Brompton Folding Bikes Review

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I would like to review our Brompton folding bikes because I think folding bikes can meet most bicyclist’s needs. Many people don’t consider purchasing folding bikes because they are small, awkward-looking, may have an uncomfortable ride, or can be perceived as expensive. Although my first bike was not a folding one, I can tell you after owning one that it is the most versatile and well-rounded bike that I own. I use it for almost everything except for very long distance rides.

Folding bikes make commuting on transit and traveling much more convenient. In San Francisco, the MUNI light rail does not allow bikes at any time and BART only allows partial access. This is because a regular-sized bike usually takes the space of 2-4 people, so to make space for the greatest number of people bikes are not allowed. Also, carrying your bike on your shoulder, down the narrow escalator and through the turnstile to board the transit car is just too cumbersome. Elevators are crammed and slow and far too few. So, using a folding bike is a great way to bring your bike with you onto transit since you can fold it up and bring it on any transit line, even those that restrict full-sized bikes. Just make sure to fold it before you get on.

When we traveled to Copenhagen, we planned on using their bike share system to get around and did not realize how difficult it would be for us to do so. Although it’s been called the bike capital of the world alongside Amsterdam, their bike share program City Bikes was not very good. I don’t fault them for that though because their bike share came out 18 years ago and every Dane already has his/her own bike so the system is old and there is little need to improve it very much. The Danish are very tall people and so all of their bike shares are for tall people. Nellie could not find a single bike share she could fit on, even when adjusting the seats all the way down. Also, the bike shares were very heavy with only one speed. They did not come with locks and the social agreement there seems to be if you see one laying around, just grab it even if someone is already using it and is just setting it aside for a second. My bike share was taken from me when I wasn’t looking twice. So then, we tried renting bikes from our hotel, and their bikes still didn’t fit Nellie either. We asked for a child’s bike but it was too small. Eventually, we did find a bike rental shop but we had already wasted so much time. We told ourselves that the next time we travel, we are going to bring our own bikes!

Our criteria for folding bikes are that they have to be compact, light, and have the ride-ability of a full-sized bicycle. I want compactness so that they can fit through the airport scanner, light enough to carry them from check-in-counter to gate-check, and they have to have a comfortable ride. I read many positive testimonials about Brompton folding bikes. They have been handmade in London since 1981. They have received numerous awards such as Bike of the Year in 1996, Award for Innovation, and Bike Biz Brand of the Year in 2010. There was one blog, The Path Less Pedaled, where Russ and Laura reported on their tour around the country on Brompton folding bikes. I thought that if this couple could endure 5,000 miles (8046 km) on them, these folders must be downright awesome! So, when we went to Portland for another bicycling adventure, we paid a visit to Clever Cycles, an authorized dealership for Bromptons. We went there because they have a full array of Bromptons in stock, and Portland doesn’t have sales tax! We bought both of our folding bikes from them with travel cases to boot. The great thing about Brompton folders are that they are pretty customizable to your specific needs. We decided to get the M Type handlebar for a more upright position, standard 3 speed version, fenders, EZ wheels and a front carrier block for mounting Brompton bags. Turkish green for me and hot pink for Nellie. The cost came out to be $1345 USD each.

As the video demonstrates, the bike can be folded in less than 15 seconds. You don’t want a folder to be complicated when you’re in a hurry.

Brompton stands up without the need for kickstand or leaning against an object.

Brompton stands up without the need for a kickstand or something to lean on.

Compact fold of 23" x 21.5" x 10.6" (585 mm x 545 mm x 270 mm)

A small compact fold of 23″ x 21.5″ x 10.6″ (58.5 cm x 54.5 cm x 27 cm).

Our first test for traveling with these bikes was when we brought them with us to Strasbourg, bike capital of France. We were not mistaken as to how convenient and enjoyable it would be for us! It was our favorite city to ride in. You got the beautiful parks and rivers all over the city, bistros and brasseries around every corner, charming pedestrian bridges and historical buildings to inspire your curiosity, and calm streets that make riding as enjoyable as it can be. Much of the exploring and getting lost requires frequent stops but these Bromptons made it simple. The wheelbase is similar to a full-sized bike which makes it as stable as riding a regular bike; but the small 16 in (40.6 cm) wheels brings the size of the bike smaller by 20 inches (50 cm) in length which makes it not intrusive to pedestrians on sidewalks, and the expended energy from having to stop and go is not noticeable. The frame being that low to the ground makes getting on and off the bike super easy. Furthermore, we didn’t experience bumpiness from such small wheels (maybe it’s the steel frame configuration that is dampening the bumpiness).

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Small enough to fit into the Scion IQ’s small rear trunk space with rear seats folded down.

In an old town like Strasbourg, the older hotels usually have small elevators. But at our hotel, with our folding bikes we were able to fit the two of us and our folding bikes just fine.

Standard tires that comes with Kevlar belts to resist punctures and good treads to grip slippery road surface.

Standard tires that come with Kevlar belts to resist punctures and good treads to grip slippery road surfaces.

bike pump and easy wheels

Zefal bike pump attached to frame comes standard and EZ wheels for rolling.

Each bike comes with a Zefal bike pump which I find to be pretty decent. I am not a strong person but I am able to get enough air in the tires to be ride-able using it. I don’t recommend getting the EZ wheels because they are actually not so “EZ “to roll on.

groove on saddle

Grooves under standard saddle serves as a handgrip, a nice touch.

The standard gear ratio is too high for us but you can request a lower gear ratio at no cost. Nellie and I rarely use the highest gear- it is actually kind of hard to pedal. You can always opt for 6 speed but that comes at an extra charge and additonal weight. The small front tire makes steering very sensitive but you will get used to it. Another issue I have is that although it weighs 26 lbs (11.8 kg), it gets heavy when you have to carry it over a long distance.

