Travel much? Been anywhere interesting?
I did a trip to Europe in 2016 and biked around some capitals such as London, Paris, and Brussels. It was an amazing experience, the trip combined work and pleasure so in my free time I unfolded my Brompton and rode all day long. Europe is great for biking, on the first couple of miles you understand that the state takes city biking pretty serious. Everything is prepared and ready to make the ride smooth and comfortable. My next dream trip will be connecting Paris and London by bike, I know they do this on Bromptons every now and then.
The ninth annual Brompton World Championship USA was held on June 18 in New York City as part of the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic. The race is part of a global series of Brompton racing events that take place around the world.
The race begins with a Le Mans style-start (meaning participants must first run to their bikes) to folded-up Bromptons, so quick unfolding skills are certainly an advantage. Racers in the Brompton World Championship must also wear “dress clothes” including a suit jacket and tie. For more info, check out the Brompton World Championship website.Tweet Print
Brompton, the iconic folding bike manufacturer, announced that the U.S. leg of its flagship Brompton-only racing event will come to the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic on Sunday, June 18. While the Brompton World Championship USA is a serious event, with winners of the men’s and women’s races being flown to London to compete in the grand final, the race also offers a visual spectacle that fits with The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic’s community focus.
“Bringing the Brompton World Championship to Harlem felt like a perfect fit. Brompton was designed as an urban bike, letting riders better explore and conquer their cities, and where is more urban than New York City,” said Katharine Horsman, General Manager, Brompton Bicycle North America. “The heritage and community focus of the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic also dovetails with our company ethos. The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic predates Brompton’s founding by just a couple of years, and both brands could definitely be described as one of a kind. I can’t wait to see the reaction from the crowd to the Bromptons, British style and bombastic racing.”
“The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic is focused on re-establishing the race’s community origins here in Harlem. So what better then than to have a race focused on the most urban of bikes,” said Richard Cox, UNITY Sports Productions’ director and organizer of the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic. “We also want to make sure that the event is a spectacle to watch even for non-cyclists. With hundreds of competitors set to showcase not only their racing prowess but also their sartorial style, I believe that the Brompton World Championship will be a very welcome addition to the day’s program.”
The Brompton World Championship USA
The event invites participants to not only compete in the Brompton-only race with its Le Mans start including folding and unfolding of the bike, but do so while dressed to impress. Taking its cue from Brompton’s status as a classic British icon, competitors must do so while wearing suits or jackets, collared shirts and neckwear such as ties or bowties.
Participants can register to enter the event at brompton.com/bwcusa, registration must be completed by June 1; although, with the field limited to 100 participants per race early registration is recommended. Entry costs $50 and the fastest male and female will be flown to London to race in the 2017 Brompton World Championship Final on July 29. Other race categories include fastest veteran, fastest team and best dressed.
Qualifying events for the Brompton World Championship Final take place in fifteen countries around the world including Japan and Spain.
The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic
The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic was created in 1973 by David Walker—a former New York Police Community Affairs Officer in Harlem’s 25th Precinct. The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic was designed as a community event focused on bicycle racing and safety programs for youth. Within three years, the race became one of the premiere attractions of the United States Cycling Federation. Each year the race draws 400+ United States Cycling Federation (USCF, now known as USA Cycling) licensed cyclists from the greater NYC area, nationally and internationally; hundreds of community participants and thousands of spectators to Marcus Garvey Park—the site of the race since its inception.
Since its inception in 1973, national and international champions, as well as Olympic champions have raced the Skyscraper Classic; most notably Nelson Beasley Vails, a road and track cyclist from Harlem. He rode as a professional from 1988 to 1995, representing the USA in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, where he won the silver medal in the 1000-meter Match Sprint. Vails was the first African-American cyclist to win an Olympic medal and he was inducted to the US Bicycle Hall of Fame in 2009. Nelson will participate as an official spokesperson for this exciting event.
