Brompton Specs for Touring
We’ve been getting lots of questions about our Bromptons, so I thought I’d give a quick breakdown of the bikes and some of the specs. We’re still customizing them, so things may change a little by the time we actually take off.
Our favorite bike shop in town, Clever Cycles, is a Brompton dealer and they have a snazzy web app that lets you build a Brompton to spec. To see our current configuration, click here. We have two new 2011 colors – sage green and claret. Both are real classy and subdued looking and not typical garish loud bike colors.
You can get Bromptons in three handlebar styles which are not easily interchangeable. So once you pick one type, you’re pretty much committed to it. Ours are the M-type, which is gull shaped and gives a fairly upright position. There is some fore/aft adjustment so you can shorten or lengthen the cockpit a little. I test rode the S-type bars which are fast and agile but were a bit lower and more aggressively positioned for the type of riding we were planning to do. The P-type bars meant for touring offer does offer more hand positions (high/low position), but none that I wanted. With an M or S-type you could use bar ends, which give you the ability to have a neutral hand position (like riding on the hoods of drop bars).
6spd with -12% reduced gearing
We chose the 6psd Bromptons with BWR hubs – special three speed hubs made for Brompton that give a large range of gearing. We also opted for the -12% reduced gearing option since we are going to be doing self-supported touring and will do a fair amount of riding in hilly territory. The standard gearing has a 50t chainring, which we found was geared too high for us. The high gear was too high and the low gear was not low enough. With the 44t chainring, the gearing is almost perfect. It covers about 90% of the riding we’ll encounter perfectly. With the reduced gearing your range is 29-87 gear inches, as oppose to 33-99 gear inches with the standard gearing.
Mudguards and Rack
Our Bromptons have both fenders and rack. Many people opt not to have a rack because of the added weight, but we wanted one so it would give us some flexibility with packing (we could bungee excess to the rack). Not to mention, the rack also has two additional rolling wheels which act as casters for the Brompton when folded. This creates a super stable base for a folded Brompton. We opted for the EasyWheels upgrade as well, which is a vast improvement over the small plastic wheels. With this combination, your Brompton is easily pushed and pulled over smooth even surfaces.
Seat Pillar – Telescopic
The telescopic seat pillar is usually an option people choose for their Brompton if they are too tall for the standard pillar. However, an unexpected advantage of having the telescopic pillar (even if you’re not 6’5”) is that it allows quick removal of the saddle for travel. You simply open up the pillar’s quick release and pull out your saddle still attached to the shorter length of seatpost and stick the whole mess in your bag. When we fly, we always remove the saddle so it looks less like a bike and it shrinks the overall dimensions of the folded bike a fair amount (enough to fit through TSA scanners!). To remove the saddle without the telescopic pillar you would need allen wrenches and a lot of patience since you would have to readjust the saddle every time you took it off. No thanks!
Incidentally, another unexpected advantage of a telescoping pillar is the ability to use a Carradice SQR block for their saddle bags. The bands on the block won’t fit on the larger diameter post, but WILL fit on the telescopic extension!
Tires – Schwalbe Marathon
Having ridden Schwalbe Marathon tires on our Surlys, we were pretty set on getting them for the Bromptons. Though not as fast feeling or light as the other options, we knew they would offer the best flat protection and long term durability.
Rear Suspension – Firm
If you get a Brompton and do any self-supported touring, get the FIRM suspension block. We rode with the standard block for the first few weeks and swapped ours to firm not too long ago. It made a HUGE difference in the overall feeling of responsiveness, especially with a load. The standard block simply squished way too much. It felt as if we were losing about 10% of efficiency bobbing up and down. The firm suspension also made it feel more stable to do standing climbs on the Brompton.
We opted for dynamo lighting since we were going to use the bikes as commuters as well as tourers. We got the Shimano hub and halogen front light. We’re hoping to upgrade the lights to LEDs eventually, but for now they are fine. It’s nice to not to have to worry about batteries while on tour. Another added benefit is that you can run the lights during grey drizzly days for added visibility without being concerned if you’ll have enough juice for later in the evening.
We got the front touring bag for the Brompton. This requires getting a carrier block installed to the frame. The front luggage system on the Brompton is brilliant. Since the luggage is supported by the frame, the bags don’t move as you steer. This keeps the load perfectly centered and doesn’t introduce any more moving mass when you turn the handlebars. The bike also handles exponentially better when you have a front load on it. It dampens the over-responsive steering and makes it more comfortable to ride.
As great as the bike is, there are some things we changed as soon as we could. Namely, the saddle and the grips. We transferred our old Brooks saddles, thought truth be told, the stock saddle isn’t so bad. We both changed out the foam grips to something more ergonomic. I currently have some Ergon R2M grips with bar ends and Laura has Ergon BioKork grips. Fortunately, none of these grip additions interfere with the fold.
In addition, we also transferred our old Grip King pedals from our Surlys to the Bromptons. The right-side pedal slips on as usual. For our left-side pedals, we had CleverCycles install the MKS quick release pedal system. Email them for details.
