Archive for the ‘Folding bikes’ Category

As might be apparent from my previous post, I brought my Brompton along to Tokyo. The plan was to attend a specific event: a monthly meetup of local Brompton owners called “Brompton in Palace“, named after the fact that the group originally met up on the peripheral of the Imperial Palace. The organizer also has a website.

Unfortunately, the meeting was called off due to rain, and the announcement was made when I was already enroute with the bike. It turns out that having the bike gave me the opportunity to feel out what it is really like to travel around Tokyo by bike.

On the weekend, I planned out a ride along the Arakawa River, where there is open space on the west side with paved paths. I had visited the area before, but this time I was determined to check out a long artificial island on the east side that divided the Arakawa from the Naka River. It was hard to tell from Google street view exactly which bridges allowed pedestrian and cyclist access to the island, and to be safe I picked out a bridge near Yotsugi.

Here are the bollards blocking things like motorbikes from the river side area.

Riding north.

Approaching the Kinekawa bridge, and going across.

On the other side I see the same sort of trails as on the west side. There are parallel paths on top of the dyke, as well as lower by the river. The lower path is flanked by open space and a whole series of sports fields.

Here is one of the many youth baseball teams that I saw biking to practice early on a Sunday morning.

The other thing that I’ll note is that almost all the sports fields had a public restroom nearby. Although I didn’t go into any of them, and those that had open doors looked like they were pretty dirty, the fact that they were present was a strong contrast to what we have in Toronto. In fact, I noted a very high density of public bathrooms all across the city.

Here I am at the southern tip of the island at this location. Just a few fishermen about. I’m dressed all in wool, with a top from Pedaled and my aforementioned wool knickers from Rin Project.

Going back north, I see that in fact many of the bridges have access to Arakawa island, and I ended up going back across on the Komatsgawa bridge.

Here is a map of my ride that day,

Then it was Monday, and I was off to a downtown hotel with my backpack/carryon. Note the very narrow painted bike lane.

Many smart streets also had these useless sharrow markings, that are ignored by cars and truck parked curbside.

Most of the cycling that you see in Tokyo on major streets is on the sidewalk. In a few areas, there is signage to encourage a separation between pedestrians and cyclists, but these signs were often ignored.

I’ll also note that that bike routes suggested by Google more or less force you to bike on the sidewalk occasionally, as you are often directed the wrong way on a large arterial that is one way.

More of those useless sharrows as I approach the neighbourhood of the University of Tokyo.

This is the one spot where I actually saw some cones laid down for a modicum of protection since there was a bit of an uphill climb from Nezu.

There are often commenting challenges set up in cities to compare commute times by car, bike and transit. In a city like Toronto, biking often wins as downtown traffic can be hopeless, and transit routes can be frustratingly indirect. I figured that in Tokyo, with its extensive network of subways and trains that transit would win.

The conference that I was attending actually at a day at a different campus that was across central Tokyo from our hotel, and I was determined to bike there during the morning rush hour. The rest of the group was to take the subway. Google predicted similar times for transit and cycling: about 55 minutes for the 7.5 km trip.

Here I go. Here are some crossing guards.

During rush hour, the sidewalks are packed and so if you want to bike any distance you need to bike on the street. Here I am at an intersection where I am taking the lane because of a left turn curb lane.

However, I did start noticing that the few cyclists that I saw would bike between stopped cars and actually position themselves right by the curb at the corner. The assumption being that drivers are observant enough not to left hook them. By and large, I found drivers here to be very careful, and I had no issues with traffic. I will note a fair number of close passes when traffic was heavy, but you didn’t get the sense that drivers were out to kill you.

It also helped enormously to have the helmet mirror so that I could keep an eye out behind me, particularly when I was riding around a parked vehicle. Ideally, the mirror would have been mounted on the other side of the helmet.

Some of the shadows were augmented with blue arrows, which you can see did not effect the parking.

Lighter traffic now as I skirt the new Olympic Stadium.

