Monday, July 11, 2011

The Brompton: an Extended Test Ride

Brompton P6L-X
About a year ago, I briefly test-rode a Brompton folding bicycle and wrote about it here. We've been toying with the idea of getting Bromptons since before I started this blog, but it just hasn't happened. For one thing, I am not all that attracted to folders. They are fascinating, but they don't excite me in a way that would make purchasing one feel like an absolute priority. On some level, I also just instinctively don't trust that a small folding bike is as versatile and convenient as some claim: Is it really a good idea to ride a tiny bike in city traffic, where you want maximum visibility? Can a bike like this possibly handle hills? And don't those small wheels make for a harsh ride? My short encounter with the bike last year was insufficient to answer these questions, so I decided to test ride it properly once and for all. Harris Cyclery kindly lent me their demo model for this purpose. I left my own bike at Harris and rode home on the Brompton, then brought it back two days later.

Brompton P6L-X
The model I rode was the P6L-X, which means that it is set up with "butterfly" trekking handlebars, 6 speeds, fenders but no rear rack. The "X" at the end indicates that the frame is the lightweight version - with titanium fork and rear triangle. Generally Bromptons are available either all-steel or with titanium parts, either with or without fenders and racks, with a variety of gearing options, with or without dynamo lighting, and with a choice of handlebar styles.

Brompton Handlebars, Harris Cyclery
Here are the three styles of handlebars next to one another: the "S" type (mountain bike style straight bars), the "M" type (traditional upright bars), and the "P" type (trekking or "butterfly" bars).

Brompton P6L-X, Touring Bars
I chose a model with the trekking bars, because I was worried that my hands would bother me in the limited hand positions afforded by the other styles. I have problems with the nerves in my hands that make it difficult to hold them in the straight-in-front position for more than a few minutes at a time, so I did not want to take chances on the 9 mile ride home that awaited me.

Now I know that lots of people find these trekking bars goofy, and I agree. But you know what? The Brompton is already goofy, so to my eye the bars look right at home here. Imagine replacing that expanse of foam with some nice cork tape - I think this could look great.

Brompton P6L-X, Shifter
The gearing on the 6-speed Brompton is interesting in that it includes both a hub and a derailleur. The shifter on the right handlebar operates the 3-speed Sturmey Archer hub, while the shifter on the left operates the 2-speed derailleur.

Brompton P6L-X, Derailleur
Here is a close-up of the hub and derailleur together.

Brompton P6L-X, Ti Rear Triangle
And a panned out view. Notice also the titanium rear triangle in this picture.

Brompton P6L-X, Ti Stays
Titanium fork.

Brompton P6L-X, Ti Fork
The crown on these forks is made in the style of the Raleigh/ Pashley fork, which looks very cute in miniature. On the all-steel models, the fork crowns look like this.

Brompton P6L-X, Ti Fork
There is lots of debate among Brompton owners regarding whether the lightweight option is worth the hefty upcharge it fetches. The titanium parts reduce the weight of the bicycle by 2lb, and some claim that they also improve ride quality. Others claim that there is no difference in ride quality, and that the weight difference is negligible. Even after having tried both versions, I am unsure where I stand on this one. The online consensus appears to be that the lightweight package is not worth the price, but in person more than half of the Brompton owners I meet are sporting the titanium parts - shrugging diplomatically when questioned about its "value." Make what you will of that!

Brompton P6L-X, Fenders
As I wrote in my previous review, everything on the Brompton is impeccably made, proprietary and adorable. The tiny fenders with tiny mudflaps are particularly endearing.

Brompton P6L-X, Rollers
The little wheels mounted at the rear are so that the bicycle can be rolled when folded.

Brompton P6L-X
The staff at Harris Cyclery showed me how to fold and unfold the bike and attached a huge basket to the front, so that I could carry all of my stuff home. I first rode on the streets behind the store without the basket, just to get used to the bike. Because the Brompton is so low to the ground and has such small wheels, it initially gives the impression of being a very long bike and this took me some getting used to. It also felt "different" from normal bikes when starting from a stop: At first there was an odd sensation of momentary front end wobble when starting, so I practiced starting and stopping at intersections until it felt natural. Then I mounted the front basket and set off.

My ride home was just over 9 miles and the first half of it was on fairly busy, hilly roads, in 5pm suburban traffic. The Brompton does not handle like other bikes I am used to, but I did not find this bad or difficult to manage, just different. I soon discovered that the bike was easy to maneuver through tight spaces, and was capable of making dramatic turns gracefully and safely. I used this to my advantage when cycling through town centers in stand-still traffic. I was also pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to cycle up hill; The Brompton had a light, roadish feel to it when climbing. Cycling downhill felt stable, and the brakes were easy to control and modulate. 

Blurry Brompton
There is a lot of talk about small wheeled bikes having a "harsh ride quality," so here is my take on it. When riding the Brompton, I was aware of a constant, but extremely subtle feeling of road vibration regardless of whether the road was smooth or bumpy. This sounds worse than it actually is, so let me clarify: There was no pain or sense of being "knocked about" associated with what I am describing, just a very tiny, barely perceptible "shimmy" type sensation. Interestingly, when the bicycle actually went over bumps - even sizable ones - it handled them better than the average full-sized bike. So: I am okay with the subtle shimmy if it comes with the superior ability to swallow bumps, but others might not agree. Best thing to do is to test ride the bike and see how you feel about the ride quality - but "harsh" would not be a word I'd use to describe it at all. I can imagine riding the Brompton long distances on bad roads.

Brompton P6L-X, Brake Lever
The trekking handlebars were not as helpful as I had hoped in allowing for a variety of hand positions. I mostly kept my hands on the tops and occasionally on the corners. It is not possible to reach the brakes from the other positions, but moreover the other positions are not especially comfortable. I've been told by several Brompton retailers now that many customers prefer the traditional M-bar, but with bar-end attachments that will allow for a more ergonomic hand placement. 

Brompton P6L-X
Both the Co-Habitant and I rode the Brompton repeatedly over the course of the two days I had it on loan. My positive impressions included the high quality of the build, the smoothness over bumps, the maneuverability, the ease of mounting and dismounting (low step-over), the compact size, and the amazing load capacity. This bike is designed for enormous front bags, plus whatever the rear rack can fit - I had no idea it could carry this much stuff. And as far as aesthetics, I find the Brompton charmingly eccentric, and would be fine riding it. My favourite colour option is the raw lacquer, though I also love the new sage green. My not so positive impressions included the weight (a 20lb folding bike?), and the fact that should you not wish to drag the bike around with you everywhere, it is not so easy to lock up safely. While I know that most people are crazy about the famous Brompton fold, I am neutral about it. Maybe I'm just being difficult, but I don't get the miracle there: Okay, so it folds... Isn't that the whole point of a folding bike? But I am only partly serious and I do understand that it folds better than the other folders out there. It is a neat design that is especially conducive for travel - which is precisely why we are considering it.

