There are several adventurous traveling cyclists on our staff, and many own or have tested folding bikes. Me? I’ve tested and owned several folders as well, and even sold them at my shop in Dayton, Ohio ten years ago. That’s why I volunteered to take delivery of a new Brompton S6L to test and review, knowing full well Brompton doesn’t change anything unless it’s absolutely necessary.
After discussing my intended use and sharing personal stats like height and weight with a Brompton U.S. representative, a 26-pound S (straight bar) 6 (speeds) L (fenders) model arrived, fully assembled from the factory, courtesy of Calhoun Cycles in Minneapolis. All I had to do was unfold the non-drive side pedal, raise the seat, flip up the rear wheel, and tighten the clamped collars on the ‘top tube’ and ‘stem’. Voila! Ready for business in 12 seconds (it most likely will take newbies two to three times longer, but the process becomes quickly intuitive):
All Bromptons have been designed for 16-inch wheels and made from steel since the early production days dating back to 1981. A titanium version is available (the rear triangle, fork and folding pedal spindle are made of titanium; everything else remains steel) to save some weight (in some cases, a few pounds), both on the bike and in your wallet (nearly $1,000 more).
The Schwalbe Kojak tires are bald (hence the name, a reference to the Telly Savalas television character from the `70s), have a Kevlar bead for puncture protection, and can take up to 115psi for smooth rolling.
The Straight-Bar option sets my grip height at 935 millimeter/36.8 inches, which has been ideal for all the street and bike path riding I’ve done so far. The thumb shifters take a little getting used to because most of my riding is on drop bars with integrated brake/shift levers. This all levels out after a mile or so.
Specs and such
Here’s a spec and price breakdown of my S6L: the base price of the S model is $1,255. Adding a 6-speed drivetrain is $212; fenders is $89; Turkish Green main frame color is $49; Arctic Blue rear triangle, fork and stem is $49; telescopic seatpost for saddle heights over 35 inches is $62; upgrading to Schwalbe Kojak tires is $33; and a front carrier block is $24, for a grand total of $1,773.
The Brompton saddle is standard, and the rear suspension choices are Standard (lightweight folks who ride and pedal smoothly, according to Brompton), and Firm (riders over 170 pounds who don’t mind sacrificing a softer ride for durability and a more responsive ride). I weigh close to 185 pounds fully dressed, so Firm it was.
After a few pedal strokes I didn’t feel like I was riding a bike with small wheels, let alone a folding bike with small wheels. The 41.2-inch wheelbase mirrors that of most commuting bike with standard 700c wheels, and the smaller rear triangle and steel ‘stem’ keep traction in check; the bike never felt squirrely in corners or tight-radius turns. My personal 2004 Brompton T6 model’s wheelbase is nearly three inches shorter, so the difference was noticeable.
I have a few trips on CalTrain to San Francisco planned, so I’ll be testing out the Brompton’s portability in its native environment, both on the train and on the mean streets of the City by the Bay. Stay tuned for a complete review in Issue #33, on sale February 17.