Sunday, 28 September 2008

Bike Blenheim

Slightly longer post than normal but my excuse is that today I have enjoyed the uniquely British event of Brompton racing. Bromptons are folding bicycles. The event was a round of the Brompton World Championship at Bike Blenheim held in the park of Blenhein Palace.

In Summary, some 350 men and women raced their Bromptons round 2 laps of a 6.5 km long course. The start is pure mayhem. In four groups of 80 plus racers, they have to unfold their bikes and then set off, making sure that they pass over the Start timing strip on their way. The photos show

i) the folded bikes awaiting the start signal,
ii) the frantic unfolding and assembly of bikes
iii) the rather more relaxed approach of some riders to getting underway.

The fastest of these bikes has 6 gears and the winner (who won by a very big margin) did the 13km in a little under 24 minutes. He lapped quite a few of the field of 350 who were not quite as competitive, and it was clear that most of the entrants were there purely for the enjoyment. As might be expected, entrants used their imagination to the full. There were helmet cams to record the progress of individual riders (I think a search of will be the order of the day), one dressed as Evil Knievel and pulled wheelies all round the circuit (and pulling a wheelie on a Brompton is no mean feat), and one had a gorrilla mask on (and must have been sweating buckets underneath it).

The race rules demand that entrants wear a suit jacket, shirt and tie on their top half but the dress for the nether regions is flexible. Most favoured shorts, but many wore their suit trousers, and the ladies wore skirts. The suit jacket requirement was enforced flexibly with one naval officer wearing one of his uniform jackets and a policeman wearing his tunic. The degree that the participants stuck to the rules could only have happened in Britain.

Families shouted their support from the sidelines, riders waved as they passed and just about everybody had a wonderful time. I rode round the course after the race was over and even the unfortunate young lady who came of her Brompton and was being attended by the first aider on a motorcycle was smiling. Perhaps it was the thought that she would get a lift back to the car park.

After the race, a number of the bikes were sold via sealed bids, and I'm please to report that I've solved my birthday present as my bid secured one. It cost me about one third of the new price and is an ex-demonstrator in immaculate condition. I shall now have to go into strict training as I intend to take part next year.

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