From our recent article about how to choose a bike, if you found a folding bike ticks your boxes you may have considered a Brompton. If you then do some internet searching, a very commonly asked question is “Which Brompton is the best one?” or “I’m 5 foot 6, which Brompton should I buy?” Many, quite well-meaning people write vast tomes on why one handlebar is better than the others, or why you should only consider a particular gearing.
Of course, the correct answer is that the best Brompton is the one which suits you most.
This isn’t something that can effectively be determined at arm’s length. A consultation and a test-ride is what is required. We’ll want to know the type of riding you’ll be doing (commute, recreational, transport), the surfaces you’ll be riding on, your expectations with speed, and of course, what types of hills. Every Brompton is hand-built in London to a custom set of chosen specifications – working in conjunction with Brompton Australia we pre-order many of the common variants however you can have something unique built up just for you (read below). To work out what you need, these are the key things we’ll be determining when you visit us with the prospect of purchasing a Brompton
There are four different types of handlebar, but generally most people are going to choose between the three standards, H, M and S. It’s useful to think of these as different bar heights, instead of different bar shapes, as that’s really what’s happening.
When looking at a person’s height, the S bar suits shorter people, the M bar suits average height people, and the H bar is good for taller people.
However, it’s not quite as easy as that, as the height will also change the ride feel and performance for any given height. So, if a person is of average height, the S will have a livelier sportier feel, whilst the H will have a more upright stance and a relaxed ride. We’ve put 200cm (6’4″ in the old money) people on S-bars – they were after an aggressive riding stance and they love the result! We’ve put shorter riders on M or H bars, so they can have a straight back.
The grips are another part of a Brompton which get a bad rap on the internet. If you choose a comfortable bar height, the standard Brompton grips work really well – the dense foam taking out the buzz from the road. If you find your hands have too much pressure on the bars, then aftermarket grips can be a great solution, and Ergon’s GP1 is a common choice, which can now fit straight onto the post 2017 bars.
Finally the one we haven’t covered in as much detail, the P bar is reminiscent of ‘Butterfly’ bars found on many touring bikes in Europe. They provide a large number of hand positions, and two main heights, with your controls at the upper level. To that end, they are well suited to long hours in the saddle, and the inherent flex in the bar can aid in soothing the hands for a multi-day tour.
More than any other aspect, once your saddle height is set, the correct choice of bar height is really only determined by a test ride. Or two. Or more.
This is one that is directly proportional to your height, or more correctly, your leg length – a Brompton can fit from a 66cm to a 99cm inside leg. Both the standard and the extended seatpost are a steel tube. When you unfold, you can bring it up as high as required and then clamp it using the seatpost lever. If the standard seatpost doesn’t quite go high enough, the extended seatpost offers 6cm more height. We can also adjust the pentaclip (Brompton’s seatpost clamp) to give a little more height, as well as adjust how fore or aft the saddle is – changing the reach for your handlebars. And with each of these options, we can install their saddle height insert. Once you know your preferred saddle height, this product will stop the saddle coming up any higher than you need it to.
Finally, there’s also the telescoping seatpost. This is a good option if you require even more height, or when folding you want the saddle to be as low as possible. You can also easily remove the saddle and top portion of this seatpost, for ease of packing.
The gearing chosen does affect the final price, but what’s more important is that it matches how you’re going to use your Brompton.
The single speed is simple – just the one gear, all of the time. It’s the ultimate in simplicity. You have your pedaling directly connected to your speed. Pedal harder, and the bike will take off with its direct drive. Reach a hill, you’ll have to push harder to keep momentum.
The two speed almost rides the same way as a single speed, except you won’t need to get out of the saddle as often on rises, or you won’t run out of ‘gear’ and spin as quickly down the hills. Many people find the two speed gives them the single speed styled ride, but in an easier and more versatile package.
The three speed is the classic Brompton gearing, and is still the most plentiful on the planet. Many people find three speeds ample for Melbourne. They utilise a 3-speed Sturmey Archer internally geared hub and so also are very low on maintenance.
Finally there is the six speed, providing the rider with the widest range of gears for versatility. A six speed is often the choice for people riding in hillier areas. The 6 speed borrows from both the 2 and 3 speed – it’s actually a 2 x 3 to give you the six speeds. The two cogs from the 2 speed, and an internally geared hub for the 3 speeds – although this one has a wider range. In fact, moving through one through to sixth gear gives you around the same range as many 18 and 20 speed commuters now have.
