18 January 2011

New Brompton

We’re currently trying to sell our house so that we can move nearer to our families. Anyway, the upshot of the planned move is that we will be living about a mile from the railway station with a very steep hill in-between. A second consideration is that the train from Rochester only goes to St Pancras rather than Kentish Town so there’s a bit of a journey at the far end of my commute too. So, the obvious solution to this transport issue (and a way to get some exercise) is a folding bicycle.

I have previously owned two folding bicycles, one a very cheap piece of basic rubbish from eBay, bought to test the feasibility of a folding bike on my current commute, followed by a rather nicer Dahon Curve SL (review courtesy of The Folding Society). As luck would have it I sold the Dahon a few months before we decided we wanted to move so I was back in the market for a folding bike.

Whilst the Dahon had been a fairly nice bike there were some issues with it, the main annoyance was that it had been designed such that the handle bar quick release lever was positioned just where it could gouge the frame every time the bike was folded. Turning the quick release lever around did nothing to alleviate the problem. Dahon obviously knew about the issue as there was a thick but very soft plastic pad stuck to the frame just where it clashed. That lasted all of a few weeks before it had worn through.

That issue with the Dahon seemed symptomatic of a certain lack of design, so I was interested to see what many years of refining basically the same design could do in comparison. In other words I wanted to try a Brompton. When I found out that Bromptons were available in a range of colours, including orange, and how much I’d save by using the Cycle to Work Scheme the deal was pretty much sealed.

My main concern was to make sure I could get up Star Hill in Rochester. To that end I took my full size bike to a footpath in St Albans that I judged to be about the same gradient and cycled up that in a number of gears to find out which one was low enough to comfortably get up the hill. I then worked out that the relevant gear worked out at 30 gear inches. To get that low on a Brompton meant choosing one of the 6 speed models, after some research I went for the 12% lower geared option giving a range of 29 to 88 gear inches (for comparison my full size bike has a top gear of 89 gear inches).

The other big choice with a Brompton is the type of handlebar. In the end I went for the M type, mainly because I could then get the largest bag to go on the front (the S type handlebars restrict the choice of luggage that will fit).

Impressions, and details of some modifications I’ve made to follow.