Gear Luggage

Bend Dexter Flap for S Bag

The last thing I made before my ill-fated trip to pick up my Brompton (no Brompton yet; see previous post) was another flap for my S bag:

The Brompton S bag, has a removable cover, so I’ve been entertaining myself by making custom flaps. This one is Cordura (1000 weight) in chrome yellow and dark green. The strip — bend dexter, in heraldry — is ornamented with Demeritwear badges, which I enthusiastically collect.

Deciding how to arrange them took some fiddling:

As you can see, I originally went for bend sinister, but  decided against it. Nothing sinister going on here, no sir.

The main part of the flap pattern was re-drawn, cut to make room for the green strip, and the strip sewn into the resulting seams.  I was concerned that sewing the band directly on top of a complete yellow flap might make the flap too stiff across the area of the stripe.

Each of the badges has some personal meaning, but, together, they make for a colorful, distinctive, decoration for my bag. Besides, they’re just plain fun!

Other than the badge band, construction was identical to my previous flaps.  (You can see most of the assembly process here.)  I did add the heavy vinyl to the interior; the Cordura, on its own, wasn’t quite heavy enough when lined, as it was, only with ripstop nylon.

Pictures on the Brompton, eventually, when it arrives.

My Brompton

Soooooo . . .

I was supposed to pick up my Brompton last week. When I ordered it, I was told the approximate arrival date, which I double-checked when the marketing guy at the shop said it sounded too early.  The guy who does the orders, though,  told me that my Brompton was scheduled to be built in August, and to ship to the shop by September 10.

That was as fast as I’d been originally told, and a lot faster than the marketing guy had said.  I emailed him back, and Marketing Guy said that Order Guy was the one who knew, and that his dates should be good.

I was careful to avoid bombarding the shop with requests for status reports, but sent an email on the 9th, requesting my Brompton’s status.

On the 10th, Order Guy told me that my Brompton was on a delivery truck, and due at the shop by the end of the day.


Or not, as it turned out.

I sent Order Guy another email, asking if I could pick the bicycle up on Tuesday (and reminding him that I wanted a mirror installed).

Order Guy said that Tuesday wasn’t possible, but I could pick it up on Wednesday. He also said that he’d added the mirror to the work order, and even quoted the exact text.  I emailed back, say that that works fine (I was coming into the city from another state), and “See you Wednesday!”

Soooooo . . . . I arrange things, and show up on Wednesday.

The (very nice, sharp) guy who wrote up my original order is concerned when he sees me walk into the shop:  He knows it’s too early.

Order Guy is very, very squirrelly, and rushes around looking for my bike, muttering things I can’t quite understand.

Then he tells me he made “a typo” in an email, and meant to write “not”, as in “your Brompton is not ready”. I point out that this does not explain two other emails confirming the bike’s arrival, and that I can pick it up on Wednesday.

He squirrels some more, still, apparently, looking for the bike.

At which point I ask him, point blank,  if my bike is “physically present” in the store. He says “yes”, but his body language screams “I’m lying — get me out of here”.

Nice Guy, who, I belatedly realize, has figured out long before that the bike is still in London, has been discreetly hovering. Order Guy stares at the floor in abject misery, and finally says that he doesn’t know what he was looking at when he told me that my bike was in.  “This has never happened to me before” he wails.  He says he’d do anything to fix it, even spend his own money.

Which is, sadly, irrelevant, since nothing is going to get my Brompton out of England until it’s built and shipped.

But Order Guy never apologizes: Nice Guy does. Nice Guy also sends me out the door clutching a copy of The Brompton Book (which I’d intended to buy when picking up my bike) and a DVD documentary, which proves to be excellent.

Nice Guy also gives me an invaluable bit of information: It’s usually a week, after delivery, before a Brompton can be picked up, under any circumstances. If my bike had been on the truck on Monday, I’ll still probably have had to wait a week to pick it up. That’s good to know for next time.

I like Nice Guy. Nice Guy has been patient and thorough, all through this process (custom bike; ordering is complicated for a newbie like me). I feel as if Nice Guy is looking out for his customer in a way that Order Guy seems to miss completely.

Order Guy falls more than a bit short. Spending fifteen minutes looking for a bicycle he knew wasn’t there — and claimed, at one point, was, though he certainly knew by then that he’d messed up hugely — represents a real low.

Oh, and Order Guy apparently put the text about the mirror only into my email, not the work order. When I re-confirmed that it had been added to the work order as I was going out the door, Nice Guy had to add it. I guess all of Order Guy’s emails were “customer service theater” — you know, kind of like TSA’s approach to security. Or who knows, maybe somebody else’s work order now has a request to add a mirror appended.

So, five emails  since the order was placed, carefully confirming both expected delivery and [cough] actual delivery, and not one of them were accurate.

And I still have no Brompton.

