Sunday, December 23, 2012

Brompton Personal Review for Touring

My trusty Brompton with me and friends on a nice Mekong ride
Now I am not a bicycle guru and this will surely piss the true blue Bromptonites ("how dare you... it must be the best bike in the world!!!")  For Brompton Zealots... Please kindly tune off as this will not be your cup of tea.

Sorry mate... But I am of the opinion that there are many good bikes in the world. One of them also happen to be the Brompton. And I will share my own personal opinion after riding it for 2.5 years and with several overseas journey with the iconic bicycle.

This is what I have done over the years
Japan - Business trip and extended to explore more of the place (2 times)
Terrain is City flatish, with train rides (folded brompton)
Distance cover roughly 30 km
Transport by DIYed Carton box. 
Exploring ulu area has it challenges.. like no escalator... gulp

Mekong area, Thailand - Self supported cycling trip
Terrain is mixed of tarmac, mud tracks which became quite gooey. Lots of slope and downhills.  Rain big time.
Distance covered roughly - 200km
Time: around 1 week
Transport by Lojel luggage case. The Luggage lock portion broke because of rough handling.
Some where near Chang Khan, Thailand
Manning the rear with my M bar Raw Lac 6 Speed
Taiwan - Supported cycling trip with family and van support.
Terrain is good tarmac with hill elevations of around 300m (mount Faber is 100m). Strong head winds
Distance covered roughly - 150km
Transport by Original Brompton Box
I got another Brompton for my wife.. haha.. buy in Taiwan and ride directly
Cranking it @ Taiwan. It's a P bar which give more position to reduce frontal drag. It works!
Brompton Pros/Plus
  • The legendary fold is neat, strong and good for packing. Excels in mixed multi transport mode(Bus, Train, Van, Taxi) 
  • The frame and ride geometry is stable and good for riding around. With the rear supported by rubber suspension(Got soft and firm- get the firm one if u are doing more touring and heavier loaded) and adding a brooks B17. The Brompton is one comfortable ride.
  • Front Mount Touring (aka T) bag is roomy enough put my clothes, and all other stuff. It is also supplied with a flour-yello waterproof cover... which I tested in a full day rain ride in Mekong. 
  • When you ride and get tired. You can fold and take a taxi. Or hop into the support van or flag a horse cart in ulu conditions. 
  • The small wheel run true and spin well. Over all the bike keeps going and going.. slowly is how it likes it.
  • The Clunky SA hub just keep going and going. Best in wet conditions as it is protected from the elements. 
Brompton Cons/Minus
  • I really hate the SA hub wide gearing. In a City environment, it is ok. But when u are in a constant hilly terrain. The wide gear spacing really gets to you. It is either too light or too heavy.. to compensate, you need to adjust your cycling Cadence to accommodate. 
  • Shifting of the gears are quite your English quirkiness.  The plastic casing of the shifter look flimsy by over 3 years.. they shake but still shift fine. It just don't look robust and refined. This is year 2012.. Brompton company pls consider something simpler and more intuitive. 
  • Rear tyre change is more troublesome. You need to have 2 spanner size - 8, 15 to loosen the brake clamp, wheel axle. Also need to unscrew the Internal hub gearing key link. I resolved this by buying the most puncture proof tyre. Yes I do lose some speed but in return, I get more "puncture insurance".  I don't fancy changing tube in the middle of the blazing sun at the side of the road... with no shade. 
This is Encik George Lim. Don't be fooled by his pink bike. He is V8 on Steroids.  We nearly died trying to catch up with him haha. 
Overall findings
Brompton is best suited for the city landscape. This is where it thrives. Fold it, take a train to the near by location, unfold, ride. It is unbeatable.. or the gold standard. 
For touring.. it is a mixed bag. The small wheels are not too good for bad potholed mud paths and the wide space SA hub reduces cycling efficiency by around 20 percent at least. Get the Tbag if u are intending to tour unsupported. It carry suff easily and makes the bike handle well. It is big and placed in the front of the bike.. your aerodynamics will suffer. But if u go slow and smell the is fine. 

Would I take the Brompton on a tour? 
It depends on the location and terrain elevation. If City like- I will confirm bring it or the Carryme.
If it is slopely slopes galore... I will bring my Alex Mouton TSR with triple crank to spin up any hill. Hope this gives you more insights of the wonderful bike called Brompton. Any questions still in your mind.. just ask. 


  1. Thank you for speaking honestly and openly about the strengths and weaknesses of the Brompton. It is my first foldie in 2006 so I do have some emotional attachment to it. Agree 100% with you about it being an excellent city bike, one of the best. Touring, its a different story as you found out and so did I. Brought mine to Riau, Cambodia and Ipoh to Penang ride. Its the slowest bike among the BFs and Dahons. Gearing is the culprit and when the hills come, so does the suffering. Unless u do lots of multi-modal commuting, there are other better tourers around. But for city riding, the Brommie rules la. But CM also a v strong contender.

    1. Thanks Bro Al, you and ur wonderful blog introduced me the the world of foldies. Brompton was one bicycle I was quite blown away. The fold is incredible... but gearing esp. for touring tasks.. it is Brompton achilles heel. Can tour.. can.. but it takes more effort. It is like can u travel by unicycle... can... :)

  2. can't have evything in a bike really. small wheels gives a neat fold but
    bigger wheels gives a better ride. so one has to choose which is more

    i am loving my Brompton tho! and going for a 14 days japan trip with it
    in 2013 April. good time to see cherry blossoms too ! :D

    1. Well said yuna. It is all about compromise and I do love my Brompton for allowing me to see so many places which I would never be possible to do with out a bicycle. 14 days in Japan? That's awesome! Looking forward to ur blog post!

  3. Super duper agree! I hate the gearing on the Brommie! I can't find that perfect sweet spot. :( But it is the best when it comes to folded size and bulk.

  4. One thing about changing rear wheel. If your rear wheel is punctured, there's No need to remove the rear brake. A deflated tyre can be pinched between the pads.

  5. I would take my Brompton on a tour. But I have 6 gears, with 12% reduction (44 teeth on the front chain wheel instead of the normal 50). I have no problems finding a "sweet spot", with or without luggage, with or without a head wind, etc. A bit slower than an ordinary touring bike, though. @Taiwoon - have you considered modifying your B to 6 gears?

    1. yes indeed, it is a nice bike to ride but for long tour I would use other bikes. Mine is 6 speed but I find the gear step between each gear is very big.. so it disrupts the cadence quite a bit.

      I am not a strong rider and I can feel the difference in cycling effieceny. The thing I like about brompton is the quick and compact fold. Its tops in a mixed mode travel (train, plane, cycle)

  6. Sorry, I assumed that you had a 3-speed, as you wrote, in your list of cons/minus "I really hate the SA hub wide gearing". And I agree with you there, the gearing is very wide.
    But if you have a 6-speed and still find the gear steps too big, I can not fault you. There are other bikes with more gears and closer steps between them. And as you said, the Brompton is strong when it comes to multi-modal travelling. :)

    1. I still love Brompton, all the quirks and all. Great package

  7. hi sorry to trouble u. cld u share where can someone buy brompton in taipei ? thks so much

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