It’s a 2016 Brompton S6L Black Edition folding bike.
Why a folding bike, you may ask.
Well: The clients I visit are located in various corners of the greater Hamburg area. Given that I am expected to wear decent, and clean and dry, clothing it is not reasonable to go the full length of all trips on the bike.
Hamburg does have a world class public transportation system (check out hvv.de to find out more). Trains operate on a tight schedule (every 10 minutes or less on most lines) and there is usually a station within a three or four km radius from anywhere. Three or four km are reasonable to cover on a bicycle under almost all circumstances. The system generally allows you take a bike on commuter trains. However, between 6 and 9 am, as well as between 4 and 6 pm, bikes are not permitted, with the exception of folding bikes. As those are my usual commuting hours (they are for most people, hence the ban on bulky bikes) I went for a folding bike.
Would there be any alternatives to commuting by public transport plus the folding bike? For getting from the stations to the clients: Some are within walking distance, some are reachable by bus, but some just are “out in the middle of nowhere” (by big city standards). I could also get a company car. But there’s rush hour traffic. Not going to go into that. On occasion I get a car from the company car pool when I go on long distance trips (when I do I usually pack the bike and ride between the Hotel and the work site).
Why a Brompton?
Seriously: That question shouldn’t need an answer. I’ll try to answer it, anyway.
The Brompton offers a perfect combination of rideability and comfort, weight, folding size, and folding speed. When unfolded it offers the same rider geometry as a regular 28-inch bicycle (that is height, stack, reach, 170mm cranks, etc.). Thanks to the right choice of chain ring, sprockets and a shifting hub it offers the same range (or better) of cadence to riding speed ratios as any regular 5- or 7-speed hub on a 28-inch bike. (I ride over 30 km/h or 20 mph regularly, and I have exceeded 50 km/h on occasion.) It weighs around 12kg which is nice for riding as well as carrying the bike. The folding size is (almost) unmatched (only the Kwiggle bike beats it). I can personally fold it in few enough seconds to board the most packed of trains. Even when I start folding after the train has come to a stop and the doors have opened, I am done before the other passengers are done disembarking.
Why Black Edition?
All the company cars are black, because the board of directors think that the logo looks best on black. It’s a company bike. It has the logo on it.
Does it have any extra features?
Here’s a list of the extras fitted, and of some missing, and the reasons why:
SON XS hub dynamo and SON Edelux II head light. When I first got the bike it had the IQ2 Eyc, which is a superb headlight. However, on really dark roads I found the beam to be a bit too narrow for high speeds. Brompton Junction in Hamburg gave me the opportunity to test ride one of their bikes with the newer Edelux II for a couple of days and I was sold. For now, that is. I am still looking for the perfect headlight, which needs to be dynamo powered and have a high beam / low beam option. But the low beam must not be any worse than the Edelux II… if such lights exist I am unaware.
Schwalbe Marathon tires for the winter. Schwalbe Kojak in the summer. Schwalbe Marathon Plus are way too heavy for my taste. The treads of the Brompton tires don’t seem fit for snow. Kojak because of the low weight and therefore faster riding. (And yes, they seem to be a bit prone to punctures.)
S-type handle bar with the original grips. I’ve never been a fan of “comfort” grips. Drop bars aren’t a real option. P-type bars seem too clumsy for my taste.
6-speed because I have some climbs on my usual routes, as well as some downhill sections (duh, going the other way round). I have tested a 2-speed, but I have to say that the 6-speed works better for everyday use.
54T chain ring (the “+8%” option) allows me to do most of my day-to-day rides between 2nd and 4th, whereas with the original 50T I found myself using 2nd through 5th, which meant I could not conveniently shift back after having stopped. (1st world problems, really.)
The saddle is a Brompton saddle. Suits me, and the grips on the bottom are actually quite useful.
Firm suspension block. The standard suspension block makes me constantly believe I have low tire pressure.
Standard pedals, with the folding pedal on the left, for the cold and wet season. Wellgo half and half pedals with SPD-compatible clips for the summer.
Quad lock for the iPhone.
Sigma BC 8.12 ATS speedometer. For time of day, and stats. Plus, I have to admit to be looking at the speed while riding.
Brompton Tool Kit. In case I need to change a tube after a puncture.