12 February 2011
Brompton Part 2
I’ve been riding my Brompton the short distances on my current commute to get it broken in and get used to it. My initial impression in mostly positive, but there are a few niggles. Some good and not so good points follow:
Folding has always been a strength of the Brompton and it doesn’t disappoint. The folding action is reasonably fast once you get the hang of it, although the Dahon was probably marginally faster due its quick release levers instead of screws. Once folded the Brompton is about as small as they come, plus the chain is on the inside of the folded bike; other commuters will thank - or at least not curse - you.
Attention to Detail
Brompton have been refining the same basic design for many years now and that shows through in a number of nice touches like the hand grip under the saddle, the folding pedal, and the option to “park” the bike easily.
The Brompton frame is divided into two sections for the purposes of painting it (one if you go for the titanium option) with any combination of red and black being included in the normal price. To change the colour of either section to one of the many options costs a not unreasonable £25 extra. I went for orange on both sections and I’m very pleased with the result. The orange is a bright and vibrant one, exactly what I was after.
Bicycle saddles are very subjective things, but personally I like the default Brompton one and have no intention of changing it.
Another traditional strong point of Brompton is their luggage. I went for a “T bag” as it was the largest available and it seems to be a well made piece of luggage. The frame that supports it and attaches to the bike is fairly sturdy and clips onto and off the frame easily. I recently took the frame out and use the bag as a shoulder bag for the first time, and in that scenario it was less good (although the ability to that at all is appreciated). I imagine that the S or C bags would do better in this role due to their shapes.
The Brompton comes with instructions on how to fold and maintain the bike. Even better, the instructions are written very clearly and precisely and accompanied by diagrams. There’s a sort of old-school re-assurance from the fact that the manual appears to have been written by someone that really understands the engineering behind the bike.
I went for the 6 speed option which provides the biggest range of gears. I find it quite impressive that Brompton have managed to cover in 6 gears the same range that my full size bike uses 18 gears to cover.
The hub gear on the Brompton is definitely easier to change than that on my old Dahon. You need to back off the power much less on the Brompton to allow it to change gear which is useful when going up hill.
The lights are a mixed bag. The front light is pretty bright, but needs to be twisted out of position whenever the bike is folded. The rear light integrates nicely into the frame of the bike so it will always be there when you need it. However, it doesn’t flash and is fairly low down on the bike, so I immediately bought a cheap flashing light to attach just under the saddle to complement the built in one.
You don’t expect a huge amount of adjustment on a folding bike, but a few do feature handlebar height adjustment. The Brompton allows you to move the saddle backwards and forwards a bit, and you can tilt the handlebars a little bit (but not too far or you’ll interfere with the folding). I found that moving the seat back a bit made a noticeable improvement to the comfort of the riding position for me (I am about 5”8’).
Brake and Gear Levers
The brake and gear levers both feel a bit flimsy, which is disappointing on bike this well designed (and expensive!).
The biggest disappointment with my Brompton is the performance of the brakes, when new it was almost impossible to lock the back wheel even when trying hard. Apparently this is a newer rear brake, much improved over the design of a few years ago. All I can say is that I’m glad I never had to use the old design. I have made some changes (stay tuned for future posts) as well as adjusting the brake position and the brakes are now reasonable. At some point I may look into replacing the levers which may help further.
Whilst the paint is a good colour, it has already chipped in a couple of places which doesn’t bode to well for it’s long term survival. I may have to buy some touch up paint and see what I can do.
So, overall I do like the bike a lot, especially with the modifications I’ve made. Although, if I hadn’t bought it on the cycle to work scheme I would be smarting a bit at the cost. It seems that you do pay a fairly large premium for all that clever design, and the fact that the bikes are built in London.