Brompton World Championships – 2008

I am such a social cretin before an event and watching the city boys arrive at the coach station in their pin striped suits and titanium s-bar bikes didn’t go anyway towards making me feel at home.

I cheered up a bit on arrival at Blenheim when friendly faces appeared out of the crowd and I was reassured that Emma’s Dave hadn’t abandoned me to do the race on my own. Shame Trinny and Susannah weren’t there though; they would have been able to advise me that the short and dumpy tie style wasn’t going to do much for my physique. They might also have mentioned that a thick woollen jacket wasn’t the best sporting wear for the hottest day of the year.


I had received tie training lessons some months ago, in a pub and even through the Stella haze I could remember some of the specifics of the double Nelson knot. Or maybe it wasn’t a Nelson, that sounds like a wrestling move and that was another night and a completely different sort of pub. Anyway, my tie, it ended up in some form of quadruple knotting affair which may even have been stylish if only I were tall and lanky.

BWC - The Start

So with the race about to start we’d had to lay out our bikes in the folded position, on numbered markers. I was going in the first wave, with Dave two waves and 4 minutes behind me. With the horn sounded we ran to the Bromptons, unfolded, pushed to the track and then set off.

I can’t believe that I’ve gone to so much trouble, practically having my gps surgically embedded in my wrist, and yet “forgot” to set the flippin thing off for the race. Now you are just going to have to take my word for it when I say it was HILLY. Big, long hills!

I may have mentioned before that I don’t do hills, not uphills anyway, but with Dave a mere 4 minutes behind me I didn’t have a lot of choice and had to keep pushing. When I finished the first 6.5km loop I came really close to throwing up on the corner, I thought it would be a slip hazard though and with Dave still behind me it could be seen as unsporting.

One of the guys in my wave had a video camera on his helmet and captured some of the beauty of the course. I was breathing so hard, sweating gallons and concentrating too much on the waves of nausea that I didn’t notice my surroundings.

It’s a bit noisy so I suggest you turn the volume right down, but before you get bored, pull the slider across to 4 minutes and wait for me to appear like a bat out of hell. He managed to capture almost a full minute of my backside flying down the hill with my coat tails flapping in an aerodynamic fashion.

BWC - Goody Bags

I crossed the line in front of Dave but the gap could be measured by Brompton lengths rather than minutes but we both looked rather worse for wear.

The results are just in:
Lap 1 15:48
Lap 2 16:57
Total for the 13km 32:45 (Dave’s time was 30:26)

In terms of positions I’m 268/364 overall or 21/44 for the women. So I’m actually in the top 50% for a sport! It beats swimming.

Struggled, Tickled and Inspired

Running and therefore blogging seems to have turned into quite a struggle recently. I get to the 2k point and feel as though I can’t go any further. My body feels like lumpen clay but I think my battle is as much mental as physical. Running can be a tough nut to crack sometimes.

With only 9 weeks to go before the Great North Run, I can’t afford to be struggling with 2k runs, I need to take a grip of this thing. I set out this morning on a 6k route, started whining at 2k but pushed on to the final turn off point where I managed to persuade myself to take the extended option which brought me home after 8k. A small battle won, and one that must be built on over the next few weeks.

There’s plenty of inspiration around at the moment, Speedracer has just completed her first Ironman distance tri at Vineman after months of badass training, and Rosie Swale-Pope features in this months Runners World after completing her run around the world (well she hasn’t quite completed it yet but is back on British soil after running for almost 5 years). These are people who know how to tame the quitting demons!

While I may not be running very much I’m certainly getting in plenty of cycle practice on the Brompton – I’ve got to get some speed training under my belt as I now have competition at the Brompton World Champs, Emma’s Dave has thrown down the gauntlet and must be beaten.

Brooks Saddle

I’m still struggling with that saddle though. It’s beautiful and all but it’s a weapon of torture. I have it from good authority that it will weather in time, moulding itself to my own personal contours, thereby morphing into the most comfortable saddle in the world. In the meantime it is leaving me with day long pins and needles – most disconcerting.

I had an appointment with the ortho surgeon last week about my dodgy back issue and I was grilled about possible neurological complications. One of the questions put to me was “Have you experienced numbness or pins and needles in the saddle area?” Well, what could I say?

