Brompton National Championship

BNC 2014: The Media Links

Here’s a round-up of coverage of the 2014 Washington, DC US Brompton National Championship, beginning with coverage by Fernando, who has a couple of excellent posts (and a lot of great photos) on his blog, The Dirty Brompton:

2014 BUSC Recap Part 1: Friday Night – The British Embassy

2014 BUSC Recap Part 2: Brompton Urban Challenge

Thanks to diligent research by Saul, Ian and others, here is an extensive list of other coverage as well:

Washington Post Article and Video

BicycleSPACE/Brompton Video, with various spottings, including many of Peter, of NYCeWheels

Kevin Ulrich:  Start of the race (Argyll and Basil spotted at 7 seconds)

Fernando Ma’s Helmet Cam Video  (great look at the course:  see and hear those cobblestones!)

Link to Gwenda Atkinson’s BicycleSPACE Embassy Night photos

WTOP News (very short clip)

BUSC2014 Tagboard

Calhoun Cycle Flickr Set

BicycleSPACE Urban Challenge Post

BicycleSPACE Faces at the Races

Photos by Amy Ta

What fun!  In spite of several frantic weeks here at the Diarist homestead since the BNC, we’re still basking in the afterglow.

This Sunday, July 27, the 2014 Brompton World Championship will be held at Goodwood motor track, with fierce competition amongst the winners of the individual National challenges, and two other events, as well.  Basil and Argyll will miss this one, but if the event ever moves back to Blenheim, there’s a chance we might be on the next plane.

Basil and I will be travelling for the next week, and, unusually, I haven’t been able to line up automatic posts for while we are gone.  (Real life is so annoyingly time-consuming!)  Posting and responses to comments and email will resume when we return.

Brompton National Championship

BNC 2014: Post-BUCDC

OK, it’s not strictly part of the Brompton Championship events, but I’m slipping in this short post about our evening, after the end of the Brompton Urban Challenge.  And those acronyms* in the title?  It’s Washington — there’s an acronym for everything.


Dr. Diarist and I had pleasant memories of Amsterdam Falafel from several visits to Washington in past years, so we were determined to eat there. We’d been to the one in Adams Morgan previously, but discovered that there was a location closer to our hotel, so we hopped on the Metro to find it.

(That’s terrible, isn’t it?  We left our Bromptons at the hotel; neither Basil nor Argyll have serious night-time lights since we live in an area where night riding would be suicidal.)

Lovely Metro.  It remind us more of the subway system in Budapest than New York’s MTA.  It’s the architectural scope, I think.  And maybe the lack of chewing gum underfoot.


We walked a few blocks, too.  The Capital Bikeshare (“CaBi”) cycles are a vibrant red; I liked the look of the color against this huge collection of bright blue plastic crates.


It was a rather nice walk to the 14th Street location; this shady block provided some relief from the heat.


I loved the cast iron steps, but suspect they might be lethal in use if wet, icy or snowy.


We wasted no time ordering.  I smothered my crisp and tasty falafel in garlic parsley sauce with a slathering of jalapeño and cilantro.  And cucumbers; crunchy, crunchy cucumbers.


We got an order of fries, too.  FYI, nobody needs to  order fries with Amsterdam Falafel — but they’re very, very good.


Sauces come with.  That’s peanut/sesame at the top, Amsterdam mayonnaise in the middle, and catsup/curry below.

I didn’t get a good shot, but the tables are customized for dining convenience.  Everything is served in a paper cone, so it’s helpful to have circular holes cut in the table tops.   The pointy end of the cone fits perfectly, making keeping the cones upright feasible, and allowing easy access to shared potatoes.


The back side of the wrapper was bicycle-themed, and so was a vintage post card, laminated to the table top.


There are two child seats on this bicycle, one fore and one aft, along with a pannier rack, a cargo rack, and skirt guards.  The Dutch have been doing utility biking for a long time, it seems.


Then we walked and Metro’d back to the hotel, stopping to admire the Friendship Archway along the way.

We’d eaten too much.  Not to mention that an unfamiliar diet is probably not the best preparation for a next-day race.   Whatever the digestive cost, it was worth every bite.

*Acronyms (hope I got them right; I can hardly keep them straight):

BNC: Brompton National Championship

BUCDC;  Brompton Urban Challenge, DC

BUSC: Brompton US Championship

Brompton National Championship

BNC 2014: USA Race Day!

Sunday, July 13, 2014 was the big day:  The Brompton US Championship race!  Once again, the Bromptons gathered, this time with their riders in more formal — for some definition of “formal” — attire.  A suit jacket, collared shirt, and tie are required apparel at the Brompton Championship races — for both men and women.


Later, the race organizers took pity on everyone and allowed all to race sans the jacket — a much-appreciated mercy.  Summer weather in Washington, DC is not for the faint of heart, and the temperatures hit 95 F/35 C on this day (and were probably higher at the actual racing venue).


Any choice of footwear is permitted, and, fortunately, so are shorts and skirts.


Spandex is banned; helmets are required.  Of the latter, quite a few were of the more decorative sort, often coordinating nicely with their associated Bromptons.


