Saturday, 18 October 2014

Brompton back in action - fully

Over a year since it had to go in for a service, my Brompton is now 100% what I wanted it to be - thanks to Brompton's superb customer care (stepping in when the local agent couldn't get the parts). I finally got the 44-tooth chainwheel needed to make the bike ride and fold properly. The 46-tooth chainwheel - fitted when the bike went for a service three years ago was a disaster - only two teeth more, and yet twice the chain tensioner snapped while the bike was being folded; and when folded, the rear wheel became immobile, preventing the correct stowage of the left pedal.

Along with the chainwheel, Brompton sent me the basic rear mudguard (the bike was originally fitted with a luggage rack, which I neither needed nor wanted, but it was there on the ex-demo factory bike I bought). This is lighter than the rack and not prone to rust. And a new-style Brompton saddle, which doubles as a carrying handle when the bike's folded.

The bike is easy to work on. To remove the luggage rack and replace it with the new mudguard, I needed to replace the rear wheel. This is slightly harder than on a bike with derailleur gears, because the shifter chain needs to be carefully replaced in the same position as before so that all the gears work. But fortunately, Brompton has a whole lot of technical videos posted on YouTube to help you out (see below).

I fixed the rear mudguard, replaced the rear wheel, pumped up both tyres and moved onto the saddle. This is a huge improvement over the original. The Allen-key bolt allows easy and precise adjustment (it is crucial you get the angle right for comfortable riding). Under the saddle's nose is a sculpted handle that just begs you to pick the folded bike up by it. The new-style Brompton saddle is probably the greatest single innovation brought to the bike since it was originally launched.

Finally onto the chainset. I removed the old, 46-tooth chainwheel using a crank extractor (a very simple procedure if you have the tool), and replaced the new, correct, factory-issue 44-tooth one. Excellent! All of a sudden, the Brompton returns to its original glory. Now it folds and unfolds easily and quickly, just like it did when it was new - I don't need to worry that the chain tensioner will snap or that the chain will come off.

So then - here it is - back to life - my Brompton. The ideal form of urban transportation, used in conjunction with a quarterly travel pass. Lively to ride, a real bike - not a toy like some folders. I've ridden this bike over 100 miles (from Ealing to Bath) and can vouch for its seriousness. Below: as nature intended - no third-party bolt-ons, all pukka factory bits once again.

Below: new Kevlar tyres, new mudguards, grips, cables, brake blocks, chain, saddle - and most importantly - crankset. Note the small wheel on the rear mudguard - this provides rolling support to the back end while the bike is being folded.

Below: the crucial still from the Brompton instructional video, explaining how to correctly adjust the gear-change chain in the three-speed Sturmey-Archer hub. My one's 24 years old and still working fine.

Below: Once folded (which is quick and easy) the Brompton takes up little space. I have no problem stowing it in my office. Here it is in the garage.

Below: the serial number stamped on the frame - one of the first 3,000 built. Since then, over 300,000 more have left the factory, so mine's an early one. I've had it since 1992. Since 1997 it's been in Warsaw - probably the very first Brompton here. Despite the problem with the wrong chainset, the frame remains in perfect working order. Now the drivetrain is fixed, I intend to keep it this way. The most important lesson - had I checked that the right-hand pedal was screwed tightly into the alloy crank-arm, it would not have stripped the thread, leading to a problem that took a long time to fix.

Below: the crucial bits - the rear-triangle fold, crankset, chain tensioner and new Brompton Kevlar tyres.

The Brompton is not a cheap bike, but it is built to last - it is an investment; buy one and it will serve you well and hold its value (like a Morgan or Harley-Davidson). In Poland, you can buy Bromptons at AirBike, just off Al. KEN in Ursynów.

Brompton's website is excellent as is communication with its technical staff, who are very keen to help the customer. Not something one would expect from cheaper Far Eastern fold-up bikes.

The Brompton's fold, invented and patented by designer Andrew Ritchie in 1979, has yet to be bettered by a more practical and robust system. Evolving all the time (minor improvements boosting ride and strength), the Brompton is without doubt the best folder in existence and well worth the investment.

This time two years ago:
Pl. Zbawiciela rainbow gets torched for the first time

This time three years ago:
Why no one is Occupying Warsaw

This time four years ago:
Of electoral sausages and town drains

This time five years ago:
In search of the Sublime Aesthetic at 36,000 ft

This time seven years ago:
London from the air

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, you say "Below: as nature intended - no third-party bolt-ons, all pukka factory bits once again."
So are the Grips & Break Levers original to Brompton?
A surprised Brompton rider.