No Visible Means of Support

I love taking photos of Basil and his sidekick Argyll.  Sometimes it’s tricky to find something to lean them against, though, and sometimes I get a little bored with the uright folded pose, with the Brompton rear wheels tucked under.

ks-blSo I was intrigued when I ran across the Click-Stand, a portable kickstand meant for bikes without integral stands.  Our Bromptons don’t need them to remain upright, but I thought this might be a good tool for photos.


It’s basically a rod that lets a bike “stand” without requiring any hardware.  It looks like a promising solution for a lot of bikes, but I was a little dubious about how this would work for a Brompton, so I sent a question along to the company.

Tom sent back a picture showing a Click-Stand in use on a Brompton, but set in the middle of the cross bar.   The bike’s frame slips into the cradle, and then geometry does the rest.  (It’s critical to put the foot on solid ground; Click-Stand offers a bigger food for mushier situations.)


I use ours in the underseat triangle, though, to minimize the chance of slipping.

ksbslstGetting the angle right is crucial, too, for good support.  That’s Basil, above, standing tall using the Click-Stand, and Argyll, below, ditto.


The Click-Stand is available in custom sizes (instructions on the website), and folds up compactly for carrying on a bike or in a bag. Following the website instructions, I ordered the Mini-4 with a contact height of 19.25 inches and the x-large cradle size.  (These measurements may be different if the Click-Stand is used elsewhere on the Brompton frame.)

The Click-Stand comes with restraints to hold brakes in place while using the device.  That’s critical; if the bike rolls with the Click-Stand in place, over it goes!   The loops supplied weren’t long enough to go over Basil’s Ergons and across the brake levers, so I improvised my own, which were not as powerful as the ones that came with the Click-Stand.

My improvisation was a huge fail; the brakes slipped and Basil . . . well, let’s just say I hope he’s forgiven me.

Now I use a vinyl-wrapped wire cable tie, and wrap it well around the brake lever and the grip.  Works a treat.


The Click-Stand is a little fiddly, and does require some careful placement on the ground, but it’s light and sleek, and I like the options it offers for photos.

(Incidentally, Click-Stand’s Tom is responsible for Argyll’s color scheme:  It’s the same one as in the Brompton photo Tom sent to us.  We hadn’t seen that combination before, and Dr. Diarist liked it a lotAfter hours on the Configurator, it was amusing to have found Argyll’s colors in this most unexpected way!)


Not precisely on topic . . .

The last couple of months or so have been a bit unusual around here, and, as a consequence, poor Basil (and his blog) have suffered a (large!) measure of neglect.  Things are not yet back on track, but at least the various distractions are winding down.  It shouldn’t be too long before things settle, and, weather cooperating, Basil and I are back on the road again.


Our first and toughest challenge came when Sally, our little grey-and-white cat, suddenly developed diabetes, which proved uncontrollable, and a host of associated symptoms.  We lost her after a valiant fight to stabilize the disease.  She was, surprisingly, mostly un-fazed and un-bothered by her difficulties, fortunately, and her end was peaceful.  Our little herd numbers only four felines now; that’s quite a change, as all five had been with us for many years.

Then Dr. Diarist had a stretch of vacation time available, which he coupled with the various holidays, and we decided to dismantle most rooms of our home and put them back together in a configuration that best suits the way we use them now. That was a lot like moving house, but without, fortunately, the agony of actually packing.  I’m allergic to dust, though, and it turns out that when you don’t move floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for a decade, dust bunnies proliferate.  My lungs are gradually recovering; by the time we’ve finished with the house stuff I should be able to breathe normally again and put those pipes to the test on two wheels once again.


The Brompton Garage:  the only untouched room in the house.  The Brompton Brothers:  bored.

At any rate, we’re through the worst of it, and I’ll be back posting now, albeit perhaps a bit infrequently during the next few weeks.  By mid-February all should be resolved, and Basil and I (and Dr. Diarist and Argyll) should once again be as active as Bromptons, and riders, are meant to be — just in time for early spring!

Gear Luggage

Luggage Release Loop on a Brompton

The luggage block on a Brompton, like so much on the bicycle, is sheer genius.  It places the weight of front luggage on the frame, which means that there’s no destabilization when turning, even when carrying substantial weight.


