Basil Gets a Grip (or two)

Basil is a 2012 M6R Brompton; his original grips were the improved ones — improved, that is, over the previous version.  I hadn’t loved the grips I used when I test-rode an older Brompton, but the foam grips that were part of Basil’s original equipment were much better.  Fatter toward the end of the handlebar, and leaner toward the middle, they were quite comfortable.

On the longest rides, though, I found myself wanting to vary my hand position more than I could, easily, using these original grips.  Specifically, I wished that I had a comfortable place to rest the heel of my hand.

A conversation with a Brompton owner in New York — and the ability to see an alternative in person, on a Brompton — convinced me to try a pair of Ergon GP1-S grips.

I was very nervous about altering Basil’s set-up; I like retaining original equipment. But, to some extent, even the marvelous machine that is a Brompton is somewhat a work in progress. If something can add to comfort and utility, then there is probably no good reason not to try it.  Or so I told myself as I made that first terrifying cut beneath Basil’s old grips.

Worst case scenario, I could put another OEM pair back on, right?

The old grips separated pretty easily; I was able to pull them off with little trouble.The Ergons were 13 cm long, but the space available on Basil’s handlebar — up to where the brakes attach beneath — was only 10 cm. So I assembled the tool kit below (along with a ruler — I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without a ruler) and got to work.

That’s a pipe-cutter on the left. You can’t cut an Ergon grip with a pipe-cutter, but you can draw (or lightly cut, if you prefer that description) a neat line around the grip, which can then be followed by either the box cutter or the kitchen knife. (Mr. Diarist may or may not know about my penchant for multi-purposing kitchen tools.)

I measured each grip twice, then marked the surface 3 cm from the end.  By carefully retaining the rounded shape of the grip, I was able to score the rubber (vinyl?) more deeply that I had thought possible, which was a help when moving to the next step.

Then I used the box cutter to deepen the cut.  Someone more dexterous than I could probably make clean work of this with a box-cutter alone, but I finished up with the kitchen knife, which was easier for me to use at the end.

Next time, I’ll probably be able to make a cleaner edge, but this wasn’t a bad result for a first time try.  Sliding the Ergons onto the handlebar took some work; the grips are held in place by a metal band at the end, which is screwed tight.  (But  not too tight — if you have a torque wrench, you can set it to the proper newton degree.  Care is advised when tightening; some reviewers have popped the screw heads off, but that’s probably avoidable.)  I tossed a 4 mm allen wrench into Basil’s saddle bag; it should be no problem if I need to make future adjustments.

Re-installing my Mirrcycle mirror was simpe, and that was all there was to it.

So far, I’ve only done a short experimental run with these — just enough to check that they are secure, and to test the initial angle setting.  I like the feel, and I think they will do exactly what I hoped they would in terms of providing greater options for positioning my hands.

It’s been storming here, so my opportunities to ride have been few; I’m hoping to give these a good trial run before too long, if the weather, and life, cooperate.


Amusing, But Not, Apparently, True

Spotted in New York City, while out with Basil:

I see at least two wheels. (The plate says “unicycle”.)

Gear My Brompton

Cupholder Repair

Maybe my Bar-Ista bicycle cupholder is meant only for coffee-drinking hipsters who are cycling for just three civilized miles at a time.  Mine lost one of the screws that holds the ring to the support stem . . . it obviously vibrated out.  There are two, which may explain why I didn’t notice as it went flying. (Good thing it didn’t end up in a tire!  I found it in the house, later, but put it in a “safe place”, so obviously I’ll never see it again.)

Basil and I went to the hardware store to find a replacement screw — one with a locking nut.  I took his picture outside, as the process inside took quite a while.  A terrific employee helped put the ring back together (my allen wrench was no use for the new screw). (Thanks, Santiago!)  I would have replaced the second screw, too, but it won’t take a locking nut, because of the way the support bar is constructed.  Santiago suggested plumber’s tape to keep it in place; that’s what I’ll do.

We picked up only a few things at the market:  Pepto Bismol, because Mr. Diarist really shouldn’t have eaten all those homicide chicken wings; Risler Square cheese (raclette for dinner!); and a vanilla soda that I like to drink, ice cold, occasionally. I won’t drink sugared sodas, since no one needs that stuff coursing through a body, but do like this soda, which is sweetened with stevia.  I’m not convinced that stevia is particularly good for people either, but figure it won’t hurt, once in a while.  (I always add extra vanilla extract to the soda, along with ice cubes; a really good quality vanilla extract heightens the flavor and cuts the not-entirely-nice hint of stevia.)

I put the bottles into a neoprene case to cushion them.  I thought this bag was meant for beer, but it can’t be zipped with the long-necked bottles inside.  That didn’t matter, because I bought them off the shelf.  But I don’t think I’ll mention to Mr. Diarist that beer apparently can come in cans.  I’m sure he would be shocked, I tell you, shocked.

