Tours, Trails & Group Rides

The Weight of the World

Due to annoyingly persistent cold symptoms, and a consequent lack of sleep, Dr. Diarist and I missed not only the third progressive (45 miles/72.4 km), but the fourth (55 miles/88.5 km) and will likely now miss the fifth (65 miles/104.6 km), for which we are certainly unfit, having missed half our training sessions.  Sigh.


Last Sunday, though, we were able to meet up with a batch of good cycling buddies for a shorter, but far more doable 28 mile/45 km jaunt.  It was colder than expected — though expectations may have been influenced by everyone’s desire to see the end of this winter, already!

Bill and Kay kept us company as far as Betzwood, where they turned back, but the remaining four of us forged onward.  I’d left my lobster claw gloves at home, but my fingers were finally warming up; I wanted more miles for my pain!  Also, we all wanted coffee and/or sustenance.


At The Oaks, we encountered this structure, which gave Fearless Leader Saul (left), Fearless Leader Mike (center), and new Bromptonaut Dr. Diarist (right) a chance to demonstrate Atlas-like prowess.

Much discussion ensued regarding odd bits of rod*, with which the structure is irregularly studded.   None of us were able to come up with a plausible explanation for the protuberances; uncharacteristically, I failed to snap one of the peculiarities up close.   I’ll have to rectify that next time.

Our search for coffee was a bit fraught:  Did you know that Subway — a much-reviled sandwich shop chain — does not serve coffee after 11 AM?  (We didn’t.)  I’m afraid we left without purchasing anything, desperate though we were for sustenance.  We took refuge in a nearby grocery store, which, while almost vacant, offered beverages of sorts, and food stuffs, as well as chocolate, which is what I ate.


The snowy, icy, terrain of previous months is almost gone, though we did find ourselves walking alongside railroad tracks on the way there and back.  The most sheltered parts of the Schuylkill River Trail are still too compromised to traverse with bikes, but, barring a new freeze, they, too, should be clear soon.

*Lest you think it odd that a bunch of cyclists stood around in winter discussing steel fabrication, let me set your mind at rest:  Bantering on about engineering, construction, and great ideas involving either or both is very typical of this crowd, and a particular bonus of riding with them.   Hence, not “odd”, but “standard”.   (And a very fine standard it is, too.)

Argyll Gear

Argyll’s Eazy Wheels

When we placed the order for Argyll,  there was some kind of a mix-up.  Although we specified “rack with Eazy Wheels” (several times over), somehow the invoice was written with the Eazy Wheels notation missing.  That was a shock on more than one front, since it hadn’t even occurred to me that a rack could be supplied without Eazy Wheels.

Argyll arrived with very small wheels attached to his rack.  So small, in fact, that any any attempt to roll him resulted in scraping both rack and bungee.  (Above, you can see the bungee squished between the rack and the floor, and dragging on said floor.)  This was utterly mystifying; why supply a Brompton with wheels that acted as an effective brake (while simultaneously destroying lovely B components)?

Clearance for the front set of wheels was only marginally better.  Here’s the little guy, resting on his weird, too-small, wheels and rack:

Zip clearance there.  I wonder why?

Dr. Diarist went to New York and picked up Argyll during one of the worst storms of the season, and as a result didn’t do much in the way of exploring his new Brompton’s capabilities.  He did briefly try rolling Argyll on his way to the train, but reported that something seemed to be wrong.   Once he was home, the problem was obvious.

So we got things straightened out, and, shortly, a set of Eazy Wheels arrived, along with a second surprise:  a bung.  That’s the plug between the wheel sets, in the package below.  The bung fits into the end of the seatpost and  acts as a brake when the seatpost is lowered all the way — a good idea, since a Brompton with Eazy Wheels attached will roll, unlike a Brompton with what I guess are “stock” rack wheels.

Peter, of NYCeWheels, had promised that the wheels would be “eazy” to install, and he was quite right.  Though rather IKEA-like, the instructions were very clear, and the assembly testimony to Brompton’s (almost) always amazing and resourceful engineering.

The only tricky bit is counting the tiny, tiny washers — they are used for spacing, and I found one hiding inside a wheel when I suspected I was one short.  Taking the existing wheels off carefully counts, too, if you want to save time; you’ll re-use some, but not all, of the original hardware, to install the new set if your B comes with a rack.

The front wheels are quite straightforward — just pop them on, essentially — but some attention is required for the rear set.  Counter-intuitively (and brilliantly) one rear wheel is set inside the rack, and one outside.  (That’s Basil, above, illustrating the point.)

