I’ve entered numerous sportives over the last five years but the Brompton World Championship on Saturday was my first competitive bike race….
Brompton championships have taken place every year since 2006, previously being held at Blenheim Palace and at Goodwood. The 2016 race, the 11th edition was held in London as part of the Prudential RideLondon weekend.
As with every year there is a strict dress code of a collared shirt, neck tie and jacket – absolutely no visible sportswear or lycra is permitted. As an Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion entering a World Championship it seemed only right that I should have something OS related on me, but the no lycra rule meant I couldn’t wear my OS cycling jersey. Sue, my partner, came to the rescue by making me a fabulous tie out of a Snowdon Splashmap with the summit at the centre of the tie. To add to the authenticity, I took the splashmap to the summit of Snowdon on my climb the weekend before.
The race itself was eight laps of St James Park, starting with a Le Mans style start in the middle of the Mall. Your Brompton must be fully folded and placed on the opposite side of the Mall in race number order.
The race, of 550 riders, started in four waves. I was in the third wave, which started 20 seconds behind the fastest riders. Just before the the klaxon sounded for our wave everyone started slowly creeping across the Mall, then it sounded and everyone was off running to their Bromptons.
Once on the other side it was a mad scramble to unfold the Bromptons, the quicker you do it the more places you can make up. It wasn’t the fastest time I’ve unfolded my Brompton but I was away and racing just after those around me.
I went off fast on the first lap, in fact it turned out to be my fastest lap of the race at 3 minutes 38 seconds (not including the 1 min 10 seconds to unfold the bike and cross the start line), probably too fast but I made up a lot of places.
The following view is from my handlebars, whilst it’s the entire race I have speeded up the footage after the first lap, keep an eye out for the riders dressed as WW1 Army Soldiers saluting the Queen/Buckingham Palace
I was lapped after 4.5 miles of racing, although I have to say that the group that lapped me did include ex-professional riders including David Millar and Michael Hutchinson. As a result of being lapped I crossed the finish line having completed 7 laps (9.55 miles) in a time of 29 minutes and 59 seconds, averaging 19mph.
That put me in 185th place in the mens race (322 finishers) and 209th overall (420 finishers) – My goal was to finish higher than my starting position of 366, so I was extremely happy with my time. Also there’s not many amateur cyclists that can say they have raced alongside David Millar (ok, participated in the same race as….)
I’ve been riding my Brompton for over 18 months and I must say that I don’t particularly like the handlebar grips that come as standard on it. Essentially they are just two pieces of foam glued to each end of the bar, whilst they are sufficient for small commutes, I find they become uncomfortable for anything over a couple of miles.
With my average Brompton ride being approximately 8 miles, I’ve been looking into replacing the foam grips for something that will ease the discomfort on my palms. Having researched various different options I decided to go with a pair of leather grips from Temple Cycles.
Temple Cycles are a niche producer of bespoke and traditional steel framed bicycles, each one is built to order and all have that classic retro look. In addition to the bikes they have a range of accessories that complement that classic look, the Lock-On Ergo Grips are part of their leather collection.
The grips are made from an acrylic sleeve wrapped in Italian leather, which is lovely and soft to the touch, aluminium bar ends, alloy locking clamps and stitched seams. The are available in two colours Honey (a light tan) and Chestnut (a dark brown), as you can see I went for the Chestnut.
The hardest part of fitting the grips to the Brompton was removing the standard grips. I was hoping to remove them without damaging them, but the glue was too strong and I had to resort to cutting them off.
With the foam grips removed and the glue cleaned up, it was a case of sliding the new grips onto the bar, it was a little tight, but with a twisting and pushing motion the grips slid on. I needed to move the right hand brake lever about 5mm towards the centre of the bar to make enough room for the grip to fully fit. Once on and in position you just need to tighten two allen screws on each grip, you will need a 3mm and 4mm allen key. The locking mechanism is simple, but very effective, the grips don’t slip or slide around at all.
The extra width of the Ergo grip provides that much needed support for the palm of my hand, which has increased the comfort levels dramatically for me. Previously I would nearly always wear padded gloves to ride the Brompton over longer distances, now I just love the feel of that soft leather. In fact, it makes me want to ride the Brompton more than ever.
