Brompton Explore – suburbia in a pith-helmet

Perhaps Brompton Suburbia would have been a better name for this new edition, which looks like it's dressed up for a fancy dress party, not for serious touring. Donning a pith helmet and plus-fours doesn't make you an explorer. I'm disappointed because I'd hoped that Brompton would have used their engineering genius to solve some basic problems that make the Brompton inadequate for touring. Like the fact that the rack can't take panniers. And the gearing is too narrow and still too high. And there are no mudguards. And I'm frustrated, because the Brompton has a lot going for it as a tourer. I've taken mine twice round the Scottish isles of Mull and Iona, and wild camped on remote beaches and hillsides. It's not  a fast touring bike, but with its small wheels it doesn't tire you out (getting going is always easy), and its frame suspension keeps you comfortable. And I'm suspicious, because this edition feels more like a marketing ploy...
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Who needs a car?

Another post that doesn't include my Brompton - I couldn't resist this one though - a week's shopping brought home on the evening commute. The Brompton has pulled this much on the trailer before - three  120 litre bales of compost, for example. Kicking myself I never took a photo!  ...
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Bikes, batteries and bumps

Much as I'd love to have an electric Brompton, they are well outside my budget (and probably most people's). So this post is looking at alternatives, and particularly, at what I did with my ten year-old bike to turn it into an electric workhorse at a fraction of the cost of a new electric bike. (There are ways to convert your Brompton to electric too - some people swear by these.) Three Power Options I started by trying a number of off-the-peg models at a local e-bike shop. The three basic options for powering an ebike are to put a motor in the front wheel, the rear wheel, or in the bottom bracket. Most of these work on the basis that when you begin to pedal, this activates the motor, though some have a manual throttle. Each have their pros and cons. Bottom bracket (BB): I tested some state of the art e-bikes with a BB motor. Powering the bottom bracket makes sense because...
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Brompting to a Bothy

Scotland is fortunate in having a network of 'bothies', or mountain shelters, in remote places, which can be used by anyone hardy enough to get there, and prepared to sleep on a wooden shelf!  Usually these are a few miles from the nearest road, and walking in with all your kit is a necessity. With a Brompton there's another solution: sling the bike in the car boot at the end of a long week, and head for the hills. If the bothy can be reached by a forest track, let the bike take the weight (in our case, this included 10kg of coal!) Brompton's frame suspension takes a lot of the bumps away, and a heavy food bag on the front block stops the handlebars jarring. OK, I admit it, the track into Cadderlie (pictured) was quite a challenge. Loose stones from the nearby quarry, and some steep sections made it very difficult to stay on the bike the whole way, and for...
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Black Isle by Brompton

Whilst on retreat on the 'Black Isle' (the section of E Scotland between the Moray Firth and the Cromarty Firth - not an island!) I went for a spin on my black Brompton, and discovered the wee village of Munlochy. For a small place it boasts an impressive church, an attractive gastro-pub, and a good view of Munlochy Bay, a sizeable inlet that cuts into the south coast of the 'isle'. (Pictured, with 'Beti-Du'). I returned to Kilmuir (whose ivy-engulfed church hosts the grave of a former Minister of said church) along part of Sustrans Route 1, past the Black Isle brewery, and an impressive estate house - 17th Century? - which may be attached.  This route took me back to the A9, thankfully on a path alongside, and quickly off again back to Kilmuir. The evening sunlight was breathtaking against the beech woods, and as ever, the Brompton helped me feel connected to the curves and the contours. I passed the...
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Two bikes in one small boot (and how to kill vibrations)

Once again the Brompton comes into its own on a brief weekend break. I didn't want to get the bike racks out, fit them to the car, load up the big bikes... instead, two minutes work, and two bikes fitted snugly into the boot of our small hatchback. We went for a spin around Perthshire this morning (before the rain!), negotiating bumpy farm tracks, smooth country roads, and a short stretch of busy A road. Vibration in the handlebars is an issue if you take your front tyre pressure up to the limit (my mistake today). 60psi is a good compromise between comfort and low rolling resistance. Another trick on poor roads is to load up the front carrier block with a weighty bag, which significantly dampens the vibrations. If you have to carry stuff, better there than on your back! Of course, the built in frame suspension means your back (and backside) fare much better on a Brompton than a rigid bike, when...
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New Brompton cover from October 2018 – what’s to like?

I've been looking for a new Brompton cover and saddlebag, and discovered that Brompton have changed the design - not for the better, in my opinion. My old bag was stolen from the bike about a year ago - ever since I've done without, getting by on the odd bus trip by pleading with the driver to let me on without one. After all, I can't see why a Brompton is any more of a dirt hazard than a wheelchair, buggy, shoe...  especially if your chainwheel is smaller and not protruding enough from the fold to come in contact with anything. And you don't need a bag for the train! But the old bag (above) is useful - flexibility on public transport, and a bit of spare carrying capacity - on warm summer days when you've no coat or pockets, and you want to spin along unencumbered by bags of any sort, the old-style saddle-bag (or sack, more accurately) can hold a...
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New triggers, old dimensions

With my Alfine 8 conversion nearly complete, it seemed only right to replace my 10-year-old trigger with a new one for the Brompton. (top) I wondered whether the change in shape of the new one would mean more space on the handlebar - one of the less good aspects of the Alfine 8 when you have the M-type bars. Alas, the dimensions that matter are the same. It means that in order to accommodate the width of the trigger, the cable has to come down on the inside of the bar, meaning the trigger points more downward than usual. Still, it works, and you soon get used to it. But if you're thinking of buying a Brompton to convert, can I suggest getting a flat-bar S type one? More room for the controls! Having said that, with the gripshift version of the Ergon2 grips, you can still finish off the bars very nicely. Mine are in the post!   UPDATE: Ergon grips have arrived a work beautifully...
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When the best way forward is back – an Alfine 11 conversion

When I saw an Alfine 11 hub online for less than half price, I couldn't resist. I had hoped to do an Alfine 11 Brompton conversion at some point, and the opportunity to buy a cheaper Brompton through cycle-to-work brought hub and bike together. I used the bike as a commuter for 18 months, getting used to the Brompton 6-speed set-up. I knew that Bromptons had been converted to Alfine 11 hubs by others, but in one case with a seriously modified rear triangle. Perhaps that should have been a warning sign. My Alfine 8 conversions had gone like a dream, and I hadn't anticipated that the 11 would be much different. So I set about working out my gear ratios using the magnificent Brompton Gear Calculator coming up with an ideal spread (for me) using a 16T rear sprocket, and a 40T front chainwheel - made by Stronglight, but Brompton compatible. For the Alfine hubs, the over-locknut width between the rear dropouts...
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