Once considered, this makes sense, as the weight of a B is slightly unbalanced when folded.  The Eazy Wheel placement accounts for the discrepancy.  The shot below isn’t the best, I’m afraid, but see the angle of the bungee now, compared to the first two photos in this post?  Clearance!  Yes!

Not everyone will want Eazy Wheels, but we will use our Bromptons in so many different modes that they make a big difference to us:  Getting across a vast terminal is a breeze with a T bag on an Eazy Wheel-equipped Brompton, which pushes like a luggage cart, but with a smaller footprint.   They’re also a huge advantage when shopping, making efficient work of navigating grocery aisles.  And a set of Eazy Wheels can also make it feasible to wheel a Brompton in  areas where a unfolded bike might be banned.

And that bung?  It’s a great brake, but I’m surprised that it, too, isn’t supplied with all seatposts.  With or without Eazy Wheels, I like the idea that it’s rubber that hits the ground, instead of the seatpost itself, if I run the post down too far.   (Others may just learn more quickly than I to lower the post correctly!)


Brompton USA 2014 Championship

The dates and location have been announced:  July 11-13, in Washington, D.C.  That’s close enough that Basil and Argyll may have to consider giving it a go.

nclgHowever, participation is not to be taken lightly.  Proper attire is required:  collared shirts, ties, jackets (flasks optional).  No spandex permitted.  Sequins allowed, apparently.  (Who says sport can’t be elegant?)

No word yet on the venue; I’m devoutly hoping it’s going to be scenic, and not a motorway track.

Edited 3 June 2014 to insert BNC logo.

Errandonnee Events

Errandonnee: Part 3

What’s an Errandonnee?  Click here!

The pick-up errand:  I accidentally completed 12 errands in 7 8 categories on my previous runs — but failed to rack up sufficient mileage.  That was remedied today, at the very last minute possible.


Basil and I went grocery shopping, and padded the trip with a few miles to make up my missing 10 (16 km).

Errand 13Category (6th 7th, second use):  Grocery Store.  Cheese, lovely cheese.  Oil. Potatoes. Italian meats for Dr. Diarist. Leeks, yummy leeks.

Learned/Observed:  Today felt like spring, and time to say good-bye to root vegetables.  Also, I’m glad cheese is a year-round food!

And that was it — thanks, MG, for another excellent event!  Is there any better way to say good-bye to winter??

Mileage:  10.54/16.9 km   Errands: 1   Total Categories:  1

Cumulative Totals for Errandonnee:

Total Mileage: 30.66 miles/30 miles  (49.3 km/48.2 km)

Total Errands:  13/12

Total Categories:  7/7 8/7

Edited almost immediately after publication, due to incompetence at filling out the control card.  Sigh.

Errandonnee Events

Errandonnee: Part 2

Errand 8Category (2nd; second use):  Bike shop.  Ahh, much nicer than the experience earlier in the week.  I got a friendly greeting here, and so did others who came into the shop.


Sadly, though, no high-vis gloves, so Basil just checked out his non-folding compatriots, and we were on our way.  (Look at that guy — so compact!  So portable!  Not to diss big bikes; I’m sure they have their place.)

Learned/Observed:  Staff of this independent bike store is a lot more invested in being in this shop than was Mr. Chainstore Rep from the other day.

Errand 9Category (6th):  Personal Care (or possibly “Wild Card” if it comes to that).  This may be a bit of a fudge.  I actually made a “personal care” stop during Errandonnee: Part 1, trying to buy bath salts, but the store was so stinky, I had to leave, and didn’t write it up.

er-poI avoid hair salons, manicures and so on like the plague, and our (excellent, non-bank) financial institution is a 70 mile/112.6 km round trip on highways, so all of those were out as options.  Nonetheless, MG has allowed “personal finance” errands in this category, and I hope I’m not pushing the limits too much here:   I cycled to the post office to mail our bills.

Learned/Observed:  It was weirdly tricky to pose Basil next to anything that represented the post office while at the same time allowing a glimpse of him.  I’d never noticed how bare this lobby is.

Errand 10Category (4th 5th, second use):  Lunch.  Spring! Rolls!  (Spring . . . rolls!  Why yes, it will, as soon as these Arctic storms depart .  .  . .)

er-luA woman stopped as she passed Basil.  “It that a Brompton?” she said.  I was impressed; an accurate identification here in the hinterlands is unusual.  A great conversation ensued, covering folding bicycles, Minis (the cars, also British), and Bromptons in general.