Most participants, and quite a few spectators, first met at BicycleSPACE, from which departed three rides:  A multi-modal, which involved cycling to the Metro, hopping on, and then, at the other end, cycling to the race; a full-on cycling tour to the stadium, which was not necessarily recommended for those competing later; and a more leisurely social ride, for spectators.  All, of course, terminated at RFK Stadium, where the day’s festivities were staged.

rd-mtWe rode to the Metro Center stop where those of us without MTA passes paid our fare, and all boarded.  MTA cars have a lovely large space at the end where bikes — in this case, lots of bikes — fit nicely.


That’s Steve, of Brommie Yummie (“Eat, bike, fold”) snapping photos on the train.  (Can I just mention here that one of the real joys of the weekend was meeting so many interesting, enthusiastic, people?  And meeting people like Steve and Fernando, who I had previously “known” only on the Internet?  What a thrill, all around!)


We got off at Stadium-Armory, hopped on our Bromptons, and were shortly at the starting line.

Shade was at a premium, and a few jackets were doffed as things were setting up.

rd-jkWe noted that Peter, of NYCeWheels, had arrived.  Like a lot of others, he didn’t race with his jacket on, but that was one natty jacket, with an under collar that coordinated beautifully with his bicycle and helmet. (Though, sadly, you can’t really see that here.)


Fernando looked really dashing in his outfit — and, as befit an Arizonian, he wore an attractive bolo tie.


Captain America was looking good, too.


If you ask me, though, it was Micki who stole the sartorial show with the perfect blend of flamboyance, eccentricity and style!  And look at that chapeau — that’s some flair!


If you’re not familiar with the Brompton Championship, you’re probably just now getting the idea that this is no ordinary bicycle race.  A certain amount of quirkiness is expected — one might even go so far as to suggest it’s required — at these events.

The race itself — though the stakes are high — is not merely for the swift, but also for the slow, the tourist, the ambler and/or anyone else who wants to ride — providing you’re on a Brompton, of course.

The stakes are high because the winners, one male, one female, are awarded a trip to the UK to compete at the BWC — the Brompton World Championship.  Runners up also receive nifty prizes, but, for the majority of us, participating is reward enough!


It’s a Le Mans start, with all the Bromptons folded and lined up.  We race to our own, unfold, and tear off.


There were plenty of spectators to cheer us on.

It is here, however, dear readers, where I fail you.  We raced, Basil and I, Argyll and Dr. Diarist.  We did not take photographs as we tore around the asphalt of RFK Stadium and the cobblestones of the Congressional Cemetery.  However, if you’d like to know what the course was like to ride, Fernando recorded his laps with a head cam, and it makes for some exciting viewing.

We did three laps around the course, enduring a lot of full sun in the shimmering DC heat, and an exciting uphill stretch on cobblestones.  (Weirdly, I actually liked that — though I admit it involved some serious pedal work.)   The course was just over 7 miles/11.2 km — long enough to challenge, but not to kill.


The winners were known, but not announced, immediately, of course, since there were other activities to conclude.  The folding contest was hard fought, with contestants keen to finish milliseconds ahead of the competition.


There was the coveted “Best-Dressed” test, which featured the dapper Melissa, Peter (of NYCeWheels) and Caleb, who were pre-selected by the organizers and who represented a more conservative approach — although perhaps that’s not a strictly accurate description of Peter’s excellent suspenders!  Caleb took the honor, by acclaim.


Much attention was paid to shoes; I didn’t get a good shot of Peter’s very sleek racing footwear, but Melissa and Caleb were elegantly shod, and their headgear was pretty spiffy, too.

rd-smWe collapsed, recovered, and visited with fellow Bromptoneers, and then it was time for the official announcement of the wiinners of the 2014 Brompton US Championship!  Anna Zhao, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, took women’s first.

rd-fwThat’s Anna in the middle, holding up the handsome green Brooks saddle she won, along with a trip to the UK to compete (in only two weeks!) at the Brompton World Championship.  To the right is second place finisher Heather Jackson, and left is Emily Garhartt, who finished third.


First place men’s winner was Travis Werts, of Nashville, Tennessee, in the center, with Greg Biche, second place winner on the left, and NYCeWheels’s own Peter Yuskauskas, in third place, on the right.

Brilliant performances, all around!


There was more:  a chance to buy tee shirts and biking caps to commemorate the experience, and also to check out Cleverhood — USA-made cycling capes with a classic, almost European flair. Owner Susan attended in proper Brompton attire, including glen plaid trousers, which complemented her capes.  (Sadly, Susan’s trousers weren’t reflective, like her marvelous cycling capes, but maybe there’s a product idea there?)


The organizers did a great job of keeping us hydrated, and we were greeted with cold beverages and a tasty lunch after we rolled past the finish line.

rd-pnPanini, crisp melty panini!  Exhilirated, exhausted and over-heated as we were, it took a while before we made our way to the food truck.

Afterwards, we cycled to the Metro and boarded with a friendly group of fellow Brompton riders, chatting happily all the way back to our stop.  Then it was one last Brompton ride to our hotel, where Basil and Argyll posed, next to a small garden, eager and alert for the next adventure.


