Brompton H6L… Delights and disappointments

I’ve been commuting on my Brompton H6L for nearly eight months and have covered somewhere in the region of 1,500 miles.

By and large, it’s been a very satisfying marriage. The bike has performed admirably and has the capacity to surprise and delight with its nimble ride and ingenious fold.

However, the Brommie has not been without problems and in this post I’ll set out the some of the more negative aspects of my Brompton ownership and offer some advice for riders who may be considering taking the plunge.

Wheels

There’s no escaping the fact that the wheels on the Brompton are not that great. While strong enough for the task for which they were specified, the quality of the build leaves something to be desired.

The spokes on the rear wheel, in particular, are quite alarmingly bent and on changing the tyres for heavier Schwalbe Marathons, I discovered some pretty shoddy rim tape. This was quickly replaced with some Velox.

Both wheels remain pretty true, although the front has developed a slight wobble.

Significantly, new Bromptons are now fitted with an improved rear rim featuring new an angled drilling to ease tension and improve overall strength.

Rear mudguard

Brompton rear mudguard crackingBeing an L model Brompton, my bike does not have a rear rack.

Although I had planned to order my bike with the rear carrier, the effectiveness of the front luggage system convinced me that the rear carrier was surplus to requirements.

This has proven to be a mistake. More on the front luggage system next, but the rear mudguard has cracked on my Brompton as a result of repeated folding.

Now I’ll admit that them not the most careful… But when you’re running for a train and performing a quick fold, there’s little scope to proceed in a gingerly fashion.

The rear rack provides an extra line of defence while making the folded package that bit more stable if wheeling the bike around.

I may change the rear configuration of my bike and add a rear rack to prevent this happening again. That said, a new rear mudguard is a relatively cheap Brompton replacement part at £12.

Seat post

If you use your Brompton regularly and in all weathers, the seat post will eventually start slipping. Road crud and spray are thrown into the bottom of the open seat tube while riding, and this collects over time, along with other grease and grime, resulting in the slippage.

The only solution in my experience is to periodically remove the seat pin and degrease, along with the seat tube. This should cure the slip.

Front luggage block

Brompton front block bolt shearMy greatest disappointment with Brompton has to be the front luggage carrier.

While I remain convinced that this is an excellent design, I think I was unlucky that one of the bolts holding the luggage block in place sheared leaving a stud in the frame thread. Despite careful drilling and attempt to remove this stud, the thread is still clogged with metal (as can be seen in the picture).

I’m disappointed as I regularly checked these front bolts and took care not to overload my Caradice City folder.

So for now I am commuting with a pack and I’m a bit stuck as to what to do next with this. I’m sure a handy framebuilder or metalworker might be able to offer a fix but this may mean losing my Brommie for a couple of weeks.

It’s a price I may have to pay and reflects just how reliant I’ve become on this useful little bike.

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51 thoughts on “Brompton H6L… Delights and disappointments

  1. I too have a Brompton, and quite frankly they are over rated. The hype is well past the truth. They are made of cheap parts and heavy tube. My Dahon rides, and stops, better by far.

    Why not drill and tap a new hole? There is a bit of leeway inside the luggage block which I think only cost about £15 if it goes wrong. Other than that, an engineer shouldn’t have trouble removing a stud. I find model railway engineers are able to undertake many odd tasks for a couple of bottles of wine or one half bottle of whiskey :0)

    1. I still think its the best folding bike, but not the best riding. I prefer my Bike Friday to ride but for mixed mode commuting the Brommie wins in my view. Drilling a new hole is certainly one of the options I am considering if the original can’t be salvaged.

      1. Every time I mention the Brompton I start by saying it is the best fold but then go on to criticise the ride, the braking and the poor quality of the components. It seems odd to recommend a bicycle for its fold rather than the quality of its ride.
        Your post has caused me to think about this more and realise that my B may as well go. I’d rather compromise on the fold than on the riding now that I have a choice through not commuting any more.