In reality, our biggest problem with buying Bromptons is that in the course of choosing all the options we'd want (good lighting, 6-speed gearing, fenders, racks, extras) the bikes transform from what initially promises to be reasonably priced to something entirely unaffordable. Depending on the components and options selected, a Brompton can easily double or even nearly triple in cost, so that is something to keep in mind. Is it worth it? That depends on how much you want or need a folding bike. And among folding bikes, the Brompton is widely acknowledged to be "the best." Thank you to Harris Cyclery, in West Newton, MA, for this extended test ride.

92 comments:

  1. Ahh, the Brompton. The fold may not seem that impressive, but if you compare it to a similar folding bike (e.g. Dahon) the difference is noticible. Indidentally, I liked the Dahon's slightly larger 20" wheels better and wish there was such an option with the Brompton but that is neither here nor there. The one thing I can't get over with folders is the reach - the distance between seat and handlebar always makes me feel way to stretched, but that could be because I don't have a very long torso. This always led to a feeling of mild discomfort, but I'm sure that's not true for everyone.

    One other thing I learned while researching the cost/benefit of purchasing one of these bikes is that it would appear that most of the Brompton is fully customisable and upgradeable. So, if you wanted to start with the base model and then add the more expensive features to it later on (e.g. dynamo lighting), that seems to be possible possible. I am assuming the cost of doing that would be higher but it would also allow you to spread the cost out over a long period of time rather than making a huge initial investment in a bike that may or may not end up being something you love to ride.

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  2. Were you concerned that the bike was too heavy? In my experience selling them, 20lb is not heavy at all for a folding bike.

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  3. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations about the weight. But to constantly haul around 20lb in one hand, while also carrying the large front bag with all my things in it in the other hand, would be inconvenient and difficult for me.

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    1. you can fold it up, but leave the handlebars unfolded and roll it like a little trolley, very handy on trains, in supermarkets. You can even leave the front bag on:http://unfoldandcycle.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/rolling-3.jpg

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  4. Two main things to note:
    (i) the fold is incredibly useful if you want to combine transport modes (e.g. if your commute requires part of the journey to be taken by bus/train, or you need to take a train/plane to get to your holiday destination, and want to take a bike with you). Bromptons can even be used for long-distance touring (see e.g. http://pathlesspedaled.com/)
    (ii) the folded bike is so small you can almost always take the bike indoors with you, so it never gets stolen or rained on (I have taken mine into offices, hospitals, restaurants, pubs, and even cinemas) -- and when you take it indoors at home, it does not fill up your appartment or block your entire hallway!

    If you never need to take your bike anywhere by motorised transport, and don't mind leaving it outside, then maybe you don't have any need a Brompton. But for the rest of us ...

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  5. I do agree that the bike seems heavy if you carry it more than a few paces. But with the optional "easy wheels" you can roll it around (with the luggage still attached), so you do not need to actually lift it off the ground, except to go up or down steps.

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  6. Glad you liked it, I love mine! I have an M6L with barends. I don't carry it much, just wheel it as far as possible and then fold.

    But why don't you think it can be locked up safely?

    They are pricey but since they're nice to ride and take a lot of luggage, you don't need to see them as just folders. They are fine bikes in their own right.

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    1. My Brompton just got stolen in San Francisco. I wish I had taken it inside the restaurant. It was brand new. It's small enough to take inside; I wish I had!

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  7. I use to want a folder, because the L.A. Metro only allowed folders during rush hour. Then they changed their policy.
    Now, I'd sooner opt for a smaller bike rather than a folder - like the the Soma Mini Velo
    http://store.somafab.com/somaminivelo.html
    It's smaller enough that it solves MY problems of full size bikes: I can put it in a cubicle, I can put it in a car trunk (both for mixed mode travel AND for rescue ;-) But I can lock it up, it uses standard components (which I can replace, fix, tinker with :-) and 20" wheels (lots of tire options.)
    The problem I don't have is airline travel. So I'm not inclined to get a folder (or SS couplers) to solve that problem.
    It's a matter of, "what problems are you trying to solve?"

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  8. I am totally infatuated with Bromptons!

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  9. No comments on the bike itself really (I find them very precious, in both the positive and the negative senses of the word).
    I was at Harris and watched a brompton rep go through the whole schpiel about how the folding works several times to a couple who were buying a pair to travel multi-modally in Europe for several months.

    Less than a week later I was in a bike shop in Barcelona and watched the shop owner give the same presentation in Catalan tinged Spanish, and was surprised at how well I could follow it- Brompton, the universal language :)

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  10. It's a matter of, "what problems are you trying to solve?"

    I agree. And I know enough people who own folders but never actually fold them (using them instead as miniature bikes) to believe that the miniature bike aspect is what at least some people attracted to folders want.

    I also think that folders - particularly Brompton - attract those who like gadgets regardless of whether or not they actually need a folding bike. I do not mean this as a derogatory thing at all, only that some people actually enjoy the very act of folding and unfolding the bike, of having a reason to tinker with it multiple times a day. I am definitely not of this category though, and get a little flustered when it comes to the whole folding thing.

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  11. "It's a matter of, "what problems are you trying to solve?""

    I'd have to have a REALLY serious problem to resort to such a bike, and would go to great lengths to find an alternative solution, any solution, but this bike.

    I might try something with S&S couplings. Well yes, depends what problem is to be solved.

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  12. I do not, at this time, need a folder. So, aside from a general admiration for the way these things are engineered, I don't feel particularly drawn to them. If I ever did have to get one, I think the Brompton would be the only one I'd actually consider. The 16" (as opposed to 20") wheels annoy me, but there are several Schwalbes available to fit. And, If i was to hit up Trophy bikes for my dream Brompton, it would only be about $1500 plus tax. Not bad for a thing with a made-in-the-UK frame and some very cool and useful design features. (I'd probably go with white/turkish green extremities.)

    Thanks for the review, V!
    -rob

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  13. i'm sure it's not in the same league quality-wise, but cuteness-wise, this folder won me over. http://www.citizenbike.com/catalog.asp?product_category_id=1&product_id=22

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  14. The initial wobble you experienced when starting off is probably from having extremely low trail, which enables the bike to carry a very heavy front load with ease. The Bike Friday tandem is the same way.

    I don't know what to think of the Brompton. On the one hand, their incorporation of proprietary *everything* enables them to design a bike that can fold more compactly and easily than any other folder. That, in my mind, might factor heavily in the minds of commuters who *need* to fold their bikes several times a day to take on a subway, train, taxi, etc...

    On the other hand, the use of proprietary everything means that you don't want to be far away from a bike shop in case something breaks. i.e., you don't want to tour on a Brompton. What are the chances that if something critical breaks, a nearby LBS will have a replacement part? Very slim. This is why other folders, such as the Bike Friday, are designed with industry standard parts. They compromise on the folding, but maximize the chances that if you're on a remote corner of the world and something breaks, you can get it fixed locally.

    What size tires does the Brompton have?

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  15. Regarding the "long bike" feel... it's not just a feeling. When unfolded, my Brompton has a longer wheelbase than my Raleigh One-Way, which already has longish chainstays.

