Spring Approaches!

February 25th, 2015 1 comment

Or at least must be on the way:  MG has announced the dates for this year’s Errandonnee.  Mark your calendar:  March 5, 2015 to March 16, 2015.


For the uninitiated, the Errandonnee is an eccentric event designed to get people out and about on bicycles, doing ordinary things that perhaps might otherwise be done using a planet-destroying motor vehicle.

There are rules, which are sometimes peculiar, and always entertaining.  There are records, which participants must file.  There is reporting, at the end, with maps, and a spreadsheet.  And, for finishers, there has traditionally been a small premium in the form of a commemorative patch, which some of us covet.  (That’s 2014′s, above.)

Details have been promised, once this year’s rules have been finalized, and will appear on MG’s blog, Chasing Mailboxes.  Gentlemen, gentlewomen and gentlepersons of all sorts, prepare to shift your pedals!

Categories: Errandonnee, Events Tags:

Accessory Mount for a Brompton

February 20th, 2015 6 comments

When I added my custom water bottle holder to my Brompton bicycle, the straps took up the space I’d used for my GPS, which formerly rested on the lower part of Basil’s M handlebar.


A lot of diligent searching turned up the accessory bar that my Garmin is attached to in the photo above.  I found it buried on a rack in a small plastic bag at a brick-and-mortar bike shop, without much in the way of distinctive labelling.

This little device is as simple as it can be:  just a tube that connects with a loop to the handlebars; the “clock face” you see above is the connector for the Garmin.  It’s a Profile Design New Universal Computer Mount (model ACUCMXL1, according to the package).


This compact bar installs without tools and stays in place flawlessly.  For my small Garmin, it was a perfect fix.

Do beware that there are two sizes:  I think it likely that mine is the XL (60mm); a Brompton’s bars are relatively thick.  In a burst of unusual efficiency, I tossed the wrapper before double-checking. (The “XL” in the model code above may be a clue.)


This is what I see when riding — a pretty sleek cockpit!  If anything, my GPS is even a little more accessible than it was.  At around $10 (USD), I am very pleased with this device.

It may be hard to find:  The link above is to Amazon because I couldn’t locate it on the Profile Design website, which lacks a useful search function.  Poking around at every random LBS you are near could pay off, though — it always does for me!

Categories: Gear Tags:

5 Boro Tour: Registered!

February 3rd, 2015 4 comments

We may not be getting much cycling done around here, but we’re looking to the future.  Basil and Argyll (and Dr. Diarist and I) are registered for the 5 Boro Tour, set for May 3, 2015.5borotRegistration was an arduous process; it took nearly two hours to complete, with constant failures along the way.  (In other words, it took more than half the time it takes to ride the Tour itself!)

This will be Basil’s third 5 Boro, and Argyll’s second:  It’s an absolutely fabulous ride through all five of New York City’s boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island) and across a variety of bridges.  Best of all, roads are closed to cars (though you do have to do battle with 32,000 other riders of radically varying skill levels).

Judging from the apologetic notes sent out by the registration group, we weren’t the only ones pained by the process on Day 1 of registration.  Since, though, all slots are sold out except for VIP spots, so the bugs must have been addressed before too many people gave up.

The remaining (and pricey) VIP level includes a $76  donation to Bike New York, so there’s that, if you itemize. But the experience, as they say, is priceless:  When else are you ever going to be able to fly down a NYC expressway, unimpeded by motor vehicles, and under your own (and your Brompton’s) power?

Categories: 5 Boro Tour, Events Tags:

No Visible Means of Support

January 18th, 2015 5 comments

I love taking photos of Basil and his sidekick Argyll.  Sometimes it’s tricky to find something to lean them against, though, and sometimes I get a little bored with the uright folded pose, with the Brompton rear wheels tucked under.

ks-blSo I was intrigued when I ran across the Click-Stand, a portable kickstand meant for bikes without integral stands.  Our Bromptons don’t need them to remain upright, but I thought this might be a good tool for photos.


It’s basically a rod that lets a bike “stand” without requiring any hardware.  It looks like a promising solution for a lot of bikes, but I was a little dubious about how this would work for a Brompton, so I sent a question along to the company.

Tom sent back a picture showing a Click-Stand in use on a Brompton, but set in the middle of the cross bar.   The bike’s frame slips into the cradle, and then geometry does the rest.  (It’s critical to put the foot on solid ground; Click-Stand offers a bigger food for mushier situations.)


I use ours in the underseat triangle, though, to minimize the chance of slipping.

ksbslstGetting the angle right is crucial, too, for good support.  That’s Basil, above, standing tall using the Click-Stand, and Argyll, below, ditto.


The Click-Stand is available in custom sizes (instructions on the website), and folds up compactly for carrying on a bike or in a bag. Following the website instructions, I ordered the Mini-4 with a contact height of 19.25 inches and the x-large cradle size.  (These measurements may be different if the Click-Stand is used elsewhere on the Brompton frame.)

The Click-Stand comes with restraints to hold brakes in place while using the device.  That’s critical; if the bike rolls with the Click-Stand in place, over it goes!   The loops supplied weren’t long enough to go over Basil’s Ergons and across the brake levers, so I improvised my own, which were not as powerful as the ones that came with the Click-Stand.

My improvisation was a huge fail; the brakes slipped and Basil . . . well, let’s just say I hope he’s forgiven me.

Now I use a vinyl-wrapped wire cable tie, and wrap it well around the brake lever and the grip.  Works a treat.


The Click-Stand is a little fiddly, and does require some careful placement on the ground, but it’s light and sleek, and I like the options it offers for photos.

(Incidentally, Click-Stand’s Tom is responsible for Argyll’s color scheme:  It’s the same one as in the Brompton photo Tom sent to us.  We hadn’t seen that combination before, and Dr. Diarist liked it a lotAfter hours on the Configurator, it was amusing to have found Argyll’s colors in this most unexpected way!)

Categories: Gear Tags:

Not precisely on topic . . .

January 8th, 2015 9 comments

The last couple of months or so have been a bit unusual around here, and, as a consequence, poor Basil (and his blog) have suffered a (large!) measure of neglect.  Things are not yet back on track, but at least the various distractions are winding down.  It shouldn’t be too long before things settle, and, weather cooperating, Basil and I are back on the road again.


Our first and toughest challenge came when Sally, our little grey-and-white cat, suddenly developed diabetes, which proved uncontrollable, and a host of associated symptoms.  We lost her after a valiant fight to stabilize the disease.  She was, surprisingly, mostly un-fazed and un-bothered by her difficulties, fortunately, and her end was peaceful.  Our little herd numbers only four felines now; that’s quite a change, as all five had been with us for many years.

Then Dr. Diarist had a stretch of vacation time available, which he coupled with the various holidays, and we decided to dismantle most rooms of our home and put them back together in a configuration that best suits the way we use them now. That was a lot like moving house, but without, fortunately, the agony of actually packing.  I’m allergic to dust, though, and it turns out that when you don’t move floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for a decade, dust bunnies proliferate.  My lungs are gradually recovering; by the time we’ve finished with the house stuff I should be able to breathe normally again and put those pipes to the test on two wheels once again.


The Brompton Garage:  the only untouched room in the house.  The Brompton Brothers:  bored.

At any rate, we’re through the worst of it, and I’ll be back posting now, albeit perhaps a bit infrequently during the next few weeks.  By mid-February all should be resolved, and Basil and I (and Dr. Diarist and Argyll) should once again be as active as Bromptons, and riders, are meant to be — just in time for early spring!

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags:

Luggage Release Loop on a Brompton

December 15th, 2014 20 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 bikeforums.net 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 random.org 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: