Catherine gets a new bike!

A brompton folding bike, in sea green and orange.

Full disclosure:  before this week, I owned 5 bikes: 1) road; 2) mountain; 3) cyclocross; 4) commuter/beater bike; and 5) extra cross bike at my mother’s house in South Carolina.  One might think this was enough.

But no.

It is a well-known fact among cyclists that the correct number of bikes to own is n+1, where n is the current number of bikes one owns.  It’s true.  It’s in fact rule #12 of The Rules, from the Velominati page:

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-8-30-13-am

For cyclists, bikes are kind of like shoes:  there are different ones for every purpose and every occasion, and one wishes to update one’s collection when new features come up.

For me, I have been wanting this bike for a long time.  Let me introduce you to it.  It’s a Brompton folding bike.  Brompton is a British company that has a cult following among road cyclists, bike commuters, touring cyclists, and (most important for me) cyclists who want to travel with their bikes.  What makes the Brompton special is how easily, quickly and compactly it folds.  In order to make that possible, Brompton did some very spiffy engineering and design on the bike.  I could rhapsodize at length about this, but instead I’ll show you.

Here’s the bike folded up (in my dining room):

The Brompton folded compactly

Note that it is stable in this mode, and even has little wheels for towing if you pull up the handle bars (I told you this bike was soooo cooool!).

To unfold it, first pull out the left pedal (it also folds very ingeniously; did I mention the superior design of this thing?) and pull up the seat post.

The Brompton with seat post pulled up

Then you give the handlebars a gentle push to extend them into place.

The Brompton with handlebars in place

Note that nothing is wobbling.  Remember the little wheels I mentioned?  You can, from this position, tow the bike behind you, and it will roll happily along on its little wheels.  If you prefer bigger wheels, Brompton will sell you some.  They have (for the right price), many modifications for their bikes.

One thing I failed to mention:  all the parts secure with little clamps that are easy to tighten and loosen.  At the bottom of the orange (isn’t the color glorious?) handlebar stem is a black thingy for tightening the stem into place where it fits perfectly.

Then you move the front wheel into place.

The Brompton almost ready-- front wheel in place

Notice that it’s still stable– no tipping over in this position.  And, the stem is a little cockeyed-looking, off to the right a bit.  That’s a feature, not a mistake.  It’s just part of the Brompton’s quirky charm.  Now we are ready for the last step:  pulling the bike up, where in one move, the rear wheel locks into place:

A brompton folding bike, in sea green and orange.

The reason I bought this bike is that I travel a fair amount for work– I go to conferences and give talks– and whenever I get where I’m going, I really really wish I had a bike with me.  I’ve rented bikes often (easier in cities with bike share programs– every city should do this), and occasionally brought a bike with me.  But it’s expensive and kind of a hassle to break down a bike, box it up, haul it (paying often $100–180 each way to fly with it), set it up, and THEN finally get to ride it.  If I’m going to a conference for 3–4 days, I’m never going to do this.  But Bromptons pack into either a soft or a hard case that can be checked as luggage without incurring those awful fees.  Yay– Brompton for the win!

But now I don’t have to.  I’ve got my new Brompton!  Also, I got a 6-speed model with flat handlebars to make it the closest thing to having a road bike that I can get with an easy-to-use travel bike.  So Samantha and Natalie– expect to see me at your doorsteps sometime this spring or summer, with my beautiful two-tone Brompton, ready to ride!

Getting the Brompton is actually encouraging me to do some far-away conference travel, too, so I am going to the Netherlands for a conference, and will fit in some easy touring with it.

I can also ride the Brompton around town, and even take it on buses or subway.  It has what I call a modesty cover that you can pull over it, and unzip a bit to carry it (mine weighs around 25 lbs– not bad for a little carrying).

