Inside the Brompton Plant
Posted on 30 September 2009
Here's one for all you Brompton owners who always wanted to peer into the hallowed halls of Brompton manufacturing. Sometimes we think we are the luckiest people on earth, being able to visit the worlds most amazing bike companies, and Brompton reinforces that feeling entirely. It's hard to figure out whether Brompton is Aristotlean or Platonic in terms of their pursuit of perfection. Is perfection driving the company ahead or is perfection that absolute that they are merely paying tribute to? One never knows. With Andrew Ritchie, the companies owner plugging away on quality control as we visited (he certainly wasn't looking at the profit charts), we realized we are with a company who has never once considered cutting a corner. In fact, it is perfect corners that Brompton is so good at cutting.
Take for instance their CNC machines. Brompton has a unique bike, therefore all the tooling must be unique. This tooling cannot be purchased, it must be made. So, there is a whole part of the factory that makes all the tools that are required for the making of a Brompton. With over 1200 propriety parts on a Brompton, they make a hell of a lot of tools.
What the Brompton buyer may not realize is that just enough time and energy goes into making a Brompton as making the jigs, CNC machines, tools, dies, and apprenticed brazers to produce the most perfect folding bike on earth. The amount of infastructure and dedication is alarming in a world that simply chooses to make everything in the far east for the cheapest price possible.
Brompton is one of those interesting companies that carried the legacy of the British industrial revolution in a new and revolutionary manner. Nearly everything is made in-house with as little outsourcing as possible yet the focus is not on volume, it is based on that very elusive term that we call 'quality'. They're scientists but kind of mad scientists. See, a Brompton is not only the fastest folding, best riding, and the most transportable folding bike on the market, it is also constructed with a detail so meticulous and exact that one can once again believe in the old medieval idea of 'craft.' Brompton has behind it a team of truly dedicated men and women that believe a great deal in their quirky little product, and they will keep perfecting that product to the infinitesimal. Oh yeah, and they come in some very exciting colours this year. More about that later.