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

Future City Perfection: Gi Bike

GI Bike
GI Bike

Gi-Bike is a connected, lightweight, electric folding bike. The creators aim to revolutionize and transform the way millions commute to work, they state that Gi-Bike has enough features to satisfy all the needs of the everyday commuter. To begin, the bike is foldable, it only takes 1 second and one motion to fold, and can easily be carried like a wheeled-luggage, it features electric assistance, knowing when you need help and will assist you with the electric engine. It also features wheel smart LED lights that turn on at night and includes an app connected to the Gi-Bike´s integrated anti-theft lock that locks automatically once you walk 10 feet away from your bike. The app also allows you to control all of Gi’s features, including its electric assistance, wireless lights, and also provides live statistics measuring calories burned, speed, time, mileage, and much more


See how it works below


Brompton World Champs 2014

Toot Toot – you know you want to



The main event – a mad dash of jackets and ties to unfold bikes, followed by a 15km race around the Goodwood track, spurred on by the crowd’s roar on the grandstand. The Brompton World Championship is now in it’s 9th year and 2nd year at Goodwood Motor Circuit. Competition to participate remains fierce and the 2014 event is expected to be bigger than ever, with 800 participants invited to compete.

Race overview

  • Date: Sunday 27th July
  • Format: one race; start organised in waves
  • Distance: 15.2km/9.6miles (4 laps)
  • Participants: 800
  • Open to all as a single event or as part of the Brompton Treble

How it works…

Always a show-stopper, the race gets underway with a massed Le Mans style start, the pack racing to their folded bikes, unfolding them and speeding off. Jacket and tie are compulsory and there is strictly no Lycra allowed; those looking particularly dapper will be in with a chance for the Best Dressed prize.

Four laps of the course mean that just over 15km must be completed on the fast-paced circuit; no mean feat. Part of the Brompton Treble, the hardiest of souls may wish to also tackle the Brompton Sprint and Brompton Marathon.

Bruno again – fancy meeting you here

I quite like this tiny bike by Bruno, a Japanese based cycle company. It’s not a folding bicycle, but a travel companion when hitting the road by plane or train and, at your destination, want to go faster than the average folding cycles. You can ‘compress’ the bike to 100 x 56 cm, the only thing you’ll need is a proper bag. Let’s ask Guu-Watanabe to make one…


Brompton – the good, the great, the brilliant, the slight niggles

Folding bikes are perhaps the ultimate urban vehicles and multi transport vehicles. Consider the following:

  • Zero emissions
  • Compatible with public transport
  • Nimble
  • Compact
  • Easily Stowed
  • Relatively Lightweight

The Brompton is perhaps my favourite city or commuting bike. Consider the following:

  • Compact & clean fold
  • Easy to carry
  • Rugged
  • Quick
  • Quintessentially British

Fork-mounted pannier racks are becoming increasingly popular. They’re good for carrying bulky items that won’t fit in a touring pannier, and when combined with a basket or bar-bag, they’re convenient as catch-alls for running errands or touring/commuting. The downside is that carrying a load on the front fork slows down a bike’s handling, and if the load is above the front wheel, it may cause “wheel flop”. This combined with smaller wheels (26 compared to 700c) makes it worse.


palatial load carrier



A better alternative  and what Brompton uses is a frame-mounted carrier that takes the weight off of the fork and places it on the main frame. So unlike front rack bikes – Brompton’s steering is unaffected by even relatively heavy loads. Last night I just carried 8 litre bottles of water (8kg) back from the store and the bike steering is unaffected and only noticeable when lifting the front up kerbs.

The only better load carrier is my Yuba Mundo (other cargo bikes are available) but you sure can’t fold that up.


Most commuting (smart clothes) is easily done on the Brompton clipping along at 20kph – 24kph without really working up a sweat. Shorts on head down this goes up to 28kph and higher if you remove the drag inducing front S-Bag.

16″ wheels – whilst quick to roll up to speed are not so good at obstacle – not really a complaint just an observation and obviously linked to the small folding ability.

Downsides? Well none yet but then its only been 500km – oh maybe one a little squeak from the bottom bracket but sprayed with WD40 today so hopefully that stops.

A tough bike in a hot place

I had a problem I wanted a bike for my trips to Baghdad – I only ever spend 3 weeks here at a time every 6-8 weeks and I was sick of having to drive a loan car while here A HUGE 5.7L beast of a truck the 6km into and away from work every night.

Running was easy but not the nicest as there is a section with a tunnel, no pavement and running with a backpack sucks, so a bike was the solution.

They sell bikes on this base but they are cheap $180 stomp and you break a crank type of bikes. So to bring one of my bikes out could have been possible but a pain. I also had the problem of where I could keep it when I go home or other places.
The solution a new Brompton S6 and a flight-case for it. As I only ever have hand luggage the size is no issue – I am probably still travelling lighter than the average Joe.

Lovely to cycle in the morning – even when it is hot the ride is great – takes about 11min no slower than the old car took but much more liberating

Now its winter but no great shakes about 7C in the morning and up to 18C in the day ….. Lakes here are full of Cormorants, ducks, pied kingfishers, egrets, the odd grey heron and the very large Carp they feed on.

Not the worst commute I have had to do.