You can see my little Brompton has now been embellished with some Cherry Blossoms, after her name!
I was so excited to have received a spur of the moment, very short notice invitation to go on a ride with Dayna Andreussi of the Melbourne Brompton Club that I just wasn’t going to pass this up…I don’t often get invited on rides. The perception is usually that I’m too busy, too ‘pro’ (yeah right!), too ‘visible’ or maybe just not interested in riding with anyone else…not so. I jumped at the chance because it was not just an opportunity to have a ride without being encumbered by responsibilities of Wheel Women, but also a chance to meet a fellow women’s riding enthusiast…only this time the bikes were different.
I’ve posted a couple of photos since Thursday when my partner and I purchased two Brompton folding bicycles for a reconnaissance visit to Japan to check out some new cycling routes for our Wheel Women Tours. It sure has been met with mixed reactions…some are excited, some wonder what the hell I’m doing and others think I’ve given up my beloved Specialized Ruby…hardly! No, this is just a chance for trying a different kind of riding for a whole bunch of reasons.
A his and hers…Cherry Blossom, or Sakura for me, Black for him.
So why go down the path of the folding bretheren, sometimes seen as quirky, or whacky…or not real bike riders! Well, I can assure you they are a real bike and they are very real and passionate riders – they have two wheels and that’s how these riders roll. Enough said on that. But there’s more to it than that and I’m now on this amazing learning curve finding out all there is to know about these amazing little bikes.
Assisted by the fabulous Cory at Velo Cycles I had a fast paced education session about folding bikes, what to look for, what I need to consider and how the different versions work. I’ve known Cory for years so it’s been great to have some input I can really trust and from someone who understands the sort of riding I already do – that was so valuable. Cory was able to pick instantly where I might find issues and how to deal with them. I tried several bikes and styles, but we settled on the Bromptons due to the size they folded to and the weight issue (they’re light!)…plus they just felt good to ride!
Big thanks to Dayna Andreussi for the Melbourne Brompton Club for introducing me to some things I need to know and for taking an interest in this ‘newby’!
As Cory explained , this was about finding a whole a new way of thinking about riding and taking it to a different path…a different pair of shoes for a different outfit so to speak. It sure is! I’m on a steep learning curve having just purchased a bike only on Friday and will be riding it next week in Japan roughly 80km a day for 6 days…what the hell were we thinking!
What prompted the decision was a number of factors:
• it’s not that easy to transport normal sized bikes on public transport in Japan due to size limitations
• rental of good road bikes that we like to ride gets expensive when you do it often – we could have purchased our own bikes for the money we’ve spent so far.
• we considered buying Specialized bikes there but then we have to cart them around, or leave them there when finished
• if we buy bikes there, we could we leave them…short of having an obliging friend this gets tricky and expensive
• when we hire bikes, we don’t get to hire my favourite brand Specialized, so it makes it awkward and a bit deflating as the bikes never quite meet our expectations
There had to be an answer to this and when my husband mentioned that folding bikes might be the answer I laughed. ‘Are you serious…I wouldn’t be seen dead on one of those!’ was my response. He felt a little bit the same but after discussions over several days, and a failure to secure Specialized road bikes anywhere convenient on our trip started to make this seem like a practical, albeit expensive option. Are we mad?
So I was given the mission and 24hrs to suss out bikes, harrass poor Cory day and night with info and spent way too long in his shop. But a decision has been made that I think will lead us to a whole new world of cycling and expand our horizons about where bikes can go and how we use them…it’s not a decision we have taken lightly as it has also involved a rather large financial commitment we didn’t really want.
We’ve had a few little spins around the neighborhood together, learned how to fold them and roll them, and learning the quirks of just 6 gears! It will be a different experience riding some of the hills on these, but we’ve found they actually fly at a pretty nice pace. It takes a bit more leg work, and an adjustment of the mind set ‘I’m a road rider!’ Time to let down any allusions of bike snobbery and our precious carbon steeds…just ride!
This will be all about seeing things in a new way on a bike…it’s still freedom, just in a different, slightly origami kind of way!
So that’s why I was so excited to meet with Dayna today…we started out with a quick check of whether I knew how to fold, and an offer of helping me learn to remove the rear wheel. Then it was time to ride and get to know each other, explore a few more things about the bikes and just have fun. It was a short ride…probably less than 6kms, a few photo stops, but I had a lesson in brakes, history, where Bromptons can go and how to go shopping inside a shop with a bike! It was fabulous and Dayna is a sensational advocate for these folding babies. I feel as though I’ve just entered a whole new secret society of bikey people…and what a welcome we’ve had from the Melbourne Brompton Club.
That was convenient…I didn’t need to lock up, I just took it inside with me and loaded my little bag up!
So, this time we will enter our Japan riding with a new view. We won’t need to hire the bikes, we will have them with us as luggage. We won’t need to return our bikes, we will take them with us in our hire car post ride. When we see a stretch of road that seems great, we will stop the car and get the bikes out and explore. When we visit the bigger cities we will ride to dinner, not walk or catch the subway, when we visit the temples and mazes of alleyways with interesting smells and sights, we can take our bikes. And if we get tired we will fold them up and jump on a train…it all sounds so enticingly simple and convenient.
So before passing judgement about these strange little bikes, and the strange Brompton brethren who are so passionate about their folding friends, think of this in different terms…adventure that can go anywhere! I can’t wait to try it.
NOTE: Thanks to Nick at Brompton Australia for helping us out with info and directing us to the right info, to Cory Boardman at Velo Cycles for being so patient and willing to help and to Dayna Andreussi of the Melbourne Brompton Club for providing a wonderful welcome to the club and a personal intro to what this is all about…let the adventure begin.
SECOND NOTE: Yes, I still love my Specialized Ruby Expert and riding a Brompton won’t stop that love affair anytime soon, nor my role as a Specialized Ambassador. Why, what else will I be wearing on my Brompton…best kits ever from Specialized and Wheel Women of course!