It seems that these days, Brompton bikes are everywhere in London. Quickly attaining icon status, Bromptonʼs ubiquitous folding bicycle has gone from novelty to necessity amongst commuters in not only London but other metropolitan regions at home and abroad.
At a time when cycling in Britain is at an all-time high with bicycle sales touching the £1 billion mark last year, Brompton has seen its own sales increase over ten-fold. This is especially remarkable considering that anyone who has ever thought about purchasing a Brompton surely knows that they donʼt come cheap. What is it about the Brompton folding bicycle that has made it so popular, and is it worth the money?
Made in London
China and Taiwan now build the vast majority of bicycles for brands worldwide. Nearly every major bicycle manufacturer includes a caveat somewhere to the tune of designed in California, built in China. This sly wording can be seen as a way to offset the negative association consumers have about Chinese-manufactured goods. And, undoubtedly, it will be much more difficult to convince a consumer that a product is actually bespoke or worth its high price-tag if it has been produced overseas in a mass-production facility.
Brompton, on the other hand, is one of two major bicycle manufacturers still producing their products entirely in the UK, with Bromptonʼs production facilities being located in west London. The Brompton brand boasts handmade, truly bespoke bicycles built in London since 1975. In fact, interested customers can use the Brompton website to build and customise their own Brompton folding bike to their preferred specifications.
The advantages of having a Brompton built to your own specifications are numerous, with the most important being that having a bicycle made-to-measure ensures a comfortable commuter experience aboard a bicycle made just for you. Of course, going the custom route isnʼt exactly necessary since Bromptonʼs standard sizes are made to accommodate the majority of rider profiles.
Bromptonʼs uses a unique brazing process which refers to the art of joining the bicycleʼs frame together. Each Brompton brazer is trained for 18 months by Abdul El Saidi, the master brazer who has worked for Brompton for over 18 years. At the end of each and every bicycle build, Bromptonʼs brazers include a tiny signature at the bottom of the frame to commemorate the complex process of completing the bikeʼs build.
Bromptonʼs folding bikes feature a standard geometry across all variations. They offer riders a comfortable upright cycling position that can be easily adjusted via a variety of simple adjustment mechanisms. The saddle, for instance, can be made higher or lower in a cinch by simply opening the lever near the top tube and then adjusting the saddle to your desired height. In contrast, the majority of other commuter bicycles require special tools for loosening the seat post in order to make adjustments to height.
Folding and unfolding the Brompton is accomplished in much less time than it may appear (admittedly, folded Bromptonʼs can look like an intimidating puzzle of parts). Folding and unfolding the Brompton is done by folding the non-drive side pedal, bringing the seat post all the way in, unlocking the rear wheel and swinging it up to the top-tube, and then unclamping the handlebars and front wheel and swivelling them toward the centre of the bike. After these few quick steps, the Brompton is folded down into a neat package that can be carried along by the grip or rolled by holding the handlebars.
Brompton offers a few variations on its classic theme to suit different riderʼs needs when it comes to hilliness, aesthetics, and effort. Riders can choose between either 2-speed or 6-speed gearing depending on the area they commute in. Commuters in cities such as Lisbon or San Francisco which are very hilly will do themselves a great favour by riding a 6-speed Brompton whereas Londoners will be just fine with the 2- speed option.
As of the time of writing, Brompton offers:
A luxe nickel-plated frame
A sleek all-black lacquered version
A frame made in collaboration with famed former world-tour cyclist David Millar
Each bicycle has its own merits in terms of aesthetics though some, such as the Millar-designed 6-speed bicycle, come with a hefty price tag.
If you live high up in a building without an elevator or simply find the Bromptonʼs 10kg weight too heavy for daily use, the new Brompton Superlight model is made of titanium and shaves a kilogram of weight off. Lastly, Brompton produces an electric folding bike with an 80- kilometre range for riders looking for a bit of powered-assistance on their daily commute.
Advantages of Riding a Brompton
The main advantage of riding a Brompton folding bike over a standard commuter bicycle is simple: You can fold a Brompton and take it with you nearly anywhere. Standard commuter bicycles are large, heavy, not as adjustable, and need to be locked outside where they risk being stolen. Brompton bikes, on the other hand:
Can be folded up and put in the back of an Uber or Taxi if you get too tired to ride home, get a flat tire at an inopportune moment, or simply need to run across town quickly.
Fit in the overhead compartments aboard most airplanes, trains, and can easily travel with you on the metro
Donʼt need to be locked up outside – instead, they can easily fit under your desk at work or otherwise be stowed away safely inside your home.
Pay for themselves with the money saved commuting rather than paying for expensive public transportation options.
Wrapping It Up
In summary, for bicycle commuters in cities or dense metropolitan zones, Brompton folding bikes are outstanding value for the money even if upon first sight they seem jaw-droppingly costly. With the amount of flexibility afforded to commuters by their quick, hassle-free, and secure folding mechanism, the pros certainly outweigh the cons which, when speaking of cons, there donʼt seem to be any that truly stand out.
Sure, there are much less expensive folding bicycles out there. But, considering Bromptonʼs outstanding workmanship and reputation, itʼs very possible that you may end up needing to replace other folding bicycles several times whereas a Brompton bicycle can last a lifetime.