Brompton folding bikes against the rest NYCeWheels.com

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Brompton folding bikes against the rest

Brompton compared to other brands

Contents:
Mike Hessey, Oct 1999:
There are a lot of comparisons between the Brompton folding bike and other popular brands of folders. We took some of the best comparisons we could find and listed them here. Enjoy!

Brompton compared to Bike Friday

  • Leonard Rubin:
    Okay. Having owned several bicycle shops, sold every imaginable model of folding bike, lived and ridden folding bikes in New York City, and finally undertaken the much-publicized Super-Brompton development project (Genetically Modified Bromptons - Leonard Rubin's UFB ("Ultimate Folding Bike" or "Super-Brompton") project), I'd like to take a crack at that question!
    1. The Brompton does indeed fold to a diminutive size, ("suitcase" would be more realistic than "briefcase", though) small enough to unobtrusively tuck under a table or stash in a cloak room. When in its instantly-deployed case (cover), it would not suggest a bicycle, except to someone with exceptional imagination (or who happens to own a Brompton).
    2. The Bike Friday is quite slow, awkward and messy to fold completely, especially under pressure, and it is a cumbersome folded package to carry. It is best suited to situations where performance is of paramount importance, and quick-folding is of little importance. Long distance travel would be an example.
    New York City commuting represents just the opposite sort of application. The City is pretty flat, and what is most important is being able to quickly and neatly make the bike disappear, to enter bike-hostile buildings and board public transit smoothly throughout the day.
    I love the ride of the Brompton, but I would make a few equipment substitutions, including a quick-release on the handle-bar to allow quick adjustment between a bit more forward position for efficient riding and instant return to the upright position for folding. I also developed a superlight, micro-adjust seatpost that permits more variation in fore-aft positioning. A must-have is the front quick-disconnect rack/bag combination!
    After riding, selling, servicing and upgrading folders of every stripe for more than a decade, I developed my own high-performance design. After buying a Brompton (initially as a new curiosity to add to my collection), I became so enamored of the design I stopped making mine, and turned all my attention to making high-performance modifications to the Brompton folding bike! I believe the stock bike is the most compact, civilized, well-designed and produced folding bike ever sold commercially, and I sell a variety of add-ons and upgrade kits to enhance its performance.
  • Elaine Mari & Ming Dinh, Jan 1998:
    for those who know more about the differences than I do, I've seen the Bike Fridays discussed on the net as being better for performance and long distance applications than Bromptons. Is this due only to tires and riding position? Because these can be changed on the Brompton. Has anyone seen first hand their new models, the ones that have a fold down stem to fold super fast? I gather the folded sizes are quite large compared to Bromptons.
  • Steven D. Hanel, Jan 1998:
    I have a Bike Friday and a Brompton and they each have their place. Depends on how often or fast the fold needs to be. I have taken my Brompton bike on week trips where it gets hundred miles or so, gets folded alot when I take it into restaurants, cars, offices, hotels without the hassle of a lock. The Bike Friday does have a wider gear range and they do build them to your preferred dimensions. Bike Fridays also have a quick fold but it is no where near as fast OR SMALL as the Brompton. They don't have rear suspension and adding suspension stems and seatposts isn't quite the same as the Brompton suspension. I do ride the Brompton more. At least until I make the recumbent conversion for the Bike Friday or maybe the almost mythical Brompton electric bike conversion will be released first (my workload is fairly full).
  • David Cox, Jan 1998:
    I run both a Brompton and a BF. BF is a better ride because of its 21 speeds, more rigid frame, superior wheels and V brakes. It really is nearly as fast for touring as my Mercian Classic (about 1 mph slower on a morning ride average).
    It will also fold into a hard case with effort.
    However, its quick fold format into the bag is pretty hopeless compared to the Brompton. It takes longer, is less positive and you are left with the handlebars floating around on the brake cables and needing to be just stuffed down between the wheels. The package is too big to fit behind the seats on British railways and takes up all the space and requires removal of parcel shelf in the boot/trunk of our hatchback Golf.
    I use the Brompton for commuting, trains to London, smuggling into meetings or as escape vehicle on family visits in the car. I am expecting the new BF to be better for touring Marin County at Easter or Tuscany in the summer.
  • Mark Maier, Jan 1998:
    As Steve Hanel wrote, both bikes have their place. I also own both and think that the shortest way to express this is to say the Brompton is a "FOLDING bike" and the Friday is a "folding BIKE". This doesn't mean the part not written in capitals is the bad part of it, it just emphasizes the features which each of the two is particularly good at. Some versions of the BF can even be called a folding RACE bike and there is a folding tandem, too.
  • David Cox, Oct 1998:
    I enjoy riding the Brompton and a Friday but in different ways. On the Friday I can go faster and climb hills better. It has a more sporting riding position, it is more rigid, has more gears, better brakes. Mine is set up as a touring bike but can cope with some off road trails. I can keep up with Sunday club runs on it. Only a stripped down racing bike is faster and you can set up a Friday with narrow tires and lighter components. It will also go into a standard suitcase. However, it is a pain to fold and in quick fold form takes up a lot of space and is awkward to carry.
    The Brompton has a character all of its own. It is fun to fold, goes anywhere, creates little offense and wins friends and influences people, its got a neat front carrier system - this is a reason alone to use it for shopping, commuting, going to meetings etc. Ideal for trains or smuggling in car boots, it will also fly in its soft bag with some pipe warmer padding. You can push along at highish speeds but my average speeds are slower on a Brompton M3L than on most of my other bikes - a heavy mountain bike done up for commuting is no faster. However, the bike goes where it is pedaled in a purposeful manner and this encourages a pottering, sightseeing style of riding, ideal for commuting, exploring cities or the countryside. I've done 30-40 mile rides with weekend luggage and some people have done 100 miles in a day. There is even someone who has claimed to have averaged 17 mph from Belfast to Dublin on a group ride on one. The ride is gentler than the Friday - or any other bike I've used and it is very easy to maneuver. The Brompton leads you into a different view of transport and another dimension of cycling - I use trains and get lifts more, dont worry about punctures - I can always get to appointments by taxi. It is that rarity a vehicle made in England by a British company - I've never wanted a Reliant Robin and VW have taken over Rolls.

