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Whether it's five miles or five hundred miles, riding a bicycle is more fun than anyone ever told me! My New Year's Resolution to cycle 10 miles a day or 40 minutes on a spin bike has meant that by the end of May I have cycled 2,600 miles! Because of my cycling wardrobe the weather has not stopped me from cycling (unless it really is -5 degrees or with wind gusts of 25 mph). Cycling in style and in comfort is really important to me as I don't really want to be covered in logos looking like a Ninja as I buy groceries or attend meetings. I have found some things that work for me but am always looking for new pieces. For me, Evans Cycles and Cycle Surgery for the basics. My two favourite brands for my wardrobe are www.velorution.com and www.velovixen.com but I am always looking for new pieces. I would love to know what works for you and why. Happy cycling!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Cycling is Paramount in Shrewsbury

Standing on both feet at the back of the class, I closed my eyes and pictured myself somewhere in Austria as I sang out, Julie Andrews style

“Climb every Mountain.
Search high and low,
Follow every byway,Every path you know.”

Just as I was about to start the next verse, there was a tap on the piano as the music teacher said “err, yes, well thank you – can you just mouth the words from now on, please?”

My dreams of becoming a singer ended at that very moment. I haven’t sung a word since and have always been rather in awe of those that can.

Decades later in a nightclub, the lights dimmed, the audience hushed, the microphone was turned on and someone called Wendy starting singing

“And now, the end is here.
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear.
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain”

It was so beautiful I was shocked! The sort of singing that wins the X factor and absolutely not what I was expecting – not least because Wendy was supposed to be accepting a bouquet of flowers at this, the Paramount CRT annual dinner dance in Shrewsbury where singing wasn’t even on the menu!

Paramount Cycle Racing Team was started 25 years ago by one of the owners at Stan’s Cycles, along with another road racer and has grown and grown to its current 187 membership. As I looked around me I realized that through sheer fluke I had stumbled across a cycle shop and a cycling club that has simply raised the bar like no other.  Having Shropshire as a backdrop hasn't let them drop their standards - it's made them higher.

The size of the club and the amount of rides they lead is increasing all the time and Stan’s Cycles are the only cycle shop I know that gives women’s cycling equal stature.  

Whatever kind of cycling – mountain biking, recreational, road - the ethos of the shop and the Paramount CRT rides is inclusivity and they are bringing cycling to the forefront of the town with the work that they do. 

They are pushing boundaries in the community, sponsoring The Shrewsbury Grand Prix, encouraging youngsters to become professional cyclists of the future and they run the shop as though you are home from home.  

It has set a benchmark that I have not met anywhere else. Egos and overpricing have no place here. It’s not just that their product knowledge is second to none, nor that their café has just won an award. It’s the gentle enthusiasm and interest they have in making sure their customers have the best experience both in-store and cycling - always with a sense of fun which is what makes cycling what it is.

Earlier in the day I had joined the Paramount CRT Ladies Ride. Eight of us met at Stan’s Cycles and headed out into beautiful Shropshire countryside.  

My loaded Carb breakfast should have been more porridge based but it was too good to miss.

As I sat and chose whether to have jam or marmalade I was delighted to see that the entire selection came from Tiptree Farm in Essex - this would clearly be approved by Jack Thurston! 

Had I put my Garmin on my bike I might have a record of the route but sadly it stayed in the hotel!

Through picturesque villages, past fields of crops and cattle and on the horizon the mountains of North Wales. It was absolutely beautiful. The air was cold but the speed kept me warm – I just managed to hang on to the back of the ride. 

As we went around a corner, a horse and its rider were in the middle of the road – like Tonto. The horse was across both sides of the road facing the hedge. Two of us went into the nearest driveway and hid behind a bin in the hope that the hooves would stay on the ground and trot off calmly. A few minutes later they did.

We regrouped at the top of a hill and I managed to catch my breath – just before the scenery took it away again. I can only hope that Jack does make his way here. It was like cycling in his book (but really only he can say that)!

