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Brompton Buying Guide

Brompton Buying Guide

Posted on 22 February 2018

Are you thinking of buying a Brompton or custom Brompton? We're here to help! As Canada's first (and largest) Brompton dealer we've been getting people on Bromptons for over a decade and there's not a question we haven't heard or answered. And, while all the Bromptons you see on our website and in our store represent our own "Curbside" custom Brompton (you can read about that here) it never hurts to arrive at one of these bikes by first asking whether or not you should customize. Still not sure why Brompton is the best? Then click here!

Here, we will walk you through choosing the right handlebar, gearing, fenders & racks, tires, frame, lighting, and the other stuff. 

 

THE HANDLEBAR

Balancing rider height with preferred position

​

If you've decided on a Brompton the first choice you need to make concerns the handlebar you prefer. How do you choose? Well, choosing a Brompton handlebar has to do with (a) the way nature made you (your height), and (b) your preferred riding position: upright or sporty. There are four Brompton handlebars and each tend to raise or lower in roughly two inch increments. The exception is Brompton's P-Bar, a multi-position bar made for long-distance touring. Generally, the difference looks like this:

 

S-TYPE

M-TYPE

H-TYPE

P-TYPE

5'0" - 5'4"

80% Upright

 

100% Upright

Too Upright!

Multi

5'5" - 5'9"

100% Sporty

80% Upright

100% Upright

Multi

5'10" - 6'2"* Too Sporty!

100% Sporty

80% Upright

Multi

 *If you're taller than 6'0" we recommend the telescopic seatpost for added height

 

THE GEARING

One, two, three and six cheers for gears! 

Gearing isn't a technical question, it's a question around how you want to use your Brompton. If you use the bike for short-distance flat rides and want something lightweight, a one-speed or two-speed is recommended. If you do the same with a couple of hills, the three-speed is best.

But, we find that even if most of our customers use their Brompton for one thing - like a daily commute - they will also love it so much that they'll take it travelling. So, buy a Brompton not just around what it can do for you practically, but what it can do recreationally too. When buying a Brompton, try to future-proof your purchase as much as possible. A Brompton might solve your city commute but it may also be your best travelling companion too! For this reason, we build all of our Curbside bikes with Bromptons wide-range six-speed hub.  

 

ONE SPEED TWO SPEED THREE SPEED SIX SPEED
TERRAIN Flat Flat Slight Hills Lots of Hills
DISTANCE Short Mid-Short Mid Range All Range
WEIGHT Adds 0lbs Adds .5lbs Adds 1.65lbs Adds 2lbs
COST Adds $0 Adds $105* Adds $195** Adds $320***

 *From the price of a 1sp model

 

 

FENDERS & RACKS

Keeping you dry and fly 

Brompton shopping

Fold the Brompton to "towing position," leave the front bag on, go shopping!

 

Brompton's a company that likes you to think twice about things, and while they have nothing again using fenders or not (it rains a lot in London!), they do have pretty strong opinions about the rear rack. 

Brompton's an engineering company, which means they like things that click together really nicely, and a rack holding stuff down with bungee cords probably keeps them awake at night. Instead, Brompton recommends you take the money you would spend on a rack and put it towards a front-mounted bag. The front-mounted bag does not steer with the bike, and that means it doesn't affect handling anymore than having a rack would. Plus, you can fold the bike and literally use the bike as a shopping cart (see above). Cool, right? You can't do that with the rack. In fact, if you buy a rack you always need to remove your stuff off the rack before you fold the bike. That's not the case if you use the front bags. 

So, why would you use a rack? Because you already have a front bag but need even more space. Some of us here at Curbside use racks on our Bromptons because we need a place to put the roll-up travel-bag that we for transporting our Brompton by air. Others have done loaded touring on their Brompton and need space for tents, etc. If you are touring with this kind of load we recommend going down a size in the front chainring, from a 50 Tooth to a 46 Tooth (Brompton calls this a -12% reduction). That helps you gear down for all that extra stuff you're carrying. 

 

No Nothing

Fenders

 

Fenders + Rack

Will you stay dry? Nope Yep Yep
Can you fold the bike with luggage on? N/A Yes No
Weight Added 0lb .8lb 1.7lb
Cost Added $0 $105 $225

 

 

THE TIRES

From speed to puncture resistance 

Brompton Tires

Narrow Kojak tires for speed in the city

 

Here in Toronto they don't clean the streets all that often here. That's why we spec all of our Curbside models with Schwalbe Marathon tires. They can handle all of the glass, staples, and other sharp objects that this city seems to throw at your tires. They add some weight, but for all intensive purposes it's good weight. If you're outside of Toronto and want something a bit lighter then go with the Brompton tire. 

On the flip side, let's say all you care about is speed - because believe it or not, a Brompton is fast. All of that high acceleration and maneuverability a small wheel naturally has is amplified when you put a narrow, high-pressure tire on. 