Partners of the event include the Harlem Tourism Board, Harlem Community Development Corporation, My Feet Travel, Hoodwinked Escape, Foxworth Realty, Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, NYPD 25 Precinct Community Affairs.Tweet Print
As urban cycling continues to grow dramatically in popularity, Brompton, the iconic folding bike manufacturer, is launching a new and improved version of their two wheeled scavenger hunt. With events planned in five major cities across the U.S., each event will test cyclists to the max on their local knowledge, teamwork and creativity.
Available to everyone on a bike, no matter the age or experience of cycling, the Urban Bike Challenge is a bicycle scavenger hunt run via a unique mobile app. Participating in teams of two to four cyclists, the challenge will be won by the team that scores the most points. Points are awarded through the app in a variety of ways, including visiting locations, completing tasks and solving clues at locations.
“With more than 1.6 million cyclists in New York City alone, urban cycling has rapidly become a mainstream activity in U.S. cities. For Brompton, we’ve always been about celebrating everyday cycling, and the Urban Bike Challenge is a great way for both experienced cyclists and those new to urban cycling to have fun and explore their city,” said Katharine Horsman, General Manager, North America at Brompton Bicycle. “So, whether you’re an everyday commuter or a weekend recreational rider, we encourage you to sign up for a fun day of riding in the city.”
The Urban Bike Challenge series is presented by Brompton and sponsored by Ortlieb and costs $20 per entry. The series will run across the U.S. with events in:
- San Francisco – Sunday, April 16th, 2017 – in partnership with local shop Huckleberry Bicycles and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
- Los Angeles – Sunday, April 30th, 2017 – in partnership with downtown shop Just Ride LA, the LA Bicycle Coalition, CicLAvia and Metro Bike
- New York – Sunday, July 9th, 2017 – in partnership with NYC shop NYCe Wheels and advocacy group Transportation Alternatives
To sign up, please visit here for San Francisco and here for Los Angeles. Sign up for New York will be available in June. Additional partners and locations, including Chicago and Washington, D.C., will be announced in coming months.
“Cycling in the city can have the reputation of not being a lot of fun,” said Zack Stender, owner of Huckleberry Bicycles. “But this challenge shows off the fun factor of urban cycling, allowing people to check out areas of the city often inaccessible to other forms of transport while enjoying a day out riding with friends.”Tweet Print
Brompton, the iconic folding bike manufacturer, unveiled its New York City Edition today, in collaboration with Sarah Canner from VESPERTINE NYC. This limited edition bike is designed around urban performance and visibility.
Brompton teamed up with VESPERTINE NYC, a company that designs and manufactures high-fashion reflective wear, to create 1500 folding bikes branded with reflective graphics and accents. Additional features of the NYC Edition include lime green details, anodized cranks and hub, accented Ergon grips on a flat bar, and a low profile saddle. Each bike also comes with a USB-rechargeable rear light.
“Brompton is thrilled to bring a bike that embodies the excitement of one of the most iconic cities in the world,” said Katharine Horsman, General Manager, Brompton Bicycle North America. “Combining elements from VESPERTINE NYC’s Haute Réflecture® collection allowed us to embrace and combine safety and urban performance, resulting in a bike that will turn heads and look brilliant.”
In addition to the bike, the collection includes accessories such as a waterproof roll-top bag, a merino wool scarf and hat, and shoe laces, all incorporating reflective patterns and designed with cyclists in mind. The knitwear offers warmth, comfort, and visibility from up to 2,000 feet away, combining function with fashion that just might save your life.
“It’s been exciting to work with Brompton on this unique design for their New York City Edition folding bike,” said Sarah Canner, founder and designer of VESPERTINE NYC. “Being able to combine functional fashion and safety wear allowed me to inspire, empower, and protect people on their daily adventures in the concrete jungle. New York City is known as a style leader and this partnership will now ensure that urban cycling is as stylish.”
The basic Brompton folding bike platform hasn’t changed much over the years, but that hasn’t stopped the company from continuously evolving and improving its products. For 2017 the iconic British brand has announced some design tweaks and a new, lower entry price.
