Day 1 : Grand départ, prologue

London to Witham by bike, Witham to Harwich by car. 70km

I write this on Saturday night from a window seat in the bar on the Stena Line ferry heading from Harwich to Hook of Holland. It is dark outside. The wi-fi offered is free but noticeably lacking in pace. I think I will have made it abroad by the time this appears on the website.

Today I began my cycling adventure. If all goes well I’ll be seeing some of The Netherlands, Germany, and France, and maybe more over the next few weeks.

Recently I’ve been prepping my bike for the trip, and this morning I packed. There’s nothing like the immediacy of being at a deadline to get things done. And besides, if I’d have packed sooner I might have been put off by the total weight of the bike, which, as it turns out, is very heavy.

Today I rode 70km from London to Witham. Here I am about to leave Enfield:


It rained heavily overnight and with a storm forecast for Sunday I lucked out with a very sunny day.

It didn’t take long to escape the slow, congested roads of London and reach the leafy lanes of Essex.

The bike was comfortable to ride, and once underway behaved similarly to when it has an ordinary load. However, the difference in weight is very noticeable when pushing or lifting it. It also got a bit snakey when I got out of the saddle to climb a hill quickly, so from now on I’ll be keeping sudden changes in movement to a minimum.

I’m very pleased I fitted a smaller chainring – I don’t care how quickly I go down a hill, but it is nice to be able to pedal up it. Plus it’s great to overtake people when going up a hill as I did today 🙂

It was super to catch up with Pete and Lucy in Witham. Thank you for the hospitality and lovely meal 🙂


Then one of the benefits of the Brompton is its multi-modal capabilities. B and luggage easily fitting in the boot and a lift to Harwich:


Now it’s time to head back to my luxury accommodation. Night!


Building a bike

Hand-built Condor Fratello

There are several reasons why you might want to build your own bike. I wanted to learn how it all fits together and I wanted to be able to choose all the parts. My aim was for an elegant looking, swift steel frame bike and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

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Around the M25 in a day on my Brompton

Once in a blue moon, and occasionally under the reaches of a white one, I get the urge to escape the magnetic pull of the armchair and go on a micro-adventure in promotion of the liberty of the individual. Such as it was that last Saturday I rode a 259 km (approx. 160 mile) lap around London on my Brompton bike on a route that took me on roads and tracks close to the path of London’s orbital motorway. I started pedalling about 6.30am and arrived back at the starting point at 5am the following morning. It was dangerous and hard work and I would recommend this ride to no-one. Having said that, I’m very glad I did it.

Around the M25 on a bike - route

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New lease of life for my first electric guitar

Hohner Rockwood Seymour Duncan


My first electric guitar, a Hohner Rockwood purchased 20 years ago, remains one of the nicest guitar I’ve ever played despite its low cost. It’s ideal as a practice guitar, but the pickup switch was temperamental, the pots were scratchy, and the jack input was loose. I decided to give it a new lease of life by replacing the pickups and all electronics.

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Coast 2 Coast on a Brompton

Last year I challenged myself to a short bicycle camping tour – West coast of England to East coast of England on my Brompton along the Coast 2 Coast cycle route. I planned to do it in three days in late September – I figured this was about as late in the year that I’d want to be sleeping out in a tent up North.

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Sturmey weather

The rear gear hub on my bicycle hadn’t been running smoothly – it was noisy and would not turn freely when I back-pedalled, causing the chain to go slack with a good chance of coming off. I think either some dirt had made its way into the hub or some over-zealous cleaning had de-greased the grease. I decided to have a go at getting it running smoothly again myself. 

The bike is a six-speed Brompton. It has a standard three-speed Sturmey Archer BWR hub gear, combined with two derailleur-adjusted cogs on the back wheel:

Sturmey Archer BWR hub
Sturmey Archer BWR hub

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Paris marathon 2013


I put my name down for the Paris marathon at the end of December. I enjoy running. I like a challenge, and I also like to have something to motivate me. Signing up was the easy bit. The next three months were hard work, but I had a plan and stuck to it, and managed to run the marathon and by doing so I was able to tick off something that has been on my to-do list for years.

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