But it can be a little inconvenient to reach under a bag to pull the release lever.  Fortunately, the lever has a channel running through it — it’s that little circle on the lever, below the block, modelled above by Argyll.


I added a cord loop to the release on Basil’s luggage block.  It loops around his stem, stays completely out of the way, and makes it much easier for me to release a bag.


The cord is run through from opposite sides, and knotted on each side.  In a belt-and-suspenders move, I also stitched the loose ends to the loop.

Viola!  Pull the loop and release the bag; no fumbling under the luggage required.  This might not be a big deal for many people, but my runty little arms really appreciate the more convenient reach.  It’s speedier, too.


I saw this nifty fix when I followed a link from a discussion of Brompton luggage.  Poster trrubicon06 made a far more elegant one (using actual hardware; his Brompton may be an older one without the channel in the release lever).  Check it out here:  trrubicon06’s Brompton luggage release.


This was a happy discovery . . .

Basil’s home-made bottle holder accommodates a paper coffee cup:


I ran out of hands while picking up drinks for two recently.  Basil to the rescue!

The bottle holder is made from a stroller/pushchair accessory, details here.


Shirk’s Bike Shop

Almost in the middle of nowhere — well, actually in East Earl, Pennsylvania — is an amazing bike shop.  Located in the rolling hills of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Shirk’s is in an area populated by Mennonite and Amish families.  It’s not uncommon here to see horse-drawn buggies, and men, women, and children getting around on bicycles and scooters, as modern conveniences are shunned by many members of these groups.


I’d gone past Shirk’s when participating in a couple of cycling events.  Shirk’s is closed on Sunday, not surprisingly, but water in coolers and snacks were left out for cyclists who were passing by during those events.  I’d wondered about a bike shop that would provide refreshment to cyclists during hours when it wasn’t even open.

A couple of months ago I saw a woman wearing a fluorescent helmet with the features I wanted, and asked where she’d gotten it.  “Shirk’s” she said, and that was the impetus I needed to finally check the shop out.  Also, Lancaster County is beautiful, and the drive through it, particularly when it’s not tourist season, can be very rewarding.

shr-tlIt turns out that Shirk’s has the stock density of an old-time urban hardware store, but without the space limitations.  Looking for bike tools?  Shirk’s has everything from the basics to all kinds of very modern mcro-multi-tools.

shr-t2Want a quality saddle?  Shirk’s carries Brooks, Bontrager, Selle Anatomica, Terry, and more — and a full selection of women’s and smaller sizes, too.shr-sdThere’s plenty of spandex for men, women, and children, along with baskets, grips, cell phone mounts and all kinds of bike accessories. And bikes themselves.  Lots and lots of bikes; it’s an entire warehouse, in fact.


No Bromptons, though; if you live in East Earl, your need for a folding bike is probably minimal.  If your buggy breaks down, presumably you ride the horse home.  (If your horse gets into trouble, presumably that’s a whole different issue.)

shr-b2Old school approaches haven’t kept Shirk’s from adapting:  There are shelves of gels, bars, energy drinks and more.


Including a wall of helmets, which I failed to photograph because I was busy buying one.  The fellow who helped me expertly fitted mine, so I went home without dreading doing the sizing ineptly myself.


I also picked up a multi-tool, the women’s florescent, short-fingered cycling gloves I can’t find anywhere else, and another sunscreen skull cap for under my helmet.  A day’s work well done!

Shirk’s is a good distance from major population centers, but oh, what a drive!


That’s the view from the store’s parking lot, looking left, above.  Below is the view looking to the right.


Befitting its Mennonite origin, the store has no website; Shirk’s is one huge Internet secret. But when noodling around online for the address and directions, I did come across a great article about Shirk’s in Bicycling Magazine.  It’s very much worth a read.

The store’s address, which, happily, was included in the article, is:

Shirk’s Bike Shop
1649 Ligalaw Rd.
East Earl, PA 17519

Phone:  717/445-5731

There’s a large, active, repair shop on the premises; truing wheels is a speciality.  It’s kind of a dream bike shop — nearly perfect!  Well worth the trip; come during clement weather and explore the area, too.  There are tourist traps a-plenty in Lancaster County, but also hidden gems just like this one.

Argyll Gear

Argyll Gets Ergons

(Can you say that fast?)  Thanks to a generous friend, whose Brompton is now sporting the Biokork version, Argyll and Dr. Diarist are enjoying new grips.

