Last year in July I finally decided to buy a folding bike in the hopes of making my commute into Soho a lot faster. I had been commuting to London for three years prior and would cycle to Brighton station. Once I arrived there I would lock up my full size bike in the really nice cycle hub that was built in 2014 and then just continue on the train into London
but storing a folding bike (that i could afford) was impossibility at my two previous jobs, but now at my current employment I finally able and the option and space presented itself so I took the plunge. After alot of research I bought the Raleigh Stowaway 7 Bike. At first I wanted to get a Dahon Espresso because it was a full size bike and I like to try and get things that can have double uses, but I am sadly only 5’4″ and it would have just been too tall for me, and also was very difficult to find it in any shop to try one in person.
I also at the time turned my nose up at Bromptons. my original reasons were A. I couldn’t afford the 800-1000£ bike, B. I thought it was over priced and only snobby bankers buy them. I have changed my views however we’ll touch on this later.
On to the things I’ve learned over the last year starting with essential gear. After several years of being an urban cyclist I’ve tried alot a different things and here are some of the best tips I would suggest having in your cycling arsenal.
Get a POV camera of some sort
It doesn’t have to be expensive, I chose the Panasonic HX-A1ME-D, and it gets the job done, it doesn’t do 4K video or image stabling but it does two things. One it keeps me accountable and not make reckless decisions, things happen and I’m human and sometimes done make the best decisions but also keeps other drivers accountable. I got sick of taxi and work men in vans yelling at me on the road because I’m not fast enough or in the way when I was legally waiting at red lights and not in the centre of road. But I noticed a significant difference where once they saw I had a camera they aren’t so fast to pipe up. It can look a bit ridiculous with my bright orange camera, but it’s a good visual deterant, plus if there ever is god-forbid an accident it helps police and athorities, let me tell you London pedestrians can be really stupid sometimes (and other cyclists for that matter)
Think about a quick release key device
One of the best things I ever got was this Chrome Mini Buckle. This bad boy has my train and work pass along with my keys for lock and flat all to hand so I’m not digging around in my bag or pockets. It saves time to get from point a to point b especially when you are dealing with crowds never having to take my bag off my shoulders. This was very helpful during the Train strike of 2016.
USB Chargeable Lights
This has been such a life saver, I am also very found Knog MOB light. I like that you can take them off right away. obviously don’t leave them on your bike because they are just as easy to steal. common sense but you never know. I did have the Blinders as well, they were AMAZING and certainly worth the money but sadly my cat loved rubber and she chewed the rubber bar facinings and i couldn’t attach them any more. so I downgraded to the MOB but both I would highly recommend and leads to my next tip…
Get a power bank
I have two, I have a smaller one for just out and about, and then I have this bad boy to take with me when I am commuting to London. I have been very impressed with the brand Anker and have both the PowerCore 20100 and 5000 models. The larger one I can say when its fully charged can recharge and iPhone from 0% to 100% four times, an iPad twice, and a GoPro twice. so its really handy, especially when I was attempting my outdoor trek from London to Brighton, and the 5000 model can do an iPhone charge twice. and most of these are done in about 15 minutes.
Now on to just other stuff I’ve learned…and I’m still learning
Always bring a change of clothes
This may not need to be a tip for everyone but for me it’s essential. Because I’m a little bit on the chunky side at the moment my thighs rub the saddle more and if anyone paid attention in science class that means friction which eventual leads to torn jeans. So I try to pack what I plan in wearing that day and wear a gym outfit while on my bike ride so I can change when I get to work. Now some people may not need this. I envy those suit wearing Brompton riders (how they don’t smell is beyond me)
Also pack spare toiletries like deodorant and cleaning wipes so I don’t stink out the train…
Have Packable Rain Gear
If you have ever visited or lived in England it rains..a lot. I have been caught several times where its was sunny in morning and then absolutely piss it down. So I would highly suggest get some kind of packable rain gear. I do also have a high vis waterproof jacket, but in the summer its so hot and not really an option, plus the summer light is longer. So packable might be the next best, and you can get some discount versions at mountain warehouse
Now let’s talk about the bike…this bike is great for a here and there pop to the shop but it is not meant for everyday fold up and unfold. Within the first month my folder pedal failed while I was riding. The seat stem didn’t have any grease at all so it kept getting scratch ed hell when I would take the seat down and the kickstand lost its little foot. Now I know you get what you pay for and I wasn’t expecting a Brompton stability and sturdy but to fail within a month? And for those wondering why I didn’t take it back it was bought online and would have been a pain to send back and expensive. Also during the train strikes it was difficult for it didn’t fold as tight me still got in people’s way
So now I see why the Brompton is king…and why the price tag. I just sometimes don’t like the attitude of some riders (not all I’d say about 20%) but for example I hat when they don’t fold their bikes and take up the very limited space on trains for full size. I have tweeted so many times photos of a train carriage chocka-blocked and the culprit is someone not folding their Brompton
Another incident recently was at Victoria station where before 7pm you have to fold your bike at barriers. Now this wasn’t heavily enforced over the last year due to the strikes but now that things have calmed down smaller things like this rule have come back. It threw me off the first day and yes I did seen a bit of a snarky tweet but that was it and now everyday I have my bike older in half and I carry the heavy thing. Well the other day I had two men going through at same time. The Brompton owner was furiously shouting and saying this is ridiculous and trying to push past gate crew….remember all the while I’m sitting behind him with mine in my arms getting heavy. Luckily using my big hips helps…of course the crew use me as an example saying “this lady is doing it” and he just didn’t care. And second guy had a Tern bike and a GoPro recording while this was happening. Don’t know what happened all I know is I asked if I could get through and they were calling security
And it’s that mentality! That elitist mentality that really gets my goat! But that’s not the bike manufacturers fault that’s just a handful of their clientel.
Anyway long rant over, my hope is in the next year to invest in a Brompton but I’m going to get a customer made one from a shop in Glasgow called Kinetics and get more gears and things. You should totally check them out!
There is so much more I could go on about but this post is getting long. So those are just a few observations I’ve made over the last year and thought I would share…let’s see what happens in another year of commuting by folding bike.