Using a VPN to watch ITV content outside the UK

Those who follow me on Twitter (@markwilsonit) will probably be aware that I recently spent some time in mainland Europe – travelling through France, Germany and Switzerland with my family. You’ll probably also be aware that one of my hobbies is road cycling – and that I like to watch the highlights from the three Grand Tours (Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España) and from the Tour of Britain. With the Vuelta in full swing as my holiday started, I wanted to make sure I could still catch the highlights on ITV4!

Even with the new EU mobile roaming arrangements that mean I can use my mobile data allowance in other EU countries, I didn’t expect to be able to stream content reliably, so I took out a subscription to ITV Hub+, allowing me to download ITV programmes with the ITV Hub app (on Wi-Fi) and play back later, without ads. This worked brilliantly on the ferry to France but not so well once I was in my Paris hotel room, where the app detected I was outside the UK and denied access to content with a variety of error messages:

ITV Hub download error outside the UK ITV Hub download error outside the UK ITV Hub download error outside the UK

I was pretty annoyed – after all, there was no mention of UK-only coverage when I subscribed to the ITV Hub+ and the ITV website says:

“Where can I use a Hub+ subscription?

As long as you’re signed into your account, you’ll be able to use your Hub+ subscription almost anywhere. Watch ad-free telly on our website, download and catch up on the go on your mobile or tablet, or binge on your favourite shows with no interruptions on your Smart TV!”

but I did find the limitation in their troubleshooting guide later:

I am abroad and can’t watch videos
The ITV Hub is only available within the UK as we don’t hold international rights for all of our shows. If you’re lucky enough to be on holiday or you live abroad, you won’t be able to watch ITV Hub until you return to the UK”

After a bit of a rant on Twitter (no response from ITV, of course), I thought about using a VPN (and @JFDuncan suggested Plex).

Unfortunately, my own VPN back to my NAS didn’t work (on reflection, L2TP/IPSec was not the best choice of transport – as @GarryMartin pointed out when I originally set it up) and I was nervous about using a third party service until Justin Barker (@JustinBarker77) suggested TunnelBear:

Recommendations are always good. And TunnelBear seemed more legitimate than some of the sites I found…

At first, I didn’t have much luck – even after following TunnelBear’s troubleshooting advice for accessing content. 24 hours later though, something had cleared (maybe I had a different IP address, maybe it was something on my iPhone) and ITV Hub+ worked flawlessly over hotel Wi-Fi and a VPN back to the UK. I could download my cycling highlights for later playback and the VPN tunnel even seemed to improve the Holiday Inn Wi-Fi reliability – possibly due to QoS restrictions prioritising potential business traffic (VPN) over leisure (downloading videos)!

I did have some challenges with playback – so I put the iPhone into Airplane Mode before watching content, just in case the ITV Hub app detected I was outside the UK again, but each time I wanted to download over the next few days I enabled the VPN and all was good. I also subscribed to TunnelBear for a month’s worth of unlimited data allowance (I soon chewed through the 1GB I got for tweeting about the service!).

Hopefully, this information will help someone else who’s frustrated by paying for a download service and then finding it doesn’t work outside the UK…

Combining GPX files for Strava

This morning was spent on my bike… as was a fair chunk of this afternoon… as is a fair chunk of many summer weekends, much to Mrs W’s disappointment.

My friend Andy and I put in 60 miles in the sunshine, on a big loop around Milton Keynes. It seems my route planning is pretty spot on, as it was almost the exact opposite of a charity ride going the other way around (we passed the same riders twice!). Unfortunately, my ability to “press the start button on my Garmin cycle computer” is clearly less good – I was about a mile from home and heading out of town when I realised I’d forgotten to start tracking my ride!

My OCD can’t cope with this. It would be able to cope with turning around, going back up the hill, starting the computer and starting the ride again – but not with some missing kilometres in my ride data! Luckily, Andy was also riding with a Garmin bike computer. Even though he’d also forgotten to start his, he was wearing a Garmin watch too – so I could combine his data and mine (we’d ridden side by side for the first part of the ride…).

