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July 25, 2012

Brompton: pure dead brilliant

My Brompton arrived on Monday afternoon, but it was raining hard. Never having had a new bike before, I felt reluctant to get it filthy on day one, so I just folded and unfolded it indoors, awestruck at how the chain, gear and cables seem to avoid getting trapped or damaged. Today was its first proper test, thrown in the boot together with Amy's bike and taken to Beechwood Park in Stirling, so we could practise together on the mini roads and roundabouts.

I'm getting rather fond of its appearance, and of its idiosyncratic folding pedal and odd gears (derailleur x2 combined with Sturmey-Archer x3 makes 6 speeds!):

Brompton4484.jpg

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It doesn't have a stand, nor does it need one because it takes seconds to part-fold it into a "parked" position. I think it looks well on our front porch and it could live there, but Keir has other ideas:

parked4494.jpg

It now takes me 20-30 seconds (but that's after only two days so maybe I will improve) to complete the folding into a neat, stable parcel that can be trundled on its miniwheels. As a piece of engineering, it is pure dead brilliant.

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Although it lacks the vintage lines of my Flying Scot, the Brompton's ability to live securely inside a car boot seems a huge advantage: no need for a bike rack, tow bar let alone to disassemble the bike. It combines well, not just with other forms of transport but also with visits to places that aren't bike-friendly, making it much more compatible with everyday life. And it rides amazingly well on its 16-inch wheels, so I'm already building up speed. Apparently the unassisted cycling world speed record (51.29 mph over 200m) was set in 1986 on a small-wheeled Moulton.

Meantime, as a result of my eBay auction and various questions about frame numbers and its history, it is now clear that my Flying Scot 496R was made in 1950 so it's nearly as old as me! Apparently this makes the bike even more sought after, so age must work differently with vintage bikes than with women: I'm clearly moving in the opposite direction! However, I was delighted to see its inclusion in a specialist Flying Scot website gallery, complete with photo credit. How kind of Bob Reid to act as archivist for this wonderful example of British bike-making history.

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