TL; DR version: I found a Brompton configuration I adore, but my LBS doesn't have them in stock and it will take 4 months to order from the Mother Land. Should I just buy an off-the-shelf model online?
For the rest of you, it's StoryTime:
There is nothing more magical than watching a Brompton unfold for the first time.
I am about four days into my obsession, having watched pretty much all the videos and read all the reviews and bike forum posts available online. I know how the Brompton unfolds. I have seen the videos. And yet there is nothing like seeing it in person. Especially when the person doing it uses a flourish, unfurling the rear and front wheels at the same time. One moment you're staring at a compact assemblage of parts; the next moment, there is a bike in front of you.
I'm a goner. The odds of me not buying a Brompton at this point are probably 5%, and it's only that high because I will have a little over a week to think it over until my next paycheck, when I will have enough extra money to buy the thing. A lot can happen in a week. It took just a few days to convince myself I needed one; given a week, I can probably talk myself out of it.
The thing is, after tonight's test right, I don't want to talk myself out of it. I tried two different types of handlebars, two kinds of saddles, and two kinds of gearing. At first I used the H style handlebar, which is a higher model than the normal bar, raising it by a couple inches. When I first stepped on the bike and started peddling, my immediate impression was that it felt kind of weird, and definitely different than riding my Trek 7100 hybrid. Within about a block I started to feel more comfortable -- indeed, the smile on my face kept getting bigger and bigger -- but ultimately it still felt like the handlebar was just a little bit too close to my body. I felt a little bit cramped. It was a bit of a let down.
I knew that the Brompton tends to fit smaller or average sized people better, according to various accounts on the Internet. At 6'1" and 210 pounds, I had hoped that the taller handlebar and extended seat post would make up for things. Unfortunately it was back to the drawing board. My next test ride used the M handlebar. My thinking was that, because the handlebar is a couple inches lower, I would be able to reach farther as I leaned forward. Frankly, this test ride was a disaster. The geometry was all wrong; I felt way too hunched over. After cutting my teeth on the Trek hybrid for 1200 miles last year, I was used to an upright position. I simply needed a taller handlebar.
I was bereft. After all that searching on the Internet, after so many videos watched and articles read, after effortlessly falling into the self-proclaimed category of "Bromptonaut," I wouldn't be able to ride one after all. Damn you for getting my hopes up, Internet!
And then I noticed something. Something that would change everything. I looked at the seat on the bike I had just tested, the one with the M handlebar. It seems there's a bit of leeway as to how far forward you can install the seat. This seat had been pushed all the way back. I quickly walked back to the first bike I'd tested…
The seat was NOT pushed all the way back! It could probably have gone back another inch! Moreover, that seat was not the Brompton standard, but was rather a Brooks model. (Very popular with the Brompton crowd, but a bit too bouncy for my taste.)
I asked if there were any other bikes with the H style handlebar, but with the standard seat, pushed all the way back. It turns out there was, although it wasn't using the extended seat post that I needed. But it was worth a try. I hopped on the bike and headed out the door…
And it was great! The seat definitely could have been a couple of inches higher -- the extended post will fix that -- but it was pushed back all the way, and I had the room I needed! I was in love.
I was on a flat city street, and I decided to see how fast I could get it. I didn't have time to push it very hard, and I wasn't even in the highest gear, but I was easily able to get it up over 20 mph. It felt very stable, and with the tiny 16 inch wheels, it was super maneuverable. I had tried both the 3-speed and the 6-speed, and although the 3-speed is fine, I preferred the versatility of the 6.
The good news is that shop, BicycleSpace in DC, has just gotten in a shipment of four Bromptons with H style bars. The bad news is that the only color available is a rather girly "Turkish Green" -- think turquoise. And the Mother Land is pumping out new custom orders excruciatingly slowly. I was told the expected wait time is four months. Ugh.
If I were king, I would custom order the lacquer frame with black extremities and a rack with EZ Wheels. But I'm not sure I want to wait that long -- summer would be almost half over by the time it arrived!! NYCE Wheels has a black H6R ready to ship, but is it wrong for me to go test out the Brompton in my LBS and then order it online? (There's also the matter of wanting access to the free tweaks and adjustments that a LBS will give you if you bought the bike there.)
So, any thoughts?