Straight outta Brompton

I have a confession to make, I have become embroiled in an illicit love affair. It is the real love that dare not speak its name. It is the love between a man and a new bit of gadgety-clever-engineering-sport-thingy-stuff. That’s right I am referring to my Brompton folding bike. Inspired by @rosamundi‘s recent post about her new bicycle I thought I’d get in on the act and ‘fess up to this young, but let’s hope long lasting, affaire de coeur.

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My last bike relationship was a doomed failure, it was with a ‘Giant’ Hybrid. As a Hybrid it was not quite a Mountain Bike, not quite a Racer. What it was was terribly badly built and so utterly prone to punctures that I was on the verge of fitting Edwardian solid rubber wheels to it. So I stuck it in the garden and there it remains a sad, unloved, rusting lump of badly conceived design, under a leaky tarpaulin (2015 update: it got nicked from the garden, boo hoo). The snails have it now. Consequently for the last eighteen months I have been walking the undulous four miles to work and back. My initial enthusiasm for audio books soon gave way to utter boredom and sneaky lifts from colleagues. Something had to change, I needed a bike, a bike that would have none of the problems of its unloved predecessor. Enter the Brompton.

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Before I start eulogising in full I shall first acknowledge that some of you will not be convinced by the virtuous of the Brompton, or indeed any dinky, folding bikes (not that the others are worth mentioning). My understanding is that essentially all other users of London’s pavements and roads have a bit of a problem with this particular brand, summoning up images of portly accountants jumping on and off pavements and generally being a nuisance (2015 Update: I’ll add all rail users between Ely and Cambridge to the haters list, although to be fair when four of us get on a single carriage I can understand their ire, middle aged BMX bandits springs to mind). It’s not a proper bike etc etc. Well I’m here to tell you bipedal waddlers and po-faced lycra enthusiasts that you’re wrong. You lot should applaud the Brompton and its plucky, if slightly suicidal, owners.

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So let’s get down to it shall we. Let’s get a little intimate with my new squeeze. What makes it so bloody brilliant? Two reasons: Design and Ride. Let’s begin with design. The essence of a folding bike is in the design and engineering of its folding mechanism and how small it folds down. I’ll be honest, before I settled on this model I shopped around a little, played the field as it were. I sampled a number of bikes and not a single one folded as neatly and quickly as a Brompton, nor as small. Here is a little gallery of how beautifully the Brompton folds down:

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Back wheel flips under the bike to form stand (with additional suitcase-esue wheels)

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Front wheel folds to side

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Handlebar folds behind front wheel

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The pedal folds in as well, oh yes. Each one is hand-built, I’d like to say by magic elves reared on candy canes and Lance Armstrong’s sweat but I can’t, however they are entirely constructed in London. That’s right patriots, I bought British and possibly single-handedly brought the country out of recession. It also fits intimately under my desk which makes a nice change from the troll that normally resides under there.

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Bike not troll

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All this is well and good I hear you say (in the style of Rumpole or some other bewigged legal professional) but folding bikes aren’t real bikes, they’re unbalanced and terribly uncomfortable and cause legions of casualties and bodies of bloated accountants strewn along the roadsides of our beloved cities. Wrong suckers! I move to point two and this is the clincher, this is where simple, coy interest becomes infatuation: It rides like a bloody dream! It is ridiculously good for such a small thing, much, much smoother and responsive than the giant ‘Giant’ Hybrid of poo. It has no right to be as good as it is, given the size of the wheels and the lack of front suspension, but I was doing the journey quicker than on my previous lovers… I mean bikes. It’s responsive and balanced as well. So not only is it a fine piece of British made engineering it’s also very good bike, plain and simple.

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A final word before I end the love-in, it’s early days yet but I have one more factor to throw into the mix. Part of my route does involve cycling on a pavement, albeit a wide and not particularly busy one along a dual carriageway. I’m a very considerate cyclist but I did use to get abuse from some pedestrians when I politely and painfully rode around them. I have had no similar reactions, in fact reactions so far seem to range from gentle bemusement to full on smiles. I’m yet to run into (er, poor choice of phrase) the ‘Old Man With The Waving Stick’ yet, but perhaps even he will cast aside his anti-cyclist weapon and embrace me like a brother. I hope not, he’s a bit scary.

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Shhh, don’t tell Mrs Gent

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10 thoughts on “Straight outta Brompton

  1. rosamundi

    Zephirine was built in England, too. I confess that this was a point in her favour, when I’d stopped going “it’s got a skirt guard! And a basket! And a bell that goes ‘ding!’ And it’s not a Giant!”

    (Yes, I had a mountain bike hybrid made by Giant. Suffered hellishly from pinch flats).

    Top tip – Wiggle.co.uk will sell you a tube of green slime to put in tyre inner tubes. Buy it and use it, it’s miraculous against punctures.

    Reply
    1. The Gentleman Administrator Post author

      We’re such patriots! I was tempted by the Brompton basket attachment (tres chic) but went for the awesome, if slightly dull, front bag thingy. This is oddly called a T-Bag. My Giant mountain bike lasted 2 1/2 years and was immense, the hybrid not so much as you can tell ;)

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Read While Sweating it Out « shiyan

  3. Vivian

    Hallo! Greetings from Singapore! I am the Brompton distributor in Singapore and stumbled onto your blogpost on your Twitter Page! Glad that you have come around to becoming a Bromptoneer.

    You should check out the O bag that is waterproof, athough the folding basket is very good to use too, except it also collect leaves, twigs, dew etc while cycling! We are so delighted with your post that we have posted your link on our Facebook Fanpage here. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Diginexx-Singapores-Only-Folding-Bike-Specialists/114325051949.

    Reply
    1. The Gentleman Administrator Post author

      Hi Vivian, I’m really glad you liked the post! Thanks for linking to it.

      I’ve gone for the T-Bag, which is proving to be very successful so far. It’s nice not to have to ride with a rucksack. Glad to be included in the Bromptoneer family

      Gent.

      Reply
  4. Mike Paterson

    Enjoyed this as an admirer rather than an owner of Brompton, they being a local company to me, apart from anything else.

    A few years ago, I shared a studio in Kew with a quite elderly gent who would approach the building at speed on his Brompton, hit the anchors, and flippety-flip, had his bike folded in the blink of an eye as he marched in with purpose. Great to watch.

    Reply
    1. The Gentleman Administrator Post author

      Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for the comment. I was an admirer of them for some time as well, the urge may get you yet.

      I’m not yet as graceful as that old gent sounds, but practice makes perfect…

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Straight outta Brompton (via The Gentleman Administrator) « Kitesurf Bike rambling

  6. Vivian

    Dear Tom

    We love your Brompton-in-your-bed photo a lot!

    One of our cyclists is giving a 4 min spiel on his passion for cycling his Brompton at this Sat’s TEDxNUS forum (www.TED xNUS). He is a surprise guest speaker. He loves the same photo and would like to ask if he can use it for his closing photo?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. The Gentleman Administrator Post author

      Hi

      Ha, ha it has become quite popular and I’m flattered that he wants to use it. I’d be very happy for him to use the picture if he can add a link to the website/post somewhere.

      Best wishes for the TED talk, sounds like fun.

      Cheers

      Tom

      Reply

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