Brompton vs. Bike Friday

Just found this forum and it seems to mostly focus on Bromptons in the folding category. I rode my first Brompton this year and was unimpressed. It had the 16" tires, 2 shifters (Sturmy Archer), and folded if you picked it up by the bars and saddle. I could see it for an urban setting where one had to take the bike inside every time and had minimal storage space. That noted, it paled when compared to virtually any Bike Friday that I have owned and ridden. It was heavier than the 406 tired Pocked Lama/Sport/New World Tourist. Not nearly as stable, and seemed really poor on rough pavement when the bike frame is no rigid.

I've owned a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket since 1994, triple, 451 wheels, 22-112 gear-inch range, toured in 26 countries, and it rides nearly as well as any standard road/touring bike. I mostly toured with the trailer system, towing the packing case where I can fly it as normal checked luggage and get on any train or bus. About the only downside vs. the Brompton was that the Brompton quick-folded into a more compact package.

The Bike Friday uses more standard components than a Brompton, parts are more available and less costly. So what is the appeal of the Bormpton?
 

berlinonaut

Senior Member
Location
Berlin Germany
Obviously you disliked the Brompton experience. 😄
folded if you picked it up by the bars and saddle.
In this case it was either old (before 2008) or defective or you mistreated it.
The Bike Friday uses more standard components than a Brompton, parts are more available and less costly. So what is the appeal of the Bormpton?
It folds more compact and quicker than any other folder. It has a brilliant luggage system. It simply works. It pays for itself in a short amount of time. Spare parts are available (in opposite to i.e. Dahon). It has a long lifespan. And in opposite to Bike Friday it is available to buy and test ride around the corner. In Europe it tends to be cheaper than a BF too in most cases. It rides fine and you can use it as your compagnion everywhere due to it's compactness. It changes your life to a degree.
 

Kell

Über Member
Certainly, in the UK, availability plays a huge part.

A quick google suggests that finding a dealer would be problematic - which means importing yourself and no support.

I've never ridden one, and in London, I don't think I've ever seen anyone riding one.

I tend to agree with you that proprietary parts make them harder to fix yourself, but there's a lot of support for them here.

There are so many things about mine that bug me, but at the time there was nothing that offered the combination of fold, price and availability.

I used to ride a full-size Dahon which was way more comfortable due to bigger wheels, but it snapped. So not really up there for longevity. Plus my train company were going to ban single fold bikes.

I liked the look of the Airnimals, but the fold is rubbish for commuting and they were twice the price of the Brompton.
 
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Rusty Rocket

Active Member
I’m just dipping my toes into the world of folding and (rightly or wrongly) there is a level of fanaticism around the Brompton, certainly in the UK.

It seems that if you need a bike to take on a train, you need a Brompton. If you need it for any other reason (I need a folder due to lack of storage space at home), then there’s plenty of choice. BF don’t seem that popular here, maybe that’s my limited experience rather than fact!

I don’t have £1000+ to spend on anything, let alone a bike. I’m getting a £375 folder, it’s not going to match either a BF or Brommie but it’ll do me fine.
 

Kell

Über Member
I think 'fanaticism' happens way more in the far east where people spend thousands on upgrades of all kinds.

Mine is a tool for riding to and from work. Having said that, I like it - way more than I thought I would pre-purchase. Possibly because of its awkwardness.

It is a peculiarity of the British to cheer for the underdog, so maybe that's why.

I also think you're comparing apples with oranges.

Any bike with bigger wheels is going to better on anything other than perfectly smooth roads. I don't know much about BF, but have you ridden the Packit to compare it to a Brompton?
 
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berlinonaut

Senior Member
Location
Berlin Germany
I've never ridden one, and in London, I don't think I've ever seen anyone riding one.
I do own two Bike Fridays, an older, late nineties PocketLLama and a first Generation Tikit. I barely ride any of them. The Llama is a nice bike and it folds quicker than expected - however the folded size is huge, parts are sticking out, the package is unstable and it does not roll in folded state. So nothing for my daily use or normal travel and the Brompton is a clear winner here. The ride is fine but in my opinion not dramatically different to many other 20" folders. The optics is a little strange and overall I prefer i.e. my Bernds over the Llama in most cases - it is more or less in the same segment and does everything as good or better (including being better looking) apart from being dismanteled into a trailer case for flights (which is possible with the BF but takes time and effort). Regarding parts mine has a 3*7 SRAM gearing (no longer available) and a 1" steering mast (hard to get hold of today) - but it is a 20+ year old bike, so I suppose that's acceptable. Just that you have no issues getting parts for a 20 year old Brommi, so that's on par I'd suppose.

My Tikit, being from the first series, suffers from an awful lot of issues, starting with a dangerous quick folding mechanism up to various breakages on the rear frame/seatpost-construction. Proprietary as proprietary can be - BF would probably honor the (at that time) lifetime warranty but parts would have to ordered, custom made (as the tikit is out of production) and shipped from the US which ends up in complexity, delay and cost and there is so much wrong with the bike and it's construction (massively overcomplex) that I did not want BF to take the effort until now - they are economically challenged anyway and I did not find it worth making their life even harder as basically everything apart from the (very simple) main frame would need to be touched or changed. The Fold of the Tikit is very quick - just that the result is not impressive at all to me. It plays in the same category sizewise and target-group wise as the Brompton but looses in every single aspect against it apart from having standard 135mm rear drop outs.