The Brompton with a black fabric cover, with the saddle poking out

Oh, you might wonder:  how does it ride with those little wheels?  The answer is:  very smoothly.  The steering takes a little time (maybe a few minutes) to get used to, but then it moves very well.  Since I got it (4 days ago), the weather has been incredibly cold, then snowy, and now rainy.  ARGH!  But hopefully tomorrow I can take it out and see what it can do.  Will report back on progress.

There’s nothing like a new bike.  Readers, are any of you getting any new gear that you are in raptures over?  Please share your joy or wishes here.

About catherine w

I'm an analytic philosopher, retooled as a public health ethicist. I'm interested in heath behavior change, particularly around eating and activity, and how things other than knowledge affect our health decisions.I'm also a cyclist (road, off-road, commuter), squash player, x skier, occasional yoga-doer, hiker, swimmer and leisurely walker.

16 thoughts on “Catherine gets a new bike!

  1. That’s an awesome bike!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sam B says:

    Totally jealous. I’ve long thought they were super practical for commuting and for travel but I thought they might not be fun to ride. But then I tried my friend Alexis’s bike at a conference this fall and I was totally smitten. Looking forward to seeing new bike in person this summer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • catherine w says:

      You can also try it out; unlike road bikes, the fit is less finicky. There are 3 sizes of seat post and handlebar stem (not sure the right term here, as the geometry is different), but you and I are in the same size subcategory. I will be futzing with fit (mainly done by adjusting saddle) over the next few weeks; will post on progress.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. drspeedy628 says:

    Likewise. And that combination of near-Bianchi celeste and orange is stunning.
    My brother, who’s a mtb-er in normal life, is a total fan and ‘accidentally’ acquired a second Bromptpn (and this isn’t a euphemism for a scheme to get a new bike past his wife – he was going to buy a new mtb then changed his mind but, so as not to disappoint the shop, who’d been very obliging, bought another Brompton instead) that I ride when I’m visiting if I haven’t taken a bike of my own. I really admire the whole design philosophy of Brommies but to ride I prefer my slightly larger-wheeled Airnimal, which does fold but is better termed a ‘demontable’ rather than ‘folding’ as to get it small enough to pack into a bag requires tools. When I had a two-seater sportscar, the Airnimal lived in the footwell on the passenger side.
    I’ve taken the Airnimal touring and on road cycling training camps in Mallorca (where other cyclists envy the tidy suitcase that it fits into) and occasionally off-road. But my brother has taken his Brompton with a full load over some of the climbs used in the Tour de France when it started in Yorkshire (e.g. Buttertubs Pass), which I consider a bit out-of-scope for an actual folder. It just goes to show what you can do even on two very small wheels.

    Happy riding with your new bike.

    Liked by 1 person

    • catherine w says:

      Thanks for the info on the Airnimal– I checked it out and wow, what a great bike! It looks to be close to double the price of a Brompton (more or less), but I do see that you get a lot of functionality for it. I envy you the full-size wheels and off-road capability (Bromptons simply don’t do off-road, I’ve been told). I will do some touring on it this summer (in the Netherlands, so no climbing required). And yes, Brompton folks love to talk about climbing big passes with them– hmmm, will try it out a little closer to home first… 🙂

      Like

  4. drspeedy628 says:

    Forgot to say (and answer your question) – I got a new bike for commuting last month: a gravel bike – so relaxed road geometry, drop bars, 11 speed (no front derailleur), hydraulic disc brakes, full mudguards and fairly chunky cross-tyres. I’m not sure how much I will use it on gravel roads, but it makes commuting in winter in rural Lincolnshire much more pleasant. I’m actually looking forwards to some snow, which normally sees me driving into work, but this bike should cope nicely.
    My old commuter has a pretty full-on road frame with no clearance for tyres bigger than 23 mm or mudguards (fenders, I think in north America), so once the weather deteriorated it wasn’t pleasant.

    Oh, and the new bike is a bright orange frame and pedals with matt black everything else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • catherine w says:

      Congrats also on the new gravel bike. Two of my friends have them, and of course I want one. I like the versatility of different kinds of tires/tyres. And of course disc brakes!