It was an amazing weekend, full of good cheer, wonderful people, and fun and zany Brompton activities; in short, it was a delight from start to finish.  BicycleSPACE, and all those, sung and unsung, who worked together to make the weekend flow, did a spectacular job.  We can’t wait until next year!

Other relevant posts:

BNC 2014: The Brompton Urban [DC] Challenge

BNC 2014: An Evening at the British Embassy

Brompton National Championship

BNC 2014: The Brompton Urban [DC] Challenge

On Saturday morning, a large group assembled for the Brompton Urban Challenge, or, in Twitter-speak, the #BUCDC.   The first stop for Basil and Argyll was a local Radio Shack, where we picked up a Garmin cord, since I had uncharacteristically forgotten mine.


I love running errands on a Brompton.  No parking issues, among other things.

Then we headed off to BicycleSPACE, host shop for the weekend.  We weren’t the only Bromptons on the road; I think the rider in the front of our little pack is Emily, third-place women’s finisher at the Championship race.  Fortunately for the rest of us, the pace to the shop was much slower.

uc-btThings were relatively quiet outside the shop at first. We parked against the curb, since the sidewalk was pretty well occluded.


Things may have been chaotic outside, but at the back of the shop, it was business as usual, with patient staff members carrying on perfectly calmly.


BicycleSPACE has a water bowl for canines outside the shop, and also a public workstand — a rather neat feature.  Buy your part and install it yourself! (Or tweak your brakes without having to break your cadence!)


There was lots to see, and many Brompton features to share and discuss.


No two Bromptons are truly alike; there are an incredible number of variations on the theme, all worthy of note.  (And a separate blog post, later.)


John, Brompton’s man in Oregon, flew to Pittsburgh and then rode from that fair city to Washington, DC in three days — a journey of approximately 335 miles — on his B.  They both appeared to be in amazingly good shape after their long journey; leading the fold to the nearby park where we assembled for the Urban Challenge was a trivial task for these two.


The Brompton line-up was impressive, and grew and grew as more and more people and Bromptons gathered.


Beautiful Bromptons, alert and ready to go!


Basil and Argyll were in the line-up, too. There’s something about a parked Brompton that makes it clear that these little guys just live to ride!

We couldn’t help admire the incredible colors of Brompton — what an array!


The organizers did a great job of keeping us all hydrated during the incredibly hot Washington weekend.  Naturally, water delivery to the park was accomplished by bicycle — in this case, via a Christiania cargo trike.


The Brompton Urban Challenge is essentially a scavenger hunt, with some twists.  The idea was that each team would tweet or email photo evidence of having resolved each clue.  In practice, I’m not so sure that social media is exactly this demographic’s strongest point:  There were 36 clues and six or seven teams, but only about 45 photos made it to the #bucdc tagboard where the images were collected.  Two teams never got photos up at all, and one had only two in evidence.


As marketing, social media is supposed to be where its at, but, for what it’s worth, my limited experience would suggest that the people who are attracted to Bromptons aren’t really spending most of their time on tweeting and the like — they seem mostly to be riding, and loving, their Bromptons instead.  Social media is so mainstream; Bromptons are so inherently an individual passion, and I’m not sure that could, or should, change.

(We think the best way to sell a Brompton is to offer test rides; once people realize a Brompton rides like a bicycle, the sale is mostly made.  Then, when they see that slick rear wheel swing — either folding or unfolding — their jaws fall in amazement, and it’s all over. But I digress.)

That’s Team 5 above, who proved to be adept at everything — they killed the BUC on all points.  We didn’t know this at the start, of course, but you’ll note that they are heading out here, while Team 6 — ours — was still strategizing!


Once we’d all assembled, we were given the list of clues and charged with the goal of completing  as many as possible.  All team members were required to be present for at each clue destination:  Our team may have taken the latter injunction too seriously — we made sure our Bromptons were in the photos, too.  This may have cost us precious moments, but it sure gave us some great Brompton memory shots!


We set off after we’d done some geographic research using a map.  Here are Dr. D, Ken, and Micki checking the clue manifest.  (Ken was not riding a Brompton, but we were lucky to have him — he was the one who provided much needed reality checks as the afternoon zipped past — and the one who local knowledge was indispensable!  We knew we had to be finished by 4 PM, but had some difficulty tracking the time.)

The clues were quite amusing and sometimes slightly obscure; we didn’t quite get them all, but that’s not surprising — and there’s no way anyone could work their way through the entire list in a few hours.  We got to pick and choose; here’s a sampling of a few we completed:

Clue 25 — Plenty of faces are on display at this museum.  Take a portrait in the beautiful glass-enclosed courtyard.


That’s Basil’s Diarist, Micki, Dr. Diarist, and Lionel — portrait with Bromptons!  The staff at the National Portrait Gallery took the Brompton invasion in stride.  “They’re in there” said one of the guards, pointing to the inner courtyard.

Clue 2 — Teach a stranger how to fold. This was a lot of fun — we accosted a visiting family and asked for a volunteer.  This young person bravely stepped up; she was terrific, and a very good student!


I wasn’t half as competent when I folded up Basil — I tossed his open water bottle on the sidewalk, slopping a good deal of liquid over the bricks.  As we were preparing to ride on, the family returned and handed me a fresh bottle of water.  It was a great encounter, all around!