      2. I think you’re right. I wouldn’t own one of these if I didn’t have the multi-modal commute. The only other situation would be if I had limited storage space and couldn’t squeeze in the Friday. That said, I don’t think the ride of the Brompton is that bad. It’s comfortable and the upright position helps in traffic, I find (if not in a headwind 🙂 ). I certainly wouldn’t tour on it or start riding Audaxes like some do. There are far, far better machines for those applications.

    2. The main focus of the design of the Brompton is its portability specially for commuting. I read a lot before buying mine and i am so happy i did. I bought it in Chile and took it to Argentina, Miami, Ecuador and next stop Denmark. The possibility i have to explore these countries i know with the same bike is just amazing. The riding?? Yes it needs a lot of improvement but you get use to it . Can you imagine how i felt when i first use B’s brakes after coming from a shimano XTR hydraulic disk brakes?
      If you dont need this nice folding capability ,i agree, find another folding bike with dual suspension, brakes, etc
      I am loving mine at it serves its purpose beautifully

    1. I agree… It’s just finding a local shop/builder who is prepared to do it. I know I can send it off for the work to be done, but the turnaround will be slower.

      1. No worries 🙂

        By the way, not sure if you saw it but you got a mention on my blog recently; somebody was asking whether you can ride a Brompton off road and I wondered if you’d be up for the experiment?

      2. it’s the clearances (leaves and crud jam up the wheels, mudguards and brakes), believe it or not – many years ago AtoB made a custom off-road Brompton with 13 tyres (it didn’t work – heavy rolling resistance etc.)

  2. an honest review (there’s too many Brompton evangelists out there, much as I love mine) – I suspect you’re taller/heavier than me (5’11, 14 stone) which may come into it (my brommy’s wheels are intact) – after five years my front luggage block bolts inexplicably came loose too (fortunately I saw it and retightened them), BUT – having seen the (very serious) consequences of a friend having an accident when front luggage got caught in a front wheel at speed I feel safer using a carradice camper long flap (it’s seriously big) on a carradice quick fit on the brommy seat post rear (it’s indestructible). The biggest niggle for me with the Brompton was the limited gear range.

    1. I’m a wee bit lighter these days but, yes, I imagine it’s my weight combined with the luggage on the front… and let’s not forget the pretty dreadful state of the roads which doesn’t help matters. I’ve been riding with a pack for a couple of weeks now and I’m actually starting to prefer the convenience (as long as I’m not carrying too much). I like the idea of the QR longflap though. While I am very fond of this bike, like other owners I am a little underwhelmed by the quality of some of the components. As a practical transport ‘solution’, (despite the niggles) it works day in day out though.

  3. Thanks for your interesting blog. Could you please make some more comparisons between the Brompton and the Bike Friday pocket llama, since you have experience with them both. I ‘m considering the choice between them for a commute in Holland:starting by bike in the morning ( for one mile to a busy trainstation, then a 40 minute ride in the train) and cycling back in the afternoon. It’s a 25 to 30 mile journey on reasonably good roads with lots of asphalt. I love the fold of the Brompton, and the ride on the Bike Friday. What would you choose? I’ m 6ft 1,5 (187 cm), 17stone (110kg). Obviously I want to loose some weight by biking.

    1. Hi Hans. Interesting question. Personally, I would not want to ride the Brompton regularly over those mileages. I imagine others on here would protest but that’s my opinion. I think the ‘Friday will be a better partner in this situation. You may want to check weight restrictions on Bike Friday. I think they manufacturer a number of their models to handle more weight. My llama was certainly ‘bulked up’ as I was over 17 stone when I started riding this bike. All the best, Matt.

  4. Hope you have your bolt problem fixed, but if not simply go to the hardware store and pick up a left-hand drill bit. Use a power drill and try to drill a hole centered in the broken bolt… once the bit ‘bites’ into the bolt it will quickly unscrew the remaining broken part. The bit diameter should be less than the bolt diameter so you don’t damage the threads.

    1. thanks for the tip… we are a wee bit past this point I’m afraid. However, I think I’ve found someone who will sort it.