If you stick to major streets, then you can use the same signs as the cars for wayfinding, which was convenient.

Bottom line: I made it in about 50 minutes which was very close to the Google estimate. I started off at 8 AM which was a little past the peak of rush hour. My colleagues on the subway arrived about 15 minutes later, and they commented on how crowded the trains were.

After the day’s events, I’m headed to the Shibuya scramble crossing for a group photo.

Said group photo by Jason Tam.

Jason was also kind enough to take this shot of my and my bike.

At this point, I took the subway the rest of the way back, and regulations stated that bikes have to be bagged on the trains. Thus my carrying handle with shoulder strap and a Dimpa bag.

Two final notes. On the sidewalk, there doesn’t seem to be fixed protocol for which side you take when another bike is approaching. Also, most bikes do not have bells, and it is regarded as a bit aggressive if you use one.

Finally, on small one way side streets, this sign says that bikes are allowed to go the wrong way.

All in all, cycling in Tokyo was more pleasant than I expected. The comparative lack of bike infrastructure was offset by the courtesy of the drivers,

The other thing is that I can now mentally connect some of the districts that I rode through like Shibuya, Harajuku, and Omotesando in a different way than just popping up from the subway.

Perhaps the next time I’ll make use of their bikeshare system.

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Back in 2019, I rode the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver plus Party (RSVP) put on by the Cascade Cycling Club. However, due to a blow out and various difficulties sourcing a replacement tire for my Brompton, I had to stop just north of Seattle, and then I was very kindly driven up to a point where my bike buddy Steve and I could rejoin the ride. As a result, we covered only 61% of the total mileage. This resulted in an unslightly gap in my bike travels.

The gap extended between Woodinville and Mt.Vernon.

To top off a visit to Seattle, Steve and I arranged to be dropped off in Woodinville so that we could fill in that gap. Here we are at the starting point.

Here we go.

Nice vista just a little south of Snohomish.

A little snack break at Proper Joe in charming downtown Snohomish.

Just a bit north of town, the route joins the Centennial Trail.

It is lovely, wide and paved.

Once you reach Arlington, it becomes a generic multi use path that doesn’t pass through the most interesting parts of town.

However, it does hit this historic downtown.

Had lunch at the Bluebird Cafe. Food was filling and the service was great.

The trail continues out of town, including this nice trestle.

Around mile marker 25, the route was directed onto Route 9, and then up a side road. Just as the road steepens, there is this strategically placed stand with ice cream.

Crossing into Skagit County.

Past the county line, there seemed to be a lot more clear cutting.

At this point we had already done our big climb of the day, with many sections without shade, and it was discouraging to go over rollers before the descent that we had earned. Still some sections were pretty.

Today was really hot, with temps above 30 degrees, and Steve picked up a bit of road rash, so he decided that it was wise to call it a day about 15 km short of our goal. Here are our dedicated sag drivers for the day.

Here I am soldiering on in the heat, but at least I got a brief view of Baker.

Passing through the outskirts of Mt. Vernon. 98F = 36.6 C!

Happy to cap off the ride with ice cream at Big Scoop.

Here is what the ride profile looked like. The interesting thing is that the smaller climb and descent around the midpoint was all on the Centennial Trail, and so the grades were very gradual.

And now my red stripe goes all the way from Vancouver to Portland. Now I can say that I’ve cycling across Washington state from north to south, or that I have biked from Vancouver BC to Vancouver WA, all on my trusty Brompton.

Thanks to Steve for good company, and to Peg and Midori for shuttling us around to be able to do the ride.

This year, Cascade has replaced RSVP with a ride from Redmond to Bellingham and back (R2B2). It will be interesting to see if they revive RSVP once we enter a true post COVID era.

Here are a few random shots around Seattle earlier in the visit. Here I am crossing I-5 on the new pedestrian bridge that connects to the Northgate light rail station.

Bioswales separating the bike lane to the right from the roadway, just at the U-District station. Oddly, I don’t see any marking on the bike lane.

