Nice Rack

Despite no-longer being mine, the Kona Africa Bike continues to be treated to upgrades and improvements, the latest of which is a Basil Memories front rack. The Africa Bike originally came with a spring-loaded folding front basket which, whilst an excellent idea in theory, ended up squeaking excessively in use. This may have been partly due to the fact that I one carried a 10 kg bag of cat litter in there, which it became immediately obvious was far too heavy for the basket. The new rack which takes its place has a weight rating of 15 kg, adding a reasonable amount of extra carrying capacity to the bike. I personally find having luggage up-front to be re-assuring because I can keep an eye on it whilst on the move. Access to luggage whilst on the move is another bonus.
The rack is not the only addition to the Africa Bike, a Brooks saddle was added a few months back, and a Carradice Pendle saddle bag is another recent addition.

The Basil Memories front rack attached to the handlebar via hooks, in much the same way as the folding basket which came with the bike. The legs are intended to fit onto the front wheel axle, which would not be a problem on a bike with thin fork tubing or a lot of rake, such as a typical roadster.

Thankfully, despite the thick fork tubing of the Africa Bike, the rack legs were easily attached to the fork via the second set of eyelets above the axle, designed for attaching a large basket or rack.

The hooks which attach the rack to the handlebar are adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of bike sizes and handlebar heights, with at least 20 cm of extra height left over for the set-up on the Africa Bike. The only thing missing now is a wicker hamper to sit on the rack


Five years on a bike (Part Two)

This is the follow-up to a recent post of my reflections on the five years since I started to cycle again as an adult. The first part can be found here: Five years on a bike (Part One).
I had finally gotten the kind of bike I had been coveting for quite some time but which I could never seem to justify the expense of, a traditional roadster, the Raleigh Tourist De Luxe. After owning the bike for more than a year, I can honestly say that it (or an equivalent bike, such as the Pashley Roadster Sovereign) would have been well worth the full price tag.
Whilst I had finally stopped the hunt for a better bike, some of my friends and family started to express an interest in the sort of bikes I had been getting into, and over the summer and autumn of that year I did a number of Raleigh Twenty and roadster restorations. I was happy with my DL-1, but I was still always on the look out for nice things to go on it, such as new tyres, dynamo lights or a lovely Carradice saddlebag. Even now I like the idea of swapping the rear hub at some point to add more gears. The Yuba was also treated to some dynamo lighting and a Brooks saddle.
By this point, whilst I was a confident cyclist who was well versed in the vehicular cycling techniques outlined in Cyclecraft, I was acutely aware that the road network in the UK was designed without any care or consideration being given to the safety or convenience of cyclists (and very little given to pedestrians either), instead primarily focussed on the needs and whims of the private motorist. Whilst I, and a minority of people still cycled in these dire conditions, I came to realise that without radical alterations to the road network, the vast majority of people never ever would (at least not above and beyond the odd bit of recreational cycling in parks or on trails). I was aware of cycling campaigns, but none of them really seemed to capture my interest, seeming primarily focussed on sport-cycling, or on merely mitigating the problems encountered by the minority of existing, fast, confident, vehicular cyclists, rather than seeking measures to make cycling accessible to a much wider audience. Thankfully, it was at around this time that I stumbled upon the initial founding of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, which at the time seemed like one of the first, sensible glimmers of hope I had encountered in the UK cycling ‘scene.’
By the beginning of 2011, my situation had changed so that I was travelling on Virgin and Cross-country trains regularly. Both of these operators have cycle carriage policies (and risible cycle carriage capacities) designed to discourage passengers from taking cycles on their trains (the extra effort, planning and in effect gambling required making it viable for only perhaps for the occasional trip). This presented me with a problem, I wanted to be able to finish my journey by cycle after departing the train. A trip to London, with its recently scrapped Western extension of the congestion charge gave me an opportunity; a glut of Bromptons for sale at good prices, sold by people who could now afford to ditch their bikes in favour of driving again (another win for common sense in policy making there, Boris). Londoners’ loss to their liveable streets, health, safety and ability to get around was at least turned to my gain, I had acquired my own Brompton M3L in red.At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the Brompton, but I knew that I could probably sell it for as much as I paid, due to the shortage of Bromptons on sale in the North. It was certainly a departure from the kinds of bikes I had become accustomed to, making me even more surprised to discover that I really liked it. The more aggressive, but still quite comfortable riding position made it the fastest of my bikes. It also surprised me by remaining pleasant and comfortable to ride over longer distances; to this day I often ride it from Macclesfield to Manchester a few mornings a month. If, by some cruel twist of fate, I was only allowed to own a single bike, the versatility and sheer all-round brilliance of this little bike means that it would have to be a Brompton.

