When bromptons attack!

Apologies for the cheesy Channel 5 title but it’s both descriptive and accurate. Today I was properly beasted by a young lady riding the “knit your own cheese brigades” favourite folder.

Having completed the trials section over the Bayswater road (manual onto curb into one footed pedal zebra crossing, finishing with pavement bunnyhop), I’m straight-lining the final section into Hyde park.

At this point, I was confronted by a large mass of hair atop a small pink bicycle. Closer inspection revealed a litheness of body that even a combination of winter clothing and besuited trousers couldn’t hide. History states that our hero (that’s me ok) rigidly applied the rule ˜never judge a cyclist by their bicycle” and waved her through with a gentlemanly smile. But since history is nothing more than lies multiplied by time, of course this didn’t happen.

I wound up the gear on my proper sized wheel and passed her with a breezy hello. Two things immediately became apparent; firstly my passing speed wouldn’t have troubled a sprightly hedgehog and secondly I had little breeze left in my lungs to shoot. Two surreptitious glances in the next two minutes nailed home the certainty that she was merely biding her time and lining me up for an overtaking move.

This inevitable pass seemed effortless on her part with heeled boots acting as flat pedal SPDs and a spin rate last seen on a decent washing machine. Parable metaphors sprung to mind although I quickly ditched “beauty and the beast” in favour of “the tortoise and the hare” For the hard of understanding, I did not resemble the rabbit.

So I switched tactics and decided that if you can’t beat ’em, cheat. Gracefully admitting defeat wasn’t really an option even though she didn’t care at all and I cared far too much. Especially when opportunity knocked for the man skilled in the art of traffic light phasing. The fifty yard gap she’d opened up narrowed to almost nothing as she was caught by the red on Hyde Park Corner.

Not quite nothing though as I’m counting down the seconds to amber and so still rolling. Three, two, one, GO; dodge the obligatory loony cager jumping the now red set and steam on towards Constitution Hill. She’s taken the sensible diversion under the arch, but the phasing is still with me and I’m cranking off the roundabout before she’s even granted access via the pedestrian crossings.

Backing off a little, I’m impossibly smug until a random glance left shows the pinkly transported hair bear bunch steaming down the Green Park cycleway, cutting a swathe through joggers, dogs and the odd stunned tourist. My phasing karma is exhausted and I’m held frustrated outside Queenie’s house, while my quarry disappears up the Mall. This is silly I tell myself, London hosts tens of thousands cyclists most of them with skinny tyres, clipless pedals and road frames. You can’t ever win; the best you can hope for is to stay alive.

But underneath this superficial layer of common sense lies an ugly truth. This folding fanatic is none of these things, she’s a woman riding in street clothes on half a baby’s stroller. And she’s whupping your arse. Not literally of course but that fantasy keeps me occupied during the further delay as a diplomatic convoy cruises past. That’s the trouble I tell myself, this wouldn’t even be a contest if I had police outriders.

Finally freed from the lights, I’m desperately but a little despondently cranking away at a cadence we singlespeeders call “demented hamster”. Slack faced roadies, body-wrapped in sponsor’s lycra, barely have time to register shock as the whum-whum-whum of my steaming knobblies warn of a screaming tortoise coming through. The lights are clearly in league with my folding nemesis now as, in spite of my best efforts, the next set inexorably flash off green in favour of amber. F*ck it, time for a bit of RLJ’ing and to hell with the consequences.

I can see her now still serenely making rapid progress on the cycle path but this tortoise has one more trick in his shell. London’s randomly planned cycle paths can play their part in my victory, as I’ve set the nominal finishing line at Charing Cross station and there’s no way to get there on the path. Oh no, the cyclists lot is back onto the blacktop, wiggle under Admiralty Arch and fight their way across Trafalgar Square.

She’s trying to merge now and I could have so easily have let her. A gentle pressure on the bar and a friendly wave and she’s in and gone. Like that was ever going to happen “ I shift right but only enough to allow an irritated roadie to occupy the exact spot where she’s trying to plant her front wheel. She’a trapped now as a phalanx of cyclists compress the space and slow to navigate the arch.

My triumphant glance, which she haughtily chooses to ignore, almost results in a Taxi door becoming a painful part of my immediate future. But it doesn’t matter, I’m still on the move and she’s still on the pavement. My minds eye paints a picture of a final sprint under Nelson’s Column, arms “Armstrong like” aloft and accepting the accolades of my cycling peers. Another amber light blocks my way to victory but I’m past caring about any niceties of the Highway Code and swoop gracefully onwards, a legend in the sport of commuting, a man completely at home in this urban environment; in short a winner.

Remember history? It was the metaphorical spoke in my deluded narrative. Instead of gambling with amber, I’ve pulled a terrifyingly unintentional stoppy before slamming the bike down about one inch away from a pretend policeman. Unbelievably they’ve chosen this day to hand out patronising warnings and thirty quid fines to any rider still alive and trying to stay that way. I’ve always thought of red lights as interesting and informational but hardly mandatory. Clearly they disagree.

