Brompton Building Blocks – A Visit to the Brompton Factory

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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?

A content Brompton employee puts the finishing touches on this great folding bike

A content Brompton employee puts the finishing touches on this great folding bike

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

Fantasy Vacations on a Folding Travel Bike: The Scottish Highlands

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Travel folding bikes are a blast.

Travel folding bikes are great for bicycle touring.

The Scottish Highlands are one of the most beautiful places on earth. The variety of landscape and depth of history around every bend are sure to light the imagination… or so I’ve heard. In fact this is just another fantasy vacation I dream about! But really, just look at that view! It’s incredible! Scotland has such an epic, vast feeling to it, I would love to ride a travel folding bike there.

Scotland is perfect for a travel folding bike

Scotland is uniquely suited to folding bike travel because of its free to roam law, which allows you to camp wherever you want on public land, and great rail system, which allows bikes on free. This means you have a great web of rapid transit and miles of miles of free camping in between! Add in a folding travel bicycle which folds to the size of a small suitcase and you have a perfect recipe for an awesome bike tour. In my fantasy, I’ll be taking a few relaxing rides through the country side, then moving on to the next local by car, train, and bus, so there is nothing better than a travel folding bicycle.

For this fantasy vacation, I’m going to bring along a . The Brompton is perfect for Scotland because it is durably made in England. With lots of sturdy hardware, it can be decked out with a host of racks and bags for carrying all the essential camping gear, plus a few bottles of whiskey I’m sure to acquire along the way. And because I have to fly over the pond to get there, a custom flight case from Samsonite will keep my Brompton a travel folding bike and not a broken folding bike.

Now that I’ve got all that I need, it’s time to get on to my first destination: a tour of whiskey distilleries on Islay Island. This way I can do all my drinking in the first two days, and ride it all off before coming home!

A travel folding bike makes getting around easy

On day one I fly into Glasgow, Scotland. Kennacraig is pretty far away, luckily I have a friend in Glasgow who can drive me (hey, it’s my fantasy right?). My travel folding bike fits right into his trunk, which is great because he doesn’t have a bike rack, and I don’t want to buy one. Two and a half hours later, in Kennacraig, I say goodbye and thanks to my imaginary friend. Then I unfold my Brompton travel folding bicycle and ride to the ferry. Already I can feel the mystique of the islands coming alive. Just across the sound of Islay, in Port Ellen I’ll begin my journey.

On the hour and half ferry ride to Port Ellen, I get lots of questions about my Brompton. Unfolding it on the deck gathers a small crowd of locals, all curious as to where I got such a cool bicycle. It’s fun to show off my the folding action, by the time we arrive I’ve unfolded and folded it so many times I could probably do it with my eyes closed!

In Port Ellen it’s time to get on the way. I’ve got a hankering for some fine whiskey, and this is the place to find the best in the world. There are several distilleries on Islay, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg to name a few, and they all do guided tours. Perfect! The island is relatively flat, with lots to see, a great combination for bicycle touring. After a great tour of the island, I decide to call it a day. The beauty of the Islay Island is intoxicating, or is that because I toured 3 distilleries in a few hours?

Bicycle touring abounds in Scotland

There are so many amazing locations in Scotland that I might have to cut my journey short, or write a book. A travel folding bicycle sure makes it easy to get around. It’s great to be able to take a one on a train or bus without a hassle. As an added bonus, whenever I need to get a hotel, I can take it right up to my room for safe keeping.

Folding travel bikes take all the road blocks out of bicycle touring, that’s why I love to fantasize about everywhere I could take them. Check back later in the week for the last installation of this three part series. In the mean time, take a look at some of these awesome travel folding bikes, the perfect bike for the world traveler.