New Family Member

Those of you following me on Twitter during my recent Southern odyssey may have noticed that in addition to riding the Boris Bikes, my tweets indicated I had been riding bikes in other locations which the hire bikes are unavailable in, such as Waltham Forest and Oxfordshire. Whilst I was in London, I decided to take advantage of the fact that the Western Extension Zone of the London Congestion Charge has recently been scrapped, and pick up one of the many second-hand Bromptons for sale in the area. There are so many Bromptons for sale around this area as more people choose to drive to work rather than cycle, proving at the same time why the congestion charge was necessary in that area in the first place. My plan was to sell it up North if I didn’t like it, where the second-hand Brompton market is less saturated so it could fetch a higher price.

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Note the extended seat-post; a standard or telescopic seat-post will allow the folded package to be even more compact than this.

Unfortunately for my wallet, I do like it. A lot. I got the M3L model; M-type bars for an upright riding position, 3-speed gears (Sturmey Archer SRF-3 on mine, SRAM hubs are also used), no rear rack (seems a bit useless on such a small-wheeled bike), complete with mudguards and a (slightly worse-for-wear) Brooks B67 saddle. The standard seat-post is useable by someone my height (1.78 m), but not quite long enough. Luckily the extended seat-post was readily available from Evans for £16.

My first proper ride on the bike was from Waltham Forest to Paddington Railway Station. The cycle infrastructure was crap, but the bike was ideal for the conditions, quick to accelerate from the lights so I could get past the next deadly pinch-point and responsive to steer through the complex and ever changing door-zone I was repeatedly squeezed into. The bike was perfectly comfortable for the duration of the ride, and folded up small enough to be counted as luggage on my train to Oxford

Upon reaching Oxford, I unfolded the bike and began the trek to Wheatley (my grandparents’ new home). The A40 was the most direct route, but had large sections set at the national speed limit, which thanks to the dual carriageway means 70 mph (obviously many will drive at much higher speeds due to the lack of active speed cameras in Oxfordshire). Obviously an alternative route was needed, and the smaller road through the village of Horspath seemed a logical choice. Using Google maps to navigate, I had neglected to account for the possibility of the route not being flat. Thankfully, the gearing on the Brompton was low enough for me to climb up the hills, although I was deliberately slower going down the hills because I haven’t got a good feel for the brakes yet. I expected the bike would be great for short journeys and multimodal transport, now I have experience of riding the bike a considerable distance, I feel it is also a very capable longer-distance machine. I can completely understand why people have used them as touring bikes.

The Brompton is a testament to what British design and manufacturing can still achieve. The design is modular, with all the odd proprietary as well as standard replacement parts easily available online. The modular design is sympathetic to older Bromptons; yearly improvements to parts of the bike can all be retrofitted to older models. This is part of the reason why their value depreciates so little over time. Super-light titanium editions are available, with titanium rear triangles, forks and titanium or aluminium seat-posts. The modular design means that you could conceivably replace parts of your existing Brompton with titanium equivalents over time.

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Re-assuringly sturdy folding left pedal brings the folded size down a bit.

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The rear triangle clips onto the seat-post clamp, with a rubber cylinder providing a little bit of suspension.

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The little nub on the stem (Left) clips into the socket on the fork crown (Right) when the bike is folded.

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The luggage block on the head-tube accepts a variety of proprietary Brompton luggage which whilst expensive, is generally very well regarded.

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Brompton’s shifter operates the Sturmey hub, presumably to prevent the standard shifter fouling the fold, and to produce a consistent look within the range which includes a 6-speed option (2-speed derailleur coupled to 3-speed hub) and the different varieties of 3 speed hubs used by Brompton (SRAM & Sturmey Archer).

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I do not believe the Brooks B67 has ever been a standard option on a Brompton (I was given the original saddle too). This one looked as if it has been ridden on whilst wet a few times, and had become very saggy and uncomfortable. Luckily a bit of a tweak with the tension spanner and some Proofide and the saddle is almost as good as new.

The benefits of a bike which folds into a small & rigid package are obvious; ease of storage at home, ease of carrying the folded up bike, taking your bike onto even the most overcrowded train, taking it into a restaurant, theatre or nightclub or even onto the Metrolink (if suitably covered up, which obviously makes complete sense as a policy).

I expect that I will have saved enough money due to owning the Brompton for it to pay for itself within about 5 months. Think about it.

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18 thoughts on “New Family Member

  1. Oh I have been thinking about a Brommie but have absolutely no need for one at the current time, more's the pity. Just for interest though, exactly how much cheaper are they in London then? (don't tell the wife i've been asking)

  2. Go MrC! That's super 🙂 I've noticed that my other half has been eyeing the titanium frame model, so if he goes for it, I'll be getting his current Brompton 🙂 If I hint at it enough, do you think he'll get the gist??? His had his yellow Brompton for about 7 years now and it has never let him down, a fantastic bike!