  5. I like my Brompton and have had some problems but none of the ones that you’ve had. I’m planing to sell my rack if you’re interested. I also have an extra luggage block. For me, the brakes are the best I’ve ever used. I keep them well tuned. I even use a Croozer Kid trailer and I feel confident when stopping. It’s probably just because I’ve never used a modern braking system. My last bike was a 1995 GT mountain bike.

    1. I think the brakes are OK when they are in a good state of maintenance. However, I find they deteriorate quite quickly and I’ve already got through a fair few sets of brake blocks. This premature wear also happens on my Bike Friday which may be a product of stop/start commuting.

      1. I’m in Germany and I get to ride through fields and stuff when I ride to work. I rarely have to slam on my brakes. One think I’ve had trouble with is the M handlebar height. It just hurts my wrists and back after a while. Do you have any experience with the P bar? How do you find the H and if you don’t mind, how tall are you?

  6. @datalaforge I upgraded my handlebars with the Ergon grips, specifically the GP3 Biocork. It really reduced the strain on my wrist. I align the larger palm pads so that my wrist are at a straight angle with my arm. The horns also give extra choices for hand grip position when wrists do hurt. The Brompton still folds and rolls (M6R for me), but I would suggest larger diameter rollerblade wheels if you roll it across uneven surface. My horns got a little scratched up with Easy Wheels.

  7. Seatpost slipping. After cleaning you bike pull the seatpost the the max extension and with some kitchen roll apply nail varnish remover (acetone) to the seatpost. The rub clean with some more clean and dry kitchen roll. Then put the seat down as far as you can and do the bottom in the same manner.
    Never ever touch the seatpost with uncovered hands……
    Sorted

  8. The best bike on earth : you can carry it with you everywhere in a city. This change ALL.

    So you use it much more than any bike hence some damages.

  9. 10 times better than any Dahon because :

    1) the folding is much better (faster, simpler, smaller)
    2) you never need to carry it thanks to the small wheels (does change all)
    3) you can load 10 kg on the front bag and 10 on the rack
    4) spare parts easily available and upgrading always possible as they only have one design

    This bike can change your life.

    1. Not strange at all… shoddy rim rim tape can equal punctures.The Brompton wheel build is not great in my view. That said, I get all my wheels hand built by my local builder so my expectations are always high.

  10. B allow you to slide without effort instead of walking.

    It is not a bike make to bike stupidly 50km without no other purpose than biking.

    It is a bike made to avoid you walking and to use less energy and feel less stress to go from one point to another.

    So for shorts rides in city, go to the supermarket, go to the doctor, visit a friend…it is the best tool as nobody will steal it outside as you store if inside with you.

  11. It is a good tool no doubt. However, mine is really starting to look and feel rather weary after 18 months of using it three times a week and folding seven times a day… the kind of multi-modal commuting this bike is designed for. I have experience of two folding bikes, this Brompton and a Bike Friday, and both started to feel loose after a year or so of this use. The hinges become slacker and there is more flex in the ride. Not so much of a problem on a steel bike in my view, but something to be aware of. The front chain wheel, chain, and sprockets now need replacing after maybe 3000 miles in all weathers.

  12. its a weird thing, I’ve had mine for seven years, about 20 or 30 thousand miles, three pairs of schwalbe marathon plus’, i think (rear triangle bushes replaced once), thrown so hard out of train that rear sprocket somewhat out of alignment, and yet i’ts going strong, maybe different years of brompton werent built the same quality?

  13. BE VERY CAREFUL with that mudguard! I had the same fault. Eventually the front stay broke loose and jammed my rear wheel whilst I was crossing traffic in London at about 20 mph. In discussion with their customer services but so far have been pretty dismissive claiming it’s not a common fault!
    HH

  14. Thanks for the heads up. Mine has been fine since the replacement, but maybe I am bit more careful now 🙂 The dynamo stay is an interesting alternative… thanks (and apols for the trouble you had posting).

  15. Hi,

    I know this is an old thread but NorthernWalker you too are a tall guy so can maybe give me your opinion on seat Posts? I am tall and well heavy. At almost 20 stone and 6′ 3″ I wonder if a titanium seat post would be advisable??

