A Bit of Brompton Love

Bigger little wheels

Took myself off on an expedition today to the other side of town, to a fine and interesting area called Pigneto. Small, low dwellings that were occupied by railway workers line narrow streets and there’s a definite hipsterish vibe about the place. My purpose was to visit Zio Bici, a bike shop that specialises in Bromptons.1

I had decided finally to see if I could get hold of some larger little wheels for the rack, to make wheeling it folded easier, and I had run out of patience waiting for Decathlon to restock the skate wheels that lots of people recommend.

I’m glad I did.

For one thing, Andrea had the wheels in stock, and even suggested two different pairs, one genuine EZ-wheels the other a lighter and cheaper pair that would do perfectly well for the far end of the rack. He then proceeded to mount them for me, lavishing praise on my old bike which, he said, was in great condition. Mounting included drilling out the two holes at the end of the rack and quite a lot of fiddling to get the spacers right. It was a treat to sit and chat with someone who had turned his hobby into his work which, he said, was like a game for him. He also had great taste in music. Two more bromptonisti arrived, kvelled over my bike, and produced ice creams and cedro soda. If it weren’t quite such a slog, I could quite see visiting once every couple of weeks.

A great part of my joy came from seeing the love and respect afforded my bike, which I have had from new and have looked after as best as I can. We checked the frame number — 038097 — which suggests it was made in 1997. We also checked the tyres, and inflated them to around 100 psi. That seems awfully high, but it is within the manufacturer’s range and should help avoid pinch punctures on the monstrous potholes.

I had such a great visit, and the other great joy of the Brompton came into play in the 33°C heat of the afternoon. I folded it up, hopped on a bus and was delighted to be able to roll it easily the 100 m or so home without having to unfold and refold. A definite win.

Getting there

Route map

Rome’s bike paths are slowly improving, and both Google and OsmAnd will prefer those for you. I have a slight preference for OSM, but this trip revealed one definite problem: it can be very slow to respond, and often doesn’t tell you what the next move but one will be, so there were a few places where I either had to retrace or else get rerouted, especially problematic in Pigneto, which is a bit of a labyrinth.

Detail of route map

That said, Google Maps was even worse in that it wouldn’t talk to me at all though my hearing aids. OsmAnd does that without asking. I thought it might be something to do with Fitness focus mode being on, so fiddled a bit with that. No dice. Back home I see that Settings > Navigation has an option to Play voice over Bluetooth. Putting that on reveals another option: Play as Bluetooth phone call. WTF does that mean? In any case, I hope Google Maps will talk to me next time I go for a spin, so I can do a fairer comparison.2

While in Pigneto I took the opportunity to reward myself with lunch at Necci 1924, one of the landmark joints that was hip long before there were hipsters. I wonder how they’ll celebrate next year.

  1. There are other places that can deal with Bromptons, but the two I’ve tried don’t seem to stock parts, though they are always willing to help. 

  2. Before you suggest it, there is no way I am mounting my phone to my handbars to see where I’m going. 

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