Brompton Bicycles have been on my radar for years. In terms of the most efficient ways to move around a city where every square foot matters, people riding them always seemed to be on to something smart.
Bicycles in general add such positive value to the city experience already, producing such low physical and carbon footprints. Then there is the obvious health benefit. Bicycles get you where you want to go and help to keep your ass in the same place it’s been since high school. Win, win, win and win.
The Brompton option adds another win to having a bicycle in the city: easy and elegant storage in a small space. When I moved back to New York at the beginning of 2020, I had to make a quick, short-notice decision on one of the only apartments I could find that allowed two dogs. Unfortunately, it meant an apartment that had no room for a full-sized bicycle in a building that did not offer a bike room. Translation: my beautiful custom Chief from Heritage Bicycles has been locked up outside through three New England winters and it kills me. After very careful consideration and long deliberation, I finally decided to pull the trigger on a Brompton.
Brompton was started in 1976 in London by Andrew Ritchie, a landscaper and computer programmer with a degree in Engineering. Ritchie built his first prototypes in his small flat overlooking the Brompton Oratory in South Kensington, London. It was slow-going at first, but it’s safe to say that Brompton bicycles have become iconic over the years. There have been some slight modifications through the decades, but the design of today’s Bromptons remains largely the same as the design of the originals. They’re all made with steel frames and collapse into that brilliant fold.
When shopping for the right Brompton that best accommodated my own needs, I chose the 6-speed “Explore” model from their classic C Line. Though I think Brompton’s color options are absolutely fantastic, I went with black, of course. And of the three handlebar height options, I went with their classic medium/mid height. My model came with front and rear lights and a small tire pump. I separately bought their phone mount for the handlebars, which has proven to be extremely helpful when I’m riding without a jacket with handy pockets.
The geometry of this bike is markedly different from my full-sized bike, and takes a bit of getting used to. But once you establish the right height and angle for the saddle, it’s a really fun ride. I absolutely love this thing.
The Brompton system is very much that: a system. There’s a very specific way to fold and unfold the bike (which takes less than 30 seconds once you get the hang of it), and very specially designed accessories for such a particularly designed bicycle. And I want to point out that between the bike itself, the Brompton website, the meticulously considered accessories, the Brompton YouTube channel loaded with extremely helpful (and whimsical) videos and the Brompton Junction stores, Brompton is a brand that has its act together. It’s got a great brand story and a terrific heritage all built around a superlative product, making for a wonderful brand experience. When my bike arrived, as I opened the box and unpacked everything, I immediately felt like this was something special, built with a lot of care, pride and attention to detail, much like that feeling you get when you unpack a product from Apple or Sonos. It’s all so well made and thoughtfully executed.
And there’s that design. Like the Rolex Oyster, the Anglepoise lamp, the Vespa scooter, the Eames chair (pick one) and the Mini Cooper, I’d readily consider the Brompton bicycle a certifiable, MoMA-worthy design icon of the 20th century. It’s really a remarkable achievement of engineering and design, and I hope Andrew Ritchie gets more of the recognition he deserves.
The main reason I hesitated as long as I did before finally purchasing the bike was the price. Bromptons are expensive. My C Line “Explore” model was $1,875 (or just over $2,000 with tax). That’s a big price for a little bike. But this is an investment to me – an investment in smarter city transportation, maximum efficiency, ease of use, fitness and health, elegant design and quality craftsmanship. Plus… it’s a really fun ride that brings a lot of joy. I’m so glad I bought it.
And please enjoy this 360º tour of the Brompton factory. Use your mouse or finger to move the point of view.
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