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Are Brompton Bikes Worth It? Pros and Cons

Folding bikes are becoming increasingly popular. Particularly among commuters living in large urban areas. One of the most popular folding bikes is the Brompton. It offers a compact fold, beautiful design, excellent build quality, and stable ride characteristics. Of course, there are some drawbacks. Brompton bikes are heavy and expensive. They are also mostly built from proprietary parts. This guide answers the question, are Brompton bikes worth it? To help you decide, we’ll outline the pros and cons of Brompton bikes. We’ll cover performance, costs, parts availability reliability, maintenance, folded size, weight, and more. Hopefully, this guide helps you decide whether or not a Brompton bike is worth the money to you. 

A Brompton bike with the rear wheel folded under the mainfame

What is a Brompton Bike?

Brompton bikes are folding bikes. They are based on a hinged folding frame and 16” wheels. Bromptons are famous for their compact folded size. When folded, a Brompton measures just 565mm × 545mm × 250mm (22.2 × 21.5 × 9.8 in). They are one of the most compact folding bikes on the market.

There are three folding points on a Brompton frame. One on the mainframe, behind the head tube. One on the handlebar post, just above the head tube. And one just behind the bottom bracket.

The Brompton is the most iconic and popular folding bike on the market. They are designed and hand-made in London. Around 50,000 are produced per year. This makes Brompton Britain’s largest bike manufacturer. The ingenious folding frame was designed by the company’s founder, Andrew Ritchie, in 1975. Interestingly, Brompton bikes have remained nearly unchanged since they were introduced. Only small details have been refined over the years. 

Brompton bikes feature a modular design. The Brompton folding frame is the same size and shape on all models. Different parts are installed to create the different versions.

Brompton offers an entire range of folding bikes including the A line (entry level), C line (classic), P line (performance), and T line (titanium frame). There are also special edition models (Black Edition), and an electric assist model. 

Each model comes with a slightly different set of components. There are three handlebar sizes including low, medium, and high. Three different seat post options are available to fit riders of different heights. There are also four different drivetrain options including 1 speed, 2 speed, 3 speed, 4 speed, and 6 speed. The 2 and 4 speed drivetrains use a rear derailleur. The 3 speed model uses an internal gear hub. The 6 speed model uses a hybrid derailleur and internal gear hub setup. Brompton frames are available in both steel and lightweight titanium options. 

Brompton also offers a number of accessories including rear racks, fenders, lights, pumps, and tools. In addition, Brompton offers an entire range of stylish luggage options. The luggage mounts to Brompton’s ingenious front carrier block, which bolts to the head tube. Rear rack luggage is also available. 

Because Brompton bikes are so popular a wide range of aftermarket parts are also available. It’s easy to upgrade and customize a Brompton bike. There are aftermarket drivetrain components, hinge clamps, suspension blocks, handlebars, seat posts, and much more. Many riders install titanium aftermarket components to reduce weight. You can check out some popular aftermarket parts here.

Brompton Bike Pros

There are plenty of reasons why Brompton bikes are so popular. They are compact, well built, and beautifully designed.  In this section, I’ll outline the main benefits of riding a Brompton folding bike. 

Brompton bikes have an extremely compact fold. 

Brompton bikes have the most compact fold of any folding bike on the market. When folded, a Brompton measures just 585mm X 565mm X 270mm (23″ x 22.2″ x 10.6″). To compare, an average-sized folding bike, like those from Dahon or Tern, measures around 290mm x 660mm x 890mm (11.3″ x 25.7″ x 31.2″) when folded. 

A folded Brompton
A folded Brompton bike

The difference may not seem like much but the Brompton is almost 50% smaller than an average folding bike. A Brompton occupies 89 liters of space while an average folding bike occupies around 170 liters of space. When you’re looking at the bikes side by side, the difference is obvious. Bromptons are significantly smaller than comparable folding bikes on the market. 

The compact fold is possible for two reasons. First is the small wheels. Brompton bikes use 16” wheels rather than the larger 20” wheels that are standard on most other folding bikes. This reduces the folded size substantially. The wheels are 4″ smaller. This reduces the height and length of the folded bike by about that much.

The folding design itself is also a brilliant work of engineering. It is incredibly efficient. Brompton bikes have three folding joints. The mainframe folds just behind the head tube. The handlebar tube also folds down just above the head tube. In addition, the rear wheel and subframe swing under the mainframe. The three folding joints allow the bike to fold more densely than other folding bikes. There is very little wasted space.

To compare, most other folding bikes have a single hinge in the middle of the frame. This leads to a much larger fold. For many riders, the small fold alone makes Brompton bikes worth the price. It is a major selling point.

You can take your Brompton with you wherever you go

The small fold allows you to take a Brompton places that other folding bikes can’t go. For example, a Brompton bike is small enough to bring with you on public transport buses and trains and in the trunk of taxis and Ubers.

It’s also easy to fly with a Brompton. When folded and packed, it easily meets the checked bag size and weight requirements. Some people have even taken their Brompton folding bike into the cabin of airplanes as a carry-on and stored them in the overhead bin. Check out this cool site for photos.

You can also bring your Brompton hotel rooms, hostel dorms, or Airbnb as well as bars, restaurants, office buildings, and supermarkets. Because the bike is so small, nobody really cares if you bring it inside with you.

If you want to go somewhere where bikes aren’t allowed, you can simply fold your Brompton, slip it into a bag, and carry it with you. Nobody will know what it is. It just looks like a regular piece of luggage. Other folding bikes may be too bulky to bring with you everywhere.  

