Brompton Duo Coffeeneuring Events

Coffeeneuring 2014: Day 1

Basil and I have never done Coffeeneuring, owing to a scarcity of coffee shops within reasonable cycling distance.  This year we’re taking advantage of some flexibility in the rules, and stepping up to the challenge.  Also, we’ve drafted Argyll and Dr. Diarist.


We got our alternative Coffeeneuring beverages (hot chocolate on the left, chai on the right) at an alternative coffee shop — a “café” inside an upscale grocery store.  (Yeah, we live in a suburban wasteland.  Not our fault!) (Maybe our fault a little, actually, but hey, cut us some slack, OK?)


This was Day 1 for both teams, and a lovely, first-of-fall day it was.  (That’s observation 1; we need two, since there are two human/bike teams participating here.)  Observation 2 is that the faux patina on the faux copper in the faux courtyard in the faux coffeehouse in which we drank our beverages is pretty amusing.


Observation 3 (not required):  That was decent cocoa, and not made from powder.

The Brompton Brothers posed for fall portraits on the way back.  Here’s Argyll:


Basil hopped up on a stone wall overlooking a pond:


Tally for the day:

Day 1 Location: In-Store Café

Mileage today:  7 miles/11.2 km

Total Mileage for Coffeeneuring 2014 to date:  7 miles/11.2 km

Trip 1/7

Argyll Basil, En-Scène Brompton Duo

Graffiti Brothers

Cool dudes, hanging out.


Oh, yeah!

5 Boro Tour Brompton Duo

5 Boro Bike Tour 2014: Walk ‘n’ Roll

Early on Sunday we set out for Bowling Green and our designated starting point for this year’s 5 Boro Bike Tour.


A quick jaunt on the A train later, we were at Bowling Green, milling about with the multitudes who were already waiting to be sprung into the fray.

514-bgBag restrictions meant that both of our Brompton bicycles rode with their saddle bags, which were well under the 420 cubic inch limit.  We had spare tubes and various useful other pieces of kit in these bags, but not a lot of room for much in the way of discarded jackets.


In addition, I’d strapped a fanny pack onto a modified Brompton S frame.  This inelegant accommodation pained me, but there was nothing else to do this year.  If we ride the 5 Boro next year, I think I’ll make  5-Boro-legal front bags for both Basil and Argyll.  They both have Brompton Mini O bags, but sadly, those bags — perfect for this kind of tour — are twice the permitted size.

514-ogThis year we were all required to wear green bonnets on our helmets, ensuring something of a uniformity of appearance; toward what exact end, I do not know.  In hotter weather, the helmet covers would have led to heatstroke.

Last year flamboyant helmet mods were everywhere; this year’s bonnets put the kibosh on most, but these fringe-festooned cylists were not deterred from making their own statement, Boro sponsors be damned!

514-agDr. Diarist commited a little sartorial indulgence of his own; I found these argyle socks at REI, in nearly perfect colors.  (Sadly, the matching Twin Six jersey comes only in a women’s cut, and the men’s only in an entirely wrong — for our Argyll — black and gray.)


We were in the third, and last, wave of riders, and by no means near the end of the long line of cyclists waiting to head out in this last group of 10,000 or so.

514-inAs we moved forward, two priests from Trinity Church wafted fumes above the crowd.  “I’m incensed”, said Dr. Diarist, whose comment probably reflect the reality of the moment more than they did his actual religious views, which are not necesarilly catholic. Or Episcopalian, for that matter.  Generally cheering ensued, regardless.


Heading out involved a remarkable amount of stopping and starting, which, as it turned out, set the theme for quite a bit of the tour.  This nifty recumbent tandem was one of the first of many tandems we saw on the ride; stopping and starting this vehicle required some skill, but both riders were up to the challenge.


We rode a few feet, we walked a few more.  The crowd before us was smaller (amusing concept, no?) than the one behind us.

514-bhOh, the humanity!  It stretched on seemingly forever:  This was the view behind us.  Parenthetical note:  I love New York buildings.  Nearly all of them, nearly everywhere.

514-elWe finally got to ride, and keep riding.  See that standing rider in the high vis jacket on the far left?  He’s on an ElliptiGo, a device which somewhat resembles an indoor trainer, but which has wheels.  Later, we saw him with two other ElliptiGo riders, so we suspect they were a team, of sorts.

