Friday, August 12, 2016

A Reply from Brompton

In my last post, The First 800 Miles with My Brompton, I shared my thoughts about my new folding bike. As I explained, the one drawback is the gearing -- I wish I had more optimal gearing for climbing and descending hills, particularly while carrying a load.

A number of you responded to my post saying that you would consider purchasing a Brompton if the gearing were more touring friendly. Your responses encouraged me to reach out to Will Butler-Adams, the CEO of Brompton.

Will Butler-Adams, CEO of Brompton. (Photo:

Here is a snippet of my email to Will, written August 2nd:

...I purchased my Brompton in May. I've been riding my bicycle religiously for the last month and a half -- for my own personal bicycle travels but also as a guide for Adventure Cycling trips. My Brompton has been a huge hit! There have been many curious inquiries about my riding experience...

...I've had a number of folks (including other leaders, participants on my tours, and Bike Friday owners who would prefer to be riding Bromptons) respond to my post saying that they'd definitely consider a Brompton, but only if the gearing was more touring-friendly. Are there any plans to offer a wider range of gears? If so, you'd be expanding your market to a much larger audience...

The bike industry is notorious for poor customer service -- including unanswered customer emails and phone calls. And so you can imagine my delight when I saw a reply from Will in my inbox yesterday!

Will shared a few kind words about my blog post and said he is "thrilled" that Bromleigh has been a good experience for me. (Yes, Will even referred to my bicycle by her name.) In response to my question, Will provided the following:

In regards to your query, we've had success with touring in mountains on the forty-four tooth chainring and the BWR hub but we're not quite as hardcore as you with the amount of gear we carry (taking the soft option with hostels!). We try and find a balance with keeping the bike light, reliable and tough for everyday city use while still offering capability for people to get out there in the world and have those adventures. The six speed has proved to be a good answer to this but as you say for certain users on the steepest hills with the heaviest loads lower range would not hurt. We are looking at additional gearing options for such users but this is a longer term project. In the short term the Brompton crank uses a standard 130mm 'BCD' chainring. This should allow any good bike dealer to fit a smaller front chainring. A 38 tooth for example would give you a 25 inch bottom gear, not too far from the 21.3 inch bottom you might find on a touring bike with triple front and 32t rear. (Reprinted with permission.)

As you can see, Will considers Brompton's six-speed bicycles to be successful with regards to lightweight touring in the mountains. While I agree that the existing Brompton gearing is adequate for "credit card" touring in moderately-graded mountainous routes, more adequate gearing is very much a need for making Bromptons adequate for true loaded touring. While I'm flattered that Will referred to my touring as "hardcore," I consider my current Brompton set-up to be rather moderate for camping-compatible loaded touring. Regardless, I'm glad to hear that Brompton is considering additional gearing options.

I truly appreciate Will taking the time to respond to my inquiry. Four thumbs up (my hand thumbs and my toe thumbs) to Brompton for their timely response. Though Brompton's consideration of additional gearing options is a longer term project, I'm hopeful that Brompton will someday offer a more touring-friendly customization so that you, my touring friends, can enjoy Bromptons as well!



  1. Maybe a silly question, but can't you just swap out the rear hub for one with a larger range? There are some really impressive hubs these days. Pricey solution, sure.

    1. Hey VW. In the whole grand scheme of things, anything is possible. There indeed are some really nice hubs out there. But, as you point out, price is definitely a major consideration when it comes to creative solutions such as these. There comes a point in time when swapping out a part becomes nearly as expensive as the bicycle itself. That's not a swap I'm interested in.

  2. I got the -15 gear change a couple months ago... works out really nice. Much better on the hills. I don't go fast, for me the 6 speeds are just right :)

    1. Great to know, Teresa! I look forward to doing a similar swap on my bike. Will you be bringing your Brompton to our Black Hills ride later this month?

  3. Wouter and Sarah, it is not the hub, but the rear cassette that needs modification along with a smaller front chainring.

    1. Ruth, there is no rear cassette on a Brompton; it uses internal gear hub shifting.

  4. We been looking at the Birdy by the German company Riese & Mueller. Does anyone have any experience with the Birdy?

    1. Hey Susan. I've never even heard of the Birdy, but I'll look into it. Does anyone else know anything about this bike?

  5. Hola.
    En mis viajes con Brompton he usado
    un plato delantero de
    39 dientes y no he tenido problemas
    para subir importantes puertos de montaña.
    Creo que es la mejor solución para
    aquellos viajeros que quieran acometer
    subidas pronunciadas.
    Enhorabuena por tu blog y por tus artículos y fotografías.

    Saludos. Gerardo.

    PD: Siento no hablar inglés,
    por lo que utilizo el traductor en línea.

    1. Gracias por tu comentario, Gerardo. Estoy deseando probar tu solución. ¡Buenos viajes!


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