Basil, En-Scène My Brompton

Basil on the West Side Greenway

Hmm, no wonder people notice Basil’s S bag flap — it’s kind of hard to miss!

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

A Washington Heights LBS

The bike shop fellow Bromptonaut Hugo mentioned to me is in Washington Heights, on Bennett Street, between Broadway and Fort Washington. I knew of a larger shop on Broadway (see below), but had no idea that Manny Bicycle Shop existed.  It’s tucked on a small side street.

There’s no website, but this profile in New York Magazine seems just about right to me.  Here’s a squib from their article:

 . . . he [the owner, Eduardo Fernandez]  runs the one-man operation like his own garage, tinkering with the latest drop-off in the back while brushing off neighborhood kids, fleets of whom occasionally skid up to haggle over a brake-tightening or ogle the skull-and-crossbones valve caps. As to the diversified phalanx of bikes that hang overhead, there’s everything from Mongoose BMXs for youngsters to racing and mountain bikes for commuters.

This is a nitty-gritty bike shop, meaning that it’s not a retail store (though it does sell bicycles, too).  It’s a place where tinkering is done, and serious mechanical stuff.  I would have guessed that my chances of finding Ergon grips there were slim, but Hugo had gotten his there, and he said that they had one more pair.

I liked the idea of buying the grips at an LBS, even if it wasn’t at my LBS, so I stopped in. Sure enough, among a lot more basic gear there was one more package of Ergon GP1-S grips.  I bought them, stuffed them into Basil’s S bag for the trip home, and installed them on my Brompton at the first opportunity.  Bike shops can be amazing places — and you never know what you’ll find at an independent one unless you stop in.


I don’t know . . .

This just seems so wrong.

Basil, En-Scène My Brompton

Basil and Friend

At 81st street, New York City:

It’s the stop for the Museum of Natural History.  We still take the subway to get cross-town here — cycling across Central Park during traffic hours is not for sissies, and one of us is still a sissy.


Brompton Talk

Basil and I encountered Hugo, a Brompton evangelist, on the West Side Greenway in New York City. Hugo’s Brompton bicycle is a sleek white H6L

Hugo was extolling the virtues of the Bromfoot; Bromptons built before 2012 have a folding pedal that is smaller than the non-folding one, which has always been a bit of a bane for riders.

A Bromfoot replaces the smaller pedal, making it larger and easier to grip, and also protecting the frame from scratches. Basil is a 2012 Brompton; beginning with his model year, Brompton supplies a larger folding pedal, and added a “catch” so that the pedal fold doesn’t hit the frame unless it’s folded carelessly.

Hugo said he found out about the Bromfoot when riding in Central Park one day.  Another Brompton rider asked him how he liked his folding pedal; when Hugo made the obvious complaint, the other cyclist hauled a Bromfoot out of a pack, and sold it to Hugo on the spot.  He was Bromfoot’s inventor — and, apparently, a pretty clever marketer, too. Owners of beloved older Bromptons might want to check out the Bromfoot; I notice it now comes in colors, too, for a little added pizazz.

This was my first chance to take a look at the Ortlieb Mini O on a Brompton.  If you’re going for style alone, you probably couldn’t do better than Hugo’s combination:  The black-on-black Mini O looks smashing on that all-white B frame.

Seeing how small the profile is, and how easy it is to access the inside of the bag when it’s mounted convinced me:  I’ve since ordered one — it won’t look as nifty as this one does (no real Basil-compatible colors available), but I’ve had little success at making my own bags truly waterproof.  The Mini O should make it easier (and safer, as far as camera and phone are concerned) to ride in mist or rain.

Apparently Hugo is pretty good at sales, too, because he also convinced me to get my Ergon GP-1 grips, and to install them myself.  Even better, he’d purchased his at a small shop in Washington Heights — one I hadn’t known existed — so I was able to chase them down before going home.  As with the Mini O, seeing them on the bicycle — and being able to check the size —  made all the difference.

Hugo’s were set at a sharper angle than I ended up using for mine, but they are infinitely variable (within ergonomic reason), so it’s easy to customize the angle to any personal preference.

Hugo, on his Brompton, and I, on Basil, headed out in opposite directions on this beautiful day,  Basil and I with a list in hand, and an agenda:  Changes ahead for Basil!

Basil, En-Scène My Brompton

Picture Perfect

My dream post card:

Basil, posing in lush, far-away, greenery. (Does anyone send post cards any more?)

(Williamstown, Massachusetts)


New York Central Engine No. 25

There are all kinds of small parks and curiosities along New York City’s West Side Greenway.  One section of Riverside Park South is the home of New York Central locomotive No. 25, a freight engine built in 1946.

There’s just one cyclops-like head lamp in the front, and no “cow-catcher”, possibly because a working freight engine needed to switch from pulling to pushing on a whim.