    I love my Brompton, but it has turned out not to be quite as versatile as I'd hoped. This has nothing to do with its cargo capability (adequate), or its handling (no better or worse than any other city-ish bike). Rather, it has to do with the ease that it can be locked up. Yes, yes, you are supposed to take it inside with you. However, in NYC, there are many places where there just isn't any room. I actually find my full size One-Way much easier to lock up and so I tend to take that when I'm planning on making multiple stops.

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  16. My girlfriend and I have been thinking about buying Bromptons for us to use during weekend trips around the Northeast, using trains as the primary mode of transport. I have no problems bringing my bike onboard NJ Transit trains for local travel, but Amtrak doesn't allow full-size bikes on its Northeast Corridor trains, so Bromptons would come in handy here. Yeah, they're pricey, but we could then avoid driving and the need to rent bikes (which may be of questionable condition or quality) at our destination.

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  17. "But to constantly haul around 20lb in one hand, while also carrying the large front bag with all my things in it in the other hand, would be inconvenient and difficult for me."

    One of the things I like most about the Brompton is the so-called "shopping cart" mode, in which the large basket/bag remains attached, and the bike is only partially folded. With the rear rack and EZ wheels, it basically then becomes a rolling cart. You then don't have to carry the bike OR the bag ... just wheel it along, fill the bag with your stuff when shopping, then unfold and ride off when you're done. Makes life a little easier.

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  18. I have a couple of thoughts, which I will number to make them appear less random:

    1. IMO, the titanium option doesn't really affect the ride of the B., but it does make the bike somewhat less heavy to carry. (Not a huge difference, but it's noticeable) Which, to me, is only an issue if you will be regularly carrying the B. for some distance, rather than using the "Eazy" wheels to roll it along. But if you are planning specifically on carrying it, I would also avoid other things that add weight, such as the dynamo hub, the rear rack,...and maybe even the hub gear. I would only opt for titanium if I had already decided I wanted a superlight B. and had already shed other weight-adding options.

    2. In addition to multi-modal commuting, one of the big advantages of the Brompton as a city bike is that you can fold it and take it inside most places, especially with a judicious use of its cover. I've never had an issue taking my covered B. into the supermarket and putting it in the shopping cart, for example. This means that I don't need to carry a lock or worry about where to lock the bike. (There is also the advantage that I can always have it in my car in case I want to go for a ride at any time - but since I think you're car free, this may not really be an advantage for you).

    3. I don't think that any other folder is as good at filling the Brompton's niche as the B. is. But I wouldn't call it the *best* folder - if you need a folder you can take on an airplane and use for an extended bike camping trip or use as a traditional road bike with a triple chainring and brifters), I think a Bike Friday (my other folder) is a better choice. But it's not very good for multimodal commuting or for taking into the supermarket, and it has an ungainly and somewhat inconvenient fold.

    4. Yes, I think that there is something fun about folding and unfolding the Brompton, specifically.

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  19. Bif said...
    "...would go to great lengths to find an alternative solution, any solution, but this bike"


    Why?..

    antisociology said...
    "Regarding the "long bike" feel... it's not just a feeling. When unfolded, my Brompton has a longer wheelbase than my Raleigh One-Way, which already has longish chainstays."


    Oh, wow. I'll have to find its geometry online! Curious now.

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  20. somervillain - The Brompton has 16" wheels.

    I don't know about this low trail and wobble business. The Royal H Randonneur is as low trail as they come, and it has no wobble when starting. On the other hand, Dutch bikes, which are high trail, do have wobble when starting. I think it is a function of several factors and not a feature of low trail.

    Good point regarding proprietary parts and getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. Yet people tour on Bromptons all the time. Wonder how frequent such failures are.

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  21. "you don't want to tour on a Brompton."

    au contraire! reading "Big Adventure, Small Wheels" totally made me fall in love w/ Bromptons:

    http://pathlesspedaled.com/

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  22. I rode it from our house to the ocean in south Boston and back. The path involved some Somerville/Cambridge Saturday traffic, then dense pedestrian-only streets in the centre city, a couple of high bridges over the Charles and into southie and a coastal path. So, it's not a super-long test-ride for sure, but something, at least.

    My thoughts:

    1. the P (butterfly) bars flex too much for me. It's not that I think they will break--I am sure that won't happen--it's just that I constantly feel the flex when climbing or pedaling, it's annoying. I would also need the "firm" suspension. I am sure I am not the heaviest rider to ever try the Brompton, but the flex is something that I personally don't like in a bike. I would be willing to compromise here, though, and I want to try the low straight bar which comes with a taller "stem" frame part. The downside of that setup is that it won't fit as many bags (almost none). I'll have to test the most popular M-style (north roadish) bars and see how those are. I hope they don't flex as much--but I fear they are also way too upright for me. So, my big question at this point is "can I fit the Carradice Brompton bag with the straight bar?" So far I am afraid that possibly not--it may catch on the brake/shifter cables.

    2. holy batman does this thing carry a load or what... I had my fat camera bag in there that weighs like 15lbs + some water bottles, locks and who knows what else. The basket swallows all, even my largish everyday/laptop bag. The honeybadger don't care. Perhaps it helps that the whole thing is mounted to the frame and doesn't affect steering at all. When you pick up your Brompton thusly loaded you feel tremendous weight in the front, it can be 45-50lbs total bike, reminding you how much crap you have in there and mostly concentrated in the basket. But when you ride, you don't feel any of it at all, except to say that the bike is slower to climb and accelerate in the usual manner of what happens when you add weight. Colour me impressed.

    3. there's no road chatter to speak of and it handles bumps and potholes fine. There is a bit of vibration that's translated through the drive train of all things, and some through the handlebars although Brompton's foamcore grips cancel some out. I am sure it would feel worse with a solid plastic grip--something to keep in mind. It's a non-issue, so if comfort is a big concern, I would say it does well in this regard.

    4. There is some wobbliness on starts and it never feels as stable as a full size bike. I feel like I can throw my Pashley into a crazed side-to-side weave, lean it 45 degrees and skid it while remaining in control, but that feeling of stability is just not there with the Brompton. Maybe it's new to me, and I am sure I will grow more used to its unique handling, but some bikes feel rock stable right away and some don't. If I let go of the handlebars with 5-10lbs in the basket, they wiggle a bit. I don't feel any shimmy on descents. I am almost ready to say that there is no shimmy although I never took it on a serious downhill. Probably not intended for those anyway.

    5. The hub is geared wide. The 6 speed is very wide. Something like 30 to 100 gear inches. You're not going to run out of gears, and I think the 2-speed derailer functions like a half-step front with the hub's 3 gears. There is a complete gearing chart in Brompton's pdf brochure.