Brompton compared to Birdy

  • Leonard Rubin:
    The Birdy folding bike is a terrific-riding, fair-folding, cool and lightweight bike. The suspension is incredible. The riding position is pretty stretched-out, which is great for long torsos and performance-style riding, but objectionable to some shorter-torso'ed folk and the more casual rider. The folding can't hold a candle to the Brompton--it's larger, more awkward, not as neat a package and doesn't wheel when folded. It's quite light, though, and with some component upgrades can be made intoxicatingly light, as the aluminum frame is much lighter than the Brompton. The anti-dive front suspension is among the very best I've ridden! The seven-speed derailleur gearing is also lighter and more efficient than a Sturmey-Archer hub.
    Still, it won't accommodate a front derailleur and multiple chainrings, like my custom Brompton, as the frame geometry (and material) and folding design prohibit such modifications--an important consideration to S.F. riders like myself!
  • Thorsten Rentel, Apr 1998:
    I had the opportunity to ride a Birdy. The whole concept is more aimed at people, that want a ride more comparable to a mtb (there's mtb tires available and some people use their Birdys off-road, even in races!) or city-bike and don't mind the slightly larger dimensions when folded. The full-suspension is adjustable (3 different elastomers) and provides a lot of comfort. The riding position is less upright, but there is another stem (height-adjustable and about 2,5 inch closer to the rider) available. It doesn't handle as easy as the Brompton when folded as it lacks the little wheels to roll along the folded package. Due to this and the larger dimensions it is probably less suited to the train commuter. Luggage capacity is smaller (two different optional racks, one suspended, the other not) and the mudguards (optional) are a little short and a bit on the flimsy side, but still functional. Other options include different bags and lighting systems. I don't know whether all the options and add-ons are available everywhere. The overall built quality is very good, apart from the already mentioned mudguards. There's 4 different models: red (7-gear alivio, 1890,-DM), green (inter7 with belt-drive and backpedal-brake, 2090,-DM), blue (21-gear Sachs 3x7, 2390,-DM) and elox (8-gear XT, 3190,-), Prices are Deutschmark, check the rates.
    Yes, prices are high. But if it suits your purpose it's a very attractive package.
    Visit the page: http://www.r-m.de/birdy/index.html (the German manufacturer's site, so no English text but nice pic's and all the options and prices)
  • Dave Lyons, Jun 1998:
    If you are thinking about buying a folder, you must establish your priorities: convenient folding & folded size versus mechanical efficiency/distance to travel quality of specification and both of the above versus price limit.
    I have had a Brompton for about 2-3 years and ride around London regularly. I recently bought a Birdy at nearly twice the price for speed, comfort, distance but not for folding. I use my Birdy for longer journeys, where I can travel light and where some is on off road tracks and my Brompton for commuting, load carrying (one of its leading attributes!) and when I will need to fold/unfold a lot (one day's commuting involves 12 folds or unfolds).
    My advice is: if the Brompton price is your limit -get it, if you can afford more and folding time/size is not your highest priority, then look at a Birdy or a Friday.
  • David Edge, Aug 1998:
    The Birdy does ride better. You don't need to swerve in front of cars to avoid potholes. Slightly longer folded than Brompton, but a little lighter.
    Disadvantages: Twice as expensive (in the UK) Non-standard tires (but can be rebuilt with Brompton wheels) Maybe less durable - not recommended for people over 90kg
    I was 118kg, now 98 so still have Brompton. Suggest you get a suitcase or box the size of a folded Birdy, put 20kg in it and carry it around for a day or two on public transport! You'll know then.
  • Bob Gelman, Aug 1998:
    For the information of those of you not in the US, the price of Brompton and Birdy here is almost the same (Birdy at REI after 10% dividend is $900), making the Birdy much more competitive in comparison shopping in the USA.
  • Peter ?, Aug 1998:
    Price-wise in the states they're roughly slightly more expensive (the Burley models)
    +++ the Birdy front end is suspended; the rear end has three different replacable suspension cushions.
    --- there's no Birdy space for luggage. The Brompton has that great front pannier.
    +++ the Birdy has a quick-release gizmo for the handlebar stem. I hope Brompton can imitate, or improvise (get folding down to 8 secs)
    As a side thought, buying a Brompton first may make it easier to trade up to a Birdy, since the Brompton is in such high demand. Buying the Birdy and trading down (up) to a Brompton would mean unloading the Birdy which may be marginally more difficult. I suspect you'd be less likely to want to sell the Brompton for a Birdy though. If you do get the Birdy and wish to trade up, I do live in the Bay Area.
  • Thorsten Rentel, Aug 1998:
    At least in Europe there's two rack options for the Birdy folding bike, one mounted on the rear swingarm (unsuspended, Brompton-style), the other mounted at the seatpost bolt (suspended, folds automatically and doesn,t enlarge the folded package). Both cost around 60 Dollar.
  • Bob Gelman, Oct 1998:
    And why do I feel vulnerable without the Brompton - well, none of the others has that ease of folding which is so valuable if the need suddenly arises to rush off somewhere with the help of a train, perhaps
    Before I got my Birdy I studied the "foldability" of the 3 leading Bikes. I agree with you that Friday certainly has limitations in this department. However, I found very little difference in folding ease, speed, and utility between Brompton and Birdy.
    I'm sure any experienced Birdy folder can do the trick within a very few seconds of Brompton's. When we're talking about 15-20 seconds for the Birdy, I can't imagine that any difference in speed, if there is one, is particularly significant here anyway.
    While Brompton has wheels, Birdy is light enough to be carried more easily, and flops around less when lifted.
    Both are small enough to go most anywhere. A Birdy with folding pedal wouldn't be so much larger than Brompton to give it less utility for storage, etc. Where would Brompton have an advantage here (folded size)? Neither fits easily in the truck (boot)(a/k/a "rear glove compartment") of my Miata. Both easily fit in the front passenger seating area.
    Many, although this is subjective, would find Birdy to be a vastly superior ride over Brompton (including lower and better gearing); while this isn't particularly significant for very short, flat, commuter runs. I agree that the carrying basket for Brompton has advantages, if required.
    However, I think the main advantage for Brompton, in the UK at least, is price.