The Brompton completely filled and exceeded my Twenty’s niche, and with space at a premium, I could no-longer justify keeping it. Thankfully, my father was in need of a bike. His modern Raleigh P1000 hybrid was a little bit too big for him to really feel safe when riding it. The 18 gears were more than he needed. I decided that the Twenty would be better off with him, and that it would be a better fit for his needs.

If I had spent the past five years using a bicycle for transport, but without the same enthusiasm I have for bikes, I probably could say that cycling has saved me a lot of money on public transport. However, as an enthusiast, I have probably spent about as much money on bicycle-related things as I have saved on bus, train, tram and taxi fares. The key differences are that I have something to show for the money spent on bicycles and paraphernalia. Firstly, I am significantly more healthy than I was before I started cycling just over five years ago, despite rarely venturing out on a bicycle with the intention  of doing so for the benefit of my health. As someone who was particularly unfit for much of my life, I truly appreciate this side-effect. Secondly, unlike money spent on public transport, I still have something to show for the money spent on bicycles and paraphernalia; the actual bicycles and paraphernalia which continue to be useful to me to this day.

I hope this account of my experiences of cycling as an adult can help novices to avoid making some of the same mistakes I did:

  • If you are cycling to get from A-to-B, don’t buy a ‘full-suspension’ mountain bike, especially if it is in the same price-range as mine was. Spending more money on a quality bike will always be a better idea. Most of the bikes made by Pashley, Velorbis or Gazelle for instance will include many of the accessories needed to make cycling more pleasant & lower maintenance. Whilst it may seem like a lot of money, quality bikes hold their value quite well; if a year passes and you feel that the bike isn’t quite right for you, you can sell it and recoup much of what you spent. The same cannot be said for a low end bike, despite it being more likely you will feel this way.
  • Mudguards are better than waterproof over-trousers.
  • If you can only ever own one bike, get a Brompton. The folding solves the storage problems which can afflict flat-dwellers, concerns about leaving it locked up outside and concerns about your own fitness as a new cyclist; it is easy to be ambitious with longer distance journeys when you know you can give up and hop on a bus, tram, train or taxi with your bike if something goes wrong along the way.
  • For purposes where reliability is an important factor, hub gears are a better choice than dérailleur gears, especially if coupled with puncture-resistant tyres.
  • If you find you are using your bike as a main means of transport, make the investment in dynamo lighting as soon as you can. The sooner you make the change, the more money you will save on replacement battery lights and batteries in the long term. Most of the equipment can be ported from one bike to the next relatively easily if you decide to change your bike in the future.
  • If you are carrying stuff on your bike, sweaty-back problems can be avoided by carrying the load on a front or rear rack, handlebar bag or saddlebag. It may surprise you how much this improves comfort if you have become accustomed to cycling with a backpack.
  • Although requiring a discomfort period, a tensioned leather saddle, such as a Brooks or Velo Orange will be more comfortable than a plastic saddle.

Five years on a bike (Part One)