Brompton bikes fold and unfold quickly

After a bit of practice, you should be able to fold your Brompton in around 20-30 seconds. If you see your bus or train arriving, you can quickly fold your bike and carry it on. When you arrive at your destination, you can unfold your bike in another 20-30 seconds and start riding. Fun fact: the world record Brompton fold time is just over 5 seconds.

There is a bit of a learning curve to folding a Brompton. First, you pull a release and flip the rear wheel under the mainframe. Next, you loosen the hinge on the mainframe and swing the front wheel backwards, kind of in a stirring motion. There is a small hook near the front axle that clips to the frame, near the chainstay. This holds the bike together when folded. You then pull the quick release lever on the seat post and drop the saddle down. Finally, you loosen the hinge clamp on the handlebar post and fold the handlebars down. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy.

This short Youtube video shows how you how to fold a Brompton, step-by-step.

Folding a Brompton

Brompton has an excellent luggage system

Brompton has developed an ingenious luggage system for their bikes. All Brompton luggage securely clips onto a mounting point on the front of the head tube. The mounting point is called the front carrier block. This piece securely bolts directly to the head tube. The front carrier block is made from heavy-duty plastic and can support up to 10kg (22 lbs.)

To mount your Brompton luggage, you simply slide it onto the front carrier block. It securely clips in place automatically. There is a small lever on the bottom of the carrier block that releases your luggage. 

The beauty of this design is that the weight is not on the handlebars or fork. The bike’s frame supports the weight of your luggage. As a result, the luggage does not adversely affect the bike’s handling.

In fact, many riders claim that Brompton bikes handle best when they have around 5-15lbs of weight on the front of the bike. The extra weight makes the steering a bit less twitchy. The bike feels more stable and handles more predictably. 

Brompton offers a wide range of luggage options that conveniently mount to the front carrier block. There are laptop bags, tote bags, backpacks, baskets, and even large touring bags. Some of the luggage options include a built-in rain cover. Brompton’s luggage is durable and well made. Third-party luggage options are also available. 

One of the most popular bags is the Borough Roll Top T-bag. It features 28 liters of space and a built-in rainproof cover.

If you need even more luggage capacity, you can mount a rear rack to your Brompton. Brompton offers a rear rack bag that attaches with straps. Some riders also attach a hiking backpack to the rear rack and stabilize it by attaching the straps to the saddle rails. Another option is to use a bike cargo trailer. For more Brompton luggage options, check out this great guide.

One drawback is that you can’t use standard panniers on a Brompton. When mounted to the rear rack, they sit too close to the ground because the rack sits so low. When you turn, the pannier rub on the ground. You can mount a single pannier to the front carrier block with the help of a special frame attachment. 

A cyclist riding a Brompton with luggage on the front

Brompton bikes have a high resale value

Brompton bikes hold their value extremely well. A used Brompton that is a couple of years old sells for just 15-20% less than a brand new Brompton. To compare, an average bike depreciates by around 50% during the first two years. You could buy a new Brompton bike for $2000 and then sell it for $1700 a couple of years later. If you buy a used Brompton, you can probably sell it for what you paid if you maintain it well.

Brompton bikes hold their value for a number of reasons. First, Brompton bikes are always in high demand. According to this article, last year, Brompton’s year-over-year sales grew 44%. There is also a limited supply. Because the bikes are handmade, the factory can only produce so many. Oftentimes, there is a 2 month wait when you order a new Brompton. Some buyers choose to buy used instead of waiting. This demand keeps prices high. These bikes also have a cult following due to their iconic design. There are always people looking to buy one. It’s always a seller’s market. 

Brompton bikes are also well built and long-lasting. They can last decades if taken care of. A well-maintained 10-year-old Brompton can still fetch a good price because it still has years of use left in it. Replacement parts for older Bromptons are easily available.

Brompton bikes also haven’t changed much over the years. The design was refined then the company stopped messing with it, except for a few minor upgrades here and there. This means older models are more or less the same as newer models. Newer Bromptons aren’t necessarily better than older models. These are timeless bikes. They aren’t updated with new technologies every couple of years. As a result, age affects the value of a Brompton less than other bikes. Condition is more important.

There have only been a few major changes in the history of the Brompton. For this reason, some people think of Bromptons in terms of generations rather than model years. The generation can affect the value. 

A recent major change was the combined brake and shifter lever. This part was upgraded in 2017. The newer version feels a bit more robust. The gearing was changed in 2009 when a wide range (302%) internal gear hub was added. The most significant change to the frame occurred in 2004 when Brompton increased the wheelbase by 20mm. These changes are all relatively minor but they can affect the value of the bike.

A newer Brompton with the newer shifter design, wider range gearing, and longer wheelbase will be slightly more valuable than an older model. The difference in value between a 2018 Brompton and a 2022 Brompton will be minimal, assuming the condition is the same.

Brompton bikes are well made

Brompton produces extremely high-quality bikes. The frames are made in England from premium Chromoly steel. The brazing on Brompton frames is immaculate. When you look at a Brompton frame, it is obvious that they are built by true craftsmen who know what they’re doing and have pride in their work. 

Brompton bikes also have an excellent fit and finish. The parts all fit together perfectly. This is possible because most of the components are designed specifically for Brompton bikes. Most parts are proprietary. As a result, everything works as it should. 

The bikes are also professionally assembled. You won’t find any loose bolts, improperly tensioned spokes, or misaligned brake calipers. When you buy a Brompton, you are getting a quality product that has been built with care. 

A major benefit of this build quality is reliability. Maintenance is minimal when the bike is well put together. You won’t have to adjust the brakes or shifters. You’ll get thousands of miles out of your Brompton before any significant maintenance is required. All you have to worry about is routine maintenance such as lubing the chain and keeping the tires aired up. 