Clue 12 — A lot of people think this fountain is one of the ugliest monuments in the city:  It was given to the city by someone who believed that providing clean drinking water would keep people from drinking alcoholic beverages.


It’s the Temperance Fountain.  I don’t know —  it seems to have worked for Dr. D, who is chugging water in the background.


Ugliest?  Well, it’s no marvel of grace, but somehow I suspect there are other contenders.  Fish out of water, though:  It’s not a good image!

Then we headed for the Capitol.  That’s Ken, taking off under a perfect blue sky — in 90 F/32.2 C heat.


Clue 7 — The 4 quadrants of DC meet at our equivalent of Parliament.   Position 4 Bromptons in the cardinal directions and make a Capitol Compass.


We were beginning to run short of time, but Micki pointed out that we really needed to take our Bromptons to the Capitol Building, since they had never been there. and we’re glad she did!  Did we orient the cardinal points correctly?  Only the organizers know for sure!

Clue 9 — The monument recently reopened after a prolonged rehab, just in time to celebrate our Independence which was won with the help of our first president.  Kick over the tallest monument in DC.


Ken patiently orchestrated the shot he sent, in which Micki was giving the Washington Monument a not-so-swift kick.  That required a serious balancing act while our photographer managed the perspective.  Micki accomplished the feat with aplomb and a nice athleticism.

There were more; the clues were entertaining, and would make a great road map for touring DC.  We were running late, though, and later still after we encountered a common impediment in Washington:  The motorcade.


Call me crazy, but those bloated SUVs just look silly.  Where is the elegance of yesteryear?  Where are the flags on the fenders?

I noted with amusement that the Secret Service is now recruiting via a URL on police cars.  (The text splashed across the bumper reads “”.)


Streets regularly close in the District when our leaders (and presumably others who may not strictly qualify) move about.

There were several Compulsory Challenges required for successful completion of the day’s capers:  Each team had to buy the tackiest souvenir it could fine (cost around five dollars); we all had to show up at Lafayette Square so that at least one team member could complete a one-handed (!) unfolding test; we had to tow or push a Brompton through an obstacle course in front of the statue of Winston Churchill at the Embassy; and we were meant to identify Brompton parts masked inside a box.


The concept of a one-handed fold was quite daunting.  Micki considered her options, and did a brilliant job, keeping her other hand behind her so she wasn’t tempted to use it.


Dr. Diarist gave it a whirl, too, and did something I wouldn’t have thought of:  he used a foot to brace the Brompton.  Hmmm . . . it wasn’t a hand, after all, so it was clearly perfectly legitimate.  That was clever, but Micki definitely took the win, with no extraneous limbs involved in her success!


We were running quite late and made a mad dash back to the British Embassy.  Micki towed her beautiful Merlot Brompton through the obstacle course, which required us to first navigate a slalom by towing or pushing our B; to circle the Winston Churchill statue; to fold and unfold our Bs; to ride back around behind Churchill, and then ride through another small slalom course.  Whew.

That’s Jordan, from BicycleSPACE, keeping records; this was a timed challenge, and his colleague is out of view, stopwatch in hand.


Micki rode the slalom with panache, and made it look easy.

Dr. Diarist engaged in some fiendish folding under Churchill’s watchful eye.


He stood to ride the slalom.  He was the first to go, and hadn’t realized he could have taken Argyll on the challenge. The extended seatpost on the provided Brompton was a surprise!


Then Ken took one last Team 6 photo.  Did this qualify for Clue 6 — “Take a picture of the biggest union jack you can find“?  That’s the Embassy’s Union Jack behind us.


We were Team Last, I fear, but we had a lot of fun, and covered a lot of ground — with more to come, as we were due at Brixton for what was allegedly the final compulsory challenge.  We mounted up, charged over, and joined the mayhem.


The Bromptons gathered upstairs at Brixton’s, and so did the humans — hot, sweaty, hungry, happy humans. (The samosas with tamarind sauce were to die for!  No pictures; they disappeared too quickly.)


Tasty things were flying.  We never found out what was inside this tiffin, but I’ll bet it was delicious.


The final challenge was “identify Brompton parts hidden in boxes”.  In theory, it was required, but the system fell apart, perhaps due in part to the presence of lots of good food and plentiful libations.


I loved this!  Three items in each box, touch only permitted.  I’m sure I got them all correct but one, and was extremely annoyed to miss the one.  Jordan did point out, as a sort of consolation, that I’d correctly identified a part that only a very few had gotten right.  But I was still miffed — the one I missed is a nifty bit of kit, and one I like very much.


Alas, we never did discover which team scored best here.  Not that it mattered; the day was full and wondrous enough as it was!

Lastly, the tacky souvenirs were distributed among the teams.  One team failed to return with the item, so a BUSC cap was awarded to Team 6, and, by unanimous consent, awarded in turn to Ken who as a “Brompton spouse” had shepherded us through the day, and done the heavy mapping-photo-and-tweeting work.

Team 5 won the hard-fought Washington Brompton Urban Challenge.  Getting a photo in the crowded pub was out of the question, but I can report that both Tucsonians Fernando, of The Dirty Brompton, and Todd, of Metro Gnome were on the winning slate.

