In defence of Brompton Man, the cyclist who puts function over style – Telegraph Newspaper

from the Telegraph

It’s easy to poke fun at Brompton Man, with his practical attire and holier-than-thou attitude – but his bike remains one of the most impressive on the road, writes Andrew Critchlow

Left: Andrew Critchlow tests a Brompton folding bike. Right: Hugh Bonneville as Ian Fletcher

Left: Andrew Critchlow tests a Brompton folding bike. Right: Hugh Bonneville as Ian Fletcher

Our roads are increasingly home to various tribes of bike rider. You’ve heard all about the Mamils (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) who thunder along the A23 on their way to work on £12,000 racing bikes; and you’ve probably noticed the Single Gear Hipsters, a younger strain of rider whose rolled-up right jean leg revolves furiously around a fixed crank somewhere near Hoxton.

But there’s one tribe that has hitherto snuck under the radar.

Brompton Man has been travelling with his foldaway bike on Britain’s roads and rails for decades. Every morning, he can be seen outside train stations, furiously unpacking his bike after a morning commute before disappearing into the distance, his feet whirling away like a hamster stuck on a circus wheel. And yet, unlike the Mamil and Single Gear Hipster, this figure of comedy has largely avoided ridicule.

Until now. Brompton Man was first deliciously parodied in the BBC’s excellent Olympic send-up 2012, where Hugh Bonneville’s well-intentioned executive Ian Fletcher was all fingers and cut thumbs with his prized Brompton, forever unable to make the bloody thing actually work.

And now we have a real-life embodiment of Fletcher – according to the Daily Mail at least, who this morning have cast BBC creative director Alan Yentob as the essence of Brompton Man. (I would be willing to bet that the corporation’s ‘swingometer’ man Jeremy Vine also has one tucked away somewhere in Broadcasting House.)

So just what makes Yentob and his ilk a true Brompton Man?

First off, there’s the bizarre uniform, which mixes one part office wear with one part luminous Gore Tex. Trouser clips come as standard.

Then there’s the look on his face. Because he rides a Brompton, Brompton Man is imbued with the self-righteous knowledge that although the folding bicycle looks absurd, he owns a true British design classic that puts function ahead of form. Can your flashy Pinarello be stored away in the cupboard under the stairs at home, his expression seems to ask.

He is, in other words, the James May of cycling. (And yes, May does ride a Brompton, in case you’re wondering.)

A Brompton S2L-X in its full glory

Brompton Man probably earns over £200,000 per year as a senior manager in a media company like the BBC, or by overseeing some politically correct department of a government-funded quango.

In meetings he often leaves colleagues baffled with mindless jargon such as getting “buy-in” or “core competency”. Possibly even more annoying is his capacity to drop into almost any conversation the fact that he can carry his Brompton on the packed train to Waterloo from Guildford at rush hour.

Brompton Man will leave his office door open to give the impression that he is willing to listen to anyone – but everyone knows that he really just wants you to see his folding bike stashed next to his desk instead of being chained alongside all the ‘normal’ bikes in the car park outside.

The Brompton does its contortionist’s act

Yes, Brompton Man really is a figure of mockery. And yet … I would happily own one of these made-in-England feats of engineering.

The truth is that I was lucky enough to test a Brompton last year. With all my preformed prejudices hanging from my shoulders like the weight of a 12kg folding bike, I decked myself out in full Lycra and tried to clock a fast time around my local Box Hill circuit on one of the machines.

Guess what? It was superb – fast and yet reliable; nimble yet stable. I rode it at 17mph for an hour, climbing and descending hills en route – and never once felt that I was cycling something that could, in the space of a few quick snaps, fold into something that would fit into the bottom draw of my filing cabinet at work.

The classic Brompton sells for around £1,000 – although in recent years, the company, which is based in West London, has introduced jazzier, flashier models. Instead of showing the bike being pedalled by some media executive in a ill-fitting florescent cycling jacket, the marketing clip for the speedster models features an anonymous racer in tights, who spins away furiously.

You have been warned.

A glimpse of the future: Andrew Critchlow test rides a Brompton

Scotland to get money invested into cycling

from – whilst I welcome this it won’t really improve the day to day town and city commutes that cycling really needs….

