To give context to this story you need to know two things about me:
1) I am a commuter. I live in Brighton and work in London which means that I have a one hour train journey at the start and end of each working day.
2) I like cycling. I have used a bicycle as my main mode of transport (where reasonable) since I was about 17. I love the freedom of getting around on a bicycle, especially in a city like London. There is no denying the dangers but whizzing about on a bicycle is a feeling I love.
I have worked in London on and off since about 1999 and have been doing this train commute for so long that, when I started, they still had guards vans where you were allowed to stack your bikes. Ah, the good old days, when the trains were a little draftier but the train never had to be ‘rebooted’ in order to get the doors to open; handles we used to call them – crazily effective.
My current commute means a 12 minute walk (personal best) to the station, approximately one hour on the train, and then approximately 20 – 25 minute walk to my desk.
Or it did.
I have been eyeing up these Bromptons for years – silly looking things with their tiny wheels – “that isn’t a proper bicycle” I kept telling myself, “not like my road bike. Pah!” I have stared at, and talked about, pretty much every kind of folding bike there is. A few of my geekier bike friends have ‘dissed’ the Brompton, people have suggested having a cheap bike one end, cheap bike the other …
And then Dom let me borrow his Brompton.
Bromptons are fucking amazing.
The gearing is brilliant so you can get up some decent speed, the bike might be all small and low to the ground but you feel upright and visible, you can fold them in seconds, and they fold up small. Brilliant. They are made by a UK company who have kept all production in the UK so, while that is most certainly reflected in the price, you do get a bit of ‘warm and fuzzy’ for supporting local industry.
They are a little heavier than I am entirely comfortable with (number 3 I forgot to mention is that I have a rather dodgy back) and I did need to be shown how to go through the fold/un-fold routine which took a few goes to get down to professional commuter speeds.
I do not need to check out the competition, I love it!
I have reduced my commute by about 40 minutes a day and, instead of frantically trying to walk stupidly fast, I get to race through the streets of London, yelling at the occasional pedestrian, smiling smugly at the people stuck in traffic and I just love the downhill bit from the station on my way home. By the time I walk through my door I might look a bit windswept but any remnants of the days’ annoyances have been dispatched! Folded up it fits on the train, in the office, a taxi, the pub – wherever I go, it does.
Mine arrives in 4 weeks!
Bright orange – I didn’t want to waste an opportunity to give a little nod to my favourite open source operating system – and I went for the 6-speed, titanium option. Well, Brighton is rather hilly and I do have to look after my back you know!
*Note: Obviously it didn’t literally save my life and it wasn’t last night but the tune stuck in my head so I used it.
I miss my Brompton 🙁 It was stolen off the train a year ago.
So when you do get it, keep it close by, and lock it up even on the train!
Oh no! I do keep it close on the train but haven’t resorted to locking it up. People are a disappointment sometimes.
I’m a friend of MF. He just IMd me this link. Glad you like the bike. I’ve been riding them for ten years, and everything you say is true: they are fucking amazing bikes.
I’ve done some great mods and add-ons over the years including front box carriers, trailers etc. I can’t see why anyone would want a car when it’s possible to trail a 2 section five metre ladder behind a Brompton. 😉
You should see it when a commuter train from London pulls up in an unstaffed station in the evenings – a crowd of Brompton users leap out and transform with military efficiency, riding on the platform. You’ll learn the routine fast.
Bromptons are great. All my doubts about them vanished after a test ride offered by my local dealer. And nothing folds quite as neatly, or as small. Being able to hop on any train, and not worry about storage at the other end of the journey is great.
Do get the shop to fit a front carrier block, the luggage is great, and well worth having (again, imo). Also think about the “hard” elastomer for the suspension block – I think the standard is a bit soft.
Enjoy. I had to look at them for a long time as I knew I had to buy two (one for me and the other for by wife). We love them (I think she does). We’re 62 and both working with company car so we only use them socially. Trains, buses etc. no problem. We’re about to do the Eurostar to Avignon but can’t quite get our thoughts together on luggage with the Brompton bag and a small pull along case it seems a bit of a mis-match – I guess a backpack and a Brompton bag any thoughts?
[…] Last night a Brompton saved my life [twitterer] […]
In the mean-time, you may be able to rent a Brompton from South West Trains: http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/bromptonbikes.aspx. And regarding comparing ladder lengths … I did 40 kilometres (25 miles) towing a two-section 8-metre ladder behind my Brompton (after various willing people had deemed it too long to fit safely on their roof-racks/trailers): the articulated proportions were about the same as an HGV and the roundabouts needed taking very wide!
If you’re lucky, it may arrive in time to take (or for it to take you) to UDS in Belgium.
I don’t think I am going to join in with the ladder competition 🙂 though you are making me think it might be possible to create some means of towing a kayak down to the beach…
I have been carefully neglecting to return my borrowed one but good news is that mine is supposed to arrive next Friday so I may indeed be able to bring it to Belgium! I like the idea that South West trains is renting them though I still think they should and could provide better provision for cycles on trains and I think it is ridiculous that they ban bikes from trains when the London to Brighton is on (but that is a different rant).
It seems I am behind the curve on discovering the delight of Bromptons! Now that they have told me mine arrives next week I am getting a bit over excited.
In the meantime, I used my road bike at the weekend – I still love that too.
[…] the internet, discovering that Brompton-owners are called Bromptonians. I read things like ‘wherever I go, it goes‘ saw a ‘brompton sunrise‘ and found out there is an international Brompton World […]