Except for that horrible moment when the original Brompton grips go under the knife, the procedure is fairly straightforward, and not otherwise emotionally traumatic.


Surgery and Brompton bicycles:  It just feels wrong. Nonetheless, the easiest way to remove the original Brompton foam is by cutting it.  Don’t score deeply; you don’t want a mark on the handlebars, even if you can’t see it.  Some standards should be observed.


Peeling the original foam slowly and evenly works pretty well.  Argyll’s left grip had hardly any adhesive beneath, but there was a broad band under the right one.

Getting the adhesive off the handlebar is the only challenging part of this little project.  The Ergons slip on pretty easily if most of the adhesive is removed.  I rubbed as much off as I could, then used household alcohol, sparingly applied with a microfiber rag, to soften the adhesive.


Then I went over the surface with a nylon kitchen scraper.  That got off most of the gunk; repeated applications of alcohol, and rubbing with the rag, did the rest.

There’s a 4mm bolt on the outer edge of the Ergon which will need loosening, but not by much, so that the grip can be slipped onto the handlebar.

Argyll’s grips are Ergon GP grips — probably the GP1 model.  These have to be cut down to fit on a Brompton M handlebar like Argyll’s.  You’ll want to measure carefully, but the cutting itself is easy to do with a utility knife, a mini-hacksaw or maybe a serrated kitchen knife.


On Argyll, a 2014 Brompton, the edge goes right up against the brake lever retention ring.  That’s a nicer look than on Basil — on the 2012 models, the edge of the brake lever blocks an evenly cut Ergon. (The grips could be cut to fit around the lever, but that seems like an excessive pain to me, and wouldn’t allow for any future adjustments in angle..)


It won’t matter if the edges aren’t cut perfectly smoothly, unless you find that sort of thing completely maddening.  (In which case, take special care when cutting, and use a pipe cutter to mark the line you cut along.)  Once flush against the brake supports, the edge will not be particularly visible.

Getting the angle right may take some tinkering, and may vary quite a bit from cyclist to cyclist. Argyll’s grips tip just slightly downward (Argyll has an H-type stem, which is taller than the standard model):


But Basil’s are at a much steeper angle (Basil’s handlebars have been pulled slightly forward):


It’s kind of amazing how the simplest projects become something else.  I had to remove Argyll’s Mirrycle mirror in order to install the Ergons.  That was a pain; the bolt was bent and had to be teased out of the handlebar.  Argyll had taken a fall in the past, and apparently there had been an internal injury we hadn’t noticed.


We bought a new mirror, and I replaced the bolt.  The crash wasn’t sufficient to break the glass on the original mirror, but the “protected” bolt bent anyway.  Curious, indeed! No matter; the issue was easily resolved. We like these mirrors very much; the Mirrcycle mountain bike mirror fits a Brompton perfectly, and can, if adjusted carefully, swing out of the way when the bicycle is folded.

Ergons come in various sizes; I’ve heard a rumor that there’s even a version that will fit Brompton M bars without requiring cutting.  When buying a model off the shelf at most bike shops, though, what you should know is that the paddle portion of the grip is sized — Argyll’s grips are size large, and Basil’s are small, reflecting the considerable difference in size between Dr. Diarist’s mitts and my own.  Choosing the right size will matter for optimal comfort.

Related, with a bit more detail about installation on Basil:

Basil Gets a Grip (or two)


We Have a Winner!

The “True Random Number Generator” at has chosen a winner of the drawing for the Vincita Sightseer bag:

sightseer-randomThe winner is commenter number 33: Alexandria.  Congratulations to Alexandria, and thanks to everyone who entered — and to Vincita for providing such a great prize!


The Deadline Looms!

12/5/2014:  The giveaway is now closed. 

Thanks to all who entered; the winner will be announced within the next day or two as soon as feasible.

As frequent commenter Saul has noted, the clock is ticking: There are just over 24 hours left to enter the drawing for the Vincita Sightseer Transport bag.


The drawing ends at midnight (USA EDT) on December 4, 2014!  Click here for details, and leave a comment if you’d like to be included!


A Brief Ride in New York State

After our Michigan trip, Basil and I spent a day at home and then headed for New York state.  The whole area is buried under snow now, but before Basil and I left we took a short ride on a new-to-us trail near Rochester, and got to experience autumn in yet another part of the country.