A longer stem allows the new handlebar shape to accommodate a more relaxed geometry with increased horizontal grip area.
New gear shifters are mounted to the brake lever allowing for better control of the bicycle while shifting.
The new brass bell is also fitted to the brake lever making it easy to operate.
The new lock-on grips are only 42 grams and can be fitted to all M, S and H type handlebars.
A collaboration with CatEye has led to a new USB chargeable taillight that is built into the saddle.
There are two new colors, a gray and a bright red, and all the standard color options are now priced equally. Customers can mix and match up to two colors on their custom bike without any extra charge.
Brompton’s saddles are now available in two different widths, 147 mm and 167 mm, for improved comfort for all riders.
Finally, because of the strong U.S. dollar and new efficiency improvements, Brompton can now offer bikes as low as $1,199 and a six-speed model with fenders at $1,499, a $200 reduction.Tweet Print
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #33, published in February 2015. Words and illustrations by Ken and Roberta Avidor.
The road trip is an American tradition, but does it always have to be by automobile?
My wife Roberta and I have been car-free for years, but until recently, we were more inclined to travel out of town in fossil fuel-gulping, CO2-gassing jet planes and rented cars. Then we sold our three-story house in Minneapolis and moved to a loft in the Union Depot, a newly-renovated train station in downtown Saint Paul’s Lowertown district. Moving to a transit hub with easy access to local and long-distance buses and trains opened up a new world of travel options for us. We planned to travel by bus throughout Minnesota and record the sights and our experiences in our sketch journals.
We’re fortunate to have a regional bus company, Jefferson Lines, with regular service to the Union Depot. Like Amtrak, Jefferson requires full-sized bicycles to be boxed up. However, they treat folding bicycles as regular luggage as long as they weigh less than fifty pounds.
Brompton to the Rescue!
We purchased Brompton folding bikes, which are lightweight and sturdy. Brompton also has a good selection of bags and accessories; we packed our bikes into Brompton B-bags. We packed our clothes in garment bags that Roberta made and draped them over the bikes inside the B-bag. This helped protect the bike. We packed our art supplies into our Brompton S-bags, which attached to the front of the bike frame.
Traveling by train, bus and bike has facilitated sketching, our favorite pastime. When train and bus service returned to the Union Depot, Roberta and I decided to travel throughout Minnesota and record the sights and our experiences in our sketch journals and on our blog.
Bound for Duluth
Our first bus/bike/sketching excursion in Minnesota was to Duluth from the Union Depot via Jefferson Lines’ “Rocket Rider” bus. Jefferson Lines buses are a great way to travel without a car, clean and comfortable with plenty of legroom. We biked and sketched along the Lakewalk, a paved trail with lots of great scenery. Along the Lakewalk, we stopped to sketch at Leif Erikson Park, Congdon Park and Lester Park. We sketched a thick fog rolling in on the deck of Fitgers Restaurant. We also found a lot to sketch in Canal Park—the famous lift bridge from the deck of Grandma’s restaurant and the fishing boat turned-snack shack called Crabby Ol’ Bills. The Duluth Depot has many historical items to sketch, and there were many attractions in Duluth we did not have time to sketch.
On to Pipestone!
We chose Pipestone for our next Minnesota sketching excursion. It was our first trip to the little city, and we were pleasantly surprised to find it had many visual attractions as well as some unique architecture to sketch. The city gets its name from the red quartzite Native Americans have quarried and carved into ceremonial peace pipes (calumet) for hundreds of years. There are several fine old buildings in Pipestone built with the distinctly ruddy stone. We sketched the sights around town and in the nearby Pipestone National Monument. We also sketched the activities staged for Pipestone’s “Paranormal Weekend.”
We stayed at the Calumet Inn, a nice landmark hotel with a lot of character. It is rumored to be haunted by a ghost named Charlie who once worked as a handyman in the Calumet Inn until a fire on Valentine’s Day 1944 transported him between the worlds of the living and the dead.
