Today I decided that I'd like to test ride a Brompton and a Brooks (B17) saddle because I'm looking to upgraded to another folder for my birthday which is coming up in a few months. (I'm trying to decide between a Brompton, a Bike Friday or a nice Dahon.)
I rode my little Citizen Tokyo to Bicycle Habitat on Lafayette St in Manhattan. I dealt with a very nice guy named "Kurt". He was very patient and helpful.
I started seeing problems almost immediately when the seat height, even at it's max, was a little too low. Kurt told me that it couldn't go any further and that they don't have extended seat posts. Darn.. Next, I literally rode it for less than 5 seconds when I had to turn back and have Kurt adjust the seat forward and the "M-type" handlebars back toward the seat because I felt way too stretched out. Once he adjusted it, it felt better but, again, the seat was a bit too low.
The gear shifters' placement was always questionable in my book but it became strikingly apparent why I disliked their placement when trying to shift gears. I don't like lifting my fingers off the handle bar for anything. Not while actively riding on the streets of NYC when you can get killed for doing something like that. No thanks.
I also found the gearing way too low for my usage and level of fitness even considering that I suffer from a back injury. I was shocked. I rode all over Manhattan in the highest gear (6th gear), including hills! I absolutely need a higher gear range on a bike.
But the real shocker came when riding around on the streets of NYC on a Brompton with stock wheels: YOU CAN FEEL EVERY FREAKIN' CRACK, BUMP, SURFACE ABNORMALITY, POTHOLE, etc.! EVERYTHING! My hands started hurting and my backside was screaming in protest within 15 minutes. My cheap steel frame Citizen Tokyo with heavy, high PSI tires rides less bumpy than a Brompton. How??
Those little wheels on the top to fold the back wheel under? Me no likey so much. It almost got me killed once and made me loose my right shoe! When I stood up to hammer, the right little wheel caught my heel and off went my shoe in the middle of traffic! It was either let the shoe go or get run over from behind! Mind you, I was wearing FLATS. I've ridden bikes in 5" platform stilettos (just yesterday), flip-flops, and high heeled mules (slip ons), etc. Never ONCE did I loose a shoe. But apparently, the Brompton's little top wheels likes to catch my heel pulling my shoe off. This happened 4 more times during the ride but thankfully I was able to keep my shoe on my foot those times.
Oh, and the Brompton stock grips are junky. They twist and move WHILE steering the Brompton. Why such chintzy grips on a high-end folder?
On a positive note, I did notice some improvements with the Brompton: The Brompton weighs a little less than my 28 lbs folder, but not much less. The rolling resistance is lessened. I believe it's due to the larger 20" wheels. Also, the Brompton isn't as "twitchy" and I can track stand better on it than I can on my Tokyo, again, I believe this is due to the Brompton's larger wheel size.
I love the "wow" factor of the Bromptons. And they are very well made machines without a doubt, but I was left frustrated and confused after riding one. I very much wanted the Brompton to be my next bike but hands-on dealings with it have left me with more questions than answers. Can someone please help me?
1. Can I get an extended seat tube for the Brompton? EDIT: Brompton does sell extended and telescopic seat posts for my long legs.
2. Can I get more gears-- in particular, HIGHER gears than the stock 6 that were on the Brompton?
3. Can I get something with more gears that doesn't have that "dual drivetrain" monstrosity? Either all internal hub or all cassette is fine but not both! No thanks.
4. What can be done about the "rough" ride? Balloon tires? Sprung saddle?
5. Can the tiny wheels be seated closer in and out of the way of my heels?
6. What is the lightest Brompton available?
Lastly, I really liked the Brooks saddle. I'm just going to have to pimp myself out to afford all this...