Long Term Review: Living with our Brompton folding bicycle

Our brompton demo came to my rescue recently and I thought now would be a great time to write a more in depth review, especially now that we had it for the better part of a year.  Last week I was recovering from the flu when I asked my wife to pick me up from work instead of forging ahead with my normal bike commute.  Usually I relish my 6.5 mile commute home as a opportunity to turn off my brain and get some much needed excercise but I was still achy and sick from the flu and with the winter conditions I couldn't get myself excited to ride home.  I had my current commuter bike at the shop but already feeling sick I really didn't want to hoist it up on the roof rack of my Subaru.  The Brompton seemed like the perfect solution, folded it fits easily in the back seat of my car no muss no fuss.  

 Here is a picture of our demo brompton in it's natural environment.  An urban area.

Here is a picture of our demo brompton in it's natural environment.  An urban area.

The next morning I felt much recovered, most likely due to the extra rest given by not riding home nor hoisting my full sized bicycle onto and off  of the roof of my Subaru.  It also happened that the weather was unnaturally sunny and warm for a Saturday in January.  Feeling well and enjoying the unusually sunny weather I had a truly great ride into the shop.  It was during this commute where I decided to do some more writing about one of our favorite bikes. 

One of the coolest things about Bromptons is that each bike can be customized for the user.  Although many customers choose to buy a bike off our sales floor there is no extra cost associated with special ordering a bike to your taste.  Brompton's website has an excellent bike builder function (here) where you can have fun spec'ing out your very own folder.  The only difficult thing about custom ordering a Brompton is that you have to wait for the bike to be built (the wait as of the writing this blog post is 4 weeks).  When purchasing a Brompton you have to choose a handlebar type (Short,Medium,P touring,High), a gearing system (single speed, 2 speed, 3 speed, or 6 speed), do you want a rear rack or fenders (you probably want at least fenders) and then you have to decide on the color of your bike,  and lighting options (dynamo lighting anyone).  You also can add really ingenious luggage and transport options (easy wheels are a must).  Our demo Brompton is classified as an M6R (meaning it has M type bars with a six speed drivetrain and a rear rack with fenders)  On our bike we also added Shimano dynamo lighting for safety and a telescopic seat post to fit really really tall people. You can check out our earlier Brompton review here where we discussed our first impressions of our new demo Brompton.

My first impressions of the ride of our Brompton haven't really changed throughout our extended use of the bike.  I feel the bike is extremely capable of traversing our potholed and pockmarked streets.  If anything I am increasingly impressed at the overall durability and build quality of the Brompton.  With such small wheels (16" X 1-3/8") many people assume the ride would be overly harsh.  In actuality the Brompton rides very comfortably despite its little wheels. The comfortable ride is accomplished by incorporating suspension into the frame design.  The rear swing arm of the bike has an elastomer where it contacts the main frame allowing for a small amount of travel.  The stem and bars also have a good deal of flex which suspense the rider isolating him/her from the bumpiness of the terrain.  All of this designed compliance does takes its toll in pedaling efficiency where I find the Brompton to be lacking.  That said this is a folding designed for urban utility not a race bike made for outright speed so a little extra give is expected and appropriate.  And as long as you don't strava your commute everyday you probably won't mind either.

We have found that the best thing about having a Brompton is having the ability to take it with you pretty much wherever you go.   Have to go to the bank?  Fine...fold it up and bring it in.  Need to stop at Penn Mac to do some shopping for tonights dinner?  Great!  Partially fold the Brompton and use the easy wheels and front mounted folding basket to transform the bike into a shopping cart.  The only challenge becomes having to stop and answer questions posed by curious bystanders.  

 Our bank has a perfect parking spot for our Brompton right underneath the deposit/withdraw slip counter.

Our bank has a perfect parking spot for our Brompton right underneath the deposit/withdraw slip counter.

 With the handlebar up and the rest of the bike folded the Brompton becomes a usable shopping cart.  The front basket is in a great position to hold goods while you wheel the bike around.

With the handlebar up and the rest of the bike folded the Brompton becomes a usable shopping cart.  The front basket is in a great position to hold goods while you wheel the bike around.

I have to say the longer we have our Brompton the harder I think it would be to live without it.  We continually find new uses where being able to bring your bike with us just makes sense.  For me it will never replace having a full sized bicycle, its just not fast enough on road or capable enough off road to give me the thrills I look for.  That said I can't see myself not having one either.  Feel free to stop by the shop and give our demo a spin.