If you’re at all interested in bicycles, you probably know what a Brompton is. You’ve probably seen it, perched like a shiny, tiny egg in the window of many premium cycle stores. The Brompton was first launched in 1975 in London. For almost 50 years, it has been the most compact folding bike on the market, and it’s stayed more or less the same.
About 10 years ago, the company announced it was going to start making an electric motor available. Most importantly, the motor wouldn’t interfere with the bike’s signature fold. Well, I finally got a chance to test the new Brompton Electric, which fulfills that promise. Sort of.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been riding it around my neighborhood, feeling profoundly conflicted. It deserves all the accolades; it’s one of the most ingenious bikes I’ve ever seen. But it’s not very comfortable, and the motor is only so-so. The latest Tern Vektron S10 is a better ride, but if you see this Brompton in person, it will be very hard to resist.
The Brompton is minuscule, even when compared to an already small bike like the Vektron S10. The two-speed weighs about 30 pounds and folds into a neat bicycle knot that’s a mere 22 inches tall, 23 inches wide, and around 11 inches long. It fits almost invisibly in the smallest room or car trunk.
The Brompton fold that makes this wizardry possible, however, caused me a great deal of stress for about four to five days. For almost a week, I often found myself staring at a mildly maladjusted Brompton, having to start the fold or unfold over and over again until I could remember the proper sequence. If you’re going to be using this bike on a crowded subway platform, I recommend practicing at home first. In contrast, Tern makes it a point to say its bikes can be folded in under 10 seconds. I don’t always fold it that fast, but it’s easy and intuitive.
One upside is that the Brompton does have a hook to hold the bike closed when it’s folded, and the seat post also locks the fold into place. It will never swing open and bash you in the shins or crush your hand when you’re loading it into a car, unlike a Tern with its easier-to-use but less reliable magnetic lock.
The Brompton Electric has a front hub motor. Unlike other ebikes, which have a big, unwieldy battery hooked on a rack or built into one of the bike’s tubes, the Brompton’s battery and charger are contained in a battery bag that clips onto the front rack.