It’s possible to walk around one side, and peer into the very spare engineer’s compartment, but glare from the glass makes it difficult to get good pictures. Still, it’s great fun to be able to get up close and personal with this marvelous beast.

Nintey-five tons of hard-working steel, now installed in a park so that train-lovers can oogle to their hearts’ content.

Which we did.


Well, Phooey!

This is not a happy sight: Basil in his closet. We’ve been grounded.

I’ve had an unexpected small, but deep, surgery on a lower leg, and have been informed, by the man who should know, that bicycling is the “worst thing possible” that I could do while the incision mends.

Neither Basil nor I are pleased.

Thanks to a frenetic summer, posts will continue, because I’ve got a backlog.  I’ll just be sobbing over the keyboard as I write them . . .

Luggage Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Picnic on the Greenway

When Basil came into New York City for his repair, the job was done in the flash of an eye.  In the meantime, my schedule changed, and we were able to stay over one more night. We made good use of the time, especially since the weather was so cooperative.

We headed north a bit and passed the entrance to the George Washington Bridge — and ran into our first bike lane impediment of the day.

For the entire time it took us to ride three blocks (and wait at one stoplight) two women stood behind their SUV chatting.

Needless to say, they (and the SUV) were still there when Basil and I arrived — at which point I noticed that there had been a driver in the SUV all the time.  That made squeezing between the SUV and traffic all the more problematic, since the bike-lane-hogging driver was, obviously, not going to watch for cyclists if he decided to open his door, or, finally, to pull away.

I’m a motorist, too, and I just don’t think it’s all that hard to share. Really.

On this excursion, Basil was outfitted with my homemade S bag flap.  Weirdly, Basil’s bag flap got got more attention on this visit than did Basil.  We’re not used to that! (One person wanted to know if those were real merit badges; I had to confess that they were actually Demerit Badges!)

I  love the view through this tunnel, especially in early summer:

It’s the gateway to my favorite bridge.

I saw more Brompton bicycles on this trip than ever before — I lost count at around fourteen — which was so much fun!

This cyclist was just getting used to her brand new B. She’s an experienced rider who keeps a bike in another state — something serious. (I don’t remember what, but the “serious” part stuck with me — maybe it’s carbon fiber?)  She wanted something she could easily keep in the city, given the natural constraints of apartment living.

When in NYC, I often consider the merits, or lack thereof, of the cycling chic-vs-spandex-cycle-apparel-arguments.  I couldn’t help admiring how brilliantly this woman — whether intentionally or not — managed to look, well, chic, while wearing actual cycling threads.  And her shirt is about as close to high vis as one can get without going all the way.  There’s no recreational/commuter/road racer clothing kit argument here; there’s no fight to pick!

At the Fairway Market right off the East Side Greenway (at 130th Street) I automatically put Basil and his S bag into a cart before I realized that we’d arrived so early on a weekday morning that the store was deserted (by NYC standards).  I quickly sprung my Brompton, put him into shopping trolley mode, and we continued on our way.

Ahhh . . . Fairway, how I love thee!  (About thirty minutes later, this aisle, and all the rest, were not nearly so clear.)

Just above the front of Basil’s bag is one of the most wonderful things Fairway sells:  grilled artichoke hearts.  I planned to picnic next to the Hudson River, so I thought “why not?” and packed up just enough for lunch.

Across the aisle is the olive oil and vinegar bar, with tasting stations.  I don’t know much about olive oil (or vinegar, for that matter), but I do consume both.  On a whim, I tried the Italian Saba vinegar . . . and was transported in an entirely different way than when on two wheels. The flavor is that of a rich, deep Balsamic reduction.

It also costs like wine. I didn’t care.  I bought two bottles: One to take home, and one for The Manhattanites, with whom I stay when in NYC.  Basil’s S bag has two huge pockets on the back side, just made for Saba vinegar.  See the gold caps?  The bottles are sealed like wine; I assume that’s no accident!

With a fresh baguette fitted securely beneath the S bag’s flap, Basil and I set off to find a picnic site.

OK, the view of New Jersey isn’t exquisite here, but the river is lovely, and the shade most welcome — and the sky just got better and better as we sat.

What a tasty impromptu sandwich: a fat, flavorful artichoke heart mashed into a bit of perfect crusty bread!  I wanted to open one of the Sabas to add a splash, but figured that cycling with one open bottle might push my luck even further than cycling with two closed ones.

(Saba, as I learned later, is an amazing dip for strawberries. Fairway also recommends  it over ice cream, which could be just incredible.)

I had some company while I dined (along with Basil, of course):

She was pretty shy, but her mate, though apparently far bolder, was also quite courteous, and, once it was clear I wasn’t sharing, left me to my meal. (Love that little teal flash on her wing!)