Brompton bikes have excellent frame geometry 

Brompton bikes offer better stability and a more comfortable ride than comparable folding bikes. There are a number of reasons for this. 

First, Brompton bikes have significantly longer chainstays than most other folding bikes. In fact, Brompton chainstays are about the same length as the chainstays on most full-sized bikes. 

This is possible due to the fold design. The rear triangle folds under the mainframe. This leaves room for longer chainstays. The chainstays are the tubes that run from the bottom bracket to the rear axle. 

The longer chain stays greatly improve the ride quality. Longer chainstays increase the bike’s stability. This is helpful while riding at high speeds and while descending hills. The bike feels solid and steers predictably. 

The long chainstays also improve comfort. 16” wheels naturally feel harsh to ride because they get caught on bumps and potholes more easily. The long chain stays mellow out the ride to improve comfort. The rear suspension block helps as well. 

Bromptons also have a low bottom bracket height. In addition, the wheelbase is long. This geometry also helps to increase stability.

For their size, Brompton bikes offer excellent ride quality. The ride quality is far better than comparable folding bikes and almost on par with full-sized bikes.

Brompton bikes also have low trail. Trail is the horizontal distance between the point where the front tire contacts the ground and the point where the steering axis meets the ground. 

This low trail makes the handling very responsive. When you turn the handlebars, the bike turns quickly. Some riders like this quick steering and others find that the steering is a bit ‘twitchy.’ When a Brompton is carrying a load in the front, the handling feels normal, like any other bike. 

Brompton bikes are long-lasting

If you take care of your Brompton, you can get 20+ years of use out of it. It’s normal to see Brompton bikes from the early 2000s still on the road today. For a folding bike, this is impressive.

Generally, folding bikes don’t last as long as standard diamond frame bikes because the folding joints create weak spots in the frame. The frames tend to fail earlier as a result. This isn’t really the case with Brompton bikes.

Brompton bikes also come with a 7 year warranty on the frame. This covers you against manufacturing and material defects. This is important because the frame is, by far, the most expensive part of the bike to replace if it breaks. 

Part of the reason that Brompton bikes last so long is that they are made from durable Chromoly steel or titanium rather than aluminum. Steel and titanium have a fatigue limit. The frame can withstand stress below its fatigue limit an infinite number of times without failing. Aluminum frames do not have a fatigue limit. Every time you apply a load to an aluminum frame it fatigues. 

Of course, some parts will wear out over time. You’ll have to replace wearable parts such as the chain, tires, brake pads, cables, and rear cogs periodically. Once in a while, you’ll have to replace the rims, chainring, bottom bracket, and headset.

Probably the most expensive part you may need to replace over the course of your Brompton’s life is the internal gear hub. A new rear wheel with an internal gear hub costs around $300-$400. If your Brompton doesn’t have an internal gear hub, a replacement rear wheel is much cheaper. 

When your Brompton starts getting older, it’s a good idea to start inspecting the frame periodically to make sure the bike is safe to ride. Frame failures are rare but they do happen.

Check for crimps and cracks near the hinges, at the dropouts, and at all frame joints where the tubes were brazed together. You should also check the alignment of the hinges and frame joints to make sure there are no bends in the frame. Brompton also recommends that you inspect the condition of all aluminum components, such as the handlebars, every 1000 miles.

If you spot any damage, take your bike to a dealer to have it professionally inspected. Damage can sometimes be repaired if it’s caught early. It might be replaced under warranty if the damage was caused by a manufacturing issue.

To maximize the life of your frame, avoid over-tightening or under-tightening the hinges. Also, apply some lubrication to the hinges once in a while to keep them operating smoothly. You should also clean your frame and hinges to keep them free of dirt and grime. This is important if you regularly ride in winter conditions.

Brompton bikes perform well in urban environments

A major benefit of the small wheels is that they spin up quickly and easily. This allows for fast acceleration. This is ideal for stop-and-go city riding. After stopping at a light, you can quickly accelerate back up to speed. The wheels spin up quickly and easily. 

This quick and easy acceleration is possible due to the light weight of the wheels. The small 16″ wheels are lighter than larger 20″ or 26″ wheels because they contain less material than larger wheels. It takes less energy to accelerate the less massive wheels.

As an added benefit, the smaller wheels also steer quickly. This allows you to easily maneuver around pedestrians, traffic, and potholes while riding on crowded city streets. The Brompton turning radius is also small. If you make a wrong turn, you can easily turn around without leaving your lane.

One drawback is that the smaller wheels can get hung up more easily on bumps and potholes. They can’t roll over obstacles as well as larger diameter wheels. They also lose momentum faster when you stop pedaling because they have less inertia. More on this later.

Brompton bikes are versatile

Brompton bikes are designed for commuting and urban riding. They also make surprisingly competent touring bikes. Many riders mount a large front bag and attach a big backpack to the rear rack and travel long distances on their Brompton. Check out this cool website for some inspiration.

Bromptons also make decent utility bikes and grocery getters. You can pull a cargo trailer behind your Brompton to greatly expand its carrying capacity. You could also pull your kids in a child trailer. Some riders mount a front basket to their Brompton and use it as a grocery cart while rolling it around on the eazy wheels. You can see some pictures of what I’m talking about here.

One nice benefit of the Brompton fold is that the bike stands up on its own when folded. You can also simply fold the rear wheel under the mainframe and the bike will remain standing. It essentially has a kickstand built-in. This is a nice feature when you’re working on your bike.

