Origami Phoenix Ride

10th January 2004 – From Birmingham New Street to Tipton via canal towpaths

Despite recent wet weather, this first Origami Ride of 2004 attracted an excellent turn out, with 20 enthusiasts drawn from the membership of The Folding Society, the Moulton Bicycle Club and the Veteran-Cycle Club, quite a number of whom were not Origami regulars. The original plan for the days ride had been to go via canal towpaths to Walsall Art Gallery, but a recce by organiser Paul Evans a week earlier found that the wet weather had made the towpath impassable, and so the better-surfaced towpath route to Tipton was substituted. Perhaps reflecting the surface, we had a record number of large wheeled bikes – no less than 5. However, small wheels were represented by an exceptionally varied collection of machines – as well as plenty of Bromptons, there were SPs, Birdys, a Micro and even an Airframe. Probably the best suited to these off-road conditions was the Bike Friday Pocket Gnu ridden by Jennifer Palmer. Moultons were unusually under represented in terms of quantity, with just one example (despite the fact that this seemed an ideal route for APBs), but quantity was made up for in terms of quality – this was a New Series Speed, with a Rohloff hub and belt drive – surely the only Speed built to this specification? As Chris Eley was using his SP, this made two Rohloffs, and indeed hub gears in general were well represented.

We left New Street promptly at 11:00, and made our way to the start of the towpath at Gas Street Basin, and then followed various bits of canal – mostly the main line, but with some interesting excursions.
Photograph: Gas Street Basin, at the start of the ride. Wet underfoot/wheel, though no rain, but the rather poor lighting persuaded the camera to fire its flash - a recent battery change had apparently cancelled the normal flash disabling option that I prefer!

Despite the recent rain, the surface of the towpath was not too bad, though some brick surfaced ascents and sections under bridges were a bit slippery. All went well until we had just passed Sandwell & Dudley station, when Chris Eley's SP suffered a rear puncture. We decided that the main group should go on, in view of the time constraints imposed by the short hours of daylight at this time of year, while I stayed with Chris to guide him the rest of the way: as his bike is equipped with GPS, this was probably unnecessary, but it gave me a chance to see how easy or otherwise it would be to fix a rear puncture on an SP with disc brakes and a Rohloff!. Actually repairs seemed no more of a problem with this rather exotic example than with the rear tyre on a standard Brompton. From here we joined the older high-level canal towpath for the final stretch into Tipton, and then joined the roads briefly to pass the Black Country Living Museum (BCLM) on our way to the Bostin Fittle for lunch. Just beyond the BCLM Chris had a second puncture – this time in the front tyre! We were close enough to the lunch stop to walk the final distance, and the puncture was repaired during the lunch stop.

Yes, the pub where we stopped for lunch is really called the Bostin Fittle. The name may well mystify those who don't come from the Black Country! It's located in the newly developed Castle Gate area of Dudley - just about where the old cricket ground used to be. Although a modern pub, it provided reasonable food quickly, and had no difficulty with a group this size, which was a consideration. Perhaps we may visit the Black Country Living Museum on another ride, but more time would be required to do it justice than was available on this occassion.

For the return to New Street, the route was along the main line towpath, but as I was now only a mile from home, I omitted the return leg – I believe that the return was achieved by the others without any untoward excitement.

Despite the recent wet weather, it stayed fine and dry for the whole ride, but by the evening heavy rain returned, so we really were very lucky.

Many thanks to all those who supported the event – we hope to see you again at other Origami Rides during 2004. Special thanks of course go to organiser Paul Evans, whose planning included more than one recce of possible routes before the event.


Mark Singleton's Moulton New Series Speed ('Pylon') with a Rohloff hub and belt drive - ideal for minimum maintenance in dirty conditions. The increased mudguard clearances now provided on New Series Moultons mean that off road riding presents less problems than with a Brompton, with its minimal rear mudguard clearance.

Copyright (C)2004 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 14 January 2004