Cyclists in Scotland will be able to enjoy a radical extension of the country’s walking and cycle routes thanks to a £25 million cash injection that will create 500 miles of new routes over the next five years.
It’s all part of ambitious plans by Scottish Natural Heritage, Sustrans and Scottish Canals to get Scotland more active, and will see 30 new long distance routes created and numerous others updated and resurfaced.
The Dundee Green Circular, along with routes including Crook of Devon and Kinross, Lochearnhead to Crieff and a new Fife Pilgrim Way from Culross and North Queensferry to St Andrews will be among the first to be looked at.
Others include a Great Trossachs Path — between Callander and Inversnaid — a Hebridean Way on Harris and Lewis and the full-length “Pilgrim’s Way” across Scotland between St Andrews and Iona.
All the cycle ways will conform to high European-style standards, and will be funded by a mix of public and private partnership.
Planning Secretary Alex Neil told The Courier: “Scotland’s extensive network of long-distance routes, national cycleways and canal towpaths is already much loved and well used.
“Encouraging more people to enjoy the natural environment is important for the environment, tourism and boosting the economy — that’s why the National Long Distance Cycling and Walking Network is designated as a national development in Scotland’s National Planning Framework.
“The plan will extend the network of connected, accessible paths and tracks for visitors of all ages and abilities to walk and cycle, encouraging even more people and visitors to enjoy the outdoors and to become more active.”
Ian Ross, chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage, added: “We want to make sure that the network offers something for everyone, with rural routes offering peace and quiet, great views and the chance to get close to nature; paths between settlements to help local people commute away from traffic; high-spec surfaces in places for people in wheelchairs and cyclists, and more varied paths for walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders.
“The most important thing is to give people the chance to access and enjoy the outdoors close to where they live — irrespective of their age or mobility.
“On the back of that, we hope that people will embrace healthier, more active and sustainable lifestyles.”
Earlier this month we reported how a new report from Cycling Scotland shows a 32 per cent increase in cycling in Scotland between 2003 and 2013.
However, with it still only representing 0.75 per cent of total traffic volume, there is a strong belief that much more needs to be done.
The report covers a range of topics, including estimated levels of cycling, cycle commuting, cycling to school and road safety.
The proportion of those cycling to work at least ‘regularly’ is now 5.6 per cent for Scotland as a whole with the highest levels seen in Edinburgh (12.2%), Moray (10.3%) and Argyll & Bute (9.1%).
In 2013, five per cent of children indicated that they normally cycle to primary school with levels highest in Highland (10.7%), East Lothian (9.5%) and Stirling (9.2%). However, just 0.9 per cent of children cycle to secondary school nationwide.
Cycling as a main mode of travel in Scotland was estimated at just one per cent in 2013, while the volume of cycling traffic was 329 million vehicle kilometres travelled, a 32 per cent increase on 2003’s 249 million kilometres.
This represented growth from 0.59 per cent to 0.75 per cent.
Late last year Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown unveiled A Long Term Vision for Active Travel in Scotland 2030 with its aim of encouraging more people to walk and cycle for everyday shorter journeys has been welcomed, critics are questioning whether enough is being done to achieve that.
Brown explained: “This vision sets out how we hope Scotland will look in 2030 if more people are walking and cycling for short, everyday journeys allowing us to reap the benefits of active travel.
“It goes without saying that cycling and walking benefits the individual by improving their physical health, but also their mental health, and keeps their transport costs down whilst also benefiting the environment by reducing greenhouse gases and pollutants.”
The document depicts a future Scotland in which people are walking or cycling for the majority of shorter journeys.
Main roads into town centres all have either segregated cycling provision or high quality direct, safe and pleasant alternatives; pedestrian and cycle paths are in place; and rural and suburban minor roads have low speed limits.
Transport is integrated and there is a culture of active travel.
However, critics have questioned whether enough is being done to make these dreams a reality. Speaking to The Scotsman, Colin Howden, Director of Sustainable transport lobby group Transform Scotland, said:
“A long-term vision for walking and cycling is all very well but what we actually need is action now, not at some vague time off into the future.
“What we do know is the Scottish Government’s investment in active travel falls in this year’s budget despite the overall transport budget again rising. Some short-term action to tackle that situation would be more helpful than platitudes about long-term priorities.”
We’ve also reported on how campaigners have told Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) that there is “no way” that a target of 10 per cent of journeys in the country being made by bicycle by 2020 will be achieved while spending remains at its current levels. They have also called for more transparency over the country’s active travel budget.
MSPs sitting on Holyrood’s transport committee warned the Scottish Government more than four years ago that without adequate funding, the target won’t be met

That 10 per cent target was reiterated in last year’s updated Cycle Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS).

Now, an inquiry into the Scottish Government’s budget by the infrastructure and capital investment committee has been told by campaigners Pedal on Parliament, who want 10 per cent of the country’s £2 billion transport budget dedicated to cycling,  that the target is beyond reach at current levels of spend.

  • Cyclist or Terrorist?

    Cyclist or terrorist ….. Telegraph doing a clarkson ….


    It’s fair to say that the internet is full of opinion. When it comes to cyclists much of that opinion, as far as I can tell, seems to be on the verge of rage.

    Cyclists are dangerous. Cyclists are untrustworthy. Cyclists should not be allowed on the road. Cyclists should pay road tax. There are a lot of angry people out there who do not like cyclists. Not…one…bit!

    Although when I say the internet is full, strictly speaking it’s not, and mores the pity really, because just when you think you’ve heard it all there seems to be room for more lunatic fringe opinion.

    Like this little gem:

    According to the boss of London’s biggest taxi driver’s association, “cyclists are the ISIS of London”.

    Cyclist or terrorist? (Image: Wikimedia Commons) Cyclist or terrorist?
    (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

    OK, so presumably you’ve just picked yourself up off the floor having fallen off your chair in disbelief…

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