Order Guy said that the new date was October 10, but he appeared to pull the date out of nowhere.

I’m thinking I’ll be lucky to see it by December. Unfortunately, I’ll be regarding the next email with some skepticism, and I’m guessing that going to pick up my Brompton won’t include the same heady thrill this trip did.  I’ll be coming from elsewhere again, later in the fall, and I’ll be wondering, the whole trip, if the bike is *really* there.

So sad.

Image from flickr.


Nice. Really Nice.

Is anyone else as in love with this logo as I am?  Here it is on the S bag strap pad:

So perfect.

(Kool-Aid? What Kool-Aid? I don’t know what you’re talking about!)

Gear Luggage

A New S Bag Flap

My S bag has a removable flap, so I’m entertaining myself by making variations as the whim strikes me.  This one’s made of canvas meant for outdoor furniture. Most of those fabrics are utterly hideous, so I was very happy to find this one, which was more “neutral” than “hideous”.

It seemed a little too neutral once I’d finished putting it all together, so I added the embroidered patch to break up the expanse a little.

You probably can’t make it out, but the bicycle wheel has a valve stem (!) at about 11 o’clock.  The patch came from a great little company called Demeritwear, which has a an amusing collection of patches — de-merits, I guess, to keep the scouting organizations from getting all huffy.

For this version of the S bag flap, I used a much heftier vinyl between ripstop layers than the one I used in the prototype. The vinyl was too heavy to pin, so I used office supply clips to hold the layers together, removing them one by one as I stitched.

I zigzag around these edges (everything except the outer fabric) before adding the hook-and-loop tapes and the buckles, since I don’t want the stitching to show on the front.  Here’s how the inside of the flap looked just before I attached the front material and finish everything with the binding:

Normally, I’d melt the edges of the ripstop used for the lining and interlining, but, since the raw edges are completely encased, I didn’t bother.

A couple of years ago, I bought some shower curtains that used nylon buckles as a design element. No curtain rings were necessary; the fabric was held across the rod by the buckles and webbing.  I cannibalized the buckles, creating a lifetime supply for my stash, and used the short webbing strips to on this S bag flap — so I didn’t have to melt the ends of the webbing either.


A Fine Read

You know, this anticipating business is taxing.  Mr. Diarist came home from the library the other day with this book, though, and I’ve spent several happy hours reading it, and, hence, somewhat distracted from my present, Brompton-less, state.

The McConnons’ Road to Valor. is essentially a biography of Italian bicycle racer Gino Bartali, but interwoven through his story are all sorts of corollary histories:  the development of the Tour de France; fascism, bicycles and propaganda in Italy and in Germany; the social history of much of Italy during Bartali’s early years, and more.

Though I have no interest at all in competitive sport, I was hooked from the very first pages, and especially taken with the acknowledgment of what bicycles meant, particularly to the young in villages like the one from which Bartali came.  Two wheels, in the early 20th century, meant unheard-of mobility, and the potential for equally improbable freedom.

[Gino] and [his brother] Giulio rode on their bikes all over the countryside near Florence, with a band of their classmates like a herd of Tuscan horses that galloped in the grasslands nearby.  “I felt like one of those foals,” Gino said, “the young horses who ran with their manes in the wind without the slightest restraint.”

Bartali was an internationally famous bicycle racer and a Tour de France record-holder, but who among us — among those of us who love cycles — doesn’t have, at times, moments as glorious as those Bartali describes? But you  needn’t be a cyclist, a history buff, or a sports fan to enjoy this utterly fascinating read — anyone with a lively and curious mind will find it entertaining, and a fine way to while away the hours you might otherwise spend yearning for some treasure of your own, which has yet to arrive, should you find yourself in that particular situation.

Gear Luggage

Custom Flap for S Bag

My Brompton isn’t due for another week and a half (or maybe two), so I’m still anticipating. In the meantime, I thought I’d try to make a smaller bag, like Ortlieb’s Mini O, while I anticipate.  Folks on BromptonTalk had a bunch of good suggestions about cutting down an S frame, so, while out of town one day, I went looking for one.

Instead, I found this S bag and frame for a hugely discounted price, which changed my plans entirely, as I ended up with both the bag and the frame. Having both made me quite reluctant to saw down the frame. I’m going to try living with the S bag for a while, instead.

Based on the price, I assumed the bag was used, but, once I got it home, saw that the bag was in beautiful shape. The flap looked filthy in the shop, but it turns out that it comes that way:  It’s made from a decommissioned fire hose. Those black streaks aren’t dirt; it’s stain from an honorable life before-Brompton. My new S bag was apparently unused (and, it turned out, even had the rain cover tucked inside).