Brompton bikes are suitable for a wide range of rider heights

Bromptons can accommodate riders between 4’7” and 6’8” tall (140cm-203cm). The bikes only come in one frame size. To accommodate for different heights, different seat post lengths and handlebar styles are available. 

There are three seat post options. The standard seat post is ideal for riders up to around 5’10”. The extended seat post is ideal for riders who are taller than 5’10”. The drawback to the taller seat post is that it makes the fold slightly larger. The tall seat post makes the seat stick up higher when folded. To solve this issue, Brompton offers a telescoping seat post. This is a great option for tall riders who need a compact fold. 

Brompton also offers four handlebar options: S, M, P, and H bars. Different handlebars are suitable for riders of different heights. The handlebars also affect the ride position. Listed in order from lowest to highest they include:

  • S bars- These are flat bars. These are ideal for riders who desire an aggressive and aerodynamic ride position as well as shorter riders. These are the smallest and lightest handlebar option. They have a height of 92.5cm off the ground.
  • M bars- These are medium height bars. These are the most popular option. They have a height of 101.5cm off the ground. This is probably the most common Brompton handlebar type. 
  • P bars- These are butterfly bars or touring bars. These are curvy bars with multiple grip positions. The tops of the bars sit 103cm off the ground. These are a good choice for those who plan to ride long distances on their Brompton. 
  • H bars – These are high bars. They are ideal for tall riders and those who want an upright ride position. The tops of the bars sit 107.5cm off the ground.

For a visual representation of the different handlebar styles, check out this guide.

When choosing your handlebars, you’ll want to consider your height. If you’re a tall rider, you may need a taller handlebar to achieve a comfortable ride position. The H handlebars are ideal. For a shorter rider, the S handlebars may feel more comfortable. 

You’ll also want to consider your desired ride position when choosing handlebars. If you prefer an aggressive ride position, lower handlebars like the S bars, are preferable. These bars lean your body forward. Part of your body weight rests on the handlebars. This position allows you to produce more power with your legs. It also improves aerodynamics by reducing wind resistance. This allows you to ride faster and more efficiently.  If you prefer a more relaxed and upright ride position, the taller H handlebar option is preferable. These allow you to sit back and enjoy the view. 

Aesthetics

Brompton builds absolutely stunning bicycles. They are like works of art. Both when folded and unfolded.

The frame, in particular, is extremely beautiful. It is hand-made in London by skilled craftsmen. This is evident when you look at the perfect brazing on the frame joints. 

Brompton offers a range of paint and color options. You can choose from raw lacquer, all black, and bright and shiny color options.

Brompton luggage is also beautiful. It’s modern, stylish, and functional. It fits in well on city streets and in the office. Their bags don’t look like standard bike panniers. 

Brompton Bike Cons

These bikes aren’t for everyone. They are expensive, heavy, and somewhat difficult to work on. They also don’t perform quite as well as full-sized bikes. In this section, I’ll outline some of the main drawbacks of Brompton bikes.

Brompton bikes are expensive

The high purchase price is probably the biggest drawback of Brompton bikes. It’s easy to spend over $2000 on a Brompton after factoring in the cost of the bike, accessories, and tax. For most people, that’s a lot of money to spend on a bicycle. That’s 2x the price of a similar folding bike from other brands such as Dahon. It’s 3x the price of a non-folding city bike. A Bromptons is a premium bicycle with a price to match.

Brompton bikes are available at a range of prices. Brompton’s most inexpensive model called the A Line, has a starting price of $1050. That’s pretty steep for an entry-level folding bike with a 3 speed drivetrain. 

Brompton’s classic C Line bikes start at $1550 for a basic 2 speed model. A 3-speed internal gear hub model is available starting at $1675. The popular 6 speed model starts at $1875.

Brompton also offers premium lightweight titanium framed bikes. These start at $4810 for a single-speed model. A 4 speed version is also available starting at $5020.

If you don’t want to shell out for a full titanium frame, you could opt for a lightweight P Line model, which starts at $2965. The P line features lightweight components and a titanium rear frame and fork. 

Brompton also offers an electric version of its classic line starting at $4150. The Brompton ebike features a front hub motor and torque sensors. 

Chances are, you’ll also want to buy some accessories to go with your Brompton. This adds to the cost. Brompton offers racks and fenders. Some models include these parts and others don’t. Adding a rack and fenders to a Brompton will cost just over $200. 

Brompton luggage is also a popular add-on. Brompton offers a range of luggage options that attach to the front carrier block. Luggage range in price from $50 to well over $200. The front carrier block itself costs about $30.

Many rides also choose to upgrade their saddle, handlebar grips, and peddles. Brompton riders often add a Brooks saddle and Ergon grips for added comfort. This adds around $200 to the price of the bike. Some riders also swap the folding pedals for clipless pedals.  

Other popular accessories include lights, pumps, and a multi-tool. Brompton branded accessories are very expensive. Many riders also choose to add a dynamo hub and lights. This adds a couple of hundred dollars.

If you’re not sure about whether or not a folding bike is for you, you might consider going with a less expensive brand. You can buy a quality folding bike for less than half the cost of a Brompton. If you buy used, you can pick up a decent folding bike for under $500.

Brompton bikes have lots of proprietary parts

Brompton folding bikes have more proprietary parts than any other bike. According to this article, Bromptons have over 1200 proprietary parts. That’s about 75-80% of the parts on the bike. A few examples of proprietary Brompton parts include the frame and fork, brakes, derailleur, shifters, seat post, hinges, fenders, rear rack, pedals, and seat clamp. 

The drawback to proprietary parts is that you have to buy replacements from the manufacturer if something breaks or wears out. You can’t just walk into any bike shop and buy parts. Standard-sized components often don’t fit Bromptons. 