I obviously answered incorrectly as I ended up flat on my back having my bits and pieces tickled with a feather! When a guy came into the cubicle with a gloved hand and a protruding finger, I leapt off the couch and backed out pointing at my Brooks saddle and begging for mercy. I avoided the internal interrogation but still have to go and have an MRI – it would be much cheaper to invest in a gel saddle cover.

I Need a Tie

I have just entered the Brompton World Championship race to be held at Blenheim Palace.
Catch that, a world bloody championship!

Anyway, rules state I must wear a suit jacket, collared shirt and a tie.
I don’t have a tie – disaster!

Anybody got a spare tie that would complement my delightful bike and wouldn’t be impaired by a gallon of sweat?

Two Tone Brompton

Brooks Saddle

Here’s a quick pictorial introduction to the new bike recruit.

The Brompton is squeezing alongside the other two bikes and trying to carve out a niche for itself.

So far it’s doing very well and I’m beginning to worry about what I’ll do with the other two.

I wonder if I could have a go at a sprint tri with it? It certainly needs to have a go at some sort of challenge event just to cement it’s street cred.

A marvel of British engineering.

Compact and Bijou

Here it is in transition mode – notice the sweet pea holder built into the Brompton bag – how useful is that?

Sweet Pea

Just to continue the bike porn theme, here it is in full glory.

Shed & Bike

I’ll just finish by plugging the WizzBike – the best bike shop I’ve come across so far. Superb service, it’s based in Brentford but well worth the trip if you are interested in Bromptons, folders or Pashleys.

The end of Peryl!

Well its taken me a shockingly long time to let you all know but I’m afraid Peryl is no more. Way back in October, I discovered a fairly major crack in the frame of my airnimal chameleon ultegra. That was not a particularly good day for me. I had an OU maths exam in the morning but I was up early and thought I would take my mind off things by washing the airnimal in the shower.



Aaaaargh! Just look at the damage….

Can you believe that? To top it all I missed my exam with all the stress and trying to contact airnimal and Ben Haywards to get some kind of response.

I have to say that the outcome was very positive. Ben Haywards were excellent, they really went out of their way to make it convenient for me to return the bike, actually allowing me to drop it off outside of hours. Airnimal believed that the weld had been overheated during its manufacture and replaced the entire chameleon frame under warranty. I think the new machine was back with me within a week.

Anyway, once bitten twice shy as they say. I decided she had to go and promptly sold the new bike on.

Now I’m the proud owner of a slightly cheaper Specialised Sirrus, another ultegra model with flat bars and disk brakes. I think its better suited to my well built self.

New Tyres for Peryl

I’ve just taken Peryl in for a bit of a service, her gears aren’t changing too well and no amount of fiddling by me is making much difference. The guy at BikeFix reckons that brake cable has been used for the rear mech instead of gear cable so he is going to change it for me. So long as it fixes the gear change I don’t really care.

While I was there I decided to invest in a pair of the new tyres now available for the Chameleon. They are the Panracer Pasela touring tyre, they apparently have a little more tread than the Technova although they look very similar. I’ll let you know what I think later.

I damaged my tyres on the Sightseer audax, I got the wheels caught in a ridiculously fine grid – a bit like a cattle grid that spanned one of the roads. Everyone else seemed to sail over it but the combination of small radius and width left me stuck. It has ripped the side of both tyres and gauged my rims.

No puncture incurred though which is amazing. Having said that I will get hundreds now.

London Sight Seer Audax

Well, after my second long distance ride in a week I can say that I am well and truly knackered. I got home this evening after a 75 mile day trip and was so tired that I sat on the loo and remained there for the next 30 mins just taking refuge.

It was my first audax ride – the so called West London Sight Seer. The route took us too and from Hampton Hill via Kingston, Richmond Park, Putney, Westminster, London Bridge, Greenwich, Millenium Dome, Mudchute, The City, Hyde Park, Nottinghill, Hammersmith and Isleworth. A real sight seeing route.


