Monday 15 August 2011

Should I get a Brompton Folding Bicycle - Some help in choosing.

Several people have asked me what type of Brompton they should get before they take the plunge. As your Brompton will almost certainly be with you for a very long time (they really are built to last), getting it right first time is vital.

My first piece of advice would be to look at the Brompton website for a list of approved dealers. This means that they have to be of a certain standard to even stock Brompton's. Once this has been done you can find a dealer close to where you live and go and have a look. In some shops you might even be able to go on a limited test ride so that you can try the various handlebar options. I bought mine from "Specialized" and found them to be extremely helpful. Other really good shops are, Compton Cycles and Fudges. Any shop worth their salt will take you through the various options without any pressure or atmosphere of intimidation. It will almost certainly be this shop that you take your bike back to be serviced, so the right shop is quite important. (Brompton's can only be purchased via their dealer network. You can order over the Internet but you will have to go and collect it in person. Anyway, going into a specialist shop is the way I'd do it).

My second piece of advice is to ask any Brompton rider you see what they can tell you about their bike. Believe me, most Brompton owners will find it a vast and uncomplicated pleasure to talk to someone or should I say convert someone to the fold.

My third piece of advice is don't rush and try and be patient. When you go to a cycle shop you may see Brompton's that they have in stock that you can buy there and then and ride off into the sunset. I would suggest resisting the temptation for a very good reason.

If you are prepared to wait 6-8 ish weeks, Brompton will build YOUR bike. A bike that you have chosen totally bespoke to you. A bike totally unique to you. There a literally hundreds of options and it really is worth getting exactly what you want, as apposed to compromising and buying off the peg. The bespoke option is again the way I'd do it, if only to get the colour combination you want.

Okay, you've done the above. There is now the task of choosing the handlebar type. The most popular (also the one I have) is the M type, which you can see below.

This allows for a fairly upright riding position, great for whizzing through traffic while providing great viability. The M type is the original handlebar for the Brompton and is very distinctive. I am over 6 foot tall and find that it is very comfortable for all sorts of journeys I make - long and short. The steering is also very responsive.

The S type is a flat handlebar that provides a slightly lower and slightly more forward riding position and generally gives a more sporty feel. Some taller riders find that for longer journeys the S type wasn't as comfortable as the more upright position of the M type or the P type, which I'll write about further on. However, I was going to get the S type and found it to be fine when testing it out. In fact I have two Brompton friends who are 6 foot 4 and 6 foot 5 respectively, both with S types who make longer daily journeys than me and find them to be very comfortable. If I was ever to get a second Brompton it would be an S type.

The P type is really the best of both worlds. By positioning your hands on the top bars you have a more upright riding position and by positioning them on the lower bars you have a more sporty riding position. It is regarded as the touring Brompton but I know a few P type riders who have never taken their beloved Brompton out of London.

It really is a matter of choice on looks and what sort of ride you want. The M type is as I say the most popular but try them out at a bike store to see which you like best.

The next big choice is whether to go for the steel or titanium frame. The steel frame is slightly heavier with the titanium frame being slightly lighter but the titanium version will cost you a few hundred pounds more. You will have to decide whether the saving of about 1 kg is worth the extra money? I didn't and went for the steel version.

Colour is a huge decision. With the steel frame you can have the main frame in one colour and the extremities in another. You can of course have your favourite colour all over. I chose an orange frame with black extremities. (Orange being my favourite colour). There is a good pallet of stock colours and every year Brompton seems to add an extra colour to choose from.

If you check out NYC Wheels they have a fabulous device on their website that allows you to choose all the colour combinations possible and see what it looks like on the bike.

The next really big choice is the number of gears you'd like. For the truly hardcore there is the single speed option. This will save greatly on weight but may be tough going up hills.

The two speed has one gear to get you started off and one for cruising. Slightly heavier than the single speed.

The three gear option is the most popular. It has three well spaced gears and will be perfectly sufficient for most journeys. Loads of my friends have this option and swear by it. Again slightly heavier than the previous two.

The final option is the six speed. This has six well spaced gears to get you up the steepest of hills and yet cruise happily on the flats. I have a six speed and love it. This is the heavier option in terms of weight.

With the three and six speed gearing you can even have the ratios altered when ordering so that they are higher or lower geared! Most people just go for the standard settings.

I know what some of you are thinking. 'only 2, 3 or 6 gears!?' The truth is you won't need 18 or 25 gears. Honestly. If you have ever ridden a mountain with copious gears, how many have you actually used? I'd wager it wasn't all 18 or 24. I regularly overtake mountain bikes on my daily commute with many more gears than my six. I am able to go this as they are incredibly well spaced and the boffins at Brompton have given you the rider everything you need.

A must as far as I am concerned is to get the front carrier block fitted. It is only £15 and will allow you to attach a bag which clips onto the block. It is a brilliant design and means if you do have things to carry you can do so safely. The bags aren't cheap but they hold an incredible amount and even fully packed do not in any way interfere with the steering. Once you reach your destination you can unclip or semi-fold the bike leave the bag attached to the carrier blog and pull it and the bike along on its wheels. 

Tyres come in three guises. The standard Brompton tyre which is quite free wheeling.  The Marathons which aren't quite as free wheeling but offer a better overall grip. (I went for these). An the last Kojaks. These slick tyres meant for the open road and speed. The standard tyre won't cost you anything extra but the Marathons and Kojaks will cost a little more.

All the tyres have reflective sidewalls which glow in the dark when headlights shine on them. They are also pretty puncture resistant which can only be a good thing.

The standard tyre 

Marathons - better grip
Kojaks - slick tyres for speed

The last thing I'd mention is the saddle. The saddle your Brompton comes with is great. It is black, comfortable and even has a hand grip underneath to make carrying your bike easier. I however would go for something called the Brooks Saddle.

Brooks have been making beautiful saddles for over 100 years the the saddle in the picture is one specifically made for Brompton's. It is gorgeous, will last a lifetime and will get more comfortable the longer it is used. For many, including me, they really do add the finishing touches to a bike that is already approaching perfection.

Well there you have it. If you thinking of getting a Brompton I hope that I have helped. If you do get one you will have perhaps the ultimate form of personal transport. Cycle for a bit and if you get tired or it rains you simply fold it up and take in with you on the bus, train, tube, taxi, someone else's car or sit down for a bit and have a cup of tea/coffee until you are ready for the off.

There is no getting away from the fact that £800+ is a large amount of money. However I would say that you will be buying something that will last. Something that is a design classic. Something that will last years and something that you will be able to upgrade and add bit to as and when new technologies are introduced. Added to this you will be able to enter the Brompton World Championships and become part of a club where everyone riding a Brompton has a smile on their face.


  1. Excellent guide, thank you, adds a welcome personal touch to the whole exercise.

  2. Brilliant post, has helped me decide what to get

  3. Glad it helped Mike. If you do decide to get a Brompton you will wonder afterwards how you ever managed without one. Best of luck with it.

  4. I know people love their Bromptons, but for me, when it came to choosing a folding bike, the Montague was the best option for me. I really like the full size wheels, how well it rides, and how quickly it folds. I don't know how I ever managed without it...


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