How even the most expensive Brompton pays for itself

My Brompton, ready to go

“Oh, that’s a nice bike! How much was it?”

I’ve been asked this question on numerous occasions since I started to ride a Brompton two years ago.

I always feel queasy and try to dodge the question because most people would call me insane if they knew about the real price I paid for my bike.

“Well, it’s difficult to say. It really depends on the spec”, is my usual reply. Unfortunately, only very few people are satisfied with such a cagey answer. “You know, they start at about 700 Pounds”, is my second line of defense. People who don’t cycle themselves are usually taken by surprise. “Gosh, are they really so very expensive?!”

Well, I paid twice as much. I don’t think that’s too much money for a very good bicycle. Furthermore, if you look at the matter from a different perspective, the bike effectively comes for free. Even if you take the costs for accessories and maintenance into account.

Here’s the proof – my personal costs after 5000 miles and almost exactly two years of riding a Brompton in London:

In January 2010, I paid £1510 for my bike. I chose the ultralight weight version plus a Schmidt’s hub dynamo (An ordinary bike without the hub dynamo would have been around £500 cheaper). Later on I added a rack (£114 including Eazy Wheels).

Additionally, since January 2010 I’ve spent about £425 for accessories like a new helmet, the Brompton folding basket, different pedals, and so on.

Maintenance has cost about £135 in those two years (I cycled 5000 miles and service the bike myself.) On top of that, I estimate that I spend about £10 per month (or £240 in two years) on busses and the tube.

From London to Paris - on my Brompton!

If you add things up, my total costs of urban transportation in London in the last two years were £2310.

However, if I’d sell the bike tomorrow, I’d at least get £600 (probably more). Hence, the total costs of having ridden the bike for two years come down to £1720.

Without the Brompton, I would have spent at least £1000 per year on public transport – in the last two years riding the most expensive Brompton on sale saved me almost 300 Pounds.

This year, thanks to the brazen fare price increases of Transport for London, my savings will become much larger.

Of course, similar calculations apply for all other bikes as well. However, notice that I did not spend a penny for a lock because I take the bike everywhere with me and don’t have to worry about bike theft at all.

From now on, I might have a better answer to the question how much I paid for the Brompton: “Less than two annual travelcards for the tube.”

Update: Here’s an interesting article about the costs of car use: “Cars are cash sinks, point out bus company and bike orgs

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22 thoughts on “How even the most expensive Brompton pays for itself

  1. Couldn’t agree more – they’re also very robust bike – I’ve spent a similar amount to you on mine in the 2 years I’ve owned it, probably cycling a similar 5000ish miles – a good proportion of which was a replacement dynamo (the spray-salt seems to eat the insides).

    I slightly regret not going for the hub dynamo – I reckon they *are* worth it.

    1. Thanks for you comment, John. Do you have a Schmidt’s dynamo or the Shimano one? The Schmidt’s should have been replaced under warranty for free. The manufacturer offers a 5 year warranty and are very customer friendly.

  2. Dave H

    For most rail commuters, a switch from car-rail-tube/bus to bike-rail-bike can knock 60 minutes off their door to desk journey times. That’s 120 minutes a day or roughly 20 days per year of additional ‘holiday’. Dutch understanding of the concept ranks the time spent waiting for a connection, and the individual transporting yourself to the stop time as time with very low value, whilst time spent on the train has a value almost that which applies to time at work or at home, as you can be doing something productive as you travel. Putting those prices in to the Costs vs Benefits equation is one of the factors that lifts the return on investment for a cycling initiative to around 10 times that considered sufficient to justify building a road.

    All this comes before you start looking at the payback period. Swap driving to the station and you cut the cost for parking the car, which for a London commuter will range from £900 to £1600/year for a season ticket. Cut out the driving and the current figure for every mile you cut from driving to work is £445 per mile per year (or equivalent to an £8000+ boost to your house purchasing capacity) but cut out the car that spends 9-10 hours parked at the station and 9-10 hours parked at your house, and you’ll be saving from £3000/year upwards (depending on how you purchase ‘car’ use when you need it).

    Zones 1 & 2 – the basic London Zonecard cost over £1200/year, although Oyster can work out cheaper, and the combined rail/Zone prices are slightly lower. The Zone 2-3 boundary is an ideal isochrone for a 15-20 minute bike ride to a Central London destination.

    So in direct costs, switching a typical car-train-tube/bus commute could be saving direct costs approaching £3000/year, and indirectly cutting out car ownership for a very inefficiently used resource that costs such a large % of your disposable income doubles that figure. To that you could reasonably add the saving you’ll make on gym membership, and figures of saving between £7000 and £8000 per year claimed by some converted commuters are not unusual.