    (part 1 of 2)

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  23. (part 2 of 2)

    6. The stock seat post is crazy low. I have to take the extended (2"+) seatpost and bring it to the top until it hits the limiter and close the quick release there. I don't know if I would feel better with it higher since I can't try that. The problem is that the extended post then sticks out those 2" when the bike is folded. Sucks. The telescopic seat post solves that problem, but at a cost of extra weight and clunkiness. I really don't want to go that route. You have a whole extra quick release to mess with every time. So, I am a little annoyed, but I guess it's my own fault for wanting my saddle up so high. I will probably have no choice but to get the 2"+ post. At least I won't need to worry about marking my saddle position. :)

    7. The folding left pedal feels a little weird to cycle. I am sensitive to these things. I guess I could get used to it. Can't complain--I want it to fold into a tiny package. If I was going to circumnavigate the globe, maybe I would swap the pedals (take them off) and put it into a hard case like that.

    8. The brakes are very adequate (tiny wheels, these are like disc brakes...), the derailer shifts fine and the hub shifts OK. The riding experience is problem free, except my pants get caught on little wheels and other protruding things. I will have to roll up pants or carry stupid velcro straps. A fact of life with exposed drive trains, I guess. I wouldn't give up the little roller wheels just so that my pants don't get caught.

    9. The half-folded shopping cart position is not super stable. The front wheel can pop-out sideways and it bends the fender against the rear wheel. It's OK, but it's not _that_ easy to roll this thing around. I certainly wouldn't expect it to stay upright if anyone looks it at wrong, let alone bumps it. Just saying.

    10. I want one.

    Let me know if anyone has questions, I can probably provide more info.

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  24. (yes I said pants 3 times above so that the brits reading this get a kick, etc... see above re: honeybadger don't care. :)

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  25. I want one too, but there's something viscerally negative clown bikes elicit.

    Harris: please set up brakes properly for extended test rides.

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  26. "Why?"

    Because it reminds me of those bikes clowns ride in the circus, and clowns are creepy.

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  27. To me, 20 pounds doesn't seem that heavy for a folder. I have a vintage Peugeot PNSL-22 that tips the scales at a whopping 35 pounds. It's a rare and charming piece of French engineering that's fun to ride, as long as you're on flat ground.

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  28. Todd at Clever Cycles in Portland took a trip down the California coast on his Brompton and posted a great article on the Clever Cycles website about his adventures:

    http://clevercycles.com/2010/11/26/down-the-pacific-coast-by-brompton/

    I hope to follow in his wheeltracks someday.

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  29. Yes, the Brompton is handy, tough and fun to ride. And yes, it is not light to carry around, esp going up & down stairs. I solve the issue by putting the seat support on my shoulder directly (and the bike will balance itself nicely) or use a Dahon carry bag (much cheaper than the Brompton one but much less good-looking).

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  30. I think the Bike Friday Tikit has an easier fold than the B, though the folded package is larger. And the Tikit uses standard parts.

    I found the tops of my shoes snagged on the little wheels - sometimes badly. There was also a tendency to pedal strike around corners.

    As some have said, 'shopping cart mode' isn't very stable.

    The little bike files a niche, but it's not one I have a need to fill.

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  31. MFarrington and Somervillan: You both make great points about the Brompton, and folding bikes generally. I've thought about buying one and, in fact, I did test ride one a couple of weeks ago. While I was impressed with the build quality and its foldability (In both respects, it's much better than most other folding bikes.), I am also concerned about all of the proprietary parts. And, oddly enough, I feel more control over my fixed-gear bikes when I ride them on potholed streets than I felt with the Brompton, or with any other small-wheeled folding bike I've ridden. (About five years ago, I sold my Dahon after riding it for about a year and a half; many years before that, I had a Peugeot folder. And I've tried others.) The reason I found that odd is that the Brompton has suspension (at least the one I tried had it), while my two fixed-gear bikes include one that has true track geometry (more or less) and another that is a converted twelve-speed with no suspension.

    If I were to buy another folding bike, it would most likely be a Brompton, just because of its build quality and ease of folding. However, I can't think of any compelling reason to have a folding bike.

    MDI: I know you're tall and rather raw-boned. I also know that Bromptons, like most other folding bikes, have weight limits. And Brompton has heavier-duty and lighter-duty shocks. Do you know which you were riding--or whether the bike had a shock at all?

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  32. "it is not so easy to lock up safely"

    Velouria: Can you explain this comment? When I leave my bike outside (e.g. when going into museums) I simply fold it and use a D-lock through the triangular gap in the frame and through both wheels. Like this: http://cyclinginheels.blogspot.com/2010/08/green-brompton-locked-outside-john.html

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  33. Correction -- The D-lock goes through the frame, chain, and front wheel

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  34. @Velouria,

    With respect to the weight, the speed of folding (after getting used to it) negates that "problem." The bike can be folded and unfolded so quickly that the amount of time it is actually carried can be kept to a bear minimum. When I take mine on the train, I roll the unfolded bike up to the train door, sling the C-bag over my shoulder, fold it and carry it on. When I get off I step off the train and unfold it on the platform. It is also worth bearing in mind that when the bike is folded but the stem is unfolded, it can be pulled along like a wheelie-suitcase.

    With respect to cost, the Shimano dynamo-hub is perfectly good, if you wanted to keep costs down (rather than the SON), and instead of the Cyo (or any other option Brompton provides), the Lyt can be fitted instead to reduce costs further. Instead of shelling out for the 6 speed version, a good purchase would be the 3 speed, followed by an 8-speed hub conversion kit at a later date. That way you have a spare 3 speed wheel, shifter and chainset for spares or to sell on.

    I was put off by the cost of the Brompton initially, but I got a basic one and shopped around for the other parts. Makes it much more manageable

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  35. Trekking bars are not usually set up like that, see:

    http://www.commonwheel.org.uk/files/conv%20mtb%20bars.jpg

    I think this is why you had issues, as its quite obvious to me that the brakes are set up for the bars to be horizontal, not positioned like odd riser bars...

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  36. The locking comments are peculiar. Just lock it through the triangle in the frame, or forget the lock and carry the bike with you.

    Touring: lots of people tour with Bromptons, like pathlesspedaled.com for example. Sure some of the parts are unique but they are sturdy. A big advantage is that you can just fold the bike and take it in a taxi/bus/train/plane for whatever reason, whenever you want. Nowadays people have mobile phones which makes it easier to find out about what transport is available. And of course, the bike rides fine so you can forget all that and just enjoy the ride!

    @MDI
    If you get the telescoping post, you can leave it extended until you really need to put it down all the way, which probably won't be often. Before you buy one, see if you can get the saddle high enough on the standard post by putting the saddle clamp upside down and all the way up on the post. There's quite a bit of adjustment available that way.

    @Velouria
    "I'm flustered"

    Think of it as a laptop computer. For the same money, you could get a faster desktop with a bigger screen and keyboard. But many people like laptops anyway, if only to use on the dining room table and then fold it away for dinner with guests. Or for watching movies on the train. Some laptops just sit on a desk all their life, and that's ok too.

    Hm, I sound like a salesman so I should say I've tried the Dahon Curl, Dahon Ciao and the Strida and they all ride fine and cost a lot less. The B has a more compact fold and better luggage options though.

