I received the following email from Mair of Sheffield Cycle Chic and it was so helpful and informative, that I thought I would put the whole thing up as a post for everyone else’s information (the text in the boxes below is from my original post).
I’ve spent the last year stealing my other half’s Brompton and covered several hundred miles on it, before getting my own (see above – this is Mair’s Brompton), So I had a pretty clear idea about what I didn’t like about his and what I would change. Looking at what you were thinking, it looks pretty similar to mine, but I’ll add my commentary to why I chose what I did too:
[box style=”0″]Model type – I like a very upright bicycle so I am going to plump for the H-type handlebars, while the Husband is going for the M-type handlebars.[/box]
O/h has the M-type handlebars, I found them way too low and was leaning so far forward I was almost in a racing bike position! I’m 5’1″, but with most of that in my legs so the short body really exaggerates this. The H-type, is not what I’d call upright, but it’s a lot more comfortable! O/h has the handlebar reinforcing crossbrace, I didn’t find it necessary, but he felt the handlebars flexed too much with his weight. Something your husband might want to consider. Also, he wishes the H-type had been available when he got his as at 6′ he would appreciate the extra height.
[box style=”0″]Gears – I think 6 speed will be the one I go for as it seems to provide the best range but, to make it more complex, there are also higher and lower options once you have chosen how many gears you want. I always get quite confused with gears. I will need to talk to someone who understands these things and also knows what I currently have. That way I can figure out what it all means and what will suit me.[/box]
O/h has the standard 3speed gears. I would call them hard work. They are literally uphill, dead flat and downhill. The only way I can get up a moderate hill in 2nd gear is by standing up on the pedals. After 20 miles 1st gear brings tears to my eyes. It’s an ok set up for very short sprints, but you have to have very strong legs. So I’ve chosen the 3 speed lowered by 12% I can now get up the same hill in 2nd gear sitting down and 3rd is doable on the flat. Obviously, this doesn’t give much for downhill, but in Sheffield there isn’t much point pedaling down hill unless you’re trying to break the speed limit. What it does mean is I can get up steeper hills now or have a much easier gear to go into after a tiring day. On this basis I would think the 6 speed option in standard gearing would be fine in normal circumstances, but if you are carrying a lot of luggage maybe the 12% lower version would be worth considering?
[box style=”0″]Rear rack and mudguards – I will go for version R as I think that both of these will be essential. Mudguards are a no brainer in my book. Although we are toying with trailers rather than trying to get everything actually ON the bikes, I think the rear rack will be a good idea. Also these features will be good to have post Trip.[/box]
We both have these. The mudguards are essential when it rains and the rack I seem to have used for all sorts of things. Including carrying my daughter (who’s nearly 8). She thinks it’s great fun. I don’t know what the weight limit is supposed to be, but it seems pretty sturdy and takes her weight no problem. Brompton seem to have changed the wheels and mine are smaller than his. This is rather annoying as mine is almost impossible to push, whereas his works fine. Not sure why Brompton have done this, but it might be something I will have to look at replacing.
[box style=”0″]Colour – I am completely torn between Turkish Green, Sage Green and Racing Green … and yellow … And then there is a part of me that says ‘black’, but I already have two black bikes and I would really just be avoiding the colour choice if I went with black. Then I look at the website and like all of the other colors as well AND you can mix it up and have two colours if you want! So I am sitting on the fence for now and waiting for some devine assistance with this one. The Husband is in a similar predicament so we will have to report back on this one.[/box]
Obviously, this is where it gets very personal. There is a great website where you can play with colour combinations to your hearts content http://www.nycewheels.com/brompton-colors.html
. I was going to go for red and yellow, but when I saw the yellow in the flesh, I didn’t like it, so ended up changing my mind completely and going for black and white!
[box style=”0″]Seat height – Easy! As neither the Husband or I are ‘extensive’ in the leg department, the standard one will be fine.[/box]
O/h is 6 foot with long legs and standard is fine for him.