A rental e-bike for those who can’t decide between a scooter and an e-bike. Not a big fan of this layout since it is clearly designed to be used with feet up and just the throttle control.

I was told that using these bike racks on light rail can be tricky.

Does this sign make you feel safer? Note: Washington is an open carry state.

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I switched over to the Continental Contact tire for my Brompton back in April 2020. They were a brand new entry to the market at the time, and I had to order them from the UK. Now I recently noticed that Curbside Cycles is carrying the tire, along with a tan wall version. Here is the black version with the reflective stripe.

This version folds, and I can’t be sure that it is the same as the ones that I have since I think they had metal beads? Nevertheless, I’ve been happy with mine. They roll fast, and in 900 km of riding over the past two years I’ve gotten one flat.

I’ve bought this one as a spare since I am gearing up to fill in the middle section of the RSVP ride, the missing 100 km that resulted from my having a blowout of my tire and tube back in 2019. This time I have a spare tire and tube!

I’ll also note that at $45 each, they are a good deal, although I note that Curbside also seems to be clearing out Schwable Marathon Races at $20. Not sure if these tires are take offs at that price.

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Just a few notes about my Brompton. I’ve written before about how my wrists are not happy with the straight bar position, and I strongly prefer a hand position like on the hoods of the brake levers on drop bars (i.e. with my knuckles faced outwards). I addressed this on my Brompton by digging an old pair of Cane Creek bar ends out of my parts bin. I’ve had pictures of them on my blog, for example here.

The other great thing about them is that they are short and so they don’t interfere with the fold, which can be an issue with some of the Ergo bar ends that seem to be popular with Bromptoneers.

A while ago, I saw that Cane Creek reissued them, but for some reason they used a new squared off shape that looked quite uncomfortable. So I was happy the other day to see that Urbane carries what looks like a worthy alternative.

The other thing I noticed was that my Brompton had lost an EZ wheel, so it was time to drop by Curbside for a replacement.

Of the choices they had, I opted for a pair from Nov designs. Since my rack is not standard, I figured that I could use a pair of the “frame mount” wheels, rather than the “rack mount” version that comes with much longer bolts. I was pleased to see that they came with bolts that were longer than what came with the wheel that matched the one that fell off.

A little blue thread lock, and I was all done. Note that the bolt is threaded more solidly that the old wheel.

As it turns out, now all four of my EZ wheels match.

Of course I couldn’t help noticing that they had a P series on display. It is considerably lighter than my bike since it has Ti rear triangle and fork, as well as a new 4 Spd derailer set up instead of the 3 Spd internal hub.

I was told that the managers were at Eurobike and that they were checking out the even lighter T series, among other things.

Looks like they are having too much from from this post.

At any rate, it is always a bit dangerous to drop by my favourite bike shops.

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The David J Culham Trail in Mississauga goes from the vicinity of UT-Mississauga to Streetsville. I have a regular loop of about 60 km that goes from the High Park area to Streetsville. Today I thought I would detour on the trail to add a little gravel riding for variety.

Heading north on Mississauga Rd, I turn east on the Collegeway, and after a short distance I see the trail entrance off to the right.

After a fairly quick descent into the valley, the trail crosses some parkland, and just past a very large picnic shelter is the first bridge.

This is bridge number three. So far the trail condition is very good.

Parts of the trail are really wide.

There’s a bit of an uphill as you approach Burhamthorpe.

Rather than climbing all the way up, you can turn back towards the river and continue on the trail.

From this point north, there are a fair number of sections that appear to have been washed out, and are in the process of being repaired. The trail is in poor condition, but still rideable with a gravel bike or a mountain bike.

Another quiet section through some woods.

You climb out of the valley and then there is a section running along the 403.

Approaching Wellsborough Place. Note the signs that defend the neighbourhood from those dangerous trail users.

Snaking through a few side streets, and then there is another trail entrance.

The descent is pavement (a little rough) and then there are some really nice trail sections.