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  37. I'm curious as to why, in just about every folder discussion I've read, people very rarely bring up Montague full-size folding bikes. They seem to be really under the radar; I learned of them by chance, reading David Byrne's blog. Yes, the folded size is limited to the 700c or 26" wheels, but from photos on Montague's site, the fold seems well thought-out and impressively compact. Might be a good "best of both worlds" compromise for some folks. (And hey -- they're right down the street for those in the Boston area.)

    http://www.montaguebikes.com/

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  38. On the other hand, Dutch bikes, which are high trail, do have wobble when starting. I think it is a function of several factors and not a feature of low trail.

    There are plenty of traditional Dutch bikes out there with low trail. For example, my Union had a 72 degree head tube with tons of fork rake, probably putting it in the 30s ballpark for trail, and it had that same wobbly feeling on starting off. But I do agree that there are other factors at play here, such as weight distribution and also the debatable stabilizing effect of gyroscopic action of the wheels, which is much less with 16" wheels than with 700c wheels.

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  39. I have a folding 1985 Peugeot P20. It's heavy - like 30lbs and it doesn't fold up really small or anything. But for what we use it for, its fine. My boyfriend has a Yeah bike folder. Primarily we got them to be able to use them on trains and put them in the car trunk. He picks me up from the train and we fold it, put it in his tiny trunk (a Honda S2000) and off we go (though we can't close his car trunk since its too small). It fits fine in my trunk and I have a Mustang. There are rumors that our commuter train here in South Florida, Tri-Rail, will stop letting bicycles on board on the new cars in favor of their stupid bike lockers, so hopefully we will still be able to use our folding bikes and just fold them and keep them next to us. We are also planning on taking them next time we go to Colombia and taking them on the plane. Every weekend in Bogotá, 120km of the roads are closed to Ciclovía and people come from all over the world to experience it so the airlines, just like in the Netherlands, allow bikes with no problem.

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  40. Think about how different a 26 inch wheeled mountain bike feels compared to a 29 inch mountain bike. Going from 16 to 20 on a folder is probably going to have even more of a difference in feel. so I would not paint with too broad a brush based on this one test ride.

    And I echo Somervillian's comments about Bike Fridays - you can have whatever component spec you want, they are customizable for basically any body type, and they ride great.

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  41. Overall, an impressingly wide-ranging review for a 2-day trial. I'm impressed! But knowing this trial was only 2 days long, two things stand out:
    Velouria's comment: "I get a little flustered when it comes to the whole folding thing."
    MDI's comment #9: "The half-folded shopping card position is not super stable."

    Both of those are just down to the fact that 2 days is not long enough to get comfortable with a bike that is frankly a shape-shifter. Use a B a little longer - say a week - and you'll find folding so natural and intuitive you don't even know you are doing it. You can give complicated directions to a passerby as you fold. Takes FAR less time to fold and take the bike with you than to lock up a(ny) bike, even when the parking stand is right there and you have no e.g. lights etc to remove.

    I use the all-folded except for handlebar position all the time. Very rarely need to carry the fully-folded package and even then not for long distances. (I use my B for multi-modal commuting in London including trains, buses and Underground.)

    I never noticed flex at all the first year I owned my B. Then I bought my vintage steel mixte, which felt, by comparison, brutal. But then once I got used to that - and then the Surly - now the B feels bouncy. I am going to retro-fit the firm suspension block and see how much difference that makes.

    By the way, I have the M bars with Ergon grips fitted from nearly new (hated the feel of that foam!). My wrists get unhappy with the straight bar position over 40 miles but otherwise okay. (I could never get the S bars.) May get the Ergon extensions though.

    Rebecca
    (blasted Blogger won't let me log in!)

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  42. Rebecca - I completely agree that 2 days is not enough to get used to the fold. But:

    . This was not the first time I was either shown the fold or attempted it. I play with the Bromptons pretty much every time I am in a shop that carries them and I have been shown the fold a number of times. For whatever reason, while others seem to get it right away I am not really keen on folding and unfolding the thing. Spatial rotation is not my strong point, and neither is tightening and loosening bolts on the go. And I am not 100% sure it would become natural with ownership; I know owners who, though embarrassed to admit it, feel the same way and never really fold the Brompton all the way unless they have to.

    . When I'd put the Brompton in the "parked on a kickstand" position, it would often want to fall over - so I'd have to hold it with one hand at all times or lean it against something. I am not sure how this would change in the course of my getting used to the bike, since it seems to be a matter of how the small roller thingies interact with uneven or tilted pavement.

    Having said all that, I don't think that my comments about the fold should be interpreted as negative. They are just not gushy, and they acknowledge a perspective that does exist out there, but is not represented in most Brompton reviews I've read.

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  43. I have a vintage Peugeot PNSL-22 that tips the scales at a whopping 35 pounds. It's a rare and charming piece of French engineering that's fun to ride, as long as you're on flat ground.

    Hey, I have one of these too! It was left in the house that we bought. Can't wait to try it out. Need to pump up the tires first! It's been there for 30 years, unused.

    Touring: lots of people tour with Bromptons, like pathlesspedaled.com for example. Sure some of the parts are unique but they are sturdy.

    No doubt people tour on these things, and no doubt they are built sturdily. But when people are on tour, it's not uncommon for *something* to break... could be anything: brake caliper, brake lever, derailleur, crank, pedal... whatever. That's normal, especially if you are loaded up and riding 50-100 miles a day. Otherwise, that's like saying that you don't need a patch kit or spare tube with you if you have puncture-resistant tires. They will still puncture, just with less frequency.

    Justine: I think the upcoming issue of BQ examines the effects of different size tires on overall bike deflection and ride comfort. It will be very interesting to see their analysis.

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  44. Ground Round Jim said...
    [...]
    Harris: please set up brakes properly for extended test rides.


    What does that mean?

    The Bromptons at Harris are set up according to spec. Someone else mentioned that the trekking bars are not set up "right." The way shown is the only way to set them up given the complete fold.

    If you don't care about the fold (or at least the stem part of the fold), you can put drop bars on the thing.

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  45. Justine V--the stock model had the regular block. I would very much prefer the "firm" block. I am not aware of a third possibility i.e. "no shock at all." It doesn't appear as a choice online, at least. Otherwise, I would be interested.

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  46. The angle of the brake levers - they're pointed straight down. When the bars are set up comfortably, the brake levers should be a natural extension drawing a line from your forearms.
    It's all personal, but the angle here is extreme.

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  47. Also: somehow the 20lbs figure showed up above. I'd say it's more like 25lbs. Which is fine for a bike, by the way, I think many (most) of our bikes are actually heavier than that.

