Archive for the ‘Brompton’ tag
I really like Bay Area Bikes.
And did I mention they are a Brompton dealer.
The staff is friendly and they have a good selection of practical gear like this assortment of metal racks and wicker baskets.
I’ve been coveting a Bern commuting helmet for some time. It wasn’t to be, however. Not this time at least.
I recently tagged along with a friend on a visit to Bay Area Bikes in Oakland so she could make some adjustments to her Brompton.
This little sandy beach is within easy walking distance from my place in Sausalito.
Here you can rent SUPs (i.e. stand-up paddle boards) or a sea kayak or just kick-back on the sand. La Garage the french bistro is nearby too.
That’s appropriate because this view — with the sunshine and yachts — made me think of Marseilles or Saint Tropez; Jean-Luc Goddard; and French Ye-ye music such as this song by Francoise Hardy (which was prominently featured in Wes Anderson’s film Moonrise Kingdom).
I spotted this Brompton in front of the SFMOMA. The image was made near the museum’s entrance while facing 3rd Street around 5pm. The bike belongs to Sunny (from the comments section of this post).
Photographing a black bike is challenging, especially in patchy, bright sunlight. But I like how this picture turned out. The orange taxi pleases me a great deal.
The only problem is you can’t really see how good-looking this bike is (I especially like the generator-powered headlight and Brooks saddle).
Sunny purchased his bike from the same dealer in Palo Alto as I did, which, according to the website, is the first authorized Brompton retailer in the US. The shop operates out of the palatial home of Mr. Channell Wasson. Channell is an interesting character and a truly passionate Brompton enthusiast.
When I bought my folding bike I knew it had to have some handlebar luggage. In the end, I settled for a simple, folding basket.
What’s unusual about the Brompton design is that the basket doesn’t track the movement of the handlebars and front wheel — rather it’s always aligned with the frame and rear wheel. In other words, the basket always faces straight ahead even when you turn the handlebars side-to-side.
This is disorienting at first, but something you quickly become used to.
In the images above and below, the basket carries a full shopping bag of laundry on the way to the cleaners.
The line of bicyclists waiting to board the 6:10pm ferry to San Francisco stretched down the pier, around the parking lot, and then back-up Bridgeway Blvd.
These cylotourists (most of whom rented their bikes from operators in the Fisherman’s wharf area) bicycled across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, and are now taking the ferry back to the city.
I have a love/hate relationship with the iPhone’s camera.
This twilight photo made over the weekend seriously stresses its photographic limits and although the camera is often good enough, it has two big flaws:
- Image quality: it cannot handle wide dynamic range and low-light conditions very well.
- Handling: it is slow to start up, clunky, and ergonomically infuriating.
Nonetheless, the old cliche still applies: “The best camera is the one that you have with you.”
And I almost always have the iPhone with me.
Still, for me, it’s a highly unsatisfying photographic tool. And, the tools we use in our daily lives — the quality of their craftsmanship and their aesthetics — are important. Right?
I recently sold two older digital cameras on eBay so I’m allowing myself to look at new cameras again. The highly touted Sony RX100 is a pocketable camera, but with image quality, resolution, and low light capabilities that vastly outperforms every other small-sized camera on the market.
Unfortunately, the Sony still does nothing for me from an aesthetic standpoint. It has few manual controls and no viewfinder, for instance. So it really only solves half the problem presented by the iPhone’s camera — i.e. vastly improved image quality. It does not fully address the handling issue.
That combination would be a truly satisfying photographic tool!
Here’s a snapshot from my SOMA to Sausalito ride. I’ve stopped on the bridge with the Pacific Ocean 692 feet below.
Read on for some further thoughts on this ride from a somewhat finicky, urban commuting perspective.
First off, Steve, owner of the venerable DDB building and architecture boutique and Dave, randonneur and creator of the all-time greatest front handlebar bag asked in the last post how the Brompton handled on the trip.
So at their prompting, I offer a few reflections:
- The Brompton is a champ: no complaints at all. I have the 3-speed Brompton and the low gear was just low enough to get up the very steep stretch from the warming hut up to the Bridge. I did have to stand up on the pedals and work hard to turn them over. Climbing too much further would have been a chore. Still, I like the simplicity of the 3-speed and the extra work up the hills seems like a fair trade-off. However:
- Wingtips, not recommended: the ride would have been more comfortable in normal street clothes (and a wool beanie to cover the ears). I won’t deny this truth. I tried not to work up a sweat at any point, but it was unavoidable. This reinforces the idea that:
- Holland (or Denmark) this is not: I think covering 11-12 miles one-way, on flat ground, while wearing professional business attire is the extreme limit for a regular daily commute. In actuality, 5-6 miles is a more realistic distance. But this assumes you are pedaling those miles over flat ground. Factoring in the hill going up Bay Street and the steep hill getting up to the Bridge from Crissy Field, it becomes clear that riding home on the Brompton (on a daily basis) is not an option for me.