We biked several blocks north of the hotel to the Pipestone National Monument. The monument is a treasure trove for artists with a waterfall tumbling over towering pillars of red quartzite and vistas of restored prairie. In the visitor center, craftsmen carve pipes and other items out of quartzite.
Pipestone is also a great place to bike even if you don’t bring your own. Rental bicycles are available for $5 a day at the Ewart Community Center. The Casey Jones State Trail begins on the edge of town near the big grain elevator and runs straight and level through the cornfields. In the distance, bicyclists can see the towering wind turbines of Buffalo Ridge.
We look forward to traveling by Jefferson Lines to other destinations throughout Minnesota and throughout the Upper Midwest.Tweet Print
Brompton Bicycle out of the UK has teamed up with the Sea Otter Classic to host the seventh annual U.S. edition of the Brompton World Championships. The event will take place April 15 in Monterey, California, and registration is now open to the general public.
The race utilizes a Le Mans-style start—unfolding the bike at speed is a fundamental element of success—before racing through the course, all while dressed to impress. Sportswear most definitely is not permitted, with participants requested to instead don suit jackets, collared shirts and neck ties to impress the judges.
Several categories of winners will be awarded upon completion of the Monterey event, including Fastest Male, Fastest Female, Fastest Veteran, Fastest Team, and, in keeping with the spirit of the race, Best Dressed. Winners (fastest male and fastest female) from the U.S. event will be flown to London to race the 2016 Brompton World Championship Final.
The 11th annual Brompton World Championship Final has qualifying events in 12 countries, with the 2016 series final to be held in London, home of the Brompton bike. See our story about last year’s U.S. event, which took place in Richmond, Virginia, along the course of the UCI Road World Championship race.Tweet Print
PRESS RELEASE: It’s not everyday that a cyclist in a suit jacket and tie takes to the World Road Race championship course – and wins. But that’s exactly what happened this past weekend in Richmond, Virginia, host of the 2015 UCI World Road Race Championships. Brompton owners from across the country went head to head in the United States leg of the Brompton World Championship series.
Now in its tenth year of global competition, the Brompton World Championship is contested all over the world. Competitors dress in suit jackets and ties and, on the gun, must run to unfold their Bromptons before racing wheel-to-wheel to the line. Winners from each country win flights to London and entry to the final race in 2016. For real drama this year the U.S. event took place on the same UCI World Road Race Championship course that before and after saw hundreds of the world’s best professionals compete for cycling’s coveted rainbow jerseys.
“This was definitely a banner year for our event,” said Katharine Horsman, Brompton, general manager, North America. “It’s our tenth anniversary and to mark it we competed on the same stage as the leading professional cyclists in the world. We had Brompton owners fly in from as far afield as Boston and Los Angeles to show us exactly what they can do when folding bike meets world class course.”
The top three riders of the Brompton World Championship USA were transplanted New York-area racers: men’s 2015 US champion David Mackay, originally of South Africa but now residing in Brooklyn, and runners-up Richard Spencer of Brooklyn (a U.K. native) and Peter Yuskauskas of Manhattan, by way of Boston. The women’s title was taken by Elspeth Huyett of Pennsylvania, with second and third places going to Julie Secor of Brooklyn (a former women’s title winner) and Ana Zhao of Manhattan.
Other prizes went to Thori Wolfe for top men’s veteran rider and Carol Lee Davis for top women’s veteran, as well as best-dressed awards to Chris Craig of Ashville, North Carolina, and Deborah Lane-Pope of Boston.
“It’s fantastic to see so many Brompton owners from around the country converge for a weekend of good natured but high stakes competition,” said Horsman. “And all the more fun to see it go down on one of the most dramatic professional cycling stages in the world.”Tweet Print
Get your suit jacket and tie ready, the Brompton World Championship USA is coming to the UCI road world championship September 25, 2015. Hosted by Brompton, the iconic folding bike manufacturer from London, the Brompton World Championship series is part sporting-event, part sartorial spectacle. Contestants wear suit jackets along with shirts and ties and run, Le Mans style, to their folded Bromptons. The fastest man and woman to unfold their bicycle and race the one-lap, ten-mile circuit of the UCI “Worlds” course will take winners titles and will be sent to the Brompton World Championship final in London, next year.