    It's not a problem for me, but I can see how someone weaker, who usually picks up bikes with both arms and struggles with that would have an issue briskly walking through a train boarding crowd with a 25lbs hunk of Brompton dangling from their side. I also recognize that Brompton made their bike as light as they could, so I feel terrible making a big deal out of this. Maybe Brompton lifting can become a gym replacement? :)

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  48. More on touring and components breaking: What about people touring on vintage bikes, and particularly French ones? We are spoiled here in Boston where there is a choice of bike shops and personal connections who can supply these parts. But on the West Coast or in the Mid West? Forget it, the average bike shop would ask you to kindly get your 1970s Motobecane or Peugeot out of there. Yet loads of people tour on updated vintage bikes and take the chance.

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  49. Breaking - finding an on-the-fly fix is part of the adventure anyway. With smart phones and a cc you can always tech/buy your way out of trouble.

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  50. Ground Round Jim--angling anything attached to the bars would interfere with the fold (and in the case of other bars luggage as well).

    If you get yours from Harris, I am sure they would be more than happy to deviate from the spec to "please set up brakes properly" for you.

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  51. It just goes to a previous comment where some of the parts are funky and eccentric; so is the compromised set up.
    Biomechanical max leverage and control is compromised for folding's sake.
    I can rotate levers just fine, but if the proper placement interferes with the fold, that's a no go for me.

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  52. I didn't notice any ergo problems with how the brake levers (or for that matter any shifters, bells or levers) were on the bike. The brakes feel very strong (sidepulls + tiny rims) and also easy to modulate with just a finger or two. You certainly don't need "max leverage" to control them. You would've noticed that if you tried the bike before writing stuff here.

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  53. V, Again my feelings towards folders and the Brompton in particular echo your own. I have occasionally flirted with the idea and if I could take intermodal transportation I might be more inclined to get one, BUT there are the downsides. I am a gadget guy so that is probably what attracts me to them. long ago in my bike shop days most of the folders we saw where heavy and had cheap components on them, but that said, I have issues with an expensive folder! When I saw B's goin' for $1,600. my first thought was "Heck, I can get a real bike for that" LOL!! I thought about getting one to put in the car and ride when I get a chance, but with two small kids I rarely get that chance & my car is an SUV. A $1,600 folding bike in the back of an SUV is just an unreasonable amout of thief bait! Like you I think the jury is still out on that one for me, but I am going to try and keep my mind open to it.

    Regarding those people who love to tour on them, I am guessing they do not have proper touring bikes or the B is their only bike?? Fine for them, but for long trips it seems like some sort of cruel punishment!???

    (PS Blogger never let's me log into your blog either)

    MASMOJO

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  54. MDI: My mistake. Brompton doesn't offer a bike without suspension. Come to think of it, you probably wouldn't want to ride such a small-wheeled bike in traffic, or at any kind of speed, without suspension. What a lot of people don't realize is that on bikes like the Brompton--and mountain bikes, for that matter--the purpose of suspension is not to make the ride cushier, but to keep the bike stable on potholes, jumps and such.

    Brompton offers a firmer and softer suspension. You may well have been riding the softer one.

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  55. You had the bike for two days and you're testing it for readers of this blog, many of whom can't get to the few Brommie dealers in the world. Vetting the design and whatnot. The dialogue might help them. Got a problem with that?
    There's Proper Bike Setup and there's Brompton Setup. Chill out.

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  56. Sorry for all the Blogger login problems people are having. I am considering switching platforms, but at this stage of the blog there are serious problems associated with that as well.

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  57. GR Jim / MDI - I agree that it is important to point out problems, but I also agree that it is misguided to say the brakes are set up wrong with such certainty if you have not tried the bike. Anyway, please keep the tone friendly so that I can keep your dialogue.

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  58. " You certainly don't need "max leverage" to control them" My control comment refers to bar control, not brake activation.

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  59. Okay, I am looking at the brake levers and am trying to picture how you are suggesting mounting them, but my imagination fails. Unless I am missing something, the bars make it impossible to angle them? Anyhow, even with my "bad" hands, I did not have problems squeezing the levers in the position shown, so I just genuinely don't get the problem.

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  60. Ok, in the interest of clarity: the meat of the palm of the hand should rest on a flat bar so that it can counter any forward motion. This position maximizes finger dexterity by taking weight off of them. When you have finger dexterity bar and bike control go up; you can feel what it's doing. A little wrist flex down makes it natural.
    Consequently this determines the brake lever angle. With powerful brakes it's more important even.
    As I said earlier, personal preference throws all of this out the window.
    Hypothetically say you hit a pot hole with your hands in the position in the photo of you riding. A deep, wheel-swallowing one. What's stopping you from pitching over bars is two thumbs hooked on the bar due to the brake angle. Levers rotated up a bit, you stand a fighting chance to control the bike because your weight is transferred to your palms.
    Like an earlier discussion about the locked arms of roadies, proper body position results in greater control and proper setup leads to proper body position.
    So I was wrong that Harris is the setup culprit; Brompton necessitates it.

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  61. Just realised, you haven't included any photos of the bike folded up!

    Rebecca
    (same one as before...)

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  62. GRJ: I think you misunderstand how the bar is set up. Your weight is in fact on your palms. In this image, you can see how far the brakes can be angled from horizontal without interfering with the fold: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lovely_bicycle/5911106874/in/photostream/

    We decided we don't like the P bar, but I believe the levers are positioned in a similar way with the other two bars.

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  63. Hi Velouria,

    Thanks for the informative review. I've only once been on a Brompton, and that very modest experience wasn't enough to make me crave one in spite of my weakness for gadgets and bicycles.

    On the other hand, I do have a folding bicycle that I love, a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro. The remark about the virtues of a folding bike depending on what problem one is trying to solve seems to me exactly correct. Bromptons, Moultons, Dahons, Tikits, etc are aimed at making urban, multi-modal transportation where storage is an issue easy and convenient. On that dimension, my PRP seems far inferior, since the easy fold is not particularly small or wieldy.

    I have a folder for only one reason, namely to have a convenient bicycle for airline and train travel. It's important to me that that bicycle perform very similarly to my 700c road racing bike. And the Bike Friday does. Custom fit, Dura-Ace equipped, drop bars, 17 lbs., racing tires, the works: I wouldn't and don't hesitate to do fast training rides in faraway places with the local racers, nor would I feel particularly disadvantaged in an actual race. (Except, ahem, aesthetically. I can attest to the snarky grief a Bike Friday brings on its rider, though this can sometimes be motivating!) When I'm not looking down, I can't tell that I'm not on my 700c bike. It's also, not surprisingly, excellent for touring, which I've done for long spans of time in Ireland, France, and New Zealand.

    Why not a bike with couplers? I have one of those, too. Frankly, the coupler bike -- or, for that matter, my full suspension mountain bike which can fit in an S+S case when the rear triangle is removed -- is comparatively a bit of a hassle. Both wheels have to come off, as does the crankset, sometimes the fork. And it has to be packed carefully not to scratch up the thing. The Bike Friday fold is ten minutes and tidy in the Samsonite suitcase. If, say, I'm headed to a conference on the other coast and want to ride Saturday and Sunday AM with a club there, I'll pick the Friday over the coupler bike every time.

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  64. Justine: Thanks!