- Micro-climate is a factor: I rode on one of the warmest days of the summer, but I still encountered some extreme headwinds riding along parts of this route (but very little wind on other parts). Add micro-climate to the factors that separate San Francisco bicycle commuting from Dutch bicycle commuting.
All in all — a world-class ride, but probably not one I plan to do more than 1-2 times a month.
Rather than using the Brompton to take me to the ferry to shuttle me across the bay to Sausalito, I decided to ride my folding bike the whole distance home.
Starting in SOMA, I rode along the Embarcadero, then rode Bay St. to Marina Blvd., eventually crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, before heading down to Sausalito.
It was an experiment. I wanted to ride this route to see if could be a viable alternative to taking public transit.
Here, I’ve stopped on the bike path just as you cross under the bridge (right before circling around and riding onto the bike lane on the ocean side).
My Brompton bicycle is finally fulfilling it’s raison d’etre: bridging the gaps in my urban commute.
If I don’t feel like walking .75 miles to the Sausalito Ferry, I unfold the Brompton and cover this distance in less than 5 minutes. After a 25-minute ferry ride to downtown SF I have another .75 miles to my office in SOMA. The Brompton covers these little gaps with ease.
Plus, while wearing shorts and sneakers and then changing (and maybe even showering) on the way to work is one way to go. I like just wearing professional business attire (including leather lace-up shoes) for commuting.
Interestingly, the first time I tried to enter my building with the Brompton the guards said that bikes must be parked in the auto garage. So I made the fold, picked it up in one hand as if I was carrying a briefcase, and asked, “How about this?”
They smiled and waved me through.
So now I always fold the Brompton, walk right past the guards, and stow the bike under my desk!
A Smart Car and a Brompton together; I just can’t resist. And because of this video’s Chaplinesque qualities I have an excuse to post two of my favorite clips from the genius himself (see below).
These are the silent actor’s first words (beginning around the 1:00 mark) on screen — in the form of a song from Modern Times:
And finally, the ending speech from The Great Dictator, still relevant today some would argue.
Note to self: starting at my house — rather than the Sabino trail head — would make this an interesting 30 mile ride.
More and more I reach for the Brompton when heading out for short rides. I suppose it was just a matter of time before I took the little folder up the Sabino Canyon Trail.
Just a few weeks ago, the Brompton was transporting me around downtown SF and now here we are out in the desert — such a versatile machine!
Another picture of my traveling companion.
From here, I rode to the dowtown Berkeley BART station, folded up the Brompton, and took the train to the SF airport. At the airport, I repeated my successful gate checking of the Brompton.
Without a doubt, this little British folding bike helped make a great trip even better.
The next few posts will contain more images from my short trip to SF with my Brompton folding bicycle.
The SMART car and the Brompton make a good couple in a dense, urban city like San Francisco.
The Brompton fits snugly (from hatch-back door to seats), but rather perfectly in the Smart car’s tiny, cargo area.
I’ve positioned the Brompton just north of Pier 1 and the Ferry Plaza (which boasts a good Saturday morning farmer’s market) with the western span of the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island faintly visible in the background. It’s still early in the morning and there are few people around.
A new, eastern span of the bridge will open to automobile traffic in 2013 with a dedicated bike path (costing a cool $100 million) soon to follow. However, the western span (seen above) will still lack bicycle access.
Here’s an article with more details about this massive planning project. If you’re interested in getting involved in local bicycle advocacy issues, I’m sure these organizations would love to hear from you:
For a quick, week-end trip back to the Bay Area I wanted to travel light — no checked bags — just my folding bicycle and a backpack with the goal of leaving the airport via bike.
Last time I flew with the Brompton, I checked it as baggage. However, I had to deal with a giant, hard-shell suitcase once arriving at my destination.
So this time I tried a different approach: I brought the bike through security, put it on the x-ray machine’s conveyor belt, and gate checked it at the last minute like you would a child’s stroller.
The plan, which included carrying my back-pack on-board as a carry-on, worked perfectly.
The Brompton doubles as a luggage roller (albeit a tippy one) as you can see in the picture, made outside the Embarcadaro BART station early on a Saturday morning after my arrival from the airport.
At this point, I was able to easily ride to the Marina district where I was staying as well as make my way multi-modally (can I use this in adjective form?) to other appointments in both Marin and Berkeley.