This can be a problem if you live or ride in a country where Brompton doesn’t have a dealership. Brompton doesn’t serve many small countries and developing countries. Some parts can be hard to come by. You may not be able to find the replacement part that you need when you’re in a pinch. You may have to order parts online and install them yourself. 

The good news is that all of the wearable parts including the tires, brake pads, cables, and chain are standard sizes. These parts are usually easy to find.

Backward compatibility is also good on Brompton bikes because the bikes have not changed much over the years. It’s easy to find parts for a decades-old bike. If a part breaks on your 20-year-old Brompton, a dealership can order a new one. Brompton offers excellent support for old bikes. Third-party replacement parts are sometimes available as well. 

There are some benefits to using proprietary parts. After all, there is a reason Brompton went to the trouble of designing and manufacturing these parts rather than buying off-the-shelf components. 

Proprietary parts allow the bike to fold smaller. All of the parts fit together compactly when folded because they were designed to. The proprietary parts are also designed to work well together. For example, all of the drivetrain components operate smoothly because they are designed specifically for Brompton bikes. There are no incompatibility issues to worry about if you buy genuine Brompton parts. 

It’s also important to note that pretty much all folding bikes have at least some proprietary parts. If you plan to ride your folding bike in remote areas or in developing countries, you may be better off choosing a model with fewer proprietary parts. 

Bike Friday folding bikes seem to have the fewest proprietary parts. Almost everything is standard other than the frame, hinges, and fork. This allows you to use standard replacement parts that you can find in any bike shop. 

A Bike Friday folding bike
A Bike Friday set up for touring

Replacing a rear tire or repairing a rear flat tire on a Brompton is complicated

The Brompton drivetrain makes removing the rear wheel to repair flats or replace the tire difficult and time-consuming. In order to repair a rear flat, you must first disengage the hub gear and completely remove the chain tensioner and hub indicator rod. This is necessary so you can remove the rear wheel.

When reinstalling the rear wheel, you have to re-install the chain tensioner and hub indicator rod, re-tension the chain, and adjust the internal gear hub. It’s a complicated and time-consuming job. Particularly the first couple of times you do it.

For step-by-step instructions to repairing a rear flat on a Brompton, check out this great guide. or this Youtube video.

It is possible to repair a puncture without having to remove the rear wheel. You can usually remove one side of the tire from the rim and pull part of the inner tube out between the wheel and tire. You can then work your way around until you find the puncture. Once you find it, patch it. You can then replace the tube in the tire and reinstall the tire back onto the rim. This can get tedious but it saves time.  

Most riders dread getting a rear flat while riding their Brompton. To reduce the number of flats, it’s a good idea to run puncture-resistant tires. One of the best tires is the Schwalbe Marathon. It features a 3mm layer of built-in puncture-resistant material called Greenguard. For even more protection, you could use Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. These feature a 5mm layer of puncture protection.

For more info on Brompton tires, check out this great guide.

Brompton rims and tires don’t last very long

Brompton rims and tires tend to wear out quickly. The reason is that the small 16” wheels need to make more revolutions to cover the same distance as the larger 20” wheels that are standard on most other folding bikes. The tire tread makes more contact with the ground so it wears quicker.

The small diameter rims also heat up faster when braking. The heating and cooling of the rims causes them to fatigue quicker. The braking surface also wears faster because it’s smaller. There is less braking surface area on the smaller rims. Abrasion from the pads wears the small rims down quickly.

Brompton tires and rims wear out faster than you may expect. On average, you can expect to get around 2500-4000 miles (4000-6500 km) out of a set of tires. Some tires can last up to around 6000 miles. The longevity depends on the brand and the types of surfaces you ride. The Schwalbe Marathon and Marathon Plus tires offer good longevity. 

A Brompton rear rim may only last 3500-6000 miles (5600-9600 km). The rim longevity depends on the conditions you ride the bike in. If you ride your bike in the rain and snow and on dirty streets, the rims will wear out faster. This is because dirt and grime can build up on your brake pads and brake surface and cause excessive abrasion while braking. I have heard of Brompton rims only lasting 1500 miles when they’re ridden during the winter. Riding in hilly environments can also cause your rims to wear faster due to heat buildup from the brake pads rubbing on the rims. If you ride gently on flat terrain, your rim might last over 10,000 miles. The rear rims wear out much faster than the front rims. 

The small 16” wheels offer poor ride quality in some situations

In order to make the bike smaller and more portable, Brompton decided to go with 16” wheels. This is the smallest wheel size you’ll find on any bike that is designed for adults. Most folding bikes come with significantly larger 20” wheels. Some models even come with 24” or 26” wheels.  

The smaller wheels on the Brompton make the ride a bit rougher. They can’t roll over potholes, out of ruts, or over bumps as easily as larger wheels. When you hit a pothole, the small wheel falls further into the hole. When you ride into a rut, you may have trouble climbing out with the small wheels. If you hit an obstacle, such as a bump, stick, or rock in the road, the small wheels have a harder time rolling over it.

Smaller wheels don’t roll over obstacles as well as larger wheels because the angle of attack is higher. In other words, the obstacle hits higher on the wheel. The wheel has to move up and over the obstacle. A larger wheel can easily roll over while a smaller wheel can easily get hung up. You’ll also lose more momentum when you hit an obstacle. The smaller wheels make the ride feel harsher as well. 

A Brompton on a gravel road

For these reasons, Brompton bikes are not ideal for riding on poorly maintained roads, gravel roads, or off-road. The small wheels can be dangerous in some situations. You need to consider the terrain and keep your eye on the road to avoid obstacles. You don’t have to worry as much about this while riding a full-sized bike or even a folding bike with larger wheels. 

