As the many Brompton folding bike owners will attest to, the engineering behind this bike combines an ingenious folding design with the flexibility to customize it to their own style. It’s the ultimate stowaway leisure bike and the perfect commuter bike for conquering day-to-day life in big cities. For people who like to travel it offers unbeatable portability, from stowing in an overhead of the airplane (where permitted) to packing in an airline legal suitcase. Pilots, boaters, and travelers of all types enjoy the convenience of having their own bicycle with them once they reach their destination.
The questions we often hear are how do the small wheels ride? And do you have to pedal more? These are fair questions since compared to a traditional 26” or 700c wheel the 16” wheel does look small. It’s a common misconception though. Brompton’s perform much like a traditional bike because the riding position and gearing is very similar to a traditional bike. Let’s start with the wheel base length.
Placed side-by-side the Brompton’s wheel base is very similar to a “regular” bike giving the rider more stability than a bike with a shorter wheel base. Four handlebar styles, from the sporty S-bar to the high H-bar assure that the rider is properly fit to a Brompton much as he/she would be fit to a road bike. This is an important detail in how hard the rider is working since an improperly fit bike will be less efficient. It’s easy to see the similar riding positions when the bikes are overlaid on top of each other.
Next is the gearing. Proper gearing is essential for a small wheeled bicycle to perform well. Brompton knows that and their standard gearing configurations are optimized to the wheel diameter, gear ratio, hub gear ratios and chain ring sizes. There are also alternative chain ring options which can change the complete range of gears on the bike higher or lower if desired, meaning there’s a gear range available specifically for the type of riding to be done.
That said, a smaller diameter tire will feel different for the first few rides. The steering might feel more twitchy and the road a little more coarse. Most people find that after a few rides these aren’t noticeable, especially given that the ride position is so similar to a traditional bike. And most importantly, there’s no extra effort needed to pedal the bicycle.
So the next time you see a Brompton just know that the rider is enjoying all the benefits of a larger traditional sized bicycle while being able to fold it into a package the size of a small suitcase. Whether it’s to commute, shop, travel or have fun your riding experience will be one that’s enjoyable and well fit to your style of riding.