I’ve blogged before about GPS Track Editor, which is a fantastic piece of free software. Using this, I could edit Andy’s data to just the part I had missing, then combine it with mine and merge the two tracks (the short gap doesn’t matter – Strava will straight-line the route between the two points). I also tried merging the files with a tool from gotoes.org – unfortunately, that ended up with a ride that was effectively double the length of what we rode (two loops). it would probably have worked with my edited files but I could also merge them in the GPS Track Editor…

Combining tracks in GPS Track Editor

I then deleted the original (short) ride from Strava and re-uploaded. Sorted.

Just one thing to sort out – all of the PRs I got on today’s ride (and there were a few) were recorded as second places by the second upload. No worries – Strava has a “refresh my achievements” tool. which sorted out that particular issue. Now my ride has the complete distance… and my achievements are correct too…

Reducing the time taken for a Garmin Edge 25 to find a satellite signal

Regular readers will know that cycling is one of my hobbies (with my eldest son looking like he may follow in the same direction…).

I have a Garmin Edge 810 cycle computer to use on my big rides but for commutes (e.g. on the Brompton) I use a smaller unit – an Edge 25. The Edge 25 is a cracking little unit, with all the basic functionality I’d expect and Bluetooth connectivity, but one of the issues I’ve found is that it can be slow to pick up a GPS signal.

I think I may have made a breakthrough though, thanks to a comment in this review from Average Joe Cyclist:

“Satellite Acquisition on the Garmin Edge 25
The Garmin Edge 25 can connect to both GPS and GLONASS satellites. As it has more satellites to choose from, it can lock in faster. I know that Garmin Edge bike computers with only GPS can be frustratingly slow to lock in, so this is important. It was a very happy surprise to find GLONASS on such a relatively cheap bike computer as the Garmin Edge 25. This is obviously a huge selling point for this tiny bike computer.

Note: GPS and GLONASS are different kinds of satellite systems – the GPS was developed by the USA, and the GLONASS is Russian.”

Sure enough, I checked my settings and GLONASS was off. So I turned it on and limited testing suggests that it may now be faster to pick up a satellite. Time will tell, as will experience with the second Edge 25 that’s in the post for my son to use…

Some more reading suggests that using GLONASS and GPS together may affect battery life but could also improve accuracy. If satellite lock-in is still slow, then a master reset may be required. To reset the Edge 25:

  1. Power on the device whilst holding the two right-side buttons down.
  2. Release the top button when you hear the first beep.
  3. Release the bottom button when you hear the second beep.

Garmin Edge software version as viewed in Garmin ConnectI also upgraded the firmware (unfortunately breaking the rule of only changing one thing at a time when troubleshooting tech…) which got me thinking “what firmware did I have before?”. It seems the way to tell this is to view an activity in Garmin Connect, where the details of the device used to upload the data shown on the right-hand side.

Generating a GPX file for Strava after the tech let me down

This afternoon was glorious. The sun was shining and, even though it was a work day, the company I work for had arranged an afternoon out for staff at Cannock Chase (Go Ape). High ropes, Forest Segway, or Mountain biking activities were all available – right up my street!

I decided I’d like to Segway but I was in the second group (which meant waiting around for an hour or so), so I took a bike out for a little ride whilst I was waiting. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my Garmin with me and my iPhone’s attempts to capture my movements on Strava were woeful.

Shortly after setting off on “Follow The Dog“, I lost the rest of the group (whilst messing around with Strava!) and decided that I would rather come back and ride another day with my son than ride on my own and (potentially) miss the Segway opportunity. But I still wanted to capture the details of the (admittedly short) ride…

Generating a GPX file to upload to Strava is straightforward enough – I used Mapometer for that. Unfortunately though, Strava won’t allow GPX files without time information to be uploaded.