This was the inaugural ride on my Woodrup since its second and final bike fit. 21 miles later I was grinning like a Shropshire Cat even though my bicycle was covered in mud as was I.

Back into Stan’s Café where we met all the other Saturday riders – the noise and welcome was warm and wonderful. Whilst I was busy having coffee, the Mud Wizard removed all the mud from my bike! Perfect!

As I headed back home I realised that my weekend had been less My Way and more Stan's Cycles Way and I have absolutely no complaints about that at all.

Shrewsbury Grand Prix http://www.shrewsburygrandprix.co.uk

Monday, 24 March 2014

Monday, 3 March 2014

2012......As the group gathered in the darkness,

As the group gathered in the darkness, their numbers growing larger and larger as we neared midnight,  I couldn't help noticing the collection of rather smaller bicycles with even smaller wheels that were joining us.  

Such unusual geometry, each one a different colour, their owners were bizaarly smiling despite the fact that ahead of us were 50 miles to Southend, cycling through the night on their near Lillipudlianesque wheels. As I stared in awe at the eclectic collection and enthusiasm of their owners I couldn't help wondering whether these unusual looking machines would actually make it to the end of the ride..... 

Ha! How wrong can a girl be?!   50 hilarious miles later a lot had been learned. These very individual bicycles go like the wind - there may be an increase in cadence but my goodness they go! 

Since that ride, I too have become a very, very happy Brompton owner (is there any other kind?)  Their quirky design, the ability to tailor them to a configuration of your choice has allowed me to join the (absolutely genius) fold and taken part in many magical miles.

I may not be the strongest cyclist (by quite a long way) but on a road bike I have ridden to Scotland, Paris, up Ditchling Beacon and an Alp. And whilst I was busy spinning with my 21 gears, fellow Bromptonites were just reaching the summits as though they were a walk in the park!

This year so far I have cycled over 1000 Brommie (mainly flat) miles, attended a Brompton Book Launch, a Brompton Maintenance Course and ridden my Brommie to the top of Highgate Hill! 

And I have become a bit of a fan of Brompton Junction in Covent Garden.

As you walk in the door it's a bit like walking into a man's shirt shop. Pinks for example. Except the storage shelves are a bit bigger and there are rows and rows of Bromptons. Or is it more like a sweet shop? Or Apple perhaps (I've said that before!)  The large table that looks like a game of Pacman is actually where you can build your virtual Brompton.

Everything Brompton do is to the highest standard, their customer service is second to none, they apply the same level of thought to their Cafe as they do their bicycles - their treacle tart is delicious as indeed is their lemon and ginger carrot cake (although neither are necessarily made for sharing)!!

So for me, anything hosted by them is always worth signing up for and even if they aren't hosting anything I highly recommend a visit anyway! 

Back in January I found myself at a Brompton Book Launch. The book Brompton Bicycle 2nd Edition by David Henshaw is a fascinating insight into how the Brompton came about.  I knew nothing about the first edition or indeed the author so when a group of us arrived at the store, heading straight downstairs for huzzzahhhh, treacle tart and pots of tea - we didn't realise that  we had actually walked straight past the author! (So sorry!)

Half an hour or so of tea and chitchat later we all gathered on the ground floor where we enjoyed a presentation about the history of this marvellous machine that is now an international star in the world of transport, leisure and, quite frankly, fun.

Indeed, David Henshaw's talk was fascinating. As the author of A-B magazine which specialised in folding bikes, it is very clear that Brompton has become a worldwide and iconic bicycle not just because of its design but because of the passion and belief of its creator Andrew Ritchie.  Despite several knock backs, Andrew just persisted. If a door closed he would find another road, pushing boundaries until solutions were found.

This enthusiasm seems to resonate through Brompton owners around the globe who are as passionate about their Bromptons as Andrew which I am sure is why it is more of a world wide club than anything else - in any other organization it would be a customer base.

The Brompton World Championships 2013, folding competitions, The IG Nocturne, the amazing places we ride to we are all so enthusiastic about our Bromptons and having read the book and been at this presentation a little bit of the Brompton magic became clear. I won't spoil it by giving any more away but it is a real example of believing in your product, setting your standards high without dropping them and a bucket load of that basic ingredient - real hard graft. A very humbling and enlightening read.

