Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Horsing Around with Brompton Foam Grips

Brompton Foam Grips in White
After nearly two years of owning my Brompton folding bike, I am finally about to replace one of its parts due to wear and tear. To be fair, the components have all held up well so far, in all-weather conditions in New England and Ireland. But I am saddened to report that the foam grips have failed to stand up to the rigours of rural life. The cause of the damage? A horse. Of course. 

Mmm Delicious
Propping my bike against a farm fence a couple of days ago, I walked away a short distance to take some photos of the landscape. When I noticed the chubby creature making its way across the field toward it, I thought it was cute at first. She seemed so curious, making a beeline for the bike on her dimunitive legs with a brisk shuffle and an air of determination. And I thought it was cuter still when she got up close and personal and began sniffing the handlebars. At least that's what I thought she was doing. Alas, when I reached the bike I saw the situation was quite otherwise: A good chunk of the right grip had been chewn off. 

Taken aback by such brazen impertinence, all I could do at first was rebuke her. "Pony, how could you?!" 

In response to this, she glanced up at me with an expression of feigned innocence, all the while continuing to gnaw industriously. By the time I gained the presence of mind to yank my bike away, the grip was but a mangled mess of foam. Pedaling away, I shook my finger at the treacherous Shetland and wondered whether Brompton sold replacement spares.

Muddy Yard
Here I will backtrack to explain that I never imagined I'd be keeping the flimsy-seeming foam grips that originally came with my Brompton. In fact, I thought they'd be the first thing to go as I'd inevitably proceed to customise the bike. I considered ergo grips with extensions to allow for more hand positions. I considered leather grips in a caramel-brown colour to match my saddle. I considered colourful hard-rubber grips to add some firmness and zing to the so-called cockpit. But in the end I never bothered altering this bicycle in any way at all, and, like everything else on it, the original grips remained - proving perfectly comfortable just as they were. It just so happened they were the ideal size for my hands. And the foam itself was of a good consistency - cushy enough to absorb road shock, but not so cushy as to be too soft. I wasn't a fan of the drab gray colour, but this alone was not enough to make me forsake their comfort. And so the grips stayed and I grew to love them all the more - now wanting nothing but an identical replacement to the pony-ravaged one.

Brompton Foam Grips in White
When I turned to Brompton for guidance, they informed me that they now sell replacement foam grips in their online shop. Not only that, but these grips now come in a selection of nice colours. Well then! In my excitement, I almost bought the overpriced little gems in red. But then my boring neutrals-loving side took over, and ultimately I went with the white - as an homage to the vintage 3-speed folders of yore.  

Brompton Foam Grips in White
Impressively, the grips arrived to my remote Northern Ireland abode in 2 days. And soon I was fondling their milky-white foaminess in anticipation of mounting them upon the handlebars.

Brompton Foam Grips in White
But as I held them up to my old grips, I noticed something alarming: They were not quite the same. The consistency of the foam feels similar enough to the touch, but the replacement grips lack the curvature of the originals - namely, they're missing that middle bump around which the palm of my hand wraps so comfortably. Would holding these new grips feel the same, and dare I risk finding out? 

As I contemplate this important question, I continue to cycle with my old grips for now, my right hand feeling the shredded texture through my glove. As I pedal past the shameless equine responsible for the deed, I shoot her what I hope comes across as a meaningful glance. But indifferent to my troubles, she merely shakes her head and makes a noise which is almost certainly a giggle. 

45 comments:

  1. I bought a Brompton 11 months ago. I have changed nothing on mine as well. Strange, considering all my other bikes were built up piece by piece to suit my individual tastes. Like you mentioned, I thought for sure the foam grips would be the first thing to go. But there is something about that middle bump that is very pleasing to the touch and comfortable on extended rides. I completely understand your dilemma.

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  2. I'm wondering if it would work to wind something around the middle of the handlebars first before putting the grips on, so as to give it that bump in the middle?

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    1. I considered that, but it would change the firmness of the bump.

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  3. Brompton is staffed by thoughtful engineers; the desire to replace everything due to whims is diminished.

