Second-hand bikes can be a great way to get a good bike at a more affordable price. The downside is that you get a bike which has been set-up according to the preferences of its previous owner. When I purchased the Brompton back in February, it had been set-up with obscenely high gearing, a 50-tooth chain-ring with a 13-tooth rear sprocket. With the Sturmey Archer S-RF3 rear hub, this gave gears with 3.7, 4.9 & 6.6 metres development respectively. I put up with this for a long time because although it was much too high, it still worked. Eventually, the stresses to the sprocket and chain from starting from stationary in such a high gear were too much, and the chain would no-longer mesh with the chain-ring.
Not having a 24mm socket to remove the left-hand folding pedal, I had a look at the official Brompton chainsets which would allow me to leave my existing left crank in place without a major mismatch. Needless to say, they were excessively expensive. Instead, I was fortunate enough to find a Stronglight chainset which, online at least, looked similar enough to the Brompton one for me to get away with leaving the original left crank in place.
The unused Stronglight left crank, with the original Brompton one. They could almost have been separated at birth.
The fitted Stronglight chainset with the Brompton original below, again they are very similar looking indeed. I also replaced the rear sprocket and chain, resulting in 42 teeth at the front and 14 teeth at the back. This produces 2.9, 3.8 & 5.1 metres development, respectively. This means the Brompton can now much more easily climb hills and accelerate from stationary without busting my knees. It may not be a very flashy upgrade but it makes a significant difference to how useful the bike is. If your gears are too high (or low) don’t suffer in silence, do something about it. It can make the difference between a bike you merely tolerate riding in certain circumstances to one you actively want to use.