Brompton compared to Bike Friday and Birdy

  • Mike Hessey, Oct 1998:
    The Brompton folds superbly, and is easy to carry, though not especially light. But the riding position is less than ideal for most people, myself included, in that it is very upright with the bars closer to the saddle than most people want. So its great for commuting where you need to fold and unfold 4 times a day, but on longer journeys it is less comfortable due to the riding position than some other bikes. You can ride it longer distances of course, but it's less enjoyable. I've ridden mine 65 miles in a day, and on the century ride I did with the Henshaws earlier this year David and Jane did 100 miles each on their Bromptons. I used my Friday, and Peter Henshaw was on a Birdy. Although I'm much older than them, I thin I was in better condition at the end of the ride than they were (apart from injuries suffered when I was clumsy enough to fall off), due entirely to having a bike with more gears and better suited to the length of the ride. Another excellent feature of the Brompton is the luggage carrying capacity.
    The Birdy gives a more comfortable riding position, and with front and rear suspension is more comfortable over longer distances. But it doesn't fold nearly as conveniently as a Brompton and is quite a bit bigger when folded, though a bit lighter than production Bromptons. It also has rather poor luggage carrying facilities by comparison with the Brompton, the unusual 18 inch tyres are not very good for either rolling resistance or life, and it tends to rattle and squeak, emphasized I think by the aluminum frame.
    The Friday is a relatively simple and conventional bike, which has no suspension but gives a very conventional and comfortable riding position, will take standard front and rear panniers (with the right carriers fitted) and uses the common 20 inch wheel format, for which some superb tires are available. But folding is still less convenient than the Birdy, and even though it can be folded and covered in less than 1 minute with practice, the resultant package is very bulky. It does of course offer a more elaborate fold/separation option which enables it to be fitted into a special suitcase for air travel, which is convenient for some (Air ... models actually separate down to carry on luggage size for air travel, but this too is a slow process).
    To cover the subject properly would take a lot more space than I have used here - I have tried to be as brief as possible. You can find out more by studying the web pages, reading back issues of The Folder and A to B, talking to other owners etc. Different people prefer different folders, because they use them for different purposes. Do remember the fact that they are all design compromises, and there is therefore no single best folder which does every job best - you need to identify the one which suits your particular requirements most closely.
    And why do I feel vulnerable without the Brompton - well, none of the others has that ease of folding which is so valuable if the need suddenly arises to rush off somewhere with the help of a train, perhaps with a portable computer in the front bag, and with a minimum of fuss. It's been described as the equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife, and it is - it can do most things, though more specialized tools will often do individual jobs better.

