Luggage Release Loop on a Brompton

December 15th, 2014 10 comments

The luggage block on a Brompton, like so much on the bicycle, is sheer genius.  It places the weight of front luggage on the frame, which means that there’s no destabilization when turning, even when carrying substantial weight.


But it can be a little inconvenient to reach under a bag to pull the release lever.  Fortunately, the lever has a channel running through it — it’s that little circle on the lever, below the block, modelled above by Argyll.


I added a cord loop to the release on Basil’s luggage block.  It loops around his stem, stays completely out of the way, and makes it much easier for me to release a bag.


The cord is run through from opposite sides, and knotted on each side.  In a belt-and-suspenders move, I also stitched the loose ends to the loop.

Viola!  Pull the loop and release the bag; no fumbling under the luggage required.  This might not be a big deal for many people, but my runty little arms really appreciate the more convenient reach.  It’s speedier, too.


I saw this nifty fix when I followed a link from a discussion of Brompton luggage.  Poster trrubicon06 made a far more elegant one (using actual hardware; his Brompton may be an older one without the channel in the release lever).  Check it out here:  trrubicon06′s Brompton luggage release.

Categories: Gear, Luggage Tags:

This was a happy discovery . . .

December 12th, 2014 2 comments

Basil’s home-made bottle holder accommodates a paper coffee cup:


I ran out of hands while picking up drinks for two recently.  Basil to the rescue!

The bottle holder is made from a stroller/pushchair accessory, details here.

Categories: Gear Tags:

Shirk’s Bike Shop

December 9th, 2014 No comments

Almost in the middle of nowhere — well, actually in East Earl, Pennsylvania — is an amazing bike shop.  Located in the rolling hills of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Shirk’s is in an area populated by Mennonite and Amish families.  It’s not uncommon here to see horse-drawn buggies, and men, women, and children getting around on bicycles and scooters, as modern conveniences are shunned by many members of these groups.


I’d gone past Shirk’s when participating in a couple of cycling events.  Shirk’s is closed on Sunday, not surprisingly, but water in coolers and snacks were left out for cyclists who were passing by during those events.  I’d wondered about a bike shop that would provide refreshment to cyclists during hours when it wasn’t even open.

A couple of months ago I saw a woman wearing a fluorescent helmet with the features I wanted, and asked where she’d gotten it.  “Shirk’s” she said, and that was the impetus I needed to finally check the shop out.  Also, Lancaster County is beautiful, and the drive through it, particularly when it’s not tourist season, can be very rewarding.

shr-tlIt turns out that Shirk’s has the stock density of an old-time urban hardware store, but without the space limitations.  Looking for bike tools?  Shirk’s has everything from the basics to all kinds of very modern mcro-multi-tools.

shr-t2Want a quality saddle?  Shirk’s carries Brooks, Bontrager, Selle Anatomica, Terry, and more — and a full selection of women’s and smaller sizes, too.shr-sdThere’s plenty of spandex for men, women, and children, along with baskets, grips, cell phone mounts and all kinds of bike accessories. And bikes themselves.  Lots and lots of bikes; it’s an entire warehouse, in fact.


No Bromptons, though; if you live in East Earl, your need for a folding bike is probably minimal.  If your buggy breaks down, presumably you ride the horse home.  (If your horse gets into trouble, presumably that’s a whole different issue.)

shr-b2Old school approaches haven’t kept Shirk’s from adapting:  There are shelves of gels, bars, energy drinks and more.


Including a wall of helmets, which I failed to photograph because I was busy buying one.  The fellow who helped me expertly fitted mine, so I went home without dreading doing the sizing ineptly myself.


I also picked up a multi-tool, the women’s florescent, short-fingered cycling gloves I can’t find anywhere else, and another sunscreen skull cap for under my helmet.  A day’s work well done!

Shirk’s is a good distance from major population centers, but oh, what a drive!


That’s the view from the store’s parking lot, looking left, above.  Below is the view looking to the right.


Befitting its Mennonite origin, the store has no website; Shirk’s is one huge Internet secret. But when noodling around online for the address and directions, I did come across a great article about Shirk’s in Bicycling Magazine.  It’s very much worth a read.

The store’s address, which, happily, was included in the article, is:

Shirk’s Bike Shop
1649 Ligalaw Rd.
East Earl, PA 17519

Phone:  717/445-5731

There’s a large, active, repair shop on the premises; truing wheels is a speciality.  It’s kind of a dream bike shop — nearly perfect!  Well worth the trip; come during clement weather and explore the area, too.  There are tourist traps a-plenty in Lancaster County, but also hidden gems just like this one.