Rules for the Brompton World Championship USA are simple. Contestants dress in suit jackets and ties and all Lycra must be hidden. They then run Le Mans style to their folded Brompton bikes and unfold them before speeding off round one lap of the UCI Road World Championships course in Richmond, Virginia. The race starts 6.45 p.m., Friday September 25 and is expected to last one hour with the first entrants completing a circuit in as little as 25 minutes.Tweet Print
Brompton, the U.K.’s iconic folding bike company, introduces its limited-production Brompton Black Edition this April. Limited to just 5,000 bikes worldwide, the Black Edition features exclusive black componentry as well as Brompton’s famous design detailing.
“From frame to accessory, the Brompton is probably the most customizable bike on the market,” said Katharine Horsman, Brompton general manager for North America. “Since introducing Brompton to U.S. customers a few years ago, we’ve become famous for our color combinations. This year we wanted to add something extra, so we came up with the Black Edition, a tribute to urban city night rides and all weather commutes.”
Available at a starting MSRP of $1,458, the Brompton Black Edition is available this April from select U.S. dealers and comes in S (flat), M (upright) and H (more upright) style handlebars with either two- or six-speed gear options. Several key components are matt black with main frame choices available in Black, White, Berry Crush, Lime Green and Lagoon Blue.
“I’m lucky that my job enables me to travel to many cities around the world,” said Brompton CEO Will Butler-Adams. “One of my favorite things to do is to cycle through cities at night, when the roads are often quieter and you see a different side to city life, lit up against the backdrop of the dark sky.
“City life at night was the inspiration behind the Black Edition; we were keen to try a sleek matt black Brompton mixed with pops of bright color, as well as the full black effect.”
Like all Brompton bicycles, the limited Black Edition model is hand made in Brompton’s London factory, brazed and made to exacting specifications and standards.
“We’ve already had enquiries from all over the world for the much anticipated Black Edition,” said Horsman. “It will be available only while supplies last.”
Read more about Brompton from previous reports here.Tweet Print
Editor’s note: Here’s Part 2 of Richard’s amazing adventure: riding a 16-inch-wheeled Brompton up Colombia’s Alto de Letras and having the energy to tell us about it. Part 1 is here for reference. Here’s a recent First Impression report on our Brompton S6L test bike.
By Richard Spencer
From there on, Kath would pass or wait for me every 5-6 miles which meant I only need carry one water bottle and I also ditched the heavy battery pack that was keeping my iPhone charged. The next two meet ups and 11 miles ticked by quite quickly, and after the first one the rain eased and the cloud lifted revealing extraordinary views across the valleys below. I was grateful for a few rays of sunshine which began to make their way through, warming me up and drying me out; I was feeling good and confident that I could complete the climb, but I was definitely tiring.
The fourth meet, at around 40 miles, felt a long-time coming and I knew the dreaded ‘bonk’ was fast approaching. I found myself getting increasingly worked up that Kath hadn’t used any of the perfectly good pull-over places I passed, even though she was just driving six miles on the odometer as agreed, before stopping. My pace had really started to slow and the power in my legs was non- existent; the final 10 miles or so were incredibly tough; above 9,800 feet I was struggling with the thin air, compounded by the five hours of climbing already in my legs and I had to stop completely in order to eat anything.
There’s not a huge amount to say about these final 10 miles; in excess of about five hours on a bike will have me willing the end, even on a flat ride with a group of mates. I was barely aware of the incredible scenery and only the odd car or truck blowing its horn and waving me on gave me cause to smile. It takes a bit of getting used to after cycling in London; in Colombia you are always getting beeped, but when you turn with the ‘what’s your problem?’ attitude that London ingrains in you it’s humbling to see the driver, or the passengers of a packed ‘collectivo’ beaming from ear to ear, cheering you on with raised thumbs, leaning on the horn!
