Friday, June 24, 2016

My New Set of Wheels

Someone has a new set of wheels. And that someone is me!

Wanna guess what kind of wheels I got? Here's a hint:

My new set of wheels.

Yup, I got myself a Brompton! For those of you not familiar with Bromptons, they are the coolest little folding bicycles on Planet Earth.

I was first introduced to a Brompton on Day #35 of my cross-country bike tour in the summer of 2013. On this day, I stayed with a Warm Showers host named Bonnie. Bonnie was crazy about her Brompton. She showed me how her Brompton quickly folded up into a tight little package and how it easily fit into a manageable travel case. And when she accompanied me out of town the next morning on her Brompton, she wore a huge smile that gave away just how much she loved her folding bicycle. Though I didn't fully realize the appeal of the Brompton at the time, I filed a note about Bonnie's bike in the recesses of my mind.

The appeal of the Brompton became apparent to me when I spent a few months in Turkey in 2014. Aside from a brief ride on a tandem (documented in Tandem Riding: Doggie Style), by the time I returned from my trip, I had not ridden a bicycle in more than five months! I hadn't realized just how much of my identity and my freedom were tied up in bicycling. In Reflections on My Turkey Trip, I noted that having a bicycle to ride would have made my trip a far richer experience. The trip made me realize the value of a folding bicycle and launched me on the path to purchasing a Brompton.

When I returned from Turkey, I asked Bonnie for input on choosing a Brompton. On January 8, 2015, Bonnie and I had a very nerdy chat about the ideal Brompton build.

Ten months later, in November, Brian and I worked with Russ and Laura from The Path Less Pedaled to film a video promoting Oregon's Scenic Bikeways. We spent a weekend shooting the video (see We're Film Stars and The Long Awaited Video is Here!). Throughout the weekend, Russ and Laura rode around on their Bromptons. The ease at which they incorporated their folding bikes into their filming process was amazing. The Bromptons proved their greatest value -- their versatility. (Note that Russ and Laura are not freshmen when it comes to Bromptons; they have been instrumental at popularizing touring on Bromptons.)

After spending a weekend with Russ and Laura, I decided it was time to make the plunge and buy a new set of wheels. Brian saw the value in a Brompton and decided he wanted to get one as well.

In two short months we'd be leaving for our bike trip to South America. This trip certainly didn't lend itself to Brompton riding. However, we knew that we'd be spending this summer traveling about for various reasons, and we knew that traveling with a Brompton would make our mixed-modal travel via bike, bus, and plane a heck of a lot easier. We wanted to make sure that we had our Bromptons as soon as we returned from Patagonia.

As Bromptons are custom-built in the UK, it would take about six weeks between when the bikes were ordered and when the bikes were delivered. And so, in the plaza of Puerto Chacabuco, Chile, just before boarding a ferry to take us through the Patagonian fjords, we fired up our electronics, connected to the interwebs, and placed our orders for our Bromptons. Sure enough, when we returned from Chile, our Bromptons were waiting for us.

You remember how similar Brian and I looked when we returned from Chile, right?

Omg! Our matching Bromptons make us even more twin-like!

Well, imagine each of us, in the photo above, standing next to our identical brand new Bromptons! Dear lordie!

My Brompton has been given the name "Bromleigh." Brian doesn't name his bikes. Bah humbug!

I made some upgrades to Bromleigh: I swapped out the stock foam handlebar grips with Ergo Grips (thank you for your sawing skills, Yonina!), I swapped out the pedals for some quick-release pedals, and I installed a wireless bike computer. To transform the Bromptons into touring rigs, Brian made rods out of PVC for our saddles to support the straps of our backpacks.

Here is a photo of Bromleigh, all decked out for touring:

Meet Bromleigh. She's all decked out for touring.

Bromleigh doesn't have many miles on her yet. She and I rode one 35-mile errand together. Although the errand was not-so-pleasant, riding Bromleigh made it fun. Yes, gentlemen and ladies, "fun." I don't know that I've ever used the word "fun" to describe a bicycle. Once we have more miles and touring experience under our belts, I'll definitely share more thoughts on Bromleigh.

Oh, and you're probably wondering what Shirley (my Surly Long Haul Trucker) thinks about Bromleigh. Eh, there may be a little bit of sibling rivalry. But after Shirley's rough ride in Patagonia earlier this year, she's not complaining about a few months of compulsory R'n'R.

Before signing off, here's one last item of interest for all you bike geeks -- the build specs for my Brompton:


  • M: M-type handlebars
  • 6R: 6-speed
  • R: rear rack
  • -12: reduced gearing
  • BK/BK: black main frame and extremities
  • SPT: telescopic seat post
  • TYM: Marathon tyres
  • HSU: firm suspension
  • FCB+sep: front carrier block and bag
  • REV: reverse brakes (standard for bikes delivered to the United States)



  1. In my head I was thinking "but how can she tour?" Silly Tony, this is Sarah and El Mechanico! Very cool! Does it come with the travel case or you have to buy one?

    Oh, and contrary to my lovely wife's belief, my bike is also nameless (she calls it Fred). Is there still room for me?

    1. Brompton sells a carrying case, but it is $$$. Other Brompton owners suggested buying a Dimpa Bag from IKEA. Total cost = $4.99. Actually, the bike ride to IKEA was the not-so-pleasant errand I mentioned in my post. IKEA is particularly miserable if you are just wanting to buy one thing!

  2. Hi Sarah! This is Chuck from Palmdale! Congrats on you Bromtons! Cool bikes. I was looking at the way the backpacks were mounted. You mentioned PVC. But I couldn't see the design. Could I bother you for a couple of pics of how it connected...might try myself for another application...thanks Chuck

    1. Hi Chuck. How fun that you are still following my blog! Brian used this website as a guide for making the backpack mounts: I believe he made the arms a wee bit longer than suggested in the post. I'll write another post in a little while letting you know how the Brompton set-up has been working for touring. Check back again in a few weeks!

  3. This is so cool. Didn't uncle Sean have a folding bike years ago?

    1. Uncle Dean? That's a great question! I'll have to ask him. :) Looking forward to seeing you next month!


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