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags:

Argyll Gets Ergons

December 6th, 2014 No comments

(Can you say that fast?)  Thanks to a generous friend, whose Brompton is now sporting the Biokork version, Argyll and Dr. Diarist are enjoying new grips.

Except for that horrible moment when the original Brompton grips go under the knife, the procedure is fairly straightforward, and not otherwise emotionally traumatic.


Surgery and Brompton bicycles:  It just feels wrong. Nonetheless, the easiest way to remove the original Brompton foam is by cutting it.  Don’t score deeply; you don’t want a mark on the handlebars, even if you can’t see it.  Some standards should be observed.


Peeling the original foam slowly and evenly works pretty well.  Argyll’s left grip had hardly any adhesive beneath, but there was a broad band under the right one.

Getting the adhesive off the handlebar is the only challenging part of this little project.  The Ergons slip on pretty easily if most of the adhesive is removed.  I rubbed as much off as I could, then used household alcohol, sparingly applied with a microfiber rag, to soften the adhesive.


Then I went over the surface with a nylon kitchen scraper.  That got off most of the gunk; repeated applications of alcohol, and rubbing with the rag, did the rest.

There’s a 4mm bolt on the outer edge of the Ergon which will need loosening, but not by much, so that the grip can be slipped onto the handlebar.

Argyll’s grips are Ergon GP grips — probably the GP1 model.  These have to be cut down to fit on a Brompton M handlebar like Argyll’s.  You’ll want to measure carefully, but the cutting itself is easy to do with a utility knife, a mini-hacksaw or maybe a serrated kitchen knife.


On Argyll, a 2014 Brompton, the edge goes right up against the brake lever retention ring.  That’s a nicer look than on Basil – on the 2012 models, the edge of the brake lever blocks an evenly cut Ergon. (The grips could be cut to fit around the lever, but that seems like an excessive pain to me, and wouldn’t allow for any future adjustments in angle..)


It won’t matter if the edges aren’t cut perfectly smoothly, unless you find that sort of thing completely maddening.  (In which case, take special care when cutting, and use a pipe cutter to mark the line you cut along.)  Once flush against the brake supports, the edge will not be particularly visible.

Getting the angle right may take some tinkering, and may vary quite a bit from cyclist to cyclist. Argyll’s grips tip just slightly downward (Argyll has an H-type stem, which is taller than the standard model):


But Basil’s are at a much steeper angle (Basil’s handlebars have been pulled slightly forward):


It’s kind of amazing how the simplest projects become something else.  I had to remove Argyll’s Mirrycle mirror in order to install the Ergons.  That was a pain; the bolt was bent and had to be teased out of the handlebar.  Argyll had taken a fall in the past, and apparently there had been an internal injury we hadn’t noticed.


We bought a new mirror, and I replaced the bolt.  The crash wasn’t sufficient to break the glass on the original mirror, but the “protected” bolt bent anyway.  Curious, indeed! No matter; the issue was easily resolved. We like these mirrors very much; the Mirrcycle mountain bike mirror fits a Brompton perfectly, and can, if adjusted carefully, swing out of the way when the bicycle is folded.

Ergons come in various sizes; I’ve heard a rumor that there’s even a version that will fit Brompton M bars without requiring cutting.  When buying a model off the shelf at most bike shops, though, what you should know is that the paddle portion of the grip is sized — Argyll’s grips are size large, and Basil’s are small, reflecting the considerable difference in size between Dr. Diarist’s mitts and my own.  Choosing the right size will matter for optimal comfort.

Related, with a bit more detail about installation on Basil:

Basil Gets a Grip (or two)

Categories: Argyll, Gear Tags:

We Have a Winner!

December 5th, 2014 No comments

The “True Random Number Generator” at has chosen a winner of the drawing for the Vincita Sightseer bag:

sightseer-randomThe winner is commenter number 33: Alexandria.  Congratulations to Alexandria, and thanks to everyone who entered — and to Vincita for providing such a great prize!

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags:

The Deadline Looms!

December 3rd, 2014 No comments

12/5/2014:  The giveaway is now closed. 

Thanks to all who entered; the winner will be announced within the next day or two as soon as feasible.

