1 Week to go!

Oh gosh, this trip is getting serious now, with only a week left to go! I’m currently sitting in an internet cafe in London, due to staying on my brother’s couch, and he not having internet yet.

I think I’m pretty much ready, I have all the equipment I need. All my possessions except what I need for the trip, the week until I go, and what I want someone to bring to me in Australia in a years time are in my Dad’s barn, and I’m now just sorting the final things out.

Details for the leaving party are as follows – Friday 25 July, after work (I’m going about 4pm), O’Neils opposite China Town (the one with 3 floors and a music room). I know the venue isn’t too great, but I tried to pick a place that we could stay at the entire night, that has live music and a dance floor, serves pub food, everyone can get into, opens early and closes late. And O’Neils seems to fit the bill!

Ok, internet cafe time is up!

Gears (final, I promise!)

OK, so I finally took the plunge and added a manual change small front chainring to the Brompton. Here’s a write up of how what I did and parts used. This will work on a 6-speed 2007 Brompton. I can’t vouch for other models, but with a bit of common sense it won’t be too hard to work out the possibilities for other models. The numbers after the parts are the SJS Cycles part numbers.

1 x Stronglight 28t, 86mm bcd chainring (3022)
5 x 2mm chainring spacers (17702S2.0)
5 x 1.2mm chainring spacers (17702S1.2)
5 x double chainring bolts (10652)
1 x 127mm bottom bracket (10859) (this is longer than the original, but needed because the one fitted at the factory isn’t long enough, and the extra chainring will rub against the chain stay unless the whole crank is moved out an extra few mm)

Wrench, crank puller, bottom bracket tool, allen keys

Remove the cranks and the bottom bracket. Install the new bottom bracket, bolt on the new chainring, and put the cranks back on. Done, and very simple. Just remember to check the bottom bracket and crank bolts after a few miles of cycling, the crank bolts especially are difficult to get tight from a fresh install, and they can work themselves loose. Now you’ll have a Brompton with a good set of standard gears, changeable with gear levers, and an extra chainring for those really tough climbs, but changeable manually. Once on the smaller chainring, all the other 6 gears work as normal as well.

4 Weeks!

Wow, 4 weeks to go! This time in 28 days I’ll be in the middle of Kent, on my way to Dover, probably trying to sleep. I imagine I’ll be thinking about the road ahead, about adjusting to my new way of life, and remembering all the great people at home I’m leaving behind.

This idea for cycling around the world started as a tiny seed, a fanciful idea, made possible, and I thought somehow necessary, by various strands of my life coming together, and an unhappiness at the path my life seemed to be taking. As the plans have grown, and matured to a point where I’m almost ready to leave, I realise my life has changed. Now I’m happy in London, with the best of friends that will be difficult to leave, and a good job I’ll have no problem walking away from. The trip now seems, somehow, trivial and selfish. I always thought that when I left I would have a sense of satisfaction, of finally leaving the UK, and ‘escaping’. Now the opposite is true. I’ll be sad to leave, to say goodbye with no idea how long (months, years) before I get to say hello again. The UK, and London, no matter how much I moan about it, really is the one of the Greatest countries and cities in the world. I’m looking forward to the journey ahead, to the adventure and excitement, the ups and downs (emotionally the ups more than the downs, literally cycling though, the downs more than the ups!).

I’d like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thankyou to everyone I know for being there and supporting me and saying ‘you can do it’ instead of the more reasonable, realistic and quite honestly expected ‘don’t be so silly’. I want to say thankyou and sorry to anyone (which is everyone) who had to put up with my incessant talking about the trip. Before this post gets a bit Gwyneth Paltrow-esqu, I’ll finish by saying I’ll miss everyone, and please keep in touch.

4 weeks. So close. So much already prepared. So much more to do.

Gearing… again!

In response to a comment left on my original gearing post, I think I’ve found the solution to adding lower gears relatively easily. I was notified of the BromptonTalk group on Yahoo!, and searching there finds lots of stuff on dual chainrings.

The standard 50t chainring has holes drilled that will allow a 28t chainring with 86mm BCD. However, the bottom bracket is a bit short, and with the extra chainring, it won’t fold and the chain may rub against the frame. The solution to that is to fit a longer bottom bracket (BB). The guys at BromptonTalk have discussed at length the different BB options. The standard brompton has a 119mm BB, and, as far as I can tell, it needs about another 5mm for the dual chainring. The 125mm one of these seems to be recommended by people on BromptonTalk.

Voila, the gear inches for that set up will go down as low as 22″, with the two highest gears on the small chainring being similar to the two lowest gears on the large chainring. The manual change shouldn’t be too much of a problem to use occasionally.


So on thursday I went to the doctors to see what vaccinations I need. The travel nurse spent an hour working it out. I had a list of what I’ve had in the past and when and so what I still have immunity to, and kept saying I need everything else. After an hour, she said, yep you need everything.

