My new Brompton foldable bike

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The Brompton: On the Thursday I collected it, the haze had  broken and I had my first ride.

When my kids were little, I bought them bicycles. Now they bought me a Brompton foldable bike for my sixtieth birthday, several weeks in advance, before the clearance sale ended. They knew I wanted it because I had talked about it. They had also seen me searching for a pre-used Brompton at the togoparts website. The sale had gone on for several weeks but I was blessed to have a cobalt blue version which was available only in the H6R model, which was the model I had wanted. The H handle-bar enabled me to have a more comfortable upright posture when I ride. The handle bar looks like the M bar but is two inches taller.

When I ordered it the haze was thick. When I took delivery of the bicycle, it was a Thursday, 8 October 2015.  That day the sky was clear and I could ride the bike that day and the next few days. What a blessing it was, especially after almost a month of staying away from outdoor activities.

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The Brompton in kneeling posture.

Compared to other foldable bikes the Brompton is not the clear winner. It is made of steel and quite heavy at over 10 kilograms. The parts are proprietary and modification is limited. The wheels are small at 16 inches. The basic body shape has remained the same and there are no other models or departures from this classic design. It is a good ride but a rather expensive one at $2,780 before discount.

A great compact fold that works for daily commute and storage.
A great compact fold that works for daily commute and storage.

What makes the Brompton a winner is the fold. The fold is the best ever for the kind of comfortable commuter or leisure ride that the average person would want. Its fold is compact with nothing sticking out. After folding it can stand stable and it can be placed in a luggage bag for travel. It is mobile and easily wheeled around. You can take it into your home or office without occupying much space. You can commute with it in the car boot, or take it into the MRT during off peak hours. You can push it around in the shopping mall too.
The marketing of Brompton is superb. It is made in Britain and nowhere else – the pride of British engineering with the bike joints skilfully welded by hand. In addition, the marketing helps the Brompton to exude the classy image of a British gentleman in his top hat.

Brompton bikes have a cult following in countries where they are sold. Brompton owners form clubs and participate regularly in cycling excursions and charity events. They have a kind of fellowship of the wheel. I have joined one such Facebook club, to trawl for pre-used accessories on their website. You don’t just buy a bike you buy an image, a fellowship and a good and highly portable ride.
The Brompton bicycle is like a good Pentecostal. He is modest the way the main body of the bike is low. However no matter how low a profile he keeps there is that bit of attention it cannot help but attract. The bike also has a kneeling position when it rests. I like this unique feature – it’s like the bike is praying on its knees, the way a good Pentecostal should. This is often a conversation starter with other cyclists and strangers. In addition, the Brompton is highly mobile and ready to go the way a good Pentecostal is ready to go with the the good news even to other cities and countries. The clearest evidence that the Brompton is pneumatically filled is the pleasant clickety-clack of the wheels in motion, a bicycle version of speaking in other tongues. I know quite a number of pastors that own a Brompton, and they are Pentecostals!

Ubike: best value for money foldable bike?

I have been in conversation with him about folding bikes. He owned a mountain bike before but wanted to get a foldie. He researched Brompton, Dahon, Vert, Jazz and other foldable bikes and went to the bicycle shops to examine. His conclusion is that the Ubike is the best value bike in Singapore at the moment.

Brompton and its long tradition was certainly an attractive option. However he is one who is not into brands and will look at comparisons with an objective eye. He finally bought a Ubike citizen selling at SGD$980 for one main reason: it gives him the best value for the buck.

For one thing he found the Taiwan manufacturer is a tried and tested maker of durable bikes for many cities in Europe. This is their foray into foldable bikes and they won an award for design. The parts are Shimano and can be easily upgraded or replaced, unlike the proprietary Brompton. It came with mud guards and a rear rack. It has over 20 gear shifts. It’s frame is aluminium and when folded it can be pushed like a wheel barrow. Best of all you can actually buy 3 Ubikes for the price of one Brompton.

Sek Hong and me at the Promenade
Sek Hong and me at the Promenade

So when Sek Hong bought the bike I was eager to have a look and try it out. He came over from Holland Road and from my place in Jurong we cycled to the Jurong Lake Park Connector. I showed him the promenade, the fountain, passed by the entrances to the Chinese Garden and the Japanese Garden, and passed the view of the Jurong Country Club golf course.

At the end of the one way route, I tried out his bike. The bike aesthetics were good: paint, colour, the frame, the handlebars and tyres. The ride was smooth, effortless and quiet. There is no suspension but for recreational riding on the park connectors this does not pose a problem at all.

He was bowled over by the scenic and breezy ride. “I don’t know why you bother to ride the Ulu Pandan PCN when you have such a pleasant ride here.” “Yes there is no need to, but I do it for variety and to eat at Ghim Moh or Teban Gardens.”