    I forgot to mention earlier (and I don't think anyone else brought it up) is that, a big selling point for the Brompton that I would consider, (having owned the Dahon) is the locking feature when the bike is folded. Basically what I mean is that, when the Brompton is folded and you lower the seat tube, it locks the whole bike into a tidy little package. I don't know of any other folder that does this and practically speaking, it makes a HUGE difference.

    For example, I used to carry my Dahon on and off of crowded buses, trains, underground, etc. The Dahon has these little magnets on the wheels that are supposed to allow the folded bike to snap together but, in reality, the two halves of the bike were heavy and it often unfolded partially while you were carrying it. I had to carry an elastic cord and lash the bike together to ensure it wouldn't unfold mid-carry. Huge annoyance, really. Also, note that the Brompton folds in such a way as to hide the chain - this is also another huge plus. If you try carrying a similar folder like the Dahon, the bike will fold with the chain and crankset on the outside. This means that, if you don't keep it in a case, the whole drivetrain can bump against your leg as you carry it, often creating a greasy mess with your clothes, nearby upholstery, etc.

    As for actually carrying these things, it sucks at first, but actually you'll develop some pretty good upper body strength (especially when jogging up and down flights of stairs to get to a underground rail line!). I developed a system with the Dahon which involved grabbing the frame in a sort of backhanded way that shifted the weight between shoulder, wrist and elbow. Nevertheless, a 20+ lb folding bike is heavy to lug about and it takes some time (and a few bruises!) before you get used to carrying them around.

    The bottom line is that you really have to compare the Brompton to another folder to appreciate the little features it has that makes it practical for a multi-mode transport bike. On the other hand, I think there are other brands that have features more practical and comfortable for longer, touring-type trips (more comfortable grips, bigger wheels, etc). Having tested the Brompton for a bit, I would put my Dahon into this latter category. Great bike for camping, trips, etc. Not so great for a daily communter if you have to constantly fold and unfold it.

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  65. I understand why the levers are pointed down. Basically V's palms are on top of the bar, weighted. This is fine, but not an ideal control position; more like a cruise position. A big, unseen bump means trouble. I ride like this all the time, though, both mtb and road.
    As I mentioned earlier, ideally the line from your forearms determines the lever angle for bracing/control purposes. Your forearm angle changes according to style and terrain, but you get the point. But I come from an aggressive-riding background so I've thought of these things from that angle.
    Proper technique, though, puts you in a good position for when the unexpected comes up. I don't mean you have to have your elbows akimbo all aggro.
    I'd prefer Todd's Ergon grip setup; it's basically an mtb setup with bar ends from that genre, a natural shake hands position. Quite comfortable for long-ish shleps to the trailhead.

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  66. Folders are great if you need them. I like mine (20") a lot, a B is in the future. We used folders on our recent trip to Copenhagen and twice entered aexpress bus with a "no bikes" policy w three folding bikes plus other lugage. Locking it up/ keeping it safe is not just about locking it outside or take it innside the shop. It is also about keepingg it in your (sometimes tiny) apartment instead of locking it outside. I am buying one for my son soon as a reward for taking school seriousely up til now and staying off drugs and stuff.

    The B has got three stock handlebars and (as far as I know) two different stems and the posibility for DIY or personal setups is endless. Some want small fold others want a special setup for personal disabilitys or perferance. Insisting thatsomething is not right is plain silly.
    badmother

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  67. Hi Velouria, love the blog. Do you have more info on the "type" of ride this feels like? More of a road bike type or a hybrid type? I am interested if you think that the Brompton feels more like the "walking", upright type of ride feel that you experinece on your Dutch-type bikes, or more of the faster road type rides you might feel on the Rivendell or even the Seven. Thanks, Dave

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  68. I would need a very strong, very compelling, day-after-day use over an an extended period of time kind of reason to purchase a folding bike and pay for all that technology, R&D, patents and licensing. The key is multi-modal and if that isn't available or relevant to where you live or how you commute then consider yet another small bike (an apparent knockoff) that doesn't fold:


    http://youtu.be/e7BCM9RYCxI

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  69. To be fair, a traditional bike frame made in small batches in "first-world" and SON be-hubbed with proper LED standlights, let alone techy steel/Ti combo with quality components is not going to cost *much* less than a loaded Brompton. So I don't feel that they are gouging on the price.

    It's also more than quite reasonable for their base model without the aforementioned stuff.

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  70. I was curious if there were Brompton owners who felt as I do about brake lever angle and found this: http://blog.dancorder.com/2011/04/brompton-brake-levers.html

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  71. The issue of price has come up a few times in the comments.

    If you already have several bikes, and a Brompton would just be for rare/occasional use, then they are, arguably, expensive -- although they hold their value well second-hand, so when you come to sell, you can expect to get most of the purchase cost back.

    But if, like me, the B is your daily alternative to public transport (in my case, buses and the Tube in London), you are saving money each time you use it. I save about £400 per year, so the £1000 B pays for itself about every 3/4 years (taking into account the cost of replacement parts etc.) This is partly why I think it is worth paying extra for the Titanium version.

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  72. GR Jim - Interesting. But that's what, one person out of hundreds if not thousands who writes about their Brompton online? I am not denying the possibility that some people may not like the brake lever positioning and performance, but I wasn't one of those people and so I feel no need for modifications in this regard. If you look at Brompton images and owner blogs, you will find all kinds of modifications made to the bike. They almost always interfere with the fold though.

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  73. "Do you have more info on the "type" of ride this feels like? More of a road bike type or a hybrid type? I am interested if you think that the Brompton feels more like the "walking", upright type of ride feel that you experinece on your Dutch-type bikes, or more of the faster road type rides you might feel on the Rivendell or even the Seven."

    Hmmm, this is hard to answer. Neither, they are really their own category.

    But if I had to place the handling into a Dutch bike - roadbike continuum, I would say that it is most similar to a French 70s roadbike converted to semi-upright positioning for town use. With a very low stepover.

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  74. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  75. ^ But less stable. :)

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  76. I don't see how it's out of my element to say that in the course of my experience with the bicycle I had no problems with the brake levers. I will leave it at that.

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  77. @GRJ " Everything is proprietary on this bike".

    "Everything" is not proprietary on the bike. As you saw in the page you linked, you can use non-Brompton brake levers if you want, without affecting the fold. The wheels aren't proprietary; ISO 349 tires are also used on some recumbents and you can buy Schwalbe tubes and tires in that size. Nor are the pedals proprietary, the hub gears proprietary, the headset proprietary, the saddle proprietary, the cables proprietary, the brakes proprietary, or the cranks proprietary.

    You can rotate the brake levers outward without interfering with the fold, although it will make the fold somewhat wider - if you do this, you will have to adjust a part connected with the handlebar fold to prevent interference - but you don't need tools to do this and it is explained in the manual.

    Of course there are a lot of proprietary parts - the derailleur is proprietary, as are the frame, fork, seatpost, handlebar stem, fenders, and the various bits connected with folding.