End note: There is a solution to the Brompton suitcase dilemma which requires packing a portable, folding trailer. Here’s a chap elegantly demonstrating this option in a video in which he unpacks, assembles, and rides out of the Copenhagen airport on a Brompton with his luggage in tow.
I narrowed it down to two folding bikes. What follows is a mini-review.
What I like about the Dahon Mu Uno (left):
- styling/build: not flashy; matte black finish; 20-inch tires; double kick-stand; ruggedly constructed.
- simplicity: no derailer or brake cables to worry about and a near perfect 62″ single gear.
- ride: stable handling; more like a full-size bike when compared to the Brompton.
- racks: none supplied, but accepts klickfix accessories.
And the drawbacks:
- more conspicuous than the Brompton when folded and not as compact;
- not designed to fold with attached fenders and racks;
- while ruggedly built, it’s doesn’t wreak of craftsmanship like the Brompton (i.e. it feels more mass produced).
What I like about the Brompton (right):
- quality engineering: extreme attention to quality and workmanship.
- folding design: ingeniously compact; easier to take on airlines/buses/metros; and a design that incorporates fenders and a rear rack!
- versatility: 3-speed internal gear hub with a perfectly spaced 48″, 64″, and 85″ set of gears; fenders and racks included on most models.
- price (more than double that of the Mu Uno);
- a few extra parts and a more complicated drivetrain make it feel more fragile than the Mu Uno with the potential for more maintenance and repairs;
- rides less like a full-size bike compared to the Mu Uno (probably due to the smaller 16″ wheels); however, in normal use, you adjust quickly to the differences.
Conclusion: These are both appealing bikes. If I just needed a simple and robust city bike for basic transportation in a relatively flat urban environment — the Mu Uno would be perfect.
I would think nothing of tossing around the Mu Uno or leaving it chained to a parking meter, but I would think twice about doing this with the Brompton (in this regard the Brompton’s elegant craftsmanship is a bit of a mixed blessing, as it is with all fine bicycles).
In the end, the Brompton’s versatile (yet still relatively simple) 3-speed gear range and ease of toting around (especially while fendered and on airlines) were the deciding factors for me.
I made this picture and only later discovered I had stopped right in front of the Minnesota Zen Center.
Click here for a rare video of Suzuki Roshi.
My Brompton was inspected by TSA baggage handlers (they left their dreaded, yet polite calling card).
Whether it was the result of a poor re-packing job by TSA Screener #101906 I cannot say, but the spokes and fender stays of the front wheel emerged a little unhappy after the 3.5 hour San Francisco-to-Minneapolis flight.
My friend in Minneapolis just happens to lives about 2 miles away from Calhoun Cycle, a local Brompton dealer. I rode over in a pouring rainstorm and Kody (pictured above) trued the wheel and straightened the bent fender stay.
The cost: $5!
The place exudes a pleasant alternative transportation, indie bike shop vibe. Plus, it’s connected through a common wall opening to a Dunn Brothers Coffee house (kind of a mid-western Peet’s, but with on-site roasting).
Here’s Calhoun Cycle’s philosophy (from their website):
We think spinning on a bike is a great way to physical, emotional and spiritual fitness. Reducing pollution, road congestion and parking stress are icing on the cake. The bicycles and accessories we sell are designed to help you be successful cyclists, whether you’re touring Nepal or bopping around the corner for milk.
I vowed my next bike would be a folding bike. A planned short trip to Minneapolis proved to be the trigger.
I plan to have more notes and photos on the comparison and which one I ultimately chose and why. (Although these images of the Brompton packed for airline travel are a giveaway.)
Since a trip to Seattle last fall, folding bikes have been on my radar. I made a silent vow that my next bike, whenever it comes, will fold-up for bus and ferry connections and general urban mobility.
This video got me excited about the Brompton:
Then I heard great things about the Bike Friday Tikit. And now, the latest bike on my radar is the Dahon Mu Uno. It’s The Old Man and the Sea of folding bicycles — a minimalist masterpiece. No gears. No cables. Back-pedal brakes.
I first read about it on design guru, Rob Forbes’ site, Studio Forbes. Here’s how to fold it:
The Friday Cyclotouriste made a short trip to Seattle. I was not able to get any riding in, unfortunately. But here’s a quick summary:
The trip made me realize how fun it would be to have a bicycle for traveling. My favorite so far is the Brompton. Check this video out to see how cleverly and elegantly it folds and unfolds. What a boon for the multi-modal commuter, right?
In other Seattle bike news the venerable Il Veccio is apparently closing its doors.
And lastly, I made the pilgrimage to both David Schomer’s newest Espresso Vivace cafe and the Pike St. Market on a lovely, bright and sunny Seattle day. Stay tuned for an espresso review.
(Click on the images below for a bigger view)