Strava – Join the Club

Hello,

I just wanted to write a quick update to let you know I’ve started a Strava club, you can find the link here if you would care to join in!

I’ve only been uploading my commuting rides on there at the moment – I’d like to be able to link people together from all over and hopefully bump in to fellow commuters along the way who also commute from East London in to the City and Westwards!

As the community hopefully grows then maybe we can start organising weekend rides and further on from there, who knows. The possibilities are as far as the miles in your legs! Endless.

It’s a place for all you bike-curious lot. New, old, seasoned cyclists to mediocre lycra lovers. All are welcome, all are accepted and absolutely no one is judged!

Look forward to you joining the pedal pushing club!

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My Cycle To Work Scheme – Brompton

Cult status – some objects just get it handed to them on a plate, cars tend to get it quite a lot, mainly Fords – the Transit Van, Cortina, Escort and the Capri. Many musicians get it handed to them, Bowie, Prince and George Michael – all sadly passing away in 2016.

You could even say it’s been given to a bike – the Raleigh Chopper. This was the kids bike of choice back in 1970’s every kid needed one and if you didn’t have one, you were simply not cool.

There is a bike rolling around the streets which is attracting quite a lot of attention though, it’s not new with it’s first designs drawn up in 1975 and the bikes being made in 1977 the bike is 40 years old! Which on the face of it is probably the average age of it’s riders… I haven’t researched that fact, I have just made it up. Mainly because when I think of a Brompton rider, I think of a middle aged man in a high-vis cycling jacket, bicycle clips, beige trousers, ill fitting helmet, red faced and yellow teethed on his way to the city.

However, there was something about the Brompton that lured me in. Every time I saw someone on one I thought to myself, they’re not ugly looking and they seem to make a lot of sense to someone like me, small London flat, not much room for bikes, doesn’t want his bike stolen from the street outside work when it’s locked up… So why don’t I have one? Well, because it’s a Brompton, you’ve seen the kind of people who ride them right? It all feels very W1A.

When Brompton reached out to me though and asked me if I would like to try one out for a month I could see my bank balance bracing its self at the thought of shelling out over £800 just for the most basic version of the bike. But like the Transit Van mentioned above, there are many different forms your Brompton could take – it seems no two Brompton’s would ever be the same.

The Brompton which I picked up from Brompton Junction down in Covent Garden was £955, it had an updated 3 gear hub which was £100 extra on top of the base £800 cost and £55 Version L Mudguards (which are superb and well worth the money). I found myself getting quite excited on the way down. I was about to be flying around on a brand-new bike, something I’ve never ridden before, it was very novel. When I got there, the mechanic did a quick check of the bike and when he unfolded it, it all seemed very easy he was a master of the Brompton. Leaving it in its bike form I carried it upstairs a quick adjustment of the seat and I was off!

I have to say, my first time riding a Brompton very much reminded me of trying Root Beer for the first time. It was in America and someone had bought it for me “Try that, you’ll

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Detailing on the Brompton break lever

love it.” they said. I took a swig and it was disgusting, like really bad, but I had to put a brave face on being British I couldn’t just say it was horrible. It’s curious though, Root Beer, the second swing was a lot different to the first. I was drawn back in for a third taste and each time I tried it I liked it more and more and found myself buying another declaring it was one of the best things I tasted.

Now, I wouldn’t say that a Brompton was one of the best bikes I’ve ever cycled but it certainly grows on you with each ride. There’s something about it when it all clicks and you find yourself darting about through central London, it’s fun. When you’ve got a slight incline though and you’re in between gears, it’s not so fun.

Let’s talk about those gears a little – as mentioned above, I had an uprated 3 gear hub for commuting around London. A very solid choice of hub, very reliable and relatively easy to use. When I picked it up from the shop I was given a demonstration as to how they work.

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Brompton’s even come with a pump – very handy

You have three gears on one shifter and on the other side you have (as it was described to me) an easy and a hard setting, effectively giving you six gears.

