Bike Advice - Brompton vs Single Speed & CX

by middlering   October 5, 2013  

I've been dragged, kicking and screaming, by my partner from London (Clapham Junction area) to Guildford.

Amongst many changes inflicted by this move on my lifestyle, one important one is that I can't ride in to work (Farringdon) anymore. The new plan is to ride to the station in Guildford, take the train to Waterloo, then ride on to work. However, since I can't take my road bike on the train to London, this facilitates new bike purchase.

1. Buy a Brompton, fold it and take it on the train (partner's choice), and
2. Buy a cheap SS/fixie to keep in London, and a not expensive CX bike for Guildford end of commute (my choice). Both will be locked at the respective stations when I'm not in town.

Need help with reasons on which is the better choice, and suggestions on any alternatives.

Also, if anyone's selling: looking for a used Brompton, or decently maintained CX & SS bikes.

PS: One final input: we've found shelter on top of a steepish climb that I'll have to ascend after work, and I'm not sure how suited a Brompton is to that task.

20 user comments

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I have a similar commute. Bought a 6 speed Brompton, does the job nicely. Rides surprisingly fast as well if you get the S version with the flat bars and then stick SPD's on it.

Best bit is that it lives under my desk at work, and in my house when I get home so no worries about it getting nicked.

posted by onegreenhill [25 posts]
6th October 2013 - 6:31


I also bought a 6 speed Brompton after much deep thought. It turned out to be my best purchase ever. It will do the job perfectly but also find itself being used for all sorts of extra trips previously unthought of.
Best of all though, if you found that it wasn't for you (unheard off but strange things happen) you can sell it for very little loss! Cycle to work scheme?

posted by hexhome [25 posts]
6th October 2013 - 8:59


I have a 6 speed Brompton. It copes with most hills in SE/SW London. Best purchase I have made in a while. Best bit is that it resides under my desk at work, taking away any worry about theft. Unless you work in an non secure environment.

Plus if you can ascend a steep hill with a SS, then you can certainly do that with a geared Brompton. Try one, you may be pleasantly surprised. I was.

posted by indyjukebox [53 posts]
6th October 2013 - 9:35


Sounds like a Brompton to me if you enjoy a test ride (and that's coming from an ardent fixed fan). The two bikes thing sounds like hassle unless you'd use them for something else? Just make sure the Brompton doesn't become your main bike (Others tell me that's hard to resist!)

The Human Cyclist A blog. Try it, you might like it...

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posted by sm [355 posts]
6th October 2013 - 9:51


You could cycle to Guildford and then walk from Waterloo to Farringdon via Roupell Street and Blackfriars Bridge. I worked in Blackfriars for many years and that took about 15 minutes Farringdon is not that much further. On the days it's raining have an Oyster card handy for the bus.

posted by freespirit1 [196 posts]
6th October 2013 - 10:02


Brompton wins every time. cycle parking at waterloo is a lottery at the best of times. Brompton's last, hold their value, are well built and are nippy.

posted by arfa [558 posts]
6th October 2013 - 10:06


No, having 2 bikes wins every time!

My wife commuted Oxford to Reading by train for a year. She kept a cheap town bike in Reading, and her own bike at our end (Oxford).

This way she could get on any train, no bike to wheel / lug around, no dirty looks from other passengers. And she had a full size bike for both rides. At the end of the year, she sold the Reading bike for £20 less than she paid for it - £20, for a year's transport! (Plus one set of brake pads).

Yes, I know you can take a Brompton on any train. But trains in the southeast are crowded enough as it is.

And this bit of Brompton wisdom - "Best bit is that it resides under my desk at work, taking away any worry about theft. Unless you work in an non secure environment."

Most brompton owners seem to have their own, lockable office. Whereas us junior doctors, we're lucky if we get somewhere to sit down.

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posted by PJ McNally [591 posts]
7th October 2013 - 6:21


Thanks for all the inputs, folks!

Haven't gone either way yet, but did give the Brompton a first try. Picked up one (M3L) from a Brompton Dock outside Guildford station yesterday, and rode it uphill back home.

It was, interesting. While I'd been scared of the climb enroute home, it turned out to be not as hard - rode it out of the saddle in middle gear all the way and made it reasonably well. The ride back to station in morning was, as expected, a total breeze.

While that answered my initial skepticism about its climbing ability, the 'wobbly' steering has again left me unsure. Wondering if it was just for my specific bike, or is it an issue with every Brompton (rotating front + small wheels?).

@PJ McNally & freespirit1 - I like the idea of riding to Guildford station, leaving the bike there and continuing the other end of journey on foot/bus/another-bike. However, having travelled through a few times, not sure about finding parking space near Guildford station (I don't like locking to pedestrian railings and the few proper bike spaces fill up quickly).

Am planning to get the hire Brompton on train to London tomorrow to see for myself how bad does it get in the train, and on mean streets of London with a wobbly front end.

Will report back on the experience before buying anything Smile

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posted by middlering [45 posts]
8th October 2013 - 15:27


Why don't you ride the whole way in and back?'d be super fit with that kinda commute.

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posted by Fringe [1089 posts]
8th October 2013 - 18:20


PJ McNally wrote:

And this bit of Brompton wisdom - "Best bit is that it resides under my desk at work, taking away any worry about theft. Unless you work in an non secure environment."

Most brompton owners seem to have their own, lockable office. Whereas us junior doctors, we're lucky if we get somewhere to sit down.

Eh? I am a junior doctor at GSTT. If not your desk, your consultant/specialist nurse's office etc. They usually don't mind.

posted by indyjukebox [53 posts]
8th October 2013 - 18:48


Ride a Brompton for a few days and what at first seems to be wobbly steering becomes quick steering. It really isn't a problem. If you carry stuff on your commute, then use one of the front luggage options. It does make the bike feel more stable and in my opinion is by far the best method of carrying luggage on any bike.

