Who rides a Brompton?

We are proud to have introduced Brompton folding bikes to Portland on the day we opened, having used them ourselves for nearly a decade. They are the single most common riding choice of our shop’s four partners, even when no folding will be necessary. We’ve since carried two other folding bike brands, but stopped after a time because they didn’t sell well alongside Bromptons. We think this is because Bromptons are simply the best, at least for the kinds of people our shop attracts. That’s all kinds of people.

4040948559_ec2f5dcd93_bThis is Daniel. He’s from Mexico City, and a janitor by trade. He works nights on the west end of the Portland metropolitan area, and lives on the east end. He needed a way to travel the distance between the nearest public transit stops and his destinations, carrying his stuff clean and safe. This is precisely what Bromptons were invented for 30 years ago: to solve the “last mile” problem. They’ve since grown well beyond that niche into all-purpose machines, but they’re still unbeatable multi-modal commuters.

I greeted Daniel in his work clothes, near a display of merino wool brassieres and sun dresses, with a folded Brompton on display near his feet. He asked how much? I told him, and his lips puckered to a sharp quizzical point of disapproval. He asked again, and repeated the price with difficulty, finally gesturing for me to write it down. “Es de lo mejor!” I offered tentatively. I proceeded to unfold the bike, and his face brightened. And then, when I inserted his bulging backpack into a large front bag, and showed him some lighting options, he chirped “I take it!” without even a test ride. Of course, I insisted that he try it; he came back completely certain.

As I fit him and installed his accessories — the touring pannier, Reelights, a cover, skate wheels — explaining various points and answering his questions, I began to feel foolish that I had doubted he’d see the value after his reaction to the price, and then elated that he did, without any of the geeky posturing that plagues so many sales conversations. We parted with a hearty handshake, and as he rode off he shouted “Amigo!” with such a smile it made my day.

4051365284_4233cc4e8a_bThis is Kate. She’s in the second grade. This is her third bike, and with reasonable care, she will be riding it well into adulthood.

Kate’s parents have done the math: no more disposable kid bikes. In fact, Kate shares the bike with both of her parents, even her father at 6’2″. While Bromptons are made in only one frame size, they adjust readily to accommodate people from Kate’s size all the way up to about 6’6″! This extreme adjustability, together with toughness and amazing portability are what make Bromptons a mainstay of our bike rental program.

Kate rides her Brompton to school with her mother, who herself rides a longtail with little brother Jack aboard. In the front touring pannier, fixed to the frame instead of the steering column for easy handling, go her books, lunch, and extra clothes with room to spare. She folds and unfolds her bike with expert pride, to the tireless delight of her classmates. Her mom says the Brompton has made her “appallingly popular” with boys two grades ahead, and that she rides it much further and faster than the 20″-wheel kid bike it replaced.

We adapted the bike with Avid Speed Dial brake levers for the short reach they offer her small hands, as well as an ABUS Bordo folding lock.

4070222072_e5c980269a_oThis is Max. He is 82. Max is a retired college sociology instructor, specializing in Deviant Behavior. Now he keeps bees, well-behaved social insects. Max’s deadpan humor is too salty to be represented safely on the internet. He always leaves us repeating his wisecracks after his visits. He also leaves us jars of his honey, dark and delicious.

Once an avid tennis player, Max has had two hip replacements. He has a stationary bike to help preserve his joint function, but finds it no fun at all. Besides, he figures if he falls on his Brompton, somebody will stop to help him get up faster than if he falls at home. Max likes the low step-over of the Brompton, how portable it is, and how upright he can sit on it, a P-type with the bars tipped back. He notes its British manufacture matches his bulldog Ziggy.

Inquiring about the Brompton’s warranty (“5 years on the frame, 2 on…”), Max interrupted “…right, right, so lifetime warranty.” In retort I told him how, riding down the Pacific coast a decade ago, I encountered a 93-year-old gentleman riding a 4-day loop out of Eugene over the mountains, carrying full camping gear on his old Raleigh 3-speed. It’s important to have models!