I can’t imagine riding 40 miles/64.3 km on that device, but, then, people say the same thing to us about riding our little Bromptons that distance, and their surprise couldn’t be more misplaced.  But, of course, a Brompton really is a bicycle, after all!

We were walking again only an hour or so later, an activity we were to repeat over and over at various points during the tour.  Was this an inevitable result of being in the final wave?


One thing that surprised us was the amount of carnage we saw.  We counted four cyclists down, flat on their backs, along the route — one of them wearing an inflatable cervical collar, which couldn’t have been a good thing. We also saw many, many instances of cyclists being knocked, or falling, off their bikes, most of whom, as far as we could see, remounted, and carried on.

Of course, that’s a real hazard of an event that requires, for whatever reason, many stops and starts; there are that many more opportunities to lose balance or to miscalculate a stop or a start.  It was clear that inexperienced cyclists were having the roughest time with this, and falling disproportionately.

I was in the first wave last year, and saw nothing like this quantity of injuries and collusions.  I did finish rapidly, and I did have little company on many stretches of the tour last year, so maybe that’s the difference.

514-astEveryone is required to dismount and walk through Astoria Park, which was flooded with bodies and bicycles.  We snacked and took Argyll’s and Basil’s pictures, and moved on as quickly as we could.

Someone in an official vest of some kind came along and announced that the Astoria rest stop would be closing in fifteen minutes, which surprised us.

We had been no where near the end of the third wave when we started, and had left quite a lot of the pack behind in the time we’d ridden to Astoria.  Though there was another, smaller, rest stop only two miles away, we wondered how it would accommodate the thousands of cyclists behind us.  514-bWe took pictures of each other, too, hoping that there would soon be very little opportunity to do so as the tour continued.  We wanted to move, and so did our Bromptons!


We were shortly en route again, and were able to actually cycle for a bit. Hurray!


Half an hour later, though, we resumed walking.  That didn’t happen last year, either; except for the trek through Astoria, I had ridden the whole way.


514-wkAt one point, we walked for nearly three miles.  We never learned the reason for the delays.  Were they due to an unusual amount of injuries? Or is this just inevitable when 32,000 cyclists are on the road?

The good news is that everyone seemed to take the interruptions in stride, and just forged onward as best as possible.  It isn’t ever possible to predict how an event like this will go; best to expect that, whatever happens, it will be an experience, and to enjoy it for what it is.

514-bbAt some point we found ourselves behind these brilliantly-plumed folk.  Dr. Diarist has apparently spent too much of this new spring considering the courtship rituals of our avian friends:  He commented that these riders were “apparently expending unnecessary energy to demonstrate their reproductive fitness”.  Dr. Diarist has been in academia too long; it’s good that he’s getting out more.


It wasn’t long before we were walking again.  Does it seem odd that I should point out that the tour, all this trekking by foot notwithstanding, seems very well organized?  It does, and did; managing this kind of event is no mean accomplishment, and, all in all, it went very well.

After this final hike, I took no more no pictures:  We were riding!  The winds were high and we were too eager to move after moving so slowly for so long.

Dr. Diarist and I, and our two 6-speed Bromptons, made it up the Verranzano-Narrows Bridge without stopping, despite battling winds of 15 mph/24.1 kph or so, and gusts from 19 mph/30.5 kph to over 26 mph/41.8 kph.


At mile 37/km 59.5 or so, we dismounted once again to join the festivities [nearly] at the finish line.

At this point we’d ridden though all five boroughs (Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island) and ridden over five bridges:  the Madison Avenue Bridge; the Third Avenue Bridge; the Queensboro Bridge; the Pulaski Bridge; and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  And we’d bicycled on the FDR, Brooklyn-Queens, and Gowanus espressways.  (No cars — whoo-hoo!)

514-baLast year, Basil and I had just gone on to the ferry once we’d reached this fête at Fort Wadsworth; I wasn’t really in any kind of mood to slow down!  This year, Basil and Argyll were just as sprightly as ever; I think they would have been happy to just keep going this year, too.  But the humans decided to have a bite or two to eat, so we stuck around a bit.

Just walking through the park was not without its diversions.  All in all, we saw and counted a total of 22 Brompton bicycles this year — an impressive tally, and surely not nearly as many as actually participated; hanging around meant getting to see a few more.