I reached the sign and summit of Alto de Letras after just over seven hours, six and a half on-the-move, all up hill, all on 16-inch wheels and nearly all in the first of just six gears.
The emotion was all relief rather than elation, but this is a monumental and staggeringly good ride. The transition of scenery as you climb from humidity, through rain and cloud, sunshine and showers, to a height where you can see your own breath is an unmatchable experience. After all this, especially under a gray sky, the top is rather underwhelming. But the journey to it is up there with my very greatest on-bike memories, and Colombia has a special place in my heart.
If I was to do it all again, a few riding buddies would be good, and I’d kit the Brompton out with Schwalbe Kojak tires, a smaller chainring and relieve it of fenders, reflectors and any other non essential grams! But I think this is one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ rides, and best left that way. If I could pass just one thing on from my experience cycling in Colombia, it would be this: it’s not the bike that’s stopping you!
After the ride I got in touch with Alejandro via Instagram and discovered we shared a love for traveling with folding bikes. We had occasional contact over the following months and in October we both happened to be in New York on business. We met early on a Sunday morning along the Hudson River cycle path, Alejandro on his Tern Verge X10 and me on my Brompton S6E; we crossed the George Washington Bridge chatting away and clocked up well over 100 miles before a late lunch at the Rapha cafe.
On his road bike Alejandro is pretty formidable and has one of the fastest times up both Letras and Las Palmas, so I was relieved to keep a good pace with him. Both in Colombia and New York having a folding bike has allowed me to do all the riding I could want to, but also to travel by plane, train, bus and taxi without the inconvenience or cost of having a regular bike in tow.
By Richard Spencer
While scouring the internet for cycling routes and riding advice in the Medellin area I came across Alejandro Jiminez’ article on theclimbingcyclist.com. It’s a great read, and details his attempt with 20 others on Colombia’s Alto de Letras. At 12,017 feet, Alto de Letras is the high point on the road that connects Mariquita, at 1,500 feet, with Manizales. It gains these 10,500 feet in one massive 50 mile effort, with only the smallest amount of descending and regaining of height along the way.
It is widely accepted as the longest paved climb in the world, and appears on Strava’s Classic Segments alongside many famous cols and peaks, which it dwarfs! Alejandro’s article really captured my imagination, but I hadn’t ridden in a couple of months, and for that matter, had only done a five week block of cycling in the last six. So I bookmarked the blog, and begrudgingly pushed it to the back of my mind.
Medellin is a charming, vibrant and varied city with a sense of pride and friendliness in its people almost unmatched in the world. I think in part this is just Colombia and Colombians, but particularly with Medellin the transition from a not-so-distant troubled and violent past is so successful and complete that it is no doubt a major factor in this warmth and pride.
The city has a rich tradition of cycling and is home to many top flight pros, among them Rigoberto Urán, along with scores of club racers who would demolish the field on any vaguely ‘hilly’ course in the U.K. But one of the greatest qualities of the cycle scene in Medellin is its openness, lack of pretension and scope and depth of participation.
The city’s Ciclovias—on Sundays, public holidays, Tuesday and Thursday evening—see miles and miles of highways closed to traffic, coned-off with marshalled junctions and taken over by cyclists, runners, walkers and rollerbladers. It’s social, fun, well supported and an institution for the city which I don’t ever imagine will be taken away.
While all this takes place in and around the center, which stretches out down a steep-sided valley, dozens of more ‘serious’ cyclists head up Via Las Palmas; a dual carriageway of sorts, which in 10 miles climbs over 1,000 meters up and out of the city. Here you will absolutely see well-shaved legs, full team kits and $10,000 road bikes, but you will also see enthusiastic teenagers in board shorts on mountain bikes that cost $100 ten years ago, and everything in between.
