Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Product review: BROMPTON

It can do this
2017 Model Year Brompton Review
2-speed 'low' gearing; rack; titanium model; plumbed in dynamo lighting; upgraded tyres and Brooks saddle. Actual cost £1,750.

I've now had the Brompton for 8 months. It's been a mixed adventure. My summary thought is that it plugs a gap, but the gap it plugs is one that shouldn't exist, and I bitterly regret that it does.

Put this comment differently: I've never seen anyone with a Brompton in mainland Europe. Why?

But first things first, what's it like?
It can do this

1. 'Clever' at folding. Obs.
2. Feels solid if you remember to tighten those different knobs.
3. Rolls well enough if you upgrade to the supple Schwalbe Kojaks *recommended
4. Headset-mounted bag mechanism works very well
5. Brakes excellent.
6. Allows you to arrive somewhere with a bicycle when otherwise you couldn't
Eurostar. Yes, it can do this.

Aimed at vicars and non-cyclists and BBC executives. 
1. You can't fit toe clips
2. The £320 lights are wonderful except that they're situated too low, below car mirror height. So that's a problem.
3. Un-folding and folding it is just a pain. All the time.
4. The very foldability makes it an easy target for thiefs on trains, so you'll need a cafe lock.
5. Heavy to carry into buildings and shops.
6. Embarrassing and stupid to carry it into offices and shops, and annoys everyone else.
7. It's existence has allowed train companies to shirk their responsibility to carry bicycles.
8. The rack is recommended because it protects the rear mudguard, but the reason Brompton plug their own jewel-sized 'box bag' is because putting a real bag on results in heel interference on every turn of the cranks because the luggage rack is obviously set too low. That's a problem.
9. The whole Brompton Universe is it's own thing so you need a separate set of spanners, inner tubes, car valve pump, pump extender valve connector because the valves are too short an the spokes too close to get a good connection. This lot weighs 400g and jangles. If you get a puncture as you will with the Kojaks, you'll need a YouTube demo to get the wheel on and off.
10. The idea that it won't get nicked because it's never on the street is nonsense. Unsecured indoors may well be much more risky than locked correctly outside. Duh - it's portable and they all look the same and have a high residual value on Gumtree. In fact that means that I never feel it's safe when under the coats at Pizza Express. That's because it's totally unsecured and unsafe. Anyone can simply walk off with it. Ruins any meal.

You thought I was done?

11. It cost WHAT?
12. The titanium frame (rear triangle only - the grey bit) option reduces weight by 500g at exorbitant cost.
13. Unlucky number: if you lock it up outdoors you'll lose that Brooks saddle in minutes. Yep, it happened to me within 30 minutes of locking it up in Oxford one fine day, when I could not really imagine carrying the damn thing inside to a formal meeting. Why don't they provide a security skewer as standard?
14. There are other ways of locking it that can result in part-theft of the bike: the only safe way to lock it is through the triangle bit by the crank set...
15...but it's frequently difficult to do that unless you have a large D-lock, and where do you put that?
16. It's SLOW.

It might be a British design icon, a clever contraption and an improbable commercial success, but I can't shake the thought that everything for which the Brompton was designed is a concession to a British society that by and large hates cyclists. If you put one into the boot of a car, I want to know why you're not riding instead. When I took it on Eurostar it was only because Eurostar hates bikes, and even then I had to put it in a ridiculous bag. WHY? When I arrive at a destination the idea of having to take the bike INSIDE because we have a society so riddled with bike thieves that it can't be locked up OUTSIDE, is, if you think about it, simply incredible. I hate the noddy looks and will never come around to them. It's a clever device, but as a bicycle it's unquestionably a compromise. Despite Bromptons being raced and all that stuff, it's slow and you'll get overtaken. It's ideal operating range is 1-5 miles. I wish I didn't own it. But it's there in the armoury for when all else fails, as a concession to everything I hate.

My F/W Coppi pictured inside E5, London Fields

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Richard Lofthouse

Richard Lofthouse