The workaround is to estimate some time data and insert it in the file – which is where the excellent Gotoes site helped! Goetoes has several utilities for Strava and Garmin Connect including:

  • Combining FIT, GPX or TCX files
  • Merging heart rate and position files (FIT/TCX)
  • A bookmarklet to export GPX from Garmin Connect
  • The ability to upload to Strava via email

and…

Using this with an estimate of my time, a known distance (so an estimated speed) and Gotoes’ ability to work out what my speed might have been at different points on the route came up with something approximate to put into Strava. I’ve hidden it from leaderboards – because it’s “fake data” – but it’s enough for me to track the distance and the fact I did go for a little bimble.

Strangely, the iPhone’s GPS performed OK for the Segway ride (which I’ve recorded as an eBike and alse hidden from leaderboards):

Turbo trainers, Zwift and other such things

A few weeks ago, with Summer turning to Autumn, the wind getting up and the sun going down, my thoughts turned to Winter cycling.  I’ve been considering getting a turbo trainer for a while now and I originally ordered a Jet Black Z1 Fluid Pro until I saw a smart trainer on offer at Wiggle for about £85 more than the “dumb” fluid trainer I was going to get… added to which I got nearly a tenner’s cashback via TopCashback

Bianchi C2C Via Nirone mounted on Tacx Vortex smart trainer wit Zwift running on a Windows PCThe trainer I’ve gone for is a Tacx Vortex and it’s proved pretty easy to set up.  Ideally I’d use a spare wheel with a trainer tyre but I don’t have one and my tyres are already looking a bit worn – I may change them when the bike comes out again in the spring, meaning I can afford to wear them out on the trainer first!  All I had to do was swap out my quick release skewer for the one that comes with the trainer and my bike was easily mounted.

Calibration was a simple case of using the Tacx Utility app on my iPhone – which finds the trainer via Bluetooth and can also be used for firmware upgrades (it’s available for Android too). All you have to do is cycle up to a given speed and away you go!

I found that the Tacx Utility would always locate my trainer but the Tacx Cycling app was less reliable. Ultimately that’s not a problem because I use the Zwift virtual cycling platform (more on that in a moment) and the Zwift Mobile Link app will allow the PC to find my trainer via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.  There is one gotcha though – on the second time I used the trainer I spent a considerable time trying to get things working with Zwift. In the end I found that:

  • The Tacx apps couldn’t be running at the same time as Zwift Mobile Link.
  • My phone had a tendency to roam onto another Wi-Fi network (the phone and the PC have to be on the same network for the mobile link to work).
  • My Bose Soundlink Mini II speakers were also interfering with the Bluetooth connection so if I wanted to listen to music whilst cycling then a cable was needed!

I’m guessing that none of this would be an issue if I switched to ANT+ – as my Garmin Edge 810 does. The trick when using the Garmin is to go into the bike profile and look for sensors.  Just remember to turn GPS off when using it on a stationary bike (or else no distance is recorded). Also, remember that:

“[…] when doing an indoor activity or when using devices that do not have GPS capability, the [Garmin Speed and Cadence Sensor] will need to be calibrated manually by entering a custom wheel size within the bike profile to provide accurate speed and distance.” [Garmin Support]

[Related reading: Bike wheel circumference and its effect on recorded distance]

And, talking of ANT+ – one thing I couldn’t work out before I bought my trainer was whether I needed to buy an ANT+ dongle for Zwift? Well, the answer is “No”! as the Zwift Mobile Link app works beautifully as a bridge on my trainer – it’s worth checking out the Zwift website to see which trainers work with the platform though (and any other gear that may be required).

I’ll probably write another post about Zwift but, for now, check out:

In the meantime, it’s worth mentioning that I started out riding on a 14 day/50km trial. I was about to switch to a paid subscription but I found out Strava Premium members get 2 months’ Zwift free* and, as that’s half the price of Zwift, I’ve upgraded my Strava for a couple of months instead!

So, with the trainer set up in the garage (though it’s easy to pop the bike off it if we do have some winter sunshine), I can keep my miles up through the Winter, which should make the training much, much easier in the Spring – that’s the idea anyway!

