I’ve worked in the cycling industry for 7 years now – first bike sharing and now cycle insurance with Bikmo. Living and commuting in London (for a while) and working in this field means that I have rarely been more than a few metres away from a Brompton bike. Despite this, I’d never had the urge to try one out and see what this folding bike fuss was about.
Instead, when I had to mix train and bike. I would lug my full-size bike along and put myself through the struggles of booking it on the train and causing a nuisance to others. Then I’d usually have to walk huge distances either side and often arrive late and sweaty.
I knew it made sense practically to get a folding bike but as vain as it sounds, I didn’t want to be seen on one. The small wheels freaked me out a bit. But more importantly, I was scared that if I would become my own stereotype of a ‘folding bike rider’.
Based on my experiences through my niche of work, this would mean a strong chance I’d grow a pair of braces, corduroys and knee height socks. I’d spend all my spare time lobbying the Council for a dropped curb outside Sainsbury’s. Nothing against people who wear such clothing. I am all for making the roads easier to ride, but this lifestyle I imagined was putting me off. I’d rather just get on with it – bunny hop the curb, and keep on riding – I thought.
Brompton fact: The fastest Brompton bike fold is around 7.2 seconds although there is no official record
But then, around a month ago, we at Bikmo partnered with Brompton on their Brompton insurance product. This was a perfect opportunity for me to forget my prejudices and re-evaluate my quiet opinion of folding bikes and folding bike riders.
My initiation started with a tour of the Brompton factory in Greenford, London. I learnt about how it was all started by Andrew Ritchie in the 70s after persuading his mates to put £100 in each to build a prototype. And saw how successful Will-Butler-Adams and his team have been in transforming the company from a niche London outfit to the largest UK bike manufacturer, selling over 45,000 bikes per year.
As a Civil Engineering degree holder (never used it), I was fascinated by the design and engineering side of things too. Seeing the production processes first hand was awesome. I was amazed to see that so much of the process is still very much hands-on work. Making sure that every bike leaving the gate of the unassuming business park in north-west London was up to the very high Brompton quality standards.
Brompton fact: It takes 4 years of training to become a Brompton brazer
After the factory tour, we had a ride around in the car-park. The ride was much better than I expected. Even though the bike I was testing was a fairly well used office pool bike, it was nippy, smooth and sturdy. A little bumpier with the 16-inch wheels but a tiny compromise for all the other benefits.
Now we’ve launched with Brompton insurance, we’ve got a small fleet of Brompton’s in the Bikmo office for sending to customers next day in case they are without their pride and joy during a repair or replacement. I’ve been using one for the last few weeks to get from Liverpool to Chester (bike-train-bike).
Unlike in London, where Brompton’s are everywhere. There are much fewer around in Liverpool and so lots of people have asked me about it. Either that, or I’m just experiencing the reported contrast in chattiness between London and Liverpool..
So, to cut a long story short, I’m a Brompton convert. It wasn’t until I had one to try – to weave into my day-to-day life – that I felt the benefits. I ride my loan Brompton with my head high, but my socks low (unlike some of my old transport conference friends). I’m now looking forward to purchasing my own bundle of folding joy.. once I’ve decided on the combination.
Brompton fact: There are 16.5 million combinations of Brompton bike configurations to choose from
The top 10 reasons I am a Brompton convert
- I save 25 minutes every day compared to walking the first / last mile
- I get no beef on the trains from angry commuters when I block the way or leave oil marks on a banker’s trousers
- People talk to me (that sounds sadder than I intended)
- Folding and unfolding is a mini-puzzle I can complete 4 times a day
- I can take my bike into shops without getting told off by a security guard
- I can dismount like a ladies bike without actually riding a ladies bike
- It doesn’t take up too much room in the house (I already have ‘too many bikes’ according to my GF)
- The sit-up riding style is a really nice change from the forward position I ride on my road bikes
- I’m supporting an awesome British company
- I haven’t grown a pair of braces, navy corduroys or knee height socks
If you’re unsure about folding bikes like I was, maybe it’s time to open your mind and try a Brompton out. You can test one out at any Brompton bike dealer in the country, including the Brompton Junction store in London, or even rent one out self-service style at one of the Brompton Docks around the country.
And, if you go and buy one, check out the Brompton Commuter Cover. It’s a great deal because Brompton owners look after their bikes more than the average bike user. So, Bikmo has negotiated special rates with Hiscox, our underwriters.