It was a complex ride with 4 pages of detailed route notes but very enjoyable. I stuck with a group of 4 guys and they were an absolute pleasure to ride with. I would certainly recommend it. Quite a slow tiring ride but very interesting, I saw a new and different side to London – it was the first time I’d used the Greenwich foot tunnel for example.

The route came in at 65 miles but we made a few minor errors in route which probably amounted to the extra 5 miles. The riding time was 6 hours and 8 mins although we added extra time with essential tea breaks. That amounts to an average speed of 11 mph – not so great eh?

I damaged Peryl’s wheels by getting the rear tire stuck in a narrow cattle grid type thingy, thats the trouble with narrow race tyres. Just scored the rims, no real problem.

I will definately do more audax rides, I found it to be very friendly and quite manageable, there was just one hill on the way into Greenwich park that caused my heart rate to go through the roof. Other than that I managed to keep with the pace.


Me and Peryl get re-acquainted

I’ve had a few teething problems with Peryl the Airnimal Chameleon, since I got her nearly 3 months ago.
No real problems, it was just a shock to the system to move from the comfort of a hybrid with front suspension to a twitchy, road bike. I had aches and pains particularly in my elbows and wrists but the main problem was the price. It is a shockingly expensive machine and I suppose it has to be said that I can’t quite afford it. Don’t get me wrong, I have paid for it, but really I can’t warrant such an outlay. Now that its my only bike I have worries about trips like going to the hairdressers and the shops – I just don’t want to leave her outside.

Anyway, thats enough moaning. I think its all an excuse to get another bike – like I need to be a two bike household!

Things have really improved since I came back from my holiday though. My elbows recovered, I bought some extra padding for the handlebars and I started having fun. She is after all a lovely bike.

I’ve just entered us both into an audax. Its my first and not one I would have considered doing on my old cannondale. So the date is set, 6th July, me, Peryl and 100km of london streets. Exciting init.

Airnimal Rides Again

Four days and Peryl hardly got a ride in, my excuse is that I’ve been ill and in truth I’ve felt just a little intimidated by her.

Still, thats all changed now. I replaced the seat and we headed for the hills yesterday, or at least we went to Richmond Park.

Blimey, blimey that bike can move. I went down one of the hills at such a pace I nearly wet myself. Can’t tell what speed I was actually going as I had set the wrong wheelsize into the computer! Must have been 60mph at least!

Today i went into work and set a time of 37mins which is really pretty good for me, now if I could remove the traffic lights I might really be able to set some records.

All in all I am pretty happy with Peryl the Airnimal Chameleon, I’ve sussed out the balance so I can stand in the pedals and have begun to feel that old confidence – the trust between man and bike. I was talking to my dad about the importance of feeling in tune in your bike, London is a scary place to ride without trusting your machine. He described me as a cyclotaur – half woman, half bike. He thinks he’s funny, what can you do?

The Airnimal Has Landed

Well it arrived, a beautiful yellow dream machine. It came flat packed but I managed to keep singing throughout my frustrating attempts to put it together. Really it shouldn’t have been that hard, I’m just rather unfamiliar with all the road bike components – never heard of a Ring-go star.


View image

Anyway, I better stop calling her it and introduce you, she’s called Peryl and she has taken to living in my bath. Either I’m going to get pretty smelly or we’ll have to get over our inhibitions quickly and start showering together.

I took her out for a ride today and I’m pleased to say we got on well. Its going to be a bit of an adjustment for me, moving from my hybrid cannondale designed with comfort and more comfort in mind. The new Airnimal Chameleon Ultegra Ultra is very much more hardcore. Light, fast, sexy, although that is not how I feel after sitting on the saddle for an hour.

I really need to up the ante on the diet front again. I am not designed for sitting on a knife edge and the new bent forward, aerodynamic seating position brings my knees perilously close to my tits (which are certainly not my most aerodynamic feature).

The wheel size turns out to be fine, much better than the Brompton style wheel. It handles like a big bike and isn’t too jittery on the steering. Not quite sure about powering myself out of the saddle yet but I think my fears are because the bike is so light (and I’m not) rather than because of her diminutive size.

Not sure how the speed compares yet, it feels fast, my throat was burning in under a mile so I must have been going for it. I will try and rig up the polar S725 tonight and then I can tell for sure.