I use this pink beauty nearly every day to get to and from destination in Portland, Oregon. I gave up my car back in January of this year (2015), and though it has only been 9 months, it has been a fantastic decision. This post is my review of my commuter Brompton bike.
I still get moments when I wish that I still owned a car. Something about the freedom that it offers.
I don’t want to be that stereotypical person that has a motorcycle, a couple of bicycles, tons of tools, multiple cooking pots/pans, a car, maybe a boat, different size luggage pieces, a couple of tennis rackets, a snowboard and a pullout sofa for just in case guests come to visit.
That’s why I don’t want to own a car for that occasional weekend trip. I have decided to place the burden of ownership on car-sharing companies. In return, I get to enjoy using a vehicle for next to nothing.
I chose to live in Portland because there is Car2go service here along with a solid public transportation network.
I can fold the Brompton up and just set it next to my foot… it doesn’t have a much larger profile than my largest backpack. Since I’ve moved here Uber and Lyft have also arrived and I’ve taken the Brompton on an Uber without any issues.
Getting rid of my car has saved me several hundred dollars per month, improved my health, helped me become less dependent on mainstream consumer goods, greener and overall more carefree. I also think going with a folding bike was a great option for me, especially since I don’t live in a very spacious apartment.
Purchasing The Brompton
I bought this Brompton folding bicycle from West End Bikes with the help of a salesperson who was quite knowledgeable. The process was wonderfully smooth and took probably 45 minutes total which included a 15 minute test ride of one of their demo bikes.
I paid $1,711 without tax (Oregon) and this commuter bike was ready for pickup in less than 3 weeks.
My old Dahon, pictured below, just couldn’t handle the commutes. I kept breaking spokes. The seat started falling apart. The breaks were impossible to line up and it was a clumsy folding bike.
Not bad for $500 but not even comparable to a Brompton.
My Brompton Commuter Bike Review
I am 6’ tall, 175 lbs, so I selected the extended seat post, I don’t need the bike to be terribly compact so that was an easy choice. In hindsight, I didn’t need the extended post which sticks out a little more when the bike is fully folded.
The regular metal frame was sufficient for me, no need for a lighter titanium frame. I don’t like harming animals so I went with the vegan butt arrangement instead of the leather seat. I paid $50 for the pink color… because I’m manly like that and it helps with visibility.
Since the bike is a daily commuter I wanted to always have lights on it. No batteries since the front and rear lights are powered by the front wheel hub. This is a very green option in my opinion.
The lights have capacitors as well which keep the lights on for a few minutes after you stop pedaling.
I love, love, love not having to worry about charging lights and knowing that I’ll have lights all the time.
Brompton Commuter Options
I chose middle of the line tires, Brompton Kevlar, to help decrease chance of punctures.
I live in Portland and I commute to Vancouver a few times a month. I can always improve my cycling abilities instead of fiddling with more gears which is why I went with the 3-speed option. This allowed for an internal hub and no messy external gears.
I skipped the rear luggage carrier, I don’t carry all that much with me and since you park the bike by flipping the tail under it, this would make anything placed on the rear luggage rack a nuisance.
The bike doesn’t have a kickstand, the tail flipping thing is how you ‘park’ it.
As for the suspension, I went with the standard one which is the softer of the 2. I didn’t test the hard one but my bum doesn’t have much cushion so this has been a very comfortable option so far.
In this Brompton bike review I really just want to point out what makes for a great commuter bike. I know the Brompton has a cult following so of course you can customize the shit out of it.
It’s a very solid bike. The spokes are not cheap and flimsy pieces like on my Dahon.
The grip feels nice and there are no bells and whistles on this bike.
Everything appears to have been engineered to function for the purpose of riding and getting around. I flip the tail under a lot more times than I thought to park it while I’m getting something.
The folding action is unbelievably smooth and solid, if you have owned a folding bike such as Dahon or Tern before, it is a far more functional process by comparison.
The seat is very comfortable and the bike is light enough to be carried easily. The chain is covered when the bike is folded which is very convenient to prevent smearing of chain oil everywhere.
The Brompton In Action – Riding It
Riding the Brompton bike is super easy and fun which is why I wanted to write this review of my commuter.
From a parked position you just flip the tail up which locks and you get on the pedal and go. The steering is very responsive and when riding with no hands (yes, I know… bad Dr. Mo) it doesn’t wobble or feel flimsy.
The tires grip really well and since they can be inflated to 100 psi, they help a lot to decrease the rolling resistance.
Right out of the box my ankle to knee positioning was perfect, I didn’t have to make any seat adjustments which is wonderful. Coming to stop at the light is really easy because you don’t have the crotch bar, you just hop down.
Shifting is amazing, I have never owned a fully contained hub… brilliant.
When starting out on the hardest gear on my 3-speed it is a tough go unless I stand up on the pedal, then it’s not too bad. Around town I’m usually in the middle gear which is very close to my hardest gear on my 7-speed Dahon.
It’s fun because going downhill I can actually pedal and pick up speed on the hardest gear. The easiest gear on the bike is great when I want to just bike around in a strolling-mode – It’s not so easy that it’s useless.
I’m not super athletic so I think most people in halfway decent shape should do pretty well with the 3-speed model in a city like Portland.
I’m not sure if I could get by in SD on 3-speed. Maybe. If I was in a little better shape I could do it for sure. But in my current shape I would need 1-2 more gears.
This bike is also sturdy when it comes to ‘obstacles’ on the road. I can hop off a curb and don’t have to worry about anything breaking. I carry a fairly heavy backpack or front Brompton luggage bag depending on my commute and the bike feels the same – nice and sturdy, regardless.
The Price of My Commuter Brompton Bike
For $1,700 it has been a great investment. I sold my Dahon for $200 so I guess it cost me only $1,500 to upgrade to this. I know I can always sell it for over $1,000 anytime which means it’s a solid asset.
I expect it to last a long time and it is quite easy to service.
Theft would be the only thing and since I can carry it everywhere with me, it’s less of an issue.
Repairing A Damn Flat
As for the concern of the front or rear wheel being hard to take off… it’s like anything, if you do it once you will have it down pat. I haven’t had to do it yet but I also am not intimidated rebuilding a car engine.
Thousands of people commute with a Brompton daily and fix their own flats, I figure I’ll be ok. Check out the youtube videos online uploaded by Brompton, there is great step-by-step instructions you can follow.
That said, changing a flat on the rear wheel looks like it will be a damn pain. We’ll see when that time comes.