Another short section of washout.

A bridge just as you cross under Eglinton.

This section is cantilevered out from a steep bank. It looks like some of the renderings that have been proposed for the Humber River Trail Gap, but it was much narrower, so it would have been much easier to build. The city is insisting that for the Humber River project that any trail section must be able to accommodate a Ford 150 pickup.

Trail exit at Barberton Rd, which intersects Mississauga Rd a bit south of Streetsville.

All in all, a fun detour, and a bit of gravel close to the heart of Mississauga. If you want to see a route that starts from Runnymede and Annette, it is here.

Two other short notes. On the way back along the Eglinton MUP, I saw my first Helix folding bike in the wild.

I was also testing out some new gear. One thing was a lightweight wool blend jersey which was fine even in 28 degree heat.

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Brompton announced that this year’s Brompton World Championships would involve a crowdsourced photo competition with several themes, rebranded as the “Brompton world challenge”. This was an excuse to put out the word for a group ride for local Brompton owners.

Here is the first in a series of group shots at our meeting spot (Nicol Macnicol Parkette)

Have to sneak in this photo of the very fancy saddle on Paul’s new e-Brompton.

Riding down the Beltline.

Yes, there was one big wheeled bike with us, but it was a state of the art Cervelo gravel bike, and Carol assured us that she also has a Brompton.

Trying to get a group shot on the bridge over Yonge, which didn’t turn out to be such a good idea.

However, this view of the Yonge bike lanes made me very happy.

Since the regular exit from Mt. Pleasant Cemetery at Moore Ave was closed, we entered at Heath Ave, which is something I’ve never done. A bit of a steep gravel incline after this bridge.

Into the brickworks for a snack break.

A few of us chose to ride up to the viewpoint on the ridge overlooking the brickworks. We will have to do this again when the fall colours are out.

photo: Carol

Lunch break.

Paul shows us his battery pack.

Seventeen Bromptons, all in a row. We’ve decided that the official term is a “fold” of Bromptons.

Our photographer had a nifty tripod that I’m going to have to look into.

Off we go again.

Taking over lower Bayview.

I think Pier is saying that I’m blocking his shot.

Final destination was Corktown Commons.

Thanks to Heather and Pier for organizing today’s ride. You can read about their Brompton related adventures at Bromptoning.com. Nice to see so many people!

As people post pictures and videos, I’ll link to them as updates.

The Bromptoning report.

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Today there was a walk to honor and support former students of Residential Schools. The starting point was Parliament and Dundas, and it was to end at Nathan Phillips square. I had never seen so many orange shirts in one place.

The view from Dundas, shortly before we are to start.

Here we go.

Hey I know those people.

Orange shirt and helmet today.

A pause at Yonge and Dundas. Interesting how rhythmic clapping in a large crowd inevitably speeds up with time.

Headed down Bay.

At Nathan Phillips Square. The scent of burning sweetgrass is in the air.

Heartening to see such a massive turnout.

With the steady drip drip of the discovery of more bodies, it is a time for me to learn more about this aspect of our country’s past, and to pause and reflect on how I can do better.

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This weekend is an online version of the Brompton World Championships. To mark the occasion, we had a socially distanced group ride this morning. Here we all are at Inukshuk Park.

Here we are without masks while maintaining social distancing.

Off we go.

At the turnaround point.

This time with Michael.

Trying to get everyone to ride abreast.

Here we back at the starting point.

Someone insisted that my outfit be documented.

Riding back towards Ellis with Christine and Janet Joy.

Thanks to everyone who came out. Enjoy the remainder of the summer, everyone!

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(Jully 2022 update posted here)

Look what came in the mail today from Condor Cycles.

Early reports on an early production run of these tires reported that they didn’t quite fit under the rear fender of a Brompton. This was actually music to my ears since I was looking for a higher volume tire that was similar to the Greenspeed Scorchers. Word was this production run would have smaller dimensions to avoid this issue.