A fine time was had by all — along with a few fine beers.   However, the weekend was far from over, and the next day brought the Championship race — we couldn’t wait!

Brompton National Championship

BNC 2014: An Evening at the British Embassy

Basil, Argyll, Dr. Diarist and I spent this past weekend in Washington, D.C., attending the USA Brompton National Championsip (also known as the BNC, or, more specifically, as BUSC).  We put our Bromptons into our sub-compact car and drove to DC; it’s an easy drive, theoretically of only a couple of hours’ duration.


The trip took twice as long as it should have, even though we left in plenty of time to avoid prime traffic hours, and we were travelling against the heaviest flow.  As a result, we got to our hotel in just enough time to change, hop on our Bromptons, and cycle the roughly three miles to the British Embassy, which had very generously opened its doors to the weekend’s participants.

The British Embassy!  We were thrilled:  What could be more exciting for a fold of Anglophiles?


Basil and Argyll have now been on British soil where once Britain’s Queen stood!  (The floor here was actually a lovely hardwood, but poetic license is normally permitted in these circumstances, and we’re claiming it.)

This first event of weekend was scheduled from 6-8 pm, happily coinciding, more or less, with daylight hours.  We were all  reminded to bring government-issued ID, and went through a careful, courteous security check before we entered the compound.


There were plenty of bike valets and lots of bike parking on the lawn outside, which made for very good Brompton-spotting on the way in.


Those gorgeous red Bromptons belong to Todd, of Metro Gnome Music & Cycle to Go in Tucson, Arizona, and to Fernando, who writes the blog The Dirty Brompton.

The A frames made for interesting and effective bike storage; the saddles loop over the top bar, and the bikes rest on their front wheels.


However, we’d been told that Brompton riders were welcome to bring their bicycles inside, which, of course we did.  When would Basil and Argyll ever have another chance to experience being inside the embassy of their home country?


Argyll and Basil were greeted cheerfully by embassy staff, and  settled in with a friend for the evening, next to the entrance to the reception room.

We had been promised a sampling of British treats, and the embassy did not disappoint.  Dr. Diarist and I particularly appreciated the cheeses.


We were a little confused by the “Wesleydale” label on the cheese on the left; it’s almost identical to the “Wensleydale” we sought out as fans of Wallace and Gromit; Wensleydale is Wallace’s favorite cheese, and a very fine cheese it is.  So, it must be noted, was the Stilton and Apricot on the right.


The star of the cheese platters though, was the Kilchurn Estate Stilton, which had a lovely tang, and the Farmhouse Cheddar came a close second.


Cheeses weren’t the only British goods on display, though.  Crabbies Ginger Beer was on hand, as well as Strongbow ciders, beer, ales, and several whiskeys.  We munched and schmoozed happily, delighted to be in the company of fellow Bromptoneers.

Nutcase’s Union Jack helmet was much in evidence over the weekend, including at these festivities.


There was a handsome Arctic Blue Brompton in the reception area which got quite a bit of attention. (We suspect that there were a few invitees who weren’t necessarily Bromptoneers, but may have had an interest in British commerce.)


A beautiful Moulton was set against a column, and caused much comment.  Moultons disassemble, but don’t properly fold, and their engineering is a marvel in its own right.


A few lovely Pashleys were also in evidence.  I love and adore my Basil, but even I recognize the beauty of these frames.  (Though, really, there is nothing like a Brompton!)

After mingling, everyone moved into the rotunda for the remainder of the evening.

Bromptons were set on pedestals under the domed roof, like fine

Most Brompton colors render well on a monitor, but a computer screen does not do justice to the “Merlot”, which is an incredibly rich and deep tone when directly viewed.


On the softer side, colour-wise, was this titanium Turkish Green S model.  Look at that sleek and compact fold!  It’s a thing of beauty!


Other Brompton-related, British, goods were arrayed along a wall, very nicely displayed with reproductions of vintage ads.


I hadn’t previously seen the Brooks John Boultbee Gents Criterion Cycling Jacket (which, oh my, retails for € 1000.00, according to the website).


We admired this 2012 Jubilee Brompton limited edition, a handsome M3L, complete with a Union Jack tweed S bag.


Speaking of British tailoring, that S flap is extraordinary up close.  (OK, strictly speaking, that’s not tailoring at all, but it’s really quite nice, and an amusing amalgamation of different tweeds and textures.)


Along with a few short speeches, including a lively, cheery and amusing pitch for the advantages of British-USA trade, we enjoyed a few warm-up contests, just to get us all in the mood for the serious competitions later in the weekend.


That natty gent in the center, in the tuxedo jersey and plus-fours, was the first to try his hand at the speed fold.  Those who stepped up to volunteer were, perhaps unsurprisingly, rather adept at the process.


Then Emily, from DC, tried her hand.  The yellow and hot pink Brompton was, as far as we could determine, the only other yellow B at the weekend’s events, which surprised us.

be-mhlMelissa somehow managed to keep her hat on while doing her bit.  There’s a whole choreography to this high-speed fold thing, and it’s not necessarily elegant, though that excellent hat helps!


Fernando was moving so fast he blurrred!  I don’t remember who was fastest (maybe Melissa?), but it was an impressive performance by everyone who entered.


