My Brompton

Small Wheels, Long Wheelbase

A Brompton bicycle, despite its small wheels, rides very much like a “regular” bicycle.

The title of this post explains why. In 2004, Brompton elongated the wheelbase of their clever folder. As you can see, Basil fits right in with the big boys when it comes to frame length!

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Spring Mill to Phoenixville (The Missed Parking Lot Version)

So, in my inimitable way, I not only failed to find the meeting point for a Saturday club ride, but I also failed to find the one for a different group ride on the same weekend.  The second time around I was lucky, though, because Terri was also waiting in the same spot where Basil and I were patiently waiting for the rest of the group.

We were, as it turned out, on the wrong side of the tracks at the Spring Mill train station, but we didn’t know that until later. When the group didn’t materialize, Terri said “Do you want to go to Phoenixville?” Well, yes, I did! (But first I asked Terri if she could navigate . . . at least I’m beginning to understand my weaknesses!)

Terri was a great ride leader, and promised me that, if she got ahead of me, she’d wait along the trail until I turned up, so I wouldn’t get lost. Given my proclivities, that was very reassuring.

Terri started off at a robust 15 mph/24 kmh which had me worried.  I could keep that pace for a while, but I’d be dead as soon as we got to anything resembling an incline. Fortunately, we settled into a pace that worked well for both of us.

It was another stunningly beautiful day. I was thrilled that Terri and I didn’t have to miss the ride.  Terri confessed that she’d never gone this route before, except as a member of a cycling group.  Neither had I, and we were quite proud of ourselves for having been intrepid enough to give it a go. Terri kept saying that all we had to do was keep to the trail, but I knew better . . . at the end of the trail there’s always some other navigation involved, and that’s where my troubles begin.

Thanks to Terri, though, we made it to Steel City, and Basil took up his customary spot.

We ate lunch (Steel City has a nice way with food!) and then set off on the return trip, but not before I took a picture of the mural on the side of the coffeehouse.  (I had hoped to get a photo of the last cocoa of the season, but unfortunately forgot to ask for a mug; a styrofoam cup just doesn’t cut it as a memorial shot, I’m afraid. The mural will have to suffice.)

Steel City, indeed.  I like this mural; it reminds me of those of the 1930s WPA. Workers, unite! Or, if they’re not united these days, it’s a vivid reminder that making steel is not for wimps, and that our buildings, cars, and even bikes, come at a cost.

Terri and I had just left the main road on our way out of town when we spied our cycling group heading into town.  (The ride’s organizers are incredibly reliable people, so at this point we’d figured out that Terri and I had gone amiss, but we’d been a little concerned that something untoward had happened to the leaders.)

We stopped to chat for a minute, and considered finishing the ride with the gang, but Terri was pressed for time, and I wasn’t going to let her ride back alone — especially not after we’d just made it halfway through our first independent effort!

It’s people like this terrific group of riders, and inspiring leaders like Saul and Mike, who gave Terri and me the gumption to fly on our own.  Thanks, guys!  (And thanks, too, to Terri, without whose company I’d never have attempted to ride all the way to Phoenixville.) And thanks to the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia, which is where I met all these great people, and learned to ride ensemble!


A Globe Live, with Accoutrement

In New York City:

It’s a Specialized Globe Live 03, with some interesting accessories.  Made of wood and metal, this “Sweetie” basket also has a removable canvas liner.  It’s seen some use, too:  The owner has made some duct tape repairs on the side.

Love the wood accent with the metal, and the wooden base; the combination is reminiscent of early delivery trucks, with wooden slats on the beds.

There’s also an attached (and removable) net for keeping cargo in place.

Bells are coming into their own in the city cycling world, with more and more variations appearing.  This one’s unusual and quite beautiful:

I don’t know what it sounds like, though. I’ll photograph anything in detail, but I try to be quite respectful of others’ belongings, and I never handle the bikes I photograph.