This summer marked the fifth year I have cycled as an adult. Of course for the vast majority of my life I have owned and ridden a bike, from my first bike at around the age of three, to my last childhood bike which I gave up on at around sixteen. After my last childhood bike and I parted ways, four years passed where I did not cycle at all, depending on walking and public transport for getting around. It was only because of the disproportionally high cost of public transport that I decided to buy another bike, in order to avoid paying £35 each month to get to the part-time job I had whilst I was an undergraduate.
A Shockwave SUS450, the first bike I bought as an adult
That first bike I owned as an adult was truly a real piece of crap, a £90 bicycle-shaped-object from Halfords. I bought it from White City Retail Park and rode it home, a distance of a few miles which seems a completely trivial distance now but which at that time left me completely exhausted. Simultaneously I was also enthused with the feeling of cycling, which I realised I had missed during the previous four years. At the time this bike worked quite well for me, I had no specialist knowledge of bikes or cycling whatsoever and so ignorance was bliss. Within three months of not paying for the bus the bike had paid for itself.
Those early rides to work along the main road from the city centre to Failsworth were a terrifying experience, like most inexperienced cyclists I rode in the gutter, terrified of being hit from behind by a motorist. Thankfully, the rides home were enough to make up for it. Finishing my shift after 10 pm meant the ride home along the same road was much more pleasant and after five hours of manual labour the experience was always refreshing, even in the rain (which on a bike without mudguards, I simultaneously experienced from above and below). I started to use the bike for shopping too, riding to the nearest supermarket with a backpack (the bike had no provision to fit a rack) and riding home with the weight on my back. As an arrangement it was far from ideal, but it was preferable to walking or paying for the bus again.
After three months of using this bike to get around, I had my first altercation with a motorist in Rochdale. The driver had decided to overtake me going down hill on Drake Street in order to make a sudden left turn. It is the sort of stupid manoeuvre on the part of the motorist which, with enough experience, most cyclists learn to expect and compensate for. I hit the left wing of the car and went flying over the bonnet and landed on the road, head first. I suffered some pretty nasty road rash down the side of my face and around my eye, in addition to grazes on my elbow and leg. My bike was relatively unscathed. After leaving the hospital later that day, I knew that I had to get back onto the bike right then, or I might be put off forever. I rode back to the trains station and then on home that night, and luckily the experience didn’t put me off cycling for good.
Despite being a terrible bike, I rode it for nearly two years. Throughout those two years, as problems with the bike arose, I started to learn about the basics of bike maintenance courtesy of the excellent writing of the late Sheldon Brown. Sheldon’s infectious enthusiasm for all things cycling shone through everything he wrote, even articles about brake adjustment or tracking down mystery creaks, clicks & clunks. After nearly two years of riding the SUS450, the bottom bracket spindle snapped as I was trying to pull away from a set of traffic lights. Whilst initially annoyed, not possessing the tools or knowledge to fix this problem gave me the perfect opportunity to rationalise buying a new, better bike, something which had been on my mind for a few years.
By this stage I was a little bit more knowledgeable about bikes, I had realised that the alleged ‘rear-suspension’ on my previous bike was little more than a mechanism to leech my pedalling effort and drive me slowly insane with persistent creaking. I also realised that riding with a backpack sucked. However, I was still largely unaware of several important practical features which existed on other bikes, such as the merits of having fewer gears, hub gears, proper mudguards, chain-guards, the irrelevance of front suspension for the type of riding I mainly did and of course, upright geometry. The next bike I purchased was a Revolution Cuillin Sport from Edinburgh Bicycle Co-Operative. At the time I knew little about the specific merits of different types of bicycle brake, I only knew that after riding with some incredibly weak, low-end V-brakes for a few years I wanted something better, and I promptly set my heart on having a bike with disc-brakes.
Despite still being quite an impractical choice of bike for my needs, the Cuillin Sport was definitely a step in the right direction. Being slightly better suited to my needs, I naturally started to make more of my journeys by cycle, and as this bike represented a more significant investment to me at the time, I started to learn more and more about bicycle componentry and maintenance. Over the next 18 months I acquired the tools and expertise I required to keep the bike in tip-top condition, whilst occasionally upgrading the odd component to make the bike more suitable for my needs. After around 12 months, I had converted the bike from a mountain bike to a hybrid, and my level of knowledge had increased to the point where I knew that the bike was not really the right choice for my needs. I also learned about the Yuba Mundo through reading blogs such as Urban Simplicity, and became interested in just how capable a bicycle could be.
By this stage, I was aware of vehicular cycling, Cyclecraft and the range of measures which cyclists can use to minimise the problems which arise when riding on a road network which is designed solely around the needs and wants of the private motorist, where the needs of cycling and cyclists are usually not considered at all. I was mostly confident on the road but could still remember what it was like to cycle as a novice. I was still not quite fast enough to survive on some of the most hostile parts of the road network and blissfully unaware of how things like Cyclecraft, speed and cadence become irrelevant with the right infrastructure.
Eventually, a minor windfall from overtime meant that I could afford to buy a Yuba Mundo of my own. The Yuba Mundo represented something of a turning point for me. Whilst it did not completely representing the frame geometry I would come to evangelise, it gave me a new experience; riding a bike and feeling truly comfortable whilst doing so. Despite its size, the Yuba Mundo became my primary bike. When I did occasionally choose to instead venture out on the mountain bike, I was acutely aware of how uncomfortable it was; riding hunched forward, a fair amount of weight carried by my hands and with a triple chainset making use of the full range of the gears unnecessarily difficult. The Yubawas much more pleasant to ride.
I had not intended for the Yuba Mundo to take over as my primary means of transport, and its sheer size meant that using it as such was a bit of a compromise. I decided that what I needed was a smaller equivalent to the Yuba for everyday use, and I found that with the Kona Africa Bike. The Africa Bike was the first bike I owned without dérailleur gears, which was a revelation. Initially a single-speed, I acquired a Shimano Nexus three-speed rear wheel and decided to upgrade the Africa Bike to a three-speed. Shifting when stationary, the lack of maintenance and the ease with which they pair up with a chain-guard (or case) made me wonder why most bikes used for transport didn’t come with hub gears. The only downside to the bike was the front V-brake; I hadn’t yet fully forgiven the crappy V-brakes on the SUS450. I decided to remedy this by investing in a new front hub. I was very interested in the idea of the bicycle providing its own power source for the lights, and had been reading up on dynamo hubs. When I saw the Sturmey Archer X-FDD drum-brake and dynamo hub, I knew I had to try it. The hub wasn’t available in a production wheel, so I read and re-read the Sheldon Brown Wheelbuilding article and decided I’d have a bash at building myself a wheel. To my surprise, the wheel turned out just fine first time. The Africa Bike, with some modifications had been turned into an ideal shorter-range utility bicycle.

