I have now had my Brompton for a month and prompted by a couple of PM’s & questions, I thought that I ought to give a review of the bike.
Before I start with the Brompton I guess I ought to explain what I am comparing it to and give you an idea of my daily commute.
My commute is ½ a mile from home to the railway station and then a ½ mile ride up to work. At the moment they are replacing the railway track on the Liverpool Underground Loop and the trains are stopping at James St. (near the river Mersey) instead of Lime St. so I have a ride of 1 ½ miles to the University which is situated on Brownlow Hill and as the name suggests, the campus is uphill from the river. At least my ride is all downhill on the way home.
My other folder is a Dahon MU SL (bought last May). These are very light, fast bikes with 9-speed derailleur giving 31-91” gear inches. I have done some good rides on this bike (30 + miles). Normally I store the Dahon at home with just the handle bars folded down so as to take up less room. I would only fold it fully to put it in the lift to take to and from my office. At the train station I would only fold it if there was no room in the bike racks aboard the trains.
The Brompton is a similar weight to the Dahon, especially in the configuration that I chose (S2L-X, without rack or guards). The main differences between the 2 bikes are the wheel sizes 20” verses 16”, the number of gears, 9 verses 2 and the frame material aluminium verses steel. The difference in handling between 16” & 20” wheels does not seem that great, both are quick and agile. I would say that the Brompton feels stronger with far less flex than the Dahon.
The gear range on the Dahon is plenty wide enough for most situations but even still I would like higher gearing than the 91” for going downhill and on the flat. With the Brompton I went for a compromise of lighter weight verses extra gears. I thought about the new BWR hub but in the end I opted for the 2-speed, which has 2 rear sprockets (12 & 16 tooth) and a 54T front chainring) giving 56” & 74”. this is the standard factory (and highest) set up. The gearing can be lowered using a smaller front chainring but the rear sprockets remain the same regardless of which front chainring is used.
Before ordering the Brompton I would ride up to work on the Dahon using a gear that corresponds to the 74” of the higher Brompton gear. I considered going for a single speed Brompton but thought it better to get the 2-speed as there is only a tiny weight penalty over the single speed version. I find that the lower 56” gear is fine but I would like a much higher top gear, say 100” (for riding downhill and on the flat), but I’m limited by the rear sprockets. I am a fairly quick rider that prefers pushing higher gears rather than spinning like crazy.
At the moment, James St. Station is taking the capacity of 4 stations and the lifts, platforms and trains are packed full of commuters so I have had the chance to explore just how good the Brompton is under these conditions. I do use the Brompton differently than the Dahon. The Brompton is stored fully folded at home, I fold it and put on its cover on arrival at the station and it is folded and stored in my office. I can fit the Brompton anywhere on the train, even between the backs of the seats. The light weight, smaller, more compact size and the fact that I never seem to get tired of folding the bike means that the Brompton is perfect for its intended use.
I bought the “S” type front bag which has proved to be very useful. I fitted the shoulder strap which means that I can carry the bag over my left shoulder and bike in my left hand, keeping my right hand free. The maximum weight for the front bag is 10Kg and I have carried 7Kg which does have a noticeable effect on the handling but it is not too bad. It is certainly better than carrying the weight in a rucksack.
The cover is superb and well made and it stops other commuters from touching / scratching the bike. It is quick to fold and stuff in the rear pocket of the “S” bag. I did try the saddle mounted cover pouch but it does get in the way of a quick fold, so I only use this if I’m out on the Brompton minus the front “S” bag.
The frame is finished in raw lacquer. I debated over which colour/finish to go for and felt a little worried when Brompton announced that 2009 bikes would be in a matt finish, but to be honest my fears were ungrounded as the bike looks stunning. The finish is holding up very well and I have not seen any marks or scratches anywhere..... I have used some protective film (from a motorcycle store) on areas that I think might be prone to wear.
In the past I have criticized the look of the Bromptons brake levers and the angle at which they are set.... but I find that they are nice and comfortable to use. I know some people have complained about poor braking performance of these bikes but I can honestly say that the brakes on my 2009 model work really well. Maybe they have upgraded the brakes?
The new 2009 standard saddle certainly looks a lot better than the older version, it is comfortable, I like the little logos and the carrying grip is very useful.
I have not fitted bar-ends and I’m not sure if I will... I find the standard grips are fine. I will probably fit a titanium railed Brooks saddle soon, once I finally decided upon the model/colour that I want. I will also fit a set of Schwalbe Kojaks rather than the current Schwalbe Stelvios.
I have taken my Brompton into both Liverpool and Chester City Centres and have not had a single problem taking it into shops, though I do normally use the cover.
I’m very attached to my Brompton now and the more I ride it and look at it the more I realise what a fantastic piece of engineering it really is.
Any regrets? Well only that I did not buy a Brompton sooner