Then there was an Impromptu “best-dressed” line-up, which MJ won by acclaim, in her equestrian helmet and proper tweed riding jacket.  Sadly, my overhead shot only caught her from the back.

Then it was time to leave.  Dr. Diarist and I made our way to the garden, cognizant of the fact that neither Basil nor Argyll was equipped with lights.  Naturally, though, we stopped to take pictures of our Bromptons in the garden, next to the Embassy’s classic British phone box.


Many people wanted to take pictures of, or  near, the phone box.  Dr. Diarist kept offering to remove Argyll and Basil, but everyone said “No, leave the Bromptons!”, so our Bs happily posed for others, too.

We missed the crowd shot; it was organizing as we were preparing to leave, and we suspected that an extra ten minutes might prove problematic at the other end of our three-mile trip back to the hotel.


It was a wonderful ride back, straight down Massachusetts Avenue., after a wonderful evening.

We were probably fortunate there was a full moon, though plentiful streetlights helped — as did riding on the sidewalk for the last little bit.  That may or may not have been legal; we were at the border of DC’s civic center no-bicycling-on-the-sidewalk zone, and, technically speaking, riding on the boundary line.  (No pedestrians were abused in the course of our travel.)


What does a cyclist wear to a cycling event at the British Embassy?  This is what I wore:  a Little Black Dress and Mary Jane shoes.  I didn’t wear the high-vis vest within the hallowed halls of the Embassy.


This evening’s trip was the first time the four of us had ridden on Washington DC’s streets, and, more significantly, through its traffic round-abouts.  We had just arrived at the hotel when Dr. Diarist immortalized our survival, and I was already removing the vest.


Back in our room, far too high in the sky, we admired night-time Washington. We could see the Washington Monument from our window, but some of its inherent majesty (so to speak) was lost due to the crane superimposed across its middle.


But the lights of evening were beautiful, and the evening’s experiences had been as perfect as they could possibly have been.  We went to bed happy, and so impressed with all of the cheerful efforts of the Embassy staff, of Brompton itself and of BicycleSPACE, the local hosting Brompton dealer .  .  . and the weekend had hardly begun!


The BNC: We Go to Washington (DC)

Basil and Argyll, our Brompton bicycles, Dr. Diarist, and I have just returned from a fantastic weekend in Washington, D.C., participating in the USA Brompton National Championship events.


So many pictures!  So much to write!  All will unfold (so to speak) in due time, beginning (probably) tomorrow.  I’m planning to write a series of posts about the whole weekend — after all, I’d want to know everything if I’d  never been!

In the meantime, suffice to say it was an excellent event, from start to finish, and we’d do it again (and again and again!) every time we get a chance.

We loved it so much that we went out early this morning and took a 20 mile/32 km ride on our home trail, an activity which I hope our regular readers will forgive.  I should have been writing posts, but we just weren’t quite ready to stop celebrating all things Brompton.

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Cheese, Lovely Cheese, and What Comes After

While the parents were visiting, we ate very well, including an evening of raclette — lovely melted cheese eaten with vegetables grilled on a hot stone.


Where there is cheese, though, exercise must follow, so we all hit the trail, too.


The mountain bikes had their own pump, an extremely efficient model which is operated by foot.  (“Pumps twice as fast as a hand pump.”)  It’s twenty years old, and still serving proudly.


Wait, does that say “Slime”?  Branding has changed a lot, it seems.  I find the name kind of refreshing — if you’re using an industrial strength foot pump, odds are whatever you’re doing isn’t very effete, and might even be, at times, slimey.


We headed for the Schuylkill River Trail, beginning in Conshohocken.   I didn’t know how many opportunities I’d have to snap a shot of Basil, so I quickly took one under this old trestle.


The trail extending to/from Alan Wood Road has been newly-surfaced, so it’s an especially easy ride here.  The first part was a fun, stop-and-admire the scenery kind of ride, and I ended up with more pictures than I had expected to.

But I got an early shot of Argyll, too, just in case.  Basil grows pale in direct sun, but Argyll becomes almost completely camouflaged in shadows and greenery.


It was another beautiful day, and the Schuylkill River was looking particularly good, at least at a distance, under that very blue sky.


Up close was a slightly different matter, with a lot of debris from earlier storms still evident.  Not those little swimmers — they live in the river all the time.


When, that is, they aren’t sunbathing on the rocky shore.


Spring’s goslings are giants now, and a little more unfazed by bicyclists than they should be.  On the other hand, they weren’t at all antagonistic, so that was a plus.

r2-smThree of us went on for a fast second half of the ride, out to Betzwood and back, including a stop at the Spring Mill Trailhead to check on progress on the system.

We all stopped at the Outbound Station, where I had the best grilled cheese sandwich ever — so crispy outside, and so melty inside; too wonderful!


At least three trains went by as we ate lunch; the Schuylkill River Trail runs parallel to the tracks here, between the trains and the café.  This is a trilling plus, as far as I’m concerned.

The buildings in the background are typical of those in the city of Conshohocken, especially the one on the right.  Someone must have gotten a virtually city-wide concession for the installation of those distinctive greenish windows; they’re ubiquitous.


