Legends of the sport from Eddy Merckx through to Francesco Moser and Miguel Indurain have all cemented their legacies by setting new recordsfor distance travelled after an hour’s ride in the velodrome. It’s a notoriously grisly pursuit: Merckx, who was known in the peloton as the ‘Cannibal’, described his record of 49.431km set at altitude in 1972 as “the hardest ride I have ever done”.
British riders Chris Boardman and Graeme Obree also played an important role in establishing the myth of the hour test in cycling. Obree, whose exploits were immortalised in the film the ‘Flying Scotsman‘, famously used a bike welded together from washing machine parts and a radical tucked body position to set his hour records, while Boardman set three different history-making times during his career.
The current record, held by Czech cyclist Ondřej Sosenka, stands at 49.700km (just over 30 miles). For most serious club cyclists, however, riding 25 miles in under an hour is deemed to be a rite of passage.
Folded glory: the Brompton can be taken on public transport
I have been fortunate to race almost every type of bicycle, from dual-suspension mountain bikes to specialist aerodynamic track bikes and time trial low-pros, but, before last week, I had never swung a leg over a Brompton. So what better test than Telegraph Men’s 17-mile circuit around Box Hill. Could I complete this circuit in Surrey Hills in under an hour?
To make the challenge a little easier I replaced the standard Bromtpon pedals with my normal clipless pair, but that did little to lighten the bike’s hefty 12.5kg load.
However, I was immediately surprised by the speed and stability of the Brompton, helped by the design’s low centre of gravity and small 16-inch wheels. Unexpectedly, the bike also felt aerodynamic. The upright handlebars allowed me to adopt an Obree-style tuck position and fly along on Surrey’s undulating roads.
The real test for the Brompton came on the ascent of Box Hill. Despite its weight and limited selection of gears, I was impressed by the frame’s overall responsiveness. The trick to riding a Brompton on longer rides is to maintain a smooth and high cadence pedalling stroke. Slow down and you will waste energy getting the bike back up to top speed.
Although the ride had me chewing the Brompton’s handlebars, I managed to complete the Box Hill circuit in a time of 59.58, proving that you don’t need the latest carbon fibre gadgetry to ride at a reasonably fast pace.
Retailing at over £1,200, the version of the S6L Brompton I tested isn’t cheap, but it is bags of fun and without question the most distinctive bike on the road. Just ask the cyclists who saw me racing up Box Hill.