Learned/Observed:  I’m kind of backward in the socializing department, but I’ll talk Bromptons forever!

Errand 11Category (6th 7th):  Grocery Store.  We stopped in for a few items at our organic market.  That’s just about 50% of the produce available — but quite a lot of it is from local sources.


Learned/Observed:  I bought a bit of produce, but wasn’t tempted by anything else.  The store, like just about every other organic/health food market I see these days, doesn’t exactly sell health(y) food. The aisles are full of processed foods (or, one might say, junk food) made with organic ingredients.  I guess it’s a step forward?  (Are chemical-free Cheeto-like “foods” really an advance?)

Errand 12Category (7th 8th): Dinner.  Basil and I went home and suggested that Dr. Diarist and Argyll join us for dinner at a local Mexican joint.


Argyll and Basil, with us, waiting to be sorted by the hostess.


I forgot to forgot to take a photograph of our actual dinner; these were starters.  The salsa was fine, but those tortillas were fried to perfection and the guacamole which followed was excellent, with diced, not smashed, fresh avocado.

Learned/Observed: Crispy tortillas and avocados, how I love thee.

Mileage:  12.00/19.3 km  Errands: 5   Total Categories:  7

Cumulative Totals for Errandonnee:

Total Mileage: 20.12 miles/30 miles  (32.38 km/48.2 km)

Total Errands:  12/12

Total Categories:  7/7  8/7

Edit 20 March:  While finalizing the control card, I realized I’d messed up my categories.  (Well, while finalizing the third attempt at a control card.) Counting and categorizing are proving a wee bit too challenging right now; perhaps my brain is in deep-freeze as a result of this past ferocious winter?  Corrections noted above.

And double whoops . . . I thought I’d planned this so that my next ride — to the market  for a more substantial grocery stop — would be errand 12, and would polish off the remaining miles.  This carelessness — wrapping up the categories and errand count before finishing the mileage — is impugning my geek cred.  I’m miffed, but shall persevere.

Brompton Duo


Dr. Diarist, pumping iron.


He says it’s easier to carry two Brompton bicycles than one. (I wouldn’t know!)

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Second Progressive

The second in Tim C.’s progressive series was a ride to Bridgeport — otherwise known at “The Donut Run”.


Basil and Argyll posed at the entrance of the Azalea Garden, where the ride meets.  The day was clear, and far, far warmer than the previous Saturday — in the low 60s F/15.5  C or so by the time we’d finished, in fact.

However, the Schuylkill River Trail was still frozen in critical areas, so we travelled on roads (and hills!) once again.  Once again, I walked a couple of portions of those hills.  Sigh.

The guys took a short break in Conshocken:  Here are Steve, Tim and George with bikes (and Basil!).  Dr. Diarist is across the street with Argyll.  (Gotta grab these pictures when I can on group rides!)


Both Steve and George have also led rides for The Bicycle Club of Philadelphia.  I’m not sure how BCP does it, but these guys (and others like fearless leaders Saul and Mike, who I met through BCP) exemplify a spirit that I never expected to find in a cycling group.

When I walked up one hill and climbed back onto Basil for yet another climb, Steve was waiting for me.   “Go at the pace that’s right for you,” he said.  “Use your lowest gear”, he advised,  and “breathe”.  (I’m paraphrasing:  I was going slowly, gearing down, and breathing!)  He also told me something interesting: He said that he never looks at the top of a hill.  I can see why — the focus is so much better placed on the road directly ahead.  It’s not necessary to see how far away the top is in order to arrive there!


Tim is a well-known for being a doughnut fiend, and this ride a significant one in the series, as Suzy Jo sells Tim-approved, authentic Philadelphia doughnuts.  Tim is holding one aloft above.  I am completely unclear on how Tim manages the thousands of cycling miles he rides when fuelled by doughnuts, but there you have it.

Doughnuts acquired, we rode down the street to buy more substantial items at the Palm Tree Market.

p2-ptbTravelling with two Bromptons isn’t quite as compact as travelling with just one, but Basil and Argyll found a snug little spot in which to wait while the rest of us ate and talked.


Well-fed and hydrated, we headed back to Philadelphia.  We encountered  swarms (literally!) of road racers here and there on our travels, and packs of joggers, too, near Philadelphia.  Good moods abounded, with lots of greetings and friendly nods back and forth.  This winter has been uncharacteristically cold, snowy and icy;  the slightest hint of spring is bringing out the best in everyone.