Brompton bikes do come with a rear suspension block. This helps smooth out the ride by absorbing some impacts and vibrations. Brompton tires are also wider than standard road tires. The wider tires can also absorb some small bumps. 

The smaller wheels also make the ride feel a bit twitchy. This is because they respond faster to steering inputs. A small turn of the handlebars causes the bike to completely change direction. The bike is still controllable. It’s just a bit too easy to turn. 

You can reduce this twitchiness by mounting a front bag and carrying 5-10lbs of stuff in it. The extra weight helps to dampen the steering a bit. After riding the bike for a couple of hours, you also get used to the faster steering. 

Brompton bikes are heavy

A C Line (classic) Brompton bike weighs 24.8-26.7 pounds (around 11.2-12.1 kg), depending on the configuration and accessories that are installed. Brompton bikes are heavy. They have a thick steel frame and an internal gear hub. Many models also come with a rack and fenders. Riders commonly choose to install heavy components such as a Brooks saddle and dynamo hub and light as well.

With accessories and after-market components installed, a Brompton can easily weigh 28-30 lbs. If you’re carrying luggage, such as a backpack or laptop bag, you have even more weight to carry. 

If you’re used to riding a lightweight carbon or aluminum framed road bike, you’ll be surprised by the heavy weight of a Brompton. The weight is comparable to a steel-framed commuter bike with fenders, racks, and lights.

For some riders, the heavy weight of a Brompton bike can make it less portable. If you’re a smaller person, older, or in poor health, you may have trouble lifting and carrying a 28lb folding bike. 

To make the bike a bit easier to transport, you can install Eazy Wheels. These are small roller wheels that attach to the frame and the rack or mudguards. When your bike is folded, you can roll it instead of carrying it. This can really help while transporting the bike over smooth surfaces.

If you care about weight, Brompton also offers some lighter weight options. You could choose one of their titanium famed bikes (T Line). The single speed model weighs just 16.4 lbs and the 4 speed model weighs 17.5 lbs. This weight is much more manageable. It’s comparable to the weight of a carbon fiber road bike. Of course, the price of these bikes is significantly higher. Brompton also offers a performance line bike that comes equipped with lightweight components. It weighs in at 21.8 lbs. 

Brompton bikes don’t perform well off-road

Bromptons are designed to be ridden on roads and bike paths. They are not made for off-road riding. The small diameter wheels get caught up easily on bumps and in holes. The narrow tires can’t handle loose terrain like gravel or sand. Rough terrain also puts excess wear and tear on the frame and wheels. A Brompton won’t last as long if it’s ridden on rough terrain frequently. It’s not what it’s made for.

Having said this, Bromptons do handle smooth dirt trails and gravel roads fairly well. The long wheelbase and low bottom bracket height keeps the bike stable. The suspension block helps to absorb excess vibrations. You can tackle the occasional unpaved road or path if you choose.  

If you want a folding bike that can handle off-road riding, you’re better off with a Bike Friday Diamont Llama or Montague Paratrooper folding bike. Both of these folding bikes are designed for rugged terrain. They are basically folding mountain bikes. 

The small wheels can make the bike look kind of goofy

Some people don’t like the aesthetics of small wheel folding bikes. Riding a Brompton can make you look like a clown riding a tiny bike. Folding bikes with larger wheels look a bit more normal. 

In areas where folding bikes are uncommon, you’ll draw a lot of attention to yourself riding a Brompton. People may stare at you as you ride by or stop you and ask you about the bike. Reactions are almost always positive. Most people are just interested in your odd-looking bike. If you don’t like drawing attention to yourself, this can be an issue. 

A woman sitting on a bench overlooking a beach with her Brompton parked next to her

Who Should Buy a Brompton?

Brompton bikes are ideal for commuters and urban riders who use multiple modes of transport. With a Brompton, you can ride from your home to the transit station, fold up your bike, and bring it with you onto the bus or train. When you reach your destination, you can unfold your bike and ride the rest of the way to your destination. This is often referred to as multi-modal transport. It’s what Brompton bikes were designed for. 

Brompton bikes help to solve the ‘last mile’ problem. This is the problem of transporting people from their home to the transit hub and from the transit hub to their final destination.

Those who live in a small apartment can also benefit from the compact folded size of a Brompton. When folded, you can store your bike in a closet, under your desk, or under your bed. You could even hang it on a wall to get it out of the way. You don’t have a big bike taking up space in your home. 

If you live in a city where bike theft is a problem, a Brompton is a great solution because you can take it with you wherever you go. If you fold the bike and put it in a bag, it looks like a normal piece of luggage. You can bring it with you into most offices, bars, restaurants, stores, hotels, and your home. You never have to leave your bike locked up outside, where it could get stolen. 

Brompton bikes also work surprisingly well for bicycle touring. They are easy to fly with due to the small fold size. There are also a number of excellent luggage options. Brompton offers a large touring front bag. Many Brompton bicycle tourists mount a hiking backpack to the rear rack. You can carry a surprising amount of gear on a Brompton. People have ridden all over the world on Brompton bikes. For more info, check out my guide to folding bike touring.

Who Shouldn’t Buy a Brompton?

If you’re on a tight budget, a Brompton bike probably isn’t for you. They are expensive for what they are. They also require expensive proprietary components when something breaks or wears out. Other folding bike companies such as Dahon, Tern, and Montague offer excellent folding bikes for half the cost. Buying a used bike is an option. The problem is that used Bromptons cost almost as much as new because they hold their value so well. 

