He Should Have Been Riding a Brompton

Dr. Diarist rarely spills on his mountain bike, but this one was a doozy. His brand new pedals, beautifully spiked with sharp pins all around, ripped his shin open on a Memorial Day weekend ride.


Trip One to the ER, on Saturday, was to get it stitched. Trip Two, on Monday, was to get the infection treated.  Trip Three was to REI this week to replace the pedals with something less lethal.  Those socks?  Why, yes, Dr. Diarist is wearing Argyll socks (just not on the right bicycle!)

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Bill Cotton Memorial Ride

For nearly as long as I’ve been riding with Mike and Saul, they have been telling me about Bill Cotton, and commenting on how much they think I would have liked knowing him.


Earlier this month, a group of us gathered for a BCP ride in Bill’s memory.  Bill was an avid bicyclist, a machinist by trade, a clever engineer and tinkerer, and is remembered with the kind of affection few people can hope to inspire.


We met at the Pottstown trailhead and rode to West Reading, to the Queen City Diner, where Bill famously liked to stop.

Along the way, we encountered a small memorial (“Winston Here Lies Jim’s Dog”) beside the trail.


Saul paid his respects (rather dramatically!), but it was heart-warming to be reminded, particularly on this ride, that those who are loved are not forgotten.


The 35 mile/56.3 km route took us over a wide variety of surfaces, including:


asphalt (that’s a Catrike recumbent in the rear there; it can really go — and did!);

bc-pgpacked gravel;


what we used to call “two-tracks”;


and into the woods (I don’t know why we never called these “one-tracks”).

Along the way we went past rivers

bc-rvover railroad tracks


across bridges


and past battered old boxcars, apparently still in service.


We could hear moving trains all along the ride, and sometimes see them, just barely, through the trees.


Dr. Diarist took most of these pictures — he was speedy enough to catch up once he’d dawdled — and also captured this  adorable (or is it fierce?) fire hydrant:


This housing development has a very odd roofline of a type we’d never seen before.


We saw evidence of some old technologies, now defunct


and new technologies, only recently installed.


Along with grittier sights


we encountered some classically pretty ones:  country homes with cultivated flora;

bc-dhexuberant uncultivated greenery;


and a converted barn with unusual, small scale, stone work (unusual for this area, at least).


At the diner, we had a convivial meal.


Ride leader Steve enthusiastically consumed a symbolic dessert in Bill’s honor. (I gather Bill was not opposed to the occasional sweet!)


After a leisurely meal, well-fortified, we prepared to get back on the road.


On our return trip, Saul made sure that everyone admired Basil’s new chain guard.


And then we were off, zipping our way back. The variety of scenes that can be encountered on a 35 mile/56.3 km ride, mostly on trails, in this area, is amazing and thrilling:  Could there be a more appropriate way to remember Bill Cotton, his love of bicycling, and his creative mind?  On this perfect day, it was impossible to imagine anything better.

Argyll Basil, En-Scène Brompton Duo

Graffiti Brothers

Cool dudes, hanging out.


Oh, yeah!


Toe Clips for a Brompton Bicycle

Last fall I ordered toe clips for Basil.  I knew that clipping in wasn’t a good idea for me; I’m just too clumsy to ever trust that I could unclip in sufficient time to avoid a fall (or worse).


zfOn group rides, I worry a lot about holding up the others (though I ride with unusually supportive people — all the more reason, though, to keep up my end, yes?).  I’d heard that clip-in pedals could mean a 15 percent boost in power, so I figured that toe clips must offer at least a little of that advantage.

A Brompton bicycle — specifically, the folding pedal — won’t accept standard toe clips, so Terry, at Alphabet Cottage in the UK, sells a kit with Zefal clips and special plates that accommodate the Brompton pedals.   Ordering was simple, the kit arrived promptly, and Terry is very good about communication.


The kit comes in a couple of versions, based on Brompton model year.  Installation was easy, once I figured it out, but the instructions provided with mine appeared to be for a slightly different kit — and the illustrations were extremely faint, and ultimately not helpful.

After installation, I meant to go back and add thread-locker.  I was sorry that I’d forgotten to do so when one clip loosened during a ride.  I’d recommend sloshing that thread-locker on at the start; if you lose your original screws, you’ll end up with mis-matched ones, as below:


I debated which size toe clips to get, since my cycling shoes are Keens, and have an extremely boxy toe.  The S/M toe clips, described as fitting “up to shoe size 8 (UK); 8.5 (US); 42 (EU)”,   just fit my size 4/6.5/37 Keens; anyone wearing larger Keen cycling shoes might want to go up to the next size.  Standard cycling shoes, with a narrower toe, wouldn’t present this dilemma.


My Keen shoes don’t “lock” into the cage, as standard cycling shoes might.  Nonetheless, they stay put, and don’t slip out while riding.  Yet I can easily remove my foot without risk of entanglement, and I don’t have to think about how to turn my foot to do it.  For a rather uncoordinated cyclist like me, this is a real advantage, and a critical safety factor.

The clips do affect the fold somewhat; I take pains to make sure that the toe clip is against Basil’s tire, not against his spokes, but this immediately became intuitive, and doesn’t slow the process at all.  When walking an unfolded Zefal equipped Brompton, you’ll need to keep the bicycle upright, as there is little clearance between the dropped toe clip and the ground; again, this is an easy accommodation.


Weight doesn’t seem to be much of an issue; the toe clips are quite light, and the adaptor plates aren’t heavy.  (You will lose the reflector on the folding pedal, which gets swapped out for the adapter plate, though the effect on weight is likely to be minimal.)

Open toe clips can be used with street shoes as well as with cycling shoes or trainers; that was a big plus for me.  I almost always ride with cycling-specific footwear, but wanted the option to use whatever, whenever.

Do the toe clips give me the edge I hoped for?  Well, I don’t really know; however, I’ve learned to love them.  I do believe they increase the power of my upstroke, and I find I like the sense that each foot is firmly set in the correct place on the pedal.  At a minimum, they’ve made me a more confident biker.