*It now looks as though the Strava Premium-Zwift offer has now been limited to just November and December 2016 – though I’m sure it will come around again!

Bike wheel circumference and its effect on recorded distance

A few months back, I rode the Prudential London-Surrey Ride 100. That’s a 100-mile sportive, except that my Garmin recorded the route as 155.9km, or 96.871769 miles. Somewhere it seems I missed about 5 km/3 miles… or maybe I just cut all the corners!

Well, even though I was using GPS, I may tonight have found something that might account for a little bit of that variation – it seems my Garmin cycle computer was set to the wrong wheel circumference. Not wildly out but about 0.8%, which won’t help.

The Edge 810 software has options within a bike profile for both manual and automatic wheel size adjustment.  For my Bianchi C2C profile, it was set to automatic and had decided that my wheel circumference was 2088mm, probably when I originally paired my speed/cadence sensor as, according to the Garmin website:

“Wheel size is automatically calculated when a Garmin Speed/Cadence Bike Sensor (GSC 10) is paired to a GPS-enabled device”

With 700x23C tyres fitted, it should actually be closer to 2096mm (which seemed to be the default when I switched to a manual setting, or maybe that’s what I had originally entered before it was overridden by the software?) but I switched to 700x25C tyres about a year ago which will have a circumference of around 2105mm according to this table (and this one).

For completeness, I checked the profiles for my mountain bikes too – they both showed an automatic wheel size of 0mm (so presumably get their distance from GPS) but have now been changed to 2075 for 26×2.20″ and 2037 for 26×1.85″ (defaults seemed to be 2050).

As for the rest of the difference – well, tyre pressures are a factor – as is the weight of the rider. One school of thought says you should put some paint or water on your tyre, ride along and then measure the gaps between the dots. That assumes you ride in a straight line and that the other factors (weight, tyre pressure, etc.) remain constant between rides.

If the organisers said it’s a hundred miles, then I’ll go with that. Hopefully now I’ve amended the wheel circumference that will help a bit in future though.

Tracking spin classes with a Garmin; and some thoughts on cycle sportives

So, as I hit the half-way point in an 8-week block of 90 minute Endurance Spin classes with Jason Martindale (@martindale72) – and with the nights drawing in and winter weather making road cycling less attractive – it’s time to start planning my winter training schedule.

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a turbo-trainer for a while, and I’ve just ordered a Jet Black Z1 Fluid Pro though UK stock seems to be hard to track down. I’ll also be giving Zwift a try (though I may have to wait for the iOS version to ship as I don’t have any spare PCs with a suitable spec that I can move to the garage, where the bike and turbo will be).

In the meantime, I thought I’d write a bit about my experience of using my Garmin Edge 810 in spin sessions…

Spinning with Garmin

Riding on a spin bike means there’s no speed/cadence recording – and being stationary in a spin studio means there’s no distance – but I still log my workouts on Strava (if only to keep a training record). I can still record my heart rate though (which remains stubbornly low – even if I think I’m working hard). I’ve set up new bike and activity profiles in the Garmin and then all it needs is for me to remember to turn off the GPS in the System Settings before starting the workout.

The end result looks something like this:

So, what’s the point of all this training? Apart from general fitness, I don’t want to have to go back to zero again when I get my bike out of the garage next spring and I like to fit a couple of sportives in each year, which leads me onto some more ramblings…

Some thoughts on the big closed road sportives

This year I rode the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 again (this time it wasn’t cut short for me – though many riders had their ride massively reduced due to delays). The verdict: too many people; too much variety in capabilities; too dangerous; won’t be riding this one again (I had more fun in the Ride Staffs 68 earlier in the summer).

The trouble with Ride London (apart from the ballot system and the having to make a separate trip to London to pick up the registration pack) is that it’s just too popular. “How can a sportive be too popular?”, you may ask.