Reading Sheldon Brown’s site had infected me with a curiosity about the Raleigh Twenty. After reading about it on his site, I realised that these things were everywhere. After looking on eBay I realised that I could have one of my own for around £20-30 and I promptly took that offer. The Twenty gave me the opportunity to completely strip and re-build a bike for the first time. I had done almost all of these jobs before, but never all at once and on the same bike. After a weekend or two of work, I had re-painted and completely refurbished the Twenty and found it to be a delightful little bike, with the added bonus of it being worth practically nothing allowing me to leave it locked up outside without worrying about it. The Twenty was primarily used as a loaner bike, so I could still use the bike to get around when I had guests. When I later came to acquire a Brompton, the Twenty no-longer had much to do, so I sent it off to retirement at my father’s house.

Whilst I was quite happy with the Kona Africa Bike, I was becoming aware that it’s hybrid geometry was somewhat limiting on longer rides, where after around 20 miles or so in a single day it would leave my legs really very tired. I was aware that the right geometry, roadster geometry, would allow me to use my leg muscles more efficiently on longer rides. At the time I wasn’t planning on changing bike again, until I saw the Raleigh Tourist De Luxe (DL-1) on eBay at a price too good to pass on. Whilst not a huge departure from the Kona, the slightly different geometry was much more comfortable on longer rides, whilst also making it easier to put power down when setting off from stationary. The DL-1 also represented my first experience with Brooks saddles; whilst not exactly comfortable at first, I would later come to put a Brooks on every bike I rode.


Last weekend I was able to spend some time getting to grips with a tandem, a completely new experience for me. This was made possible thanks to Ian of Lazy Bicycle Blog, who agreed to lend me his tandem for the weekend in exchange for a loan of my Brompton. When we were discussing the exchange, Ian said that there were some pictures of the tandem on some of his older blog posts. Whilst I did have a look for them, I didn’t look too hard, so I was slightly surprised when I got there and saw these:

A racing tandem, complete with Shimano Deore components, 24-speed dérailleur gears and drop handlebars. Not the sort of thing I usually ride. Ian rode me to the main road (presumably being amused by my relatively poor proficiency with drops) and I set off back to the city centre. It didn’t take too long before I became reasonably happy with the narrower bars, the positions of the brake levers and the bar-end shifters. As I headed down Hyde Road, I decided that I would take a detour on the Floop to avoid the traffic. Needless to say, I was initially unimpressed to encounter this:

However, my irritation was soothed slightly by the fact that the tandem weighs so little. It actually felt lighter than my DL-1 does when equipped with saddlebag and locks. I returned home and planned to try the bike out with a “Rear Admiral,” on the following day. That evening I swapped the saddles for some of the Brooks saddles on bikes I had to hand. This was partly because of personal preference, but largely so I could mount my Carradice saddlebag to cope with the lack of a rear rack.