      Like

  5. Jean says:

    Congrats. Catherine? Does she have a name? I had to name my Dahon, because my partner has a different Dahon model. For us to distinguish bikes, when we talk, I call her Baby Dahon …because she is smaller and light. Like you, I have 5 bikes and she’s my only folding bike.

    She will be a great companion for you locally and internationally. One possible way to save bike shipping costs..if you’re willing to pack it this way:

    Buy a soft-sided suitcase that is somehow big enough for her. Put some clean towels, rags to pack around. That way you can check the bike as luggage for $35.00( if flying Air Canada ), not as a bike for $75.00 (or was it $100.00 one way Air Canada).

    I have flown with Dahon several times in its softsided bike bag overseas. It’s fine.

    If going to Europe, just check in advance..if you are on high speed train, you are required to break down the folding bike and put it into bag. You cannot wheel in your bike. But the country specific trains…in Germany, France, you can. We just went to Europe in this past fall with our folding bikes.

    How many lbs. is your Brompton?

    Dr. Speedy: Wow, you’re brother bought 2 Bromptons?? Well, it’s like buying 1 carbon road bike, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jean says:

    Congrats. Catherine! Does she have a name? I had to name my Dahon, because my partner has a different Dahon model. For us to distinguish bikes, when we talk, I call her Baby Dahon …because she is smaller and light. Like you, I have 5 bikes and she’s my only folding bike.

    She will be a great companion for you locally and internationally. One possible way to save bike shipping costs..if you’re willing to pack it this way:

    Buy a soft-sided suitcase that is somehow big enough for her. Put some clean towels, rags to pack around. That way you can check the bike as luggage for $35.00( if flying Air Canada ), not as a bike for $75.00 (or was it $100.00 one way Air Canada).

    I have flown with Dahon several times in its softsided bike bag overseas. It’s fine.

    If going to Europe, just check in advance..if you are on high speed train, you are required to break down the folding bike and put it into bag. You cannot wheel in your bike. But the country specific trains…in Germany, France, you can. We just went to Europe in this past fall with our folding bikes.

    How many lbs. is your Brompton?

    Dr. Speedy: Wow, you’re brother bought 2 Bromptons?? Well, it’s like buying 1 carbon road bike, I guess.

    Like

    • catherine w says:

      HI Jean– it’s still awaiting a name. But it deserves one, as it is quite the beauty (I fell in love with the color combo in the shop and that was basically all she wrote…) I think it’s around 25 lbs, so not very heavy at all. Thanks for the travel tips– I will definitely be traveling with it. For now I just have the black cover, which isn’t for air travel, but I can take it on the subway and commuter rail, as it’s disguised as just black-bag.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jennifer says:

    investing in a bike can have such an impact on your lifestyle. I work with electric bikes and love to hear from people that have become so much more active after taking up cycling.

    Like

  8. Kim Solga says:

    OOOHHHHH A BROMPTON! A BROMPTON! The bike of choice for the savvy middle class tube rider. And Beeb execs of all kinds:

    (This is one of many Brompton gags in W1A, one of my fave recent British satires. Enjoy!)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. natalieh says:

    Yay!
    This calls for another round of my favourite song sung to the tune of Jingle Bells):
    Bikey Bike
    Bikey Bike
    Bikey biking bike
    I don’t care
    If it don’t rhyme
    Bikey biking all the time!

    Enjoy your sweet new ride. Can’t wait to see you & your bike in real life!

    Like

  10. steveinluton says:

    Glad you love the Brompton. Check out London Brompton Club on Facebook, there are loads of little tips with Bromptons that people there share to make things even better. I have two myself – bought the 3 speed, decided I wanted 6 and flat bars a year later (Bertie) but couldn’t bear to part with Bessie so kept her. They grow on you!

    Like

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