Well 27,000 riders is a lot of people and although the organisers try to set people off according to ability, some overestimate their skills (and crash – even though 33 injuries from that many riders is a pretty good ratio, 33 is still too many); others clearly didn’t read the rider pack and ride in the middle or on the right side of the road, making it difficult to pass safely; and others chain-gang through in mini-peletons as if they are a professional team. That mix makes things dangerous. Coming off some of the hills I was having to shout “coming through on the right” to get slower riders to move left (the bicycling equivalent of a motorway, with everyone driving in  the middle lane, the left lane empty, and lane 3 backing up…). And in one place I came to a dead halt because but then I got marooned on the wrong side of the road at the bottom of an incline and needed to wait for a gap to cross back to the left of the road as a steady stream of 30-40mph riders came off the hill I’d just come down.  Yes, the public whose neighbourhoods we rode through were great, and the atmosphere riding on closed roads through central London is epic, but on balance it was a pain to get to and a long day that could have been more enjoyable than it was.

I hit my goal of riding the full route in under 6 hours, according to Strava rather than the official time (with stops for accidents, etc.) so I feel I’ve done London now. Someone else can have the place next year…

I could do the Tour of Cambridgeshire again, but last time I did that (in 2015) it took nearly an hour to get over the start line and I missed the cutoff for the full route (though riding at a decent pace) – which kind of put me off that event…

So, 2017 will see me riding Vélo Birmingham, a new closed road sportive, with just 15,000 riders. Many people seem to be put off by the price but the way I see it is:

  • Staging events (particularly on closed roads) have an associated cost.
  • Ride London-Surrey is an example of what happens if you have too many people.
  • Reducing the number of riders by 40% is bound to mean each entrant has to pay more…

So what’s next on my bucket list. Well John O’Groats to Lands End for sure – but that’s probably a few years away. The near future’s more likely to include London Revolution (though I can’t make the 2017 dates), England Coast to Coast (possibly in a day, though more likely over a couple) and then maybe Wales in a Day (I’ll need to build up to that).

Cyclist abuse

Today, the phrase “Jeremy Vine” is trending on Twitter after the BBC presenter published a video of the abuse he allegedly suffered at the hands of a motorist who didn’t like the way he cycled through West London:

To be fair, Mr Vine does appear to have stopped his bike and blocked the road when he could simply have pulled over as the road widened but the tirade of verbal (and it seems physical) abuse poured on him was totally unreasonable. Sadly, this kind of behaviour is not unusual, though most of us are not prominent journalists with a good network of media contacts to help highlight the issue:

[In addition to driving an average of around 25,000 miles a year for the last 27 years)] I regularly cycle – road, mountain and commuting – and, whilst it should be noted I see a fair amount of cyclist-induced stupidity too, Jeremy Vine’s incident is not an isolated one.  Just this weekend:

  • I was cycling downhill in the town where we live, following my son at around 28mph (in a 30mph limit) when an impatient Audi driver decided to squeeze into the gap between Father and Son, and then tailgate my 11yo as he rode along. My son pulled over when it was safe to do so but he was scared – and there was no justification for the driver’s actions.
  • Then, whilst out with a small group yesterday morning, the driver of a Nissan Qashqai tore past sounding a long blast on his horn (presumably in protest that two of the three of us were riding side by side – which is perfectly acceptable, especially as this was not a narrow road). That kind of behaviour is pretty normal, as pretty much any road cyclist will attest…
  • Finally, whilst turning left, a motorist overtook me, on the junction itself, leaving around 18 inches to ride in between his car and the kerb, rather than follow the highway code ruling to “give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”. I called out and was actually forced to use his car to steady myself. As he drove off, the usual hand signals were observed, along with some unintelligable expletives (from the driver, not me – I was in shock).

All of this in around 24 hours – and against a landscape where there are far more cyclists on UK roads (so motorists are more aware of us)…

Maybe it was all just a bit of Bank Holiday summer madness…

Reflecting on riding the #RideStaffs 68-mile sportive

Back in 2013, when I bought my first road bike since the “racer” of my teens, the first sportive I took part in was the Tour [of Britain] Ride in Staffordshire – setting out from Stoke-on-Trent. Now I work for a Stafford-based IT services company and when I heard we were sponsoring the Staffordshire Cycling Festival (@RideStaffs) it gave me a chance to a return visit, although a little further south this time!