Basil, En-Scène My Brompton

Basil, Unencumbered

I think Basil looks pretty lean when he’s carrying only his S bag, but he’s really trim-looking when he goes in for service:

NYCeWheels, like probably every other bike shop around, prefers to take bikes in without any extra accoutrements.  Since Basil usually carries at least an underseat bag, this is a rare opportunity to savor his essential self.

My Brompton

Basil’s Gear Indicator

Something went wonky with Basil’s shifter during the Iron Tour; it stopped snapping back into place, and just flopped between settings when I changed gears.  Basil kept running, and his gears appeared to shift, so we just kept going.  Crazy or not, the idea of stopping just didn’t occur to me. Basil seemed fine; his shifter was just a bit floppy when moving between gear settings.

Owing to various factors, I hadn’t ridden much since the Iron Tour, but after a short ride a bit later, I folded Basil to take a photo, and that bit above fell out of Basil’s axle. I cleverly suspected this had something to do with the wonky shifter.

It turns out that this little chain and post are Basil’s gear indicator, which explained why the shifter had earlier felt so wrong; presumably, the gear indicator had been gradually slipping out for a while.  The shifter levers, of course, are what indicate which gear one is using.

As it happened, Mr. Diarist encouraged me to buy a couple of photos from the Iron Tour.  Along with a shot or two of Basil in action, it turned out that I’d failed to notice that the gear indicator had disconnected during the Tour.  A photo from the Tour documented this:

Ignorance is a bad thing.  I was distracted when I did Basil’s post-tour maintenance, and didn’t fully inspect all his bits and pieces — although how I failed to notice the significance of this is baffling.

All that trouble I had on the hills during the Iron Tour? Could some of that be laid to improper gear usage once the indicator was no longer functioning?

This necessitated an unplanned trip to New York so that Basil could be put back into top form once again.  Since I come from out of state, I emailed NYCeWheels first, and Peter suggested a good time for me to show up; there are no guarantees that NYCeWheels can be certain to be able to do quick service on short notice, but they’ve been wonderfully accommodating about doing what they can, and this time, too, they were able to work Basil in, and also get him out the door speedily.

Here’s how the gear indicator looked when Basil was returned to me after Izzy, NYCeWheel’s senior mechanic, had put everything back in order:

I was a little surprised that this issue turned up only a month after Basil’s 1,000 mile/1 609 km tune up, which he’d had on May 7th.  Was there no sign of the indicator slipping then?  Had there been no sign that the indicator was not properly engaged? Had the shifter not been adjusted correctly, or had it seemed to not need checking? Should it have been caught at the tune-up?

NYCeWheels owner Bert was in the shop when I collected Basil, and we talked it over. I still don’t know the answer to these questions, but Bert was kind enough to adjust the bill — even though I was willing to pay all of it — and I learned some valuable lessons:

  • If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. Stop and investigate.
  • Know your bike well! (Not just his delightful, nimble personality!)
  • Check everything when doing post-ride maintenance — don’t settle for just currying the tires and focusing narrowly on simply cleaning and oiling various parts.
  • Photograph your B from both sides, so that you get used to how he looks from either direction!

These issues are a bit difficult for me, as one promise I made when I acquired Basil was that I wouldn’t be the one to maintain him once he joined the family.  Acquiring a Brompton was part of a larger plan to teach me to relax, and to avoid being as compulsive and task-oriented as is my natural state.

The intention was that, by insisting that Basil would be strictly a vehicle for cycling, rather than tinkering or maintenance, I’d get used to the idea of simply recreating with him.  As it turns out, that’s not exactly how it works — or how it can work.

Balance:  easier to achieve on two wheels than in life.  Another lesson learned; I can’t totally abdicate from the essential responsibilities of making sure my B is in the shape he needs to be in order to continue to run well.

Basil, En-Scène My Brompton

Basil and His S Bag

Posing on York Avenue, New York City:

Classic marble; classic Brompton!

My Brompton

Basil’s Not

After the French Creek Iron Tour, I took a picture of Basil in front of this Specialized bicycle.

Because he isn’t; he does everything well!

Events Iron Tour

French Creek Iron Tour 2013: Part the Second

(Part One is here.) The toughest inclines on this year’s version  (34 mile/54.7 km) of the Iron Tour seemed to occur before the first rest stop, and though there were climbs after the second stop, there were fewer.  For less-fit riders like me, having the rough stuff up front was a bonus!

Instructions were sprayed on the pavement at several points along the route.  Mr. Diarist, in a bow to my weak navigational skills, had driven the route with me the day before, and we had seen a volunteer stencilling the arrows.

