My Brompton

Basil Goes to PT

It wasn’t much of an outing, but Basil went to physical therapy with me the other day.  The idea was to make sure that the geometry of cycling on my Brompton coincided appropriately with the geometry my body needs to function well.

Basil checked in with me at the front desk, and then fit neatly under a table in the office until it was time for his turn.

His seat angle needs a bit of tweaking to optimize the configuration, and there may be an H handlebar in our future, but, for now — or, more accurately, for when I can ride again in six months or so — this small change should prove effective.

It made me unreasonably happy just to see Basil out of his closet and into the wide world once again — even though we weren’t going to be taking off together.  The resumption of our former, wonderful, life can’t happen soon enough . . .


A Brace of Bromptons

Basil’s good friend and champion (and frequent commenter) Saul has been keeping a sharp eye out for Basil’s kind whilst Basil himself languishes in his closet.  Saul encountered this beautiful pair of Brompton bicycles (and their happy cyclists) on Kelly Drive Martin Luther King Junior Drive in Philadelphia recently:

They kindly agreed to pose , and I have to say that this is a marvelous picture — inspirational, even!   (Is it possible to have a bad time when riding a Brompton???)  Today’s guests are riding M6L Bromptons with rack sacks on the back, and the capacious Brompton basket on the right.

Thanks, Saul — and thanks, too, to these Brompton cyclists.  One day Basil and I may meet them ourselves — in the meantime, we’re thrilled to know that Basil’s cousins are out and about where Basil once rode, and will again.

(This post marks the advent of a new category:  the rather boringly-named “Brompton-Spotting”.  It’s been survival mode around the Diarist household for months now, and creativity is running low — though I reserve the right to rename the category should something more enticing occur to me . . .  )


In other news, Basil and I have had The Talk.  We don’t like it, but we’re OK.  As feasible, Basil will have the occasional outing, even if it’s not possible for the Diarist to actually ride him.  We must do what we must do.  We’re best buddies; a little bit of temporary bad luck thrown our way won’t change that!


The Worst Is Yet to Come: Basil Doesn’t Know

Back on July 14 — exactly a month ago — I noted that I’d had a small surgery, and that there had been complications.  Incredibly, there have been yet further complications, with far-reaching effects.  It will be mid-February or early March 2014 before Basil and I will be cycling together again.  (And it’s already been over six weeks since we’ve had any sort of ride to speak of!)

This is a pretty devastating state of affairs, and I’m not sure that I’ve even yet fully realized the impact this ban will have on me and my quality of life, particularly since, you know, “quality of life” = Brompton!  I depend on Basil not only for all the healthful physical benefits of cycling, but also the vast positive psychological benefits that come from traveling through the world on small wheels.

[Basil, in happier times, running wild and free on NYC’s West Side Greenway]

This will mean a few changes for the blog, too.  For over nine months I’ve written a blog post here every single day.  Sometimes it’s been a bit of a stretch to make the quota, but as long as Basil and I were riding regularly, there was plenty to write about and discuss.  There will still be much Brompton- and Basil-related to write about, but I expect that post frequency will probably drop down to two or three a week until we’re back on the road, trail, or street again.

There are posts in the works — that new bag of Basil’s that I haven’t been able to finish yet; some interesting ideas about how to carry a B; Basil’s Park Tool stand that I bought just before this debacle began — and now that I am [mostly] through treatment, I’ll be able to get back to those topics and explore others.

In the meantime, I’ve got to break the news to Basil.  He still thinks this hiatus is temporary, and I’ve been too cowardly to explain otherwise.  Also, this is just so wrong:  Bromptons are meant to be active!

I’m hoping that Basil will accept that this will give me some time to get to know his workings more thoroughly, and to develop a deeper appreciation of all of the technical things that make him a Brompton.  When we were riding all the time, there simply weren’t enough hours to do that, too — this is our chance.  I’m hoping he sees this as a silver lining. It’s all we’ve got, so I’m going with that as the modus operandi for surviving the next half-year or so.


Laminated Maintenance Cards

They’re not high-tech, but I’ve copied the “Lubrication” and “Routine Checks” guides from David Henshaw’s Brompton Bicycle book, and laminated them for quick and easy reference.

They’re tucked into Basil’s gear caddy, right next to everything I need to keep him fit and running well.  Experienced cyclists won’t need this kind of aid, but these cue sheets are perfect for a neophyte like me.

What I’d really like is to have these two pages blown up into two posters.  Wouldn’t they look smashing hung in the maintenance room?  (Or in any room?)  Form and function!

Maybe Mr. Henshaw has missed a trick here, and should consider a little sideline in Brompton art . . .



A mentor and colleague of Mr. Diarist recently sent Mr. D home with a marvelous book neither of us had ever seen.  It’s Biciclette, by Richard Balantine and Richard Grant.

No wonder we hadn’t seen it; it’s in Italian. But one doesn’t have to read Italian to enjoy every page.  This fantastic volume has it all — and what you don’t get from the text won’t prevent you from a wealth of interest in the photos (“fotografie originali de Philip Gatward”).

Exploded views of bikes? Check!

Correct form?  Check! (“Il motore umano” in Italian, translating to “the human engine”.)

This excellent tome was published in 1992, so things may have changed a bit since.  Do road racers still wear the tiniest of briefs in Europe these days?  (Did they ever?)  Three miles into a ride while wearing a Speedo would kill me, but perhaps these Euro-types are made of heartier stuff.

Bicycles of the future?  Check!  Although the future is here, so one can look up the models now, in 2013, and see which survived.  (Not this one, it seems.)

