"You have to be Middle Class to own a Brompton!" These words are not my own and when I heard them at Richmond Park as I put my Brompton bikes into the boot of my car, I considered why they had been uttered?
They came from a 50 something year old who was parked nearby unloading his carbon road bike out of the back of his white van with his business decals plastered on every available panel. I do not confess to know anything about road bikes as they do not really hold any interest for me, however I suspect from the little I do know, it possibly cost as much as the family car I was placing my bikes in.
In some ways he has a point. To many the prospect of spending just over £800 (the price of the cheapest Brompton with more than one gear) would be ridiculous. It is expensive. When I think back to when I bought my first Brompton I had to save up for for several weeks before having the funds to buy it. The cost of a Brompton bike does mean that it is out of the price range of many. Added to this, quite possibly the majority of Brompton owners might well fall into the category of, middle class - in terms of income, job, education or whatever other factors are used. Assuming this is what he was implying I thought it a bit hypocritical as the cost of his bike would have bought several titanium Brompton bikes.
Perhaps he was having a dig at me although I cannot think why? My family mini MPV is five years old and looks it. As for me, I was not wearing an old school tie and was simply wearing my usual cycling garb. He didn't even hear how I spoke or whether I had an accent as I don't believe I was talking at the time. Am I middle class? I don't know or really care but surely anyone who works is working class and I have to work for a living.
Thinking back about the way he said those words, he was I suspect having a dig at the Brompton as a bike and the Brompton user. This phenomena is something I have written about before. Richmond Park does seem to attract its fair share of bike snobs. They are usually male, middle aged, riding ridiculously expensive road bikes and arrogant to the point of being stupid. They view anyone else not part of the tribe as an infiltrator to their turf.
I felt like responding with a whittier comment but couldn't be bothered. Yes, there is no doubt a Brompton is expensive and huge numbers of people regarded middle class own one but is it a requirement of ownership? I would say definitely not! On my Brompton adventures I have been fortunate to meet more Brompton owners than I can mention and one thing has always struck me. The type of person owning a Brompton is not narrowed down to a social group or stereotype. I have met people who would regard themselves as coming from very humble origins to those who have it all. The common ground is the usefulness and fun owning a Brompton can bring.
I felt like saying to this lycra-clad roadie, you have to be a tit to own a bike like your one...but I didn't. I still like to believe cyclists whatever we can afford to ride are all part of the same team. It is just a shame that some try to pigeonhole others perhaps as they are the ones with the chips on their shoulders?