You WILL be overtaken by super lean athletes riding the most modest of road bikes, a glorious reminder to just get on with it, to get out and ride whatever bike you can! As much as I’m intrigued by the latest tech, having matching bar tape, saddle and sidewalls, shaved legs, smart Lycra and a slammed stem count for nothing as the retirement-age Colombian, with a bum bag, on a retirement-age bike, pushing a ‘vintage’ screw-on cassette gear that has at most 23 teeth, comes cruising past you up a climb. Or a gringo on a 6-speed folding bike for that matter.
At 3,663 meters/12,017 feet, Alto de Letras is widely accepted as the longest paved climb in the world.
Two-to-three weeks into my Medellin ‘training camp’ and I’d climbed Las Palmas a few times, lapped the local park cycling track several hundred times, and whilst analysing Strava for any evidence of improving fitness, I’d clicked that damn ‘Alto de Letras’ bookmark more times than I care to remember. I found myself starting to feel that to be here and not take a crack at it would be a huge mistake. I might not be back in Colombia for years, and if I am, to have the time, and to have had the time to train at altitude create a rare opportunity. I tell my co-worker Kath, we pencil in the final Saturday, and she gets back to learning Spanish as I get back on my bike.
And so it was, with four weeks’ riding in my legs, we sat the Brompton on the back seat of the tiny rental car and set off on the six hour drive to Mariquita. We decided to go the slightly quicker way around, leaving Medellin to the North, mainly because I didn’t think taking a look at the climb on the way in to Mariquita would be anything but demoralising. A few months ago we drove Arthur’s Pass East to West across New Zealand, before turning round and riding back. I’ve learnt my lesson—recon is for pros, I just need to get on with it—I’m not psychologically strong enough to know what’s in store, and then to do it anyway!
The decision to go was made barely 24 hours before we set off, so the hotel was the cheaper of two available via booking.com. Brisas del Oasis was clean, secure, with friendly staff and an air conditioned room with fridge, ticking all the necessary boxes. There are around a dozen hotels in the town, it’s just not so easy to book them online.
I rose the following morning just after 5 a.m. and had a banana sandwich, I snuck out of our room and was on the road by ten to six.
My bike for the previous four weeks had been a Brompton P6L kindly lent to me by Brompton’s distributor in Colombia, El Toma Corriente. The only modifications are two jubilee clips around the suspension block (an improvised but effective lockout), SPD pedals and a handlebar mounted bottle cage.
To my surprise the morning of Saturday, June 28, was cooler than I’d expected, but by no means cool, and the air was close and wet. The first light of the day exposed wispy high cloud, and more cloud shrouding the mountains to the west where I was headed. The initial 10km or so out of town are steep and I had to keep reminding myself not to attack them, trying to keep the Brompton’s first (33-inch) gear turning over smoothly and efficiently.
I’ve grown to quite like the P Type Brompton, but I find the bar a bit high and too flexible for climbing hard out of the saddle. The S Type (with a flat bar) is far superior for aggressive riding, but as I said, aggression wasn’t going to help with more than 40 miles of climbing still ahead! Thankful for having set off early enough to beat the heat for the opening miles I managed to settle into a good rhythm. The biggest challenge for the next hour or so was to remember to keep eating and take the opportunity whenever the gradient eased to sit up, spin and consume some calories.
At around 15 miles I had closed the distance on the cloud and a few thick drops of rain began to slap against my helmet. This soon developed into a full blown thunderstorm and at 22 miles, soaked, I took shelter on a small petrol station forecourt and ate my last gel, watched by a bemused forecourt attendant. I crossed my fingers that Kath had got up and left by 7.30 a.m. as we’d planned, and set off again into the rain as it was too cold to wait around.
As I pedaled I crunched numbers; speeds, times and distance, trying to convince myself that my support car was soon to catch me! Just as I was contemplating imposing myself on a household of locals I heard the pips of a horn and was relieved to turn and see Kath approaching. Despite being a bit cold and very wet I was in good spirits; I was 25 miles in, practically half way, and was averaging just over 8 mph. In the back of the car I put on a lightweight jacket and some waterproof socks while Kath filled my bottles and dug out my glasses, I’d optimistically set off in sunnies.