I’m receiving a wide ranging bollocking starting with the problems of aggressive riding, finishing with the importance of respect and passing through my many other transgressions in between. I smile and nod occasionally secure in the knowledge that my helmet hides “Green Day” ridiculing the establishment on my earphones.

She pulls alongside. At least she has the decency to look pissed off. It has better be with me considering all the effort I’ve put in. The plod-lite has finally rambled his last and I’m preparing a witty, condescending yet friendly response to her icy glare. It was to be in the vein of “good effort love, not bad for a girly but blokes are the best at sport, that’s just the way it is”.

While I’m hosting an internal Debrett’ debate on whether “love” or  “darling” is the most appropriate form of address, the lights abruptly change and – frame visibly flexing – the pink hair palace leaves me choking in her hairspray. I’ve never seen anyone cycle-angry on the Strand before; well not and survive until Fleet Street anyway but today is just one long voyage of discovery.

So I won. No I did. Not that it matters. But if it did, I won.

Can I have at least close second then?

11 thoughts on “When bromptons attack!

  1. That was difficult to read at work whilst trying to keep a straight face. No amount of turning off browser colours and attempting to hide the pane amongst the multitude of Outlook windows could disguise the fact that I was patently not concentrating on preparing the latest project costs for my boss, sitting opposite.

    I must remember to mark this site Not Safe For Work.


  2. Alex

    That’s the joy of the Internet. You can expose your vanities and bolster a shallow ego by merely humiliating yourself to complete strangers 🙂

    But honestly bromptons: to quote from something I wrote previously

    “share the same attributes of kids wheels, spindly frames and the whiff of a vegan who knits their own cheese. Regardless of the manufacturer, all sub specious of the genus folder? are clearly the bastard love child of a blind welder and a scaffold pole. And that welder only had a blowtorch

    Still, many erstwhile owners of these unholy unions of a bmx and a shopping trolley talk of their sprightliness, fine handling and ease of assembly. But these are the same people who enjoy “ and more to the point can assemble “ complex tentage, and embrace other such dreadful pointless pastimes. A folder in my hands would be reduced to swarf inside a month unless the assembly instructions included throw roughly to the ground and give a good kicking?

    I rest my case.

    This does means I’m going to have to write some more drivel. I mean my mum is quite a slow reader so I though I’d be ok for a while….

  3. Mark

    I had a similar incident whilst out on my ZR9000/OCLV carbon road bike, being overtaken by some old geezer with tassel-streamers affixed to the end of his handlebars! It wasn’t until I russled up enough oxygen to catch and overtake him (at 25mph), that I realised the cheating bugger had one monster of a battery-assisted power unit tucked neatly away on his rear pannier rack! 🙂

  4. Hmm

    My other bike’s a fixie but I ride a 1-speed Brompton – generally pacing the traffic at 20-25 mph in town (ie Euston Road) – probably clocking about 30 going through TCR underpass and avoiding the crap cycle route over the top. One regular is Euston-Waterloo which seems always to take 12 minutes. take heart though my 1-speed is coaster braked so I could in theory ride a nice clean set of ‘bars – but for decoration have a Magura HS33 to tickle the front wheel (it would be fixed but for the B*** chain tensioner) Gearing is 61:13 – could go to 65 but 80 inches means that accelerating from lights is not too sluggish.

    Lot of unfit types about though – and the pissing off factor is often quite funny. On fixed (29″ Whittaker and Mapplebeck – 56-13 around 100″) I was riding up hill with a fun ride, carrying a pannier full of tools and passed this old guy spinning a Colnago. Sadly he wasn’t too far behind over the top and the fear of grounding the pedals on the downhill side left me spinning and holding back – at 10 mph leaning in at a road junction you clip the inside pedal – back wheel leaps a foot sideways and you keep riding but at 25-30mph on a sweeping downhill curve no way.

    Then we used to keep a fleet of Raleigh 20’s bars turned and stacked (4 of them) in the toilet. All kept in ‘good’ order, so that one day, out on site (wellies, site jacket, army small rucksack) I was chugging down into Airdrie and came upon this guy out training – bare frame, lycra etc, paced hime for a mile or so and he really had to make an effort to pull away, but guess he had a higher top gear.

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  7. Jane

    Ha- this did make me laugh, so thank you VERY much.

    ‘Babes on Brommies’ DVD surely available to satisfy your latent fantasies about Brommie-riding London girls… They just go SO well with big hair and heels, dahling… especially in the pretty colours… And my Celine handbag fits into the front pannier bag…

    And they do really move- which is lovely when I’ve stopped at lights and some little boy with an attitude rides past and stops right in front of me rather than waiting in line… SO rude! What better incentive to make them eat my dust?

    Anyway, I’ve just ordered my custom-built titanium 6-gear upgrade (in a gorgeous Kew Green), so if I ever DO spot you around town, you have absolutely NO chance!

  8. I believe the lady in this blog is Rachael Elliott who has just won the 2011 Brompton World Championship for the second year in a row. I thought my other half was fast but Rachael rode nearly seven minutes faster than him at Blenheim two weeks ago.

  9. Nick

    I must say, amazing powers of description. Cracked a big smile at “demented hamster” – your effort is the kind I aspire to when I attempt such mundane ramblings on online forums.

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