The Iron Tour offers circuits for all levels:  10 mile/6.2 km; 20 mile/12.4 km; the 34 mile/54.7 km that Basil and I did; 50 mile/80.4 km; 64 mile/102.9 km; 75 mile/120.7 km; and 100 mile/160.9 km. The splits were well-marked.  I did have a cue sheet, and the tour offered GPS downloads, but it was very helpful to have these cues along the way.

Basil and I encountered these equestrians, but talked only to one of the riders. According to her, the horse to the left does not like bicycles; this was probably not a favourite day for this particular creature.

This was the second covered bridge of the tour.

This part of Pennsylvania is famous for its covered bridges.  Most of them, like this one, are made entirely, or nearly so, of wood.  They’re prized  for their picturesque contribution to the landscape, and their tourism value, so they are also preserved and maintained.

Basil and I had scaled this hill, and then I looked back; somehow these inclines never look intimidating in review. How could this mild stretch of road offer any challenge at all?

Sometimes I chose to walk the hills because I’d been so sick the day before, and was afraid that I’d burn my personal resources before I finished the tour, but sometimes I walked because it was faster than I could pedal.  We made up the time on the down hills, which, fortunately,  were just as plentiful as the inclines.

This shot is for Mr. Diarist, who is fond of a certain Pennsylvania micro-brewery.  The cyclist in front is wearing a Hop Devil jersey from Victory Brewing Company.  It’s a handsome jersey, and, though not high-vis, high-orange.  Mr. Diarist wears one.  I think the rear cyclist is wearing Victory’s Golden Monkey jersey.  Fine graphics on both.

We were promised two covered bridges on this tour, so this one, the third, was a bonus.  The interiors must be seen in person; they’re not easy to photograph on the fly, particularly as one shouldn’t hang about in a narrow, one-lane bridge.

I took this while riding Basil, and after a thorough check for oncoming travel.  The trusses, and the curve of the side supports, are just marvelous.

The second rest stop, at about 24 miles/38.6 km, was at North Coventry Elementary School.  I took no pictures, probably because so many people wanted to get a look at Basil.  Several  said that they didn’t know that bikes like Bromptons exist, and others were amazed that they’d seen me riding terrain like this on a small-wheeled bicycle.  I had to confess that Basil’s gearing was just fine with the landscape, and that my fitness was the real limitation.

Several people asked me if 34 miles was the longest I’d ridden on Basil. I pointed out that I’d often ridden longer, and had done one 62 mile/99.7 km ride with him — and I mentioned that if I’d continued just fractionally further, I’d have ridden a metric century.

And then — oh awful confession! — I proceeded to lie to several other people I talked to.  Yes, lie.  Inadvertently, but still, it was lying. (I’m horrified, even as I write this.)  I’m going to blame it on oxygen deprivation — all that climbing — but maybe I should just call it was it was:  non compos mentis.  I accidentally shortened “metric century” to “century”  It’s not true, folks!  I have not ridden 100 miles/160.9 km on my Brompton!  I have only ridden a (near) metric century!

The worst of it, of course, is that one doesn’t have to exaggerate what one can do on a Brompton.  I apologize to all concerned, including Basil. He deserves better (though that’s true for the humans involved, too).

The last 10 miles/16 km flew by, in spite of another couple of hills, and another couple of short bouts of walking.  Back at the fairgrounds, we were fed lunch.  I have never been so happy to see greens in my life; also, the hot dog (vegetarian!!) hit the spot, as did that lovely, cool, refreshing watermelon.

I asked to use the top of the caterer’s cooler to take this photo, pointing out that I had a blog, so was mandated to photograph everything I could.  The enterprising fellow asked if I would mention the Yellow Springs Inn, who were responsible for this excellent repast.  Naturally, then,I’ve done just that!

The hall was full of exhausted, hungry cyclists, and cheerful volunteers, who, along with the marshals, helped to make the day go so smoothly.

Basil and I started out a little after 9 AM, and finished just before 1:40 PM.  We had two breaks, probably totalling at least 45 minutes, but we owe what looks like fairly decent travel time — for me — to the fast descents.  (Why don’t road bikers go faster downhill?  Is that a bad idea on skinny tires?  Is it a worse idea than I think it is on a Brompton?  Is there something here I don’t know?  I kept falling back on the inclines, and passing the same people like mad when going down hill, but maybe I shouldn’t have been passing so aggressively?)

Afterwards, my feet were killing me.  My feet never bother me when I cycle; the uphill walking was obviously the problem.  If humans were meant to walk, Andrew Ritchie would never have invented Bromptons.  Clearly, I need to become fit enough to do all my locomotion on two wheels, as Ritchie intended!

Events Iron Tour

French Creek Iron Tour 2013: Part the First

Basil and I returned from a trip out of state just in time to ride in this year’s Iron Tour: 34 miles through northern Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Basil was most surprised to see this sign at the entrance to the grounds.  A level-headed sort, he took it in stride.