So, if you don't mind fixing the odd puncture then we recommend the Schwalbe Kojak. And, if you put the Kojak tire on we also recommend changing front chainring to a 54 Tooth (Brompton calls this +8% gearing), since you'll need higher gearing to match the higher speed tires. 

Brompton Tire Kojak Tire Marathon Tire
Puncture Resistance OK Low Very High
Weight Added
0
- 0.5lb
.4lbs
Efficiency/Speed Good Fast OK
Cost Added $0 $40 $40

 

 

THE FRAME

From brazed steel to titanium

 

 

The main-frame of a Brompton is always made of brazed steel. That makes the bike strong and it keeps the engineering tolerances dialled in perfectly. But, for those searching for a lighter bike and a more comfortable bike there is the extra-light package. But, be warned, it ain't cheap.  

The Titanium extra-light package saves you 1.7lbs and costs $1000+ extra. That's a lot, but it has its place. If you are lifting the bike a lot (and not just off the ground but up into things) the lighter weight is certainly noticeable. But the greatest virtue of titanium is its natural compliance. If you're doing longer rides - especially tours - we suggest titanium for added comfort. Titanium absorbs a ton of shock that would be otherwise delivered to your wrists, arms, neck and lower back. That's the real reason for going extra light, the weight savings are just a bonus.

 

THE LIGHTING

Many options for safety at night 

The Cateye x Brompton front light: a must-have if you aren't into dynamo lighting

 

Anyone who has shopped at Curbside knows that we can nerd-out when it comes to lighting. We'd like to think Brompton is pretty nerdy about lighting too. And from one group of lighting nerds to another, we can say Brompton has great taste in lighting. 

If you simply need flashing lights that keep you safe don't bother reading on. We are interested here in lights that are highly visible to drivers and cast a beam so you can see where you're going. These lights can be divided into battery and dynamo. Each have their pro and con. 

A dynamo uses a special front hub that produces electricity that powers both the front and rear light. The great thing about this is that you get a very powerful beam and never need to replace or recharge batteries. Brompton uses German-made Busch & Muller lights that all feature built-in capacitors, which means when you hit a red light, both front and rear lights continue to run on stored charge. They're pretty neat. 

The problem with a dynamo, however, is that they cost a bit of money and add weight and friction to the ride. However, this needs to be qualified. If you buy the Shimano system from Brompton you get a fairly heavy hub, high-friction and a beam that few battery lights could compete with. But, the real issue with the Shimano system is that the hub is always producing friction, whether the light is on or not. This changes with the Schmidt-Son system. At half the weight, it produces double the light output at half the friction and that friction is completely eliminated when the light is turned off. We highly recommend it. 

If you want a powerful beam and are OK with charging the lights every other night then Brompton has exciting news. In late 2016 Brompton worked with Cateye in Japan to produce a very bright (and very light) 300 Lumen light that tucks just underneath the Front Carrier Block. The cost is reasonable and it's USB chargeable. 

 

Cateye USB

Shimano Dynamo

Schmidt-SON Dynamo

Is it Bright? It's a-ok It's pretty good Um, wow!
Weight added .3lbs .9lbs .5lbs
Friction None Medium Almost none
Cost Added
$135*
$185*
$585*

 *From a Brompton with no lights 

 

OTHER STUFF

From cases to saddles

Companion for life

 

The angels lie in the details, so here are some other considerations. 

1) Seatpost. If you're over 6'0" (as noted above), we recommend the telescopic seatpost. It adds 0.6lbs and $80 but it lets you dial in the perfect height. It also lets you drop the seat as low as the regular seatpost - which means the bike packs into the soft-case or B&W hard-case without having to remove the seat. If that's less of a concern then Brompton does offer an extended seatpost for no charge. This will poke out of the frame when folded (which drives us a little crazy) but it costs nada. 

2. Saddles. As a rule, the more upright you are the wider your saddle should be. Thus, if you want a 100% upright bike (see handlebar, above) then we recommend a wider saddle. If you want a 100% sporty bike then we recommend a narrow saddle. If you're 80% upright then its really your call. 

Since Brompton is British there's little surprise they endorse Brooks saddles as an option. Of course, we heartily agree. Comfort is based on body shape, not cushiness, and a Brooks saddle molds to your shape, constantly getting better with age. If you order a Brompton with a Brooks you also save a ton of money. The saddle they add costs $249 at Curbside but only $125 if you order the bike custom. Not bad!

3. Suspension. According to Brompton, if you weigh over 170lb you should get the firm suspension. This, however, is a matter of preference and we suspect the British might have softer butts than us hardy Canadians. We recommend the firm suspension for anyone 150lbs, unless you like a bouncy ride. Your call. We always stock a ton of either in case you change your mind later. 

4. Titanium parts! We carry a wide range of after-market parts that lower weight, increase comfort or make the bike function even better. Check out our Ti Parts Workshop goodies and stuff from Nov Designs. 

 

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