My Brompton Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Basil Takes the Train

My Brompton and I polished off our mass transit experiments with a trip on Amtrak.  I was really curious to know what it would be like to traverse Penn Station with a Brompton.  I needn’t have been concerned.

Trolley mode! (Taken next to a trash can. Finding a spot in Penn Station to take a photograph isn’t easy.) The rear rack, and those wonderful little Eazy Wheels make it really simple to push Basil all over the place.  Basil carried the S bag, too, so I didn’t have to.

When we boarded the train, I used the Brompton Rack Sack (that’s it attached beneath the saddle in the photo above) to cover Basil. Apart from collecting my Brompton, the previous few weeks had been really rough, and I was too tired to deal with anybody at Amtrak who might give me grief over bringing a bike on board. (Amtrak actually is very enlightened in terms of allowing bicycles, so maybe this is only an indication that I’ve heard way too many airline horror stories. I probably won’t worry about this in the future.)

So Basil boarded incognito. That’s him in the rear, in the black bag.  I don’t think I would have attempted to put him overhead — too risky if I lost my grip — but another option would have been the cargo area at each end of the train cars, where he could have tucked in with the suitcases.

I travel light — the S bag (with the yellow flap, on the right) and the khaki grip (in front) are all I packed for what was planned as a five-day trip.  It wasn’t easy to haul Basil, the duffle, and the S bag around, but it was doable.  The Eazy Wheels are worth every cent they cost.

The Rack Sack has one flaw: the ties for the drawstring below drag on the ground if you expose the Eazy Wheels while the Brompton is covered.  On this trip, I knotted them together and jammed them between the zipper and the knot, but that wasn’t a very satisfactory fix.  I’ll sew a little pocket at the hem to tuck the laces into in the future.

Basil fits easily and neatly in the rear seat of my tiny car.  (For short trips, though, Basil usually rides in the front seat, next to me.  Of course.)  Naturally, he wears a seatbelt.  It’s not a good idea to risk having 28 lbs. of metal flying through the cabin.

The Rack Sack looks color coordinated, here, with the gray interior of my car, but that’s a weird trick of photo lighting; it’s really black, just as it looks in the  photo on the train, above.

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 . . .

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Brompton Tour

Many bike shops will allow a customer to test-ride some models of bikes, but twenty minutes on a Brompton wasn’t going to give me enough time to learn if it was the right choice for me.  Obsessive research on the Internet turned up an interesting alternative:  NYCEWheels, in Manhattan, offers 1.5 to 2 hour free Brompton tours.

Free!  Two hours!  It was no joke  . . . naturally I signed up, showed up, and took the tour. Here’s the hearty band I joined, and our fearless leader, Jack, in his NYCEWheels t-shirt:

Isolated thunderstorms had been blasting Manhattan all day.  Just before the tour,  there was a particularly wet period on the Upper East Side, where NYCEWheels is located, but the event was rain or shine, and neither the others who’d signed up, nor our guide, were discouraged.

This is the way to test an unfamiliar bike!  I’d read that some people found the steering on a Brompton to be twitchy, and, I admit it, I was worried about those small wheels.  I wondered how the M handlebars would work for me; I’d ridden a Brompton with the S (for “sporty”) bars earlier in the day, and they were all wrong for my arms and wrists.  (I’d suspected that would be the case; I’ve never cared for straight-across, mountain bike style handlebars, and like sitting upright when pedaling.)

We rode over the East River, and onto Randall’s Island.  Our loaner Bromptons were three-speeds, and we got to test the gears on the inclines over the bridge.  There were a few tight turns, too, and somewhat varied terrain.  For the first third of the ride, I wasn’t sure if the bike was right for me, but by the time we were half-way through the tour, something clicked, and everything came together just the way it should, between human and bicycle.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures; I was busy riding the bike.  However, whether you are in the market for a Brompton or not, this is one cool way to see New York City.  (NYCEWheels is now offering paid tours, too, with profits going to Transportation Alternatives; check it out!)

I rode this Brompton (below), with the Brompton basket on the front.  I can’t wear a back pack while cycling, and I wanted to see how the Brompton handled weight in the front. I knew that I’d almost always be riding while carrying some weight, and wanted to see how that felt.  I’d read, too, that weight in the front tends to stabilize the bike.

Front luggage on the Brompton attaches to a mounting block on the head tube, which means that there is no weight shifting when turning the handlebars.  At first, even when standing still, that’s disorienting; when the handlebars turn, you just naturally expect the basket to do so, too.  Much to my surprise, I adapted to this odd sensation quite quickly; though the basket is huge, and my pack was not terribly light, I soon forgot that I was toting either.

The people who lead the free Brompton tours aren’t paid to do so.  I tipped our leader, and suggest you do, too, if you take NYCEWheels up on this terrific opportunity.  It’s not one you’re likely to encounter anywhere else, and it’s well worth encouraging.

When I returned from the tour, a family member was slightly incredulous at the “free” part of the description.  He said “sure, but you have to listen to the sales pitch”.  Uh, no.  No sales pitch, nada, not one bit.  Just a nice, low-key demo of the way the bike folds, and how to use the gears.

I don’t think NYCEWheels is too concerned about twisting anyone’s arm over buying a Brompton.  Go ride one, and you’ll see why.