    Robert (YorkshireBloke)

    1. I think either would work, the Titanium is just as strong but lighter. It depends on what you’re willing to spend for weight. You definitely need that longer post either way.

  16. After working in and around London for a month I started to notice Bromptons.
    I stopped a few people to ask their opinions.
    Everyone seemed to love them so I’ve ordered one.
    Does anyone here actually love theirs?

  17. I’ve had mine since 2011 and I like it very much. I’ve probably logged many thousands of miles and it just now needs new brake pads. I think I’m on my 4th set of tires. I started with the Green label tires, then went to yellows, then to Kojaks, and now I have Marathon tires. Greens were not good, Yellows worse, Kojaks were surprisingly very good and offered an ultra smooth ride, and the Marathons are in my opinion the best of all. I rode my M6R for 3 years as my sole form of transport. It was very good for this purpose. I lived in a hilly area in Germany and was able to get up every hill. Now I’m in Connecticut (USA) and the bike is still very useful. I ride it to the train for film work in the NYC area and not that I’m not riding it in the rain all of the time, it’s a lot easier to keep clean. It’s also great to take out on a ride with my family. Knowing what I know now, I might have gone for a 2 or 3 speed. I’m considering converting it. I also wouldn’t get a rear rack again because I hardly use it. I’d go for a lighter bike over all even though my fully loaded bike is still really light. I love this bike and find the tradeoffs to be very acceptable considering the freedom that it affords me. If anyone is reading this and hasn’t ordered yet, really consider doing things to prevent rust. Put helicopter tape where the cables rub. Use a pipe brush and put some heavy grease in the tubes where possible. Also, dry it off after a ride in the rain.

    1. Hi both, I think plenty of folk love them. I haven’t had any rust issues with mine despite some pretty hideous weather. I guess the sizing is too much of a compromise for me to truly ‘love’ it.

  18. Hello everyone, I bought my first Brompton in 2009 and love it.
    This was my first ‘normal’ bicycle that I bought for regular use. I have always had mountain bikes since I’ve been doing this sports on competition level.
    It was a real revelation for me being able to ride to the baker on a comfortable and convenient bicycle. Especially when I moved to Japan I could enjoy the compactness of he fold and the ride quality.
    I have since then been using it every day in the city, for rides with my girlfriend, for commuting, grocery shopping etc. I only ride my MBK for racing and training now.
    The Brompton is being unfolded/folded at least 2 times a day because in most of the cities the bicycle needs to be parked in the bicycle parking which in my case is not convenient and takes more time than just folding it and taking it with me. Also, in our Japanese apartment there is no space for unfolded bicycles.
    I have been riding it in the snow, humid heat, rain, hail etc
    One of the negative things of this design is that the bicycle is attracting too many peoples attention. So much that my Titanium BROMPTON was stolen in Hiroshima including my Kryptonite U-lock when one night, in 2010, I forgot it in the BICYCLE parking OF THE APARTMENT BUILDING.
    My expensive titanium was soon replaced by a full steel and less expensive Raw Lacker 6-speed which so far has got the same treatment and usage.
    A real negative point now is that it has too many cheap looking and heavy parts like for instance the brake levers till model 2013, plastic front luggage block on which the B-bag gets stuck when its wet.
    Crappy and heavy wheels, gear shifters, heavy original saddle etc etc
    For a folding bike that you want to use what it has been designed for, it is just too heavy.
    So, currently I am trying to make it lighter and considering to modify it to a 2 speed, buy a lightweight but stronger crank, lightweight custom made wheels, some titanium parts where necessary for strength and alu where possible.
    With exception from tires and other parts like brake pads, cables, chain, chainrings that need to be replaced on every bicycle as a normal maintenance, I have had no problems with my Bromptons.

  19. I owned a two speed steel and loved it so I jumped at the chance of a second hand titanium except when I got them home they were the same weight, 1st 9lbs. Was I had? Only forks and rear triangle are officially titanium but the seat post certainly looks like it is.

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