As frequent commenter Saul has noted, the clock is ticking: There are just over 24 hours left to enter the drawing for the Vincita Sightseer Transport bag.


The drawing ends at midnight (USA EDT) on December 4, 2014!  Click here for details, and leave a comment if you’d like to be included!

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags:

A Brief Ride in New York State

December 2nd, 2014 No comments

After our Michigan trip, Basil and I spent a day at home and then headed for New York state.  The whole area is buried under snow now, but before Basil and I left we took a short ride on a new-to-us trail near Rochester, and got to experience autumn in yet another part of the country.


Having, unusually, failed to get a picture of the trail designator, I’m not sure exactly which one we rode on.  We passed through Irondequoit, and for much of the trail, paralleled a highway, which may or may not be 404/104.  Tech failures of various kinds mean that I can’t confirm much of anything about this trip right now.  (No kudos to Garmin Connect, which hates my Linux computer.*)


Parts of the route, therefore, were less scenic than they might have been, though there wasn’t much traffic in the afternoon, before the end of the work day.  This section of the trail system was built on an old rail bed; I don’t know if Monroe County cyclists use any part of it to commute to work.


We had only a short window for our ride, but this is my favorite time of day.  Or perhaps I should say “my favorite light of day” since evening comes early in winter in northern geographies, and it’s appearance that matters to me, not the temporal designation: long shadows and oh, those golds!


We turned around here, partly because I wasn’t sure where the trail went at this point, and because I had no lights on Basil.  I’m assuming these roadways are flooded with vehicles during commute hours, but they certainly look oddly unused in these photos.  Build a highway and they will come?


Turning back meant a short course on a smaller street, and encountering this sign, the counterpoint to another regional one we saw in Northern Michigan.  There are streams, lakes and bays everywhere here; it’s nice to see that waterfowl are looked after.


That’s the bike path, to the right — just a strip of nicely-done asphalt, making it an easy route for riders of all abilities.  The sign, set confusingly exactly between the highway and the path, says “NO PEDESTRIANS OR BICYCLES”, which, presumably, refers to the highway.  Otherwise, there would be no point to the path at all, right?


We did pass a small glen, still bursting with greenery and flowers, and enjoyed the evergreens all along the highway.  Basil and I much prefer urban street-scapes or scenic views to riding along multi-lane roads, but any trail is OK with us, and much better than no trail at all.

*Dr. Diarist, a Computer Guy, is on the case, but not until he’s sorted out a  massive re-organization of the essential equipment that makes our technical lives run.  Shoemaker’s children and all that.  It’s all good; gotta have an infrastructure!

Vincita Sightseer Giveaway!

Remember:  the Sightseer Giveaway is still on until midnight (USA EDT) December 4, 2014!  Click here for details, and leave a comment if you’d like to be in the drawing.

Categories: Travel Tags:

We Go to Town

November 30th, 2014 1 comment

We took one last short ride before departing from Northern Michigan, and stopped in at downtown Traverse City. At Backcountry North, Basil checked out the arctic parkas while I bought a pair of merino wool glove liners.  (My choice was the better one for cycling!)

tt-cndThen we stopped in at our favorite bookstore for a cup of chai.

gt-cfHorizon Books is a wonderful independent bookstore, with an excellent selection of new releases; an intelligent and broad core stock; a vast and well-culled children’s section; an extensive selection of local books (and books by local authors); and a beautifully-stocked “used” section downstairs, along with a coffee bar (on the main floor) and a coffee shop (on the lower level).

The view from the coffee bar looks out on to Front Street.

tt-exBut the view inside is rewarding, too.


Downstairs is a well-patronized gathering place for friends, games, reading clubs, author signings and music events.  Horizon is the community anchor for Traverse City’s charming downtown; the store (and its local owners) played a huge role in its revitalization many years ago when the area was in a slump.


Basil added bricks to the long list of surfaces he traveled over on this trip — and also participated in a demo outside Horizon when stopped by curious passersby.


We rode back along Grand Traverse Bay.  I’m probably biased, but I think Northern Michigan skies rate among the best anywhere.


It was too early in the season for the grass to have died; this is an insulating bed that’s been laid next to an extension of the trail along the bay.


The sky was roiling, but the bay was quiet.


We left as the last of fall was dwindling.  Until the snow comes, though, there is always a little bit of color everywhere — and varied textures, too, across the landscape.