The bromptontalk forum is a good place to find Brompton info


posted by Pentti [8 posts]
8th October 2013 - 18:56


Been riding 1-speed Brompton for past 16 years 56-13 or 62-13 (until I snapped the crank) used to ride 56-13 fixed on regular bike. Riding a Brompton for past 24 years -total.

Regular hire Brompton is £2.50/day but remember you only work around 250 days/year.

Check your tyre pressures - Bromptons ride fast and lively, wobbly/squidgy can be soft tyres check also rear end play in hinge and headset. Hire fleet is checked regularly but sometimes headsets are hard work to keep right given the leverage on the steerer from a hard rider. If you end up owning go for slicks like kojaks, upgrade to Ergons etc - follow BromptonTalk yahoogroops e-list, (hi - I see Penetti already has posted) for other useful tips, and Meetup with Bromptonites.

Great thing about hire bike is that someone else maintains it and fixes it when it needs to be fixed, great thing about the Brompton Dock is that once joined you can hire from any public system, currently UK but expect it soon in Europe/US.

Speaking of which Brompton Dock are always looking for partners who can buy in and place a unit on their site. Once use goes up past a target level, the partner gets a cheque as their percentage of revenue, after operating costs are paid. A couple of sites already getting quarterly payments. Docks are not branded but bikes can be.

University of Greenwich has 3 units on a private system - free to staff and students during the week, pay for hire at weekends, as it offers a better service than the inter-site buses which cost a small fortune to operate, to get people between sites. A West London company HQ has done something similar as it saves around £9K/year for every employee who doesn't demand a car parking space on site.

Nearest sites to Central London at present are Whittington Hospital (NHS partner) and Peckham Rye (with Southern Railway). Now one near Farringdon.....

I count up bikes on the trains I use regularly and also if I'm hanging about at Waterloo. 40% of the bikes leaving Waterloo during morning peak are Bromptons. There are well over 120 SWTrains Bromptons out on hire, so you'll easily see one or two, many from the original scheme which started in February 2009 - over a year before the Barclays scheme (Brompton do things steadily and fine tuned the original Waterloo and Guildford schemes before the big push to put more docks on the ground).

When I'm coming in to Kings Cross from Stevenage we get 1-2 folding bikes per carriage on an 8-12 coach train. Sometimes a small 'train' of Bromptons heads out after an arrival, and the group start from the traffic signals at the South end of Pancras road is rather impressive, as the pack slips in to a mini peloton heading down towards Tavistock Place.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [509 posts]
8th October 2013 - 19:18


Forgot to say that you should test ride an s-type. I tried the m-type and p-type, but didn't like the flex in the bars.


posted by Pentti [8 posts]
9th October 2013 - 2:01


I had a Brompton for a year and while I can appreciate how people become attached to them, we just didn't get on and eventually parted company. I now ride the whole journey instead of bike train biking it. However I would rate your chances of keeping 2 bikes un-stolen and un-vandalised at a station as very slim (Unless you have a locker) so a folding bike is probably your best option.

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posted by joemmo [933 posts]
9th October 2013 - 7:40


Depending on how far your home is from Guildford station, I'd just get an annual Boris Bike membership and use those. No theft or maintenance worries then.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [1020 posts]
9th October 2013 - 8:25


After a similar debate I ended up with a folder. I didn't get a brompton but wished that I had really.

The pitfalls of the two bike approach are just too great for me (security, maintenance, dealing with breakdowns etc.)

posted by Matt eaton [520 posts]
9th October 2013 - 10:53


Brompton for me too. I'm on my second, this one part funded by the CycleScheme and I sold the older one for far more than I expected.

As well as being an asset it makes the commute fun and you can participate in the Brompton World Championship and Nocturne folding bike races.

The downside is that Bromptons go through tyres, chain and sprockets a lot quicker than you'd expect, probably due to small tyre radius and low slung derailleur.

posted by Old Cranky [276 posts]
9th October 2013 - 11:53


I'd love an excuse to get a Brompton!* Aside from that, it sounds like with the 2 bikes approach you're more likely to find yourself dealing with maintenance, parking and vandalism etc. problems so that in itself would probably swing it for me.

*I've never ridden one, mind.

posted by Chuck [441 posts]
14th October 2013 - 11:42


Sorry to arrive so late, but what did you decide to do?
I found the steering of the Brompton incredibly twitchy on my first rides, but soon got accustomed to it and, as previous posters have said, it now feels fast and responsive. Luggage on the front helps handling. I've got the flat 'S' type bars and absolutely love the Brompton in traffic.

posted by AAN [8 posts]
8th April 2014 - 6:40

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I have a Mezzo D9 (9sp) as, when I bought it, I couldn't be bothered to wait 3 mths for a Brompton. More 'bang for your buck' (£730ish incl mudguards, rack etc that are all extras on the Brompton) than a Brompton and they use standard components so you can upgrade if you wish. The Mezzo does look a bit 'odd' but I think it comes from the Whyte bike 'stable' which possibly explains things. It did ride better than a Brompton when I tried them out but you do run out of gears on a decent hill (I'm going to change the cassette to get a lower gear). To be honest I thought the Brompton looked a bit 'cheap' (for the price) when I was looking at them. Brompton's are obviously all the rage but I often wonder whether that makes them more susceptable to being nicked. Compared to a normal bike any small wheeled machine is a 'pig' to ride but that's the trade-off for the convenience. Another make is Birdy (similar fold to the Mezzo) which has suspension but they're +£1000.


posted by Shades [245 posts]
8th April 2014 - 9:26

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