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Today, I am a Bromptoneer - John C. Kirk

Oct. 25th, 2008

12:10 am - Today, I am a Bromptoneer

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As I mentioned last month, I arranged to buy a Brompton folding bike via CycleScheme. Unfortunately there was a problem with the first shop I contacted, so I wound up going to Bigfoot Bikes (in Bromley) instead. Bromptons are all hand made, so there's quite a long queue if you want to choose your own options (e.g. colour): it typically takes 8 weeks. Yesterday the shop phoned me to say that the bike had arrived, so I went round this morning to pick it up; it is shiny and blue!

Although the shop is about 6 miles away, it's quite easy to reach by bus. Once I'd collected the bike, I then had to get it back to Croydon, so the obvious solution would be to ride it. However, I was a bit cautious about trying out a new bike in unfamiliar surroundings, so I figured that I'd prefer to cycle along roads that I already know for now. Also, I didn't want to get too sweaty on my way to work; when I finish spinning classes at the gym, I can pretty much wring my T-shirt out! So, I took the bike on the bus, which felt a bit silly, but nobody complained. It weighs about 11kg, so I can carry it, but I can't run for a train while I'm lugging it around. When I got off the train near work, I then took the tube half-way (instead of the bus), so that I just had a quick downhill stretch into the office.

On my way home, I went all the way to the station. I initially thought that the TFL JourneyPlanner was being optimistic when it predicted 8 minutes for the journey, but that turned out to be pretty accurate. It helps that there's a shortcut which is only accessible to bikes. There's only one steep(ish) hill on the route, and I sometimes take the bus up rather than walking if I'm feeling lazy. I struggled a bit on the bike, so I was going quite slowly by the time I reached the top, but I kept cycling and I didn't have to stand up in the pedals. Also, this was before I'd figured out the gears, so it turns out that I was in top gear for the whole journey; next time I can try a lower gear for that hill.

It's going to take me a little while to get the hang of folding/unfolding the bike. I can do it, but I'm still a bit slow at the moment, so it's not worth unfolding it just to go between platforms. When I was at Clapham Junction, I tried a halfway method, by unfolding the handlebars and towing it like a suitcase. However, that didn't work very well because the floor surface isn't entirely even; it went "trundle trundle clunk" every time it hit the edge of a paving slab. So, I wound up carrying it instead.

When I chose this bike, my main motivation was practicality; I'd prefer a traditional bike, but this one suits my daily commute a bit better. However, I'd forgotten how much fun it is to go whizzing along, particularly when the roads are clear. It's just as quick as the bus (unlike walking), and it gives me more control over my route, so I'll try to gradually build up my distance. However, when I was sitting behind a bus at a traffic light, I could feel the warm breeze from its exhaust pipe; that seems a bit unhealthy, so it might be worth wearing my snowboarding mask/scarf thing. I also need to find my old bicycle clips, to stop my trousers catching on the chain.

There are just a few minor issues with the bike, which I can hopefully sort out soon:

* If I'm sitting on the bike, and I turn to one side, the saddle swivels with me. I can't duplicate that if I'm standing next to the bike, so it may just be because I'm approaching the weight limit; it didn't cause me any problems while I was riding, which hopefully means that I've got the right posture.

* I've had "hub dynamo" lights fitted. As I understand it, these are powered by the movement of the bike wheels rather than the movement of the pedals, so if I glide downhill then the light will keep shining. There's a switch on the front light, but the back light seems to stay on all the time, which means that it takes a while for the front light to start shining. Maybe this will resolve itself once I've ridden around a bit more, or maybe there's an extra switch that I'm missing.

* On my way into work, I picked up the folded bike from the train, and heard something roll away. I picked up a small metal thing (possibly some kind of screw?), but I'm not sure whether it came off the bike or whether it was already on the floor. I can't see anything obviously missing, and the bike seems to be working ok, so hopefully it's not important.

Anyway, all in all I'm very happy with it. Photos may follow later, if I'm near someone else who has a camera.