It’s nearly two years since I got my Brompton and I’ve spent the last 18 months commuting to Manchester on the train with it. People complain about how much they cost, but mine was paid for with the savings on bus and tube fare o/h made using his to commute to London a couple of days a week over the course of a year!
Before I ordered mine I used to borrow o/h’s orange Brompton and covered several hundred miles on it, so I had a pretty clear idea about what I didn’t like about his and what I would change.
Model type – I like a very upright bicycle so I chose the H-type handlebars. I found the M-type handlebars way too low and was leaning so far forward I was almost in a racing bike position! I’m 5’1”, but with most of that in my legs so the short body really exaggerates this. The H-type, is not what I’d call upright, I still have to lean forward, but it’s a lot more comfortable!
O/h has the handlebar reinforcing crossbrace, I didn’t find it necessary, but he felt the handlebars flexed too much with his weight. He also wishes the H-type had been available when he got his as at 6’ he would appreciate the extra height.
The orange M-type has the standard 3speed gears. I would call them hard work. They are literally uphill, dead flat and downhill. The only way I can get up a moderate hill in 2nd gear is by standing up on the pedals. After 20 miles 1st gear brings tears to my eyes. It’s an ok set up for very short sprints, but you have to have very strong legs. So I chose the 3 speed lowered by 12% I can now get up the same hill in 2nd gear sitting down and 3rd is doable on the flat. Obviously, this doesn’t give much for downhill, but in Sheffield there isn’t much point pedaling down hill unless you’re trying to break the speed limit. What it does mean is I can get up steeper hills now or have a much easier gear to go into after a tiring day.
We both have the rear rack and mudguards. Mudguards are a no brainer in my book, in Sheffield it’s either raining or has just been raining!
The rear rack I seem to have used for all sorts of things. Including carrying my daughters (6 and 9). They think it’s great fun. I don’t know what the weight limit is supposed to be, but it seems pretty sturdy and takes their weight no problem. For some reason Brompton changed the default of eazi-wheels being part of the rack and mine didn’t come with them. This was rather annoying as at first I couldn’t work out why mine was impossible to push . I had to order them and retro-fit. Also the stopper on the bottom of the seatpost comes as part of the eazi-wheel pack. I find it useless as a brake, but it’s worth having one not to have to endure the metallic clang that puts your teeth on edge when you drop the seatpost! If you are wondering why I don’t just carry the Brompton, the main reason is for on trains. I always seem to end up getting on and discover that the luggage rack is full and need to wheel the Brompton to the other end of the carriage. There really isn’t room to carry the Brompton down the aisle!
O/h has the B17 special mens. This saddle is not designed for riding in a skirt!!! I wasn’t overly impressed with this, but wasn’t sure whether it was the long nose, the riding position or the hard suspension causing so much pain. I started off with the standard Brompton saddle, as I wasn’t sure which saddle to go for. I was pleasantly surprised by the Brompton one, it’s not too bad and does have the nice design feature of a moulded plastic grip under the nose to help you carry it folded. Brooks saddles are very uncomfortable to hold there, so you have to carry the bike by the frame. I ended up replacing it with a B17s Imperial, my dad has got the men’s version on his bike. The other saddle I was seriously considering was the Flier S for the extra cushioning, but I decided it wasn’t necessary now. (See suspension below)
O/h has had the standard Brompton tyres to start with and his had faired ok riding around London and Sheffield for over a year, so I decided not to upgrade to the Schwalbe Marathons, but to go with the standard ones. Soon after my Brompton arrived his tyres started to fail and he ended up swapping to Marathons.
The suspension was the one thing I really disliked about o/h’s Brompton. Hard suspension on the Brompton is seriously hard. I cursed it every time I rode the bike. For him it’s fine, but he’s nearly double my weight. Every slightest bump I could feel and with Sheffield’s third world standard roads with their almost continuous potholes I ended up feeling decidedly bruised in the most delicate region! So I chose the standard suspension for mine. It’s hardly what you call bouncy, but a lot more comfortable and definitely takes a lot of the shocks out. Enough so that I can cope with an unsprung Brooks saddle, although I’m really glad I went form the Imperial with its cut out. The extra give that the cut out gives the saddle really helps over bumps!
We both have the shimano dynamo lights. I didn’t realise when he got his that they were only halogen not LED as I’d got used to my Dutch bike having LEDs and though they were the norm now. O/h’s front bulb only lasted 6 months, although the replacement and mine have been fine, so it may have been faulty. It’s not very bright though and I would like to replace it with the £20 Busch & Muller one we bought my daughter as it’s about 10 times brighter! I think Brompton have finally gone over to LED lights now, it’s a shame they were so far behind the times when we got ours.
O/h has the T bag on the luggage block. Which he used as his overnight bag when he goes to London. It is big, it will fit all the girls stuff in when I take them to school. (Also see MCR Cycling (now Chester Cycling) post on how many star trek videos you can fit in it!) However, designwise, the T bag dull, but it is the only option for a decent sized bag. As I didn’t need such a huge bag for work I bought a quite funky day bag made from recycled vinyl banners from Barcelona, it’s a good size, fits a laptop and files as well as lunch and a small coat.
I originally was going to go for red and yellow, but when I saw the yellow in the flesh, I didn’t like it, so ended up changing my mind completely and going for black and white! I replaced the standard grips with Brooks leather ones in black to match the seat. O/h bought brown ones to match his at the same time and persuaded the nice people at Velorution to split a couple of packets as Brooks didn’t sell the short grips as pairs at the time.
After regular use for 18 months, I quite like the Brompton and if I could only have one bike it would be it. It is a surprisingly good load carrier, nippy and fun to ride, but it can’t beat my Dutch bike for shear convenience, luggage hauling and comfort.
My main niggles are the lack of a decent chain guard has chewed several pairs of trousers, having to clean the chain regularly, the spiky pedals are a damn nuisance and I can’t wear sandals, and the small high pressure wheels really don’t cope well with Sheffield potholes - signalling to turn whilst been shaken up on a twitchy bike still terrifies me!
Both bikes were ordered from Evans whose customer service is useless. The first one they mucked up the order and didn’t fit the dynamo lights, so they had to be retrofitted. Unfortunately, we had to go there to get mine as they were the only place offering interest free credit at the time (I think Edinburgh Bicycle Coop do now). It took 2 hours and 4 different members of staff who spent forever trying to talk me out of a custom Brompton with scare stories of 14 week waits because of the Olympics, generally most of their staff seemed to be clueless and when they didn’t know what they were talking about just made stuff up. Anyway, they couldn’t offer me anything remotely like the spec I wanted, so I did order a custom one and it came in 8 weeks.