A Brompton bike may not be a good choice if your country doesn’t have a Brompton dealership. When you need a replacement part, you’ll have to get it shipped in. Depending on where you live, you may need to pay additional import taxes. You’ll also have to wait for shipping. In addition, you’ll have to perform all of the maintenance yourself if you can’t find a bike shop that will work on your Brompton. 

If you never need to ride public transportation or fly with your bike, a Brompton may be unnecessary. You might be better off with a slightly larger folding bike or even a regular non-folding bike. Some people buy a Brompton and realize that they rarely fold it. This defeats the purpose. Standard on-folding bikes offer better performance and ride quality.

Those who ride off-road or on poorly maintained pothole-filled roads may be better off choosing a bike with larger wheels. The 16” Brompton wheels can get caught up in potholes. They don’t perform very well on bumpy roads. If you’re in the market for an off-road capable folding bike, check out Bike Friday or Montague folding bikes. 

If you regularly need to ride long distances, you may be better off riding a full-sized bike. Bromptons can handle high mileage days but they are less efficient than standard bikes. They also require a bit more frequent maintenance if you’re constantly putting in lots of miles. 

Brompton FAQ

In this section, I’ll answer a few frequently asked questions about Brompton Bikes.

Why are Brompton Bikes so Expensive? 

Brompton bikes are expensive because they are handmade in London. They aren’t made in Taiwan like most other bikes are these days. The frame builders are paid higher wages due to the high cost of living in the UK. UK labor is expensive. This high cost of labor increases the price of the bike substantially. 

Brompton has decided to continue producing its bikes in the UK rather than moving production abroad to cut costs as most other manufacturers have. I imagine branding had something to do with the decision as well. The bikes are made in England. 

The frame is also pretty complex. It features three folding joints and hinges instead of a single fold joint like most other folding bikes. The folding joints and hinges are potential points of failure. The frame needs to be built with extreme precision so it folds properly and aligns the wheels and drivetrain properly when unfolded. Everything has to be perfect for the sake of safety and performance. The frames take more time and skill to build. This increases costs.

Brompton bikes are also brazed instead of welded. Brazing makes the frame lighter and stronger but takes more time and effort. A Brompton frame takes more manhours to build than a standard frame. There is more tube work, fitting, and finishing. 

Brompton frames are also made from high-quality Chromoly steel. Lightweight Bromptons are made from titanium. These are more expensive materials than the aluminum that many other bikes are made from. The benefit is that these materials offer excellent ride quality and are resilient. They have a long fatigue life. 

In addition, Brompton bikes have hundreds of proprietary parts. These parts are necessary because Bromptons fit together differently than other folding bikes. These proprietary parts cost money to design and produce. Brompton has to do all of this work in-house. Proprietary parts are more expensive than off-the-shelf components because they are designed specifically for Bromptons and are made in smaller batches. Brompton can’t take advantage of economies of scale as much as other brands. 

Are Brompton Bikes Worth the Money?

Yes. Brompton bikes are worth the high price. They offer excellent build quality, solid durability, a genius fold design, and surprisingly good ride quality. The Brompton bike is a truly great product. They wouldn’t be around for 40+ years otherwise. 

The folding design alone makes a Brompton bike worth the money for many riders. Brompton offers one of the most compact folding bikes on the market. Bromptons are quick and easy to fold and unfold as well. No disassembly is required. This allows you to take the bike with you wherever you go. This convenience adds an incredible amount of value to the bike, in my opinion. 

The ride quality is also phenomenal, considering the bike’s size. The long wheelbase creates a stable, balanced, and comfortable ride. The built-in suspension block cuts down on shocks and vibrations. Brompton offers a range of handlebar and seat post options to suit different-sized riders. Everything is extremely well thought out. You aren’t making many compromises when you ride a Brompton. On pavement, Bromptons handle almost as well as full-sized bikes.

If you regularly commute to work or school using a Brompton and public transport instead of driving a car, the bike will pay for itself in a matter of months. Some cities and companies even subsidize the cost of a bicycle for commuters. Over time, you can actually save money by buying a Brompton. 

That said, not every rider will get their money’s worth out of a Brompton bike. For example, if you rarely have to fold the bike to ride public transport, it’s not worth the money. If the compact folded size doesn’t matter to you, it’s not worth the money. If you don’t care about aesthetics, build quality or attention to detail, it’s not worth the money. You can save hundreds of dollars by buying a folding bike from a more affordable brand or by buying a standard full-sized bike. 

A Dahon folding bike
There are plenty of other folding bike options on the market. This one is from Dahon.

Do Brompton Bikes Hold their Value?

Yes, Brompton bikes hold their value better than almost any other bike on the market. Age has minimal effect on the value of a Brompton. There are a number of reasons for this. They are well made, the design has stayed the same for many years, and demand is high. 

Probably the main reason that Bromptons hold their value so well is the brand. Brompton bikes are iconic. The company has built a stellar reputation over the past 40 years. Buyers will look past age and condition when buying a Brompton because they know what they are getting.

Supply is also limited. The Brompton factory only puts out about 50,000 units per year. This may sound like a lot but it’s not compared to large manufacturers. When you order a Brompton, you may have to wait several weeks or even months to get it. The lead time is usually around 8-10 weeks. This limited supply keeps prices for used bikes high. Buyers are willing to pay more for a used Brompton so they don’t have to wait. 

Brompton bikes also haven’t changed much over the years. A 10-year-old Brompton appears pretty much the same as a new one. A 4 year old Brompton is worth almost as much as a similar 1 year old Brompton, assuming the condition is the same. This is the case because both bikes are nearly identical. 

