A ride up Lipe Hill

One of the good things about the Brompton is that it gives me a much better choices of places to go during my lunch hour compared with just going for a walk.

Lipe hill is little more than a mile from the edge of Taunton and at 85 metres above sea level it offers fantastic views towards the Quantock Hills to the South and the Brendon Hills to the West.

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The narrow lane leading to Lipe Hill goes from Comeytrowe for just over 2 miles and rejoins the A38 at the crossroads by the “World’s End” pub.    The lane is so narrow in places that if I were to meet a car going the other way it would be difficult to pass even on my Brompton, but luckily there was only one other vehicle I encountered and it was going the same way.

Luckily my Brompton has 6 gears, being the “M6R” model so the steep hills could be taken in a low gear without difficulty.    As it is a hub gear you have to stop pedalling while changing gear, so it pays to plan ahead and change down before the hill gets too steep.

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Putting the Bromptons through their paces

I’m hoping to try the Bristol & Bath cycle path, but a more local version is the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal.  The weather was forecast to be pretty dire, so waterproofs were the order of the day, although the weather was not as bad as foretasted.

The plan was to cycle from Taunton as far as the canalside “Boat & Anchor” pub near North Petherton and then cycle on to Bridgwater station and catch the hourly “sprinter” service back to Taunton.

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However once we had consumed some decent Butcombe Ale at the Boat & Anchor it was decided that we may as well cycle back to Taunton rather than catch the train.

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Quite a lot of the path has a reasonable surface but there was a section just west of Cogload Junction that had been recently resurfaced (as shown below) and the newly laid gravel was still quite loose.   This made cycling quite a lot of hard work and meant that the speed had to be kept low as the loose gravel can affect the Brompton’s steering, so speed was more like 5mph for this bit instead of the typical 10mph speed for the rest of the path.    A mountain bike could have gone faster but I did not want to damage the week old Bromptons by thrashing them over the path.

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I did not see any other Bromptons on the path, but another group of cyclists seemed surprised when they said “Hey a Brompton!!” as they passed.

Brompton M6R

After hiring a Brompton M3L from the Brompton Dock in Exeter for a week, I’m very impressed with the quality of the Brompton so decided to take the plunge and get a Brompton M6R.

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The 3 gear bike works well, but in rural Somerset there are a lot of steep hills, so I thought it would be safer to go with the 6 speed option.

After docking my hire bike at Exeter St Davids station I went to the “Bike Shed” in Exeter where I was assisted by a helpful member of staff called Keith.

They had quite a few Bromptons in stock and I did not really want to keep hiring Bromptons for the 3 months it takes to custom build to order.   As my partner was also hiring one it was costing £150 per month to hire 2 bikes, so this could have added up to £450 worth of hire charges.

At first Keith thought there were 3 M6R models in stock, but luckily it was noticed that one of these had a longer handlebar stem so it was actually a H6R rather than an M6R – I assume that the “H” stands for “High Bars”!   They look very similar as the M bars and the H bars are the same shape, just different heights.   The S bars are very different being a simple “T” shape and the P bars are also distinctive and remind me of the bars on exercise bikes at the gym.

The end result was that we departed from Exeter with 2 M6R Bromptons, one in Arctic Blue (frame plus extremities) and the other with a Hot Pink Frame and White extremities.

The “R” suffix stands for “Rack” and the advantage of a rack is that the bike is much more stable when folded as instead of resting on the dinky little wheel on the mudguard it is properly supported by the rack.  I’m thinking of getting “easy wheels” so the bike can be wheeled around easily when folded as the 4 small rack wheels would not allow rolling easily over any distance more than a few yards.

I’d imagine the rack would be handy for longer trips when more luggage room is needed than just the front mounted bag alone, using the “rack sack” bag.   I chose a “C” bag which looks like a messenger bag in style and it works really well, having 2 rear pockets which each take a large water bottle, and it has a large front pocket as well as the main bag itself.    The bag attaches to the bike frame rather than the bars so steering is not affected as it would be with a traditional “bar bag” on a conventional bike.

The bikes luckily both came with Schwalbe Marathon tyres as these offer more puncture resistance than the standard Brompton Kevlar tyres.    As I cycle along quite a few country lanes it makes sense to go with the Marathons, especially with the danger of those dreaded hedge clippings in the road!

I’d thought about getting the dynamo hub but Keith explained that a lot of people use battery lights as you are not adding weight to the bike for something that is only used some of the time, so I got some compact but very bright cateye lights instead (Cateye EL-UNO Front and Rapid 3 Rear Light Set).   I’d imagine the dynamo option would be for bespoke order only as well as it adds quite a bit to the base M6R price.