Over the years I’ve had a fair amount of issues with my bikes; pedal failures, crank failure, handlebar stem failure, rear triangle failure, seat post bolt failure, rim failure, tyre failure, bottom bracket issues, and of course plenty of punctures! Some of these come under expected wear & tear, and some came as quite a surprise.
However, with all of that, I’ve actually done quite a few miles (and lots in the company of other Brompton riders) and the Brompton bike stands up well in terms of reliability against other bikes. And of course it’s great fun to ride, and comfortable for long distances.
I decided it was time to buy a new one – and hopefully this will better my chances of something not breaking during the race.
When thinking about this a couple of months ago, my ‘dream’ Brompton for the race would be one with a titanium front fork, but a steel rear triangle.
The front fork in titanium really helps absorbs the bumps and avoids me getting ulna nerve issues in my hands on long rides. When I rode the TransAtlantic Way Race in 2018, it was months before I had full feeling again in the 3rd and 4th fingers on both hands.
But the rear triangle in titanium doesn’t really have benefit for me besides it being rust-proof. I am not concerned about the extra increase in weight of steel, and I find the titanium a bit ‘squishy’ feeling on uneven surfaces.
Anyhow I wrote to Brompton and also Brompton Junction asking if they could help – I would be happy to pay the full titanium price but for a bike with a steel rear triangle, and ideally the bike would be in red lacquer or red, to work on a Lanterne Rouge theme.. Unfortunately they were unable to assist, or even sell me any kind of bike until July when I made my enquiry at the end of April.
So I turned to Brompton Bike specialists, Brilliant Bikes in Chobham, Surrey. I have been using Brilliant Bikes for years as my first port-of-call for any spare parts. Their customer service really can’t be beaten and the staff are Brompton enthusiasts. They were able to get me a Raw Lacquer Ti bike in M6R configuration with a telescopic seatpost, which I collected at the end of May. I got the train down to the shop to pick it up, and cycled it back to London. Here it is all shiny during its first ride:
For the TransAtlantic Way Race and Pan Celtic Race 2019 I rode a standard 50T M6R bike. This is my preferred configuration for general riding as it deals with most situations well. However, for the ultra endurance events I’ve found it a bit lacking in mountain-y areas whilst carrying a lot of weight. The problem is the range isn’t wide enough – it doesn’t have a low enough gear for the steep uphills, and on downhills I don’t have a high enough gear. Probably the ideal solution would be to opt for a custom Rohloff conversion from Ben at Kinetics. With a disc brake this would also help the problem of the rims overheating on frequent / long / steep downhill descents. Maybe if I attempt another, this is the way to go.
For the interim I’ve decided to fit a double chainring. I’ve had this fitted now for over a week now and it seems to be ok. It’s a 36/52T. The standard 100 link chain seems to work fine, but I had to fit a narrower Bottom Bracket to improve the chainline when the chain is on the big ring. I did my morning hills ride on the small ring and it was very comfortable, and I’ve used the big ring on a 100 mile ride to Kent last weekend, as well as my usual commuting. No problems so far.
Currently to change gear on the front chainring I have to use my fingers. It’s also possible to kick the chain onto the small ring. Whilst I’ve found this is easy when cycling on the flat, I’ve found it tricky to do whilst already pedalling up a hill. Perhaps I need more practice.
Anyhow, I still have three weeks until the event, so I might see if I can get a front derailleur to work. It would be handy to be able to change gear whilst riding along!
Things I still need to sort out on the bike:
- Fit dynamo lighting
- Change to SwissStop brake pads (1 week before the race)
- Put on fresh Marathon Plus tyres (1 week before the race)
- Fit front derailleur (maybe)
For pedals, I’m tempted to try some MKS Lambda Pedals, but I might also just stick with the Brompton ones – I’m just a little concerned about the reliability of the stock pedals having had several pedals break.
For the month before the race, I’ve decided to train a bit less.. i.e. not cycle every day. I’m still commuting every day, and plan to do a longish ride each weekend, and a sprinkle of either hill rides or longer flat rides in the mornings. You can see what I’ve been up to here (the data don’t include my commutes):
Something I am doing at the moment is eating less! During the first couple of months of training I was eating a lot (e.g. having cheese and beans on toast when getting into work after a long ride). In over two months of riding every day my weight remained the same.
It would help if I weighed less for the race, so what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks (and what I’ll be doing for the next two weeks) is, on weekdays, skipping breakfast, then just having a Huel shake for lunch, and maybe an energy bar in the afternoon. Regular dinner. Seems to be working and it is easy enough to do.
Just for fun, I made a page where you can visualise the first 200 km of the route in 3D. Enjoy!
Pics from Pan Celtics Race 2019
I thought I’d better stick up pictures from the past event – it’s been almost two years!
My CMS has destroyed the image quality, but it’s better than nothing:
Pan Celtic 2019 photos https://www.jameshouston.com/pan-celtic-race-2019/
And whilst we’re on Pan Celtic theme, you may enjoy a video I made of a meetup we had in North Wales last year:
Pan Celtic revival video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ4HZn7rPCU
And also some photos I took from the gathering where we visited the Enigma bike workshop:
Pan Celtic gathering Dec 2019 https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.555145332003223&type=3