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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On a rather shaky start – and a brilliant night

Last night, finally, the first Friday Night Ride to the Coast was taking place. For me, it all had started rather awkwardly.

Shadow on the wall

On Wednesday, I realised that I really do need a new handlebar for the Grasshopper. Thanks to  frequent tumbles when I was learning how to ride a recumbent the handlebar got a little bit twisted. I probably could use it for another 10 years, but I don’t take any chances with regard to such vital parts. Alright, I’d always fantasised about doing a night ride on the Brompton. Well, here you go.

Good morning, Essex

The second issue was due to a guy I got to know on the German Brompton forum. He got in touch with me and told me that he was going to be in London in March. I touted the FNRttC and the joys of night riding and, rather unsurprisingly,  he got interested. We were supposed to meet prior to the ride at 10 pm at pub close to Hyde Park Corner. Well. I was there. He wasn’t. At 9.45 pm he sent me a text that he was running late. When the pub was closing at 11pm I still was on my own. I can thoroughly assure  you: There are things more funny than sitting in a London pup on a Friday night, fully dressed in Lycra and sipping on your sparkling water. (Of course, stuff happens but the guy only halfheartedly murmured an unconvincing apology.)

[Question to my English friends: What would you have been done in that situation? At 10.55pm I texted him: “The pub is going to close at 11pm. You guys are clowns. See you at HPC”. Would you consider this rude?]

But anyway. When I got to Hyde Park Corner and had chatted with some so the usual suspects this was quickly forgotten.

Apart from the shaky start the ride was utterly brilliant. I was absolutely delighted and amazed that Andy, a recumbent rider who introduced me to the FNRttC, was on the ride. He’d got clipped by a van recently and suffered quite severe leg injuries. He has been (and will be) the only one in the  history of mankind who did a FNRttC with having a crutch mounted to his bike. Absolutely outstanding!)

Continue reading “On a rather shaky start – and a brilliant night”

Weekend Shopping, Brompton Style

Before: Weekend shopping: Here we go!

A lot of our friends are surprised that we don’t have car here in London. Even those who are living in London themselves. Well, it’s not only that you don’t need it. It really would be a burden. “But how do you manage the weekend shopping?” usually is the next question. The answer is rather easy: We got our Bromptons.

... and afterwards (and That

Time and again I’m myself stunned by the fact how much stuff you can carry on those tiny little folding bicycles. Probably things would be more complicated if we had kids. But a typical two person household in central London can easily sustain itself without any car.

Continue reading “Weekend Shopping, Brompton Style”

My Bikes (I) – The Brompton

This is my most recent bike and the one I’m using every single day. It’s a customized 6-speed Brompton. My general views on folders in general and Bromptons in particular are being discussed here. Configuring your Brompton isn’t particularily easy because the manufacturer offers a myriad of different options regarding the gearing, the handlebar and a lot of other things. Below, I would like to discuss the different options and explain my personal choices (M6L-X). I’ve done around 2000 miles on it in the first year, the longest ride was 40 miles.

My Brompton, ready to go

Gearing:

My bike is equipped with the new 6-speed “BWR” gearing. BWR stands for “Brompton Wide Range”. The gearing is a combination of a 3-speed hub gear with rather wide gear ratios and a 2-speed derailleur gear which helps to smooth the gaps between the three gears.

Before buying the bike I was also considering the 2-speed version which does not come with any hub gear but just with the derailleur because I was temped by the weight saves. The 2-speed adds just 188g compared to the naked bike while the 6-speed adds 920g. Weight is an issue with folding bicycles because you will carry the bike quite often. I ruled out the 3-speed gearing rightaway because it almost weights as much as the 6-speed version (3-speed adds 740g).

The folded bike

Which gearing is best for you depends mainly on your personal tastes and where you are going to use the bike. If you’re living in a completely flat region and are sure that don’t want to use the bike in hilly areas at all the 2-speed version (or even no gearing at all) is best.  However, if you live in a hilly area and/or want to have a bike which is really versatile I’d strongly recommend the BWR-6-speed.

Handlebars

I decided for the classical “M”-type handlebar. The “P”-type is heavier, and the “S”-type does only work with a very limited range of bags. (The luggage system of the brompton is ingenious, I’ll come back to that later.)

Lightweight version

I opted for the lightweight version of the bike. Titanium is used instead of steel for several parts. The bike weights one kilogram less. That’s a lot given you have to carry it frequently.

