Help needed

Ok, here’s the situation. I need some more parts for the bike, and they are only available in England. I have ordered them and from tomorrow they will be sitting gathering dust at my mums house. I have tried to have parts delivered in the past, but the Italian post service let me down.
The best situation is to have them delivered to a reliable person at a real address. I’m currently in Ioannina in Greece, heading east towards Thessaloniki and then Istanbul. If anyone knows anyone who might know someone on the route, please get in touch. All I require is contact details so I can have the parts delivered so I can then pick them up. Maybe someone knows a friendly bike shop somewhere, would be ideal to have parts delivered to a bike shop.

To anyone that reads this, please spread the word!

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.

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.

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.

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!

(Very) Long Time no Post, and Israel?

So it’s been a while since I made a post, and time seems to be flying right now what with work and organising the trip and trying to get my family around London to watch my graduation and celebrate family birthdays. But here goes, now that it’s christmas and I’m forced into spending almost two weeks at home with my family, I should get caught up on the blog posts!

In a quick note, I was contacted via facebook by a fellow Brompton rider in Israel wondering if I was passing that way. I’m trying to work out how to make it happen, and have already noted that El Al have regular scheduled flights from Tel Aviv to Mumbai and let you take a bike for free, which is looking to be much easier than working out a flight across the Middle East from Turkey. There are two potential sticking points though. The difficulty that having an Israeli visa or stamp in my passport can cause in getting in to some countries, and the slight inconvenience of cycling through Syria and Lebanon (remember that southern Lebanon was a war zone only a year and a half ago in Summer 2006).

Hopefully I can work it out, because that’s three more countries and some cool people to meet up with!


Stanfords still don’t have the final Greece map I need, so i’ll keep things rolling by writing about my thoughts and indecision over trailers.

I have basically narrowed it down to two options. The Burley Nomad, or the Carry Freedom Y-Frame. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, neither is perfect, and I can’t decide which to get. The Nomad is a mass production trailer, designed with sides and top so it has a closed luggage space, however, it is still not waterproof and the hitch to the bike may be a problem, especially for a Brompton. The Y-Frame is a simple flat bed trailer, with nothing but a flat area with no sides for luggage, however it is simple and apparently very tough, and the hitch I know will work with my Brompton. To show how equal they are, here’s a detailed description of how I would use each one, with both strengths and weaknesses of both.

The Nomad attaches to the bike with a hitch I can’t find many details of. From what I’ve heard it isn’t as well designed as the Carry Freedom hitch, is fiddly, and uses rubber to allow full rotational movement, which can be unreliable over time. The luggage space is enclosed, meaning I could just throw bulky items in without packing them in bags first. But even so, the luggage area is not waterproof, and so any items that had to stay dry (clothes, sleeping bag, documents, etc.) would still need to be in a waterproof bag. It has a cargo rack, basically a rack above the cover so it is possible to attach more items on top – maybe a daypack so it’s easily accessible. But from what I’ve read the Nomad isn’t as durable as the Y-Frame, only taking weights up to 40kg, and Nic and Sedef, the Nuts on Bents, managed to buckle the frame of theirs.

The Y-Frame attaches with an ingeniously simple hitch that I know will work very well with the Brompton, and looks to be very durable – there doesn’t appear to be much that can go wrong with it. The luggage space is unenclosed, as it is just a flat piece of plywood with grip material on. This means that everything would need packing into bags, but the Ortlieb Rack-Packs are perfect for this. It also allows for modifications, for example I could add a frame so one bag would go straight on the base, then another above similar to the cargo rack on the Nomad. It allows for more options, but could be less convenient having to store everything in bags. Looking at the construction of the Y-Frame, it seems to be built to be very tough. The large version can carry 90kg, and the small apparently 45kg, although the large is simply a scaled up small using the same grade of materials, so one would presume it is able carry the same weight. Indeed there are numerous photo’s of heavy loads on the small, including people.

So that is the choice – more convenient but maybe less durable, or less convenient but maybe more durable. I just can’t decide. Dilemma.

Planning Overview

Since it’s been two or three weeks since I decided to go on this adventure, I’ve already started planning. Here’s what I’ve decided so far.

The biggest question is what route I’m going to take to Sydney and then on through the Americas. Well, the general route is through France, across Switzerland and the Alps to Italy, then to Brindisi where I’ll get the ferry to Greece, then through Turkey to Ankara where I’ll fly to either Pakistan or India, then since most of Myanmar is still not accessible to tourists, I’ll fly to Bangkok and cycle down Thailand and Indonesia, island hopping to Darwin, then finally right through the middle of Australia via Uluru and the big south eastern cities to Sydney. In Sydney I’ll work for a year to earn some more money, before flying across the pacific either to South America to cycle up Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia and through central America to the US and New York, or I’ll fly to San Francisco and cycle across just the US.

The next biggest consideration is where to stay each night. I can probably cycle on the relatively flat about 50 to 60 miles per day, six days a week, occasionally pushing it to 70 or 80 miles if I need to. I can either stay in hotels or hostels and not have as much luggage (although a Brompton will still need a trailer), or take camping things. Any trailer I get will have ample space to also take camping equipment, the only difference being the weight, but the difference in cost between staying in hostels and cheap hotels or camping will make a huge difference on how much extra spending money I have for touristy things. So on that basis, I’m going to spend most of the time camping, only staying in hostels or hotels in big cities where campsites are a long way out of the centre. Or when I feel like a bit of relative luxury and a hot shower!

Stanfords map shop in Covent Garden is an excellent resource for world maps, stocking maps from just about every country in the world. In the haste of excitement following my initial decision I went and bought maps for France, and got the cycling specific 1:100,000 maps. These are great, except I ended up needing about twelve of them to plan the full journey across to Switzerland. At £5 each that’s the sort of money I was hoping not to spend. So for Italy I bought the ‘touring’ 1:400,000 scale maps, which also included the parts of Switzerland I need. These are adequate for my needs, showing the minor roads as well as the major ones I’d rather not cycle down.

Using the France and Italy maps I’ve planned my entire route day by day from London to Brindisi in the ‘heal’ of Italy. Details to follow in the next post soon.