Brompton folding bike – Seven League Boots


The Brompton folding bike, I believe, is one of the most exceptional and life-enhancing products made in Britain. It is also a complete denial of all the basic assumptions we make about industry today as it is hand-made, expensive, timeless but completely modern and selling like hot cakes even during the recession. Hardly any other bikes are made in the UK, Asian manufacturers seem to have dominated the market because they offer good products for an unbeatable price, but Brompton is a great international success.

The bike was designed by Andrew Ritchie who thought he could do better than the rather rickety folding bikes around in 1975. The history of the product can be found on the Brompton website and in other places on the web but the really exceptional thing about it is the way the design appears to be completely unchanged in nearly 30 years, yet, when you look closely, almost everything about it has changed and improved many times without altering the basic proposition of the most elegant folding bike in the world.

Today’s Brompton is available in a bewildering array of bespoke options that include superlightweight titanium frames, a great variety of gear systems, one of the most original and effective bike luggage systems available and lots of tiny details like hand-made Brooks leather saddles that are very popular with discerning buyers despite a hefty additional price. Many of these details of the design, like the luggage or the unique gear system, are the result of a willingness to think differently from anybody else in the business and an obsession with reliability and simplicity. Several well-known bike parts manufacturers make multispeed hub gears but they are heavy and complex so Brompton designed their own lightweight components to double the number of gears available from traditional 3-speed gears, to build a bike that will go almost anywhere but is simple, light and efficient.

Brompton owners (including me) are passionate about their bikes, they are more convenient, more fun and more likely to get used every day than any other bicycle. Since I bought mine in 2003 I use it for almost every journey I make, whether it is to the local shops or work, a trip into the countryside, a business trip by train and bike all over the UK or in the aircraft hold ready for a quick getaway from the airport in Japan, China, the USA, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland and anywhere I’m likely to go in future. I’ve used it for touring with camping equipment in the mountains of Southern France as well as sightseeing in Tokyo and whizzing round between different universities in Beijing

The Brompton fulfils a basic human need, for efficient transport, but it makes every journey fun as well. Although I’ve always had and used a bike, since owning a Brompton I am 200% fitter and I  resent having to sit in a car because that’s just tedious. Now if I visit another town or city I really feel in touch with the place and if I want to be somewhere else I can be there in a flash and enjoy the experience rather than trudging on foot or waiting for public transport. My Brompton is as light as a  good touring bike, as lively as a racing bike and it allows me to carry everything I need whether it’s a one-day business trip or weeks camping holiday.

(more Brompton and cycling material on my cycling blog)

Tags: ,

13 Responses to “Brompton folding bike – Seven League Boots”

  1. Christopher Coe Says:

    Thank you for providing such an accurate article regarding this brilliant two wheeler – the Brompton. I bought my first one 3 years ago after suffering a series of strokes that led me to give up driving a car. I’m happy to report that I’m quite recovered now and the Brompton has given me a ‘third leg’, so versatile and practical. I use it all the time for journeys upwards to 20 miles. Superb on public transport too.
    I also own a ‘full size’ bike as I been a dedicated cyclist for many years, but the Brompton wins hands down as it’s such fun to ride and also has provoked many an impromptu discussion with passing folk when I’m unfolding the machine in the street! I urge anyone to buy one and enhance their life in so many ways.

  2. Reuben Wu Says:

    I take mine all over the world! It also fits into the back of my Spitfire :)

    Glad to find you alive and well.

  3. chrisrust Says:

    Hi Reuben, wonderful to see you pop up here. You get a name check on my blog right here. Keep going down the page until you see a copy of your original artwork. The “last heard of” refers to a time I was staying in Boston and saw your name in the local “What’s On”, sadly it was the wrong day.

    Is your Spitfire a Triumph or a Supermarine? (or maybe Airfix). I know you pop stars go in for expensive toys.

  4. Reuben Wu Says:

    Yeah I saw that :) Not one of my best pieces IMO…
    The old Spitty almost cost as much as the Brompton. I upgraded from a Strida a couple of years ago, big difference!

  5. Paul lambert Says:

    Am I the only one that doesn’t like Brompton bikes. I bought one a couple of months ago after my real bike finally expired after 15 years.. I had great hopes but ….the lights never worked, the seat constantly lowers ltself even though the holding nut is super tight and I find it unstabe and very hard work even though it has 6 gears. Of course it is beautifully engineered but a major disappointment to ride. It’s heading for eBay. Then I’m getting a proper bike.

  6. chrisrust Says:

    I’m sure there are others Paul. If it’s a used bike it might need a bit of work on the seatpost clamp, or an upgrade as the newer clamps are a big improvement. As for lights, I wouldn’t bother with the Brompton lights as I’m happy with basic LED battery lights for commuting but those who need lights seem to like the SON hub dynamo lighting sold with new Bromptons.
    Hope you find a bike to suit you.

  7. Terry Vaughan Says:

    I bought a new Brompton when I retired – one of the best things I have done. I use it most days and love it.

  8. Will B Says:

    You write that the bike is life-enhancing, which it is, but for me it’s also life-affirming! I feel so happy riding my Brompton!

  9. Chris Sorlie Says:

    I would love to ride a Brompton. I’m 64 and just retired. Not sure if neck and shoulder will allow me to ride! Time will tell. Nice blog!

  10. Mike Brooks Says:

    I bought my MR6 yesterday, and am waiting for the saddle proofide kit to come before I take the bike out. It is a thing of beauty, and I sit and admire the quality of workmanship. Being a man of leisure now, I have bought the bike just to have a bit of fun with, and the Brommie owner I met today, assured me that I would.

  11. chrisrust Says:

    Hi Mike, Proofide is good but I always carry one of those shower caps you get in hotel bedrooms, then if you have to park your bike out in the rain it’s fine. While you are riding of course it’s completely protected.

  12. chrisrust Says:

    You may wish to join the Bromptontalk discussion forum on Yahoo Groups. People are surprised what a friendly, helpful and polite place it is.

  13. Reuben Wu Says:

    Hi Chris! Ideo just designed a very nice weatherproof saddle for Brooks. I like my leather one, but it’s going to take 100 years to break it in…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: