By Turbo Bob
As Barbara and I stepped off the train in Kew Bridge, a suburb of London, England, I could feel we were in for a treat. I had been anticipating this visit for months. Ever since Bert at NYCeWheels had given me my first taste of the Brompton world, I have been wanting to learn more about it and how it came to be. Where better, than the place they are designed and built?
Way back, I mentioned in an article I wrote for the NYCeWheels, about how great it would be to see this place. I was just dreaming then, but the reality was coming to be. I had heard different stories about people getting to tour the factory, but as I investigated it more, it seemed that things had changed after they moved to this bigger and better organized facility. What to do?
Riding the Brompton bike that Bert sent me was a continuous thrill. Showing it off and letting friends and strangers ride it, proved to me how nice a bike it was. The smiles and complements came on every test ride. I took it on many solo runs, night jaunts, and group rides. I rode the trolley with it on many occasions too. The fact that it had the Raw Lacquer finish made it that much better.
Don’t know about Brompton bikes?
If you aren’t familiar with this strong, fast folding bike, do a little investigative work to find out more. It is a rock solid bike to ride. It folds so small you can hardly believe it. It is made with a quality and precision that could qualify it as a work of art. The color palette and combinations of colors allow you to personalize it to your own style. If you travel by bus or train, work or live in a small or multi-floored building, it is ‘the’ bike to have.
Conceived and designed by Andrew Ritchie (who we got to meet, by the way) in 1975, this bike has been molded and refined into the bike it is today. The original prototype and two others are hanging in the entrance hall as you enter the factory. You can easily see the roots that have grown into this wildly popular fold up bike. The bike is still evolving as technology and ideas expand. They are not resting on their successful laurels at this factory. The engineers are as busy as the floor staff.
Our trip to Europe had been in the planning stages for a while. I had web searched the factory to check on tours of the grounds. Not to be, said every avenue I checked. I messaged Bert (at NYCeWheels) about our desires to include the tour as part of our vacation. As the great folding and E-bike ambassador he is, a quest started for him to find me a way in the front door. He to came to many dead-ends, as he worked to fulfill my desires. Finally, he found just the right person to say yes. Hannah Mellow, a PR expert at the firm, oked our visit.
My folding bike connection
She might have been stretching the lines for me, but I am a dealer spokesperson for NYCeWheels. The proof is in the article you are reading right now. So as we rounded the corner of the street, Hannah opened the gates and let us in. I do believe the general public won’t get the same treatment, but just open a copy of their sales brochure for a near-same experience. You can see it online here. Better yet, pick one up at your local dealer.
What we saw and witnessed in the Brompton Bicycle factory was pure magic. Well organized work stations. Computers checking design and engineering up-dates. Stress testing machines hard at work. Happy employees plying their well understood trade. Raw materials being formed, brazed, and quality checked. Front office personnel busy with the day-to-day numbers and data. Racks of tested bikes ready for delivery. And finally, trucks being loaded with someone’s future dream machine.
Brompton bike factory runs like magic
Like a well oiled bike, the crew at Brompton has things under control. I wanted to stop and talk to every person. Poke my head in every cubbyhole. Run the specially made machines that help create the Bromptons. But it wasn’t my place to interfere. We watched, listened to Hannah, and enjoyed the action without touching and doing. I wasn’t there to build a Brompton folding bike, just watch and learn about the process.
I do think that Hannah could build a compete bike herself. Her knowledge of each process and machine was uncanny. My hat (don’t really wear one) is off to her and the way she treated us. She is just one cog of a big machine that brings the world this loved folding bike. What a great thrill to witness it all in person. Thanks to Bert, Hannah, and the entire staff of Brompton people for a wonderful morning. We finished off with a photo op on two bikes, one a red, white, and blue prototype. As we re-boarded the train, I couldn’t help but feel like we were one with everybody involved with the process of bringing folding bikes to the riding public. And then I thought, I should have asked for a souvenir. I guess a great memory and a load of photos will have to do.
“The bicycle is the common man among vehicles.”—James R. Starrs, The Noiseless Tenor