Brompton Folding Bike Review

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.

Our Bromptons along the Portland waterfront.

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.

Brooks Saddles

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.

Two Bromptons in the storage area at the front of a TriMet bus.

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.

Two Bromptons in one bike parking space on the MAX.

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.

A Brompton with belgian beers.

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.

Brompton with a bag.

Brompton without a bag.

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.

Back from the liquor store.

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.

20 Responses

  1. michelle says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your review.
    My husband surprised me with a Brompton for my birthday in April. It’s the most fun to ride and I love it so much! Since buying mine, my husband became convinced he needed one as well and we are waiting the arrival of his in a few weeks time (he wanted a custom paint configuration).
    We opted for the T-Bag for the front (T=touring). It is HUGE but is cleverly made so that it scrunches down to nothing when not being used to it’s full capacity. I use my bike for grocery shopping and car lite living so it was important to be able to carry large loads. The weight distribution on the frame is amazing! I can’t even feel it while pedaling (:

    If you haven’t already, check out Bromton’s Youtube site. Lots of info on maintenance and what not.

    I am convinced that Brompton Bikes are the most versatile and amazingly simple bikes on the planet and keep spreading the word to all who listen (:

    I have absolutely no affiliation with Brompton, I’m just a enthusiastic ‘Bromptonaut’.

  2. Lea says:

    I completely agree with those points and have been loving my brompton as I get around town! Good review of the bikes, and awesome pictures to go with it. Thanks!

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  9. Todd R says:

    I just stumbled across your blog and have been really enjoying it, especially the Portland bits (I hope to live there some day) and the double-especially the Brompton pics and reviews. I enjoyed this review but you didn’t say anything about the gearing or options you chose for your bike and why. I can tell you have a 6spd type M, but did you choose higher or lower gearing? What factors led to your choice? Or was it just “what was in the shop”? I’d appreciate any lessons you can share!

    I guess this obsession is what comes of buying a “B-spoke” bicycle!

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  11. Being a Brompton folding bike enthusiast myself, I have enjoyed reading a few articles of your blog. I fully agree with your positive appreciation of the Brompton and I like the way you are open to other brands, to bicycle equipment and topics. Your “Facts” and “Prudent Decisions” are ranking very high on my list of recommended bicycle reading.

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  16. Shunwen says:

    Are you using Ortlieb bag as brief case? I have some trouble with its weight and the uncomfortable shoulder strap when carrying it on my own. It does fit well on my brompton though.

    • Will says:

      Yes, I use the Brompton Ortlieb bag as a brief case. It’s not the lightest of bags, you’re absolutely right, but it’s the best I can find that fits on a Brompton and carries a laptop reliably.

      My wife has a different (larger but lighter) bag for her Brompton and it works well for her purposes but it doesn’t have a sleeve for my laptop.

      Also, her bag is “water resistant” with a “rain proof” cover. In all but the heaviest rain her bag would keep a laptop safe and dry but I’m a little paranoid. Having the super-duper water proof-ness of the Ortlieb bag puts my mind at ease, enough so that I’m willing to ignore the extra weight.

      I’ve had some trouble carrying the Ortlieb bag on my shoulder too, at least when the smaller pouches aren’t connected to the bag. The connecting pieces poke me in the back when the smaller bags aren’t attached. So, whenever I know I’ll be using the shoulder strap, I also attach the small pouches if only to provide some padding.

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