This event benefits the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust; cycling through preserved lands is a great way to remind us how much preservation contributes to quality recreation.

We hadn’t ridden far when we saw a casualty.

SAG wagons were in evidence throughout the ride; I saw three, which was pretty impressive.  Registration closed at 18,000 riders; it’s likely these volunteers were busy.

I had vowed in advance to photograph each bridge, but immediately  missed the first one, distracted by attempts to orient to my cue sheet.  I was doing better by the time we got to the first covered bridge.

There were hills.  Many hills. Steep hills.

Basil posed while I rested. I have never walked so many hills in my life.  I was not alone, however.  My Garmin claims that we climbed a total of 1420 feet — quite a bit more than the previous highest tally, which was roughly 850 feet on the  5 Boro Tour last month.

I had been miserable the day before the Iron Tour, with the worst allergies I’d had in decades:  18 hours of sneezing, running nose, eyes itching, coughing, shallow breathing, and watery lungs.  It took forever before my body calmed down enough so that I could sleep.  Because of a long-standing medical problem, I cannot take antihistamines, so there was no option but to ride it out.  Worst of all?  The fear that I wouldn’t make it to the Iron Tour the next day.

When I woke up, though, almost all of the symptoms had abated; however, I’d not slept well, and was very tired, so I probably walked more than I would otherwise have done.  Nonetheless, these inclines were more than I could have handled even in my present top form.

It didn’t matter; the day, and surroundings, were beautiful, cyclists were friendly, and it was a fine event.

Covered bridges weren’t the only ones of interest.

This one had unusual slats, studded with steel.

Particularly after my recent New England trip, I was amused to spot this steeple in the distance.

The event organizers advised us to talk to any horses we encountered.  Apparently most horses don’t have problems with bicycles, but are troubled by the silent approach.

These two, and their companion, were having a rollicking good time, and paid no attention to us at all.

Basil was eager to dally a bit in the tall grass himself, though.

Pennsylvania has its share of stone dwellings.

I’m fond of these, where ever they are found. Though they house humans, they seem quite organic in these bucolic surroundings.

Our trees are not quite as dense, or as majestic, as those I had seen the previous week, but they are pleasing, just the same.

Though it may not be obvious from this shot, everyone worked those inclines!

Basil was tolerant of my human frailties, and posed against a fine Pennsylvania rock while I paused stopped to snap a few pictures.

Every now and then, in this part of the world, one encounters an intersection of stone buildings clustered together at the junction of once-busy thoroughfares.  Usually they are the vestiges of a former community, now re-purposed into private homes, or newer businesses.

There’s a third one here, that I couldn’t manage to get into the shot.  We don’t have a lengthy history here in the USA, of this kid of settlement, but I like knowing that these structures have been around for a century or two.  That’s a long time in North American architectural terms.

Our first rest stop was at the Vincent Baptist Church.  Gatorade, water, and a nice (and fulsome) spread of bite-sized foods were provided, along with grapes, oranges and bananas.  In keeping with the experimenting Mr. Diarist and I have been doing lately, I appreciated this real-food approach.

I had half a banana, along with my own provisions: Nutella on particularly dense home-made “French” bread.

I took a couple of pictures, including one of this Bacchetta — a recumbent I hadn’t seen before:

There were two at this event, but they weren’t together either time I spied them.

Another cyclist was riding his Dahon Zero G (?), with serious tires (this must be the mountain bike version!):

Then it was onward. I laughed when I saw this, but a passing road biker called out and said it was a different kind of hill — compared to the killers we’d already encountered.  This one started just after a right hand turn, and was short, but deadly.

That may be him on the left, he may have ridden up. Everybody else I saw ended up walking.

It looks so benign, doesn’t it?  It wasn’t — and there were more to come!

My Brompton

Basil, Incognito

I bought a large beach towel for Basil some time ago.  It stays in the trunk of the car, not to keep the trunk clean, but so that I can flip it over Basil and keep him out of sight, particularly on road trips.

On general principle,  I think it’s best to keep valuables under wraps. And what, after all, is more valuable than my Brompton?  Basil’s bright towel ensures that I can open my trunk without advertising that he’s traveling within.

But, really, how often do I open my trunk while traveling? Typically I open it only once at night, when taking out Basil (and luggage, the first night), and then each morning, when I put Basil back into the trunk and we head out for the day, and then once again at night when Basil returns to my room with me.  It’s not as if I spend my days shopping, and am popping open the trunk every hour or so to store stuff in it.

(What?  Of course Basil stays in the room with me!)

This is probably one piece of “gear” that wasn’t strictly necessary. On the other hand, if I cared about my trunk getting messy, all that washable fabric would probably be an asset.