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Old 04-05-09, 05:57 PM   #1
KitN
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Rode a Brompton + Brooks Saddle

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...
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Brompton 1.JPG (50.8 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg Brompton 2.JPG (60.4 KB, 44 views)
File Type: jpg Brompton 3.JPG (68.2 KB, 50 views)
File Type: jpg Brompton 4.JPG (61.8 KB, 25 views)

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Old 04-05-09, 06:26 PM   #2
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Well, as a recent purchaser of a brommie I can answer some of your questions.

1. Can I get an extended seat tube for the Brompton? The stock one is just too short.

Yes, there are extended seatposts, and also a telescoping seatpost. The stock one is only good for people who are up to 5'8" and don't have long legs. Try another bike shop--they probably stock those.

2. Can I get more gears-- in particular, HIGHER gears than the stock 8 that were on the Brompton?

There are mods where you can put an 8sp SA hub on the bike, like with this kit from Kinetics. For me, the six that came with mine are enough. If you want higher gears you can change the chainring or the cogs.

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.

Again, the 8sp hub mod. I think there's also a Kinetics Rohloff mod which will give you the best gear range ever but it is OMGWTFBBQ expensive.

4. What can be done about the "rough" ride? Balloon tires? Sprung saddle?

What were the tires on the brommie you rode? I have the schwalbe marathons on mine, and I like them, but they are still a little harsh. I don't think fatter tires like the schwalbe big apples would fit (correct me if I'm wrong). I definitely would recommend a sprung saddle--the brooks flyer if you can afford it.

5. Can the tiny wheels be seated closer in and out of the way of my heels?

Yes; actually, you can do the skate wheel mod I did and not only will it get out of the way but it will also roll better.

6. What is the lightest Brompton available?

s-bar single speed titanium brommie with no racks or mudguard. Hella expensive.
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Old 04-05-09, 07:01 PM   #3
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Nekohime, thank you so much!

To answer your question, the tires were "stock" Brompton tires. They didn't have any branding on them.

I'm thinking of the 8spd internal hub you mentioned. Would it be something that I can do myself?

Thanks again!
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Old 04-05-09, 07:13 PM   #4
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Nekohime, thank you so much!

To answer your question, the tires were "stock" Brompton tires. They didn't have any branding on them.

I'm thinking of the 8spd internal hub you mentioned. Would it be something that I can do myself?

Thanks again!
If you have the tools and the know-how, yes, you can do it yourself. But for someone like me with limited bike repair skills and tools, probably not. I did consider this mod for myself too, and was reading about how to do the installations on park tools but I decided it was too much trouble, as I had to buy/borrow the tools if I did it myself or pay/beg someone to do it for me.
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Old 04-05-09, 07:55 PM   #5
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Ah, I see. I have limited bike repair skills too (although I am trying to learn more) so I don't think I would be able to do it on my own.

Anyway, I really had my heart set on a Brompton. I wanted a Brompton more than a Bike Friday or a high-end Dahon but I guess it's back to the drawing board for me. I'm going to try to test ride a Bike Friday and a nice Dahon soon... And just to be sure, I'll try to test ride another Brompton from a dealer that's more versed in folding bikes and maybe has an extended seat post for me to try.

BTW, how are you liking your new Brompton? Did you have a problem with the top little wheels and heel strike? How much does your Brommie weigh?
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Old 04-05-09, 08:18 PM   #6
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I love the brommie I had some trouble with fit the first couple of days but I adjusted the saddle until I was comfy and the handlebars backward and now it's perfect for city pootling. I had no problem with heel strike, but the skate wheels are somewhat thinner than the brommie rollers so maybe there will be less heel strike for those with heelstrike problems. NYCE wheels says the M6L weighs 25.84lbs, but my digital weighing scale says 27.3lbs--not terribly light, but then again I'm not carrying it for long periods of time now that I can roll it easily.
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Old 04-06-09, 05:19 AM   #7
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I've never ridden a brompton and have always wondered how the ride could be anything less than bone-jarring. My 20" wheeled Dahon with fat tyres is still bordering on infeasibly harsh when the roads are bad.
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Old 04-06-09, 05:56 AM   #8
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Brompton now has two grades of suspension block, possibly you had the 'hard' and could have used the 'soft'. Previously, there was only one intermediate grade.

Brompton EZ-wheels are slightly narrower than the stock 'cone rollers'. I reversed the cones for heel clearance and eventually swapped them with SP's very narrow and light replacements.

Bromptons come in a range of gearing options e.g. 54t, 50t and 44t chainrings, many shops order the 44t as standard. Which one was your test model fitted with? 2009 models use a wide range hub (BWR) which offers a 100" top gear. I didn't think Manhattan had any hills in any case.
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Old 04-06-09, 07:29 AM   #9
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I've never ridden a brompton and have always wondered how the ride could be anything less than bone-jarring. My 20" wheeled Dahon with fat tyres is still bordering on infeasibly harsh when the roads are bad.
I find that for small wheels, big apples or other fat tires are necessary to get a plushy ride. My Piccolo (*sob*) had such an awesome ride even though it had 16in wheels also because it had big apples and a sprung saddle. It was still harsh when the roads were bad, like on that horrible stretch of Sunset blvd, but it was much cushier than a 20in wheel on skinny tires and unsprung saddle.

