Road Ride – ColinJ and the Bromptonaut

As forecast, a mild, settled weather system has developed over much of the UK and is predicted to last into the weekend. I wanted to take advantage of it so I had organised bike rides for today and Friday with fellow members of the CycleChat forum.

Today, I was meeting up with Shaun (CyleChat: ‘shauncollier'), a big lad with a small bike. He is a ‘Bromptonaut' or Brompton owner. I was quite intrigued to see how a rider about my height (and an even bigger build) would cope on the hills riding a small folding bicycle.

Shaun had jokingly accused me of jinxing him since he has had mechanical problems on both the previous occasions that he has tried to ride with me. On a Mary Towneley Loop MTB ride in September, his single chainring's bolts fell off (leaving him with a zero-speed bike :wink:), and on a ride a couple of weeks ago he struggled with a puncture and a faulty bike pump and didn't even make it to the start! I was thinking about this jinx nonsense as I rode out to meet Shaun near Centre Vale Park on the A646 through Todmorden. What a stupid, superstitious concept – me somehow causing mechanical problems. I was still thinking that when my front derailleur snapped – Oh, no – it's true! 😯

So, I was going to have to do this ride on one chainring unless I fancied stopping every few minutes to change rings by hand, which I didn't. I decided to stick the chain onto the ‘granny ring' since I was more worried about getting up the hills than I was about riding quickly. Shaun certainly wouldn't be riding that quickly on his Brompton so it would help reduce my Basso's natural speed advantage.

I was a couple of minutes late getting to the rendezvous point and Shaun was already there. We said our hellos and headed towards the first climb, Sigget Lane at the back of the park. Shaun got up most of the climb but decided to hop off and walk when his speed had reduced to a walking pace. The step-through design of the Brompton is good for that – the rider can dismount easily without much risk of falling off the bike.

I was panting away again, just as I had on the ride 10 days earlier. It is amazing (and scary) how quickly one can lose fitness. I've seen it suggested that it can take up to three times longer to gain a certain amount of fitness than it does to lose it. Sounds about right. I certainly felt my tiny cycling mileage in November, and the fact that I was ill mid-month.

Unlike the earlier ride, we turned left at Sourhall and descended to the Bacup Road. From there we returned to the Rochdale Road and turned right up through Walsden towards Littleborough. I took Shaun along my usual diversion up the landslip-damaged road to Calderbrook, then descended through Caldermoor into Littleborough.

We headed up towards Blackstone Edge, but detoured up the Blackstone Edge Old Road rather than doing the whole climb on the main road.

The sun was doing its best to shine through hazy clouds as we got back onto the main road higher up.

Hollingworth Lake from Blackstone Edge climb
Hollingworth Lake from Blackstone Edge climb

So far, Shaun had been familiar with the roads we had covered, but I wanted to take him to some roads that were new to him. We began the descent towards Ripponden, but turned left at Blue Ball Lane opposite Baitings Reservoir. I took Shaun round the lanes to show him such thrilling highlights as The Very Nice Dry Stone Wall and Ernie Saunders' Seat and then we looped back to take in Mill Bank and then Cottonstones where we stopped beside a millpond to have snacks and drinks.

Millpond at Cottonstones
Millpond at Cottonstones

We meandered back over the hillsides and descended to Mytholmroyd, and from there we took the Calder Valley Cycleway to Hebden Bridge railway station. We saw that the station cafe was open and decided to call in there rather than go straight back into town.

I set up my camera for a shot of Shaun and I standing next to our bikes, but as usual, something distracted me just as the camera timer ‘fired' the electronic shutter. Never mind, the main thing is that you can see Shaun's bike. 😉

[L-R] Basso, ColinJ, Shaun, Brompton!
[L-R] Basso, ColinJ, Shaun, Brompton!

I had intended that we would do a longer ride together but decided that I'd done enough on my small chainring. Shaun was going to have to head back up the road to Todmorden and I didn't fancy yet another trip up and down the A646 so I said goodbye to him soon after we left the station.

I'd been pretty impressed with Shaun's little bike. It wasn't fantastic for climbing and it wasn't that quick, but Shaun proved that it is fine for an enjoyable ride over some testing Yorkshire hills. I can certainly imagine riding one on a mixed train/bike commute if it was too far to ride on a regular bike alone. I still like my racing bikes though and I'll be sticking to those (given that I don't have to commute anywhere).