Time to take out the calipers. My comparators were the Schwalbe Marathon, and the original old OEM Brompton tires that were an emergency replacement during RSVP.

TireWeight (g)Height (mm)Width (mm)

The height was measured from the edge of a stock Brompton rim to the top of the tread. The width was for the tire mounted on a stock rim as well. Surprise: the old Brompton tire has the highest volume. The Conti is only slightly larger than the Marathon, and so it should have no problem fitting under a standard fender.

The Conti is similar in weight to the Marathon Racer (nominally 240 g), and heavier than the Kojak (190 g). The claim is that it is more flat proof than the competition. We shall see. I do appreciate that it has a reflective stripe on the sidewall. Also, it was much easier to mount on the rim than the Marathon. It also easy to get it concentric to the rim. The other difference from the Schwalbe tires was that the inner surface of the tire was a very slick plastic lamination.

It’s a nice looking tire. We’ll see how they do in the long run.

Of course I had to do a few laps of High Park to make sure everything was OK.

The sakura are probably about two weeks from blooming. It will be interesting to see how they are going to control the crowds this year.

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Good friend and riding partner Steve and I decided this summer that rather than doing STP for the third time, that we would do the other north/south ride run by Cascade Bike Club: Ride from Seattle to Vancouver plus Party (RSVP).

We were are leaving the house before dawn. Since it is one month later than STP, it was quite a bit darker than last year.

Here’s a crappy picture at the start. Not as elaborate set up as for STP since there are only 2500 riders on this one.

Heading north on the Burke-Gilman trail.

Dawn breaks over Lake Washington.

Approaching the first of three major climbs for Friday, the one that starts in Woodinville.

About a third of the way up the hill: DISASTER. The rear tire on the Brompton seemed OK the previous day, but riding to Steve’s from G&O, I noticed some out of roundness in the rear tire. This was also apparent riding to the start line, but I couldn’t see anything in the dark. However, it was clear now that the rear tire had worn clean through. Forget all the good things that I’ve said in the past about Greenspeed Scorchers.

Tried to boot the tire with a combination of some tire patches on the inside of the casing, plus a $5 bill.

At least Wilfrid Laurier got me the rest of the way up the hill, but then the tire was flat again. There was a bike shop at the corner, and Neil from Eastside Ski& Sport was very kind to let us camp out there for a while until we decided what to do, but of course he didn’t have a ETRO 349 tire.

We sent Peg to pick up a tire from a shop that will go unnamed. The person at the shop swore up and down that he was sending us a 349 tire, but when it arrived it was a 305, and we were back to square one. In the end, we drove back to Seattle, and I went out to G&O Family Cyclery again where they would have the tire for sure. They had plenty of take offs from owners of older model Bromptons who had swapped them for Schwalbe Marathons. Davey kindly let me use the kid zone to repair my bike.

I swapped out both Scorchers for good measure. To be fair, I got about 4000 km out of them, including STP on both a tikit and the Brompton.

Steve’s wife Peg sacrificed the rest of her day off to drive us up to Mt. Vernon where we could rejoin the ride. Ironically, there was a sudden rain squall while we were driving (that wasn’t in the forecast) and it ended just as we were dropped off. Thanks Peg!

Just out of Mt. Vernon, we pass by the I-5 bridge over the Skagit river that fell down some years ago.

A long flat ride towards some hills that we will eventually skirt to the west before getting to Bellingham.

Just past the turn for Chuckanut Rd, this bakery is highly recommended.

Approaching the hills now.

No really serious climbs on this part of the route: just a series of rollers.

Us getting in the way of some pretty, but hazy, scenery.

Another picture.

Hey, we’re in Bellingham.

One last hill before town had a series of signs talking up pink lemonade.

These lovely ladies have been serving at the top of “lemonade hill” for the past 22 years!

They also had a cowbell for first time RSVP riders. Of course no ride is complete without more cowbell.

Drat, once we reach town, there is still more climbing to do.

This fellow was not part of our ride but had left Redmond on his way to Vancouver, and then the islands.

