I had a Brompton for a little while – a decade-old M3L that I enjoyed using. But I found the ride quality to be generally unacceptable. Used to riding premium bicycles, the little quirks of the little bike got on my nerves and built up into intolerance. The Brompton comes in one size, and I find (just my opinion!) them to be twitchy, uncomfortable over distance, and shit for climbing. And in San Diego, you climb.
I sold it to buy a Bike Friday Tikit, which I loved. It rode more like a real bicycle and had standard-components, which I favored over the Brompton’s proprietary pieces and closed-system. At the same time, the Tikit’s fold was larger (as is well-documented and discussed), but not by much. I got used to the ride, and enjoyed it, but it still wasn’t like my other bikes. So it left the stable and went to a good home.
Now I find myself wanted a Brompton again – something my wife and I could both ride as a city bike to do quick errands and keep in the car trunk. I’m ready to accept its limitations. How did this happen!?
Riding the Velíb around Paris had me thinking about the trade-offs that may come with incredibly useful but poor-riding bicycles. No one would say that the Velíb is a fine machine. It does the job, engineered for durability and theft-prevention. The fit isn’t ideal, its heaviness makes it sluggish, and it doesn’t plane (!). But it does the job, and once you accept its limitations, it becomes rather magical and delightful.
I’m thinking of the Brompton the same way, as I’ve seen a few bounce around Paris. It does the job, and then tucks away underneath the cafe table.