[box style=”0″]Saddle – that’s easy as well. I will of course be a Brooks.[/box]
O/h has the B17 special mens. This saddle is not designed for riding in a skirt!!! I wasn’t overly impressed with this, but wasn’t sure whether it was the long nose, the riding position or the hard suspension causing so much pain. I have the standard Brompton saddle at the moment as I wasn’t sure which saddle to go for. I’m pleasantly surprised by the Brompton one, it’s not too bad and does have the nice design feature of a moulded plastic grip under the nose to help you carry it folded. Brooks saddles are very uncomfortable to hold there, so you have to carry the bike by the frame. I am thinking to get a B17S Imperial, my dad has got the men’s version on his new bike so I must ask him how he’s getting on with it now he’s had a month to break it in. The other saddle I was seriously considering was the Flier S for the extra cushioning, but I don’t think that will be necessary now. (See suspension below)
[box style=”0″]Tyres – I like the Schwalbe Marathon. I have had these type before (but in a different size) and found them very good and reliable. And not prone to too many punctures, which is important. The website says that these tyres are noticeably slower but offer increased durability so these are the ones for us? I can blame the tyres for going so slowly![/box]
O/h has the standard Brompton tyres and has faired ok so far with them riding around London and Sheffield. I wondered about the Marathons, but decided to go with the standard ones and swap to Marathons if I have problems. It’s less of an issue getting a puncture on a Brompton as you can get a bus or a taxi home. Obviously for touring around this would be more inconvenient so the Marathons are probably a wise buy.
[box style=”0″]Suspension – The husband is definitely going with ‘firm’ as he is of generous proportions, shall we say. I am toying with ‘firm’ myself as I am not a big fan of suspension and the bouncy sort of ride that seems to come with a lot of modern ‘comfort’ bikes. But I’m open to persuasion if anybody has any thoughts on this.[/box]
Here, I will disagree with you. The Hard suspension on the Brompton is seriously hard. O/h chose this for his and I cursed it every time I rode the bike. For him it’s fine, but at 15 1/2 stone he’s nearly double my weight. Every slightest bump I can feel and with Sheffield’s third world standard roads with their almost continuous potholes I ended up feeling decidedly bruised in the most delicate region! So I chose the standard suspension for mine. It’s hardly what you call bouncy, but a lot more comfortable and definitely takes a lot of the shocks out. Enough so I think I will cope with an unsprung Brooks saddle. So this is something you really should try and test out as it is probably the most important bit to get right.
[box style=”0″]Lights – I am a big fan of dynamo lights. I have them on the Triumph and absolutely love them. They are always on and never run out. Batteries, on the other hand, would really be too much hassle while touring and of course you also have the environmental impact of the batteries. The super duper SON dynamo lights are pretty pricy, so we will go for the Shimano. [/box]
We both have the shimano dynamo lights. I didn’t realise when he got his that they were only halogen not LED as I’d got used to my Dutch bike having LEDs and though they were the norm now. O/h’s front bulb only lasted 6 months, so if you find out it’s possible to swap the bulbs over to LED that would be good to know.
[box style=”0″]Luggage – When I look at the bags, obviously the touring bag (T bag) seems the option to go for as it has handy features in line with what we need and it is large, but I do find it a bit boring and ‘cycle toury’ … it would be nice if it came in a different colour.[/box]
Unfortunately the T bag is the only option for a decent sized bag. I’ve got a quite funky day bag made from recycled vinyl banners from Barcelona, it’s a good size, but it’s not massive in the way the T-bag is. O/h has one which he used as his overnight bag when he goes to London. It is big, it will fit all the girls stuff in when I take them to school. Also see MCR Cycling (now Chester Cycling) post on how many star trek videos you can fit in it!
[box style=”0″]Transport – I think we will stick with the standard rolling wheels as I don’t anticipate rolling it all that much.[/box]
I don’t remember there being any option on this when I ordered mine, but maybe that explains why mine are crap?
Your post on the weight issue intrigued me, as I didn’t realise that Brompton’s had a weight limit. Certainly. o/h has frequently exceeded 110kgs when he’s has eldest daughter on the back. A colleague of his, who is much heavier than he is frequently rides a Brompton, so I suspect they are being a bit over cautious.
Anyway, hope that’s of some help. Good luck with your trip.
Needless to say, I have slightly changed my opinion on a few items – particularly the suspension. Many many thanks Mair, your feedback is really appreciated.