Small Bike, Big Ideas

Ever since completing my two-wheeled assault on Paris a while back, I’ve had aspirations to repeat the trip, but this time around I’d do it in one day. And on a Brompton. Why? Because time’s short and two days proved to be an overkill, at least with a conventional touring bike. And because I can always fold it up and bail onto public transport if it all proves too much. But mostly for the kudos of knocking out a 100+ mile day on something the size of a carry-on bag. If Russ and Laura can do it…

Shadow of a cyclist cast on a quiet lane running through open fields in the English countryside

Anyway. Since I-can’t-remember-when I’ve been sizing up different rides completed on the Panorama to see if I could do them on the Brommie. 25 miles from Home to Waterloo, mostly along the A4 in 2h10, with enough steam left over (probably) to make it home again, though sadly not enough time on the day to find out. I felt fine, and repeated the ride one week later on the Panorama to compare energy levels. This time around I felt good enough to ride home as well, covering 64 towpath miles in 5h35. I wasn’t much use afterwards. Could I do the same but on a much smaller bike, and have enough power left in reserve for 30 more miles? Sounds daunting, but given that I’d start in Dieppe at 04:00 and have nothing else to do that day, I’m tempted to put it to the test.

This afternoon I decided to throw more fuel at the private debate by riding the Brompton home from Reading after a full day’s work, guided by the Cycle Route Planner in ‘recreational’ mode. On reflection I should’ve known that I’d simply be following National Cycle Route #4, given that it meanders first past the office and then past my front door on it’s way from Wales to Greenwich. But because I can’t leave these things alone I downloaded the GPX to my Garmin and set off due east at 18:30.

Folding Brompton bike in front of a construction fence

Previous endeavours should have reminded me just how much of #4 is unpaved, and how much fun the Brompton is to ride on muddy tracks when it’s been raining all week, but my memory likes a laugh as much as the next guy. Some people never learn. It actually turned out OK and I cruised along at 12 mph for most of the way, slowing down for a security fence that somebody had thoughtfully placed across the track to protect the workforce as they replaced a brick on a railway crossing. Turns out that folding bikes aren’t just great for public transport, they also get you across building sites when everybody else would rather you kept away. And so another experiment enters the archives: 28 miles in 2h35, on shitty paths, with a Brompton and commuter bag. Pass the vaseline!

  1 comment for “Small Bike, Big Ideas

  1. Salli G
    June 5, 2013 at 23:15

    You’re bonkers!

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