Deserted city roads and limited public transport during lockdown encouraged many people to take to their bikes, but as these roads now begin to fill again with cars, buses and vans, cities are considering pop-up lanes and other schemes to get commuters to go to work on their bikes.
Will Butler-Adams, the CEO of Brompton Bikes, thinks he has the solution and wants to get us “whizzing out, having more fun in our cities”. The Brompton folding bike is basically the Swiss Army penknife of the bicycle world. With 16” wheels and a hinged frame, it folds up into a small, light package that can be chucked into the boot of your car, taken into a restaurant, popped under your desk at work, and unfolded in 10-20 seconds for you to dash about with the rest of your life. It’s the ultimate urban bike, with an aim to get its user out and enjoying city life.
Above all, a Brompton is fun. It’s fun to ride. Riding around our cities, discovering their architecture, parks and canals is so much more enjoyable than spending hours under the ground in polluted tube trains. The small wheels mean you’re quick off the mark at traffic lights and much nippier than on a standard big-wheeled bike, and it is fast! There is no worrying about where to lock your bike, no worrying that the weather might not be as good for your journey home (just hop in an Uber with it); its small size means you can take it on public transport and then cycle the last mile home.
The Brompton is a luxury brand item, beautifully engineered, and designed to last for life with its dependability and replaceable parts. It has been handmade in London since 1975 with the same hinged frame and modular design that the Cambridge-educated, exceptional engineer, Andrew Ritchie, used back then. Andrew’s ability to visualise in 3D, and his obsession with detail in his design, set the Brompton apart. He knew he had created a ground-breaking product, but it took him 13 years to get his conception out to the public, as he struggled to get backing from the cycling industry.
The Brompton is definitely not cheap, but it is more affordable than a car. It is built to last, with every part still interchangeable even a decade after buying it. Love it, enjoy it, put it in the car, ditch the car and then ride it, fold it, carry it up steps, over city bridges, then unfold and ride again. Jump in an Uber, or even Eurostar. Take it with you, use it, is the message from the company.
Brompton is encouraging its customers to cycle as much as possible and leave space on public transport for those that can’t. The company managed to keep their production line going throughout lockdown and established a crowdfunded campaign, “Wheels For Heroes”, which supplied frontline NHS workers with thousands of free rental bikes during the pandemic, so they could avoid crowded public transport.
There’s never been a better time to get out on your bike, improve your physical and mental health in the process, help the environment and enjoy our cities. A Brompton bike certainly makes it more fun and achievable, and seems to bring freedom and happiness to its users. As Will Butler-Adams put it “we are surrounded by incredible beauty in nature - let’s enjoy it, chill out, calm down. Time is short, we’re living in paradise, suck it up and enjoy it...”
Written by Jess Scutt for The Guide Magazine
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