Bromptons on the Rallarvegen

Last weekend we decided to give our 16 speed Bromptons another test. The test was to cycle the Rallarvegen in Norway from Haugastøl to Flåm. We have wanted to do the Rallarvegen since we moved to Norway almost three years ago and the Bromptons would make getting back home on the train a little easier.

We took it gently, mainly because Damae is now 26 weeks pregnant. On the Friday we cycled from Haugastøl to Finse and camped at the DNT Finsehytta ‘campsite’. Saturday we cycled from Finse down to Flåm and took the Flåmsbanen back up to Myrdal. The weather was brilliant and the Bromptons created a lot of interest.

Stan, Damae and their 16 speed Bromptons at the highest point on the Rallarvegen

The trip gallery is here.

16 speed Bromptons: part 6 – now properly tested

Our summer tour to Germany and Denmark was a great success. Not only did we follow the route we had planned (with two minor deviations) but nothing broke on the bikes or our luggage systems. We didn’t even get a puncture. The rear wheels were still true at the end of the trip and the gears, both the Nexus 8 speed hub and our front derailleurs worked as intended. The Nexus 8 in particular was much appreciated by the both of us, freeing us from the irritation of the Brompton two-shifter-for-six-gears system. Our two shifters now give us pretty much all the gears we need, with a total range that approaches that of a Rohloff Speedhub.

The range of the Nexus 8 (around 300%) means that we have two usable gear ranges. For general use we can stay on the 34t chainring up to speeds of 20km an hour before shifting to the 50t chainring at higher speeds. Using the gears this way gives six gears (low 6,7,8 high 6,7,8) with roughly even gaps between them. Although not as convenient as a Rohloff, the two chainring system with a hub in the rear wheel is a lot simpler to use than a three chainring derailleur system.

The Brompt-o-lieb luggage system worked well without any failures and the luggage blocks screws did not loosen off. I put this down to the fact that with a Brompt-o-lieb system the forces on the luggage block are much better balanced. This also means that the bike handles much more securely, there is none of that disconcerting wagging you get with a heavily laden Brompton bag as it wobbles on the luggage block.

We both liked the adjustable handlebars: I used them in the “foldable” position when cycling into stiff headwinds. In this position I was surprisingly comfortable. When we had a good tailwind I tended to put the bar ends up vertically so I could sit bolt upright on the bike. In variable conditions I had the bars in the horizontal position facing forwards. Damae usually just had the bar ends raised to around fifteen degrees above horizontal occasionally raising them more when we had a tailwind. But we had no problems with numbness in hands or fingers. I am considering getting some more of these bars for two of our other bikes.

One thing that surprised us was the brakes. I’ve never been terribly impressed with the Brompton brakes and have investigated getting V-brakes bosses and brakes fitted to the front forks. While we were still living in Holland our LBS at the time (SNEL tweewielers) suggested we tried some cartridge brake blocks usually used on racing bikes together with some ‘salmon’ brake blocks. I also fitted V-brake levers to both bikes as the old style Brompton brake levers, whilst light, just flexed too much for my liking. On this trip we did not have any problems with the brakes. Either we got used to them or they work well enough now. On a steep descent we still need to pull harder than with V-brakes or Magura rim brakes but the bikes stop quickly enough.

The only thing we are planning to alter is to fit new hard suspension blocks to both bikes. Even with a jubilee clip on both suspension blocks we were wasting too much energy making the bikes bounce up and down. The new blocks have already been ordered so I look forward to seeing how that improves the bikes.

We will definitely be using the Bromptons in this way again in the future. They are comfortable for long days in the saddle and can now carry all the gear we like to take on holiday. With the improvements to the gears we now have bikes that we can use here in Gol or anywhere else in Norway, instead of having them sitting on shelves gathering dust.

16 speed Bromptons: Part 5 – ready for action

Our 16 speed Bromptons are now just that. We built our own wheels earlier in the year and I then went through the process of getting everything to work together. I had already spread my rear forks a couple of years ago and did the same on Damae’s Brompton. A few tweaks were needed on her bike to get sufficient clearance between the spokes where they come out of the Nexus 8 hub and the fork and the rear derailleurs had to be shaved with a ‘Drehmel’ to provide enough clearance for the Nexus 8 gearchanger.

We’ve managed to put around a hundred kilometres on the bikes and they will be used for our summer tour. This will be a sedate affair because of Damae’s condition, taking in part of the NSCR in Germany and Danish cycle route 5 between Fredericia and Grenå. A travelogue will eventually get written as will a full report of the conversion.

From our point of view the conversion has been well worth the effort and money. The gearchange (with the single twistgrip) is fantastic compared to the 2×3 SRAM Brompton setup we previously had. The high range on the 50t chainwheel is good for general cycling, with a bigger range than the old SRAM 6 speed, and the low range on the 34t cog allows climbing up steep hills fully laden. Only time will tell if the setup is reliable.

For the time being, here are three pictures of my bike set up for touring. We’re using my “Brompt-o-lieb” adaptor frame to mount two front panniers on the back of the Brompton bag. We’ve used these a couple of times for short trips and the bikes are very stable even when loaded with weights of around twenty kilograms. At the moment the front bags and contents weigh around sixteen kilograms which is a lot less than we normally take when touring with ‘proper’ touring bikes.

My main worries for the trip are:
a) the Brompton derailleur breaking
b) our home made wheels failing
c) being unable to get the Schwalbe Marathon tyres off the Sun CR18 rims. Getting the tyres on is trivial with the Simson Tyre Mate (recommended purchase) but I managed to break the Var Tyre tool the first time I used it to remove a tyre.

Finger’s crossed, wish us luck (although “Hals- und Beinbruch” might be more appropriate). Here are the pictures:

16speed Brompton conversion

Rear view of my Brompton. Both bikes have two bar bag mounts and we will be using both of them. I fitted a rear rack to my bike, for two reasons:
1) it acts as a damper reducing high frequency buzzing from the rear wheel
2) The bike, when folded rolls better with a rack than without it

Front of Stan's Brompton showing the Brompt-o-lieb frame

The outer edge of the Brompt-o-lieb is just visible in the picture. Loaded with 16kg the bike is much more stable than with 10kg in a Brompton bag alone. The bags can be removed as a single unit with a little extra care and carried around without removing the Ortlieb bags.

The cockpit of Stan's 16 speed Brompton

View of the ‘cockpit’. There is plenty of knee room when cycling. Starting off takes a bit more care with positioning the pedals for the first down stroke. The handlebars are adjustable with a long allen key the lower sections can rotate upwards. In this position the bike still folds. I modified the handlebar stem using a rigid seat post rather than a sprung one as is more usual.

New location, same old blog

When I first installed WordPress I didn’t realise that I should put it in a sub folder in the blogs folder. The idea was that there would be a couple of blogs rather than just one. Having the blog in the blogs folder meant I’d either have to move the blog within the website or create another folder somewhere else.

The first step, to correct this error, was taken today. I have done a quick test of all links and everything seems to be working fine. Please let me know if you spot a broken link.

The 16 speed Brompton project is not dead, just resting. Damae’s Syncro interior is taking priority at the moment.