Giggling away to oneself – a year with a Brompton

I have to confess that since I bought my road bike I have neglected riding my Brompton. I guess it’s partly the fun of a new toy, and partly down to finding the road bike so much easier and more exhilarating to ride. It’s true, and anyone who says otherwise is a little bit dishonest.

The thing is, you don’t buy a Brompton to do the same sort of rides you would do on a road bike, that’s not to say you can’t, just that that it wasn’t it’s original purpose. The Brompton is, at heart, a city bike. This doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of a whole lot more; I’ve taken my Brompton on terrain I wouldn’t dream of taking my carbon fibre road bike on with its 25mm skinny slick tyres.

I know there are people riding Brompton’s on all sorts of terrain over all sorts of distances, and all around the world. It is a superbly capable machine, but if you are honest about it’s design, it was made for getting you to and from the office – home to train, train to office, office to train, train to home. It was made to fit under your desk, and behind the train seats. That is where it excels. That was it’s “purpose”.

But people have found there are far more uses to the little folding commuter bike: There is even a World series of Brompton races, and they’re great fun. But one of the criteria is that you have to race in normal office attire. This tells you about its original design and function, about its ‘home’ in the city melee. Even now there is a nod to it’s original purpose, and the launch of the adventure version has done nothing to change that. Riders have been adventuring, and touring, with their Brompton’s since they first came out, and the newer factory adventure version is just an acknowledgement of the adaptations that riders have made themselves to this wonderful little machine.

When I lived in Fort William I was surrounded by off road trails; I therefore owned and rode a mountain bike. When I lived in flat Lincolnshire, and Suffolk before that, I owned and rode a road bike. I had a basic hard tail mountain bike which I took on the off road trails there around the forests. It has always been a case of horses for courses. It is this that makes cycling interesting, and also why the correct number of bikes to own is always the current number owned, plus one.

Living in the city of Edinburgh I own a Brompton, for riding in the city, and a road bike for getting the hell out of here. I like a country lane, but I fear the statistics of the 30% rise in fatalities on country roads compared to the city. I know what the city is like, and I know what was the countryside is like. I have taken my city bike out of the city on many occasions, and even rode it off-road on a basic trail. It did well, although I would have worn a sports bra had I expected the trail to be quite that rough in places.

I can see why people put their bikes on their cars and drive to safe places to cycle! I wish they’d remember they were cyclists when they close pass those of us still on our bikes mind…

But I digress (I’m good at that). The Brompton is at home in the city. I took it out again the other day for a change from my road bike. I blogged about it. I wobbled about a bit for a few hundred yards until I got back into the swing of the funny little wheels. I re-loved the turning circle, and the shear fun of it. I grinned whilst riding it again. I remembered why I bought it, for the fun of it as well as its convenience in the city.

By the time I had gone into the city centre and back out again, I was laughing. I swung around the small overcrowded lanes, through the parks, around the cycle provisions (such as they are), I enjoyed the new wand’ed sections of roads less fearfully than in their unprotected past. It was in it’s element and I with it. There was a rain shower, but the mudguards kept the dirt from me, and my Brompton luggage kept my stuff safe and dry. I stopped off for a shop and folded it up and carried it inside. I put my shopping in my front bag, unfolded the bike and carried on my way. I stopped for a coffee where I folded it and put it under table. I sat in the outside seating area and admired the traffic. The fumes detracted a little from the taste of the fine Italian coffee.

I pedalled past cars stuck in jams, I pedalled past lorries belching out fumes, and I got overtaken by an electric cargo bike on the cycle path. A little girl cycled next to me for a while and told her dad she wanted ‘one of those bikes’. Not sure it wasn’t just the sparkly metallic purple paint colour of my Brompton that made her make that announcement, but it could also have been the mutual grin on our faces. To a child I hope I looked like I was having as much fun as she was. Cycling on a Brompton is like being a child again.

By the time I pulled up and into the driveaway, pushing the bike past my car (which has only done 3,000miles in the last 12months, the year since I got my Brompton), I was actually giggling. My partner thinks I’m mad at the best of times, but he also knows how invigorated and how happy cycling makes me. Long may it continue. One year with my Brompton, and many more happy years to come.

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