Brompton H6L -One month down the line

I’ve been commuting on the Brompton for one month and, 160 rapid miles down the road in these balmy summer conditions (i.e. rain, and lots of it), I offer some thoughts.

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First, what don’t I like: Well, I those small wheels do take more energy to keep at pace and they are susceptible to potholes and other road imperfections, certainly more so that the 20-inch wheels on my Bike Friday or a regular bike.

The first complaint sees me working the gears more to maintain momentum, the second requires me to dart around obstacles more so that I would do on a regular bike. Road conditions being so bad now, and unlikely to get much better given the parlous state of council highways budgets, it is sometimes impossible to avoid a juddery ride.

I’m not a fan of the saddle, either. I like the handgrip below the nose, but the perch is not really suited to my behind. I’ll change it for a Brooks at some point.

So what’s good… The Brompton does live up to its reputation as a ‘personal transport solution’. The fold is excellent. How I’ve had a bit of practice, I can collapse it in seconds. It lives under my desk when at work and stows easily in the luggage rack of a Virgin train. But the fold has additional benefits. With my luggage attached, the folded Brommie becomes a shopping basket/trolley, which can be wheeled around easily (particular now I’ve added Eazy wheels).

Despite my gripe about keeping it going, the Brommie rides really well too. The reach may be a little short for me, but I’ve ridden it for an hour solid with no complaint. The addition of stubby bar ends is a worthwhile upgrade.

The gear arrangement is, at first, rather odd and takes some getting used to. My Brompton is a six-speed machine, which works via the marriage of a three-speed BWR Sturney Artcher hub and a two speed derailleur. Consequently, you have to combine shifts of the derailleur and Sturmey shifter to work through the range. In practice, I keep the hub in second and flip between high and low derailleur setting when commuting in London, using top for long blast down Embankment while chasing road cyclists. Bottom gear comes into play when I’m grinding up some Saddleworth hills near my home.

An eight-speed hub would be a better solution, and third party upgrades are available. This assumes you can live with the weight penalty, though, as the Brompton is already heavy.

The Brompton luggage system is quite superb, too. I use a cotton duck Caradice City Folder as I am a faithful follower of the brand. As the bag fits directly to the frame rather than handlebars, steering is not affected when loaded. In fact, handling becomes more predictable and stable the more you carry. It’s a fantastic solution for the kind of lugging you’ll do around town.

Another great touch is the saddle Pentaclip. This is far superior to the standard saddle clamp on seatposts. At first, I thought it would slip and not hold true, but it’s worked very well indeed. It takes all the faff out of saddle adjustment and getting the perfect position becomes a very straightforward procedure.

So how does the Brommie rate against the Bike Friday? As you would expect.

For multi-modal commutes, the Brompton reigns supreme. For cycle touring using trains and planes, the Friday is preferable as it rides better.

Overall, I prefer the Brompton. Yes, it’s expensive and some of the accessories are optimistically priced, but you will struggle to find something so beautifully fit for purpose.

You can tell the original design has been modified and improved, as there are countless little design tweaks that make everything work that little bit better. This evolution will continue and all Brompton owners will benefit as improved components can be retrofitted. Ally this to a comprehensive parts back-up service, and the Brompton is destined to become a friend for life.

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13 thoughts on “Brompton H6L -One month down the line

  1. great review – different from the divided opinions on the web (mostly fervently only supporting, or, occasionally, just damming) and very much like my experience – i love my brommy, but small hard tyres are a different experience from 28 fat franks. just discovered the blog, keep up the good work, enjoyed old review of touring, getting away from the grind and cycling giving a fresh perspective on life, very much my experience too

    1. Thanks very much for the comment and words of support, they are appreciated 🙂 Yes, the Brommie really does divide opinion. Even when out on the road, some folk can’t help but offer their opinion.

      I wish I could go on an extended tour… I really do. Need to find a way to make it happen.

      1. i just got my brompton back from kinetics (did a rohloff conversion) – there’s a very strong argument for going on an extended tour – but like you i find making it happen very difficult (too many thinsg have to be cancelled or arranged), perhaps a small tour (you already do those, i have to yet “make that happen”!)

      2. absolutely amazing – it transforms a competent little commuter into something like a super hybrid – the only thing I’m aware of as i use it is the way the small wheels hold progress back a bit with teh eggbeater whirring – I’m also still breaking in the Rohloff so it feels as if it may be marginally less efficient than say a well maintained dérailleur. however, always having exactly the gear one needs is just so good. It’s a lot of money (£1199), but as i was cycling back today i thought how different a piece of cast aluminium with gears in an oil bath “feels” from a tin can with gears in grease (much as i love my sturmey archers on my other bikes, I’m afraid it’s just a completely different experience)

      3. I can imagine… I’ve had the great pleasure of riding a worn in Rohloff and I’ve wanted one ever since. Ultimately, I hope to have one on my Surly Troll.

      4. i have another Rohloff on a 26 commuter – the surly looks a great home for one – the only caveat i can think of is that you wont be able to lock it up outside for very long (in my part of outer London at least), otherwise I’d say bite the bullet and go for it, it feels in my bike obsessed reality like a life altering decision!

      5. I think I need to have a journey to merit such a pricey upgrade… A trip cross South America perhaps!

  2. as i was hammering the brompton up a hill, enjoying every moment of clickety click gear shifting (in the rain of all things) last night, feeling really in “the zone” (make that a fat middle-aged bloke’s zone) i thought, life’s too short and how good it feels – i’d say do it before south america!

  3. I fitted my Brommy with an Alfine 11 to improve the gearing (I’ve given up trying to get the brakes to be less than worrying down hills) but I hit a patch of road chippings last October that stopped the bike dead, pretzelled the front wheel and threw me off. CTC are dealing with my claim against the farmer who is at fault.
    It has put me off the B for anything other than good roads around town and I have replaced the hub with a Nexus 8. My Dahon Speed TR is a by far better road bike but with a far less convenient fold.
    I ride with people who tour extensively on their Bromptons but it isn’t going to work for me.

    1. Hi, Thanks for the comment. I’m sorry to hear about your crash. I can well understand how such a thing could happen. I’ve had a couple of incidents that have given me more than a pause for thought when I first started riding the Brommie but am more accustomed to it now. Jury’s out whether I would use it for touring… Would have to be a very specific application.

      1. I’m sorry to hear about the crash too, I’ve had a few narrow escapes myself and found the brommie brakes wholly inadequate (even when fitted with koolstops etc) – strangely after i had mine modified by kinetics (a guy called ben cooper) the brakes on the rear wheel improved – dramatically – i can only assume brompton has upgraded the rims since it’s the same blocks. i’m still not sure i’d want to use it for anything more than commuting, it definitely isnt designed for anything off road. i recently bought a b’twin triban 3 from decathlon – £299 and it wildly outguns a brommie on any terrain, but off course doesn’t fold at all.

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