And of course, the more gears there are, the heavier the bike. Some people choose the less versatile 2-speed wholely and solely because it results in a much lighter Brompton – great if you regularly have to lug it up a few flights of stairs.
Finally, there’s a range of standard chainrings available from Brompton, which will change the ultimate ride, no matter which gearing option you choose. Smaller chainring for easier hill climbing – or larger chainring for higher top speed with less pedalling. We can work with you to determine what suits you best.
We stock four different options.
The Schwalbe Kojak is the speedy option. Lighter, and stickier, it is the choice if you are after straight line performance and aggressive cornering. It will make any Brompton feel lighter and faster to ride. This comes at a cost, however, as it is lighter on puncture resistance.
The standard Brompton tyre is what most Bromptons are supplied with, and so currently we still have quite a few in stock. However, it has been discontinued, which Brompton has replaced with the Schwalbe Marathon Racer, which we should see coming into Australia very soon. Both of these tyres are a great compromise between weight, performance and puncture resistance. That is underselling it a little – it’s many Bromptonauts’ favourite tyre. There’s a kevlar belt to aid in resisting flats, and so they can be very long-lasting and are capable in many conditions.
The Schwalbe Marathon is next step up. It’s got a thicker tread, with better puncture resistant kevlar, and includes a layer of slippery foam which means any debris which may get caught in the tyre won’t be attacking the kevlar each rotation, but may also just fling out.
At the top of the heap is the Schwalbe Marathon Plus. This ramps up the Marathon, with an ever thicker foam section and better puncture resistance. Its tread pattern resists wear and provides great grip with low rolling resistance. This is generally our recommendation if you have a daily commute which may encounter some glass on the roads or paths.
All of the options have reflective tape built into the sidewalls, so great for being more visible after dusk.
Hey, you have to love your bike. And around a third of our customers love Black. Raw Lacquer, Red and Racing Green are also high sellers. But Brompton always has many options when it comes to colour, although they do change the ones on offer every few years, so if you search online don’t fall in love with a discontinued hue.
Each year there’s also some limited edition bikes, which may have some exclusive components, but also revolve largely around colours. The Black Editions are in their fourth iteration, and generally arrive in Australia in early Summer. They swap out all the alloy/silver/chrome components, and replace them with black. The Black Edition has a limited number of frame colours available each year, and of course black is one of them. This year we were treated to orange, turkish green and new, premium ‘Black Lacquer’ which was a tinted take on the regular Raw Lacquer. That most sort-after colour sold out quickly. Another special edition, the CHPT3 will be back in a release 2 within weeks. These, literally, rolled out the door.
If you’re after something relatively unique, we can order you a custom combination of colours using two of any of the standard colours.
Brompton luggage attaches to the front of the bike, above the front wheel. Unlike regular panniers or many front baskets, Brompton have designed their luggage system so that the weight is carried on the bike’s frame, not the steering.
While not a vital factor in determining which Brompton bar height to choose, it is worth noting that two of the Brompton bags with larger frames are not compatible with the S bar.
The most popular bag worldwide is also the most versatile. The T-Bag is great for touring, but also as an adaptable bag for shopping and has a handy drink bottle holder. It’s one of their older bag designs, and along with the S-Bag and C-Bag, provide larger volumes. A few years back, Brompton greatly increased the range of luggage, with a number of different bags which will fit a bit larger than an A4 folder, some oriented ‘landscape’, others ‘portrait’. And, just like the bikes, from time to time there’s special editions. We generally have a full range of Brompton luggage, as well as a number of quality after-market options so again, drop through and see what suits your needs.
The first Bromptons were designed to be as adaptable as possible and so came with mudguards and a rear rack. The rack can, of course, carry items. However, it’s main use is so you can transport the bike in ‘trolley’ mode on four easy-spinning rollers. Any Brompton which comes with a rack and guards will have its model designation ending in R.
The L spec has guards but no rack. You can still wheel it along trolley style, with two of the rollers from the R style, and a smaller roller on the guard. The guards themselves are great – fully enclosing the tyres and with a large flap at the rear of the front guard to keep your shoes dry.
Finally, the E spec has neither guards nor a rack. If you’re wanting to keep your weight down, like a sportier look or you’re confident you’ll never ride in the wet, then an E may be the Brompton for you.
Which Brompton fittings you choose will depend upon how you want to use your bike.
So there you go. We’re confident that if you come in and speak with us, and have a test ride or three, we’ll match you to your perfect Brompton, and perhaps some accessories.