The route around the park included a turn past the port-a-potties, next to which we spotted this beautiful titanium Brompton.


We had a great time talking with its rider, and then circled around to the lawn, across which were despoiled quite a number of obviously fatigued cyclists.  Some of them may have ridden much faster than we did; in any case, all of us had fought some pretty serious winds in order to reach this point.

514-hmBasil and Argyll collapsed, too, but not from fatigue.  A gust of wind knocked Basil over while Dr. Diarist was off getting something to eat (satay chicken kebabs, which he reported were quite tasty), so I set both of them down in order to prevent further chaos.

514-rc.lnLater, I strolled around and did some more Brompton-spotting.  These two, and the two in the next photo, were all going along together, an impressive fold!


A “fold” of course, is a group of Bromptons.  We had heard that a whole team had flown in from the west coast (Seattle?), tossing their Brompton bicycles in the overhead bins for the flight, and had done the 5 Boro together.  (Now that’s a cross-country jaunt worth making!)


Then I spotted these two with their riders.  That white bit under the folded handlebars on the left is the back side of the 5 Boro placard.  Happily, it was possible to fold our Bromptons even with it attached.

514-b3Eventually I went in search of food, too.  I’m guessing that some of the vendors had cleared out by the time the third wave came through.  (No popsicles for us, for example.)   There were horrendous lines for nearly everything except the goodies at Chinese Mirch, which was offering dumplings of various sorts.

514-bmThey sensibly offered only a few choices, but covered both meat-eaters and vegetarians with the selection.  I was able to order my tofu dumplings immediately, but it was a twenty-five minute wait before I received them.

514-stmOwing to what was possibly the least-efficient food-delivery system imaginable, I had plenty of time to circle around and observe the process from behind the scenes.  That’s one impressive set of steamers!

The order-taker at Chinese Mirch was very nice, and worked diligently to see that we got our goodies, but this vendor could have used another table along the other side of the stall, and really needed more staff than the 1.5 persons it had assembling the ingredients.514-srhIt was so worth the wait, though!  Bunches of fresh cliantro; perfectly steamed dumplings, wonderfully done tofu (and I don’t even like tofu!).  I drowned it all in Sriracha sauce:  Pure bliss!

We picnicked under the bluest sky, and I took another walk around before we rode the final three miles to catch the ferry back to Manhattan.


While ambling about, I spied this conveyance:  It’s a bike train!

514-ktWell, no it isn’t:  It’s a Bike Friday Tandem Traveler with a Burley Kazoo trailercycle attached.  Hauling an incredibly long vehicle and a couple of kids over 40 miles/64.3 km of the 5 Boro?  Now that’s really impressive!

514-ylThen it was onward, toward the ferry.  On the way I saw a bike I’d never seen before:  it’s a Brown Cycles Kidz Tandem.  Sweet, isn’t it? 514-fAnd we were off, briefly as part of a much-less-crowded field.  One last surprise awaited us, though, and “wait” is the relevant syllable.

514-gmThis one involved less walking and more standing, but there was one more fifteen minute delay before we were able to officially finish the 5 Boro.  This, too, may have been a “last wave” problem, as well as a way to stage the loading of the ferry.

We waited again once we’d reached the dock, but for a much shorter period of time.  Then we boarded the Guy V. Molinari, carrying our Bromptons to the upper deck and settling into a far less crowded space than the one on the deck below.

514-frA tour marshall named Andrew spotted us almost immediately.  His Brompton joined Argyll and Basil, and the three Bromptons rode back to Manhattan together while their cyclists chatted.


Then we hopped back onto the subway, and returned to Washington Heights.


Dr. Diarist detoured into a local  market for something important (beer, I think).  Basil, Argyll and I waited outside, where I had a long conversation with an experienced cyclist named Melchoir, who was just about to resume riding after having been seriously injured last year by a car driven by a tourist.


Back at the Manhattanites’, Dr. Diarist handed the groceries to me and performed a final heroic act, carrying both Bromptons up to the Manhattanites’ fifth floor apartment by himself.


It was all a blur to me . . . a happy blur.  We loved the 5 Boro, and Dr. Diarist wants to do it all again next year.  Me, too!

Brompton Duo


Some of us went cycling in our shorts recently, with actual bare legs.