We stopped here to re-group on the return ride.  Philadelphia is lurking out there, on the horizon.  Some humorist said “No more hills now!” but he was prevaricating.  The thought of coasting back was a pretty enticing one, though, I have to admit .  .  ..

I feel so fortunate to have found a group which offers these kinds of cycling experiences for a recreational rider like me — someone who is slower, inexperienced, more interested in the ride than speed or detailed fitness metrics.   These guys are kind, nice, and encouraging.

Inclines are difficult for me; I’ll get stronger as I get back into cycling — and I’ll be doing far better on these runs once the trail — which doesn’t have quite these elevations — opens.  In the meantime, I feel so fortunate to be able to ride with people who love cycling, and love to share the experience.

If you happen to be a recreational rider in the Philadelphia area, do take a look at BCP’s website, and see how joining might expand your cycling world.  It’s made a huge difference in mine.


Cat Neglect

The ears say it all.  Cycling gear on the table.


Peeps gonna be gone. Cat’s gonna be bored.  Bah humbug, Bromptons.

Errandonnee Events

Errandonnee 2014: Part 1

Errandonnee 2014 is underway, and Basil and I undertook our first errand run of the year a few days ago.  For each stop,  documentation is required:  a photo and an observation.  Here’s how the first run went.

Errand 1Category (1st):  Coffee/Dessert.   It was another brisk day, so we stopped for coffee first.

e1-cf Learned/Observed:   A hot latte is an inefficient method of warming extremely cold fingers.  Also: don’t take gloves off and expose fingers during a very, very cold ride, no matter how much adjustment your goggles need.

Errand 2Category (2nd):  Bike Shop.  Then we trundled over to a bike shop —  a chain/franchise with “support your LBS” sign. Their stock selection is OK, though jerseys, etc., are mostly in men’s sizes, but, sad to say, something is always just a little off at this particular store.


It is today, too.  They don’t have much selection in women’s biking gloves, so the guy wants me to order the florescent gloves I’m looking for.  He explains that the manufacturer will exchange them if they’re the wrong size (not that his shop will!). Then he tells me three times, too defensively, that he is just trying to save me the trouble of going around to “fifteen different bike shops”.

OT Rant, feel free to skip:  Why does this fellow think I mind going to bike shops? Why is this poor guy so defensive?  Why does he think I want  to order unseen gloves from him when I can do that myself, at home, and deal directly with whomever will exchange them, if necessary?  (Not that I would go that route anyway; gloves really need to be tried on, if they’re going to be satisfactory.  I may not mind going to fifteen different bike shops, but I would mind buying and exchanging fifteen different pair of gloves.)

Learned/Observed: This is not the experience I have at my own LBS, where the guys know and love bikes, and don’t have to be defensive about anything.

Errand 3Category (3rd):  Library.  Moving on, we headed to the library to return various items and to pick up the newly-mandated re-registration sheet.


Learned/Observed:  Re-registering a library card every three years is going to be a pain and seems like a silly bureaucratic expense. Why not just prevent check-outs when media is overdue?  I’m getting cranky; it’s time to move on and find some food.

Errand 4Category (4th):  Not A Grocery Store.  Then we went to a book store to buy magazine to read at lunch.  Dr. Diarist met us there, his schedule not permitting Errandonnee participation.


He ordered coffee (I’d already had mine) and proceeded to exhibit an unfortunately irreverent attitude toward Basil, saying  “I see you brought along a hat rack” and tossing his Tilley on top of my noble Brompton!  He followed this up by stuffing his tablet on top of Basil at a dangerous angle, fully aware that I am appalled by his techie reckless attitude toward his computer equipment.

Sadly, I gasped in horror at both transgressions, which he found most gratifying.  After all these years, you’d think I’d know better than to take the bait, but noooooo.

Learned/Observed:  I’m a slow learner.


Errand 5Category (5th):  Lunch.   Dr. D decides to accompany me and my beleaguered Brompton to lunch.  I eat a piece of pizza bigger than my head.

Learned/Observed:  Eggplant is perfectly edible if unrecognisable; also goat cheese makes anything tasty.  Dr. Diarist goes for chicken and bacon.  We leave fatter, but happy.

Errand 6Category (4th, second use):  Not A Grocery Store.  Onward:  I am  looking for featherweight packing cubes to use in Basil’s T-Bag.  Score!  (I bought then in a citrusy-green, though, since they are more consonant with Basil’s colors and his T bag, and also less likely to look grubby.)  We have a conversation with a multi-bike-owning employee, who has never heard of Bromptons, but is quite taken with Basil.