Brompton compared to Dahon

  • Steven D. Hanel, Oct 1997:
    Not sure which Dahon folding bike you have, but I too have both and haven't ridden the Dahon since I got the Brompton. (well, once for comparison) Can't bear to sell it though I have had it so many years...
  • Peter Kennedy, Oct 1997:
    I too owned a Hon, though seven years ago. I now own a Brompton. The feel is quite different for the Brompton. The Brompton has the feel of a regular sized bike, and folds the easiest of any. But, you pay for what you get.
  • Jerry Kaidor, Oct 1997:
    Just as a data point - I have a friend who has three Dahon folding bikes. I let him try out my Brompton. Now he really, REALLY wants one.
  • alex mumzhiu, Dec 1999:
    Dahon is a strange company. Year after year they systematically eliminate good features of their bikes and introduce bad ones. On the frame of the bike they put the warning "Not intended for curb jumping or other hard usage". Contrary to this warning the bike is surprisingly sturdy. However they changed the design of the lock which holds the handlebar after it is unfolded, from a good design to a bad one. In my last three trips this lock was broken, and my wife had to send me a new one across the globe. The distance between the handle bar and the seat is too short. It is impossible to keep proper positioning for biking. Fortunately I saved a curved seat post from a very early model, which increases this distance and allows to maintain proper biking positioning. A good feature of Dahon is its tires. They are wider then Brompton's and as a result of this they works better as a shock absorbers. These tires are the only design feature which I miss. Also they are the same size as children's bike tires and are available everywhere. These children bike tires make the bike funny looking which attracts a lot of attention, so when my wife or daughter ride Dahon they always came back with lots of interesting propositions. However Dahon is moving toward 20 inch tires and the newer Dahon bikes are all 20inch models.

Brompton compared to Strida

  • Andras / Barnabas Toth, Apr 1998:
    The Strida I had the occasion to try did not have any gears. The chain of the bicycle was made of rubber, and everything else seemed to be made of plastic, I believe there are different models - others are made of aluminum. According to its owner, it weighs around 10 kg. The wheels were a little smaller than the Brompton's. The overall riding sensation is somewhat different and takes a little getting use to. However, I did not have trouble with my legs at all, there was enough space. When I sat on it, I had the impression of riding one of those ancient bikes with the giant front wheels, because contrarily to the Brompton, the frame protrudes up from the seat to the level of the handlebar. The folding is done in a single movement, the Strida folding bike can be easily pushed around on its wheels.

Brompton compared to itself (in younger days)

  • Custfold, Dec 1998:
    Some design details on the old Brompton which are notable by change
    1) The sharp kink in the main frame
    2) The 1" headset
    3) The clamp & split in front of seat tube, which proved a serious stress point, with heavy riders (i.e. JG and DH and probably if he'd had one RC/DE) and often fractures - but can be re-brazed.
    4) The rigid frame carrier and lighter pivot connection on rear triangle - one enhances strength, the other is a weakness, which like 2) carried over to early machines on the new production run, before the upgrade to 1.25" headseat, and reduced stress raiser rear pivot arrangement.
  • Rob Cope, Apr 1999:
    Comparing '99 & '82 Bromptons, the later one will be noticeably lighter, both from frame improvements & more use of alloy (especially the rims). The forks are better formed & of chromoly, not high tensile steel. The rear triangle uses fatter stronger tubes & has a couple more braces eg between the stalks mounting the front pulley-wheels. The rear carrier (if fitted) is alloy.
    The brakes may be inferior, with Saccons replacing the discontinued CLB calipers. I presume you have steel wheels (& front hub). The chain tensioner is functionally the same, rather better molded (though you may have a really early model with handmade tensioner).
    Check the handlebars. The polished alloy ones with a shim in the stem tend to break along the edges of that shim. Newer bars (with a built in oversize center) seem stronger, though not wholly unbreakable.
    The 3-speed hasn't changed much, though you probably have an oil-lubed model with proper seals & an oil filler. Current 3-speeds are greased to save fitting the seals, which works fine till the grease evaporates & you have to dismantle to regrease (or inject oil down the hollow axle).
    Methinks someone should be getting together a Brompton museum: the factory was operating on a hand to mouth basis so the production prototypes got sold.

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