There’s something new behind the counter at the Outbound — a magical Dyson fan.  It’s blade-less; standing in front of it — the breeze is strong — is a very, very odd experience.  There’s nothing there!   Maybe that’s twice as disconcerting because the design seems almost sculptural — is is art or science?


The Outbound Station is extremely bike-friendly — they’ll fill up your water bottle, loan you tools for minor repairs, let you use their air pump, and they sell a variety of bike-friendly energy bars and snacks along with tasty sandwiches and baked goods.


There’s an ode to bikes or bicycling in nearly every corner.

Not much farther down the trail, we spotted this locomotive, pulling a maintenance vehicle.  The orange structure just behind the engine is actually a rail car.


Standing on top was a crew working on the overhead wires.  The locomotive pulling this fantastic structure is to the left, out of the picture, and, for some reason, there’s a passenger car linked to the maintenance car, just visible to the right.


That was a fascinating sight — we sometimes see track maintenance equipment, but rarely see it in use, and this particular car was not one I’d seen before.

It’s also unusual for us to see the Norristown high speed train when we’re riding, probably because we’re usually on the trail at the wrong time of day.  There it was, though.


Further down the trail, these little guys startled us, and vice versa.  They had the good sense to flee, fortunately.  I think we’d just seen Mama, but I hadn’t reacted fast enough to catch her, too.


The guys changed out of their cycling shoes when we got back to the vehicle.  Am I the only one who wears comfortable biking shoes?  (In this case, mine are actually biking sandals, but my winter cycling shoes are quite comfortable, too.)  I wonder.

r2-tgOur Brompton bicycles got tossed — gently! — in the back of the truck (a first for them).  Ancient moving pads make for good protection in unusual circumstances, and let us put the mountain bikes’ front tires on top of the little bikes.  The mountain bikes themselves go on a roof-top rack.


This was just about the perfect ride for our from-out-of-town parents (and would be for other visitors, too)  — the terrain is good for all skill levels, the sights are varied, there’s a fine place to stop, snack, and visit, and it’s also a great way to share an interesting, and perhaps not well-known, aspect of the Philadelphia area.

As some of you already know, response to comments and email will be non-existent over the next few days.  Basil and his Diarist will return to these pages early next week.

Short Trips & Errands

A Family Ride and a Brompton Encounter

The parental units are cyclists, too, so when they came for a visit we all went out together.

rr7-bkMountain bikes are a whole different breed!  All four bikes did just fine on the Struble Trail, in Chester County, before it closed for most of the summer.

rr7-mtPaul’s father’s bike is a mid-90s Cannondale, from the same era as another one we know well — the steed ridden by awesome ride leader and frequent commenter Saul.


Much to our surprise, we met a Brompton — and rider — at the far end of the trail.  We’d never before seen a Brompton in Chester County!  This one is a beautiful M6R with a raw lacquer finish.   We had a nice chat with the cyclist, and then headed home; this was just a quick ride before a day full of other events.

Events Iron Tour

French Creek Iron Tour 2014

Last year I unwittingly rode the French Creek Iron Tour in only two gears, having failed to notice that Basil’s gear indicator had slipped.


This year, all six of Basil’s gears were fully functioning, and I also had a much better idea of how to use them.  What a difference!


This year, Dr. Diarist and Argyll joined us for one of the prettiest rides around:  Thirty-plus miles /49 km in the rolling terrain of Chester county, Pennsylvania.


Mile for mile, it’s the prettiest long ride we’ve taken, which is only right, as the tour benefits open space preservation.


The entire route is on open roads, but occurs on a quiet Sunday.  Motorists were relatively few, and, for the most part, considerate when dealing with the 1500 or so of us who did this ride.


Riding on public streets meant that we saw our share of private homes, most of them with at least a little rustic, or historic, charm .  (Or both!)


The county has plentiful creeks, burbling quietly alongside.  I’m sure we failed to see quite a few; hidden, as they often are, in the shadows of the greenery all around.


There were two rest stops on our route:  At the first, a friendly Alpaca was soaking up admiration in the parking lot, while these much tinier guys were frolicking in open pens — and posing very nicely!


Southeastern Pennsylvania is dotted with old stone buildings, many of which date from when the area was first settled by Europeans, and which are still lived in; we spotted them all along the ride.


Covered bridges are another hallmark of the geography, though there were only two on this route.


Sometimes the woods and the earliest buildings meld until the structure almost disappears, and sometimes it’s hardly possible to spot the farm across the fields.


This abandoned out-building looks a bit Potemkin, with an almost one-dimensional aspect.  It’s not just that the windows are gone, but, I suspect that the whole back wall has collapsed, allowing that perfectly-aligned glimpse into the field beyond, through the building.


Rolling hills, woods, flowing water, centuries-old architecture, covered bridges, stone walls and the bluest sky — it was a perfect ride!


We were relieved to see that this sign said “no peddling” instead of “no pedalling”, which, at this point, we’d been doing for quite a while!


Montana has nothing on this landscape; this is Big Sky Country, Pennsylvania-style!


Decrepit small-scale farms probably shouldn’t be so appealing, since their demise is almost never a good thing, but the organic way the old silos weather and the structures decay has an inherent appeal.


