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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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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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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Out of the ark

It's not often you see one of these, in such good condition. An original Brompton T5.  This pristine model illustrates so many of the characteristic features of the Brompton of 20 years ago. Here on the left is the rather rigid plastic handlebar grip, and the slim, rod-like brake lever with a bulbous end. On the right is the 5-speed shifter, which operated the 5-speed hub gear. Below you can see the older form of narrow, sandwich type hinges, discontinued in 2002 due to a high incidence of failure in the weld (or brazing). (I know this from my own painful experience!) The T5 came with its own dynamo and lights (a good idea then, but battery lights have become so much better since then).     The rack had these funny, tough little wheels attached, one of which from my old 1995 Brompton has survived as a replacement pan lid handle on one of my saucepans!   This model even has the original, not-very-thrilling right...
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Tensioning a Brompton Wheel

My son texted me from university 400 miles away to tell me his spokes were rattling. I feel a wee bit responsible, since I built this wheel for him on a Brompton 8-speed conversion. So how do you teach spoke-tensioning by email? I had a go, and thought I would share my attempt here. I don't know if this is how the pros go about it - it's just what I would do. If your wheel has gone a bit wonky, you may be safest taking it in to a bike shop to get looked at. But if you're happy to tinker, read on. This is what I wrote: For tightening spokes, once you have your spoke key (suggesting 14G), invert the bike and: Ping all the spokes and work out which has the highest pitch. Make a note of that pitch as a benchmark. You may need to note a different pitch for each side of the wheel, if the spokes are different...
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