One last turn before the luggage drop at the Days Inn.

After a shower and a change of clothes, some well earned beer at the Boundary Bay Brewery.

Leaving our accommodations bright and early the next morning.

Luggage drop off.

Very gradual climb out of town along Northwest Avenue.

Steve cruising along

Can you tell I’m riding a Brompton?

Approaching the Lynden rest stop.

Plenty of snacks were provided.

However, given the Dutch theme of the town, I was disappointed by the lack of Stroopwafels, and I had to make do with a cookie.

Heading north for the border along aptly named Double Ditch Rd.

We guessed that the line of trees that we were looking at for a while would be the border, and sure enough, we turn left just short of it.

Yes that is the border, and the road to the right is in BC. We were told by CBP that there were sensors and cameras for security.

Lining up to cross the border.

This is one of the more interesting ways that I’ve crossed into Canada. They set this up especially for RSVP.

Steve was admitted into Canada without having to answer too many questions.

We continue west along on the border, but this time in Canada.

We started seeing a lot of cyclists going the other way on Zero Avenue. It turns out that they were on the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer. Unfortunately we saw two riders in a pack go down, but by the time we got close, it seemed that everyone was on their feet and OK.

Heading north now on Otter Rd. These people look serious.

The one big climb for the second day up to the Langley area. I will say that in the middle the grade went up to 13% which was no fun on with my standard 6 Spd Brompton gearing.

Who says recumbents can’t climb?

North Otter Elementary rest stop.

I had a nice conversation with the owner of this bike. 650B, Ti, S&S couplers, etc. His partner had a lot of questions about my Brompton.

A bit of a break in Maple Ridge.

Preparing to cross the Fraser River on the Golden Ears Bridge.

We use a spiral ramp to ascend to the level of the bridge.

Approaching the bridge span proper, we hear our names being called out, and it’s Joel and friend Josh from Minneapolis. Joel had done STP at the same time as us in the past.

I actually found this crossing to be a little unnerving given the fact that the span was very high, and the bikeway rather narrow and right at the edge.

Waiting to cross HWY 7, just at the Pitt River crossing.

This bridge was not as high or long, and the bikeway was wider.

It’s pretty much city riding after the second bridge, but it helps when you are in a huge pack of riders.

Rest stop at Port Moody.

Now we have to skirt Burnaby Mountain before reaching Vancouver. We see a road that looks like it heads straight up the mountain, but we turn right before it.

Now a little over five miles on the Barnett Highway, but at least there is a very wide shoulder.

Who knew that there was a velodrome tucked away on this side of the mountain?

Hopefully this is the last climb. It was a long one, and the shoulder was a little narrow during the climb.

There was no sensor at this left turn, so we were waiting to cross with pedestrians, which was not ideal.

We take the Frances/Union bike route into town, which joins the Adanac bike lane. Although there is this Vancouver sign at theHWY 1 crossing to fool the tourists, we know that the city limit was actually a few blocks back.

The finish line.

A less fancy set up than at the end of STP, but there was a bike corral, and a finish gate that you didn’t ride through, but you could line up to take your instagram photo. We didn’t bother.

Here is the real momento. Note that it says “Vancouver BC”, since if you rode to Vancouver Washington, you’d be going the wrong direction.

Overall, I’d say that the scenery on this ride was better than STP, although there was more climbing to do. I imagine that the border crossing makes this ride less popular than STP.

I got lots of positive comments on the Brompton, and a few on my Palo Alto wool jersey as well. The weather was pretty much ideal.

Why 61%? Well with the disaster the first day, we ended up with only about 61% of the nominal total ride distance. Still, given that I was a little undertrained for the event, it was perfect. Thanks to Steve; always a pleasure to be riding with you. Once again huge thanks to Peg who saved the day by driving out to Woodinville after I sent her to get the wrong tire, and for making it possible for us to rejoin the ride at Mt. Vernon.

August 2022 update: Steve and I completed the other 39%

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