The newest section of the Traverse Area Recreation Trail, which leads from downtown towards Suttons Bay, ended suddenly.  Did the crew stop in a concession to the impending winter?  It seemed an odd choice of termination.


We rode on and paid one final visit to the yellow caboose on the Leelanau Trail, having come from a different direction then previously.  Soon it was time to pack up and continue our travels elsewhere.

Vincita Sightseer Giveaway!

Remember:  the Sightseer Giveaway is still on until midnight (USA EDT) December 4, 2014!  Click here for details, and leave a comment if you’d like to be in the drawing.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Vincita Sightseer Giveaway

November 26th, 2014 33 comments

12/5/2014:  The giveaway is now closed. 

Thanks to all who entered; the winner will be announced within the next day or two as soon as feasible.

Yesterday I reviewed the Vincita Sightseer Brompton transport bag.  (Read the review here.) Vincita sent a bag for me, but also provided a second Sightseer to give away.

st-bgThis is a terrific set, and I’m really happy to have the chance to share it with a reader.  Here’s how the drawing will go:

  1. The contest is open to anyone with a shipping address within the continental USA, meaning that the winner could live elsewhere, but I will ship only to the contiguous continental states (ie, not to Hawaii, Alaska, or — sorry! — the rest of the world).
  2. Leave a comment on this post before midnight (Eastern US DST) on Thursday, December 4, 2014.  Be sure to put a valid email address in the email field where you write your comment.  (Don’t put your email address in the comment itself; use the field so that it won’t be published.)
  3. Comments will be numbered in the order they are received. Only one entry per person, please; duplicates will be discarded.
  4. At the close of the entry period, a random number generator will select the winner, according to the numerical order.
  5. I’ll send the winner an email requesting the shipping address, and I’ll get the Sightseer off as soon as possible.
  6. The winner will have 48 hours from the time I send the email to respond.  If no response is received within that time, another drawing will be held and the Sightseer will go to the winner of the second drawing.

That’s it — good luck to all!

Categories: Gear Tags:

Vincita Sightseer Transport Bag

November 25th, 2014 15 comments

There’s a never-ending and vigorous debate amongst Brompton owners about the best way to travel with our bicycles when packing them is essential.  No one method suits all, with minimalists going for slipping their Bs into IKEA’s Dimpa shopping bag or the equivalent, and maximalists going tor super-pricey hard cases — with many methods in-between.


Until my most recent trip, I have always travelled with Basil un-shrouded, but I knew the day would come when I wanted either more protection for him or stealth packaging, so that it wasn’t obvious that I was travelling with a Brompton.  I was quite interested, then, when the Vincita company contacted me and offered to send their new made-for-Brompton Sightseer Transport Bag to me for review.


I found the Sightseer very easy to use.  To place a Brompton in the Sightseer bag, you undo the zipper all the way, and fold the padded sides down, around the exterior.  It was tricky dropping Basil in at first, but the second time was easier, and the third time quite easy.  It’s helpful to grasp the folds at the top edge, and give a gentle shake as you settle the Brompton into the bottom of the bag.

A firm base supports the bottom of the bag, and extends up the narrower sides — something I particularly appreciated, as Basil’s rear rack benefits from the additional security the hard base provides.  Hook-and-loop straps (that’s the X you see above) make it possible to secure the bike so that it won’t shift within the bag.


Basil’s bigger than a lot of Bromptons:  I frequently take long rides with him, so I don’t remove his somewhat extensive collection of gear when we travel.  My handlebars are customized so that they lean in toward me when I ride, which means that Basil is wider than usual when folded.  He has a rear rack with Eazy Wheels, a saddle bag that I don’t remove, Ergons, Zefal toe cages, and a squishy water bottle holder that also adds a little bulk.



I wondered if my encumbered Brompton would fit into the Brompton-specific Sightseer; he did, perfectly.  His handlebars do cause a slight bulge, though, which can be seen to the right, below.  That wouldn’t be an issue for most Bromptons, and wasn’t a problem for the Sightseer, either.


The Sightseer isn’t just one bag, actually, but two: an outer case, and an inner sleeve that drapes over the folded Brompton.  That’s the inner sleeve, below.  There are three pockets:  one on each side, and one across the top.  When packed, the sides provide some protection for the bike.  The sleeve drops down to about axle level on a Brompton, and I found that I was able to pack all my biking-specific clothing in the three pockets.  The shoulder strap allows the sleeve to be carried like a garment bag, worn cross-body, or hung up in a closet.