 

As ever with in hub gears, you can shift them while you’re not pedalling – great for a quick getaway, annoying when you’re climbing a hill. With the ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ gears though, it gives you an option. The annoying thing is if you’re already climbing in ‘easy’ and you need to spin a lighter gear, you have to stop pedalling to engage that gear, then you have to flick the outer hub gears to hard. It can be done smoothly but it certainly takes a bit of getting used to.

If you’re looking to buy the bike to commute on and are put off by the gearing system, you have to ask yourself – how often to you climb a hill on your commute? If you live and work in London the answer will be rarely ever and you’ll be fine.

Moving on to the bikes balance, it’s not all together amazing. Be it the small wheels or narrow handle bars, I’m not sure. You would have thought that with a low centre of gravity it would be more stable. I felt all at sea on it though for the first few rides, a bit wobbly and a little bit uncomfortable.

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Right – OK, let’s talk about it then. The putting it up and folding it back down again. How long did it take me to do it? Well, how long did you think it took me? The bloke in the shop made it look so stupidly easy that I didn’t need to do it there and then did I? I just needed to ride it home and do it then. Basically, if you don’t know ask. I asked YouTube and saw a video of a women collapsing a Brompton in 6 seconds – it did not take me six seconds. I worked out the back wheel bit – there’s a little catch underneath the bike, took me five minutes to find that. Then I collapsed the handle bars and folded the side but I just couldn’t get the pedals right, they were blocking it from folding flush. I figured they must have to be in a certain position, which they do. But once all that was sorted it only takes a couple of times to get you folding it up pretty quick. You don’t feel half as stupid when it all goes together than you do when you’re stood in the street trying to look cool while folding a Brompton…

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Rear suspension on the Brompton is a perfect touch!

Which brings me to my next question. Do you look cool on a Brompton? Well, I never felt cool on the Brompton, I always felt like people were looking at me thinking why on earth are you on a Brompton? What the hell are you riding, I felt bike conscious! Once I got over that and realised people we’re looking at me at all and no one really cared that I was on a Brompton I realised, if you look cool on a bike, you probably look cool on a Brompton. I do not look cool on a Brompton.

Would I part with £800+ for a Brompton? I’m so torn it’s untrue, I thought using one for a month would help me with the answer and it’s undeniable – it’s great in my flat I can put a bike in there taking up minimal room. On the road, it’s a little trooper too, there’s a little shock absorber on the rear wheel, while it doesn’t exactly glide over bumps and divots, it’s fairly smooth. So why am I still torn? Well, I still have the image of that more than middle aged banker, in high vis and yellow teeth puffing his way about town on one. On the other side, if I had one with straight bars (S type) opposed to M type then I think it would look better and I’d feel more comfortable on it.

I suppose I should sum this whole ‘review’ up now.

If I had £955 to buy a bike then there are much nicer road bikes out there which I could spend the money on, it’s a lot of money. If I had £955 to buy a commuter bike though, there would be no hesitation. I would buy one in a heartbeat, they’re perfect for commuting in the city.

You can buy a Brompton and check out their range here

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My Cycle To Work Scheme – Blaze Lazerlight

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You may be aware of the lighting brand Blaze, they have been ‘blazing’ a trail now for a couple of years in the world of bike lights. They’ve got a bit of a range, the rear burner, the front burner and the one I’ll be reviewing in this write up, the Lazerlight.

Keeping safe on the roads morning and evening, on your commute is very important. The Blaze team are different in what they do to help improve bike safety with this Laserlight.

If you’re a London liver, like me, you may have noticed them on the Boris Bikes (or to give them their unofficial name, Santander Cycles) lately. In short, it is a light for the front of your bike which also projects, via laser, a green bicycle on the floor up to six meters in front of you as you ride. What’s the point of it and is it any good? Well for £125 you would ruddy well hope so, if I’m spending that much I want it to last forever and for it to shoot frickin’ laser beams out of it… Let’s see if it can do both of those things! Here’s what I found.

