One year of Brompton

Klein Point, where Johnson Creek meets the Willamette, 17 Sept 2022. LOMO LC-A/Fuji C200

It will be a year next week! On Friday October 15, 2021, Emee and I picked up our brand-new Bromptons from the downtown REI. The Brompton is only the third decent new bike I bought as an adult (the first two my Surly Long Haul Trucker and my custom Bantam.) 1 And unless I can save up the scratch for a cargo bike, it’ll probably be the last new bike I buy for quite some time.

We bought the bikes for their ultimate portability, as we wanted we could easily fly with. And the Bromptons do the trick in that department: we’ve gated checked them several times on Alaska without much incident. 2 Being able to bring your own bike when you travel to distant locales is so liberating–no need to rely on bike shares, crappy hotel bikes, transit, or taxi/rideshare to get around. We also got to get off Amtrak at Red Wing, Minnesota for this year’s Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. Because it’s an unstaffed station, we could never get on and off with regular sized bikes. Now we can, because a folding bike can get on and off any station in Amtrak’s network!

But there’s something else about Bromptons that I didn’t realize when we got them–they are actually fun to ride! There are a few things that keep them from feeling totally like big bikes (being exceptionally careful about bumps and potholes due to small wheels is a big one) but I rarely feel disadvantaged by riding one. Sure, I wouldn’t mountain bike on one, but I don’t mountain bike anyway, and a little gravel doesn’t hurt a Brompton.

Bromptons are definitely a curiosity. We get asked questions by random folks in airports on how we can wheel a bike through it, especially on the other side of TSA screening. A few folks will ask if they’re electric, which I find interesting. But I guess that folks are just assuming any new bike is electric. (For the record, Brompton does make e-bikes. Unfortunately e-bike batteries can’t be brought on planes.)

We’ve done a few things to our Bromptons since we got them. Dynamo lighting was a priority, so I had that done last winter. I also got a longer seatpost. I swapped out the stock grips with cork PDW “ergo” grips, augmented the dinky built-in bell with a Crane E-NE, and added my RandiJo Fab Bartender bag to handlebars so I have a spot for my water bottle. And while I like the E-NE bell, the soft metal of the hammer easily gets bent, so I splurged and bought a Spurcycle. So classy!

I’d like to eventually replace my long seatpost with a telescoping one, as the post can sink down further, making the folding package more compact. I’m also thinking about buying another Brompton specific bag. I love my Carradice Brompton bag, it’s stylish and holds a lot of stuff. But it’s a lot of bag. It would be nice to have a smaller bag for the times I don’t need all that bag.

And no, I haven’t toured with a Brompton yet, but hope to do it at some point. I want to do a few camping trips with it first. The idea of flying somewhere different, like a new continent, and tour with Bromptons is tantalizing. I have read the Path Less Pedaled Brompton guide, there’s lots of good and practical info within.

It’s been a fun ride so far. Here’s to many more years of Brompton fun!

Bromptons and Fall Color at Tualatin Community Park, 15 Oct 2021
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1 I don’t count the crappy Huffy MTB I bought from Kmart around 1994-5 as a “decent new bike.”

2 You can always get a grumpy or clueless TSA agent, but after some talking we can get them through.

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4 thoughts on “One year of Brompton

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  1. Good article! I’ve been following a friend’s adventures through Europe on his Brompton, and it really seems a remarkable bike. Unfortunately I already have a folding bike from a competitor, but I would be tempted to sell it to buy the Brompton.

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