My distance for the day was smaller than expected – only 32 miles (52 km) but there were a fair few hills and some of them pretty steep. Considering that it is nearly mid-December, it had been a very pleasant ride.

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10 Responses to “Road Ride – ColinJ and the Bromptonaut”

  1. Sounds a nice ride. I was out riding today and it was a perfect crisp day for it!

    Oh and only 32miles??? that is a good ride in anyones book!

  2. Blimey, fastest comment ever!

    32 hilly miles is a fair effort actually, isn’t it, but Shaun and I rode really slowly, chatting and enjoying the scenery so we didn’t really feel as though we’d exerted ourselves that much.

    Shaun rode home (near Burnley) over a few more hills and his ride for the day totalled well over 50 miles. Definitely not bad for a big-guy-on-a-small-bike!

    PS I just had the shock of my life… I’d had a meal with Lisa earlier and then she came round to watch an Alan Bennett film that I’d recorded for her, while I got on with updating the blog. I’d totally forgotten that she was here and she sneaked up the stairs in stealth mode and I suddenly caught her lunging into range of my peripheral vision – aaaaaaaaaargh! 😯

  3. I’m loving the bag on the front of the Brompton. I bet that makes the hills that little bit harder!

  4. Shaun said that he likes to be prepared for anything so he carries loads of stuff in that bag. Spare jacket, food, drinks, tools… I imagine that the bike plus the bag must weigh at least 10 pounds more than my Basso, which itself isn’t an especially light bike.

    Shaun did dismount on some of the steeper hills. His bike has an unusual gearing system of a 3-speed hub combined with a rear derailleur controlling two sprockets, giving him 6 gears in all. I think he said that he can lower the gearing a little more to give him a better chance of getting up the steep stuff, but then he will spin out at a lower top speed.

    He enjoys cycling for the sake of it and isn’t interested in absolute performance so the Brompton suits him. I know that he plans to do even longer rides on it than he has been doing so far.

    Most of the time I’m happy to ride a bike weighing a few extra pounds since the extra weight on me swamps that, but it is a treat to go out on a sunny day and ride my Cannondale which only weighs about 17 pounds.

  5. I ride the fixie most of the time now. I’ve got a very low ‘spinny’ gear on it so I spin out at about 20-25mph so it’s certainly not quick. However, it is fun to ride.

  6. I did have a 30/14 top gear on the ride. That was definitely ‘spinny’ and involved a bit of an extreme chainline, but I knew that I’d only be doing two rides like that before the new front mech arrived.

    That reminds me – it’s sitting on a shelf downstairs, waiting to be fitted. I must sort it out today in case we get a few nice days before I take my Christmas break.

  7. thanks for a good day out. i think i did 53 miles overall with just over 1300m climbing. i was really surprised i bonked on the way home as it was a short ride and not that much climbing. however, i have had bad guts ache since and a horrible cortizone injection, goodness me they are horrid!!! i’m determined to do the original planned route. i have done more miles on both attempts just slightly less climbing.

    don’t know how you dare brave going to the top of the world, carrying so little!!! as you saw in my bags, i like to be prepared for breakdowns miles from anywhere.


    isn’t it nice to cycle mobile phone free??

    once again cheers

  8. I hate injections (or any other form of medical procedure) – I’m really squeamish! I’m so bad, that I actually fainted reading a page on a medical website once. I wasn’t even looking at photographs, a graphic description was enough Seriously! 😉

    I came very close to bonking on Friday’s ride with Ben. I think that sweating a lot due to wearing so much winter cycling kit and not drinking enough played a big part in that.

    I think I was prepared for most eventualities on our ride, though freezing rain would have been bad news.

    I agree about phones. I prefer to be out of touch while I’m out on the bike. The worst places to crash would also be the worst places for getting a signal so I don’t normally bother to carry one. I’ve always managed to fix any mechanical problems that I’ve had on rides. I haven’t really kept a record of my mileage, but I’d be surprised if I’d done less than 40,000 miles over the years up here. I think it’s safe to say that catastrophic crashes or mechanical problems are (thankfully) pretty rare.

  9. pps,

    i did like that little village millstones and the foos stop there, what a pleasant place

  10. Cottonstones – yes, it’s nice up there. As I said to you on the ride – if you look at a map of that area, there is a network of quiet lanes to explore.

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