Happy New Year! It’s 2020 and we’ve had our Bromptons for seven adventurous years! We’ve taken them on trains, planes and automobiles. We’ve ridden the Bromptons in Canada, Cuba, the USA, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Mexico. So are we happy we bought them? Heck yes! Did we choose all the correct specs when we ordered them in 2012? Mostly.
In our very first post – Building Our Bromptons – we outlined all of our Brompton-building decisions. Now, seven years later, here’s a follow up post to comment on the good and bad decisions we made regarding our Brompton set-up…
Handlebars – S-Type
GOOD! We’re still sporty enough for our S-Type bars. We did upgrade from the standard foam Brompton grips to Ergon GP1 grips.
Gears – 6 Speed + 8%
GOOD! Getting the geared-up 6 Speed was definitely the right choice. The top gear is fast and and makes the Brompton so much fun to ride, especially on summer nights in Toronto when there’s not much traffic and Pier and I take the whole empty lane and race each other home. Though we rarely use the lowest two gears in relatively flat Toronto, the low gears sure came in handy when cycling the mountains in Cuba!
Mudguards & Rack – Yes/No
Heather – GOOD! Pier – BAD! I got the back rack because, as I explained in the Building Our Bromptons post, I am practical and wanted to be able to carry more stuff on my Brompton. Pier didn’t like the look of the back rack and opted not to get one. This meant when we went to Cuba he had to get a rack that attached to his seat post to carry stuff. This worked okay, but when we got home we realized that this setup had ever-so-slightly bent his seat post. He could still fold the Brompton, but it was a bit finicky. So before our trip to The Netherlands and Belgium, he got the proper Brompton back rack installed – the black version with the black mudguards to match. He also got a new seat post.
Frame & Colour – Steel + Black/Claret
GOOD. We don’t find the Bromptons heavy, so getting the steel frame was perfectly fine. Maybe when we’re older, shaving a couple pounds off via some titanium parts will be worth it. The main thing I’d consider is a titanium seat post because it has a little give and I hear that can make for a more comfortable long haul ride.
As for the colours we got, Pier is happy with his basic black, though he’d like a totally black Black Edition Brompton now. Those weren’t available when we ordered ours. So many new choices! I got my Brompton in Claret, and I have a confession to make – I was initially disappointed when I first saw it in person because the Claret was less red and more pink to my eyes. On the brochure it looked more red, and red is my favourite colour. But it’s still a very nice colour. Plus, since the Claret is discontinued, it makes it kind of special to have, and people always comment on my Brommie’s rare colour.
Saddle – Standard/Brooks
GOOD! I am still happy with my standard Brompton saddle. I like that it has little finger grooves underneath that make carrying the bike by the seat comfortable. Pier got a Brooks saddle because he’s cool like that, but recently he admitted that since he’s gotten into better shape and has less fat on his butt, the Brooks saddle feels pretty hard on his sit bones. Maybe the saddle just needs to readjust to his new butt. However, I rode Pier’s Brompton this summer and that Brooks saddle feels like sitting on a rock. I don’t get why people love them. When the time comes for me to get a new saddle, I’ll select one that’s ergonomically designed for women with sit bone padding and a relief cut out.
Tires – Kojak/Marathon
BAD! We chose to get the Kojak tires because we like to go fast. And these tires are definitely speedy! However, after about a week of riding I brought up a pretty big problem with them — the Kojaks are a super stiff ride. Did we really want to cycle 100kms a day on these tires? Also, we’d heard the Kojaks were prone to flats. We were leaving for Cuba in a month and didn’t relish the idea of changing tires in the middle of nowhere. So we switched out our Kojaks for Schwalbe Marathon tires. This was a VERY GOOD DECISION, especially considering the amount of glass all over the streets in Cuba.
In seven years, we’ve only had two flats between the two of us. Both on my bike, probably because I ride my Brompton a lot more than Pier does (it’s my go-to bike at home too, whereas Pier mainly rides his single speed around Toronto). The first flat was in Paris. It was raining and we rode through some broken glass. I should have checked my tires, but by this point I was so confident in the Marathons that I didn’t. Anyway, an hour later I had a flat; a huge chunk of green glass had been working its way through the Kevlar and had finally hit the tube. The second flat happened in Toronto. My Brommie’s front tire kicked back a broken construction nail right into the rear tire, literally stabbing it! So I have a new Marathon rear tire now.
I would like to get some Tannus airless tires for my Brompton, but after a lot of research, I worried that they would make the ride slower. So I put Tannus tires on my city road bike as a test. In a couple years, I may make the switch on my Brompton.
GOOD! We’re happy with the feel of the Firm Suspension block.
GOOD-ISH. I chose to get the Battery LED lighting set. Pier opted for just reflectors, attaching his regular lights to the Brompton as needed. I really like not having to remember to bring lights with me, but I hate having to change the batteries. Who has batteries anymore? Also, the 2013 Brompton front light attached to the handlebars and if I didn’t remember to tilt it up, it would slam into my spokes when I folded the bike. And I always forgot, so the light hit the spokes a lot. It got to the point that I stopped using it.
But in 2017 at The Brompton Urban Challenge Toronto we both won the new Brompton Cateye Volt 300 Front Lamp. This light mounts just above the front wheel, under the luggage block, so it’s always aimed properly at the road. Plus, you don’t need to adjust it when you fold – it’s already in the perfect spot. And since the light is not on the handlebars, it doesn’t get covered by our rain capes. Finally, it’s rechargeable! No more batteries!
Bonus: three brightness settings and two flash speed settings. The bright is super bright, perfect for if you find yourself on an unlit trail at nighttime. See how bright the light is in the photo? And that’s on the LOW setting!
In conclusion, I’m so glad these lights were our prize for winning the Brompton Urban Challenge 2017. Thanks, Curbside Cycle!
Rolling – Eazy Wheels + Back Rack
Eazy Wheels + back rack for the win! Before Pier got his own back rack, he only had two Easy Wheels to work with, whereas I had four. Two was okay, but you could only roll the folded Brompton one way — in “cart” mode with the handlebars up rolling on those two wheels. But with four wheels, the bike can be rolled in cart mode or pushed along by the seat with the handlebars down. The four wheels means that you don’t have to lift one end of the bike to roll it.
GOOD-ISH. We originally got O Bags, and soon after purchased B Bags, and much later I got the Bike Cover with Saddle Bag too. However, those items deserve a post of their own. Stayed tuned!
So that’s where our Bromptons are at!
We’re looking forward to Bromptoning into the next decade, starting with a trip to Hawai’i this winter. We’re going to buck conventional wisdom and not rent a car. Instead, we’ll use the Big Island’s dubious local transit in conjunction with our folding bikes. Another adventure!