This bicycle has Brooks grips, too:

Brooks saddles are beloved by many Brompton owners, thanks to their classic looks and comfortable, conforming ride.  I loved Basil’s stock saddle from the start, so I’ve never been tempted, but this saddle looks as good on this bicycle as it does on a Brompton:

The inimitable Brooks style is in evidence on the bar ends on this bike, too:

Here’s a close-up of the top bars on the frame:

I’ve read about these on Velouria’s blog, but this is the first one I’ve recognized on the hoof (or is that “on the wheel”?).  Nice lines, but I wonder if the increase in width is noticeable when cycling.

On a 36 F/2.2 C day the sheer quantity of bikes visible, and in use, on NYC streets was truly impressive.  A little bit of chill wasn’t impeding legions of cyclists.


Bike Shops, Springing Up All Over (NYC Version)

Bicycle Habitat, already in SOHO and Brooklyn, has opened a new store in Chelsea at 23rd and 7th; I happened across it the day after it opened, on my way elsewhere.

According to staff, this location will be primarily for accessories and shopwork.

Zen Bikes is close by at 134 W. 24th, and has responded to the new competition by shackling some shocking pink bicycles on either end of the block.

My favorite shop, NYCeWheels, is a world away on the Upper East Side, but I’ve got to believe that there’s enough business for most of these shops, at least right now, which is increasingly looking like a golden era in city cycling.


Another Linus-Spotting

Spotted in New York City:

Sweet ride, and lovely wicker basket.  I’m not tempted, though.  My Brompton is exactly the right bicycle for me!

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Cycling, Two by Two

When I arrived home early after having missed the connection for a group ride, Mr. Diarist suggested that he and I go for a cycle together. (These trails are a bit effete for Mr. D’s mountain bike; fortunately, it’s a good sport and was willing to come along anyway.)

This is most unusual; Mr. Diarist is embroiled in a huge project and generally chained to his desk 24/7 these days, so I jumped at the chance.

In the country, spring was bustin’ out all over, with green stuff beginning to peek through winter’s debris.

We rode under the bluest sky.

Love those rock formations:  Pennsylvania’s share of the earth’s crust is always awe-inspiring.

The creeks are still shallow, and very clear.

Basil and his sibling mountain bike posed, dappled, under some evergreens, and then we headed back home.

But not without capturing a few wildflowers along the way.

And daffodils, naturally, who are always among the first of spring’s volunteers.

Mr. Diarist captured this photo of a post-winter tree in a park we passed through

and these buds, too.

So the re-awakening begins . . . now that I’m acclimated to winter riding, though, I wonder if I’ll miss the cold, crisp air of the previous months.  We’ll see.  And if I do?  Well, that’s the wonderful thing about seasons, isn’t it?  The next one is always just around the corner!

Gear My Brompton Water Bottle Sagas

Bar-ista on a Brompton

The Camelback bottle I’m wearing is working really well, but I need to be able to carry more water on longer rides, and I’d rather not wear the water belt on shorter ones.  While wandering around the Internet, I read about the Bar-ista, made by Portland Design Works.

Leaving aside the whole question of why you’d ride a bicycle with a cup of coffee (rather than a closed mug) on your handlebars, it occurred to me that I might be able to make this work for my Brompton. It’s simple, sleek, and all-metal (!).  So I bought one.

When it arrived, I realized that, to use it on a Brompton, I would have to unscrew the loop, and re-install the clamp upside down.  Then I mounted it on Basil’s handlebars — making sure, of course, to cut a piece of inner tube to put between the clamp and his handlebars.

The supplied clamp screw was too short to allow the clamp to go around my Brompton’s bar, so I found a longer one at a hardware store, along with the wing nut I’d need so that I could swivel the holder out of the way when folding Basil.

My Brompton has the M bars, so I installed the holder at the bottom, near the stem.

I’d read that people complained that coffee cups could fall through the Bar-ista, so I added a mesh bag that is part of my travel gear.  (It’s ostensible purpose is to allow me to carry liquids attached to my suitcase handle.  It works, too, but Basil’s need is greater.) The mesh pouch is attached by cable ties.