The next day, Ms. C. and I took the tandem out for a ride together. Whilst we were initially wobbly during the process of starting and stopping, we quickly seemed to get the hang of it and managed a round trip to Chorlton, checking out the newly opened Pedal MCR on the return home. The ride experience was interesting, the bike felt quite fast with a Rear Admiral, presumably due to the increase in power without much change in aerodynamics. This experience is probably somewhat skewed though, as the racy geometry and components of the tandem encouraged me to ride faster regardless of whether I was on it alone or not. After all, the great thing about drops is that they make you go faster, but what sucks about drops is that they make you go faster. I found myself cycling faster and tiring myself out more than I usually would without any intention of doing so.

The real fun of the tandem though, came later that night when we took it over to see some friends. After a bit of persuasion, everyone wanted to give it a try. With me as captain, this seemed to go relatively smoothly. When I was not captain, the results were generally more amusing.

I’m very pleased to have had the opportunity to try a tandem, it was definitely a good experience. Whilst it is not based on the type of bike I would normally ride, it was still immense fun. Now, if anyone has a tandem based on a roadster, let me know…

DL-1: One Year On

It has been around a year since I took delivery of my Raleigh Tourist De Luxe. Of course by, “Took delivery,” I mean cycled to Didsbury on the Yuba Mundo to meet the old gentleman from whom I was purchasing this fine steed, and towed it back to home. At first I wasn’t sure if it would be for me, having had no opportunity to test ride it. What I did know however, was that if I didn’t like it, I could sell the bike (or its component parts) for a fair bit more than I paid for it that day.
When I got the bike home, I adjusted the saddle and took it for a spin. Whilst I liked the ride, it wasn’t quite right; the gearing was far, far too high, with first gear being what I imagine a reasonable third gear should feel like on a three speed. The rod-brake handlebar was limited in its range of height adjustment and the angle of the bar was fixed. Luckily, a few replacement parts allowed me to fix these minor gripes and turn the bike into the perfect everyday transport solution for me. Over the past year I have made numerous additions and upgrades to the bike.
Additions and upgrades:
I have also been forced to replace a few parts due to failure.

Replacements due to failure:
However, I should mention that the X-RD3 hub was at least somewhat faulty from the start, and that my own experience shouldn’t detract from the consensus that this hub, and internal hub gears in general, are the best choice for a practical, low maintenance utilitarian bike.
After a year riding this bicycle, I can sincerely declare it to be one of the smartest purchases I have ever made. Since getting this bike I certainly cycle a lot more. My odometer is currently displaying a total distance cycled of 13,029 km, up from 8,000 km at about this time last year, most of that distance has been for transportation (as opposed to leisure), covered on the DL-1 because it is such an easy bike to ride.
When I say the DL-1 is easy to ride, I am not just referring to its ride quality (which is excellent). As an upright bike with mudguards, a chain-case, comfortable Brooks saddle and (since the addition of the saddlebag) permanent luggage, puncture-resistant tyres, automatic & permanently affixed dynamo lighting and low maintenance brakes and gears, all I ever have to do if I want to go out is unlock the bike, hop on and go. It is my hope that all of these features represent part of a bigger future for cycling in the UK, even if a lot of them come from its past.


 The Tourist De Luxe as it is kitted out today
Whilst not quite the same as my Tourist De Luxe, Raleigh has recently started to sell the Raleigh Superbe again in the UK, after courting the, “Sporting goods,” and “Bicycle-shaped object,” markets almost exclusively here for the past few decades:
The 2011 Raleigh Superbe, is specced and priced similarly to the Pashley Roadster Sovereign (although not made here in the UK). It is available from numerous cycle outlets, including Evans Cycles.


Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed my recent Brompton tyre problems. On Thursday morning I was cycling from Macclesfield to Manchester along the Middlewood Way, when I heard a violent, “Whoosh,” of air leave my back tyre. Thankfully I was very near Rose Hill Marple station so I decided to just fold-up and hop-on. When I took the tube out I found a small spear-shaped piece of glass had managed to pierce the centre of the tyre tread.
A utility bicycle needs to be resistant to punctures; if the frequency of punctures on a bike is too high, it will cease to feel like a viable mode of transport. This was the fist puncture I had on the Brompton which was not due to the poor rim tape, and I decided it would be wise to invest in some Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres as an upgrade over my Brompton green-label tyres.
This turned out to be a wise choice, on Friday I got a second puncture. At first I expected it would be a piece of the glass which had worked its way through after the repair, but when I pried the tyre off the rim to patch the tube, I found that the puncture was a rather large tear in the sidewall (I had been taking a turn at the time of the puncture. I patched the tyre and the tube and hoped it would hold until my new tyres arrived.
On Saturday I got a third puncture whilst riding down Princess Street in the evening. This was about 1 cm away from the previous sidewall puncture. Again, I patched the tube and put the tyre back on the rim. By this point, the tyre was starting to look like a special effect from Peter Jackson’s seminal masterpiece; Braindead.
The bulging, infected-looking tyre
Some serious warping
I decided that the bike was more of a liability than an asset in its current state, and decided to walk instead on my Sunday train trip to The South.
Today I got my new tyres, which have been fitted to the Brompton. The Marathon Plus tyres were quite challenging to get onto the rim, but their reputation suggests I won’t be taking them off regularly. The tyre-swap also provided me with an opportunity to replace the frankly terrible Brompton rim tape.
The new tyres seem make the Brompton feel a bit more nippy than before, and the ride is a tad harsher, likely due to being 2 mm narrower. Another advantage is the extra clearance between the tyre and the mudguard stays, removing the squeak after a bodged fold which was common with the old tyres. Overall, I am quite pleased with them, as long as I don’t have to take them off for a while.

Carradice Pendle Review

As I previously hinted, I have recently acquired a traditional saddlebag. I have always liked the look of the traditional saddlebags which I have seen on various bikes over the years, generally lugged steel touring bikes owned by men of a certain age.
Traditional saddlebags attach to the loops found on the back of most older saddles, modern leather saddles and the standard Brompton saddle (to name a few). I bought a Carradice Pendle with the intention of using it mainly on the DL-1, as I have long wanted some luggage which is aesthetically complementary to its looks.

The Pendle sat on my desk at work

The bag consists of a large main compartment (big enough for a large U-lock, cable and a jacket) and two side pockets which are ideal in both size and position for things like cameras, hip flasks or snacks. The pockets and main compartments close via leather straps and buckles, which will become easier to fasten and unfasten as they age.
The bag includes a handy loop for clipping an LED light to

The attachment system is straightforward but the back does not attach/detach quickly enough to make it worthwhile to do each time the bike is locked. Two leather straps wrap around a wooden dowel in the main compartment and through the loops, and a third strap is fed through a leather buckle on the rear of the bag and through the seat-post or rear-rack.


Carradice also sell a quick-release system for those who do not wish to leave the bag attached to the bike. I rarely leave the DL-1 locked up in public for long periods of time, so this shouldn’t be an issue for me. As an alternative, the black strap seen on the flap for attaching a light could equally be used for threading through a cable lock if extra security is desired.



Over the weekend I used the bag on the Brompton as I needed some extra carrying capacity. When riding the bag does not interfere with my legs and for the most part I simply forgot about it, the position of the load means it doesn’t really affect handling whilst in the saddle. On the DL-1, even when loaded the bike is easier to pick up and carry than when the equivalent load is placed in a single pannier.

A tin of tomatoes inside the bag for scale

Traditional-style Carradice saddlebags are handmade in Lancashire, mine was made by Christine

The side pockets are useful for storing items you want to have quick access to on a ride, such as a camera

Traditional saddlebags are not as popular as they once were, but they are a viable alternative/addition to panniers and a definite improvement over a rucksack. I would definitely recommend.


By fixing to any saddle with bag loops, saddlebags such as the Pendle can be used on multiple bikes when the need arises

Brompton M-type Review

It’s been over a month now since I bought my new-to-me Brompton, during which time it has been used extensively. I feel I have now had enough experience with it to do a proper review, you can read my initial impressions here.