The hose story is kind of cool, but the look and feel are just too urban-gritty for me. (The flap looks asymmetrical here, but that’s due to my poor photography.)  However,  I was willing to buy this particular bag because I knew that the front flap on the S bag is removable, and I planned to make my own. Here’s my first effort:

That’s faux tooled leather, with a polyester binding around the edges.  It looks considerably better in real life than in this picture, but you can see that it needs a bit more substance to look truly right.  The synthetic leather is pretty thin (and it may not wear well — time will tell), so I made a “sandwich” of ripstop nylon/clear plastic sheeting/ripstop nylon behind it, and to provide strong anchorage for the various fasteners.

Here’s what the underside of the flap looks like:

I sewed the the hook-and-loop fasteners and the snap hook buckles to one side of the ripstop pieces, put the “tooled” material on top of the ripstop”sandwich”, and then bound the edges.  That’s all there was to it.

In my vast collection of buckles, I had only one that would mate successfully with the ones on the S bag, which worried me. An Internet search didn’t seem to turn up the correct buckles, so I headed out to stores where I’ve purchased such things in the past.  I struck gold at the first stop: EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports).  Here’s what the package looks like:

The buckles on the bag are stamped “National Molding” and “Stealth” (the “Stealth” is what’s really important), but the package is branded “Liberty Mountain” which may be why I couldn’t find them on the interwebs.

I used two-inch wide hook-and-loop tape, which is twenty-five percent wider than that on the S bag. I keep a supply of two-inch on hand; it worked perfectly well.

I’ve since acquired some far heavier vinyl to beef up the flap.  I’ve also got some outdoor canvas I want to experiment with, and some marine vinyl in chrome yellow.  If my Brompton takes more than another couple of weeks to arrive, I may have a whole new wardrobe for my S bag by the time the actual cycle shows up.

This is my fourth Brompton bag, counting the lightweight one I made myself.  Total number of square feet of the bags may now equal that of a folded Brompton.  Is it possible I’ve got a problem here?


My Present Folder

. . . was built in the late 1960s.  I’ve owned her for decades.

She’s Italian, made by Walter Precision Italiana. Her name is Arianna, and the model is “Week End”.  She’s a one-speed, coaster brake (with single hand brake), and quite heavy.  But she rolls like a dream, even after all these decades.

Note the “M” handle bars.  I think they’re broader than those on the Brompton; it will be interesting to compare the two bicycles, once my Brompton arrives.

Details, for those who are interested, are on this blog post.

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Anticipaaationnn . . .

. . .  is making me crazy.  I hope both NYCeWheels and Brompton appreciate my restraint.  I am not bombarding them with emails every hour asking exactly where, and in what state, my future Brompton exists at any given time.

I was away for a week recently, and couldn’t help but fantasize about future travels with my Brompton.  I’m so used to being on wheels now that I feel a little captive when I’m without them.  Next time I drive far from home, I may very well have a Brompton in my trunk, and thus plenty of opportunities to slip in a little ride here and there, no matter what else I’m up to.

I felt my Brompton-less-ness acutely this trip, so I did the next best thing and rented a bike, and rode about 18 miles along the Erie Canal.

The bike’s a Trek Navigator (“City/Trekking bicycle”, said the sticker).  Big, fat, tires, straight handle bars, chubby, loopy frame.  Not my kind of bike, the way smaller-wheeled bikes are, but fun to ride, just the same.

It was a gorgeous day, and the Canal has its own kind of beauty, and much of interest to see.  Here’s Lock 32:

The Canal is flat, and the terrain not terribly varied, but it is lush and green at this time of year, and beautiful, just the same:

I tried taking a couple of shots without stopping the bike, with varying degrees of success (this one worked pretty well):

This one blurred.  We’ll call it a memory shot:

Here’s a lopsided look at a common structure on the Canal.  Are these technically locks? Or another kind of gate?

I took this “panda” shot on the fly, too.  Why do people take these shots?  I’ve no idea, but I felt obligated to try it:

There are many metal bridges, in various stages of appealing decay, along the Towpath Trail:

While visiting here, I often drive over these bridges.  It was thrilling to see them from a completely different perspective:

Cycling often offers a close-up view of interesting structures not observable by car:

Not just structures, either.  I saw this Blue Heron very early in the ride:

This small family was completely unconcerned by my presence (gotta love a quiet bike):

As were these guys, whose pals couldn’t even be bothered to move off the towpath as I rode by:

There’s a small stretch in the village of Pittsford where bikes must be walked.  I understood the need — the path here is well-developed for pedestrian and commercial usage — but I minded having to dismount just the same.  Crabby of me, and perhaps not very reasonable, especially since it’s a lovely stroll:

Mules no longer tote barges on the Erie, but there are still watercraft to see:

As this boat demonstrated, there’s  more than one way to “cycle” on the Erie Canal:

It’s difficult to see them in this small image, but there are three bicycles splayed across the roof of this sight-seeing craft.  Frankly, I think I’d be happier to have my Brompton inside the cabin.  Oh, wait — I’d be happier to have my Brompton, period!