I had to place the cup holder carefully, so that using the wing nut would not interfere with my Brompton’s cables.  I do have to be dexterous, but it’s amazingly easy to flip the holder up so that it aligns with the handlebars.

The impact on the sleekness of Basil’s fold is almost non-existent.

The mesh pouch tucks into the ring. It tends to stay in place, but even if it didn’t, it’s small enough that it wouldn’t matter if it flipped out when Basil is folded.

If I do choose to leave the holder flipped out when my Brompton is folded, I can put my water bottle back into the ring, which means I don’t have to carry it separately when lifting Basil.  This is especially nice when boarding trains.

A skinny water bottle is required.  This Sigg fits perfectly, and is easy to lift in and out while I’m riding.  However, the cable ties were not kind to that lovely matte finish on the black Sigg, so I bought an unfinished stainless Sigg to use instead; it won’t matter if its surface gets dinged and scratched a bit. (The second Sigg is in the photo above.)

As of this writing, I’ve only tried this kit on a short run; a longer test is in the works.  But so far, I’m very pleased.

I’ve also discovered that the mesh pocket, when not in use, behaves like a wind sock sometimes, which is quite amusing (but doesn’t slow me down a bit.)


Cargo, for Three

I’m fascinated by cargo bikes.  Mind you, I don’t have one, and don’t want one, but I think they’re amazing vehicles.

This one has room for at least three people — four, probably, if the third and fourth are smallish.  There’s the child carrier on the back, the flat padded seat behind the cyclist, which can probably fit two children, and the cyclist himself/herself. Cargo goes in the basket, of course, but the padding can be removed, and stuff can also placed on the rack in back, when it’s not necessary to transport kids.

What I haven’t figured out is where New Yorkers store these monsters.  I’m often in Brooklyn, where it’s not uncommon to have small yards, but in Manhattan? Surely these giants aren’t being carted up flights of stairs for the night?  Or are they?


A Linus Bicycle, Accessorized, in New York City

Traveling can be bad for cycling, but it still can offer some great opportunities for bicycle-spotting that I don’t have when on my home turf.  There are bicycles where I spend most of my time, but not many, and, except at events, the concentration tends to be light.  This is not true of New York City, where biking is enjoying an astonishing renaissance.

For some reason, I find myself drawn to Linus bikes.  There’s something about their lines that attract me; they’re retro, but a certain kind of retro mixed with something sleek and contemporary that in no way mitigates the vintage feel.

I was astonished to see this beautiful, matching Billykirk leather pouch left on the bike in a city where even the grottiest, most damaged, and filthiest bikes seem to require ten pound padlocks to ensure that their owners can reunite with them at the end of the day.

The basket is a wooden-based Wald. Wald has been making bike baskets for decades and decades and their classic styles are also enjoying new life on contemporary streets.

That brass bell is a classic, too, beautiful, and, I know well, possessed of a lovely, long-ringing tone.

The owner of this particular turned up shortly — no surprise, that — as I was snapping these photos, and said that, so far, leaving the pouch on the bike hadn’t been a problem. (I’m guessing she measures her time away from her Linus in nanoseconds.)

Then she looked at me suspiciously and asked me why I wasn’t riding my own bike, clearly having pegged me for the kind of wimp who wouldn’t ride in 32 degree weather and/or in NYC.  (Do you think the camera was a clue?)  I murmured that this particular trip was incompatible with traveling with Basil, and went on my way.  She’s hardcore, and was clearly unconvinced . . .


Civic Improvements

One of our local towns is far more inclusive than I’d realized. They’re apparently building a Wolf Park.

Wait, they’re even more progressive than I thought:  It’s a Wolf Park for wolves who’ve had their feet amputated!

But, apparently, it’s also for wolves with very, very good teeth. Just makes you want to go out and play, doesn’t it?!

(I kind of like the effort on display here, and, admittedly, it made me stop. But perhaps it’s wasn’t meant to be interesting for the reasons I found it so . . . )