The main event when looking at folding bikes for many is the fold itself. As is shown in my original post, the fold is neat and compact and the oily chain is tucked away in the centre of the package. Unlike most other folding bikes I’ve used, it doesn’t try to come unfolded whilst being carried, which is one of the best aspects of the design. Once you have got the hand of it, you can fold the bike in little more than a few seconds, with unfolding taking little longer. This is ideal because although the folded bike is compact and forms a sturdy package, you wouldn’t want to carry it folded up for any serious distance. There are lighter options available, but realistically even they won’t make carrying the folded bike for any length of time much more pleasant.


I have ridden the bike over reasonable distances on several occasions (several trips from Macclesfield to Manchester), and the compact and clever folding ability of the bike does not diminish the ride. The wheel-base makes the bike feel like a much larger bike when ridden, which gives a better experience than many of the other folding bikes I have tried. The ride quality is similar to the Raleigh Twenty, although the steering is a bit more twitchy at lower speeds. The M-type bars give a reasonably upright posture, although the fact that the seat-tube does not terminate at the bottom bracket means that the virtual seat-tube angle gets steeper with saddle height. This can be corrected to a certain extent by moving the saddle fore/aft.

The stock gearing is reasonably broad, although a wider range would be desirable, and is available in the form of the 3-speed hub & 2-speed derailleur-equipped 6-speed Brompton, or even just the BWR wide range 3-speed hub. The left folding pedal is great, but the non-folding right pedal is less impressive, requiring replacement a few week after I purchased the bike.


I never used the stock-saddle, but it looked like it was designed for the S-type Brompton rather than the more upright posture of the M and P type bikes. It also didn’t look particularly lady-friendly. The caliper brakes are good enough, although the back brake seems to offer more power than the front, which I believe is an oddity of the Brompton in general, not just mine. I am thankful that the model I got was new enough to have the dual-pivot Brompton brake, which is reported to be a lot better than the old single-pivot model.

After a few weeks, I decided to take the plunge and fork out for the Shimano dynamo wheel before the price increase. The dynamo hub is great, it produces a reasonable output in the lights at walking speed without noticeable drag. Sadly I had to sacrifice the front dynamo light on the Yuba due to budgetary constraints, but with a little hammer adjustment, the Lyt can be used with the Brompton without interfering with the luggage system.

Overall I would recommend the Brompton to anyone. If you only wish to own a single bike, this could be it. It is remarkably versatile, being able to carry a decent load in a wide variety of high quality proprietary luggage options, cover longer distances well, offering a comfortable riding position (although it is no roadster), reliable hub gearing and on top of all that if folds into a neat package, opening up new opportunities to cycle when travelling by bus, rail or air.


On Monday morning I rode to work from Macclesfield on the Brompton. The whole ride was accompanied by a chorus of squeaks which was very irritating. I eventually managed to trace the sources of the squeaks down and fix them, and I present them here for the benefit of other Brompton owners.

1) Not a Brompton issue per se, but the B67 I got for Xmas which is currently residing on my Brompton has passed through the initial “Hard” phase and is now in the “Creaky” phase. With the B66 on the DL-1 this was not really an issue, because there is little other noise from the bike I just ignored it and it went away.

The creaking is not caused by the springs as you might expect, but by the leather rubbing on the metal pads on the underside to which it is riveted. A bit of lubrication sorts this problem out, the approach I took was to melt some Proofide in a teaspoon with a match, pour it onto the interface between metal and leather and slightly stress the saddle so that it can easily get into the gap.



2) The Rear brake cable and gear cable were rubbing on the side of the tyre when under hard pedalling. This was fixed by using a few cable-ties to hold the cables in a favourable position within the cable-gathering loop on the right seat-stay.


3) It turned out that the main source of the racket was the suspension block, with the saddle acting as a sort of speaker for the noise it generated. The suspension block is held onto the rear triangle by a single bolt, which once removed allows the block to be detached and disassembled. I lubricated the entire length of the bolt with lithium grease and re-attached the suspension block to the bike. I also tightened the bolt much futher than it had been when previously, resulting in a firmer, more compressed block which moves less.



These three tweaks have effectively eliminated the noise from the Brompton, so I can now get on with the business of enjoying the ride instead.