How many  more weeks until the companion of my dreams arrives?  Two?  Three? More?  Anticipaaationnn . . .


BWC 2012

Here it is, the next day in North America, and all we can see is a list of BWC winners. No pictures, no video, nada!

I don’t blame the bloggers.  iCrazyBee and Mr. O are undoubtedly collapsed after their strenuous preparations and participation.

(Come to think of it, I won’t blame Brompton, either.  Maybe they’re too busy building bicycles — including mine — to fully populate the web site.  Ah, I feel better now!)

Where is the media when you need it, I ask you?  Dang, I guess I shoulda been at Blenheim, myself!

Gear Luggage

Lightweight Brompton Bag

So I’m anticipating my Brompton, and I’m getting antsy.  I bought the T bag, and the Brompton folding basket, but knew I’d want a light, closed, bag some of the time, instead of either of the two Brompton bags.  Inspired by a Brompton owner named Jane, and her write-up about her own roll-top bag, I made my own. Gotta pass the time somehow, right?

I read Jane’s pages carefully, examined my own T bag just as carefully, and made the bag up using my own pattern, and customizing it to my own anticipated needs and requirements.

Here’s my bag, lightly stuffed, mounted on the Brompton luggage frame.  It’s made of bright yellow nylon with black accents, black zippers, and black nylon fittings.  (Yeah, I would have loved Racing Green trim, but just try to find the color in the USA.  Go ahead, I dare you.)

My front pocket isn’t as nice as the one on the Brompton bag, which is elasticized, and much more stylish.  Mine is a plain mesh pocket, which I anticipate using exclusively for magazines and the like.  Stretchability wasn’t necessary on this light bag.

My bag closes just like the Brompton bag (and Jane’s bags), with nylon buckles, but I did change up one little thing.  My buckles aren’t symmetrical — they’re designed so that they can be snapped closed on the sides, like the other bags, but the snap side is attached at one top front, and the casing side to the other top front.

This means that I can roll the top down and close it across the top, by joining the buckles, as well as securing the top by buckling the rolled edge down on each side.  (Above, the buckles snapped across the top of the bag, crossing the center strap; below, a buckle snapped shut on the side.)

The T bag has an interior pocket for the rain cover; I added one to this bag for anything I didn’t want to be immediately accessible outside the bag:

I used the same nylon webbing as for the straps to reinforce and support this pocket.

Making my own bag allowed me to customized the panel facing me to exactly the way I wanted to.  You can see the handle of the Brompton frame up top in the picture below (the hole it slips through is outlined in lycra binding), and the block under the curve is the fitting that clips into the luggage block on the Brompton’s head tube (the lower edge of this panel is also bound in lycra):

From the left side:  a large, adjustable mesh pocket for any size water bottle; a zip pocket for power bars, gel, or Shot Roks (that’s human kibble for long rides); a cell phone pocket with a strap-and-lift-tab closure; and, below, a zip pocket for a pocket camera.

The mesh I used is extra-sturdy; I cut up a new laundry bag to make the pockets.  Careful cutting meant no hemming on all that holey  material, which my sewing machine appreciated.

The camera pocket is reinforced internally with a piece of plastic craft mesh, which allows it to keep its semi-circular shape, and lets me pull out my camera without fighting with the pocket.  My camera has a silicone sleeve, so it tends to stick unless the pocket material stands off a bit.  (You can see the pocket in side view in the buckle picture above.)

I added strap clips, and made a shoulder strap, too, though I still need a pad for it.  Like Jane, I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what I want to do about the necessary padding.

This bag was intended to be a lightweight version of the T bag for trips that require carrying light or small cargo, but not the heavier or bulkier items that the original Brompton T bag can handle well.  My version is a fair-weather friend; it’s not waterproof, and very light.  It will do for an extra water bottle or two, and for collecting small shopping or parcels, but not much more than that.  It’s simply meant to provide me with minimal carrying capacity when making strictly recreational rides.

I may still want a closed bag the size of the Ortlieb Mini O.  That might be my next project, as Ortleib hasn’t come out with a bag in either Brompton yellow or British Racing Green.  I’d consider buying a real Mini O if Ortlieb made it in my colors, but if Ortleib combines either color with white, as they’ve done with their current Mini-O bags, I won’t be buying them, anyway, as white strikes me as the worst possible color for a hard-working piece of vinyl.

For inspiration (and a pattern, if you don’t fancy  making your own), visit Jane’s page, and take a look at her fantastic gallery of photos here. (There’s a cowbag, a clear vinyl one, and Jane’s also made one in velvet snakeskin.  And more, lots more.)  As soon as I have a Brompton on which to hang my bag, I’ll be sending my own picture along to Jane, too.

9/3/2012:  Edited to insert a better photo of the bag bucked across the front.