Before Basil

The Story:

I ride a lot of miles on my Brompton bicycle, frequently for more than twenty miles/32.1 km at a clip.  People, especially those who aren’t familiar with folding bikes, are always asking me if I’ve been cycling forever:  It’s very hard for them to imagine that I’d be riding so much on such a small bike unless I was hard core.

Nothing could be further from the truth: I’ve always hated exercising, and, until August of 2011, was as sedentary as a human can be.  In terms of real cycling experience, I’m still very much a newbie, but taking up bicycling is one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Couch potatoes take note:  It’s never too late to find your bliss on two wheels — and it’s so much fun!  Who knew?

The Bicycles:

I had ridden a bicycle only briefly as a child, and, even more briefly, as an adult.  As an eight-year-old, I had saved up to buy what I though was a very elegant Czechoslovakian three-speed (Sturmey-Archer!) “English racer”, but it got left behind in a move, and not replaced.  In truth, though, I hadn’t ridden it much. I liked books. Indoors.

I rode another bicycle, very briefly, in sixth grade, but that was it for early biking experiences.

As a young adult I’d found this little creation, an early Italian folding bicycle made by WIP, named (by the manufacturer) Arianna:

Arianna was carefully moved from home to home — perhaps in subconscious homage to that first lost bike — but I’d never really ridden her.  Though foldable, she’s also tremendously heavy, and the fold is not, shall we say, entirely compact or user-friendly — though I still think she’s an adorable bike.

Eventually, my sedentary life began to take an obvious toll: I wasn’t awfully heavy, but I was heavier than I should have been; I was losing physical agility; and, most alarming of all, I seemed to be developing a pretty serious balance problem.  Also, I was getting older, which threatened to accelerate the decline.

I had spent a lifetime being mostly physically inactive, and was beginning to pay the price of all that sloth.

The Trike:

When Dr. Diarist and I saw this shiny red trike in the window of a local shop, we wondered if we’d found exactly the device I needed in order to get fit. I’d never really biked much, but I’d always loved the idea of cycling, theoretically, at least.

We brought the trike home in August, 2011. He weighed about 65 pounds — over half my own weight.  I’d never have been able to pull this particular cycle up our local hills without the electric advantage — but I resolved to use the power assist as little as possible, and stuck to that vow.

He was a 6-speed e-Moto pedal-assist tricycle; I named him Pegasus.  Riding my new trike felt like flying. (Really!)


I took pretty short rides that autumn, and not a huge number of them, just getting used to the tricycle, and getting used to moving.  Starting with small trips of six miles/9.6 km or less, I eventually built up my endurance.  (The first three mile/4.8 km ride nearly killed me!)

A large trike really isn’t the best vehicle for getting through winter slush and ice, so I didn’t ride that winter, but when Spring, 2012, came, Pegasus and I took off.

Early on I replaced the cushy stock seat on the tricycle with a leaner one, and I also installed clipless pedals. (I was taking this cycling thing seriously!)  The new seat made riding longer distances possible, and the clipless pedals really did make a difference in terms of my ability to locomote my trike.  I’m clumsy, but the clipless pedals were quite safe on a tricycle.

I rode ten miles/16 km at a time, then 15/24.1 km, and then the longest ride I’d ever managed on Pegasus: over 50 miles/80.4 km. The trike narrowly survived that expedition, which made it obvious that Pegasus wasn’t meant to be long-distance transportation.

We began to wonder if I could handle a two-wheeler. I was lighter and stronger than I’d been the previous fall, and my balance problems had disappeared.  So we took my heavy little folder out on a local trail and discovered not only that I had the physical capacity to ride a bicycle, but that I loved the oh-so-much-greater freedom of two wheels.

Good-Bye to Pegasus:

I took the last ride on my trike in July, 2012. I went home and began researching — I knew I wanted only one bike, and I knew I wanted it to fold.  We had used our 20-year-old pet SUV to transport Pegasus, and strap-on car racks for Dr. Diarist’s mountain bike; I didn’t want to deal with either impediment any time I wanted to ride somewhere else than at home.  And I wanted to do multi-modal travel with my bike.

Originally, I thought I’d buy a comparatively inexpensive Tern, just to see if two-wheeling was really right for me.  I’d known about Bromptons forever, and I figured I’d buy a Brompton at some later point, once I really knew how committed I was to the whole idea of cyclilng.  But when I saw that NYCeWheels offered long (free!) Brompton tours, I went to New York City and joined one.

Terns are fine bikes, and there are many other good folders, too, but there was no comparison: those little Bromptons do everything well!   I ordered Basil the same day I took the tour.

So before Fall, 2012, my only real prior biking experience as an adult consisted of a few months riding on my trike, and then a few short rides on my vintage folder.

Basil, My Brompton:


When Basil, my Brompton, arrived in early October 2012, he changed my life; I’m healthier and more fit than I’ve probably ever been, and Basil has enriched my life in ways I could hardly have imagined.

The Numbers:

As of this writing, I’ve had Basil for 21 months. For six of those months I couldn’t ride, due to complications from an infection after minor surgery on my leg, but otherwise, Basil and I have been constant companions.

In the fifteen months I’ve ridden since my Brompton arrived, we’ve done three metric centuries (OK, one was a mile short, due to a clerical error, but I’m counting it anyway!), two 40-mile 5 Boro Tours, many rides of 30 to 40 miles, and we regularly take trips of 20 miles and more.

I love cycling and I love my Brompton — Basil makes getting out and moving so simple!  I can’t even imagine life without him now.

Le Fin:

That’s my story: Middle-aged couch potato to cyclist, in one easy Brompton (with trike-assist)!

3 replies on “Before Basil”

I love this story! My journey was similar, except the pre-Brompton was a so-called “comfort” bike. I went into NYCeWheels with a low-end Tern in mind, but a test ride on the B changed everything.

Saw a lady on a trike on the bike path yesterday, and thought of you. Hers was nowhere near as stylish!

You won’t be surprised to lear that that’s how Pegasus got his name, Saul! If I had a better sense of geography, I’d probably be flying small planes; happily, those of us meant to be earthbound get to cycle instead. It’s a pretty good save, all in all.

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