Brompton Bicycle

bromptonfoldingbike

I used to use my Brompton for the daily commute, which was about 10km each way. It was as fast as my other ( lightweight touring ) bicycle. Past tense used only because my wife has now appropriated the bike. I’m back to my touring bicycle.

Mine is the M3L Titanium one, in black. It looks a bit like this :

brompton-s2l-x

Compared to the standard, non-titanium one, it is marginally lighter. The main frame is still made from steel. The rear triangle, forks, seatpost, mudguard retainers and bolts are titanium. The rest is pretty much as the standard bike. I think the brake cables are Jagwire too, which they might not be on the standard one. I’ve ridden both varieties, titanium and non-titanium, and there is no difference whatsoever in the ride. The titanium one is just a bit easier to carry.

So here we have a summary :

Good points :

– The fold, once mastered, is simple and very quick
– The first “fold” can be used to stand the bike. This fold can be initiated as you are coming to a halt and dismounting, once you get the hang of it
– Folded, the oily bits are “on the inside”
– The seat has finger grips on the base, and makes a perfectly balanced hold for the folded bike
– The steering is really “quick”, the bicycle feels alive
– “Sitting at a piano” riding position makes for easy, comfortable and safe city riding
– The Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub is reliable and maintenance free. It has a reasonably wide range for city commuting, though see later note about the absolute gearing
– The Brompton front rack and luggage is perfect. Easy on, easy off, capacious baggage choices, sturdy but light. Get it !
– The whole design is as well thought out in all the small details that you’d expect, and some that you wouldn’t, from something that has evolved in small ways for decades. It is a subtly pleasurable thing to appreciate

Other points ( not necessarily bad ) :

– Small wheels, so the tyre pressures are critical. Slightly too low, and it is like riding through treacle.
– The default Brompton tyres are not really heavy duty enough for dirty city roads. I replaced with Schwalbe Marathons. Better grip and so far, puncture resistant. I picked up a puncture on the very first day with the original tyres on my normal route.
– The very small wheels at the back, on top of the rear mudguards, used for standing the folded bike, are very close to your ankle as you pedal. You may graze your ankle on these. This is biblically painful. Reversing the small wheels, so the “thin” end is outward, helps, although it makes the folded bicycle less stable. More recent versions of this bicycle have thinner wheels here, which should help.
– If you opt for the Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub, it is quite heavy. It, and the tensioner, also hugely complicates rear wheel removal. Thus rear punctures are a do-it-at-home activity to fix, rather than roadside.
– The default Brompton gearing is really quite high. I’m reasonably fit but I had to change the rear cog to lower the gearing. This is non-trivial, so order it like that at the start ( no issue from any Brompton dealer ) is my advice.
-The “suspension” is too soft, in my opinion, bouncing and robbing your power. It can be improved by choosing a harder compound for the rubber whotsit near the rear triangle. Again, available at order time for no charge.
– The seat post is very easy to lower and raise, and has sufficient range that my wife and eight year old can each lower it to suit. Note that the handlebar has no height adjustment. If you are taller than 5’10” you may need the extended seat post.
– It’s made in the UK by people who actually use them. It shows.

The (optional) toolkit is high quality and has all you need :

bromp_tool2

It packs away neatly into this tube :

th

Which then slides into your frame securely. The ring on the ring-spanner, acting as a handle to retrieve the toolkit :

bromp_tool4

 

Design attention like this is notable throughout the bicycle.

If I was choosing again, I’d probably opt for the 2-speed, just to save a bit more weight, as the whole ensemble is still too heavy to carry for any distance.

It is a fine and great fun bicycle, the riding isn’t really compromised despite it’s unconventional looks. It is well designed and well made.

If it fits your requirements, I think it’s the sort of bicycle that with just a little care can serve you well for decades.

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