    White is the worst possible color for grips, it's main appeal virginal whiteness. You'll find out after a couple of rain rides.

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    1. I was hoping the same thoughtful engineers might have made the white grips magically dirt resistant? Will report back.

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  4. Next time, bring apples! :) Brompton & Pony Flickr group? http://www.flickr.com/photos/travelling_two/6337615715/

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  5. We have Ergon grips on our Bromptons (x2) and like them a lot. They are, however, probably not pony-proof. What is?

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  6. I bought a 2012 M6L. The first thing to change was the grips; then the brake levers; then the saddle; then the bottom bracket and crank; then the pedals; then I gave it to my daughter. She likes it just fine.

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  7. I have Ergon cork grips on my brompton -- BTW, I am just taking it in for its first tune up (Yep, I'm bad). I bought it in January 2012.

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    1. My gears have needed adjustment a couple of times and the chain has been cleaned/oiled, but that's the only tuning that's been done on mine so far.

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  8. Look down the inside of the new grips. Is the inside diameter wall straight, or does it have a convex curve end to end?

    I'm thinking that the new grips will get a 'belly" similar to the originals when you mount them on the bars.

    Shetland Ponies have a wide 'because eff you" streak.
    My childhood featured one such irascible creature.
    Ah, Spot.
    By comparison, my grandfather's 1/2 Arabian/ 1/2 American Quarter Horse was a paragon of rectitude and gentility.

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    1. The inside feels straight to me, but the belly development theory is an intriguing one.

      There are lots of Shetlands hanging about these parts, which makes me wonder what they are for. As far as I know, these little ponies are no longer used for farm work - but it is rare to keep animals frivolously or as pets here. So maybe they do help out after all.

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  9. Chewn! Velouria, you made up a word. Join the club of the select few, including Lewis Carroll and Hugh Laurie (chortle and vorpal [inter alia] in the case of the former, and spoffle the latter). By the way, a spoffle is a popshield for a microphone. I notice you spell "rigours" with a "u" in the opening paragraph. Looks like Northern Ireland is working its way into your very soul. Vorsicht!

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    1. I was gonna call out the invention of "chewn", but I figured I'd scan the comments first. Sure enough, someone beat me to it.

      Velouria has long used the Brit spellings of most words for which there is a Brit-specific variant available. Got little to do with Ireland, I suspect.

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    2. I originally learned English the British way, then moved around enough times to turn my spelling into a messy Anglo-American hybrid, with German and Slavic influences thrown in for good measure. Not sure to what extent that explains "chewn," but hey - it felt right.

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  10. I'll bet the pony was attracted to the sweat/salt imbedded in your foam handles.
    -Anne K.

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  11. That will teach you! You should have stuck with that precious Border Collie. He/she would never have done such damage to your beloved Bompton. In fact, a working dog like that would have protected your bike from any possible vandalism! (insert big smile)

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  12. Most of the Shetland ponie's I've heard about are nippers. They'll bite anything they can. They are cute, though.

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  13. The wonderful thing about foam is that it molds to your grip....get over it. In time you'll forget all about this minor change. And don't blame the horse!

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  14. Interesting dilemma. The underlying M bars are straight too from photos online. From looking at our new 2013 M3L, the grips on seem the same as your replacement ones, no curve but straight. Brompton must have changed the design. A very different story for my 1998 L5 still with its original plastic grips, which some I may have to put shorter life foam ones. Brompton are always changing things over the years. Clear difference exist between

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  15. PS sjs cycles.co.uk, where I bought my original Brompton and have recently got a number of part to retrofit, appear to have curved ones (going by photos anyway).

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  16. I have a M3L in raw laquer and I put on the Ergon GP1 BioKork grips: http://www.ergon-bike.com/us/en/product/gp1-biokork. They look great on the bike, especially with the Brooks saddle, and are super comfortable as well.

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  17. Those are some very long finger nails and socks!

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  18. I got the Yellow Brompton grips back in February when I had to send BumbleB back for a warranty claim (cracked rear frame no biggy) and Brompton upgraded the grips. I was never a fan of the original foam grips but I have to say I liked the new foam ones for a good 6 months or so.