(Ironically, the Tour Ride has moved to my home county of Northamptonshire this year… but I can’t make it.)

So, last Sunday, blessed with some summer sunshine (at last!) I rocked up at Shugborough Hall wearing my risual orange jersey, the only one of the team joining the 68 mile sportive (though quite a few of the guys took part in the 22 miler).

With rolling hills from the off, at Milford we took a sharp left and then Bang! we hit the climb up onto Cannock Chase. The first 30 minutes were slow, grinding my way up onto the Chase until we turned left on Brindley Heath and headed down towards Rugeley. I’d just got going at full speed (hitting just over 60kph) when I realised I needed to take a left turn half way down a hill and grabbed the brakes hard – no discs on my road bike! I managed to scrub off speed and make the turn, then hooked onto the back of a small peloton with 2 other riders down towards Rugeley. After taking turns for a while, we hit the A51 and missed the route sign – but it seemed wrong to be heading west so quickly and, as we were heading back towards Shugborough, I turned around and retraced my steps, picking up the correct route again a mile back down the road and passing my hotel from the previous night!

The next section took in mostly flat roads near Lichfield and Alrewas, nipping over the border into Derbyshire before turning over the River Trent and up to the first stop at Barton-under-Needwood. After taking on water and flapjack I started chatting with the owners of two beautifully restored 1970s Colnagos with glorious etching and chromework, one of whom even had a traditional wool jersey, cap (no helmets in the ’70s I guess) and leather saddle bag!

Despite my slow start, I’d averaged over 27kph but realised why as we set off again towards Uttoxeter – turning into the wind that had previously been helping me along (though Hanbury Bank offered a welcome break) . To make matters worse my bike seemed to be grinding from the bottom bracket… time to see Kev at Olney Bikes again for repairs…

After another stop in Uttoxeter (where one rider was conducting the town band – he later told me they split over “musical differences”!) we set off again over some undulating terrain towards the last major climb at Sandon (and what a killer that was).

I skipped the final stop (it was only for water and was carrying plenty of fluids) and pushed on with a large group riding into Stafford – past the Technology Park where our offices are – but was dropped again as we turned left up past the University. From there it was a steady ride on into Shugborough… ending slightly-extended 68 mile ride!

As I crossed the line, I was handed my goody bag musette style, including a variety of items but most importantly a beer token!  My official time was a respectable 5 hours 8 minutes, but Strava told me I’d only been moving for 4 hours and 39, climbing 1235 metres in the process.

Even though I’d missed the rest of the risual riders (the 22 mile sportive set off later and obviously got back sooner!) I stuck around for a while to watch some of the Tour de France coverage and got some lunch from the wood fired pizza stand (a long wait but nice pizza), before heading home… wishing I hadn’t picked a sportive quite so far away!

All in all, it was a fantastic day – and I was very lucky with the weather. Paul at Leadout Cycling organised a great event and I hope to make it back another year. It was also a timely reminder that, even without heading up onto the North Staffordshire Moorlands, there are still plenty of hills around Staffordshire and that my normal routes around South Northants, North Bucks and Beds are relatively flat by comparison…

…as well as that it’s just 4 more weeks until my next sportive – 100 miles from London to Surrey and back again (hopefully not cut short this year)!

Adventures on a Brompton bike: my first London commute

Those who know me well know that I have a collection of bikes in my garage. Fans of the Velominati will be familiar with rule #12, which states:

“Rule #12: The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.”

So, it was with great delight that I recently persuaded my wife it would be a great idea for me to buy a new bike. Maybe not the super-light road bike that I might like (I need a super-light Mark before that makes sense anyway) but a commuter. A folding bike to take on the train. A Brompton.

My employer doesn’t take part in a Cycle to Work scheme and Bromptons are pretty pricey (so saving the tax would make a big difference) but I did my research and snapped up a second-hand example with “only 100 miles on the clock” on eBay (checking first to see if it was reported as stolen, of course!). So, on Monday, I was very excited to return home from work to find that my “new” bike (bike number four) had arrived.