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First impressions were good, the Blaze comes packed in a nice looking high end box and as you open it, you’re presented with just the light. It’s got some weight to it but it feels smooth and high end, which you’d expect for the whopping £125. As you get it out the box the first thing you want to do is start firing the laser, which you can’t do until the light is attached to its bike mount, you can however turn the light on. It comes with enough charge to at least test the light with, I didn’t ride it straight out the box but you might be able to get away with it if your ride is short. I would not advise this though, if you’re going to ride with your bike light in the dark, please make sure your light is fully charged, that’s just common sense.

Charing is easy, it’s a USB charger so will plug in to your computer/laptop or even a USB plug charger like that of your phone. The charger attaches via magnet to the top of the Laserlight. The Laserlight its self tells you how charged it is by LED lights, which change colour and flash or stay solid to let you know how charged the Laserlight is. Charing is as simple as charging your phone.

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Attaching it to your bike is easy too, the only thing you should know is you need the supplied Allen Key to fully tighten the light mount to your bike. The light then just slots in to the mount, attaching and detaching easy. So, I guess, unless you’re constantly changing bikes, fully tightening the mount to the bike with an Allen Key should only be a one-time thing. If the light goes on the mount easy enough, which it does, it’s not that much of an issue for me. If you are going to be constantly swapping bikes and lights, keep a hold of that key!

Turning the light on confused me a bit, being a bloke I obviously tried to do things without reading the instructions. I didn’t realise there was a lock feature on the light which is turned on/off by holding down both the light and laser button at the same time. The advantage being that the light wont switch on and run down it’s battery life if you’ve dumped it in your backpack/bag – I’ll come back to battery life later it’s a claimed 13 hours… There is a couple of different settings for the LED light, 100 lumens, 300 lumens and flashing. For the laser – on, off or flashing. They’re super easy to toggle through just by pressing the respective buttons. You can have whichever combination of the lights going at any one time.

However, this leads me back to the battery life… If you have it on full 300 lumens and bike laser staying on constantly, expect it to run flat in 40 minutes. not 13 hours. Blaze claim on their website that you can get 4 hours at 95% depletion but this is a get me home measure. It seems a bit of a cop out to me, no one takes four whole hours to cycle home, I’d hate to forever be charging my Laserlight each time I get to the office and home from work, as fun as the magnetic charger is. Which brings me back to the price, if I’m paying £125 on a front light only, I want it to work all day long. Not some dim 100 lumens which I worry will get me seen as I’m on my 20-minute commute home.

So, with the battery life and cost in mind, is this light just a gimmick? Well, Blaze have released some numbers on the light apparently tests by TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) when a Blaze Laserlight is fitted and the laser is turned on, visibility to a bus driver went up from 72% to 96% compared to an LED light alone. That’s very impressive. Very, very impressive. And TFL (Transport for London) wouldn’t have put 12,000 on them on their Santander Cycles if they didn’t believe in the light.

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The safety is there for all to see, six meters in front of you. It’s cool and when I was cycling around with it on, it’s not only bus drivers who notice you, pedestrians, car drivers, scooters and other cyclists all knew you were coming. It did make me feel a lot safer on the road and can you really put a price on your own safety? If you’re Blaze yes you can, it’s £125.

You can buy a Blaze Lazerlight and check out their range here

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My Cycle To Work Scheme – Canyon RoadLite

In my latest series of blogs on cycling to work in the city I take a look at the Canyon RoadLite.


The guys over at Canyon got in touch and thought that this bike is the perfect bike for getting yourself in to the office in maximum comfort and style, and why not? Canyon make some fantastic bikes and are the supplier of pro team, Movistar. They have seen Nario Quintana ride to a Giro d’Italia Grand Tour victory and to second place, behind overall winner Chris Froome, in the Tour de France, taking the White Jersey in 2013. On top of all this, at the Rio Olympics 2016 they are supplying bikes for 20 different athletes from 10 different countries.

To say these bikes have a thoroughbred then could be seen as an understatement, so what’s next for the German brand? Well, commuting it seems – and the Germans seem to take getting to work seriously. Canyon claim their aim while developing the RoadLite was to take the performance from the Grand Tour winning road bikes and combine that with comfort and this machine is ready to take you to a king of the commute. While it’s not a flat out road bike, it’s still a good weekend explorer, a road racer it is not, this is a fitness bike.

So, what do you pull out the box when it’s delivered? Well, if you’ve ordered the same bike which Canyon sent me, the RoadLite AL 6.0, then you’ll notice the box wasn’t too heavy to carry from the delivery van to your home. For £719 you get a 9.20kg aluminium bike frame, two Mavic Crossone wheels, a Iridium saddle and a Canyon seat post with VCLS tech for extra comfort and stability. Canyon even through in a couple of in house made pedals too. This bike really does take aluminium to another level, I didn’t think that getting a bike this sturdy and this light was possible with just aluminium alone. However, if you spend an extra £250 Canyon will shed a further 700 grams by upgrading the gears and cranks from Shimano 105 to Shimano Ultegra, changing the wheels to DT Swiss R 24’s and giving you a carbon fibre seat post.

For me the paying the extra £250 isn’t really worth it. If I were to buy this bike it would be a commuter, for that reason I don’t see the need to upgrade from the 105 to the Ultegra and get a couple of other jazzy upgrades. The middle of the road model, which this one is, is just right.

But what is it like to ride? Well, I pumped the 28mm tyres up to 90psi and took it out for a 6 mile spin (similar to that of a commute) and you can find that on my Strava, if you want to look through it. I have to say, the bike is well balanced and extremely comfortable. Averaging around 12 mph the bike just cruises, there’s very little chance to get above 12 mph average cycling around central London to work, so this was a great little run out for this test. I didn’t even brake in to too much of a sweat, which was comforting to know if I were cycling to the office I wouldn’t be arriving in a shower of sweat.

I found the bike stable and able to absorb the bumps and divots in the road, even though the saddle isn’t overly padded, you don’t feel the need for it to be as you don’t feel sharp juddering bumps up in to your nether regions.

Let’s have a quick chat about the wheel base, it’s quite long. I got my measuring tape out and measured 110cm, compared to my road bike that’s 10cm more. which you would think would make the bike feel cumbersome and lethargic through the bends, not so, the bike still holds some cornering ability, it’s not as sharp as your road bike though.

Yes Alex Dowsett, if you are reading, I agree – these can get very hot!

That’s not so much as an issue through because you’ll be able to scrub off your speed without issue. It comes with disc brakes… ooohhhh. Now they’re bad aren’t they? No, they’re not. They’ve just been shunned by the pro peloton over safety concerns. The concerns being that it would encourage riders to descend mountains harder knowing they could slow down quicker. Also they heat up, if there was a crash and people have

You can see the stays for normal rim brakes if you replace them.

jammed their brakes on, you have a hot disc  coming towards your face… Not cool. The brakes on this bike, however – while they do still get hot – are fantastic. I know I keep going back to it but for a commute, you need sharp brakes, you never know when someone could step out on you, cut you up or just give you a reason to have to hit the brakes. I’ve never been so confident in hitting my brakes, you quickly drop your speed and not in a throw you over the handle bars kind of way. Worth a mention, there’s still the stays for rim brakes if you really feel the need to replace them.

You can also see the internal cables for the gears here.

You’ll notice the handle bars are a mini version of the bull bars you used to have on your mountain bike as a kid, so that when you were throwing your bike around it was softer on your supple hands. This is no different, while the brakes and gear are in the usual position you can position your hands slightly wider on the bars just for an added bit of comfort, a nice touch. I found the gears slightly awkward though, while they clicked in to place perfectly, I found them too central on the bars and with my hands sitting slightly wider it added a little movement of the wrist to click through the gears which just felt slightly off.

So, would I part with my cash for this bike?

Of course – I would happily ride it every day to and from the office. It would even be a nice little weekend warrior with the family, it’s so versatile. Stick a couple of paneers on there and you’ve even got yourself a shopping bike! What’s really notable is the little bits of detail on the bike. there are stickers near the cables to stop them from scratching the frame, the gear cables are even internal! On a bike for less than a grand! Unheard of. The colour scheme is superb and it’s very classy. A great bike for the price and getting you to the office!

Here you can see the plastic labels to stop the frame getting scuffs from the cables.

The Links

You can buy a Canyon RoadLite and browse the range here

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