  3. @DarrellI've seen plenty of M3Ls and S2Ls around the £350 mark. Up here I've seen very few for sale, but usually around £450 upwards for an M3L. The ones I have seen for sale here are snapped up pretty quick, so there is obviously a latent demand. Even 15 years old + Bromptons can still fetch around £350. If times get really hard it is re-assuring to know that I can still recoup the entire cost of the bike even after years of use.

  4. @LCI'd say you should persuade PB it is a good idea to get the titanium one. It probably won't take much, many men have an innate love of gadgetry and upgrades. This article might give him a push in the right direction, and get you one step closer to a Brompton of your own.

  5. Congratulations, and what a jaunty red!On the Ti ones – the saving in weight vs the amount of extra money is poor, in my opinion. There's nothing wrong with the steel Brompton – I'd spend a little on a "firm" suspension block, (makes the ride more direct and less "pogo-ey" and put some of the extra money towards some luggage (I love my "C" bag) – maybe Marathon Plus tyres if you can't face a rear wheel p* repair ;-)The rim tape that came on my (2009) S6-L is nasty plastic stuff, and has punctured a couple of tubes – another good thing to do if you have that is to replace it with cloth tape like Velox, although that's still on my "to do" list.Re: train/metrolink, a lot of folk carry a bin bag in the void in the front part of the tube, it can be removed and used to magically turn the folded bicycle into "luggage" 🙂 Brompton also do a cover that will hang from your saddle's bag loops (although that would obscure my rear light).Lastly, bear in mind that the drive train is close to the ground, and accumulates muck quickly in wet weather – a good wipe down at the end of the journey is essential to prevent stiff links in the chain &c."…but have absolutely no need for one at the current time, more's the pity."The odd thing about mine was that I kept finding uses for it. It was originally just going to be my "overwinter" bike, for when I didn't feel like a 30 mile round trip. I now use it for nipping into town (don't have to worry about bike parking, as I can carry it with me) going to meetings at other sites (where I can't be sure of bike parking) popping in the car boot on trips on the offchance that there might be some riding at the other end, the list goes on. They're really handy to have around.

  6. @JohnI agree about the titanium ones, there isn't a lot of weight loss considering the price. I think they are largely aimed at the "weight weenie" types who are determined that their performance will increase exponentially if they can shave off those extra few grams from the bike. And gadget lovers.I was a bit dubious about the standard suspension block at first, but I am coming to terms with it now. I may spring for the firm one next time I put in an order with SJS, and I'll check the rim tape whenever the tyres give me any reason to take them off. I'm quite liking the Brompton High Pressure tyres at the moment, although I have had good experiences with all the Schwalbe tyres I have ever run, so I may switch down the line as the tyre wears.I think a bin bag is the best way to go on Metrolink, technically following the ridiculous rule, whilst looking unsightly at the same time.

  7. If you're ever down that way, you could ask at Harry Hall's – they let me have a "firm" block out of the bits box for a fiver. There's not much price variation in Brompton bits, so it can be a good opportunity to support the LBS.I've had decent luck with the tyres (Brompton Green on mine) too, although they're a sod to get off – Schwalbe levers are the only plastic ones that'll do the job for me.One other thing struck me from your original post – the point of the rack for a lot of people is to make the bike easier to trolley around when folded – I've yet to see one with luggage on it!

  8. John the MonkeyYou will not tempt me. If I had the money I would buy one tomorrow but I also have a wife and we are saving for: a house deposit, a six week trip to the USA next year and running a small child! Wife is great but would not be happy with another bicycle and will never understand the innate charms of a Brommie. Never mind.

  9. So. Jealous.If I had the access to reasonably priced used Bromptons, well I'd…buy one. It's almost tempting to ask someone to buy one for me. But I'm sure the overseas shipping to the US would negate any savings. (Unless Darrell wants to bring one over with him on his trip. Darrell, are you coming to Portland? ;-))Guess the best I can do for now is hope another Raleigh Twenty comes up on Craigslist. Seen them as low as $100 before.

  10. @adventure!Portland,Oregon? I'm heading for the US South West and a few weeks around the Four Corners Plateau. If you are down that way maybe we can come to some arrangement?

  11. @adventure! @DarrellThis could be beneficial to both of you; Darrell, you could buy a 2nd hand Brompton for around £350-400 here, and sell it to Adventure! for the equivalent in $ and use it as spending money (avoiding the commission at the bureau de change). Today that would be between $560 and $640. Plus you'd have the chance to meet a fellow bikey blogger and see the USA's cycling city city too. Adventure! you would be saving quite a bit too, Clever Cycles in Portland sells Bromptons (the M3L) at $1,230, plus you'd get to meet a British bike blogger too.

  12. Agree about the rim tape – crap stuff.Re the suspension block. The old trick (which I've used) before they brought out the harder compund block was to put a hoseclip around it to prevent it from squishing as much. Works really well.

  13. Regarding putting any kind of bag or luggage on the rear luggage rack – – it doesn't work because any extra slight weight on the rack pushes the fender down on the tire. There is very little clearance between the fender and the tire… :/ I initially used a small trunk bag there, but even that didn't work, so I got the C bag instead.

  14. Pingback: Brompton: One Year On | Chester Cycling

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