However, in January or so IBM announced that they would be providing us employees, via Cyclescheme, with access to the government's Cycle To Work tax break on the purchase of bicycles for commuting. I began to envision a version of the world where my car stayed in Ilkley, and I commuted by train each week, and then zapped around Stevenage by bike. The final piece of the jigsaw came from my Brompton enthusiast friend who works at the next desk.
Bromptons are folding bicycles. I have very clear memories of very bad folding bicycles in the 1970s. Bickertons and Shoppers and things. I even had one, although the brand escapes me now, but I do remember that it broke in half when I was cycling up a hill on it. Ever since then I have entertained a very dim view of folding bicycles.
So what has changed my mind? Well, here are some of the things:
- it folds and unfolds in double quick time (less than 30 seconds);
- it fits under the inverted v-shape formed by two back to back seats on a GNER train;
- it fits in various similarly small spaces in the Northern Trains service between Leeds and Ilkley;
- it fits under my desk at the office;
- it fits in the hall cupboard in my Stevenage apartment;
- it fits in the boot of my car;
- oh and, by the way, despite fitting everywhere it's a damn fine bicycle.
So I am now cycling around on what Brompton would call an M6L-X if they supplied it as one of their prepackaged models. This is shown in the rather bad webcam picture which, by the Magic of Photoshop has been made to depict the same bike both folded and unfolded.
M6L-X translates to “standard Brompton handlebars, 6 gears, mudguards but no rack - with lightweight titanium bits”. It feels very nippy, as it is light and geared a little low. I can't imagine getting much beyond 25mph on it, but 15-20mph is very comfortable. It's just about perfect for commuting.
Along with it, I bought a bag which mounts on the black plastic block on the front, and can hold both of my laptops and other supporting things too. However, when fully loaded I'm aware that I'm running it at about 105% of the maximum weight that the manual says it supports, which makes me a little nervous although doubtless tolerances of much more than 5% are included in this figure. Still, I've done somewhat over 100 miles on it since I got it in May which is ok going for me at my level of fitness and fatness. It means I've kept up with the commuting (about 25 mins per day).
To my surprise, I am completely in love with it, which is weird because I've never been in love with a bike before. There's something about it that appeals to the geek in me. Partly it's the “raw lacquer” that I ordered instead of paint - all the welds and the grain in the metal are visible, a display of functionality and beauty at the same time. I think that ultimately, though, it's the sheer utility of it. Due to space limitations in the places in which I have lived, I've never really used a bike in adulthood. They always ended up having to be stored in places where the hassle of getting them out meant I never did.
I'll check back in when I get to a thousand miles :)
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