In biciletta con la famiglia? Check! (This is probably my favorite two-page spread in a book full of wonderful ones.)  That’s a three-seat tricycle in the lead (labelled “Ken Rogers”), linked to two inline trailers.  Impressive, no?

City cycling, mountain bikes, touring, road racing, maintenance, frames, wheels, accessories . . . you name it, it’s covered here, all exquisitely illustrated.

Don’t be put off by the 1992 publication date; I’m not.  I love these treasures from earlier times — a book like this provides a wealth of information about the state of the art in its own era, and is a terrific reminder of how things have changed, and, yes, sometimes, how they have remained the same.  This is time travel at its finest!

Those very English-sounding author and photographer names? That’s because this lavish work was originally published by Dorling Kindersley, purveyor of beautifully illustrated, informative books.  You can buy it as Bicycle, new or used, in English, and I heartily recommend the purchase in whatever language you find it.

My Brompton

Vaccuum Cleaner

See that device way in the back of Basil’s closet?  I think it’s called a “vacuum cleaner”.

On a group ride last winter, one of the cyclists said that she was going to have to turn back after we’d gone an hour and a half or so.

She said that she had to clean house.  I murmured something, and then she mentioned that she could never figure out how people had time to take hours-long rides on weekends.

So she asked some other cyclists how they managed.  They said “We don’t clean house”.

That sounded about right to me. Cycling? Cleaning?  It’s no contest.  Besides, this is Basil’s closet, after all.  I can never remember what else is in there, so obviously it’s irrelevant!


Basil’s Gear Caddy

Basil is currently sharing his closet with a trolley that holds his basic maintenance gear and whatever gear I need to make a quick escape out the door with him.

The cart is called RÅSKOG, and it’s sold by Ikea.  It’s solid and strong, and just $50 (USD).  That’s a bit high for an IKEA cart, in my opinion, but it’s also far better made than a lot of IKEA stuff. The trays are strong, there’s no wobble at all, and the casters are excellent.  I’m not using them, but two of the casters  have brakes, which would be very convenient in other circumstances.

Basil’s closet is narrow, but deep, and this trolley fits perfectly beside him, giving me quick access to the tools I need to do a quick post-ride cleaning, and also a convenient place to drop the helmet, gloves, and vest I’m currently wearing while riding.  I’m quite happy with it, and think a second one might be a good choice for the basement, next to a Park Tool bike stand.


A Brompton Owner, Hiding in Plain Sight

My physical therapist is changing my life.  Not to diminish the magnitude of the work he is doing (which is excellent),  but the best moment of the sessions so far was discovering that he owns a Brompton.  This was especially thrilling as Brompton bicycles are not at all common in this part of the world.

Actually, he owns more than one: He owns a little herd, having outfitted his family with the best folding bicycle he could find.  Well done, good sir!

(The Brompton color wheel is from NYCeWheels, who are, yes, very NYCe, and also very good at what they do.)


The Lost Cyclist

One of my favorite bicycling books ever is The Lost Cyclist, by David Herlihy.  Maybe it is my  favorite cycling book:  Seldom is so much adventure, suspense, history, and culture crammed into such an attractive package.

The “lost cyclist” of the title is young Frank Lenz, a speed mad high-wheeler racer and photography buff from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who sets off, in 1892, to tour the world by bicycle. He never returns, but that fact, and his trip itself, are only a small portion of this tale.

In and around Lenz’s adventures, Herlihy discusses the early history of bicycles, chronicles the racing culture that built up around the famous high-wheel “Ordinaries”, and describes other early long-distance tours done on the most primitive of early bicycles, under the most primitive of conditions.  The wonder isn’t that one cyclist failed; it’s that so many didn’t.

Lenz was inspired, in part, by William Sachtleben and Thomas Allen, fellow Americans whose 1890-1893 world tour on the new Safety bicycle made them famous in an era suddenly gone bicycle-mad.  Several years later, it was Sachtleben who, in 1895, set off to determine what had happened to Lenz; that tale, also recounted in The Lost Cyclist, is as harrowing and as exciting as anything else in the book.

The book’s photographs alone — many taken by Lenz himself — are fascinating, as are the glimpses into the cultures encountered by these intrepid cyclists, the politics of financing such trips, and the means and ways of gaining access to territories with little in the way of organized government. Herlihy is an intelligent and lively writer, and  every page of this terrific book is well worth savoring.


The Cue Clip

I use these clips for cue sheets or directions, but I’m not very fond of them.  Cue sheets are a bit more problematic on a Brompton bicycle than they are on bikes that have bags right up at handlebar level.  I end up propping the cue sheet against the cables, and then tacking them in place with these clips.

I want to love these, but I don’t. On the plus side, they’re easy to attach and remove, since they’re held in place with hook-and-loop fasteners.  The profile is small; even if I leave them on all the time, they don’t get in the way of anything.  The clips have a positive lock; they snap into place, so there’s no confusion about whether or not they’ve clamped properly.

The negative is huge, though:  Even a cue sheet folded so that the equivalent thickness of  four sheets of paper is stuffed into the jaws, the clips still cannot be trusted to hold the sheet in place. I’ve had to repeatedly stop and retrieve a cue sheet that fluttered off. That’s annoying:  The clips must only do one thing, and they don’t do it reliably.

And there’s this:  I use two, because one is completely useless.  At around $8 USD, these aren’t cheap. (Though I probably got the first one at an expo for much less.) I’m using this mostly for grocery lists.  If the list falls in the store, it’s easy to pick it up.

I’ve not yet found anything better, which is even more annoying.  These work most of the time (when the wind cooperates?), so I’m still using them, but they aren’t the answer I’d like.

Yeah, those are driving directions to Toronto; I  couldn’t get my hands on a cue sheet quickly, but, you know, it’s all paper!