Learned/Observed:  The clerk at sporting goods store more engaged and interested in discussing bicycles in general than the one at the bike store.  That’s kind of sad — but fun at the sports store!

Rode around a bit just for fun; mileage for this set of errands is going to be unfortunately low.

Errand 7Category (1st, second use):  Cofffee/Dessert.

Then, craving cannoli, I stopped at Italian place, unsurprisingly empty in mid-afternoon.  There are no humans in sight, and no one appears.  Eventually I notice a sign: e1-it

The hallway in question is the full width of a huge building, narrow and dark.  (It’s the passageway to the left, there.)  Decide that this particular place doesn’t want to be bothered.  Decide I don’t either.


We cross the street and enjoy a cannoli elsewhere, which proves highly satisfactory.  I take most of it home; it’s too much to eat all at once, after a pizza lunch.

Learned/Observed:  Cannoli at the non-Italian place was excellent, the atmosphere warm and friendly.  Note to self:  Don’t plan to consume two rarely-eaten, marginally unhealthy, foods on the same day.


Basil and I took a train to an area where we could run these errands:  That’s totally legitimate, according to MG, though, of course, we can’t count train miles as miles cycled.  Multi-modal!  We had never stopped at this station before; this was a great opportunity to check it out.

Total miles:  8.12/30   Total Errands:  7/12   Total Categories:  5/7

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

First Progressive

Every year (or at least the last few), Bicycle Club of Philadelphia ride leader Tim C. offers a progressive series of rides on Saturdays.  The first Saturday we ride 25 miles/40 km; then we add 10 mi/16 km until the last ride, when we go for 65 mi/104.6 km.  It’s a great way to build strength and endurance for spring!

This year there was something new:

1p3bTim bought a Brompton, and brought it to the first progressive . . . how thrilled was I!?!  So thrilled, as it turned out, that I messed up this shot of Tim, his B, Basil and Argyll.  You can hardly see Argyll behind Tim!  Three beautiful Brompton bicycles, and I manage to nearly obscure one.  Sheesh.

We got to talking Bromptons, and I got completely distracted, though I did get this one of Tim with his B, solo.  Tim’s Brompton is a red/black H6R beauty.


We met at the Azalea Garden’s entrance, next to the Italian Fountain, behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  This week’s ride was to Conshohocken, with just four of us:  Tim C. George Y. (another fine ride leader for BCP), Dr. Diarist and me.

ftbr The newly-refurbished fountain is looking good; it’s not working, of course.  It was 16 F/ -8.8 C when Dr. Diarist and I left the house, and 22 F/-5.5 C when we started the ride 2.5 hours later.  Like us, the waters wait for spring.

ftskThough on the chilly side, the day was as pretty as they come.  We had our challenges, though.


I think this is called “ice-fording”.  That’s our fearless leader, scoping out the first episode of this particular adventure.  As sports go, it may not catch on; it was slow slogging, and I think all of us, generally speaking, find riding a lot more satisfactory!  But needs must . . .


By contrast, the banks of the Schuylkill looked barely dusted.  Looking back on the ground we’d covered doesn’t really capture the reality of all that lumpy ice.


It’s just a nice winter scene, right?  You know, with a tiny bit of asphalt.  You’d never know that was an actual ice field back there.  (In truth, it was beautiful.)


We regrouped at the old Shawmont train station and then made our way to the 401 Diner in Conshohocken, where a hearty breakfast was enjoyed by all.  Good food, and good company!

I didn’t take photos on the way back.  We took streets, since, as Tim pointed out, trails were not going to serve us well.  “Streets”, in this case, meant climbing — Tim pointed out that using the trail allowed us to skip the hills around Conshohocken.  However, we survived it all,  made it back to 30th Street Station, and caught a train home.


Well, “survived” with a caveat:  After my initial two rides of the season, I was feeling pretty confident about  the shape I was in, but this return trip disabused me of that conceit . . .  I walked up sections of two hills.  Walked!  I haven’t done that since I accidentally rode an event with only two Brompton gears.  This time, though, the walks were on me; there was nothing wrong with Basil’s gears at all.  I was a bit crushed.

Not to worry, though.  Tim’s progressives will get me back into shape quickly, though I might need to find some practice climbs closer to home.  Will. Not. Be. Defeated.

The truth is, this was a pretty exciting start to the cycling season.  Tim is an intrepid leader, and we felt pretty intrepid ourselves.  Cold?  Ice? Hills?  Bring it on!  Not that anyone will mind if it’s 40 F/ 4.4 C next week, with clear (mostly level)  trails . . .