    Only thing is that with the light colour they get dirty QUICK. In the end I changed and got the Grip Rings in black and yellow ;)

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    1. Oh wow, Brompton Bumble B! I am honoured by your visit.

      What happened to crack the rear frame?..

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  19. Yep Ergons here on my S bar. Std brompton grips no better than pipe lagging.

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  20. Some unidentifiable rodent scarred my lovely Ideale saddle, love bites .

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  21. First, the grips, you can take emorycloth or plumbers sanding strips and make those grips any contour you want. Just put them on and with a firm shoe-shine type scrubbing you can do what MTB Racers and BMX slackers have been doing for a generation. If you use clean strips and are careful (do a bit at a time) it comes out looking factory.

    Now, the Pony.

    Ponies are not nice, they are bullies, grifters and the worst kind of opportunists you'll ever have the misfortune to meet. We were "gifted" with 2 of the nasty buggers by some friend of a friend of my Mom's when I was about 8 or 9, the deal was that since we had a few acres of fenced scrub, they would leave them with us for a couple of weeks and when they came to get them they'd pay my sister and me for taking care of them(Gee Mister! $20?! That would be swell!). Alas, some misfortune must have befallen the FOF as he never returned.

    Franny and Flaxie were absolutely adorable from about 10 yards, eternally juvenile looking and with that tousled mop of mane and tail that made you want to just squeeze them and love on them till you passed out. Buuut, when you got closer they had more of the middle-aged streetwalker about them. Many's the time I was out in the pasture goofing off and Franny would just appear behind me and whisper, "Don't turn around, gimme your watch". and then bite me in the back when she realized I still didn't own a watch.

    Flaxie was the one who would be all sweet and persuasive, "C'mon, let's go for a ride! Just you and me sweety, out along the road..." And as soon as you closed the gate and untied the reins she would bolt for town, trying to scrape you off under every low branch, against any barbwire fence, whatever. She got me 29 stitches the first day of summer vacation the year I was 10. I think she was hoping to find somewhere they'd sell her beer.

    I always wanted them to be my friends you know, to be able to go chasing sunsets and rainbows and tell them my secrets while staring up at the clouds from their back while they quietly munched daisies... Never happened. They were both just like that girl in 8th grade that one day asks you to be her boyfriend and then on the walk home tells you to go steal her some smokes if you want to go home with her and make out.

    We kept them for 8 or 9 years before we passed them along to some people from church with a little land a daughter who "Just loves her some Pony".

    I wonder how that all worked out.

    Spindizzy

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    1. Thank heavens I read this in time before money exchanged hands for a similar "watch my ponies" arrangement!

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  22. Hah. Ours was shred between my two cousins, my brother and me, and kept at the grandparents' spread
    along with grandpa's hunting trained Arabian/quarter stallion and grandma's Appaloosa. That horse was gentle and sweet, the stallion was high spirited and a truly skilled branch-wiper with a sense of humor, but only Spot the Shetland would bite three kids in a row and then wipe the fourth off on barbed-wire. No one put up a single word of protest when my grandparents sold him on to a neighbor when I was in my early teens.

    I swear, that cute little horse used walk up and nip roosters.

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  23. This post is kinda funny because with all your expertise in bicycles now, and being an insider and all, it's also clear you haven't been riding enough to really wear out stuff and have to constantly replace components/parts. Growing used to things and having to change them with something different...well, that's it...it's always adapting from what we want to what we have.

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    1. I've put a lot, and I mean a lot of miles on my regularly-ridden bikes, in all weather conditions, and have been surprised by how little component wear and tear I experience. I've worn through 1 set of tires and brake pads, replaced a chain, and rubbed holes in bar tape, but that's about it. I know riders who put far fewer miles their bikes and need more frequent component/ accessory replacements. Then again I know riders who've ridden on the same components for years and years and years. I think some people are just harder on their equipment than others, and - considering my fairly tame style of cycling - I may fall into the latter category.