Not all covered bridges are aesthetically pleasing, but they, too, all have a certain charm, regardless.  And they’re a lot of fun to ride through.


The second rest stop was at a pavilion behind a school, only about 10 miles/16 km from the finish.


Argyll and Basil enjoyed comparing notes, and I took a picture of a happy Dr. Diarist.  He’s gotten used to longish rides on new Brompton Argyll, but this was his first cycling event.


Based on my experience last year and this year, I can state unequivocally that the Iron Tour has the best snack support ever and the nicest volunteers, too!   The organizers have also mastered the art of real-food cycling fuel:  providing little bites of tasty carb treats like brownies, cookies and so on, but also bananas, tiny sandwiches and a variety of fresh fruit (and lots of it!), as well as chips and pretzels for the salt-depleted.


This is the event where people are the most surprised to see my small wheeled Brompton bicycle, and where people ask the most questions.  It’s not just Bromptons that seem to be new art, but also the concept of folding bikes in general.  I’m guessing this is because it’s so far into the suburbs (exurbs?);  here, road bikes rule, everyone has a spacious garage, and mass transit hardly exists.

it-wtI met a man who recognized basil from last year’s Iron Tour; that was fun!  I think he was a little stunned that I’d ridden the tour not once, but again, on my little Brompton.

Since Dr. Diarist handled the photos for this tour, we’ve got documentation of some of those hills that vexed me so last year.  There are quite a few like this one — not steep, but with a steady incline.


Quite a few cyclists gave our Bromptons a thumbs-up, but one fellow, dressed in expensive road-racer kit from head to toe, and, I assume, riding the equivalent bicycle, did a bit of sneering and snarking.

I was more than a little amused when I saw him by the side of the road on one of these hills, catching his breath, and wearing an incredulous expression as he watched Basil and Argyll zipping past.  Heh, heh . . . never underestimate a Brompton bicycle!


But I wasn’t zipping everywhere.  I didn’t  walk the incline below, but did stop near the top, as did Dr. Diarist, along with others a lot fitter than the two of us.  This climb came after a long stretch of open sun; we were all feeling it, and the day was getting a lot warmer.


Later on, during a long run of inclines, I resorted to zig-zagging up a hill; it may be just as much exertion, but it’s exertion of a different kind.


That road looks so innocuous; what could be the issue?  My posture suggests that I’m working hard, though!


Dr. Diarist burst up this hill — he’s passing me, here.  You can just barely see Basil’s mirror in the lower right corner.


I did walk on one very short section, but I was back on Basil before I got near the top.  Still, I was a bit crushed:  I had hoped to ride the whole tour without making that particular concession.


We were on the home stretch surprisingly quickly.


Seven Stars Farm, home of exceptionally good yoghurt, is near the starting/finish point, so when we saw this building, we knew we were close.


Coming into the last turn, into the village of Kimberton, there’s a slight incline, and then one final one after the left turn at the intersection ahead .


Then we spied one last burst of flowers on the left, in front of a building that grew rather oddly, and we were back at the starting field.

And that was it!  I’m always sad when these rides end, even if I’m feeling well-challenged.

On a sartorial note, I wore a skirt this time, over my padded shorts.  It billows a little and I thought it might be cooler to wear than my blousy biking over-shorts.  I’m not sure it was, but, in any case, I missed the pockets in my shorts legs where I keep my camera and anything else I want to grab quickly.


Lunch (provided as part of the event) is fresh, flavorful and generous with a vegetarian mains option (they ask at registration), tasty salads (not just the usual options, either, but also a wonderful one of leafy greens), fruit and dessert.  Real food!  It’s the best after a long ride.

Dr. Diarist and I sat outside and picnicked next to Basil and Argyll.


We rode over 32 miles/51.5 km on a beautiful day, in countryside we don’t usually explore much, and loved it; it was a treat of a day!


The Bromptons were ready for another romp.  I’m afraid we only took them to the parking lot, once we’d finished our meal.  Bicycles can play all day, but sometimes people can’t!  There will be other rides — and another Iron Tour next year to look forward to.

Iron Tour 2013, Part One

Iron Tour 2013, Part Two

Short Trips & Errands

Cupcake Picnic

The day before the French Creek Iron Tour, Dr. Diarist and I went for a short ride, and stopped at a farmers’ market.

fm-bbThe amazingly capacious Brompton basket is just made for errands like this one.

fm-enIn fact, it threatens to dwarf Basil.  Argyll looks twice as slim, unencumbered as he is.

fm-ckConsuming cupcakes the day before a somewhat hilly 30 mile/48.2 km event may not have been the best strategy, but it was a tasty one.

fm-opWe had company in the form of a small opportunist.

fm-ntEvidence all over the picnic pavilion suggested that other forms of wildlife had previously been resident.  Presumably the parks department had issued the usual eviction notices.


This was such a short ride that Dr. Diarist and I were both wearing street clothes, which is unusual for us.  Say what you will about spandex, it does make long rides far more comfortable than anything else!


We took an unusual route back; Dr. Diarist had discovered a hidden alley neither one of us had known about.  It was paved here, but a tangled path further along, which was probably why we’d missed it.