This is the thing about New York City: sights like these (ducks and boats and sky) are never far away.

Also, there’s always something going on.  That’s a large dog, below, in a flotation vest, being escorted from a sailboat — the Ishtar —  to a nearby harbour.

I’m guessing he’s got a pretty good life, not only because he’s clearly enjoying the ride, but because of the unusual markings on the ship from which he came.

The figures on the side may be something else (lions or their kind?), but they look suspiciously like a stylized canine and feline to me.

Everywhere I looked, the view was serene.

I was feeling pretty serene myself by the time Basil and I set off again.   Along the way, we met this smiling couple, who were visiting from France.  They aren’t on CitiBikes, but rented from another company.  CitiBike is not designed for tourists (or even occasional use, though that’s possible); its lending schemes are really only attractive to subscribers.

The requirement that they be docked every so often (45 or 30 minutes) make the blue bikes unsuited to recreational cycling.  I was surprised, then, to see a fair number on the West Side Greenway — especially since there are no docking stations on the Greenway itself.

The Department of Sanitation’s Potemkin façade is particularly hilarious when backed with a surreal blue sky and such dream-like clouds.

We ventured off the Greenway onto city streets not long after the noon lunch hour; by that time, it was clear that CitiBikes were getting a lot of use.

It’s really too bad that nothing of this sort can be managed without a corporate logo; wouldn’t it be far nicer if these roving ambassadors advertised New York City?  Nonetheless, the bikes are indisputably a good thing, and great addition to city life.

Basil and I admired the big blue bike, and went on our way; there’s more, but this is quite enough for one post.

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Blitz Trip to NYC

This quick trip to New York City was unexpected, the result of my discovering that Basil’s gear indicator needed repair. Basil’s shop is NYCeWheels, at the sign of the Brompton, on the Upper East Side.

NYCeWheels offers free tours on these little yellow beauties (the rest of the fleet was still inside when we turned up).  Owner Bert pointed out that the tours are win-win for NYCeWheels: even if riders don’t buy a bicycle, other people see the fleet out and about, which is great visibility both for the store and the bike.

Basil was fixed so quickly that he and I were able to head out for a ride — an unexpected bonus!  After a cold and rainy spring, this day was beautiful, and everyone who could was out and enjoying the weather.  The East River (or Estuary, more properly) was resplendent under that perfect sky.

We took the East Side Greenway down as far as it currently goes, and then braved city streets.  I was reminded, once again, that bike lanes are a great idea, but not nearly as splendid in practice as in theory.

I’m stopped at a light here, but I can see that the lane is occluded ahead. Even with my very brief experience cycling in the city, I know perfectly well that those vehicles will still be there after the light changes and Basil and I reach that spot.

In places like NYC, where compliance with traffic regulations is the stuff of fantasies, bike lanes with physical barriers are the only thing that makes sense.  Implementing them is another story, of course.

At a different intersection, we spied something much more pleasing!  (I think Basil likes these companionable moments as much as I do.)

New Yorkers tend to live outdoors — it’s inevitable, given the size of most apartments — and a corollary effect is that food trucks abound.  This one covers all the critical menu points, and the vendor was a really nice fellow.  (Also a discriminating one:  he admired Basil!)

The CitiBike scheme had just launched, and stations were all over the place (below 59th, that is). The one above is at E 39th and Second.

There’s a lot of empirical evidence that biking has increased dramatically in popularity in the city, but even a casual observer can’t help noticing how many more bikes seem to turn up each year.  (It’s not obvious in this photo, but quite a few blue bikes are missing from the share racks on the left.)

Cycling in NYC traffic can seem like the death-defying feat it undoubtedly is, but it can also seem idyllic, especially under a canopy of fully-leaved trees.

I spied blue bikes everywhere, but often wasn’t  fast enough to catch them with my camera.

Basil and I returned to Washington Heights via the Greenway, and, not for the first time, I made a mental note to find out what this building is.  In order to do so, though, I’ll have to remember where it is; fortunately, it isn’t necessary to know the name in order to appreciate the structure, especially on such a glorious day.

I love the George Washington Bridge, and am always thrilled to see it again.

I might be a little less thrilled to see the hill beside it.  Even with all six of Basil’s excellent gears functioning well, I’m still not strong enough to make it up this incline. (Though I do get a bit farther each time.)

Is it wrong of me to suspect that this sign, facing the incline, is mocking those of us foolish enough to attempt this ascent? (Don’t get me wrong; I’m totally OK with the “respect others” part.)

Just after the first climb there’s another one, which also requires a bit of walking.  On the other hand, stopping is a good excuse to take a quick shot of Basil.

Then there’s one last view of the bridge, and we’re back where we started.