coincidentally, conversation on today's sunday ride happened upon the possibilities that could conceivably be made available should our local bus company offer the ability to carry bicycles. a portion of the fleet consists of rather ageing single decker buses, with no apparent luggage space, and certainly nowehere to put a bicycle should the driver be kind enough to allow it on board on the first place. as we currently understand it, carriage of bicycles on islay's buses and post buses (even more unlikely, to be honest) is at the discretion of the driver. however, two optare buses do operate the two main islay routes and that is where hope may lie.
west coast motors operate an optare bus between the ferry terminal at kennacraig and the claonaig ferry slip for the arran ferry and, i believe to the east loch tarbet ferry. and these buses proudly display a large graphic on the side window proclaiming that bicycles are more than welcome. we might get ourselves to the point of bending the ear of the islay operator to do likewise in the coming months, but that is an aside to the current discussion. the opportunity to put a bike on a bus, might encourage more to take to the bicycle even if only for part of the daily journey.
bicycles are rather unwieldy objects: not for riding up and down hills, round corners, along busy streets, or out in the open countryside, but certainly when you no longer wish to ride them, and opt for an alternative mode of transport. why couldn't they fold? surely no bus driver would refuse a small package of steel and wheels?
the history of the brompton harks all the way back to 1973, when andrew ritchie grew tired of delivering house plants in a morris minor van, and started discussing the possibilities of creating a folding bicycle that would allow easy storage at home, place of business and any alternative transport method encountered in between the two. the idea of a folding bicycle was not new, as one of the inspirations to do it better came from the bickerton folder already in existence.
it's the brompton's method of folding that has effectively ensured not only its longevity, but its survival in the face of the competition, and its current popularity. brompton sent me a p3 model about a year ago, happily folded in a very small box, and because i hadn't been smart enough to watch the movie on their website, i spent rather a long time trying to unfold it in the wrong way. i figured that any folding bike essentially folded in half in the same way as a book: wrong.
as any self respecting brompton owner and enthusiast knows, the rear wheel folds under the frame, while the front wheel hinges about the headset and junction near the front to come alongside in the opposite direction. the handlebars fold down to the right and click into a bracket on the front fork. quite ingenious, and david henshaw's book describes in great detail how this method was developed and refined, along with all the trials and tribulations met through brompton's lengthy history.
mr henshaw was at least partly responsible for assisting the company establish its dealer network in the 90s, so he has plenty of first hand experience of the bicycle, as well as what would seem to be unfettered access to documents, drawings and photographs that record an illustrious and inventive career.
if there's a criticism, it's the dryness of the writing, which never seems to reach the point of enthusiasm, something that obviously pervades the emotions of the many owners throughout the world. however, the biggest obstacle to reading such an engaging story is the page layout; it may seem trivial and even churlish to criticise, but books are supposed to be easy to read, and the use of a closely spaced sans serif font surrounded by smaller margins than absolutely necessary, made it harder work than i'd hoped. and sadly, there seems no rhyme nor reason to the placement of photographs and illustrations. none of this can undermine the quality of the words themselves, but it's unfortunate that the same degree of attention to design hadn't been paid to the book layout as andrew ritchie did to his beloved folding bicycle.
this is likely a niche book inside a niche market, but if you've ever owned, thought of owning, or currently own a brompton bicycle, this would be a choice purchase, given that the back of the book gives details on maintenance, as well as the idiosyncratic variations on the original that have been developed by third party inventors and engineers.
great cover though.
'brompton bicycle' by david henshaw is available from cordee books at a cost of £11.95
posted sunday 21 february 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................