Bike-Train-Bike

brompton on the trainbrompton on the train part twoWes and daisy and my brompton

I had to go to Salisbury for work purposes today. Just to make it interesting, my car is due its MOT and is therefore off the road, so I had to bike from the village to Trowbridge to catch the train. The ride of choice was of course the Brompton. Unlike the good old days of the ‘guards van’, most rail operators in the UK won’t let you take your bike onboard the train without a reservation, even then it’s not certain you will get on the train with your bike, the conductor may still turn you away for any number of reasons. It’s a major bone of contention with cyclists, and a symptom of extreme short-sightedness in the rail operators (and indeed transport policy-makers). It would be fantastic to just get on the train with your bike without any hassle and head on to South Wales, The Cotswalds, Scotland, where-ever. I’d love to just load the bike onto the guard’s van, meeting up with other cyclists as they come and go from the train. It’s not some weird cycling utopian dream (like ‘why can’t everywhere be like Centre Parcs’), it’s how it used to be. I have fond memories of being in the guard’s van with my dad on the way to London. There was always a cat in a cage, a massive trunk, two tea chests and at least four cyclists at any one time. The floors were wooden and well-worn, planks moving about as the train bogies swung round the corners, alarming creaks and rattles coming from everywhere, great fun. Well those days are over, the idea of having to reserve a space for your bike, or not take it on certain services during certain peak times of day, seems to me to be the antithesis of what cycling represents; freedom and spontaneity in travel. So what can you do if you want to turn up unannounced on the train with your bike and still be allowed to take it on board? The answer is buy a folding bicycle. As far as I am aware all train operators allow them on board fully folded. In theory the bike should also be covered, but in the few years I’ve been taking the Brompton on trains I’ve never had any bother with my bike being uncovered, though I know others have.
Anyway, got up late, missed the first train, caught the second, had to wait at Westbury station for ages. On the Southampton train I stored the bike in the luggage/disabled area (I would have given the space up if anyone needed it) and relaxed for the 20 mins into Salisbury. Relaxed a bit too much, fell asleep, arrived grumpy and befuddled. Still Zoe, one of my colleagues in espace solutions LLP (websites:design:consultancy), soon cheered me up, firstly by giving me her dogs to look after while she dropped her girls off at nursery, and secondly by handing me a much needed cup of tea. I changed out of my enormous trousers into more suitable work attire, did a job of work, then after a nice little ride through town I caught the train back. I noticed that the clip holding the handlebars to the wheel when the bike is folded is starting to fail, leading to the handlebars unfolding when I pick it up. I know it’s possible to get a custom made clip so I’ll need to look into that, either that or make my own.

I decided to get off at Warminster and cycle back that way. Not sure why, I think I just prefer the A36 to the A361, not that there’s much in it really. Also, from warminster there was more downhill. It was spitting with rain, thankfully I’d just missed a downpour (about 0.25 inch of rain) and the ride back was pretty easy. I think that constitutes the longest single ride I’ve done on the Brompton, a mere eight or so miles. However, I did have the front bag loaded up with a laptop, my filofax, my notebook and a complete change of clothes.

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