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Bromptons, fun, fun, fun…

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Well, after much debate, humming and hawing, to-ing and fro-ing, shall we, shan’t we, the decision was made and we placed our order for…. two Brompton bicycles! ‘What’, I hear you say, ‘are they MAD, you can’t go cycle touring on a Brompton!’. Chris felt exactly the same – she was worried that the cycling would be harder because of the little wheels; we have heard people say that they are ‘twitchy’; how can you possibly get all your touring gear on a little Brompton?

Our local cycle shop http://www.pedalscyclecentre.co.uk is a Brompton B-Spoke Centre, this is the highest level of retail categorization of a Brompton dealer. Sharon, the owner, has herself just bought a Brompton and is so enthusiastic about them – as are all the staff – that you can’t fail to be impressed. They have demo Bromptons that you can hire for the day, so a couple of months ago, we did just that.

We took the folded bikes out of the Landie and then spent the next few minutes trying to remember the sequence of unfolding! Fortunately, there were no onlookers and we eventually managed to get the bikes up. We wobbled off down the road – people were right, they did feel twitchy, but we had gone no further than 100 yards when they stopped feeling strange and we felt in full control. We cycled about 10 miles and were really surprised at what fun they are to ride and how nippy they are. Chris was loving it! Decision made… the order was placed and we had to wait patiently for our B-spoke Bromptons to be made up.

We had done a lot of trawling of t’Internet to look for people who cycle tour on Brompton bikes. Surprisingly, there are quite a few: http://www.travellingtwo.com, http://www.pathlesspedaled.com, http://www.shanecycles.com, http://www.heinzstucke.com.  They all rave about their Bromptons and, really, it seems to make perfect sense. No more problems about trying to get your bike on a train – just fold it up and carry it on as luggage. (This was one of the reasons we starting thinking about getting Bromptons – we wanted to do a cycle tour of the Outer Hebrides but getting our bikes from Bournemouth to Oban seemed a logistic nightmare.) No more cycling through boring parts – just fold your bike and jump on a bus. No more getting caught in bad weather – just fold your bike and travel by public transport until the weather improves. If you’re not on a mega tour to remote parts – and perhaps even if you are – the Brompton seems to be the ideal solution.

The weeks passed slowly, we were counting the days and then we finally got the call we were waiting for, ‘Your Bromptons are in!’. We couldn’t get to the shop quick enough! Chris was delighted with the colour she had chosen and promptly named her bike Betsie (she’s called mine Billy)! So, we are now the proud owners of four bikes.

Folded Brompton bike

Folded Brompton bike

Folded Brompton bike

Folded Brompton bike

Bromptons parked

Bromptons parked

Ready to ride

Ready to ride

We have had our Bromptons for a week now and have been out on them almost every day. They are such fun to ride and we absolutely love them. We have yet to pack them up for cycle touring – that will take a bit of practice, some major rearranging of how we pack and some trimming down of our gear (which isn’t a bad thing).

Unfortunately, I’m still suffering from the bad back (trapped nerve) I acquired on our last trip a month ago and can only walk a few steps before suffering excruciating pain :o(. Very frustrating, especially as summer seems to have arrived in the UK at last. I have a physio appointment booked for next week, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed as we have an idea for a short cycle tour in the UK to try out the Brommies.

I have also been testing out my new GoPro Hero 3 camera (which I also purchased from http://www.pedalscyclecentre.co.uk, who stock all the GoPro cameras and accessories). Here’s my first attempt at a short video with the GoPro camera – I should improve with more practice!

(For full screen viewing of the video, click on HD in the RH corner to get the best quality.)

Author: Mike McEnnerney Photographer PhotoLink Images

I've had a passion for photography for as long as I can remember and have been running my own photographic business for many years (www.photolinkimages.co.uk). This also carries over into my personal interests: I love the great outdoors and enjoy nothing better than to be outside taking photos (www.mike-mcennerney.smugmug.com) and combining this with my hobbies of Yoga, cycle touring, camping, backpacking, canoeing and just being out in the wilds, or as the Australians say "beyond the black stump" farther into the outback than the city lights.

10 thoughts on “Bromptons, fun, fun, fun…

  1. Love the video! Last year in Crewkerne I saw 2 Bromptons loaded for touring leaned against the wall outside a Cafe… it really got me thinking about whether I could tour with a Brompton. It would suit me very well being able to mix public transport with cycling, but I did wonder how to go about loading up.. can’t wait to see your new bikes in the flesh! Very interested to know how you get on with these. T x

    • I get the news feed from Brompton on my facebook page and after watching the video and reading Mike’s blog I had some spare time (no work on this afternoon) and thought my previous experience and Brompton tips might be of use. I’m 59 and have used road, mountain and hybrid bikes over the years both as everyday transport and for pleasure. I’d been considering a Brompton as a vague possibility for overseas cycling since they first appeared in the 80s as I consider them to be the finest folding design on the market still yet to be bettered, Lack of space necessitated in me taking the plunge and I changed from my 12 year old Trek hybrid to my P Brompton 2½ years ago when I moved to a third floor flat with no secure ground floor storage and restricted by fire regs disallowing bikes in the entrance area. Before that I would do the occasional tour on the hybrid using rear rack panniers and bar bag and I wanted to be able to equip and adapt the Brompton for touring in a similar way if I fancied future trip. I’ve since done the odd longer day rides, so I know it’s fine for covering similar distances, albeit with a slightly smaller gear range, but I’ve yet to ride it for a consecutive days touring. It will happen in the near future when I can grab some time off to travel the 190 miles from Rossendale, Lancashire to Bristol to visit my nephew and his wife soon. I just need to fit pedals that will fit toe clips so I can use the upward stroke as well but I figure a leisurely 5 or 6 hour 40ish miles a day (equivalent 13ish miles walked) should be comfortably achievable in 4 or 5 days ready for the weekend, and possibly bung it on the train at Temple Meads for a change of ride back north afterwards.