    This links in with the ethos I’ve been promoting and practising since 1976, to buy your transport in the same way as you might buy any other consumable commodity, and when the claim that many UK households could boost their disposable income by 20% without a tax penalty of a pay-rise, simply by giving up car ownership and buying-in to the new thinking.

    In 2009 one Belgian bus company delivered the equivalent to the UK car scrappage scheme. Scrap your car with us and we give you 3 years free bus travel (worth around £1000 – which the UK government only gave out to buy a new car), plus car club membership, and a folding bike leasing scheme. Dutch, German and French public transport groups do likewise, often owning the bike hire and car share operations and making money from selling the complete product. UK operators are gingerly testing the water. Stagecoach’s SW Trains has hired out Bromptons as a pilot scheme since may 2009, and since July an automated system has been running at Guildford – each development proving part of the concept, so that a knowledge of the servicing and user demands can shape the effective deliveru on a larger scale starting this March with a unit in Manchester and several initiatives in East & West London. Long term this delivers a fully serviced Brompton, which you can swap if it breaks down at a cost of around £1.60 per day (long term rate with long term user membership)

    So instead of saying what the bike cost you, the answer is that after deducting the cost of the bike it is saving you over £1000/year.

    1. Selling our car was one of the first things we did before we moved to central London. (I would try to live without one if I moved back to Germany.) My daily commute is just Highbury to King’s Cross and back. This nowadays costs £2.70 in the peak hour and £2 off peak, on average £4.50 a day, plus additional journeys.

      Granted, my estimates about the hypothetical tube costs are very conservative. I did not factor in the saved time. (On average, from door to door, using the bike is about 10 to 12 minutes faster than the tube. I also did not factor in the fun of riding the bike versus the disutility in a crowed tube.

      1. chrisrust

        Like Olaf I have a short simple commute from an inner suburb to Sheffield City Centre but even so the relatively modest bus fare means that I pay for my Brompton in less than a year, plus all the other huge benefits from having a really convenient bike for other urban travel and riding every day. If I had a more complex journey, as Dave describes, I could probably save a lot more. But the real benefit is to my emotional and physical health. I’m not young but I know I’m fitter and healthier than a lot of younger people and the stress reduction of my daily workout is of incalculable value.

  3. Mr. Steve Southwick

    Yes it does seem expensive until you break down the finances; I bought my three speed Bromine 18 months before I retired with a tax scheme. With all the bits (including a Hope single LED front lamp £80) the bill came in at around £850.
    I ditched the second car and saved £1500 straight off; at the time I could use my OAP bus pass any-time so this also saved a fortune. As I live in the sticks buses are not always reliable and the roads are an absolute nightmare, but by commuting to the outskirts of the city (Worcester) the last three miles along cycle tracks were a magic. Steve Southwick

  4. dog

    Wouldn’t you have to compare the costs of the brompton to other bicycles to state it would pay for itself? Here it was only compared to a rather expensive alternative, the tube. I can’t see how a 30£ used bike (with two locks for 30£) would not have been an alternative?

    1. chrisrust

      In some situations a cheap bike might do the job, but the convenience of using and storing the Brompton and, for many people, the ability to use it very easily with train, bus and/or car is what makes the difference. I used an “ordinary” bike for commuting but after I bought a Brompton my bike use more than doubled, including all kinds of work, household and leisure travel.

  5. A year after I bought my first Brompton in an effort to cut back on driving, I sold my car altogether. I took a small fraction of the amount that I “made” by selling the car (really a 50% loss over the original purchase price) and bought another Brompton so I’d always have one available in case the other one ended up in the shop or was otherwise disabled. The combination of public transit and the B allow me to go nearly everywhere I went before, and the occasional rental car allows me to go everywhere else.

    Because I was planning to use the B as my everyday transportation, I had it fully tricked out–hub dynamo, six speeds, Schlumpf Mountain Drive, rear rack with Eazy wheels–and I haven’t regretted a bit of it. Seattle is hilly enough that really low gears often come in handy, especially since home is on top of a hill.

    With the amount that I save annually by not owning a car in the U.S., I could buy another Brompton every year and still come out ahead.

  6. Great read. I commuted into London for 2 years using a Brompton for the 3 miles at the London end and the 1 mile at my home end. I could walk from home, but in town it was on the bus. 200 days work annually = about £500 busfare a year saved, and much, much quicker/nicer cycling along the Thames path to Battersea. Often it was quicker to jump on the bike to get into SW1 for meetings than to think about the bus/tube, and forget t£xis! And trips into the City were great fun and was able to hop into taxis if it go too late/wet/drunk. After 2 years I stopped going into London, so sold the Brompton for the same amount I paid for it on the Cycle To Work scheme. So it made me happy, fit, faster, more flexible and saved me at least £1000 in bus/tube fare. Anyone stuck on buses/tubes needs their head read.