I'm running the marathons on my brommie at around 85psi now, and I like it slightly better than when fully pumped. Ride will get much better once I get my sprung saddle also.
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Old 04-06-09, 07:56 AM   #10
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Some notes.
  1. Go to BFold in Manhattan, which may understand folding bikes better.
  2. Wow, the Brompton was LESS squirrelly than the Citizen Tokyo? Do I *want* how bad the trail is on the Tokyo? You're going to find the BFs, including the Tikit, to be much stabler.
  3. If you're that tall (how tall exactly?), a Dahon may be a problem too. I'm thinking you're gonna be looking at a BF. A tikit or Pocket Rocket or something. Stuff that can be sized and customized.
  4. You'll find a 20" Dahon, especially the Speed P8, to be a lot smoother ride because of its Big Apple tires (probably also the 16" Curve). 20" Bike Fridays will be decent in this respect. Let me know if you find the Tikit better or worse than the Brompton (I found it better). But it'll also be bumpier than the 20" Dahons.
  5. When you try the Tikit make certain that they've got the handlebar stem tightened up right.
  6. Be sure to check out a Swift.

[yeah yeah, I'm tempting fate with the coming Tikit vs Brompton battle].
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Old 04-06-09, 08:42 AM   #11
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You had stock 6 gears, you can get from Brompton a 8% larger chainring, a 54T vs the 50T you rode.
Yes, you can get even higher if you really wanted, there is the Schlumpf High Speed Drive with a real 27T which it steps-up by 2.5x to make a virtual 67.5T chainring so a 35% increase in your highest gear, plus a low gear 46% lower than present. Schlumpf adds weight but the HSD is the lightest.

Hands - should not be a problem with M-bars, suggest you investigate technique, you may be feeling the steering as too light and so are compensating by gripping harshly - relax. That is 99% likely your problem, and will resolve as you get used to the Brompton. However you can get Ergon grips they produce a moulded palm rest area.

All the above ideas add weight.

The weight-reducing winners are to move to a 2-speed instead of 6-speed, which lowers your highest gear, and to move to Titanium.

It strikes me the Brompton may be the wrong bike for the rider
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Old 04-06-09, 01:03 PM   #12
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Some notes.
  1. Go to BFold in Manhattan, which may understand folding bikes better.
    Yep, that's exactly what I plan on doing the second the weather clears up for some test drives.
  2. Wow, the Brompton was LESS squirrelly than the Citizen Tokyo? Do I *want* how bad the trail is on the Tokyo? You're going to find the BFs, including the Tikit, to be much stabler.
    The Tokyo handles fine but trying to track stand at a complete stop on it isn't as easy as the Brompton-- again because of the wheel size.
  3. If you're that tall (how tall exactly?), a Dahon may be a problem too. I'm thinking you're gonna be looking at a BF. A tikit or Pocket Rocket or something. Stuff that can be sized and customized. I'm 5'7" with the inseam of a 6'4" man! Super long legs. 34" inseam. It's a blessing but apparently in the folding bike world it's a curse.
  4. You'll find a 20" Dahon, especially the Speed P8, to be a lot smoother ride because of its Big Apple tires (probably also the 16" Curve). 20" Bike Fridays will be decent in this respect. Let me know if you find the Tikit better or worse than the Brompton (I found it better). But it'll also be bumpier than the 20" Dahons.
    Thanks! I'll definitely let you know.
  5. When you try the Tikit make certain that they've got the handlebar stem tightened up right.
    Gotcha! Will do.
  6. Be sure to check out a Swift.
    I actually looked at one yesterday. It's not for me, unfortunately.
Thank you for all the input and advice. It's really helpful and really appreciate it.

Question: Which chain ring would get me the highest gearing? 54t? (I'm confused...)

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Old 04-06-09, 01:47 PM   #13
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Slightly Off Topic

But I specifically bought my Birdy for the new york streets and it's brilliant. Not as small as a brompton folded but with a birdy backpack cases, no problems getting into any building.

Genius.
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Old 04-06-09, 03:01 PM   #14
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I am lookin forward for the other test rides on the other bikes....
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Old 04-06-09, 03:33 PM   #15
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The bigger in the front, the higher the gearing.
The smaller in the back, the higher the gearing.

But bigger than a 53T or 54T will be odd.

If you're concerned about top-end, you can (1) go with a 20-inch bike, which gives you more flexibility (2) go with a custom-setup hub, which ain't cheap (3) go with a Capreo cassette, which on the Tikit gives you about 15 more gear inches at the top.

Regarding #3. On the Tikit, using Sheldon Brown's gear calculator (may he rest in peace) with 35-349 (16 x 1 3/8) tires, 8-speed "R/ah" 11-28, and a 53 chainring, set to Gear inches, we get 30.4 - 77.4. Change to a 9-speed "Capreo" 9-26 and we get 32.8 - 94.6. If you use a Capreo but cut your chainring down to 49 to keep the same low-end as the original, you get 30.3 - 87.5. Or you can modify the Capreo to change the 26 to a 28, getting 30.4 - 94.6.
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Old 04-07-09, 09:05 PM   #16
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Quote:
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The bigger in the front, the higher the gearing.
The smaller in the back, the higher the gearing.

But bigger than a 53T or 54T will be odd.

If you're concerned about top-end, you can (1) go with a 20-inch bike, which gives you more flexibility (2) go with a custom-setup hub, which ain't cheap (3) go with a Capreo cassette, which on the Tikit gives you about 15 more gear inches at the top.

Regarding #3. On the Tikit, using Sheldon Brown's gear calculator (may he rest in peace) with 35-349 (16 x 1 3/8) tires, 8-speed "R/ah" 11-28, and a 53 chainring, set to Gear inches, we get 30.4 - 77.4. Change to a 9-speed "Capreo" 9-26 and we get 32.8 - 94.6. If you use a Capreo but cut your chainring down to 49 to keep the same low-end as the original, you get 30.3 - 87.5. Or you can modify the Capreo to change the 26 to a 28, getting 30.4 - 94.6.
Wow! Thank you so much for the info. all those "gear inches" and conversions make my head hurt. I have no idea which to choose or how to customize "teeth" and "gear inches" to suit my needs...

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