Regarding the craftmanship both bikes are ok made but not very aesthetic in detail, rather pragmatic than elegant. I think BFs are fine bikes and in the US their customer service shines and they seem to be relatively cheap, too. Over here in Europe they are expensive, the service is friendly but on the other end of the world and there are many at least equally good and locally built alternatives around. So apart from the classic BF Terrain of folding race bike (pocket rocket) and travel/expedition bike that packs into a suitcase I do see barely any advantage for them over here.

I tend to agree with you that proprietary parts make them harder to fix yourself, but there's a lot of support for them here.
The "propritary parts" bit on the Brompton is often been told - I see that it can be an issue in theory. In practice only if you live in some country where every part hast to be shipped to. Other than that I'd say it's fine and an even way better situation than with many other folding bike brands regarding availability, price and longterm support regarding parts.
 

Kell

Über Member
The "propritary parts" bit on the Brompton is often been told - I see that it can be an issue in theory. In practice only if you live in some country where every part hast to be shipped to. Other than that I'd say it's fine and an even way better situation than with many other folding bike brands regarding availability, price and longterm support regarding parts.
I think it's a learning curve for the home mechanic. Plus even in London you can't walk into just any bike shop and pick up the parts.

I know we live in age where online ordering is easy and, in many cases, quick. But it does add a layer of complexity. It also makes upgrading (if that's your thing) harder and more expensive as the only alternatives are in limited numbers and often custom made.

However, for all its faults, I'd have another Brompton tomorrow.
 

berlinonaut

Senior Member
Location
Berlin Germany
even in London you can't walk into just any bike shop and pick up the parts.
I guess that's true for almost all folders. For many no bikeshop will cary the proprietary bits, not even in London and close to none will be willing or able to organize them. For some bikes spare parts don't even seem to exist. I've been riding Bromptons for close to 15 years now. I've tinkered a lot on them but the only real need for spare parts I ever had were:
tires and tubes
brakepads
brake cable
chain
sprockets
All of that is easy to get hold of and I keep a spare parts department at home for those parts (well and other bits for my various bikes :ohmy:). Tubes, tires and sprockets for a Brompton may not be avail in any bike shop but most of the times you won't need them instantly, so mail order is fine and it is easy to have some spares at home as they take literally no space.
So while in theory proprietary parts and their prices may be an issue the picture changes it you barely ever need parts as the bike is pretty robust and if you need parts even the tiniest bit is reliably available. Much different with many other brands.
 

Ming the Merciless

There is no mercy
Location
Inside my skull
You can only ride a bike Friday once a week.
 

TheDoctor

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe
Moderator
Location
Stevenage
Partly it's a market thing - BFs are US-made, so they're more widespread there. Bromptons, UK made so more seen here.
Plus, they're purpose made for the UK commuting market. There are lots of trains where the Brompton fits between pairs of seatbacks, and very few other bikes will. Or bikes you'd want to ride, in any event.
The Sinclair A-bike will fit in any gap, and is best left there, encased in concrete if need be.
 

Rusty Rocket

Active Member
Partly it's a market thing - BFs are US-made, so they're more widespread there. Bromptons, UK made so more seen here.
Plus, they're purpose made for the UK commuting market. There are lots of trains where the Brompton fits between pairs of seatbacks, and very few other bikes will. Or bikes you'd want to ride, in any event.
The Sinclair A-bike will fit in any gap, and is best left there, encased in concrete if need be.
I have no idea what this is but also looks like it’ll fit behind the seat of the train!
https://www.gumtree.com/p/for-sale/...p_ios&utm_medium=social&utm_source=ios_social
 

TheDoctor

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe
Moderator
Location
Stevenage
That's a new one on me too! I've seen various X frame bikes over the years, but not that one.
It might be a bit tall to fit between seats...
 

u_i

Well-Known Member
Location
Michigan
An ideal folder would fold to the size of a fist and ride like a full size bike. A real-life folder must compromise somewhere and it is up to you to to decide what kind of compromise you want to emphasize. Among my bikes, I have both Bike Friday and Brompton. I like to ride Bike Friday, but it is not much of a folder. It is OK if you go somewhere by car, but it will take half of the car's luggage space. It is OK if you go somewhere by air for a longer time and you can afford breaking it down and resurrecting it from pieces in the suitcase and to do not expect to use much as a folder at your destination.
 

Kell

Über Member

T4tomo

Veteran
Just found this forum and it seems to mostly focus on Bromptons in the folding category. I rode my first Brompton this year and was unimpressed. It had the 16" tires, 2 shifters (Sturmy Archer), and folded if you picked it up by the bars and saddle. I could see it for an urban setting where one had to take the bike inside every time and had minimal storage space. That noted, it paled when compared to virtually any Bike Friday that I have owned and ridden. It was heavier than the 406 tired Pocked Lama/Sport/New World Tourist. Not nearly as stable, and seemed really poor on rough pavement when the bike frame is no rigid.

I've owned a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket since 1994, triple, 451 wheels, 22-112 gear-inch range, toured in 26 countries, and it rides nearly as well as any standard road/touring bike. I mostly toured with the trailer system, towing the packing case where I can fly it as normal checked luggage and get on any train or bus. About the only downside vs. the Brompton was that the Brompton quick-folded into a more compact package.

The Bike Friday uses more standard components than a Brompton, parts are more available and less costly. So what is the appeal of the Bormpton?
this is a US vs UK thing.

Unless you commute on a mixed cycle / train commute (there are other appealing factors) you won't "get" the Brompton, particularly London centric.

We don't "get" the bike Friday as its isn't readily sold in the UK, if we did it would be a Dahon etc 20" competitor and potentially do quite well.
 
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