In a world where convenience is king, there’s always more room in the arsenal for other quick-fix, easy solutions. Innovations like smartphones and GPS systems have changed the way we live, but some might say that Brompton tapped into something truly transformative when they invited their folding bicycle in 1975.
Built by hand in London, the iconic bike has since earned a reputation as the ultimate urban companion. It’s no ordinary cycle, but an eye-catching style that’s designed to fold up promptly—in fact, 20 seconds is all it takes. For all its subversive appeal, however, the compact vehicle is something of an anomaly in the biking world. It’s highly functional, and its appeal rests largely in its stability and practicality.
Many people dream of inventing the next big thing. They imagine they might change the world, or at the very least fill a gap and fulfill a need. Andrew Ritchie sought to do precisely that following his days studying engineering at Cambridge University. He was a curious and inquisitive sort who was particularly intrigued by the concept of the fold-up bike.
At the time, the standard foldable version was far clunkier, and not quite so sleek and convenient. It was more the type of contraction that would fold in half, taking up considerable space in the process. Ritchie was interested in something demonstrably more sophisticated and appealing.
He knew there had to be a better and more suitable way to fold a bike, so he drew upon his engineering skills to develop a hinge directly at the front. This piece made it easy to bring the handlebars down and tuck them away. Then he added another to the back. It was his first go, and it wasn’t quite the success that he hoped.
Yet it was a start—and a promising one at that. There were signs that the possibility of creating a folding bike that people could actually use existed. As with so many grand-scale fantasies, though, the process took years. Ritchie and his friends compiled ideas, exhausted different designs, and eventually happened upon a concept built on the original that was stronger, sturdier, and altogether safer. It was so popular, in fact, that it earned the Best Product achievement at a Cyclex exhibition at Olympia London.
That was just what was needed to appeal to investors, which Ritchie desperately needed to bring his dream of big business to fruition. It took a few years, however, to really bring the bike up to speed—to ensure that there were no weak spots that could otherwise break in motion. The end result was precisely what he wanted, if not particularly beautiful.
But aesthetic beauty was never the ultimate goal. For Ritchie, it was about improving upon innovation, and creating something that appealed to a broader group—not just cycling enthusiasts, but anyone who needed something well-built to more easily navigate the city. It’s a technical bike more than anything else, with a kind of gritty appeal that makes it just as valuable to one’s lifestyle as a high-quality computer bag or suitcase.
What makes Brompton bikes tick? At its heart, it all comes back to two key traits: engineering and workmanship. The design is such that the wheelbase extends longer than that of a standard bicycle. This means that when it’s unfolded, it’s highly reliable, with a substantial body that maintains its balance beautifully as you maneuver it around town.
More than just its great build, the standard Brompton model is designed to complement your busy lifestyle with ease. Because it snaps together so quickly, it can easily be carried into the office, on the train, or on the plane. It fits beautifully into a suitcase, and just as easily slides into the overhead compartment on the aircraft. It’s a constant companion, meant to go anywhere and everywhere, whether you’re zooming off to the restaurant after work or grabbing a taxi across town.
Where the technical details are concerned, Brompton leaves absolutely nothing to chance. The bike is designed to fold up in no more than 30 seconds, but with regular practice you’ll find that it comes to you in shockingly quick order. And given that the brand has been churning out high-quality bikes for decades, it’s worth noting that their bikes are built to stand the test of time. From quality materials to intricate craftsmanship, a great deal of attention is put into each one.
This is key, since odds are high that you’ll take extensive advantage of the bike once it becomes a part of your world. You’ll fold it and unfold it with the same frequency every day. You’ll slide it into snug spaces, stash it into bags, and carry it into buildings. It will go through quite a lot without losing its integrity, something that’s particularly important to the brand. This is precisely why each bike undergoes rigorous stress tests before it’s brought to market.
There are, of course, plenty of additional benefits to consider, too. If you’re a frequent cab-hailer or train-rider, a bike could easily absolve you of spending a hefty chunk of change every time you leave the house. Naturally, it also gives you the opportunity to exercise a little bit more on a regular basis. You’ll save money and add a little adventure to your life at the same time.
For those who are fond of riding bikes but worry about the age-old theft concern, Brompton all but eliminates that fear thanks to its nifty configuration. You can easily carry the bike into your office or inside an eatery instead of chaining it up outside and worrying about it all day.
None of this comes at the expense of your comfort, by the way. The bike is relatively lightweight, with models ranging from 20 to 28 pounds. You can select from different handlebar styles and a number of colors to express yourself as only you can, and adjust the seat to your liking so that you don’t have to ride awkwardly. And because they’re so expertly crafted, you don’t have to worry about appearing inelegant as you fold it up. It does so smoothly and efficiently, with the type of smooth precision and finesse you simply expect of a high-end bike.
Which style is right for you? The brand produces a number of folding bikes from which to choose. You might have your eye on a particular color, prefer a specific speed, or have no precise clue where to start.
Begin by choosing a handlebar. The “S” type is designed for shorter individuals who need something that accommodates them for everyday use. It can work for taller cyclists, too, especially if they tend to sit lower and more forward on the bike. The “M” type is a more neutral alternative ideal for almost all riders. The “H” type is situated higher, providing greater comfort to taller riders and allowing shorter cyclists to sit more upright as they ride.
Brompton offers four gear speeds, each designed to accommodate different cycling experience levels. The 1 speed is a basic option that’s ideal for novices and anyone who expects to navigate flat city streets. The 2 speed includes a gear to simplify hill climbing and cruising without contributing too much heft to the bike’s weight.
The 3 speed makes a suitable for a more experienced cyclist who seeks something more versatile and practical for everyday use. There’s also a 6 speed bike, which is an exceptional choice for anyone who has bigger visions for their Brompton bike. Ready to navigate those complex winding roles and climb the peakiest of hills? You need something like this, although be mindful that the extra gears contribute to its weight. You can also select from bikes equipped with or without mudguards and racks, and choose from different saddle heights.
If you aren’t sure precisely where to begin, the B75 may be the right choice. It’s the ultimate option for a city rider who wants something that provides all of the advantages of the classic Brompton without any additional bells and whistles. It’s sleek and elegant in a sporty sort of way, and is available in a variety of colors to complement your lifestyle. At $995, it’s also the most affordable of the bunch.
If you fall on the other end of the spectrum, however, and want something that takes you beyond the flat city streets and onto other surfaces and environments, take a peek at the M6L 6 speed. It’s built to perform, so you can feel comfortable moving from pavement to craggy ground without missing a beat. It’s particularly useful if you live in a hilly region, and it even includes mudguards to ensure that things don’t get too messy when the rain starts to pour.
Completing the range is the stylish Brompton Electric, a light bike that behaves slightly like a motorcycle but without all the intensity of a racing bike. Yes, it revs up as you speed away at a red light, and you’ll love the way that it lends a sense of freedom on the road. It’s designed with technological enhancements that make it simpler to ride on hills and sidewalks, too. Best of all, it provides the same benefits you expect of any Brampton bike: portability, convenience, and comfort.