Below is my original review of a Brompton folding bicycle. If you want to read more, you might also want to check out my thoughts after riding it regularly for 6 months.
My wife and I have owned folding bikes for a few years now. They’re handy when you’re traveling by car, train, plane, or boat and want to have a bike available at your destination. And while our entry-level folding bikes served us very well they were still heaver than was convenient to carry around and larger than would fit into some of the places we wanted to store them.
After some deliberation and research we decided to buy two Bromptons. First, one for my wife because her original folding bike was the heaviest and hardest to fold. Then later, one for me because after seeing how great my wife’s Brompton was my original folding bike seemed less practical and less enjoyable by comparison.
The first decision each of us made was to trade out the stock Brompton saddle for a leather Brooks saddle. The Brompton saddle wasn’t too bad, but it was a bit uncomfortable. It might fit some people well and I could see myself eventually growing used to it if I rode it enough, but after spending so much time on my first Brooks saddle I know that Brooks makes the most comfortable saddle I’ve ridden on.
In the few weeks since we purchased them, the Bromptons have become one of the primary bicycles we each ride. I still usually commute on my Fryslân but any time my ride incorporates public transit I take my Brompton. It’s easy to take with me on busses or trains and I never have to worry about a full bike rack on the last bus or train of the evening.
On the busses I can place the folded Brompton under a seat, or even on the floor next to me. I’ve even had it on bus when it was completely full (not even any standing room remaining) and the bike and I took up barely more room than I would have just sitting there by myself. And on most busses the bikes can be placed in a storage area in the front of the bus, completely out of anyone’s way.
On the MAX trains there’s less of a problem with running out of space for bikes. There are times when every hanging bike spot is full though, and options outside the hanging bike spaces are limited. With the Bromptons we can easily fit our two bicycles in one bicycle parking space.
The two Bromptons could easily fit next to a full size hanging bicycle, putting a full three bicycles in one space. This lets us board an already full train and also keeps us from preventing anyone else from boarding with a bicycle by taking up less space.
Even if the train is completely empty and we feel like taking up our own parking space the size and weight of the Bromptons makes them really easy to hang up. That’s a lot more than I can say for other bicycles I own.
The Bromtons have proved useful in non-transit ways as well. They’ve reduced our need to carry around heavy bike locks. Since they’re only in the mid-20lbs range they can easily be carried around.
Recently I attended the “Portland’s Cheers for Belgian Beers” festival and hadn’t bothered to bring a lock. The festival was in a warehouse in an industrial district without the facilities for the large volume of bicycles that arrived that evening and festival goers who arrived by bike had to fight for scarce spaces on the street or inside the venue. Instead of worrying about any of that I just carried my Brompton straight in to the festival.
Another great part of the Brompton is the bag I got for the front of the bike (keep an eye out for a review of the bag itself soon). I opted for a Ortlieb-made bag the size of a large briefcase. It clips into a bracket on the frame of the bicycle – not to the front fork. This keeps the load in the bag from shifting when you turn, which maks it feel as if there isn’t even a bag on the front of the bike.
When we originally test rode these bikes the shop loaded up a bag full of all the chain locks they could find. It easily weighed more than the bike alone. And when I rode the bike I kept anticipating the need to counter a shifting center of gravity when turning, but no such need arrose.
The bag’s straps are a little small so when it’s closed down it really can’t hold much more than a laptop, a book or camera, and a sweatshirt. But it’s a good sized bag with the top flap open. With all it can hold and how effortlessly the bike carry’s the weight I’ve started to use it for smaller trips to the grocery store (or liquor store).
If the straps were a bit longer the bag could hold a lot more when its closed. I’ve got an idea for a way to address that problem, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.
We’ll see how the bike fares when it gets cold, wet, and dirty out again, but I have a feeling that it will hold up just fine. The gearing is mostly internal so there’s no derailleur to get encrusted with road grime. And the braking has been really solid, even during a few spring showers.
Over all the Bromptons have been really great to ride and are a very practical addition to our collection of bikes. I’ve been getting a lot of questions from strangers when I’ve been riding my Brompton around and I’ve been happy to tell everyone how much we’ve enjoyed these bikes. But it doesn’t usually take much convincing; after a few moments of looking at a Brompton nearly everyone has recognized how awesome and practical it is.