      I haven’t been disappointed in any way and it’s fulfilled my expectations for work (www.blackboardblokeonabike.co.uk), enabling flexible transfer to quicker public transport when needing to get further afield for an appointment, and for downtime pleasure (goes in the boot of a taxi after a few drinks) and I can also recommend the 30L ‘T’ bag/front rack combo which is well made, spacious and waterproof (unless in the unlikely event of being fully immersed in water) as non of my stuff has ever got slightly damp even in the heaviest of downpours and that’s without its belts and braces included flourescent hi vis rain cover which I only put on to help me stand out in traffic at night and in murky low vis conditions. This bag is ideal for larger everyday jobs like supermarket runs and will work well for touring as it’s quick attach/release system allows a seamless transfer to shoulder strap carriage great for heading into a hostel or B&B for an overnight stop carrying your transport. It’s a similarly well thought out design and as well as a large internal capacity, the T bag has an external bottle holder, a compartment to free up trouser pockets and take wallet, keys, phone, camera, on the go snacks as well as extra capacity front and side mesh pockets to take water/windproofs, extra drinks, maps, fruit, gloves etc, Everything a rider needs can be stowed to get to it quickly and easily, close to hand without having to delve deep to find it.

      For smaller shopping trips and to add extra touring load carrying, I also bought the smaller 16L rear ‘Rack Sack’ (giving me a fully loaded slightly larger capacity to the rucksack I’ve used for lightweight backpacking long distance national trails and coastal paths over the years). It’s not as heavy duty as the T bag but is still well made, has a shoulder strap, gives a lighter option and has a reflective strip. Choosing a rear bag for the Brompton’s lower than usual rear rack needs consideration because if a bag is wider than the front of the rack its proximity will hamper pedalling catching the heel’s of the rider.

      That’s not to say you can’t do your own thing and if ‘Brompton luggage’ is typed into the search engine, as well as the advertisements for different bag options that appear, there are also links to images of different customisations that people have done and YouTube has some good video ideas often uploaded by overseas users who may not easily be able to get Brompton accessories. One cost virtually nothing good idea utilised an already owned bag with the addition of a a bar or sawn off brush handle tightly nylon cable tied to the saddle’s bag loops so it protruded enough either side to allow a largish backpack’s shoulder straps to be hooked over with the bottom of the sack bungeed or tied to the furthest rear point of the rack in a diagonal maintaining a good space between it and the rider’s heels and a little spare space for a smaller bag (eg puncture repair, spare tube and maintenance toolkit) underneath it on the remaining vacant rack area.

      Another great idea that I took from a YouTube video to use ever since I was once refused bus transport when the driver insisted it was company policy that a folded bike must be in a bag, If you don’t already have one for storing stuff under the bed, I recommend getting a strong lightweight easily stowed cheap and cheerful Ikea DIMPA storage bag with carry handles for £3.75 http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/10056770/

      Apart from rear rack considerations, the Brompton should have little or no difference from a conventional bike to load up for touring, possibly more stable due to it’s small wheels. It’s advisable to pack the heaviest stuff as low as possible for greater ride stability. This also helps when the bike is parked or has to be raised from being laid flat on the floor eg in the middle of a campsite’s field with nowhere to lean it. The wheels are the pivot points and the nearer the load is to that pivot, the easier it is to lift the bike and manoeuvre it using the handlebar and seat as levers.

      Of course if you don’t fancy the full touring luggage option and have the budget, a trailer might be worth consideration http://travellingtwo.com/13483

      • Hi Gordon, thanks for taking the time to write your very comprehensive comments. You cover all the points that we have thought through and we have in fact bought the T-bag (we’re amazed at how much you can pack in it!) and rack sack for cycle touring. We’re in the process of working out what to pack and what to cut down on as we’re off for a short cycle tour very soon. We’ll be blogging about the trip and how it goes. Thanks again for all your useful tips. Mike

  2. Thanks, Tess. You ought to give a Brompton a trial as we find them really comfortable to ride, and fun too! The riding position is quite upright so there is less strain on your wrists, which would be ideal for you. Also, less strain on your neck and back. As we said in the blog, our local bike shop will loan you one for the day if you want to try one out. We’re looking forward to combining cycling with using public transport. Have got to sort out how best to load it first and have a couple of short trial runs. Will keep you posted. Hope you are keeping well, M&C xx

  3. Hi, great video! Look forward to seeing and hearing more of your adventures… I have a couple of Bromptons also and two GoPro’s and I was wondering what mount you were using for those first two shots? Seems like the chest mount later on but wasn’t sure on that first couple… Cheers Mark

    • Hi Mark, thanks for your comments. I’m just getting to grips with the GoPro and this was the first video I shot. The introductory shots were done with a Manfrotto Magic Arm and Superclamp. This is a piece of kit I already had and thought I would try it out on the bike to give me some different angles. Hopefully some more videos to come. We’ll soon be off on a short cycle tour with the Bromptons, so watch this space to see how we get on! Mike

  4. Great video, love the colour of Chris’! I aspire to a Brompton but have a folding Jango Flik, which I love to pieces. Think folders are the way forward.

  5. Hi M and C, please post pics of racks and bags…I’ve no idea of what a T bag is, apart from the one I joyfully put in my mug ready for a restful cuppa after a day in the outdoors

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