Brompton Specs for Touring
We’ve been getting lots of questions about our Bromptons, so I thought I’d give a quick breakdown of the bikes and some of the specs. We’re still customizing them, so things may change a little by the time we actually take off.
Our favorite bike shop in town, Clever Cycles, is a Brompton dealer and they have a snazzy web app that lets you build a Brompton to spec. To see our current configuration, click here. We have two new 2011 colors – sage green and claret. Both are real classy and subdued looking and not typical garish loud bike colors.
You can get Bromptons in three handlebar styles which are not easily interchangeable. So once you pick one type, you’re pretty much committed to it. Ours are the M-type, which is gull shaped and gives a fairly upright position. There is some fore/aft adjustment so you can shorten or lengthen the cockpit a little. I test rode the S-type bars which are fast and agile but were a bit lower and more aggressively positioned for the type of riding we were planning to do. The P-type bars meant for touring offer does offer more hand positions (high/low position), but none that I wanted. With an M or S-type you could use bar ends, which give you the ability to have a neutral hand position (like riding on the hoods of drop bars).
6spd with -12% reduced gearing
We chose the 6psd Bromptons with BWR hubs – special three speed hubs made for Brompton that give a large range of gearing. We also opted for the -12% reduced gearing option since we are going to be doing self-supported touring and will do a fair amount of riding in hilly territory. The standard gearing has a 50t chainring, which we found was geared too high for us. The high gear was too high and the low gear was not low enough. With the 44t chainring, the gearing is almost perfect. It covers about 90% of the riding we’ll encounter perfectly. With the reduced gearing your range is 29-87 gear inches, as oppose to 33-99 gear inches with the standard gearing.
Mudguards and Rack
Our Bromptons have both fenders and rack. Many people opt not to have a rack because of the added weight, but we wanted one so it would give us some flexibility with packing (we could bungee excess to the rack). Not to mention, the rack also has two additional rolling wheels which act as casters for the Brompton when folded. This creates a super stable base for a folded Brompton. We opted for the EasyWheels upgrade as well, which is a vast improvement over the small plastic wheels. With this combination, your Brompton is easily pushed and pulled over smooth even surfaces.
Seat Pillar – Telescopic
The telescopic seat pillar is usually an option people choose for their Brompton if they are too tall for the standard pillar. However, an unexpected advantage of having the telescopic pillar (even if you’re not 6’5”) is that it allows quick removal of the saddle for travel. You simply open up the pillar’s quick release and pull out your saddle still attached to the shorter length of seatpost and stick the whole mess in your bag. When we fly, we always remove the saddle so it looks less like a bike and it shrinks the overall dimensions of the folded bike a fair amount (enough to fit through TSA scanners!). To remove the saddle without the telescopic pillar you would need allen wrenches and a lot of patience since you would have to readjust the saddle every time you took it off. No thanks!
Incidentally, another unexpected advantage of a telescoping pillar is the ability to use a Carradice SQR block for their saddle bags. The bands on the block won’t fit on the larger diameter post, but WILL fit on the telescopic extension!
Tires – Schwalbe Marathon
Having ridden Schwalbe Marathon tires on our Surlys, we were pretty set on getting them for the Bromptons. Though not as fast feeling or light as the other options, we knew they would offer the best flat protection and long term durability.
Rear Suspension – Firm
If you get a Brompton and do any self-supported touring, get the FIRM suspension block. We rode with the standard block for the first few weeks and swapped ours to firm not too long ago. It made a HUGE difference in the overall feeling of responsiveness, especially with a load. The standard block simply squished way too much. It felt as if we were losing about 10% of efficiency bobbing up and down. The firm suspension also made it feel more stable to do standing climbs on the Brompton.
We opted for dynamo lighting since we were going to use the bikes as commuters as well as tourers. We got the Shimano hub and halogen front light. We’re hoping to upgrade the lights to LEDs eventually, but for now they are fine. It’s nice to not to have to worry about batteries while on tour. Another added benefit is that you can run the lights during grey drizzly days for added visibility without being concerned if you’ll have enough juice for later in the evening.
We got the front touring bag for the Brompton. This requires getting a carrier block installed to the frame. The front luggage system on the Brompton is brilliant. Since the luggage is supported by the frame, the bags don’t move as you steer. This keeps the load perfectly centered and doesn’t introduce any more moving mass when you turn the handlebars. The bike also handles exponentially better when you have a front load on it. It dampens the over-responsive steering and makes it more comfortable to ride.
As great as the bike is, there are some things we changed as soon as we could. Namely, the saddle and the grips. We transferred our old Brooks saddles, thought truth be told, the stock saddle isn’t so bad. We both changed out the foam grips to something more ergonomic. I currently have some Ergon R2M grips with bar ends and Laura has Ergon BioKork grips. Fortunately, none of these grip additions interfere with the fold.
In addition, we also transferred our old Grip King pedals from our Surlys to the Bromptons. The right-side pedal slips on as usual. For our left-side pedals, we had CleverCycles install the MKS quick release pedal system. Email them for details.
The Bromptons are amazing bicycles. Even after a few weeks of ownership, its still a marvel to behold the fold. They are so versatile and really open up traveling possibilities. We’ll write more about any other further changes and our final configuration. Feel free to email us if you have any questions.