  7. Matt

    I’ve kept a similar detailed record of my costs with a “normal” bike. I only need a zone 2-3 travelcard for getting to work, so for 2011 that would have been £832. I spent £225-ish on stuff; mostly insurance, replacing the chainset and brake pads, and some waterproof trousers.

    I spent £300 ± 20 on my Oyster card (I have 15 Autotopup emails). I’d estimate half of that was night buses, and half tubes into zone 1 (not covered by a travelcard).

    So, at the end of the year, I’m ended up 3000km and £450 ahead 🙂

    I bought the bike in January 2009, and my spreadsheet says I’ve saved £1050 so far, minus those night buses!

  8. Pingback: Cycling in London – Assorted Links 16/01/2012 « Cycling Intelligence

  9. I get the same questions when I’m out on my Bakfiets, or come to that on the Xtracycle. The Bakfiets was a little over €2000, and in this car-saturated region people look at me like I’m mad, I then ask them how much their costs them in a year, or six months, or one month. Some people get the point.

    BTW Hub dynamos are worth the extra: apart from anything else I can just leave my lights on all the time when I’m riding and I don’t have to think about batteries.

  10. LA

    When people ask me how much my Brompton cost and I’m on the subway or whatever, I tell them I traded bikes with a friend or got it on Craigslist for $200. No sense in telling a stranger how much I paid for it 3 years ago. I don’t go around asking random people how much they paid for a car, or a pair of shoes for that matter. I guess this might be more difficult in the UK where Bromptons are more common.

  11. I quite understand you…I’ve got one…and I’ve got the same question day after day…and got the same answer too hahaha

    1. Shreds

      The best thing about Bromptons are that they are a conversation point. I cant go anywhere without someone starting up a conversation which always makes the journey more pleasant. How do you value that?
      If asked, I might say ‘about the same as I paid for a top class handbuilt race bike 25 years ago’ (£600)
      (Dont tell them that customising it with carbon fibre significantly increased that, but thats my choice! So would the cost of the race bike today)

      However, those who know the cost but also the benefits have seen fit to follow my lead, both my brother and my wife have invested in Bromptons and are keen converts. My wife has covered the outlay in one year parking costs alone.

      ‘Its a Brompton, the best folding bike in the world, made right here in London.’

      Need I say more?

  12. MARTIN COLUCCI

    I live in the USA. Gas guzzling capitol of the world. I have been cycling most of my life and seriously since 1991 ( commute to work)….and all year long. I have a decent stable of bikes. I latched on to a Brompton about a year ago……. after being curious for some time. I have Moulton’s , Trek carbon fiber for performance, and full size touring Trek 520. The Brompton has become my go to bike. I am currently in Florida USA and could not think of bringing along any other than Brompton. One thing though. I need to cover it when I park. I am getting worn out explaining this unique folding bicycle. But also rather enjoy the looks on the faces when I go thru the fold. I now have 3 Bromptons. The wife loves hers. Her only comment is ” this bike is so easy”.
    Martin in Rochester NY USA

  13. Joaquin Trigueros

    Could someone please advise on who could possibly install a Schlumpf mountain drive in London? I had one transferred from an older Brompton to a newer Brompton and the shop botched the transfer. The drive feels like there is something loose inside, an expert claimed that there were missing screws, and I experience loss of power, less so now after the expert took a look but it is still dangerously uncertain to ride my Bromption. I will have to replace the drive with a new one but would like someone I can trust to do it right this time.

    1. chrisrust

      You could ask that question on the Bromptontalk forum on Yahoo Groups, lots of Schlumpf users there and also plenty with experience of London shops. I think there are one or two who fit Schlumpf drives.
      Don’ give up on the drive you have, they can be repaired and they are quite expensive to buy. If you can’t get it done in London why not send it back to the manufacturer for servicing. I did that when Florian Schlumpf was still producing the drives himself in Switzerland and it worked out well. Florian has sold the drive business on to Haberstock Mobility in Germany

      but they should be able to help.
      Now that Brompton produce the “Wide Range” 6-speed gears as a standard option, the case for Schlumpf drives is less convincing for everyday use, but for touring where there are hills it’s still the best option, unless you decide to invest in adapting the rear triangle for a Rohloff.

  14. chrisrust

    Sorry about the gap in my last message where the URL should be for Haberstock, just google Schlumpf Mountain Drive and you’ll find them.

  15. Biscuitbum

    Just bought my first Brommie and I`m looking forward to riding it. I am no longer working, but will use it simply for fun rides. I had to wait for the ordered marathon plus tyres to come in, but now its back and ready to go. I enquired about the hub dynamo, but couldn`t justify the extra expense as I didn`t buy the cheapest model, and won`t be doing much night time riding, so I thought a pair of battery lights would suffice.

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