For those familiar with Brompton specs, It’s an M3L. I’d like an S6L or S6R but this will do very nicely instead. (If you don’t know what that means, there’s a useful configurator on the Brompton website.)

Yesterday was my first trip to London with the Brommie, so how did it go?

Look out!

Well, my hi-vis purchases from Wiggle haven’t arrived yet and it’s a good idea to be brightly coloured. Nipping up the inside of large vehicles is a very bad idea that’s likely to get you killed but, if you’re confident in traffic, the Brompton is responsive and handles remarkably well.

The biggest problem I had was whilst riding off the end of a bus lane, when a motorist decided that was his (perfectly legal) cue to change lanes in front of me but clearly hadn’t seen me coming. My bell is pretty pathetic for warning car drivers (even with open windows) but my shout of “look out!” worked better. As did my brakes, hastily applied as I brought the Brompton to a skid stop a few inches from the door of the car (don’t tell Mrs W…). No harm done so off we rode/drove. I might invest in an air horn though…

London roads

In common with the rest of the UK, London’s roads are poorly surfaced in places and pretty congested at times. But there are plenty of cycle lanes in central London – including the ability to ride through roads that are closed to motorised traffic (sometimes contra-flow). My normal walking route from Euston to Whitehall through Bloomsbury and Seven Dials worked really well but the reverse was less straightforward. I’ve also ordered some free cycle route maps from Transport for London, so I’ll see if they inspire some nifty short-cuts.

I know some people are critical of the system with painted bike lanes being far less satisfactory than dedicated infrastructure but this is Britain and there’s not a lot of space to share between different types of road user! Even so, with bikes becoming more and more common, I’m sure that motorists are more used to cyclists sharing the road (I have some experience on “Boris Bikes” in London too, prior to buying my Brompton bike).

Folding, carrying, etc.

Watch any experienced Brompton bike user and they fold/unfold their bike in seconds. I currently take a bit more time… though by the end of the day I was starting to get the hang of it! There’s advice on the website (as well as in the manual).  I have to admit it’s a bit heavy to lug around (up stairs, etc.) and I felt like I was Ian Fletcher in an episode of W1A as I walked into the lift but that’s OK. And joking about my cycling attire (I was only wearing a helmet but that didn’t stop the lycra jokes) amused my colleagues and customer!

Sweaty

Clothing could be an issue. I was wearing a suit, with a rucksack on my back to hold my laptop etc. and my coat. That turned out to be a bad idea. I was dripping wet when I got to work… so I’ll need a different luggage solution and maybe a change of clothes (or I may need to see if I can get away without the suit, or at least the jacket…)

Suspension

Next up, the suspension. My Brompton arrived with the standard suspension block but Brompton recommend the firm version for those over 80kg or “who cycle more aggressively and are prepared to sacrifice some comfort”! So, at lunchtime I headed over to Brompton Junction to get a replacement suspension block of the firm variety (the store bike mechanic told me that even lighter people need it as the standard is just too soft). I also picked up a pump as it was missing from my bike (some retailers fit one as standard but maybe not all do) and took a look at some luggage. Expensive but nice. After mulling it over all day, I’ve ordered a waxed cotton shoulder bag which should be in my local branch of Evans Cycles (together with the front carrier block) for collection tomorrow…

So was it worth it?

I live 12 miles from the local railway station, which would be a bit far on a Brompton (it takes 45 mins on a road bike) so I’ll still be driving that part of my journey. Once off the train though, using the bike instead of walking cut my London travel down from about 45 minutes each way to around 15. So saving 30 minutes, twice a day (on the days when I’m in town) gives me back an hour in my day (if I avoid the temptation to use it for work…) – together with more exercise. And I can use the bike and take the train to the office in Stafford now instead of a 200-mile round trip (catching up with some work, reading, or even some sleep on the train). Sounds like a result to me.