I’ve had my eye on an electric Brompton for a couple of years now but not quite ready to pull the trigger. I thought this would be a great time for me to write a 3 year update review on my pink folding Brompton commuter bike with solid tires.
Traveling with the Brompton
I bought the Brompton from a local store in Portland and used it to commuter from Portland to Vancouver several times a week. It’s a wonderful commuter bike and incredibly sturdy. It’s definitely one of those BIFL items.
I prefer folding bikes over full-size bikes because I want the ability to rent a car or use Uber and still fit my bike in there.
I also use public transportation quite a bit which makes a folding bike a much more convenient option.
I hope that one day I can be 100% free from gasoline powered vehicles but for now this combination has been quite effective.
On the Plane
Supposedly you can fold the Brompton up and take it through TSA along with your carry-on and then check it in at the gate the same way a stroller gets checked in or stick it in an overhead bin.
I instead decided to throw it into one of my big suitcases and check it in the traditional way. I’m happy to report that the bike came out on the other end unharmed.
I didn’t have to take anything off or put any tape or padding anywhere. I stuffed my clothes around the folded bike and stuffed it into the suitcase.
No Lock, No Problem
One of the best things about the Brompton is that I can just jump on it without much planning and take it into any cafe or restaurant or gym with me.
Sure, the girls go crazy over it but come on, that’s not what it’s about. It’s the convenience playboy. No lock, no problem, I just set it right next to me.
“Yes, it’s a folding bike. Yes, it’s huge once it’s unfolded.”
With a traditional bike I always felt as though I had to plan my day – I would go to cafes where I could park it in direct eyesight and also pack locks and a seat cover in case of rain.
Because the Brompton is a folder, if I’m meeting up with a buddy then I hop into their car and bring the pink-B along and that way I can always bike back home worry free – though possibly intoxicated.
Number of Gears
When you buy a Brompton you can decide how many gears you want and I chose to purchase a 3 -speed which is available in an enclosed hub.
The enclosed hub is fantastic because it’s easy to adjust and easier to maintain. It also gets rid of the cassette in the back as well as the derailleur.
I might have been okay with even a fixed gear bike but when an enclosed hub is available then I don’t see the purpose of going that minimal on the gears.
For a city like Portland I don’t need much more than a 3-speed bike. If I’m lazily cruising then I’ll be in the easiest gear. The rest of the time I’ll spend pedaling in the middle gear. If I’m really energetic or in a rush then I’ll be in the hardest gear.
A 3-speed Brompton is quite versatile until you get solid tires.
That said, they make pedaling harder by about 25%.
When the solid tires were brand new then it wasn’t a big deal but later as they got a little softer and worn then you start to feel the difference.
The easiest solution to this harder pedaling would be to get a slightly larger front chainring which is something a bike shop can do for you fairly easily.
When I purchased the bike I decided to pay extra for the front dynohub and running lights.
The front hub generates the electricity and powers the front and rear LED lights which makes it much less of a headache when heading out into the dark.
Previously I had to keep my front and rear detachable lights charged and then remove them when I would park the bike. Now these are permanent parts of the bike and so I don’t have to worry about getting them stolen.
The reason I like the idea of an electric Brompton is that it still sports a small footprint and allows you to handle much tougher terrain and longer distances.
Is it necessary? No. But it makes it much less likely for you to need to rely on an automobile. All this for less than 2,700 euros.
The electric Brompton is still only available in Europe but there are kits available which allow you to convert your current Brompton into an electric Brompton for less than $1k.
Problems & Maintenance
Let’s talk about all the problems I’ve had with the Brompton which isn’t much. For the 3 years of abuse it has gotten, that’s impressive.
Before the solid tires I got a thumbtack to the front tire and had to change it in the rain. It took a few minutes but I got it done.
I got a pretty impressive roofing nail puncture on the way to work but this time it happened to the back tire. The Brompton’s rear wheel is harder to take off and I had to get an Uber because it was taking forever to change the flat.
I also had to top up the tires regularly which I realize is standard procedure but a pain in the ass, nevertheless.
I had to change the brake pads 2 years after owning the bike. I did this at the same time when I got a tune up.
Front Light Died
I’m glad that the front light died because I upgraded to an aftermarket one which was far brighter and increased my visibility.
It didn’t cost much and having the extra lumens is really vital when you don’t have a car.
Oil The Chain
I never showed much love to my bike chain but it makes a huge difference if you regularly oil it.
It’s not as messy as you’d think though I’ve never cleaned the chain – far too lazy for that and I’m sure that’s necessary as well.
You can buy Brompton bags which clip onto the front part of the frame and I find these quite versatile. They come with a shoulder strap so you can use them even for daily use.
I paid $200 for the bag, not cheap. But the one I purchased had the largest storage volume yet folds up really small.
I have been able to carry quite a bit in this bag and except for downpours, it’s fairly water-resistant.
When your folding bike has a small footprint and fairly light in weight then your U-lock and chain together become a pain in the ass to carry around.
I don’t have a solution for this except that I now prefer to just take the bike into stores and cafes with me as opposed to carrying around a heavy lock and chain.
Yes, I become that nerd who walks around with the folding bike but… it’s pink and I’m in Portland so it’s like a double negative.
I’ve eaten dirt on the Brompton 3x, all quite memorable.
The first was after 3 beers and biking home. For some reason I decided to do wheelies on the Burnside bridge. I Landed hard on the left elbow, it remained sore for a year.
The second time was because the ground was icy and I was going a bit too fast. Landed on the hip, no issues.
The 3rd time I may have been slightly inebriated and was waving to a buddy and the handlebar turned on me and I went right over. I landed on the palms of my hands, shoulder, knees… it was terrible. I spent the next day in bed because I was in so much pain.
Sturdiness of the Brompton
I have taken it on a plane, I’ve dropped it, I’ve crashed it, and I’ve left it out in the rain.
I have slammed it against metal and cement surfaces and the paint has not yet chipped.
Ideal Brompton Combo
If you are going to get rid of your car then the best thing to do is to get 2 Bromptons, an electric Brompton or one with 6 gears and a single speed Brompton.
You can keep the single speed bike super light with the titanium frame option and avoid all the expensive bells and whistles. This one won’t need locks but should have the solid tires and front dynohub and running lights.