Brompton Bicycle – The rider review

I’ve been using my Brompton now for about six months and it’s probably a reasonable time to write a short review.

I took the opportunity to benefit from the Cycle to Work scheme to buy the bike, giving me a fairly significant saving on the purchase price.  My employer pay for it up front and I pay them back before tax.  The allowance is £1000 so that gave me some scope for customisation.

I went for the S model, flat handlebars leading to a more forward position, with the six speed configuration, forward bag mount and a rear luggage rack.  I also got the front mounted bag, and lighting.

First, the experience of getting the bike was a bit flaky.  Once I’d found a dealer near me, got a quote and submitted my application it then took a couple of weeks for the paperwork to arrive from CycleScheme.  That was expected, so not really a big concern.  The lead time on delivery was 13 weeks, but I was prepared to put up with that, particularly as the dealer told me that they’d ordered as soon as I’d agreed the quote, rather than waiting for the Cyclescheme paperwork to arrive.  Then it was just a question of sitting and waiting.

After about 9 weeks I made some phone calls to confirm the forecast delivery date, discovering that the dealer wasn’t sure and Brompton had injected another week of delay.  I was pretty sanguine about that, these things happen, although it was costing me unplanned expenditure in parking at the station.  So three weeks later I made another phone call to confirm the delivery day, so that I could fix my diary.  Again the dealer didn’t know and by this time Brompton seemed to have no record of the order.

Leaving it in the hands of the dealer left things looking like another 13 week wait, so I got in touch with Brompton myself.  In the space of about 3 hours we went from that situation, to delivery the following day, thanks to a very helpful lady in the sales and marketing department.   I have no idea where the problem had been but I can’t fault the customer service at Brompton.

So the bike itself.

Build quality is good, the frame is steel so a little heavy compared to my road and mountain bikes and after riding throughout the winter there is a corrosion on bolt heads, the chain and the mudguard fixings.  There are also some areas where the paint surface has abraded, at the joints where there is inevitably some movement while riding.  The paint finish is otherwise good and seems to be surviving debris on the road and the rigours of train storage alongside other folders and full size bikes.  Some scuffing is evident, but nothing serious.  My one concern is actually the pedal quality, of which more shortly.

The supplied front light doesn’t actually fit the bar and comes with supplied fillers to do so, an unfortunate oversight and with the attention to detail elsewhere a surprise.  The front light also needs either twisted back or removed during folding, a needless irritation for the supplied equipment.  If I’d appreciated that it wasn’t a special to type light I wouldn’t have bothered and used one that I already had.   Replacing the batteries on the rear light, fixed to the luggage rack, is awkward and needs jewellers screwdrivers.  Lighting coverage is adequate, but in the depths of winter I supplemented it with a helmet mount as well.

The folding action takes a little practice, it’s not all that intuitive but once mastered is very quick and easy.

The ride itself is very nice.  Despite the small size of the wheels power transfer is smooth and the steering extremely responsive, particularly with a bag on the front over the wheel.  My ride is 6 miles along reasonably hilly single carriage A-road to the mainline rail station, followed by a train journey and the anything from 1 mile to 5 miles through central London.  riding down to the station it can feel quite tiny under me, but it keeps a good pace quite comfortably and allows me to control my roadspace.  In London the small size is an advantage, and it certainly feels safer than a mountain bike, with what feels like a lower centre of gravity and the step-through leaving me more comfortable about dismounting in a hurry if I need to.

The six speed range does feel a little restrictive, being used to a much wider range on other bikes, and long, reasonably steep climbs are very hard work.  There is a lower range option available, but trading off straight line speed and downhill pace isn’t what I need.  I’m content to grind up the climbs.  Gear changing is smooth and quick, although as with any hub gear sometimes needs a little encouragement to shift down under strain is needed.

Brakes, a key control, are very good.  I can come to a halt very quickly, coupled with step-through I can make rapid progress with a smooth slowing, rolling dismount and lifting the bike to run up or down steps then remount without really interrupting my ride too badly.  I’m helped by my height, at just over six-feet tall the bike is clear of most problems just by holding the lower frame and standing up.

All pretty positive, except for the pedals which I’m contemplating replacing.  The right side pedal is an aluminium frame around a plastic hub that hasn’t responded well to the rigours of London riding.  It’s now quite deformed and the reflectors have popped off.  The left side pedal is a folding arrangement to clear the folded bike for carrying and whilst the shape has survived better it’s also lost its reflectors.  They’re also rather big, although I will confess that I’ve used clipless, Look and Ritchey, pedals for near to 15 years on other bikes.  I do keep grounding them out in fast turns so  I’m planning on replacing them with a pair of low profile Ritchey clipless.

So all in all I’m very happy with the Brompton.  The few issues that I’ve had are minor and despite the early delivery experience I was very happy with the customer service.  What I would say is that I’m not convinced that I’d bother with the rear rack now.  Putting anything on it limits the opportunity to fold up the bike, and the couple of times I have used it kit has ended up covered in road debris because of the proximity.  Folded stability is good, but I’m just not sure that I see the value now.

Anyway, thoroughly recommended for both experienced or new rider.

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4 Responses to Brompton Bicycle – The rider review

  1. Thanks for your review. I’m going to rent one for a week from Clever Cycles when I’m in Portland, later this month. I have friends and relatives to visit in Eugene and Seattle, which I’ll do by train. And Brompton!

  2. Pingback: Brompton Bicycle – The rider review (via Rambles and rants) « Kitesurf Bike rambling

  3. Peter says:

    Nice review. Do you take the bike on longer rides?

  4. Oracle says:

    I used mine for last year’s London to Brighton 75 miles and it coped very well. Since then I changed my 3 speed hub for the Sturmey Archer 8 speed hub and now it climbs steep hills like an MTB. My daily commute is 12 miles each way and it’s comfortable with the upright seating arrangement.

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