Here’s what I already have, and so don’t need again right now:
Diphtheria/Tetanus (vaccinated 9 Feb 2001, valid for 10 years)
Polio (vaccinated 9 Feb 2001, valid for 10 years)
Yellow Fever (vaccinated 14 May 2001, valid for 10 years)

Here’s what I need again:
Typhoid (vaccinated 15 May 2008, valid for 3 years)
Hep A and B (first on 15 May 2008, need again on 22 May 2008, 6 June 2008 and 15 May 2009, then valid for 10 years)
MMR (travel nurse wants to give me a booster just to be sure)
Meningitis (immunity ran out in June 2006)
Rabies (three injections)
Japanese Encephalitis
Plus anti-malarials.

So that means I’ve had two injections already, and from the look of it, need many more before I go, with one more for Hep A and B when I get to Australia to complete the course. Good thing I’m not scared of needles!

More about gears…

I know, this is a favourite topic of mine at the moment. I read somewhere (can’t remember where now) that someone put a smaller chain wheel on the front, but with no derailleur. That means it isn’t possible to change the front gears while cycling, but it does give more gears. When I reach a hill and realise I’m going to need a lower set of gears for a while, I can manually put the chain on the smaller chain wheel and off I go. Genius. Wish I could remember who’s website I first read this on so I could give them credit!

Gearing for a Brompton

Warning – this will be a boring technical post about the number of teeth on chainrings and gear ratios.
Bromptons come with different configurations for gears. There’s a single speed, a two speed with derailleur, a 3 speed with internal hub gears, and a 6 speed with derailleur and internal hub gears. The list gets longer because with the 6 speed, you can choose to have 8% higher or 12 % lower gearing. I got mine with the standard ratio 6 speed, and it’s great, I can get up to 25 mph quite easily (even managed 32 mph once) and have yet to find a hill I can’t get up. But that is around london and when I’ve been at home in Cumbria. Without any luggage.

So I’m thinking with towing a 30kg+ trailer up the Alps, I might need some lower gears, but I don’t want to lose the current top speed I have. One option is to get a Schlumpf Mountain Drive. This acts like an internal hub gear, but for the front chainring. It has two options, a 1:1 ratio, and a 2.5:1 downshift. It would be brilliant, except that it costs £275.

Another option is to use a Rohloff Speed Hub. This would replace all the current rear gearing on the Brompton and give 14 internal hub gears. But they don’t fit in a 16 inch wheel as standard, and the base cost is an astronomical £625. So clearly not an option. Then I thought, why not put a bigger sprocket on the rear?

My standard ratio Brompton has a 50 tooth chainring at the front, with 13 and 15 tooth sprockets allied to 3 speed hub at the rear. I thought I’d see how easy it is to change the sprockets, and discovered that they clip on rather than requiring a heavy chain-whip to remove. The next thing I did was to work out the current gearing. This website lets you put in just about any combination of gears and will tell you the ratios. Here’s a table of my current set-up:

Gear# – Internal – Sprocket – Meters Development
1* – 1 – 13 – 6.7
2 – 1 – 15 – 5.8
3* – 2 – 13 – 4.9
4 – 2 – 15 – 4.3
5* – 3 – 13 – 3.6
6* – 3 – 15 – 3.1

The *’s are the gears I use most often – I change down the hub gears then use the 15 tooth sprocket for big hills. If I was to change the 15 tooth to be a 17 tooth sprocket, I would have:

Gear# – Internal – Sprocket – Meters Development
1* – 1 – 13 – 6.7
2 – 1 – 17 – 5.1
3* – 2 – 13 – 4.9
4 – 2 – 17 – 3.8
5* – 3 – 13 – 3.6
6* – 3 – 17 – 2.8

You can see that the gears I use most often have not changed, except the lowest gear, which is now 10% lower. The cost of this solution? £5.99 from SJS Cycles. Even if it doesn’t work or I don’t like the new gearing, well i’ve wasted £6. And because of the relative ease of changing sprockets on a Brompton, I can always take the original 15 tooth and change it en-route. Or take an additional 19 or even 21 tooth sprocket to change to if the Alps are too demanding.

Auto-pilot for Life

I wrote yesterday about being in the bank. I was actually there because I need to renew my credit and debit cards early. They both expire in August, which is just the wrong time since I’m leaving in July. However, they will probably only issue new ones with the expiry date two years in the future which leaves me with a problem. In two years how do I get more renewed cards? The answer is give the bank one of my parents addresses as my correspondence address so they’ll be shipped there and can be mailed on to me wherever I might be. But that brings up more problems. What do I do for money while the new cards are being mailed to me, and do I have to stay in the same place for a month while they are mailed?

I mention this because one of the things I spend most of my time thinking about is how to put my life on ‘auto-pilot’ for the four to five years I’ll be away. Difficulties include, as I’ve mentioned, banking and mail, but also where to store my belongings while I’m gone and what to do about my mobile phone contract that still has a year to run. I’ll need to file my tax return in April or May next year, just the time when I should be in Indonesia or the Australian Outback somewhere.

These are all tricky but not insurmountable problems, and it will be interesting coming up with solutions.

Interesting conversation

Today in the bank I was chatting to the guy serving me and mentioned my trip. He asked where I was going, and I said “I’m actually going to cycle around the world, everyone thinks I’m crazy”. He said “oh wow, that’s not crazy, I’d love to do something like that, I just wish I had the time. What type of bike are you taking? Moutain? Touring?” I told him I’m going on a Brompton. “Yep, you’re crazy” he said!