New Family Member

Those of you following me on Twitter during my recent Southern odyssey may have noticed that in addition to riding the Boris Bikes, my tweets indicated I had been riding bikes in other locations which the hire bikes are unavailable in, such as Waltham Forest and Oxfordshire. Whilst I was in London, I decided to take advantage of the fact that the Western Extension Zone of the London Congestion Charge has recently been scrapped, and pick up one of the many second-hand Bromptons for sale in the area. There are so many Bromptons for sale around this area as more people choose to drive to work rather than cycle, proving at the same time why the congestion charge was necessary in that area in the first place. My plan was to sell it up North if I didn’t like it, where the second-hand Brompton market is less saturated so it could fetch a higher price.







Note the extended seat-post; a standard or telescopic seat-post will allow the folded package to be even more compact than this.

Unfortunately for my wallet, I do like it. A lot. I got the M3L model; M-type bars for an upright riding position, 3-speed gears (Sturmey Archer SRF-3 on mine, SRAM hubs are also used), no rear rack (seems a bit useless on such a small-wheeled bike), complete with mudguards and a (slightly worse-for-wear) Brooks B67 saddle. The standard seat-post is useable by someone my height (1.78 m), but not quite long enough. Luckily the extended seat-post was readily available from Evans for £16.

My first proper ride on the bike was from Waltham Forest to Paddington Railway Station. The cycle infrastructure was crap, but the bike was ideal for the conditions, quick to accelerate from the lights so I could get past the next deadly pinch-point and responsive to steer through the complex and ever changing door-zone I was repeatedly squeezed into. The bike was perfectly comfortable for the duration of the ride, and folded up small enough to be counted as luggage on my train to Oxford

Upon reaching Oxford, I unfolded the bike and began the trek to Wheatley (my grandparents’ new home). The A40 was the most direct route, but had large sections set at the national speed limit, which thanks to the dual carriageway means 70 mph (obviously many will drive at much higher speeds due to the lack of active speed cameras in Oxfordshire). Obviously an alternative route was needed, and the smaller road through the village of Horspath seemed a logical choice. Using Google maps to navigate, I had neglected to account for the possibility of the route not being flat. Thankfully, the gearing on the Brompton was low enough for me to climb up the hills, although I was deliberately slower going down the hills because I haven’t got a good feel for the brakes yet. I expected the bike would be great for short journeys and multimodal transport, now I have experience of riding the bike a considerable distance, I feel it is also a very capable longer-distance machine. I can completely understand why people have used them as touring bikes.

The Brompton is a testament to what British design and manufacturing can still achieve. The design is modular, with all the odd proprietary as well as standard replacement parts easily available online. The modular design is sympathetic to older Bromptons; yearly improvements to parts of the bike can all be retrofitted to older models. This is part of the reason why their value depreciates so little over time. Super-light titanium editions are available, with titanium rear triangles, forks and titanium or aluminium seat-posts. The modular design means that you could conceivably replace parts of your existing Brompton with titanium equivalents over time.


Re-assuringly sturdy folding left pedal brings the folded size down a bit.


The rear triangle clips onto the seat-post clamp, with a rubber cylinder providing a little bit of suspension.


The little nub on the stem (Left) clips into the socket on the fork crown (Right) when the bike is folded.


The luggage block on the head-tube accepts a variety of proprietary Brompton luggage which whilst expensive, is generally very well regarded.


Brompton’s shifter operates the Sturmey hub, presumably to prevent the standard shifter fouling the fold, and to produce a consistent look within the range which includes a 6-speed option (2-speed derailleur coupled to 3-speed hub) and the different varieties of 3 speed hubs used by Brompton (SRAM & Sturmey Archer).


I do not believe the Brooks B67 has ever been a standard option on a Brompton (I was given the original saddle too). This one looked as if it has been ridden on whilst wet a few times, and had become very saggy and uncomfortable. Luckily a bit of a tweak with the tension spanner and some Proofide and the saddle is almost as good as new.

The benefits of a bike which folds into a small & rigid package are obvious; ease of storage at home, ease of carrying the folded up bike, taking your bike onto even the most overcrowded train, taking it into a restaurant, theatre or nightclub or even onto the Metrolink (if suitably covered up, which obviously makes complete sense as a policy).

I expect that I will have saved enough money due to owning the Brompton for it to pay for itself within about 5 months. Think about it.