TSA lock, wheels, pull out handle

Brompton fits perfectly in the Tern Airporter Mini.

If you don’t like the hassle of getting your bike gate-checked at the airport (you will have to check with your airline if they allow folding bikes at gate check), you can get a luggage to transport it. I find the Tern Airporter Mini to be perfect. The Airporter has integrated TSA combination locks, two rolling wheels and a telescopic handle. It is of airline regulation size at  11.4 × 22.4 × 28 in  (29 × 57 × 71 cm). The saddle from the bike has to be removed in order to fit. Not a big deal – just make sure to bring your tools to screw it back on. However, if you order a bike with a rear rack, it will not fit. The combined weight of both folder and luggage at around 45 lbs (20 kg) is well within the 50 lbs (22.7 kg) limit. Price is $250 USD.

We will be taking our folding bikes to Amsterdam on our next trip, and we will not bring the Airporters luggage. Since we are flying on KLM, a Dutch airline, hopefully they will understand and I have heard of people gate-checking their Bromptons without any problem. One person even brought their Brompton onto an airplane and stowed it in the overhead cabinet (Boeing 777 or larger).

Overall, we love these durable, well-made, stylish, and adorable bikes and have no regrets about purchasing them.

One last piece of advice: When ordering, the wait time is 6-9 weeks but expect at least 8 weeks. If you are planning a trip using them, make sure to order your bike way ahead in advance.

Ideas of places to ride your Brompton folding bike:

5 Unusual Places to Ride A Bike

Strasbourg – Bike Capital of France

10 comments

  1. L. Gagnon

    I enjoyed reading through the article as it showed what could be done more easily with the help of a folding bicycle. Now granted, the Brompton has a very small folded size but it amounts to just a smidgen under three cubic feet therefore two would not fit in a three point five cubic feet trunk. Folding the rear seat would be the only way to get two Bomptons in a Scion IQ reducing the car to a two seater with some more luggage space available.

    • i love biking SF

      You are right. When I read the specs on the website, I directly took down the number without thinking. Thanks. I will fix it. It’s too bad they don’t have the numbers with the rear seats folded down.

  2. Pingback: Joining the Tribe of Brompton | Sameer Padania
  3. Chris

    Hi I love biking SF,

    I am new to the biking world and a recent transplant to SF. My fiance is an avid cyclist and I have little to none experience. I read that your companion, Nellie, had a difficult time finding a bike her size. I am 5’3″ and I am having a hard time finding a bike that will fit my size as well. Would you have any recommendations for bike shops/brands? Thanks in advance! Great website by the way, will definitely keep you in my bookmarks! :)

  4. Joanna

    Turkish green!! I used to have one when I was in China. I really missed my Brompton. And I just relocate to the bay area, looking for a Brompton. Would you mind sharing some information on bike shops, online forums? Many thanks!

    • Chris

      Hi Joanna,

      Welcome to the Bay Area! The only local bike shop that I know sells Brompton is Warm Planet at the 4th/King St. Caltrain station. The people there are very helpful and friendly. We got our Bromptons from Clever Cycles in Portland when we visited there and tried out in person. I like them a lot (aside their great customer service) for specializing in Bromptons. Since you have owned a Brompton before and you already know what it’s like, so I recommend Clever Cycles. The shipping is really cheap at $25 and no sales tax.

      A online forum that I like is bikeforums.net and look for folding bikes subforum. Tons of info on Bromptons.

      Happy riding!

      Chris

  5. Ray

    Nice to see another SF-ian enjoying biking in San Francisco. I also have an IQ like yours and is also in silver color, I sometimes drive that IQ and sometimes drive the Fiat 500 as well, both have enough room for three foldable bicycles with 16 inch wheels, and the Fiat 500 has enough room for three foldable bicycles with 20 inch wheels as well. Just FYI, if anyone is thinking how many bikes to fit for the cars. Okay, I also must say that I have been inching towards upgrading from my Citizen 16 inch foldable wheelers to either Dahons or Bromptons. I and my wife both like the colors of the Bromptons, plus it seems that the 16 inch wheels from Dahons are not very flexible for medium length of riding, says 20 to 40 miles with some uphills and downhills in between. The Dahon 16 wheelers only have either 1 speed or 3 speeds. And the gears are not that tall compared to that of Bromptons. I and my wife most likely will visit the Bromptons licensed bike shop at Palo Alto and purchase from there. Thanks for your great review as well. Enjoy & may see you soon in the city while biking … !!

  6. Nicola Pasquale

    Would you recommend it for unpaved road (light compacted gravel, such as a river levee) or non-well-maintained country roads?

    • Chris

      Nicola,

      I don’t know exactly what you meant by non-well maintained country roads, but I have ridden on dirt roads for a short distance. And my opinion is that if it’s fine for dirt road, it will be fine for anything else.

      However, I do have a couple of points I would like to add. I think it would work fine if the country road or unpaved road does not have deep and uneven surface because you can get pedal strike. The clearance of the folding pedal side from the ground is only 7.5 cm but if you change it to another pedal like I did, you can get another 2.5 cm clearance. You may also want to upgrade the tires for grips depending on how rough the surface is.

      Good luck!

      PS. By the way, this is how much I love Bromptons. I just ordered two more Bromptons, one for me and one for my wife, just for traveling. The ones I have now weighs at 26 lbs, but it’s very heavy to carry around. So if you think you will be carrying the Brompton around a lot, I recommend the lightest Brompton you can get.

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