If you are looking at replacing your standard Brompton grips or any other set of grips/bike for that matter, I can recommend these grips for style, quality, ease of fitting and more importantly comfort. So far, the only thing I can find to fault them on is that I would have preferred the 3mm allen screw the other way up, so that I could see the screw head rather than a small hole, but that is purely down to aesthetics and a mild case of OCD on my part!
The leather and design really suits the Brompton, I especially like the stitching and it seems right to install a British made grip (albeit Italian leather) on a British classic bicycle. I just need that matching Brooks saddle….
I once thought about cycling to work, this would have been sometime around 2009 and before my heart attack, I was living close to Heathrow airport and working in Central London approximately 20 – 25 miles away.
The thought occurred to me on one of my morning commutes – a short drive of about 2 miles to Hatton Cross tube station, park the car, jump on the Piccadilly line tube to Hammersmith, walk to the Hammersmith and City Line (just enough time for a Starbucks Double Tall Latte and cigarette) for another tube ride into Central London (going home was the reverse including yet another visit to Starbucks) – the thought lasted the time it took me to park the car and walk into the tube station. It consisted of the following points:
I live too far away, so it isn’t really an option, what are you thinking
The roads in London are far too busy and dangerous to cycle on
I’ll get all hot and sweaty, there’s no showers at work
Not enough time, I’ll be late.
It’s cold this morning, imagine cycling in this…
Thought dismissed as completely impracticable, although with hindsight they aren’t valid reasons not to cycle to work and are just excuses, the lot of them…..
Fast forward five years, post heart attack, it’s now 2014 and I’m still working in Central London once or twice a week, but now I’m living 120 miles away in Worcestershire. By this time I had been cycling for three years, fully addicted to it and looking at increasing my time in the saddle. Then I got an email at work saying that the company had signed up to the Cycle To Work Scheme, the website had a big banner with “Save up to 42% on a new bike!”emblazoned across it. It’s wasn’t long before that lost thought from 2009 resurfaced, You could cycle to work? After all you always need a new bike – except this time I really did live too far away.
As a cyclist and recovered heart patient, I took the time to find the solutions to all of the excuses on my list and started cycling to work. If I can find a solution living 120 miles away from my place of work, I’m sure you can to. You don’t need to be cycling in everyday of the week, twice a week will bring the health benefits – try it you might actually enjoy it and end up a regular commuting cyclist.
Life’s too short for regrets and if onlys, but if I did make a list of them dismissing that cycle to work thought in 2009 would certainly be towards the top – just take a minute to think about the health benefits 30 to 45 minutes of cycling a day would have made to my fitness and health, would I have had a heart attack at the age of 38?
As the saying goes – “Where there’s a will there’s a way” – if you really want to do something you will find the time and the means to do it.
Solutions to the Excuses: –
1 – I live too far away?
Having moved to the Midlands my journey to work was slightly different now, but it still consisted of a short drive to a train station and tube journey across London.
Cycling the entire distance was obviously completely impracticable and out of the question, but I could ride to and from the stations removing the car and tube from my journey.
That was distance resolved, although it presented another problem with bikes on the train. My normal train would only take a few bikes and it was generally full each day, I ran the risk of getting to the station and not being able to get the bike in the carriage. I had seen other commuters carrying folding bikes onto the train and their small sixteen inch wheels are a regular sight on the streets of London. I’ve always been fascinated by the Brompton bicycle, especially watching other commuters folding them in seconds from a full bike to small neat square package.
Decision made I got myself a Brompton on the cycle to work scheme.
I can already hear the excuses starting – “That’s fine for you, I don’t travel by train to work, I have to drive in” – Well, I’ve thought about this one too and have a solution. In fact, I even used it myself for six months. The trains into London were getting expensive, I found it much cheaper (and surprisingly quicker somedays) to drive into London, park outside the congestion zone and cycle the last 3 miles to the office. Admittedly the Brompton does make it easier to get a bike into the boot of a car.
If you are serious about wanting to cycle to work (you’ve read this far, so I take it you are) look at your current journey, could you park 3 to 5 miles away from work and cycle the last little bit? As you get stronger and fitter you can start parking further away and cycle more of it, you might even end up cycling the entire distance. You will also find that you start saving money, the further out of town you go the cheaper the parking charges will be and you will also be using less fuel.
