in fine shape, post-ride, all set to board the train home.  (Those Mini-O bags are getting a workout on these rides, and what a pleasure they are! )  As a rule, Dr. Diarist and I do not wear so well, but we went home quite happy just the same.

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Spring (Grocery) Shopping

April 13th, 2014 3 comments

Spring may happen!  Basil and I celebrated this cheery thought by running a few errands in a (mostly) ice-free world.

a4-shWe always gravitate toward the granny smith apples for an indoor shot.  Wonder why? (Something about that wonderful color .  .  .  )

a4-chBasil’s T bag was roughly half-full when I’d finished shopping:  giant carton of lettuce mix (about a pound’s worth in weight); bananas; cheese; five pounds of bread flour; yeast; a pound of almond flour and a couple of other things I can’t remember.

Altogether, the groceries added up to 12 pounds/5.4 kilograms.  I weighed it all when I got home, since I was curious to know what the weight was, compared to riding without any appreciable cargo.  Also, this was the first time I’d hauled six pounds of various flours.

a4-tbHere’s the thing about a Brompton bicycle, though: because the luggage is attached to a block on the frame of the bike, all the weight is carried there.  Steering is unaffected:  Move those handlebars, and the luggage has no effect at all on balance.  Brilliant!

I’m not well-coordinated, nor particularly strong.  If my bike used a traditional handlebar basket, I’d be lucky to be able to wrangle two pounds of cargo (less than a kg!).

a4-bgEven a partially-full T bag looks ungainly — but looks are deceptive.  Basil and I breezed home.

a4-gnNot without stopping, however, to admire the slight hints of green which are now appearing everywhere.

Categories: My Brompton Tags:

Reporter Meets Bromptoneers, Survives

Businessweek published a terrific article about Bromptons a couple of days ago.  Our own NYCeWheels supplied a loaner Brompton bicycle to the reporter, and sent him off, jet-lagged, to meet the cyclists of The London Brompton Club. 

The best part?  Quotes from Andrew, partner of the famous (some say “legendary”) Brompton Bumble Bee. (There’s another one at the end of the article. Read it; you’ll be happy you did!)

“We treat them like children, babies, literally,” says Andrew Barnett, one of the club’s co-founders. “I dry the bike off before I dry myself off.”

There’s a quote, too, from Peter, at Basil’s (and Argyll’s) home shop:

“The Brompton folds smaller than any of the other models,” says Peter Yuskauskas, manager of NYCeWheels. And it rides well enough to compete with traditional road bikes, he says. “It’s kind of our perfect product.”

It’s a great article, and I admit I blushed when I read this paragraph (it was almost like looking into a mirror! totally unexpected self-recognition!):

In Windsor, whenever the London Brompton Club stops, there’s just enough time for me to catch up and remove another piece of clothing. The other riders dismount and take snapshots with their bikes in the foreground, as if they are on vacation and the bike is a partner.

I don’t know, this guy sounds a little surprised.  Also, he’s put “cult” in the headline, viz.: “The Cult of Brompton Folding Bikes”.  Wonder what he means by that?

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags:

Whitford Station

As part of our Errandonnée explorations, Basil and I took the train to an unfamiliar stop.

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Here’s Basil, all set to board the train.  Is it wrong that one of the benefits of riding a Brompton is the sheer pleasure of observing, over and over, what a beautiful thing — aesthetically and engineering-wise — is a Brompton?

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There’s a wonderful old trestle at this very small station.  (Obviously, I’m predisposed to love metal .  .  .  )

And, hence, a long climb up to or down to those tracks.  Many of the train stations in the area specialize in inaccessibility; this one would be pre-eminent in that class.

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It’s not surprising that there are no shoulders on the road; that, too, is commonplace in this area, but then there’s that sidewalk-to-nowhere at the bottom of the stairs.

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Passengers who disembark on this side of the tracks find themselves stranded and facing a rather infelicitous jaunt to the parking lot, which is around to the back, under the tracks, behind the scene shown here.

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Though this area isn’t very pedestrian-  bicycle-, or disability-friendly, there are some compensations, like unexpected, pretty, little views of meandering creeks and small bits of untouched woods.

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Basil enjoys the views, too.  We spent a moment hoping this would be the last snow we’d see this year.  (Fruitlessly, I might add.)  Endless winter or not, it was still a lovely day for a ride, and we both went home well-satisfied.

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