Editor’s note: Check in soon for Part 2, where Richard reports on how he overcame the dreaded bonk and conquered Alto de Letras.
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.
Brentford, London is home to bicycle maker Brompton. More than 45,000 small-wheeled folders are made each year, with two-thirds exported around the world. Want to see how they’re made, and who makes them? Filmmaker Ben Marshall and photographer Guillermo Becerra captured the action below.
The design adheres closely to founder Andrew Ritchie’s vision when he started the company in 1976, with a few refinements. All Brompton folding bicycle models share the same curved frame, consisting of a hinged main tube, pivoting rear triangle, fork, and hinged handle-bar stem. The main tube and stem are made of steel in all models.
The rear triangle and fork are either steel or titanium, depending on the model. The steel sections are joined by brazing, not welding. Wheels are 349mm (13.7 in) rim size, carrying 16-inch diameter tires. The handlebars and some peripheral components are aluminum.
A Brompton bicycle uses over 1,200 individual pieces, 80 percent of which are manufactured solely for the Brompton design. We’ll be testing the latest model in October. Stay tuned for a first look!
This post originally misstated the number of bikes Brompton builds each year. It is 45,000.Tweet Print
U.K.-made Brompton, the 26-year-old folding bike company, introduced a new worldwide color collection for the 2015 spring season at Interbike. The palette includes Tempest Blue, Vanilla, Lime Green, Lagoon Blue, Berry Crush and Cherry Blossom.
As with every annual Brompton collection, each of the newly colored bikes is handcrafted in the company’s small, specialized West London factory. The company has spent 25-plus years perfecting the now famous, lightweight frame and compact fold design.
“We’re bringing a whole new line of exciting colors and options for personalization to our U.S. retailers in 2015,”says Katharine Horsman, general manager North America, Brompton. “As the numbers of daily bicycle commuters in major U.S. cities continues to boom, we’re constantly working at bringing our customers not only the best possible folding bicycle option for dense urban living, but styles that help them make a statement or express their personality on their way to work.”
New Game Bag, made by John Chapman Limited
The all-new Brompton Game Bag is now available in the U.S, Developed in collaboration with storied British luggage maker John Chapman Limited, the versatile Game Bag will appeal to the Brompton owner and cycling enthusiast seeking a high-quality accessory that reflects the best of British manufacturing and style. It also fits all Brompton handlebar configurations, and includes a water-resistant cover.
“Since we first previewed the Game Bag with select dealers earlier this year there’s been a ton of interest from retailers and consumers alike,” Horsman added. “It’s really representative of what the Brompton brand is all about: a deep respect for heritage and tradition with quality, hand-crafted manufacture and materials as well as some attitude for modern life. We’re expecting it to be a big hit for U.S. dealers and Brompton customers alike.”
Handmade in Northwest England, each bag is crafted from high-grade, premium cotton canvas, providing durable construction and a high level of water resistance for even the most changeable weather rides. Each Chapman bag is also individually quality checked and hand signed at the classic Chapman factory. The historied brand makes all bags in the company’s famous Tannery Road factory, part of an old industrial site dating back more than 300 years. Chapman likes to use high quality natural materials of British origin wherever possible.
Once opened, inside each Game Bag consists of a roomy main compartment, a padded and protective laptop pocket, two zippered bellows pockets at the front and one side pocket. The Game Bag is available in three distinctive color options, Olive Green, Navy Blue and Mustard Yellow and finished with full grain leather and solid brass hardware. Retail is $403.
As Steve Jobs always said at the end of his product presentations, “there’s one more thing.” It may not be as whiz-bang cool as an Apple product, but Brompton now offers a saddle height resetting tool to assist in getting your position redialed every time you unfold and prepare to ride.
Stay tuned for more product coverage from Las Vegas!
Ask any Brompton owner and they’ll tell you, it’s not just a folding bike, it’s a way of life. Since 2010 those owners have been gathering for the Brompton US Championship, an event that combines style, speed and often a little silliness. This year it’s taking place in Washington D.C. Read the full storyTweet Print