Lighting

The SON hub dynamo and the Cyo LED headlight

I took the Schmidt SON hub dynamo. The best and most beautiful lighting option, unfortunately the most expensive as well. The Shimano hub dynamo wasn’t introduced when I bought the bike but it is heavier than the Schmidt and has a lower efficiency. The big advantage of a hub dynamo over battery lights is that you don’t have to thing about your lighting. You don’t have any hassle with batteries which are running out and you have a very good front light which is highly visible (much better than those flashing LED lights). The SON is so efficient that you do not notice any difference when the lights are on. This is why I’m always riding with the lights on. It’s an additional layer of safety.

Rack

I  decided against a rack. This is the only thing I would reconsider if I had to buy a new Brompton. Without a rack the bike is more beautiful and weights less. On the other hand, the handling of the folded bike is easier when you have a rack (and those so called “Easy Wheels”). Then, the folded bike almost becomes a skateboard when it is folded. The second advantage of the rack is that you can easily carry a sixpack of Evian on it.

Update: After 1.5 years, I gave in and mounted a rack to the bike.

Modifications

Well, compared to what I’ve changed at my other bikes there are not much modifications on my Brompton. When I bought the bike it came with a rather crappy halogen headlight. I replaced it with a 60 lux LED headlight by Busch and Müller (“Lumotec Cyo 60”) which is incredibly bright and super reliable: I’ll never have any trouble with blown bulbs anymore.  Nowadays if you order a SON hub dynamo the bike comes with a similar headlamp straight from the factory. I also replaced the rear light with a better one by Busch and Müller.

I removed the Brompton stickers on the main frame because due to tear and wear the became shabby very soon. Additionally I mounted a GPS holder and a bike computer, that’s it.

Update: Here’s another rider describing his personal Brompton. An here’s another one.

The pros and cons of a folder – a personal account

Buying a folding bicycle was one of the first things I did when I moved from Germany to London in 2009. I went for a Brompton which I use on a daily basis ever since. I’ve done 2000 miles on it in the first year and I absolutely love the bike. I think Bromptons are the ultimate machine for getting around in London (and any other town, in fact).

In this post I would like to discuss my personal views on the pros of cons of folding bicycle in general and the Brompton in particular.

Why a folder?

  • Storage
    The most obvious reason for a folding bicycle in a city like London is that space comes at a premium. In Germany storing a bike securely at home usually is not an issue at all. You either put it in the cellar, in the backyard or just chain it to a lamppost. In London, however, there usually are no such options.
    When we were looking for a flat we had more than 40 viewings. Only two or three properties offered decent bike parking options. Since bike theft is a huge issue here this basically means that you have to store the bike in your flat. And this is much more convenient with a folding bicycle. 

    Brompton parking at home
  • Theft
    The second big advantage of a folder is related to the first one. Bike theft is not an issue I have to worry about anymore. I just take the bike with me wherever I go. I almost never carry a lock when I’m riding the Brompton. In the office it sits below my desk, in the supermarket I put it into the shopping cart, in the theatre I leave it at the cloakroom.
    My Brompton has been at the Bank of England, the London School of Economics, the British Library, Tate Modern, the Barbican, the headquarters of Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC, top-notch restaurants and hotels like Locanda Locatelli, the Halkin Hotel and the Waldorf Hilton as well as an uncounted number of pubs. In the first twelve month I’m living with Brompton I encounterd one single occasion where I was unable to take the bike with me – in the National Portrait Gallery. There, the cloakroom does not accept folding bicycles because they claim that they are too big (That’s rubbish, of course!). I only carry a light cable and a small padlock when I’m taking the bike on trains.
  • Mobility
    Brompton Ltd. advertisements claim that you’re not just getting a bike but a different form of personal transport. To be honest when I was ordering the bike I thought that this was just the usual marketing banter. Since I’m using it I’ve found out that they are just dead right. The bike virtually vanishes when you fold i. This is why you can take it with you almost everywhere you go. Combining cycling with train rides or car journeys becomes much easier. That’s why folders are so popular with commuters. Fortunately I don’t have such a long commute to work but when I have appointments in different cities I usually take the bike with me. My Brompton accompanied me on trains to Manchester and Bruxelles, for example. There, I did not have to take a cab but just cycled from the station to my meetings.

Continue reading “The pros and cons of a folder – a personal account”