Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Brompton Merchandising

When I put my Brompton bicycles away last night after a short ride, I stared at the orange suspension block I had fitted to both of my Brompton bicycles. This got me thinking about whether or not Brompton are missing out on a merchandising mountain...

When someone buys a Brompton, most generally keep them a long time. There are several reasons for this but here are a few of my observations:
  • As refinements are made to existing parts, you can invariably buy these new parts (if you choose to) and retrofit them
  • A Brompton is just such a well made bicycle and such fun to use, many just cannot part with their bike
  • They are just so useful, even if you use it now and then 
I go on lots of rides with other Bromptonians and receive roughly 10 x emails a day from Brompton owners/those interested from all over the world. One thing I have noticed is that there is genuine market for aftermarket customisations. For many this is simply kitting your bike with various parts that match the colour of your Brompton. (I wonder if you can guess who might fall into that category)? For others it is finding parts that make the bike lighter. Companies have sprouted up all over the world that cater for this type of Brompton owner.

Why have Brompton not done this? If you consider a bespoke order Brompton already offer a variety that is quite staggering. Adding the complication of hinge clamps, saddles, mudguards, grips etc.., in say orange or various colours would be a logistical nightmare. It is fairly obvious that all of these extra parts would have to be after market. Brompton have already started this with a few colours, perhaps dipping their toes to see whether it needs pursuing.

It would be great if Brompton set up a in house division / sub company that offered all manner of coloured parts or ones made out of titanium. I suspect it would be very lucrative for Brompton. I also know from you out there that you would love to buy a T-shirt, sweatshirt, cycle jersey, hat, gloves etc.., emblazoned with the Brompton logo. Brompton do most of this as 'Brompton World Championships' merchandise, but I suspect there would be huge interest for such items.

Brompton are of course in the business of making bicycles and that has to take centre stage. That being said, I am sure I read somewhere that Ferrari makes larges sums from people buying branded merchandise. The Brompton brand is becoming stronger and stronger and if someone were to sport a Brompton T-shirt going about their daily routine, it would surely provide a degree of marketing?

My business and marketing acumen is next to useless, so what do I know?!! These are just my thoughts and observations from meeting lots of different Brompton owners. Put it like this, if Brompton released mudguards, grips, carrier blocks, hinge clamps, seat clamps, saddles etc.., in orange, yellow or green I know of two other friends who would join me in the stampede to Brompton Junction Covent Garden!!

What do you think? I would love to know whether you would like this sort of stuff too.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

My Review of my new Orange P Type Brompton P6L

As I am sure you are aware, I have a new Orange Brompton. Using it the past few weeks has been a gleeful experience and I now feel in a position to say what I think of it – which many of you have asked me for.

My new P Type

Okay, I had better start with the specifications. The bike was a bespoke order and I deliberated long and hard about what I would and wouldn’t get:

  • P Type
  • 6 x speed
  • 44T chaining – 12% reduced gearing
  • Orange frame
  • Orange extremities
  • Firm suspension
  • Extended seat post
  • Eazy wheels
  • Marathon tyres
  • Brooks B17 Special Edition saddle
  • SON Dynamo lighting system

Essentially, I suppose I wanted this Orange Brompton to be a touring bicycle. Comfort and being practical were important factors. The SON Dynamo lighting system was chosen unashamedly to make night rides (I go on lots of these) and my commute easier. More about this later but I didn’t want to bother too much about lights and batteries, especially on my daily commute. During late Autumn/Winter my commute to/from work is often in darkness.

The reduced gearing was chosen for two reasons. First the SON Dynamo would make pedalling a little harder. Second, I was happier to sacrifice some top end speed to make ├╝ber hills easier to ascend. The strange thing since using the bike is that for me at least I have detected very little resistance at all when using the SON Dynamo. As such, I may well end up swapping the 44T chaining for the standard 50T. (To be honest I have not encountered too many problems ascending hills when using a 50T anyway).

44T Chainring - but for how long?

The P Type bars. Some of you may be wondering why I opted for them. They aren’t the most popular bar type in the Brompton range and some people hate them, going as far as saying they are ugly. Having had a go on a P Type many years ago I liked the riding position. With the addition of the Brooks leather bar tape, to compliment the Brooks saddle, I think there is a certain elegance about them.

Brooks saddle, Brooks bar tape
More important than looks however is how they perform. The ride position is quite upright – which is exactly what I wanted for longer distances. I am not getting any younger and don’t fancy being unable to cycle due to back pain. I had considered an H Type but for me the lower riding position of the P gave them the edge. The lower position does not have brakes and there is a sticker to state the obvious on the handlebar. I have found this lower position to be excellent when ascending hills and when cycling into a headwind. Many have safety concerns about not having brakes, which are indeed valid. That being said, I would only ever use this lower position as described and therefore do not see it as a danger at all. Incidentally, the lower position is further down than my S Type. For getting ones weight forward when ascending hills this lower position is excellent.

