The Folding Society

The Brompton - Should you buy a Brompton

Should you buy a Brompton?

Well, if you have chosen to read these pages, the answer is almost certainly YES.

In looking at folding and separable cycles, you need to remember that all folding/separable cycle design involves making compromises over things such as ease of folding, weight, ride comfort and price. For example, exotic materials may help in reducing weight, but they tend to be expensive; a bike that folds into the smallest space is likely to be smaller when unfolded, and hence perhaps less comfortable to ride, and may involve more folding joints, which will tend to reduce rigidity. Different designers have chosen to give different priorities to such factors, with the result that some machines are better at some things than others - some fold well, but are not pleasant to ride, others ride well, but don't fold easily, etc. So there is no one folding bike design which is best at everything, and best for everybody. Therefore you should first identify how you intend to use the bike, and which factors are most important to you.

The Brompton's greatest strengths are its ease of folding and transporting the bike when folded, but managing to maintain a very good quality of ride comfort and excellent handling and luggage carrying capacity. The Brompton sets the standard by which all other designs of folding bike are judged, and it has yet to be surpassed in overall versatility. It has been likened to a Swiss Army Knife, and it's quite a good analogy - you can go almost anywhere and do almost anything with a Brompton, though it isn't necessarily the best tool for doing some of the jobs. If you really need a bike that folds - for regular train commuting in areas where folding is essential, for taking into the office for security, storing in a cupboard at home to save space, etc, then the Brompton is unbeatable. And although it is not the ideal bike for very long rides and laden touring, it's quite capable of undertaking such journeys. My own longest ride on a Brompton was 65 miles, admittedly in flattish country, but neither I nor the bike was distressed at the end of the ride. I have frequently done rides of over 30 miles on it without any difficulty. I would never worry that the Brompton would not cope with any situation it was confronted with. On the longest day of 1998 I did a 100 mile ride (I was not on my Brompton on this occasion) with David and Jane Henshaw, who were riding 3-speed Bromptons, and they completed this ride with absolutely no difficulty. The Brompton, with its excellent luggage system is even better for popping down to the shops, and for train travel it is ideal.

What are its failings? Well, being realistic, there are almost none. Of course it would be nice if it was half the weight, half the size when folded, fitted with 16 gears and half the price. And it would be nice if there was no poverty, famine, disease and cruelty in the world too. Folding bike design means compromises, and there are of course some in the Brompton design, but none that are unacceptable, and certainly they cannot be regarded as design weaknesses given what the Brompton is intended for. Criticism, when it is levelled at the Brompton, is generally related to using it for longer rides and more severe cycling than it is really ideally suited for:

  1. The riding position is rather upright and cramped for most people, though it isn't uncomfortable despite this.
  2. Some people would like rather more and rather closer gears. The S-A hub gear which is used is sufficient for general use, and has the great virtue of being simple, clean and reliable

I offer you 2 measures of the success of the Brompton design:

  1. I have not yet encountered a Brompton owner who was dissatisfied with the bike.
  2. The Brompton is the only folding bike whose owners fold the bike whether they need to or not; they are not just showing off - it's so easy and natural that they just do it. Owners of other folders may tell you how easy and quick it is with their bike, but they still only fold if and when they have to.

For comparisons of the Brompton and other folders, see the test reports elsewhere on this web site.

Substantial detail improvements were made to the Brompton in March 2000, including the fitting of much improved brakes, which had previously been regarded as rather poor. With all these improvements and the availability of more accessories, the Brompton continues to set the standard by which other folders are judged.

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Copyright (C)2000 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 27 April 2000