There have been a few minor changes over the years that can affect the value slightly. For example, in 2009, the gearing was changed. In 2017, the brake and shifter lever was improved. Bikes with the older designs are slightly less valuable than newer models. It is easy to retrofit, modify, and upgrade Bromptons. This also helps to maintain value. 

The build quality is another reason that Brompton bikes hold their value. The bikes are extremely well made. Brompton also uses quality materials. Bromptons don’t wear out as quickly as other folding bikes. They also require minimal maintenance. People are willing to pay a little more for a bike that will last. 20 year old Bromptons still remain rideable with a bit of TLC. Buyers know this and pay for it.

How Long Do Bromptons Last?

Exactly how long your Brompton will last depends on how much you ride it, the conditions you ride it in, and how well you take care of it. Brompton bikes come with a 7 year warranty on the frame. A well-maintained Brompton can last decades. It’s not uncommon to see 20 year old Bromptons still on the road.

Over time, parts will wear out or fail and need to be replaced. You’ll have to periodically replace wearable parts like the chain, tires, brake pads, and rear cogs. This is the case with every bike.

More expensive parts will wear out as well. You’ll eventually have to replace the rims. The internal gear hub may wear out after 10 or 15 years of use. The folding pedals sometimes wear out or break. 

Pretty much everything that can wear out can be easily replaced. One nice thing about Brompton is the support network. Brompton stocks parts for bikes that are 20 years old or older. Most large cities in the developed world have a dealership. If you keep maintaining your bike, you can ride it for decades. 

The frame is one part that you can’t replace when it wears out. When the frame eventually fails, it’s time to retire your Brompton and buy a new one. If you take care of your bike and treat it gently, you shouldn’t have to worry about that for 15-20 years or more.  

A Brompton frame probably won’t last as long as a standard steel bike frame. The reason is that Bromptons have three hinged joints where the frame folds. These create weak spots. Eventually, the frame will fail. Usually at one of the folding joints. The frames are incredibly durable, considering their complexity.

You can prolong the life of your Brompton’s frame by properly maintaining it. Periodically inspect the frame for damage. Check the alignment of the joints from time to time. Avoid over-tightening or under-tightening the hinges. It can also help to oil the hinges from time to time. Also, try to keep the frame clean. After riding in harsh winter conditions or on a sandy road, clean your frame. Dirt and grime can build up and abrade the hinges and cause the frame to wear prematurely. 

Are Bromptons Fast?

Not really. Brompton bikes do offer fast acceleration due to the small wheel size. 16” wheels are much lighter than standard 700c wheels. They spin up quickly and easily as a result. This is helpful while riding in stop-and-go city traffic. You can quickly accelerate up to speed after stopping at a stoplight. To increase your performance, you can install narrow road tires like the Schwalbe One. This is the fastest and lightest tire available for the Brompton. 

Bromptons aren’t the fastest bikes on the road. There are a few reasons for this. First, the internal gear hub on the 3 and 6 speed models creates some drag. It’s not as efficient as a derailleur drivetrain. 2-3% of your energy is lost transmitting power through the gears in the hub.

The small wheels can also get caught up more easily on bumps, ruts, and obstacles in the road. This can slow you down. You can also lose some speed to frame flex. Your pedaling force can cause the long handlebar post, seat post, and mainframe to flex slightly. Some energy is wasted flexing the frame instead of driving you forward.  

Your riding position also plays a major role in your speed. A more aggressive forward-leaning riding position allows you to ride faster by reducing wind resistance. It’s more aerodynamically efficient. This is helpful while riding at speeds above around 10 mph, when wind resistance becomes the main force acting against you. An aggressive riding position also gives you more leverage to pedal harder. The drawback is that this position is less comfortable.

A more relaxed upright riding position is more comfortable. It also creates more drag. Your chest acts like a parachute. An upright riding position also slightly reduces your power output. This slows you down.

If you like to ride fast, consider choosing the S handlebar. This will give you a more aggressive and aerodynamic riding position. If you prefer a more comfortable and upright riding position, the H bars are a better choice. The M bars offer a nice middle ground. For taller riders, the M bars can offer a more aero position. 

The weight also affects your speed. Bromptons are heavy compared to traditional road bikes. The extra weight slows you down. If you want to ride fast, consider choosing a Brompton with a titanium frame. The titanium frame reduces the bike’s weight by 4-5 lbs. This is significant. 

Can Brompton Bikes Go Off-Road?

Brompton bikes handle unpaved roads and bike paths surprisingly well. The suspension block and flexible steel frame absorb some bumps and vibrations. The long wheelbase and low bottom bracket give the bike a stable ride. You can ride your Brompton on gravel and dirt roads.

Having said that, you should avoid riding your Brompton on rough terrain. The narrow wheels don’t perform well on uneven surfaces. They get caught up in holes and ruts. Riding a Brompton off-road could also void the warranty. According to Brompton, the bikes are designed for use on roads and well-made paths. They are not made for off-road riding.

Final Thoughts About Brompton Bikes: Are They Worth It?

Brompton bikes are better than other folding bikes in a number of ways. Most importantly, they are significantly smaller. This allows you to bring the bike with you everywhere you go. Brompton bikes also offer better ride quality than many other folding bikes due to the frame geometry. The build quality is far superior as well. 

Of course, Brompton bikes aren’t for everyone. They are incredibly expensive for what they are. They are also heavy. Parts availability can be an issue due to the large number of proprietary parts. The small 16” wheels aren’t ideal for some conditions. These drawbacks are all worth considering. Whether or not you decide to buy a Brompton, I hope this guide has helped you in making your decision. 

Do you ride a Brompton? Share your experience in the comments below!

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