The Bromptons are amazing bicycles. Even after a few weeks of ownership, its still a marvel to behold the fold. They are so versatile and really open up traveling possibilities. We’ll write more about any other further changes and our final configuration. Feel free to email us if you have any questions.
Carol April 1, 2011 at 7:11 pm
It is fun the read what you are doing with your Bromptons. My husband and I bought ours in 2007 for a 6 month trip in 2008, which we took through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, India, Turkey, Greek Islands and The Netherlands. We added boats, buses, minivans and airplanes to your list that equals freedom. More recently we have pedaled through The Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary. We have never tried to camp as part of our bicycle travel, but we’ve stayed in some really cheap lodging! With only the front bag, we can take enough clothes, a silk bed liner, and extras as needed. I will continue to watch your progress. Have fun!
pamela January 7, 2013 at 12:35 pm
hi carol! i saw your 2011 note re; folding bikes and your extensive travels. we are looking at a trip through india in spring and wonder what your route was? we are considering new dehli to khatmandu and into bhutan….
Bike Hermit April 2, 2011 at 10:29 am
Very interesting. I’ll be following your story!
Susan April 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm
Hi! Can you tell me what size wheels you’re using?
Russ April 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm
The Bromptons have 16 inch wheels.
bubba April 11, 2011 at 9:57 am
Sounds like an adventure. I support your efforts to make train/bike travel better and more popular.
one note on the “minibikes” is that the little rims get hot on downhills w/a load. I don’t supose they offer discs?
Chandra Eswaran April 27, 2011 at 4:21 pm
I found this article, especially the part about the non-compatibility of the standard Brompton seat post with the SQR fitting, very useful.
Thanks for the enlightenment.
PS. I enjoyed meeting both of you at the Brompton booth during the NAHBS!
taiwoon June 9, 2011 at 7:24 pm
Hello Russ and Laura, inspired by ur articles.. I think I am going to use my brommie to tour!
Russ June 9, 2011 at 8:02 pm
tawiwoon – Awesome! Hope to get to tour in your part of the world one day!
taiwoon June 11, 2011 at 6:29 am
Russ, if u do, pls make sure u let me know.. And u can bunk in my place!
Milton July 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm
Hi. Fascinating blog – thanks…
I’m on the point of ordering a custom Brompton, and am just making the final decisions a few things, so I just had a couple of questions:
1) Would you say that the Ergon grips give the M-type handlebars the functionality that’s intended to be provided by the P-type? It would be good to hear a little more about why you went for the M and not the P. Do the Ergon grips effectively give you two different riding positions – one for speed, one for looking at the scenery, like the P bars? (It’s a little hard to tell from the design of the grips themselves, and from the images here.)
2) I’m having trouble deciding between the standard and reduced gearing. Did you ever feel that the top gear, on a long flat or downhill stretch with no traffic, was any lower than you would have wished? I know it’s basically just a question of trade-offs between different preferences, but, again, I’d be fascinated if you could expand on your experience in this area.
Thanks again! MH
One Month of Loaded Touring on the Bromptons, or ‘No, it’s not a Bike Friday’ | The Path Less Pedaled July 29, 2011 at 1:31 pm
[…] you’re interested in the particular specs of our Bromptons, read this previous post. If you have any questions we haven’t answered, feel free to comment here or shoot us an […]
Scott August 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm
The Ergon grips are vastly superior to the P-type bars. The lower position is too far from the brakes for safety, and your hands are in the same orientation, only lower. With the Ergon grips, you can rotate your wrists 90 degrees, to a more natural position (great for climbing out of the saddle), and still be within a split second of the brakes.
The P-type bars are also narrower by a smidge by measure and narrower still in effect because you can’t hold onto the top, outside curve of the handlebars as well as you can hold onto Ergon grips.
I got P-type bars for my first Brompton and M-type bars for the second (after I sold my car and needed a bike even more). I liked the M-type bars that I had the P-type bars converted to M-type (at no small expense), and I wouldn’t go back for anything.
Albert August 21, 2011 at 10:30 am
After seeing your website several months ago, I ordered a Brompton with a very similar options like yours…M-type, 6 gear, rear rack, EZwheels, Brooks saddle (titanium), and the titanium option…Thank you.
I wanted to ask you about your pedals and grips…
I use my bike primarily for commuting to work and running errands in the city (San Francisco). I was debating between the removable MKS King pedals versus MKS AR-2 EZY Quick Release Road Pedals (http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/pedals.html). The Brompton guy at NYC wheels put the quick release AR-2 pedals on his Brompton. MKS also makes a folding pedal…http://www.universalcycles.com/shopping/product_details.php?id=24473. I ride my bike with regular shoes and wanted your opinion on a set of pedals that’s compact, light, and fitting with the Brompton folding bike.
I’ve been debating between the GP-1 and GC-2 ERgon grips (I was thinking of getting the Biokork version for the lightweight factor). What is the point of the long thing attached to the end of GC-2 (and GR-2)?
Thanks for introducing to me such a great bike…it’s a blast riding it everyday!
Brian September 8, 2011 at 5:37 am
How are the shimano dynamo hubs performing? Read that the bracket that supports the front light breaks easily especially when the road gets bumpy — potholes.