I was not only able to wrap the packed sleeve over Basil, but also managed to tuck my biking shoes and a week’s worth of clothing — I’m a smallish person, your mileage may vary — in and around Basil’s lower bits, beneath the sleeve.  (Featherweight packing cubes are perfect for this job.) Those stuff-able spaces meant that the Sightseer was the only bag I needed for my Brompton and all of my clothing.  The packing cubes also provided more padding for Basil, though if I were gate-checking him on a plane, I’d do something more formal about protecting projecting parts.


The Sightseer rolls on large wheels, which are partially recessed.  I found that it moves easily and well, but people my height (5’2″/157.5 cm) and/or with shorter arms like mine may find it inconvenient to roll the bag far, particularly if it is packed heavily, since the angle might not be maximally efficient for easy pulling.  This would not be an issue for most people, though.


The pull handle is adjustable, and Dr. Diarist, with long arms and greater height, found it easier to roll than I did, as he was able to pull the bag at a more acute angle.  Supporting struts along the bottom of the bag ensure that it doesn’t sag; they support the fully-packed bag and Brompton quite effectively.


Optionally, the bag can be worn on a shoulder; straps are provided, and tuck away into zippered pockets on each side of the Sightseer, so they are out of the way when not needed.


For maximum convenience, Vincita has added a buckle onto the shoulder pad, so that the two straps can be clipped together, preventing them from slipping apart when worn.  Clever!


I’m quite impressed with the construction of both the bag and the sleeve. The zippers move easily and appear strong sturdy; stitching, and the stitched exterior straps which strengthen the bag are well-placed and neatly done.

There are thoughtful touches everywhere like tabs at the ends of the zipper, so that there’s something to grab onto when closing the bag.


The padded pull handle has a buckle, allowing it to separate so that the bag’s zipper can be more easily accessed.


The sleeve has protective corners, which help keep its shape, and should ensure long wear.


A selling point is that the Sightseer and packed sleeve can be ported on the back of a Brompton, held in place with bungee cords.  There’s a loop on the back to hold the bungees in place.


That might be practical under certain circumstances, in a world where, for instance, security requirements might allow someone to ride right up to an airport.  (That can be done in the USA, but it’s not common, and probably not possible at all airports.)  It’s not a feature I’d ever use, but may be one that others would be pleased to exercise.


Here’s Basil with the Sightseer (and hidden sleeve) attached to his rear rack.  The bag widens his profile a bit, but not hugely beyond his M handlebars; it would be important to remember that extra width when riding, though.

I wasn’t sure how useful I would find this system, but I was surprised at how much I liked using the Sightseer, and how simple it made packing and transporting my Brompton.  As a stealth tool, and a solo bag which covered both my cycling and my clothing needs for the duration, it proved a great solution.  It’s one I’ll depend on again and again!

One thing does need changing, though in my opinion:  I don’t want to travel with an obvious bicycle logo on the side of my luggage.  I’d like to see this bag made available without the (admittedly appealing!) bicycle graphic.

I feel so strongly about this that I sewed a flap over the logo before I travelled with the bag; I don’t particularly want to advertise that Basil may be alone in my hotel room on the occasions when I can’t have him by my side.  (I left the Vincita logo, though; it’s discreet, and anyone who guesses what the bag is might be very happy to know where they can find one!)

The other suggestion I’d offer to Vincita is to include a card which explains the features of the bag.  I didn’t notice the hook-and-loop straps, for instance, until I’d used the bag a couple of times.  The Sightseer is feature-rich; I think Vincita should capitalize on all those details — and ensure that owners will use and appreciate them by spelling them out in detail.

The price, in US dollars, is a quite reasonable $159.00; Vincita is in Thailand, so shipping cost to some parts of the world could be an issue.  However, Urban Bike Fitters, in Oregon Fremont, California, is a Vincita dealer, so they might be a possible source for USA residents, and there is an extensive range of global Vincita stockists.

Disclaimer, and a Giveaway!

Vincita  provided the Sightseer and its internal sleeve to me at no cost; keep this in mind if you think that may have influenced my review!  Vincita also sent a second set so that I could give it away to a reader; I’ll be paying the cost to ship it to a winner within the continental USA.  Details of how the giveaway will work will be posted tomorrow, and I will add the link HERE once that post is up.

Categories: Gear, Luggage Tags: