A Handle for a Brompton Bicycle

One of the ancillary benefits of immersing oneself in a Brompton weekend like the BNC is the opportunity to see, up close, a lot of the after-market stuff Brompton owners try out and use on their bicycles.  Dr. Diarist and I were very interested to see the Off Yer Bike handles.

The eagle-eyed will have already spotted the OYB handle on Basil in a previously published picture:


I’d seen these online, but, as ever, was reluctant to actually buy one without trying it out in person. Everyone who had one of these on his or her bike in DC raved about it, and now I know why.   My hands are too small to wrap around Basil’s frame, so I can’t easily lift him at the best fulcrum point; as a result, I’ve been wed to the Brompton stock saddle, with its handy grip just under the nose.  That worked, but the balance when lifting Basil was never quite right.

The Off Yer Bike handle changed all that. Even Dr. D, who easily carries both our bikes at once, is very pleased at how much simpler it is to wrangle our Bromptons with these handles attached.  I couldn’t be happier with it, too.   Lifting and manipulating Basil is a whole different, better, story now that he has a handle!

Installation is really simple, and just requires attention and a modicum of brute force to ensure that the velcro and straps are pulled tightly around the Brompton’s mid-section.


The down side?  It’s pricey.  But it’s strong, appears to be extremely well-made, and I expect it to last forever.  If you ship yours individually to the USA from the UK, you can expect to pay even more, but a few dealers in the US are now carrying it, which should save at least a little on p&p.

I bought ours from Bay Area Bikes in Oakland, California — they were fantastic at communication, gave great customer service, and shipped promptly.  If you are near Washington, DC., BicycleSPACE, hosts of this year’s Brompton National Championship, carries them, but they do not ship.

The other bummer?  I hate the way they obscure that beautiful Brompton frame.  But, you know: function over form*.  I don’t think that handle could be transparent and still do the job.

Also, I love the Off Yer Bike logo, and I’m happy that the OYB handle is made in the UK instead of  in a city-factory in China, but I’m cutting that white tag off ours.  It’s distracting to have a white blip flying on the frame, and white?  That tag is going to be really filthy in no time.

*Edited: originally wrote the line wrong.  Grrr. Busy week; no time!

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

We Ride Again (If Only Briefly)

Things have been hopping around here.  Dr. Diarist has a new job, and we’ve been switching things up to accommodate the changes that brings; the upshot is that the ride we took yesterday was our first in just over two weeks.  Basil and Argyll are not pleased with us. Things are looking up for our Bromptons, though, and it won’t be long before we’re back riding more consistently.


Along the way, Dr. Diarist demonstrated Argyll’s finer features to these two cheerful pedestrians; she’s just started working for a bicycle distributor, and he was learning to ride his long board, which we were sorry we didn’t get into the picture.


We decided to check out the Struble Trail, which has been closed much of the summer for a gas line repair.  That rather temporary-looking sign says “Approved Access Road”.  Argyll and Basil are pleased about this; access to the trail is good!

st-mwA little further on, this sign caused a little dismay, but the work being done is off-trail, so our progress was unimpeded.


It was a lovely day.  In another week or two, things should simmer down to a new normal.  (I’ve got a deadline to meet, myself.)  Basil and Argyll are more than ready.  This sitting around the closet stuff is not what Bromptons are made for.


Life Before Basil

I can hardly remember it, but people ask a lot, so I wrote down the story, and posted it as a new page here on the blog.  It’s kind of a The-Path-to-Basil post.


The best part is the way it ends:  Irresistible, irrepressible Basil changes my life!

(tl;dr for the Before Basil page: It’s never too late to find your bliss.  Or to get moving!)

Clothing Gear

Cleverhood Goes Suburban

When I saw Susan, of Cleverhood, again this year at the 5 Boro Bike Expo, she told me that she was working on a smaller version of her rain cape for those of us who are shrimpier than her typical customer.  (“Shrimpier” is not the term Susan used!)  When she suggested that I take one of the early models home to review, I jumped at the chance.


Cleverhood capes are beloved of urban riders, and why not?  This cape is no one-trick pony; designed for cycling, it works equally well for walking, catching a bus, or racing to the subway in a deluge.

Above all, this cape is a really attractive garment, melding the traditional and the quirky beautifully in one very utilitarian package — and it’s practical apparel anyone of any gender can appreciate.

Cleverhood’s secret is that it illuminates brilliantly (literally!) at night.  The fabric is so light and flows so beautifully that daytime use does not even hint at this super power.  This is huge for cyclists, but also a boon for dog-walkers, travellers, and anyone who walks at night near traffic.


This version, appropriately named “Electric Gingham“, is a classic gingham check, made so “mini” that it’s become something quite sophisticated; the contrast (waterproof) zippers (available in lime, as on mine, yellow, red and black) add a bit of fun.  I love that the illumination reveals a completely different look: a counterpane plaid.

Impressive, no?  (By the way, that super-bright “pop” at the lower center back is the normally discreet Cleverhood logo, which becomes something else when lit!)


The Cleverhood is very comfortable when worn; it’s so light that it’s easy to forget it’s there.  You’d expect a cape to billow when worn with cycling, and this one does, but it is so open, and the fabric so lightweight, that there is minimal wind-sail effect.  I did not find that it impeded my riding at all on short runs, and I’d expect the same on longer recreational runs, where the pleasure of the ride is the point, rather than setting a land-speed record.



Unconstrained, the hood is neither large enough to go over a helmet, nor small enough to fit sleekly beneath one.  The latter is less problematic than I thought it would be: I wondered if it would feel bulky under my snugly-fitted helmet, but, in fact, the fabric is so light that it is no more noticeable than a helmet liner.  A tiny, neatly-done toggle allows the hood to be adjusted to fit, and it makes all the difference, allowing it to fit neatly however worn.


In the image above, you can see how beautifully the sides of the hood are cut.  (I turned the brim back to make it more obvious.)  That’s really clever:  peripheral vision is not inhibited, and the brim is designed so well that it works exactly as it should, deflecting rain quite effectively. (You’ll need to turn it back down to get that benefit!)  The lower edge of the hood opening, too, allows complete freedom of movement:  coverage, but not restriction.

In spite of its size, the hood did not tend to fly off in wind; another indication that the cut has been thoughtfully done.  I don’t think I’ve ever worn a hooded rain garment that was anywhere nearly this well designed for function.


When I first tried on the Cleverhood at the Bike Expo, I thought it was way too broad in the shoulders.  Susan said no, it was meant to be cut that way to allow for carrying a messenger bag or a pack beneath it.  That made sense, and, in wearing the cape, it feels right, and the slight additional room in the shoulders, compared to everyday clothing, allows greater freedom of movement.


Beautifully finished openings for arms mean that a Cleverhood is maximally versatile; you can reach from under the cape, or, quite simply, directly through it.  Best of all, the openings have hidden magnets, so they close automatically once you withdraw your arms, and won’t fly open unexpectedly.  Rain and wind will not make their way into the cape through the openings, even though it’s quite easy to pop your arms in and out.


Tabs at each side allow cinching of the cape to make the profile more wind-resistant; I found that they were easy to use and worked well.


Internal thumb loops allow the cape to be held over the handlebars.  This they do effectively, but I ended up feeling that they compromised my safety on my bicycle considerably, by restricting my movement a bit too much in tight situations. I would probably not use the loops while cycling unless on a very predictable trail.  They are an asset when wearing the cape in all other situations, though, and keep the cape from twisting or shifting when moving rapidly by foot.

Water will pool in the apron of the cape when the thumb loops are used in rain, but beads nicely and is easily tossed off.  The water-shedding capacity of the Cleverhood is impressive, and I found that it kept me dry very effectively, and shed rain beautifully.


My other concern when cycling in the Cleverhood has to do with signalling.  While riding in traffic, I did not feel that I was able to signal effectively enough that I could feel confident that motorists understood my intentions.  That’s a serious issue in my book, and one not easily surmounted when wearing a cape-like garment.  That’s a potential difficulty with all riding capes, of course, not an issue strictly confined to Cleverhood.

Urbanites who don’t signal anyway — and they are legion! — are not likely to be bothered by this; in my part of the world, the Cleverhood is just what I want while riding cycle trails in rain. Hand signals are not an issue in those circumstances.


There is a loop at the center back neck where a light can be attached:  I love this loop, which is placed perfectly so that a light can be seen whenever the hood is up.  But the loop also means that the cape can be hung up without trying to get it to balance from the hood — a much easier proposition that also leads to quick drying.


The Electric Gingham Cleverhood strikes me as an excellent all-season rain cape for anyone; cycling is by no means the only use for this nifty cape. If I were an urban walker, for instance, a Cleverhood would be my all-season go-to garment — quick and simple to don, airy and light enough for steamy summer nights, and easy to wear over heavier winter gear.

I can’t imagine a better bit of travel gear, either; it’s stylish, light, extremely functional, and highly stow-able.  Each comes with a pack, and is easily slipped into or removed as conditions require, but this version, the Electric Gingham, also fits nicely into a small Eagle Creek packing cube, with a bit of room to spare.


Different weights of Cleverhood may not tuck in quite as well as the Electric Gingham,  but might work best under other circumstances:  There’s a beautiful brown corduroy version, too, for example!

Cleverhoods are pricey, but, in my estimation, well worth the cost.  Value for money comes from buying lasting goods that do the job — whatever it is — well.  Amortized over a useful lifetime, a high initial expenditure often turns out to be the most economical choice.  (Think Brompton bicycles!)  There’s another wonderful reason to buy Cleverhood, too:  Cleverhood is a USA firm, and, as noted on the website, Cleverhoods are “designed, crafted and manufactured in the US”.  Sweet — that’s buying power a consumer can feel good about!

The Cleverhood originallly featured in this review was a sample supplied to me for feedback on the new, smaller, size. It has since been returned to Cleverhood, but I was so taken with the cape that I bought my own, which was supplied at a discount.  Judge my words accordingly!

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

To Pizza and Back

It feels like eons since we took this ride, but it needs a post, just the same, especially since it was a  photographic trip, too, rather than just a cycling one.

Not to mention that we had no idea that there apparently is a little reservoir next to the Chester County Trail:


Given how small the image is, you might still not believe it — but there’s a lovely patch of water there, behind the flora.  From the perspective of my computer, it looks positively Caribbean, allowing for the fact that the vegetation is all wrong, and, you know .  .  .   it isn’t!

We discovered it on the way to what is now the eastern end of the Chester Valley Trail, which turns into a parking lot just before Gulph Road.  That just happens to be the location of our favorite Pizza joint.



Basil and Argyll checked out the front window while Dr. Diarist and I indulged.  Basil — the herbal kind — and mozzarella with a ton of other herbs, oh yeah!


Then we rode back to Exton, snapping bridges and overpasses on the way.


Clean, traditional lines on this one.  Gotta love those angles!


It overlooks Highway 202, which is more usually a clogged commuting artery.  On summer weekends so many people go to the shore that it’s often nearly empty — except on Friday and Sunday nights when the shore crowd spends miserable hours getting to and from.


The Chester Valley Trail gets its own sign on this overpass — and a cage against mischief.

ej-wrAt Warner Road I snapped this bulwark.  I think these are hideous, especially finished in that awful blah beige, but they are apparently effective at what they’re supposed to be doing.  Short on aesthetics, but high on utility.


Utility counts, though, and a working trail is something to evoke genuine gratitude.


More virtually empty highway, under the overpass.  We usually travel different routes these days, but it’s still odd to see so little traffic.


Quiet days.

That’s Contention Lane, below.


I finally looked it up, and learned that British commander William Howe had made his headquarters at a home on the lane during the Revolutionary War, which was interesting, but didn’t necessarily explain the provocative name of the street.

Further along there’s another beige monstrosity, improved by bit of greenery.  The tunnel’s rather fun, even if the outside isn’t particularly interesting.

ej-bgSometimes, too, the underside of an ordinary overpass is worth a look.  I like the corduroy effect between the girders, though this isn’t really any kind of corduroy roadway.

ej-usAt Church Road, Basil and I rode down a short access road to get this shot of the overpass. (We’ve done this before.)  I’m partial to this rather organic look; it does the job, but blends into the landscape less jarringly than concrete slabs.ej-rt

Then it’s an old favorite, still being refurbished.  Sometimes people can’t resist shouting when  going through this archway; I admit Basil and I have sounded his bell a few times.  Resonance is irresistible!


No curves in the tunnel at Swedesford Road; it’s all rectangle.

ej-srThen, further along, mishmash — a small arch with a buttress on each side, fit a little bit like a child’s mismatched wooden blocks.

ej-loBack at the Exton trailhead, Basil and Argyll were not pleased to see that the new section, which will continue to Ship Road, was still barred to use.

ej-erIn spite of signs forbidding it, we regularly see people cycling down this pristine asphalt.  We don’t, and I’m not so sure that our Bromptons approve of our good citizenship.  Soon enough, guys!

Clothing Gear

Basil, Upstaged

A long time ago, I saw this fascinating product online, but it was too odd to order speculatively, and I mentally filed it away as just another interesting idea.  It’s a sun (or rain) brim for a bike helmet.

db-tnWe saw the tan one, above, and the blue one, below, along with several others, at the BNC events in Washington, DC, this summer.  In person reviews from the owners were overwhelmingly positive, so I ordered one.  Dr. Diarist’s helmet doesn’t have a visor, and we thought this might work for him.


He hasn’t been riding much lately, so I gave it a whirl.  He’ll never get his hands on it again!  I love this thing:  I worried that it would act like a sail, but it stays in place perfectly, and, apart from allowing me to minimize my use of suncreen — sunscreen that, ironically, was destroying the skin on my face — it shades so well that I actually feel a bit cooler when riding.

db-dbOurs is high vis, of course, so it’s not nearly as unobtrusive as the more stylish models we saw in DC.  (The tan one looked, in person, a lot like a pith helmet!)  The brim/helmet combination is pretty big — between the screaming color and the size of it all, I expected to get a lot of flack for what I assumed would look like nerdiness taken to an absurd degree.

That’s not what’s happened:  People are stopping me to tell me how fantastic my brimmed helmet is.  The brimmed helmet that’s almost bigger than my bicycle.

Anybody who rides a Brompton will tell you that it’s important to figure that, on any given trip, you’ll spend at least a few minutes discussing your brilliant small bicycle with interested passersby.  It happens all the time.  Basil’s used to this; we even have a demo routine for the very curious.


Nobody — I repeat, not a soul — has asked Question One about Basil since I started wearing this brim.  He’s surprised, I think, but fortunately he’s quite secure enough that the interest of others is not a sustaining pillar of his existence.

(But really, a hat?!?)

It’s a Da Brim Sporty Cycling Helmet Visor.  (If you want more coverage, the Classic is even larger!) Pricey, but very well-thought-out, engineered so that it really works, and the company (in California, products made in USA) shipped very quickly, too.  This one’s for use with cycling helmets; equestrian versions are available, as well as several other styles, some of which offer just a visor in front.


Stolen in NYC: Black M3L Brompton

Last weekend, a friend’s well-loved Brompton was stolen in New York City.  Recovery seems virtually impossible, but, just in case anyone suspects Maggie — a black M3L Brompton with an unusual polished stainless chain guard —  has been spotted, or in case this particular B ends up in honest hands, here are the particulars:


  • Black 2012 Brompton M3L, serial no. 1209219098, frame no. 380949
  • Brooks B17 Ladies’ Saddle
  • Ergon handlebar grips
  • Light & Motion front light
  • Planet Bike Blinky rear light
  • Brompton toolkit
  • Monkii water bottle clip
  • Tiller polished stainless chain guard, not the usual black Brompton guard
  • Ortlieb Mini O bag (blue/black)
  • Carradice zipped roll bag (green canvas)

A police report has been filed; the theft has been registered with Brompton Bicycle, BikeWatch has been notified, and the information posted to BromptonTalk.

This is a heart-breaking loss of a good friend and fond companion; the sad specifics can be read here:

Loss, remorse and (expensive) redemption


Basil, En-Scène My Brompton

Impatience, in a Peaceful Place

We’re still doing catch-up here, and I’m still fiddling with Basil’s geometry.  I may have it now, but I’m testing the theory with a series of short rides.


I’m as bored as Basil is with this namby-pamby approach to cycling, but even a short ride can offer some unexpected pleasures.  We wandered into the cemetery above because I needed a wall to lean Basil against while I did yet another few-millimeters of adjustment to his saddle.


Basil, Bored

Poor Basil’s been languishing.  Due to an unfortunate decision I made, some travel, and other complications, I’ve only taken very short rides with him during the past weeks.

Just before going to this year’s US Brompton National Championship, I’d been thinking about raising my seat post height so that my leg would be more fully extended — but not completely extended — while peddling.   I like not having to dismount when stopping, but I decided that I wanted to see if I could gain some more cycling power by adding some leg extension.

Wisely, I didn’t make this change right before the Brompton weekend.  Instead, I focused on teaching myself to dismount when stopping Basil.  I actually don’t like the full stop/dismount process, but learning to do it went well.  All for the greater good, after all.

Unwisely, I came back from the BNC, hopped on Basil the next morning, raised the seat post and then blithely set off on a twenty-mile ride with Dr. Diarist.  It was a lovely ride, and, though it was unclear that my Garmin agreed, I seemed to be riding faster and with greater ease.  That was thrilling!

The aftermath was less so:  Though I felt no pain at all during the ride, I came home with saddle sores.  Not minor saddle sores, either.  Also plenty of pain.


I had cleverly used twine to mark the right post height, once I’d found it.  Then I less-brilliantly failed to adjust the previously perfect angle of the seat to fit the new geometry.

When I first got Basil, it took at least ten attempts before I found the saddle height and angle that worked best for me.  Once those metrics were set, the result was a very comfortable ride.  A year and a half later,  I’m not exactly sure why I thought I’d get such a relatively major change accomplished in only one go .  .  .

TL;DR: Made a major adjustment to my Brompton, rode for twenty miles, suffered the consequences for nearly two weeks.

Don’t do that.  When making changes, pessimism isn’t called for, but judicious testing is.  Lesson learned — at least until next time.