Having, unusually, failed to get a picture of the trail designator, I’m not sure exactly which one we rode on.  We passed through Irondequoit, and for much of the trail, paralleled a highway, which may or may not be 404/104.  Tech failures of various kinds mean that I can’t confirm much of anything about this trip right now.  (No kudos to Garmin Connect, which hates my Linux computer.*)


Parts of the route, therefore, were less scenic than they might have been, though there wasn’t much traffic in the afternoon, before the end of the work day.  This section of the trail system was built on an old rail bed; I don’t know if Monroe County cyclists use any part of it to commute to work.


We had only a short window for our ride, but this is my favorite time of day.  Or perhaps I should say “my favorite light of day” since evening comes early in winter in northern geographies, and it’s appearance that matters to me, not the temporal designation: long shadows and oh, those golds!


We turned around here, partly because I wasn’t sure where the trail went at this point, and because I had no lights on Basil.  I’m assuming these roadways are flooded with vehicles during commute hours, but they certainly look oddly unused in these photos.  Build a highway and they will come?


Turning back meant a short course on a smaller street, and encountering this sign, the counterpoint to another regional one we saw in Northern Michigan.  There are streams, lakes and bays everywhere here; it’s nice to see that waterfowl are looked after.


That’s the bike path, to the right — just a strip of nicely-done asphalt, making it an easy route for riders of all abilities.  The sign, set confusingly exactly between the highway and the path, says “NO PEDESTRIANS OR BICYCLES”, which, presumably, refers to the highway.  Otherwise, there would be no point to the path at all, right?


We did pass a small glen, still bursting with greenery and flowers, and enjoyed the evergreens all along the highway.  Basil and I much prefer urban street-scapes or scenic views to riding along multi-lane roads, but any trail is OK with us, and much better than no trail at all.

*Dr. Diarist, a Computer Guy, is on the case, but not until he’s sorted out a  massive re-organization of the essential equipment that makes our technical lives run.  Shoemaker’s children and all that.  It’s all good; gotta have an infrastructure!

Vincita Sightseer Giveaway!

Remember:  the Sightseer Giveaway is still on until midnight (USA EDT) December 4, 2014!  Click here for details, and leave a comment if you’d like to be in the drawing.


We Go to Town

We took one last short ride before departing from Northern Michigan, and stopped in at downtown Traverse City. At Backcountry North, Basil checked out the arctic parkas while I bought a pair of merino wool glove liners.  (My choice was the better one for cycling!)

tt-cndThen we stopped in at our favorite bookstore for a cup of chai.

gt-cfHorizon Books is a wonderful independent bookstore, with an excellent selection of new releases; an intelligent and broad core stock; a vast and well-culled children’s section; an extensive selection of local books (and books by local authors); and a beautifully-stocked “used” section downstairs, along with a coffee bar (on the main floor) and a coffee shop (on the lower level).

The view from the coffee bar looks out on to Front Street.

tt-exBut the view inside is rewarding, too.


Downstairs is a well-patronized gathering place for friends, games, reading clubs, author signings and music events.  Horizon is the community anchor for Traverse City’s charming downtown; the store (and its local owners) played a huge role in its revitalization many years ago when the area was in a slump.


Basil added bricks to the long list of surfaces he traveled over on this trip — and also participated in a demo outside Horizon when stopped by curious passersby.


We rode back along Grand Traverse Bay.  I’m probably biased, but I think Northern Michigan skies rate among the best anywhere.


It was too early in the season for the grass to have died; this is an insulating bed that’s been laid next to an extension of the trail along the bay.


The sky was roiling, but the bay was quiet.


We left as the last of fall was dwindling.  Until the snow comes, though, there is always a little bit of color everywhere — and varied textures, too, across the landscape.


The newest section of the Traverse Area Recreation Trail, which leads from downtown towards Suttons Bay, ended suddenly.  Did the crew stop in a concession to the impending winter?  It seemed an odd choice of termination.


We rode on and paid one final visit to the yellow caboose on the Leelanau Trail, having come from a different direction then previously.  Soon it was time to pack up and continue our travels elsewhere.

Vincita Sightseer Giveaway!

Remember:  the Sightseer Giveaway is still on until midnight (USA EDT) December 4, 2014!  Click here for details, and leave a comment if you’d like to be in the drawing.