There are thousands more photos of Bromptons and their diverse riders in all sorts of adventures up for browsing in the Flickr Brompton folding bicycles pool. And the clip at right, from Calhoun Cycle in Minneapolis, shows the slickest folding technique we’ve ever seen! Don’t miss this clip of the last Brompton World Championship, either; Daniel seemed to appreciate that among this year’s winners was Roberto Heras, 3-time winner of the Tour of Spain and USPS teammate of Lance Armstrong a few years back:

6 thoughts on “Who rides a Brompton?”

  • Julian

    Welcome back! This customer profile concept is going to be fun ...

    Curious about the reach for a 2nd grader - long cockpit for her? But love the idea of a bike that will go from elementary school to adulthood. Thanks for providing a Brompton justification ... I don't travel quite enough myself, but my almost 3year old probably needs a Brompton, right? Flip in the pedals, and it's a run-bike, no?

    Had a Tikit flirtation on my recent trip down (http://totcycle.com/blog/a-pilgrimage-to-portland-part-1.html) ... but still think the Brompton is sexier. A sexy clown bike. Thanks to you & Martina & Tyler for the family bike hospitality!

  • Erik Sandblom

    My grandfather used to say that at his age, he shouldn't buy green bananas! Only yellow ones =)

    Great stories!

  • Todd (admin)

    Julian, you can check Kate's posture on the bike in the gallery linked to her image above. Cockpit could be adjusted to be shorter, but as she shares the bike with bigger people and doesn't seem to mind it as is, not a problem in need of fixing. No, it doesn't have the makings of a balance bike for tots, but it seems the demise of ITchair is being addressed: http://www.velorution.biz/?p=2431 .

    Re clown bike, I was once tending to some business at city hall in San Francisco, standing in a line with Brompton folded at my feet. And a woman behind me blushingly gushed how much she "admired my work." Puzzled, I asked what she meant, and without pause she began to tell me how much her daughter enjoyed the performance they had attended the previous day; the circus was in town.

    The curiosity factor of the bike means it's a social catalyst, better than a dog. I've used these powers to great effect on my travels; e.g., http://clevercycles.com/blog/?p=106 .

    As for the look, when Bromptons first appeared, their looks were panned. "The bastard love child of a blind welder and a scaffold pole" is one writer's take. But with familiarity comes affection. Now they are "classic" and honored for their design. Me, I find it impossible to look at most any bike with a Brooks on it and think anything but "beautiful."

  • Dolan Halbrook

    Great post Todd! Makes me want a Brompton... if only I had a need for another bike :)

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I love my Bromie! Two years ago I went down to Trophy Bikes in Philly set to buy a Tikit since that bike is made in the good ol' US of A. From my research however I knew I wanted to give the Bromton a try since it was my second choice. After two rides on both bikes and it was no contest, particularly since I push 200lbs (mostly muscle BTW, okay a little extra flab, just a little). The Tikit wobbled unnervingly under my weight. I felt like I could rip the handlebars right off (due to the muscle!) and that killed the idea of buying the Tiket. The Bromton was nearly as solid as any stout triple triangle bike. Clearly superior!

    Only a quirky Brit could think up such a wacky, clever but well thought out and well made design.

    Plus it helps me get girls! (Something my sexy
    Italian road bike never manages to do) Ladies come up to me all the time wanting to know more ... well about my Bromton but heck it's a start. What more could you ask of a bike?!?!

  • [...] Now that it’s icy in Portland, I suppose it’s time to reminisce on August. I spent the best two weeks of my life thus far riding my trusty Brompton folding bike, lightly modified, about 700 miles down the Pacific coast this summer, nearly to San Francisco. I rode alone, carrying full camping gear. I even did the extra-tough and remote Lost Coast segment. Yes, on 16″ wheels that many observers suppose are good for little more than scooting along the sidewalk to and from transit stops. Or maybe if you have a boat or something. The fact is, Bromptons are amazingly versatile, appealing to hardened bike geeks like me, as well as to … well, all kinds of people. [...]

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