2. City roads are too busy to cycle on.
Once you take the plunge you’ll find it’s not that much different than anywhere else you ride, but the key is to find the quieter roads, cycle paths and lanes.
Take Oxford Street as an example, it’s packed with buses, taxi’s, pedestrians and set after set of traffic lights. It was the most direct for me so I’ve cycled it many times and it’s certainly doable, although you do need your wits about you. If you take the roads that run parallel to it, you will find there’s much less traffic making it so much easier. As you can see from the two Strava rides below, the quieter roads extended my commute by less than a quarter of a mile and just over a minute.
If you don’t know the area that well, take a look at a map from Ordnance Survey, check the route on a day off to make sure it’s suitable – you don’t want to find yourself cycling down a muddy bridleway on your way to work, coming home is a different story!
3. I’ll get all hot and sweaty, there’s no showers at work
The key here is to cycle at a slower pace, after all you are commuting to work and not racing for that PB (Personal Best) or KOM (King Of the Mountain) on a Strava segment. Easing off the pace will still increase your heart rate and be beneficial to your health, you just don’t build up a sweat. Take advantage of the time, it’s less stressful than driving and gives you time to clear your thoughts before you get to work, take the time and enjoy the ride.
Plan your week in advance, carry a change of clothes with you or perhaps drive to work on Monday with your clothes for the week, cycle Tuesday to Thursday and then drive back in on the Friday to collect your kit. If you do carry your clothes try to avoid a rucksack on your back and opt for a bike that can carry your bag for you. Doing so stops you getting hot and sweaty behind the rucksack.
You could also try products such as Muc-Off’s Dry Shower that you can use to freshen up when you get to work if you can’t get a shower, you’ll smell of coconut for the day, but that is preferable to the alternative.
Speak to your colleagues and employer, if you can sell the benefits of cycling to work you might be able to convince them to install a shower. If they have signed up to a Cycle to Work scheme they probably already know the benefits a cycling workforce will bring them and may have already thought of adding showers. They might just need someone to show them there’s an actual need for them to do it.
4. Not enough time – I’ll be late
In my case, this just wasn’t an issue. It was actually quicker for me to cycle the 3 miles through Central London than to take public transport.
One afternoon a colleague said that he could get from the office in Holborn to London Waterloo train station before me by taking the bus. Unfortunately it was a day that I didn’t have my bike with me, not a problem I said I’ll use a Boris Bike instead (a public hire scheme for bikes in London introduced by the Mayor Boris Johnson). I was a member of the scheme and had my access token with me – challenge accepted! We both left the office by the main entrance at exactly the same time, he headed off in the direction of the 521 bus whilst I walked to the nearest Boris Bike dock in a road behind the office.
I didn’t do anything differently from normal and seven and a half minutes later I was docking my bike at Waterloo and texting my colleague to say I’ve arrived – I quickly got a text back saying that he was just about to cross the Thames and that he couldn’t believe I was already at the station. An easy win for me and the bike.
You will find taking the quieter side roads and cycle paths will avoid most of the rush hour traffic, if you do come across queuing traffic you can normally easily pass it on a bike anyway.
Having said that, you may find that it does take a little longer by bike, if it does the easy answer to this is to get up earlier! You will better for it in the long run.
5. It’s cold this morning, imagine cycling in this…
I’ve cycled in almost every type of weather there is, snow, rain, hail, sun, wind and even -3 degrees celsius at 3am in the morning on an overnight 100 mile charity cycle ride. I can say with confidence that there’s no such thing as the wrong type of weather, just the wrong type of clothing.
Investing in various types of clothing is money well spent. The real tip is to wear layers, get a decent baselayer that will keep you warm and then add layers depending on what the weather is doing that day, such as a waterproof jacket if it’s raining.
A cycling adage springs to mind – dress for the ride and not the car park – by that I mean think about what the weather is going to be like once you’ve warmed up and into the ride itself, wrapping up at the start might make you far too hot later on.
I now love riding in the colder weather, it’s amazing how soon you warm up once you start exercising. If you’re still cold, you’re not pedalling hard enough!
Now let me ask that first question again, What’s your excuse not to cycle to work? Tell me in the comments below or on Twitter and I’ll find a solution to it for you!