So my wife Megan and I went for our 70km ride this morning. It was pouring with rain, but since we get so few opportunities to ride together we decided that we would ride regardless. It was wonderful! I am so proud of Megan - she rode very strong for the whole 70km! I think she is going to have a very comfortable 110km Argus ride in a few weeks time.
Today I decided to ride with her on Darth (Vader!) my Black M6L Brompton. It was great to have 6 gears instead of just the 3 gears on Doris. The bike was so comfortable. I realise that I am a little fitter than some riders and accustomed to doing longer rides in tougher terrain (sometimes more than a hundred km on dirt on my mountainbike), but this bike is just so easy to ride! It rolled up (and down) the hills around Cape Town. Shifting the gears does take a little getting used to. On my old Brompton I have to pedal backwards to change gears on the 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub. On this bike it seems that I don't need to pedal backwards, I just need to freewheel in order to change the 3 gears in the internal hub. Then, (for those who don't know) there are two sprokets externally mounted on the hub (as opossed to 1 on the M3L). The larger (upper) cog is naturally for higher cadence (easier gearing) while the smaller (lower) cog is for lower cadence and harder gears.
I changed gears in this way - imagine that you are riding up a steep hill (from the Lord Charles Hotel on the R44 up towards Steynsrust on the Stellenbosch road). You start in your hardest gear (i.e., lower cadence and highest speed) = 3rd gear in the hub, smaller cog at the back. I would call this 6th gear. As the hill gets steeper you change from the small external cog to the large external cog (left hand shifter). You are still in 3rd gear in the hub. This is 5th gear. Then to shift down you drop the internal gear from 3rd to 2nd in the hub using the right hand shifter (freewheeling), and shift from the large cog to the small cog using the left shifter (this is 4th gear)...
The challenge is that since you have to freewheel to shift the internal hub gears, but need to pedal forward to change the external cog gears, there is always a little space between your current gear and the gear you want to be in (e.g., 6th and 5th) where you are in the wrong gear.
Still, I got used to it quite quickly and was shifting up and down without any hassles. The gears are wonderfully spaced! My lowest gear (1st) is fine for the hills and climbs around Cape Town, and the highest gear (6th) is OK for most descents. If I was riding on my own I think I would have run out of top gears on my descents.
A few other things I noticed with the M6L is that the Brompton Green tires are very nice. They roll very smoothly, and as any seasoned cyclist will know - riding in the rain most frequently results in punctures (since you cannot see glass, nails, stones and other things that can cause punctures). These tires were bullet proof! Super!
So, all in all a great ride with my wife! A great ride on my Brompton.
If you're interested in seeing the Garmin data from this morning's ride take a look below.