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    2. The biggest single determinant in how long a bike or part of a bike lasts is rider weight. Light riders, which includes Velouria, normally get trouble-free mileage beyond the imagination of heavier riders.

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    3. Rider weight, absolutely, but also sloppy braking, riding over trash, shifting with your brain turned off, lubing your chain once a year whether it needs it or not, etc. etc.

      We've all seen it and heard the rider of the bike that's constantly in need of attention declaim, "S%#t wears out, nothing you can do". Sometimes that's also the person that says chains never last 1000 miles and you have to change the cassette every time you replace that chain, or, "X" brand tires are always crap and wont last a season, blah blah blah.

      Some one who pays attention gets 2 or 3 times the life out of the same stuff. Oh well, as long as we're having fun and the bikeshop stays in business it's all good. Right?

      Spindizzy

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    4. Jumping back in the old thread here. In days of yore when the only fast tire was a tubular it was also the case that the only rims available were made from rather soft and rather cheap alloys. Ductile rims survived. And flatspotted very very easily. Everyone who rode learned how to "ride light". If you didn't "ride light" you went down the road "thump thump thumpeta thump" on all the flat spots in your rims. Even if you bailed and reverted to clinchers, which were sloooow back then, the rims were soft.

      No one has to learn much anything anymore to ride. Nice that the sport has been opened up to all comers. Not so nice that grace and form and style and forethought are out the window. No one knows what good form looks like anymore but some riders have it anyway, whether they know it or not. Bella figura just happens for the fortunate few. And the graceful ones get a whole lot of mileage out of their kit.

      Thank you and Merry Christmas Velouria. I haven't worn out a chain since you posted about NFS but it is now very clear chains, chainrings, and freewheels in this house are going to last longer. My previous record for a chain was 9000 miles. That was with Rohloff SLT-99 chain, no longer produced, retired from service on the good bike at 0.2% elongation. Using NFS I may get that mileage from ordinary chains. We'll see. The lovelybike method of thinking through what you do on the bike will always be a winner.

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    5. Well said anon 2:10,
      the things we have to concentrate on a bit are the things we get satisfaction from and to one degree or other try to do better for the secret joy of it.

      You're so right about how one learned to ride tubulars, when I ride them even now, which isn't often, I automatically adjust to that alert state of awareness of the road that that smooth feeling of sew-ups unwinding themselves on the pavement brings on. Isn't it nice?

      I also miss the feeling of a perfectly executed friction shift so much I'm setting my old Road Bike up that way again, I hope it all comes back after 10 years of Ergo-power...

      Spindizzy

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  24. From a quick trawl of internet shops, there appear to be several varieties - the bellied grips are consistently labelled 'M type' but I have found the straight (coloured) ones labelled both HB and S, and (confusingly) one shop at least has black bellied grips as 'S type'. I know that M and S are varieties of Brompton Handlebar, and I suspect HB is an abbreviation for HandleBar so perhaps the shops are just inventing their own terminology - colour seems a surer guide - all the coloured ones I've seen on offer are straight, the plain black ones bellied.

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    1. Mine re labeled M Type and they are straight. Most likely, as one of the earlier comments suggests, there has been a change in design.

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  25. Shouldn't be long before Cable TV airs "When Animals Attack! Bicycle Edition" featuring stalking border collies and vicious bike-munching Shetland ponies. Just a matter of time before the unlucky cyclist is head-butted by a sheep or carried off by an eagle.

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  26. Black grips don’t show the dirt, brown grips don’t show the mud, green grips don’t show the grass, and white grips... white grips don’t show the bars – just like The Milligan’s white-painted boots didn’t show his feet in Spike Milligan’s classic novel, Puckoon.

    If you stay in Ireland long enough, Velouria, you might see a church clock stuck at 4:32 and a Roman soldier stuck up a tree, but you’d need to read Puckoon to understand that. :)

    Actually, when you think about it, white grips won’t show the snow! “I’m dreaming of a...”

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  27. How do you feel about the Brompton after riding it as your main ride (or so it seems) for such a long while. Do you miss your full sized bikes?

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  28. I feel your pain... my room-mate's bunny tried to eat my Ergons.

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