“Ya look a right f**king nob on that” exclaimed my Northern, champion pie-eating, ex-army buddy.
It is not often that I start my articles with an expletive, but the reason for his foul-mouthed outburst was that he had just witnessed me riding my Brompton for the first time. But as #offended as I was to his over exuberant & frankly childish, risible diatribe*, to be honest I kind of understood where he was coming from. Up until my day of Brompton conversion, I to would of worn a grin when observing an adult perched on top of one of these diminutive wheeled contraptions. I am ashamed to admit that I was, indeed a smirker.
Now like it suggests, a smirker is someone who at the sight of someone spinning the Brompton pedals produces a wry, derogatory, condescending smirk. They often can’t help it (especially those superior & righteous types in the deadly serious cycling communities who seem to born with an upward head position & permanent sneer). So what changed for me. To be honest I have always been a bit of a closet bike geek. The weirder the bike, the more it interests me. Cargo bikes fascinate me, as do recumbents. But what initially got my attention with the Brompton was ‘the fold’. It goes from a functional velo to a locked & loaded carry-on in about 15 seconds. Bravo to a rare feat of British engineering say I.
So one day I plucked up courage, made sure no-one was watching me & went to my local bike shop to enquire as to a test-ride. Now it’s not often that you fall in love, but love it most definitely was. As soon as I pushed off for those initial nervous, tentative revolutions I was immediately transported back to being a 1980’s teenager again (without the spots, bumfluff & raging hormones obviously). It felt like I was back on my BMX again. It was super-twitchy & agile & I loved it. So I asked my wife if she could hack off my arm & leg in order for me to buy one & she agreed.
After two weeks I received a phone-call saying my Brompton (one doesn’t refer to them as a bicycle – they are a Brompton) is ready to be collected. And like a speeding gazelle I was there, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat – that was until trendy, beardy, hipster dude behind the counter reminded me about the maximum weight limit. With a sharp intake of belly, I then confirmed to the whippersnapper that I was well under the 110kgs limit & gave him one of my best withering looks.
And so from that moment my affair began in earnest. So what is it about Bromptons that I like so much (other than the fold, the twitchy-ness & the agility). I guess it’s just something to do with functionality. It can be your pub bike, your shopping bike & your touring bike. It can fit behind seats on trains & fit in an overhead locker on a plane. It can handle the flats & it can handle the hills**. But what I like most of all is it is the perfect bike for just dawdling – you can just unfold, clip on a natty bag & head-off.
So next time you see a chap on a Brompton, don’t smirk. Just nod your head & give them a knowing smile. You never know it could be me.
*Us British forces types show our brotherly love through sarcasm, piss-taking, directed use of offensive language & occasionally violence.
**A little word of warning. Don’t get out of the saddle to grind up hills. I managed to break the bottom-bracket hinge bolt doing this.