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  78. Andy - I think to some extent we are getting into the realm of semantics here.

    The parts are not proprietary in the sense that Brompton does not manufacture them inhouse. But they are proprietary in the sense that they are manufactured specifically for Brompton, to their specs, and are branded with the Brompton name. Didn't get a close look at the hubs and headset, but pretty much most other components fit into that category, saddle and pedals included.

    Also: Some would no doubt argue that this is self-contradictory: "You can rotate the brake levers outward without interfering with the fold, although it will make the fold somewhat wider."

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  79. Oh and I interpreted GR Jim's comment to mean that not just the parts, but the bike's setup (including how levers are angled) is in itself proprietary in the sense that it's the way Brompton does it and they market the bike as a complete package. Any other method makes the fold less than ideal, and I have a feeling they'd include "somewhat wider" in the "less than ideal" category.

    The question of what they are sacrificing to achieve that fold is one that comes up all the time. For me, the obvious answer is ergonomics of hand position - that's what's important to me at least. And if I wanted to add ergo extension thingies, I'd be going outside their recommended spec. I've also read owners complaining about the shifters and replacing those with non-Brompton parts. I've even seen the handlebars replaced with shortened North Roads. This is the first time I've read anything critical about the brake levers, but certainly they can be replaced or modified if the owner finds them problematic.

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  80. I've only ever seen one of these in person being used by someone - it's something I might consider, but as I don't commute I don't really need a foldable bike. They also look very weird when they're in motion, like they're going to be top heavy or something!

    http://southernbikingbelle.wordpress.com/

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  81. Velouria, thanks for prompting me to finally finish writing about my own experiences with a Brompton:

    http://practicalbiking.org/2011/08/why-i-ride-a-brompton-folding-bike.html/

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  82. Similar to Joecruz, I have had the Bike Friday Pocket Rocket (not the lighter Pro) since 1994. I've ridden it across the USA, in 15+ countries, and just finished 7 days loaded touring in Oregon with a friend ons a Surley Long Haul Trucker. I nod no problems on steep hills and really coarse gravel on some mountain passes. The gear ratio is about 18-114" (triple front w/Capreo rear and a 32-tooth (low) to 9-tooth (high) cogs, 9 spd. At this point, this is my primary bike-period. I'd recommend a Ticket for the in-town fold every day (two versions). The Friday for travel and touring is amazing. Well-built folders offer minimal compromises over standard wedgies. At this time, I seldom notice the difference, and the touch points are identical.

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  83. Coincidentally, we recently bought the raw lacquer and sage green M6Rs and are loving our rides. =)

    http://pedalinn.blogspot.com/2011/07/hello-brompton-world.html

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  84. Can I just say that in general, people who say that the titanium parts don't make a difference are suffering from 'titanium envy' :D

    I'm getting older and appreciate all the help I can get.

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  85. Not many people can get used to a folding bike of any sort but I'm glad I'm one of those who could... in fact I prefer smalled wheeled bikes even if they don't fold. Sure I still have my vintage big wheeled bikes (with creme Schwalbes) but my main touring/performance bike is my Bike Friday NWT and my year-round commuter and grocery-getter is my Brompton M3L. The BF NWT doesn't have as elegant and small a fold as many folders but it's ride quality rivals, if not trumps, large wheeled touring bikes I've owned over the last 30 years. My Brompton,on the other hand, certainly meets my urban requirements and does so with an exceptionally compliant ride thanks to it's swing-arm and suspension buffer which absorbs road irregularities. These two bikes are my primary modes of transportation and recreation and they put the fun back into cycling.

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  86. I bought my M type 3 speed for commuting by train while working in the UK and love it. I'm about to set out on a 5 week tour of the USA by plane, Amtrak train and Brompton. It's better than a full size bike as it costs nothing to transport by plane (I don't take many clothes and the bike weighs 12Kg all up and fits in a soft bag) and no booking or luggage check in is required on the train.

    Mine is a basic spec 3 speed and I built my own rack for $10 worth of aluminum, a few pop rivets, some irrigation pipe fittings and fiber glass resin that I had around. Looks OK and still folds and rolls. I'm also using my powerful rechargeable LED lights from another bike I own, no need to spend a fortune on a heavy Brompton dynamo. Other preparation consisted of new Schwalbe Marathon tyres and tubes, greasing the cables and cleaning. Tyres tend to wear quickly as they rotate so many times more than 26" or 700mm wheels.

    Mostly I intend to use the bike locally e.g to cross the Golden Gate bridge but I have 16 mile (Lamy - Sante Fe)and 30 mile (Greenwood - Indianola) journeys planned. Will write up my trip on the Amtrak site.

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  87. I commute 3 times a week with my Brompton. I commute from the suburbs into the city via a commuter bus. I drive to the bus station, take the bus and ride the last 2 miles on the bike. I could have use a regular size bike but to put it onto my car (and rack) daily is a hassle. I also like bring my bike into my cube than to leave it outside due to theft. I can easily store the bike and my bag inside my trunk (mid size car).

    I recognize that the Brompton is a single purpose bike with limitations but for my needs, this works out really well. I have a mountain bike in the garage in case my kids want to go for a ride but they like the Brompton better.

    Interesting, the Brompton is a conversation piece. I have been stopped many times as people have questions about the bike, how it rides, how heavy is it, and how much it costs (that is usually when the conversation ends).

    Another thing I am pleased about the bike is that the secondary market is strong with these bikes. When they go on sale in Craigslist, they don't stay there long. And since the price keeps going up, you can recoup most of your investment. Just make sure you get the original Brompton as there are knockoffs out there (http://miami.craigslist.org/pbc/bik/4150380989.html)

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  88. I got one as part of a 'Bike to Work' scheme they had in the UK some years ago were you could get it tax free/paid over a year. I have to admit it's a luxury item for me, wouldn't have bought it without the tax incentive. It's all about horses for courses. In London, where a lot of people rely on a long train journey plus still have a way to go to the office, it makes perfect sense. In America, few cities are structured like London. In the Bay Area, where I live now, it makes no difference to me whether I take a folded Brompton on the train or a full sized bike in the bike car on Caltrain, but I recently took it without any problems from London on Virgin America, just in a little ikea bag, and my primary usage will be to take it on the Megabus/Greyhound from SF to LA, for small scale bike touring. Friends of mine are considering getting one to have in the car. They commute together, but the husband can then get out earlier, take the last couple of miles on the bike, get some exercise and save his wife precious time in the morning. He's quite tall, she's quite small, but they could both ride a sporty S-model without any trouble thanks to the seat post, so his weekday bike could become her weekend bike when they go to the beach.

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  89. Thanks for an excellent review. I'm considering the Brompton H6R for multimodal commuting and travel on Amtrak (which, as others have mentioned, requires you to disassemble and box a full-sized bike--something I'd rather not have to deal with). My main concern is fit, insofar as I prefer a more upright riding position and have long legs. I owned a Dahon for a while, but I had to raise the seat so much higher than the handlebars, it made riding any distance uncomfortable.

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