Dr. Diarist took a spin on Basil, since I was going to be taking Argyll to New York on my own soon, and needed a bit of practice on Argyll’s taller handlebars.  (We traded back quickly; Dr. D. really needs that taller reach, and I really don’t!)


We saw actual grass.  All that green was almost dazzling; we’d begun to think that the color of outdoors was always going to be white.

spr-skWe revisited the skunk cabbage, having read up about them, and identified it properly.  The proper name is Symplocarpus foetidus, apparently because it stinks just like foetidus (or a skunk, as you prefer) when the leaves are crushed.  (No cabbage were hurt in the course of our investigations.)

spr-spthPossibly the best thing about the skunk cabbage is its vocabulary:  That mottled purplish, penguin-shaped capsule is called a spathe.


The prickly orb within — actually bright yellow in real life (as opposed to my photo) — is called a spadix.


More neutral colors still abound elsewhere on the trail.  At this time of year, this section looks like a fairy-tale forest to me (at least if you imagine the asphalt as some more organic surface).


Birds are twittering, and we saw our second cardinal of spring — a flash of scarlet in the tangled branches — so there are unmistakable signs that spring is on the way.

This year we’re not feeling very trusting, though, no matter what the skunk cabbage think.

Brompton Duo My Brompton

Spring: Skunk Cabbage Edition

In the waters and on the marshy banks of creeks in the area greenery is sprouting.


We think this stuff is Skunk Cabbage, but we won’t know for sure until we get a closer look.

This was a tough winter; the evidence is everywhere.  Recently uprooted trees are lying across the streams, and broken branches, small and very large, are scattered across the landscape.

uw-piAlmost exactly a year ago, I took pictures of Basil and Dr. Diarist’s mountain bike in this same area (and next to this very tree); the ground was clear then, and we had to lean both bikes next to a tree for the picture.  This year, there was enough debris to keep Argyll and Basil upright even on a slope.

Argyll fell over, though, when posing for his solo shot, and his mirror buried itself in the mud and muck — loosening quite a bit in the process.  I thought I had the right size allen wrench in Basil’s saddle bag, but was quite wrong.


Happily, Argyll was covertly transporting the elegant Brompton tool kit, which turns out to be as functional as it is beautiful.  (More on that later; I’m a bit behind on writing about Brompton paraphernalia.)

Winter isn’t entirely over.  We took the Uwlchlan Trail the other day, and greenery wasn’t all we saw.  (It’s pronounced with an “ooch” as in “mooch” and then “lan”:  “ooch-lan”.  Or should it be “ooulch-lan”? Is it Welsh? Somehow I think it should be.)


There are still mounds of grubby snow around, looking, at this point, rather like permanent fixtures.  This is residual from a parking lot near a train station. It’s going nowhere fast, in spite of the 60 F/15.5 C temperatures.


Dr. Diarist spotted a solid block of ice under the tracks.  Closer inspection revealed that it was melting from within, thanks to a drain pipe located in the track bed above, from which a few desultory drops of water slowly fell.


Water can be soooo destructive.  And messy; is that swath of black due to a high mineral content in the local water?


The ice pyramid doesn’t look as impressive from a slight distance; as we rode by I thought I’d see a crumpled piece of plastic out of the corner of my eye.  Those fluffy white bits didn’t register as snow, either, probably because I’d long before shed my light jacket.

The trail goes past a park, then alongside a country club, and into a neighborhood, where a slightly less organic display of flora — not skunk cabbage — testifies to someone’s belief that freezing temperatures are gone for now.


It’s kind of rural-urbia in this area; Basil is checking out a field, here, that is next to a pretty ordinary suburban development.


There’s an old grist mill along the trail.  Basil introduced Argyll to the pleasures of posing on top of things; they’re nicely framed in what once was either a window or an opening for a loading chute.


The ruins date from 1811.  That’s antiquity for those of us here in North America.  (Well, “antiquity” for a purpose-built structure that’s managed to survive.)

Southeastern Pennsylvania is dotted with similar ruins; one of the pleasures of the area is running across them unexpectedly.  How better to find them than on a Brompton?  (Or two!)

Brompton Duo


Dr. Diarist, pumping iron.


He says it’s easier to carry two Brompton bicycles than one. (I wouldn’t know!)

Argyll Brompton Duo

We Brave a Frozen World

With an initial success behind us, Dr. Diarist and I didn’t want to wait too long before getting out on our Bromptons again.  The weather was uncooperative, as has been its wont this year, so we jumped at the chance when a brief window opened.