The P Type, for me at least being quite tall affords an excellent riding position. There are a couple of caveats if you are thinking of following suit. First is handlebar real estate. If you have loads of gadgets you want mounted to the bars, it is possible on the P Type but the amount of usable space is a little reduced. The SON Dynamo lighting system does however mean that I don’t feel the need to have as many lights as I used to. Second, if you are…how can I put this…possessing a paunch, you might find the lower riding position uncomfortable. Thankfully, cycling so much has kept the middle age spread at bay, so the lower riding position is fine for me.

Rather elegant I think

Reduced real estate

As far as comfort goes, I have Brooks leather bar tape with some gel strips at crucial positions. Recently I went on a 67+ mile ride from London to Whitstable and suffered no hand aches or pains. There are lots of places to position ones hands (in addition to the lower position) resulting versatility and comfort. 

A Brooks saddle looks really good on a Brompton and as I have always got on well with them I had to have one. When you order a bespoke Brompton the cost of the Brooks is offset against not having the standard saddle. This means that you get a Brooks Special edition for a good price.

Brooks B17 Special Edition

Love those copper rails

Proofhide has been applied twice since I got my P Type and it has for me at least been very comfortable. I like the copper rails and pleased that the colour will only get better as the saddle gets older. It will also get more comfortable as it ages which is a bonus.

The SON Dynamo lighting system has so far been more than worth the hefty price tag. This is a little marvel of engineering. The whole setup weight a little over 200g and has little rolling resistance. There are lots of boring statistics to tell you exactly what this is but I will put things more plainly. Either on of off I cannot detect that is it there and it certainly - for me at least - doesn't make pedalling any harder - including ascending hills which I encountered on the London to Whitstable ride.

The SON Dynamo hub. Low weigh and little rolling resistance

The rear light with the SON Dynamo produces a much brighter light than the battery version and the stand light function means that when you have stopped both front and rear lights stay on. The front light is excellent. It produces a bright, whitish light that does an excellent job of illuminating the road ahead. Let's be clear about this. It is not a commuter light that allows oncoming traffic to see you from considerable distances. It does this to some extent but I would add a small flashing light for this purpose. 

SON powered rear light is also quite bright

On the London to Whitstable ride, once we were out of the urban sprawal and entered country lanes things started to become pitch black. I had brought my Hope Vision light with me but never had it on anything but its commuter flashing setting. SON powered front light instilled confidence. There was not a time when I felt I needed more light. For long stretches I turned off my Hope Vision light altogether to see what the SON powered one could do. It was excellent.

The SON powered Busch & Muller front light is excellent

It produces a bight, whitish light

Added to this there is even an automatic setting where a sensor detects when it is dark enough to turn everything on and light enough to turn everything off. Very clever. I also think that the SON Dynamo is also rather pretty and I liked the shiny sliver finish.

As on all Brompton bicycles there is subtle detailing that tells you and others your bike is a Brompton. The chain guard, cranks and brake levers all have the Brompton logo discretely placed. 

I have not been a fan of Brompton customisation as in my opinion they are a design classic anyway. I have made some changes. Some cosmetic, some practical and some a combination of these.

The first is the chainring bolts. Since 2013 Brompton bikes now come fitted with the spider chainring. This allows the user to swap their chainring easily. I replaced the original bolts for aluminium alloy ones that They are also half the weight of the originals. 

I have used clipped in pedals on all my Brompton bikes for some time now and took the standard pedals off almost immediately. The Shimano XT pedals are a favourite of mine and I really like them.

I had a spare front carrier block so this went on. This will allow me to use a wide range of Brompton luggage options I have build up over the years. I currently have:

  • Mini O bag in Orange
  • O Bag in orange
  • S bag 
  • C Bag 

I use these bags according to what I know I might be carrying and the great thing about the P Type is that all the above works.

There was nothing wrong with the standard firm suspension block, but the one in the picture below by BikeFun is orange and a little firmer.

As I am sure you will have gathered, I really do like my new P Type Brompton. This bike will become quite a workhorse taking my on my commute and night rides. The P Type isn't for everyone. For some the lower riding position is too low or not safe enough without extra brake levers. Some may long for more handlebar real estate. For others it is not a looker. 

For me one of the attractions of a Brompton is its quirkiness. The P Type is certainly that. For me at least, I feel I have made a good choice and I can see us becoming better friends that we already are now. I have already been on a few adventures with this Brompton and you can be assured that there will be many more to come!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Brompton Junction Factory Ride Video

The 'Brompton Junction London' ride to the Brompton Factory was great and in addition to the photos I took which appear in that blog post, I managed to take a little bit of video.

Hopefully it captures a small part of what it was like. As always watch it in the highest quality setting you can. It does look pretty good in 1080.

Link to Brompton Junction Factory Ride