The folding nausea of Brompton

November 2012.  Musings of a long distance commuter.

The Principle of Selective Attention. That was it. You know how you can walk the world oblivious to something – then somehow it’s brought to your attention and you see it all the time? That was it. Just like when my wife decided to buy a new Beetle. Apparently there had been a big launch, loads of press and PR, but it had passed me by. Until my wife saw one in the street: “There!” she said, “There’s one!” You couldn’t miss it at the time – unlike anything else on the road – and that was the moment. The Principle of Selection Attention (let’s call it ‘The PSA’ as he’s an old friend now) – the new Beetle – everywhere.

And that was it with Bromptons too. In fairness, as a cyclist, obviously I knew about Brompton’s. Ugly thing. Fold. Weird handlebars. Commuters. But they had never sunk in. A mere bike-shaped shadow passing across my consciousness; not cutting through; not managing to prioritise itself above the millions of other, more important things. Not now though.

Now I work in London. Now, loathe though I am to admit it, I am a London commuter myself. And Bromptons are everywhere. Like a pestilent storm of locusts, gnashing, chomping, biting at the periphery of my vision. Swooping; darting; nipping. Next to me on the platform. There when I look out of the window. Folded under a table in a cafe. Peeking at me. Teasing me. Black ones mainly. And red. And yellow. And a few white ones. Even a pink one down Margaret Street. Then the varnished bare metal one with nice golden brazing. Seen a few of them now.

And handlebars. Not all weird, up turned zig-zag affairs. Some just weirdly straight. Or only mildly bent. They even have gears. And Brooks saddles. And a bell with a particular tone. Not too effeminate that you ignore it; not too deeply resonant that it gets lost in all the urban background noise. Just right – mid tone, on the edge of annoying yet bullseye for ‘getting you noticed’. Suspension too. Old school – a massive elastomer (rubber bung) on the back wheel, for soaking up the speed bumps, potholes and inattentive pedestrian. A reflection perhaps on the svelte urbanites with low body fat who actually need some extra padding.

Oh, and the engineering. These are not machines built to fail; they are built to last you a lifetime. The quality of the welding; the choice of material; the ingenuity and solidity – the beauty even – of the various folding mechanisms. And discovery. Couples pedalling across the US on Bromptons. Lands End to John o’Groats – of course; been there, done it, too late my friend. You Tube clips now being sent to me of trick riders doing moves clearly in breach of the manufacturer’s warranty. And…..damn it! I want one.


July 2014. E Bay

I went on to the Brompton website to ‘build my own’. £1,200 or thereabouts. £1,200. Cor. Next stop: e bay; placed a bid on a second hand one. Right at the last minute, clever me.  Lost out by £50. Right at the last minute. Cor. ©

Morning Mister Magpie

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