Since our area was still covered in the white stuff and its hard, slick companion, we ended up on the Chester Valley Trail again.  Basil and Argyll waited patiently in the parking lot while we got our cold-weather gear around.


Argyll and Dr. D were off and running pretty quickly, though.  I don’t think Bromptons like this “sit around and wait” business much.

This trip, the trail itself was as clear as if it were high summer, in spots.  Not so the roadways, shoulders, and adjacent sidewalks.  The section of the trail in the photo below crosses a main road about 5 miles/8 km from where we started.

pdsnThat’s a pedestrian switch rising from the piles of ploughed snow at the intersection.  The button is just about at waist level on me.  (And that’s some dirty snow!)  Here in the mid-Atlantic states, we don’t usually get much of the white stuff; this year, there’s just no place to put the incredible amounts that have blanketed our world.


We were really impressed by how well-groomed the trail was, generally.  It’s narrower than when there’s no snow, but still completely usable by cyclists, joggers and pedestrians.

sldThe drainage channels beside the trail were filled with ice and crushed-ice-sludge, much of which flowed along surprisingly expeditiously.  That’s not a sight we see every day, either.

There were a couple of slightly more treacherous spots on the trail itself.


Above, that’s a layer of ice frozen to the trail, ice breaking loose above it, and water flowing over the asphalt.  There were only a couple of spots where this was an issue, though.


However, this stretch was a show-stopper.  That’s the trail — the entire trail — underwater.  Under a lot of very icy, very cold, rapidly-flowing, water.


Anyone familiar with these traffic cones will appreciate how deep the water is — the cones are marking the side of the trail, where the asphalt falls off.   That’s no place anyone would want to be, especially on a bike.  Flood, mud, ice and snow: a quadruple threat!

The open field next to the parking lot looked like a lost world: dead trees, flooding, and ice, lots and lots of ice.


It got late faster than we expected.  I had to get a solo shot of Argyll, though, to commemorate his second official ride.


This trip wasn’t quite as long as the last one; we logged about 14 miles/22.5 km, but it was still a good run — and a good save.  We’d first intended to ride the Schuylkill River Trail beginning in Phoenixville, but it was completely buried, with no access at all.  Chester Valley, you rock!

Argyll Brompton Duo

Argyll’s First Outing

And Basil’s, too, this year, now that I can ride again.  This was meant to be just a short ride, to see what kind of shape I was in after not cycling for so long.  I figured 5 miles/8 km would be enough for this initial run.

argbslThere was no way to ride where we live — too much snow, no place to put it — so we drove out to a trailhead.  That’s Argyll, in front, and Basil behind him, in the parking lot.

We stopped after roughly 5 miles/8 km and got a bite to eat.  Our Bromptons are small enough that we didn’t fold them all the way while we ate; the aisle was wide, and there wasn’t any need to.


This image below is a documentary shot; the light’s too low, but there’s an important question that needs raising here:  We noticed that our Bromptons automatically rolled to a stop next to the beer.


Is this just something that naturally occurs when two or more Bromptons gather? I don’t even drink the stuff, but maybe Basil’s trying to tell me something, now that he’s got reinforcements.


I’d thought that a short ride would be all I could manage, but it was so wonderful to be back on Basil that I just couldn’t stop.  We carried on to the end of the newly-opened extension to the Chester Valley Trail, which suddenly ends in King of Prussia, next to a small construction site.


It’s not picturesque, but I’m not complaining.  I suspect this lot is what we’ve got to thank for the trail extension, which means that it’s now possible to log over 20 miles/32 km by bicycle, round-trip, from King of Prussia** to Exton (or visa-versa), on the trail.  That’s a terrific development!

Dr. Diarist and I (and our Bromptons) logged 22 miles/35.4 km this trip.  That wasn’t the best thing for Dr. D, who isn’t yet used to his Brompton saddle*, but it felt like sheer bliss to me!  That 5 mile/8 km goal turned out to be piffle!

*Dr. Diarist isn’t used to any saddle; he’s a mountain biker.  This is a whole new world for him.  Fortunately, he seems to be adjusting well, and Argyll?  Argyll’s perfection . . . naturally!

**Yes, there really is a town in Pennsylvania called King of Prussia.  Go figure.