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Bruce and his Brompton

his is Bruce. He is one of our customers, and he is an enthusiastic Brompton owner. So enthusiastic, in fact, that before we carried Brompton he acted as a one-man lobbying campaign to get them into the shop. His persistence paid off, and despite our initial skepticism about a folding bike that is not cheap, we took a leap of faith and placed an opening order.

As we’ve gotten to know Brompton over the last two years, we’ve come to appreciate what a wonderful product they make. The bikes ride beautifully and are unique among the folders we’ve seen in that they are a pleasure to use. We don’t have one in our stable yet, but Bruce’s example has inspired many day dreams about where we’d take one, and how much more fun travel would be if bringing a bike were easy.

Bruce was good enough to write up a little something about his life as a Brompton owner. He doesn’t mention our favorite story of his, which was of him riding in a tuxedo to a fancy event at the Four Seasons in Manhattan, then handing the bike over at coat check, but he has had some impressive adventures in just the last year. He reports:

My job as director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, based at Columbia University Journalism School, involves a lot of travel. So taking along my Brompton has become a personal sanity routine – in the last year alone, the bike has accompanied me to London, Sydney, Bangkok, Dublin, Marrakech and Rio, along with various US cities. Why bother? Because even the simple act of cycling from my hotel to a newsroom or conference venue, or spending an hour in the early morning biking around a neighborhood or district, conveys a rich and textured sense of the place impossible to otherwise get on a short business visit. It gets me out of the hotel, keeps me out of cabs and gives me insight as a transportation-citizen, in a world that’s becoming more bike-friendly at an astonishing pace – each of those cities I mentioned, for instance, have well-established cycling lanes and routes, even in places famous for their traffic. And in cities that I visit frequently enough to know well – for instance London, where the Dart Center has a satellite office – the bike gives me a degree of control over my time impossible to gain in any other way when traveling.Flying with the bike is barely more work than packing an extra pair of socks or travel charger. I check it into regular luggage – no oversize or sports-equipment charge! – using Brompton’s zippered, soft-sided B Bag. I’ve found that the only really vulnerable parts are the wire mudguard stays, so I take a few foam stress balls and stuff them between the stays and rim. I also pop off the seat just on (probably unnecessary) general principle and put it into the bag’s inside pouch. But that’s it – less than five minutes of prep. If I’m somewhere with good rail connections to the airport – JFK’s AirTrain or London’s Heathrow Express , I’ll keep the bike set up until I get to the airport, with the B-Bag rolled up and slung over my shoulder, and pack it right in the terminal.

Recently I added a level of fanaticism to one trip by biking to and from LaGuardia. Since I work in upper Manhattan I took the Triboro – there’s an elevated bike and pedestrian path above the roadway, with a sweeping view down the East Side; at the apex of the bridge you can stop and look down straight into the roiling eddys of Hell Gate. You pedal up from Harlem, down around Randall’s Island and then over into Queens, ending up with a gentle ride through quiet Astoria streets to the airport. Door to door, it took me no longer than a cab ride in traffic; I got on my flight to San Antonio invigorated rather than depleted.

One of the unique things about Brompton is that they offer “b-spoke” builds, rather than the fully specc’ed models that most other brands produce. The frame is the same (unless you want to lighten things up with an upgrade to titanium), but there are literally millions of possible builds, with choices for many frame color combinations, four drivetrains with various gearing options and plenty of accessories to choose from. Brompton recently introduced a fun new Bike Builder, where you can mock up any possible build with prices, weights and a look at colors. It’s a great place to play around, and if you’re interested we’ve got a demo bike in the shop.

We never thought we’d be lusting after a folder, but when we consider having a folding bike bike that rides like it’s full-sized and can come with us whether we’re traveling by plane, train or automobile, it’s hard not to want one.