Several bicycle rides later, I was back at Brompton Junction attending a maintenance course. It shames me to say it but when I first got my Brommie a couple of years ago I actually paid Action Bikes in Victoria to show me how to remove the back wheel. 

The way the built-in screwdriver thingy for the hub works is genius. Needless to say I have only had to remove the back wheel once since so had pretty much forgotten how to do it. To be shown again, with added tips as to how to do it Bromptonwise was extremely helpful. And I never knew about the end of the thingy having to be in the centre of the little carre, nor that you should do this in a high gear.  I also never knew that because of the fold, the back wheel actually sits closer to the chain side of the frame than the other. I made some notes...

  • ·        Untwist the tensioner 
  • ·        Unscrew the indicator chain and it comes out
  • ·        Use a spanner to undo the nut and the washer
  • ·        Loosen both the nuts but don't undo them
  • ·        Loosen the anti rotation washer
  • ·        Remove wheel and repair!
  • ·        (I always use a cloth/rag to check tyre for sharp bits, never my hand)
  • ·        The anti rotation washer has to go in a special way and helpfully has  the word Top written on it (engage brain the5milecyclist if you have turned your bike upside down - d'oh!!)
  • ·        The claws go inwards into holes on the dropouts
  • ·        Don't fully inflate tyre until it's back on the Brommie!
  • ·        Put the name of the tyre over the valve hole
  • ·        Tighten up both nuts 

In fact, I have a list of other things I didn't know:
  • ·        Pull the chain (literally) to see whether it has stretched (much better than a chain gauge)
  • ·        Don't over tighten the seat post
  • ·        If the hinges become stiff, spray them with WD40
  • ·        Keep your Brompton clean!
  • ·        Use Multipurpose cleaner for the seat post, not grease or lube
  • ·        Clean your wheels
  • ·        Inspect wear on brake pads, clean with multi spray
If you use your Brompton daily, oil the chain every fortnight and if it's wet weather, every week. To do this, lightly lube the chain turning the pedals and wipe the excess away with a rag. The target is the chain rollers, not the little plates on the outside which will attract dirt.

Keep your Brompton clean!

(NB Please note that there may be errors in my notes - for advice on maintaining your Brommie please contact your local bike shop or indeed Brompton!!)

Needless to say, since the maintenance class I have been remiss in looking after my Brommie! The hinge had become so stiff that it reached the stage I couldn't fold it, the brakes were being inefficient and there was a Treacle Tart deficit in my diet! 
Being just after Valentine's Day, there was also a Love your Brommie weekend so after a 10 mile ride around a very windy London I looped over London Bridge and headed for Covent Garden.  I was extremely sorry to hear from a policewoman at a closed High Holborn that the gale force winds the night before had destroyed some balustrade on a building which had tragically landed, literally, on a parked car killing the driver and seriously injuring the passengers. A real reminder of the fragility of life and how lucky we all are to be here. My thoughts are with the loved ones so affected by this loss of life.

I headed on to Covent Garden and noticed two Bromptonites in very hi-viz yellow jackets and bag covers, taking photographs of London life. They later arrived at the Junction for tea - apparently heading for Amsterdam in a couple of weeks.

Nev - one of the fab Brompton Mechanics - took charge of my Brommie, sorted out the hinge, replaced a brake pad or two and fitted the new brake levers. What a difference they make! They don't wobble and wiggle like the other ones and they have Brompton logos on the inside of the levers. Another fine example of the level of detail in the House of Brompton.

Whilst Bromptonites continue to push their pedals around the world, Brompton continues to push the envelope in what it does.  

Whatever it does next - I much look forward to it and in the meantime I'll just keep riding my Brommie  (and if I happen to find myself feeling hungry or thirsty in Covent Garden I know where I will stop)! 

Thank you Brompton and fellow Brommie owners - what a hoot this is!  The rest of the pics are here