I’d like to put a shimano hub in my brompton but feel it’s too much of a hassle if it just breaks down easily.
Anyone with shimano dynamo care to share their experiences with it?
Russ September 8, 2011 at 9:54 am
We’re using the Shimano hubs….about 2000 miles of loaded touring and it’s working well. Laura has the stock light that comes with the Shimano hub and I switched mine with the Lumotec Cyo. We’ve had to replace her bulb already. Not very long life on the those bulbs.
Nigel Healy January 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm
You still on BWR gear-reduced, I’m sure I’ve seen photos showing you went for a double-chainring manual-move? I think when your BB was working loose I saw a double-chainring. Is there details on that?
I have two touring Bromptons, one long / loaded / hilly multi-day type tours, and one for shorter / lighter / less-hill. My longer touring one is S6R with the older narrow 6-speed and a Schlumpf Mountain Drive, for 12 gears 18″-97″ and my shorter is a S6L-X/BWR gear-reduced 29″-88″.
I also have Ergon grips on both, the Biokork on my S6L-X and the GR2 on the S6R.
James B July 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm
I have a S6R on order, and I loved the S bars on my test ride, but I’m worrying now that I won’t have the luggage options if I go touring. I’ll mainly use it for commuting around London and giving some road bikes a run for their money, but in the holidays I’d like to go camping with it. How do you manage? Thanks
Jennifer August 17, 2012 at 3:43 am
Thanks for the post! What kind of rear bags and carrier block type thing do you have on the sage bike in the second photo? It looks like a very nice set up. Happy riding!
Petites Roues Libres » Blog Archive » Le vélo Brompton August 28, 2012 at 5:50 am
[…] J’ai conseillé Céline d’acheter un vélo Brompton après avoir parcouru le net sur les différents vélos pliants. Il existe différentes marques de vélos pliants mais celle-ci sortait du lot de part la compacité du vélo au pliage et leur aptitude à la randonnée. Si on est sceptique quant à la capacité de randonner avec ce vélo, Russ ROCCA et Laura CRAWFORD ont parcouru 16 OOO Kilometres pendant 15 mois à travers les Etats Unis le long de la côte pacifique avec leur Brompton, faites un tour sur leur site : https://www.pathlesspedaled.com/2011/03/touring-bromptons/ […]
Brompton | Azzy Makes March 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm
[…] I think it's such a classy colour – a mix of red, purple and fuchsia. You can check out The Path Less Pedaled and Primo Cyclorina (who has called her bike Clarice!) for more claret bike goodness. If you join […]
Joining the Tribe of Brompton [Updated - July 2013] | Sameer Padania July 8, 2013 at 7:46 am
[…] A couple I particularly enjoyed are Lovely Bike and The Path Less Pedaled (which also has a detailed spec, and a load of accessory reviews). Here’s I Love Biking SF, I Love Brompton, and Cycling […]
Steve Doherty August 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm
I wish all internet postings were as lucid, intelligent, interesting, good-natured and helpful as this one. It answered all my questions but two concerning the impending purchase of a Brompton. 1) Does anyone know if thick walled inner tubes are available anywhere for Brompton wheels. I have had them for years on thin wheeled road bikes and never had a flat. I will use my bike in some remote areas and like to travel with as little as possible. 2)Does the Dahon seat post pump fit the Brompton and does it work?
Tortuga April 15, 2017 at 10:40 am
Colorful, no-flat-EVER tubeless Tannus tires are available from Cycle To Go in Tucson, Arizona and via their website:
Alexandria August 26, 2013 at 7:12 pm
Thanks guys! You are truly an inspiration!!! I am going to buy my wife and I Bromies for touring and your set up guide has absolutely helped me decide how to build ours (almost exactly the same). Your BASW episodes have us totally psyched to get out and go. We are so outdoorsy and have always wanted to bike out west and in Europe. I think these Bromptons will fit the bill…and your wonderful website and blogs will fuel our anticipation and inspiration!
Steve September 25, 2015 at 6:24 pm
Thanks – you cost me a ton of money – out the door a Ti Brommie is not cheap. Your blogs, trips, stories inspired me to get a folding bike for the Camino De Santiago across Spain and New Zealand. I am very grateful for your taking the time to let us ride with you through the internet. I got my bike through Clever Cycle because they support you and they were great to deal with. Please keep up the great work so my cubical will not squeeze in and crush me.
Russ September 28, 2015 at 9:23 am
Ha! Thanks for the great comments 🙂
Monklu October 2, 2016 at 4:11 pm
How did the Brompton do on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela?
Michael Katz December 26, 2015 at 12:12 am
Love your site. Wondering…What size backpacks do you use when touring with your Brompton? I don’t want to buy something too big or short myself with something too small.
William Ferguson February 26, 2020 at 12:39 am
Hi, during your touring did you have to make any repairs on the road?, any break downs?
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Interesting set-up for touring that you have put together. 🙂 I’ve found that I can’t really put much weight on the Brompton’s rear rack (bag-wise) since there’s not much clearance between the fender and tire. But the front touring bag is good for holding a lot of stuff! 🙂 Charmaine