Brompton is a brilliant company where the relationship doesn't quite end when you pay your money and take your bike proudly home. They have the Brompton World Championships in lots of countries and very occasionally they actually allow you to pay a visit to where your Brompton was made.
Brompton Junction London Covent Garden (if you haven't paid them a visit, you owe it to yourself to go ASAP) put on a short ride from Covent Garden to the Brompton Factory. Being heavily oversubscribed they still allowed people to join the ride to the factory.
Regular readers will know I have a horror of public transport and that this was one of the reasons for me buying a Brompton. When I looked at the logistics of it all I eventually decided to take the tube. Mrs Orange, knowing I hate public transport and especially tube trains, was very patient and reassured me that it would be okay...
Things started well but as the tube got ever more crowded I resorted to trying to find a happy place via my phone. Burger smell armpit, parents with children they could not control or didn't care to and generally tourists who seemed to aimlessly walk around like the walking dead in vague directions is the sort of thing I had to contend with.
Thankfully I got off at my stop and made the short cycle to Brompton Junction. I didn't take any photos while there as the heavens opened those already there took shelter under a canopy. Thankfully, more or less by the time we departed it had all but stopped.
It was lovely seeing familiar faces, some new ones and others who previously had been in the virtual world of FaceBook and the like. Along the way I chewed the fat with some great people. I was especially pleased to see my partner in crime Andrew.
By the time we reached the Thames the sun really made its presence felt and the remained of the ride/day was quite lovely.
As always a Brompton group is a sight to behold. Onlookers (there must be a better collective noun for them like Muggles in Harry Potter) could be seen stopping in mid conversation, halt a glass of beer rising to an expectant mouth as several Bromptonians cycle by in the most jocular of ways.
Every so often we would wait and regroup but everyone was keeping together pretty much. Yavor our ride leader and big cheese at Brompton Junction London, set a gentle pace. This was a good thing as like many a Brompton employee he is quick to say the least! In fact Andrew and I saw him returning to the Junction at speed chasing a bus down on our way home.
Brompton bikes and photos go hand in hand really. If you have one, you'll probably know what I mean and if you haven't yet and eventually get one, you soon will!
I was delighted to see my old Orange Brompton on this ride and returning to the Factory. I was even happier to see that its new owner had started to make her own mark on it and fit a rear rack. I was even happier still when I saw that she was wearing an Orange top!!
|I recognise that Brompton!|
|That is a nice watch Tim|
|Yavor looking super cool|
We reached the factory in really good time and it was a journey that took a lot less time that I thought it would.
|The hallowed turf|
Yes, you guessed it...more photo opportunities. Even a visit to the outside was special and it isn't that often one is afforded the privilege of paying it a visit.
We went in for a mini tour in small groups. Being a working factory we were told that we were not allowed to cross orange lines. I nodded approvingly at this. I was in a group led by Clair, a lady with many important responsibilities at Brompton.
We were shown how Brompton bikes are made and were able to see brazers in action. When Brompton say hand build in London, they really do mean it. Just think it all started in this factory.
If you look carefully on your Brompton you can see the initial of the Brompton employee who brazed it. The training to become one takes about 18 months and it is highly skilled work.
It was strange to see all the component parts in boxes waiting to become full Brompton bicycles.
We were also shown the assembly line where Brompton bikes are put once parts have been brazed and painted. Quite by chance we were told that the Orange Brompton in the assembly line was bound for my good friends at NYCeWheels!! It would be wonderful to know how the eventual owner gets on with their new prized possession. (If you read this chaps let me know).
Brompton have bicycle racks for employee bikes and outside they have standard bike storage by the great people at Cyclehoop.
Outside a container is loaded with unpainted parts and which by a process of smoke and mirrors and other magical means is eventually painted via another workshop in Wales and returned to this location.
Inside there are some examples of Andrew Richie's early Brompton bikes. The man is a genius and also lining the wall are some of the many rejection letters when trying to secure funding. It was great to hear that he is still very much a part of the factory and works there daily.
I remember having a conversation with someone about the engineering prowess of Andrew Richie. They could not get it into their heads that he was the person responsible for the Brompton bicycle. It transpired many months later that this person was under the impression that Andrew Ridgeley of 'Wham' had hidden depths!
With the tour over we said our goodbyes and Andrew and I made our way to Acton Town tube station. It is a good job that we are such good friends and easy in each others company as I ended up taking the long suffering Andrew about two miles in the wrong direction! Once we realised that this was the case, I resorted to using Google Maps on my phone putting one headphone bud into my ear and using that.
I remained silent when Andrew tolerantly pointed out that we were in fact cycling past the Brompton Factory. Eventually we reached the station and went our separate ways...until next time.
A very big thanks to Yavor, Clair and the other Brompton staff, especially if they gave up their time to be there for this event. Also thanks to the staff at the factory who had lots of keen types watching what they did.
Below you can see the route we took. Pay close attention to my route after reaching the factory, only to pass it again!!
Map and ride data