Urban Velo

Brompton M6L Folding Bike Review

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Brompton folders are born from the small quarters and extensive public transit system of their London home, a place where indoor space is at a premium and multi-modal transport is key to making it across town on time. Founder Andrew Ritchie was introduced to an Australian folding bike by chance one day, and quickly thereafter began work on what would become the Brompton bicycle, deciding upon the signature method of folding the rear wheel under the bike with the first prototype.

Bromptons all share the same main frame design, with the model numbers designating the chosen options for the bike. The pictured model has an M-type handlebar, a 6-speed drivetrain, and the “L” fender kit optionthe Brompton M6L. The frame, hinges, and many of the small parts are not only designed but fabricated in Brompton’s London factory, making for a truly unique complete bicycle benefitting from years of subtle refinements to the same basic design.

brompton_m6l_s-3Three pivots allow the bike to fold in three basic steps. Unhook the small lever on the rear suspension bumper and the rear wheel swings under the frame as the first step, leaving the bike in a freestanding, partially folded, parked position. Next, release the frame hinge and swing the front wheel back. Finally release and fold the bars down, stow the folding pedal, and lower the seatpost fully to lock the bike in the folded position. The process easily takes less than 30 seconds after a few practice runs, and thanks to the 16” wheels ends with such a compact package (23” x 21.5” x 10.6”) that some have even had success bringing it along as carry-on luggage. The chain and cables conveniently end up to the inside of the folded package.

brompton_m6l_s-2We handed off the Brompton M6L to Ngani Ndimbie, Communications Manager of Bike Pittsburgh, for feedback: “The six speed drivetrain was more than adequate to conquer all of my usual hills, and I was easily able to keep up with conventional bikes while riding in a group. It’s easy to shift gears with the Sturmey-Archer internal three speed hub and Brompton designed two speed external derailleur and shifters. The long stem flexes enough that I never felt comfortable standing while climbing, though wheelies are easy and the bike handles really well once you have time on it. I did sometimes yearn for larger wheels.”

brompton_m6l_s-1“While I’ll admit that I occasionally felt like a dweeb riding around town on the Brompton, that all changed with the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place conference where folders proved to be the official bike of active transportation nerds on the go,” Ngani continued. “Folding was easy the first timeI watched a quick video and mimicked the motions. Without the video I folded it incorrectly at least two times, once leaving me getting on the bus with both arms wrapped around an inexpertly folded bike. With use it became easier, and with time it would be second nature.”

brompton_m6l_s-6There is no doubt that the small 16” wheels and long, unsupported stem rides differently than a traditionally constructed bicycle, but after a short adjustment period the Brompton M6L rides reasonably well at city speeds. While plenty of people have ridden a Brompton long distances or even raced them, the small wheels can be harsh with rocks and potholes becoming proportionally bigger as compared to more forgiving, larger diameter wheels. Given the wheel size and design constraints of a folder, you couldn’t ask for a much better handling bike. Expecting the ride of a conventional bike will lead to disappointment, using a folder to ride when or where you otherwise wouldn’t be able to is where a Brompton truly shines. Throw it in the trunk of a car,

brompton_m6l_s-1Brompton is single minded in trying to create the best folding bike on the market. The attention to purpose is clear from the folding action itself to the hinge quality, and on through the small details of a single folding pedal and ancillary wheels to help roll the folded machine through a crowded station. Commuters can easily click bags on and off the headtube mounted cleat, and a rear rack is available to further expand carrying capacity. The quick folding action is key to using the bike as intended on mass transit and in and out of buildings, with an open-bottom bag available to disguise the bike as just another piece of luggage in less-than-bike-friendly businesses and workplaces.

Bromptons are premium folders, but are priced competitively as compared to other UK or USA-made bicycles, with complete bikes starting around $1200, and the M6L as tested coming in at $1625.

The Stolen Bike Buffet

bike-stealing_lwmmltThe Seattle Met published a good piece on the typical pathways a stolen bicycle will take, from broken lock to Craigslist, and all the hassles of effectively getting it back into your hands. Speaking from personal experience, hunting down a bike yourself is far better than going to the police, as this story also alludes.

When an SPD cruiser finally showed up “a couple cigarettes later,” police informed the dispirited blogger that the alley where he’d almost gotten screwed was technically outside city limits, in White Center. So Fucoloro called the King County Sheriff, then set up another buy using a different cellphone.

As is to be expected though, there is little recourse we have in preventing bike theft in the first place, short of purchasing the incoming technologies involving GPS tracking…which is a welcomed development.

For most though, a bicycle becomes a sunk cost the moment it goes missing. If you love your bike, write down the serial number, take some photos, register online, and buy a lock commensurate with its value.

All-City Out There

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Cities are great to live in, bicycles are great ways to escape. All-City gets out there.

Chrome X Cinelli

chromeChrome and Cinelli have teamed up to create a slick line of products including a standard roll top, hat, utility bag and T-shirt. I’m digging the vibrant color scheme and simplistic angular aesthetic. Launched at Interbike, you can see a full line of product photos here.

NiteRider Introduces The Sentinel

NiteRiderSentinalNiteRider is now offering a tail light with a virtual bike lane indicator.

The Sentinel 2 Watt Tail Light has a powerful 2 watt LED (30 lumens), 5 modes and is USB rechargeable.

We’re expecting to have one in for test soon, so stay tuned.

Check out www.niterider.com

City Report – Milwaukee

City: Milwaukee, WI

Nickname: Brew City, Cream City, or City of Festivals.

Claim to Fame:
Beer and Brats, Pabst, Miller High Life, Harley Davidson and the Calatrava designed art museum.

History in 100 Words (or less): Milwaukee is a blue collar city made from blood, sweat and beers. Milwaukee was first settled by Europeans at the turn of the 19th century, originally formed by three towns called Juneautown, Kilbourntown, and Walker’s Point separated by the Milwaukee River. In 1846, all three cities grew to such an extent that they merged to form Milwaukee. German immigrants made the population boom in the mid-1800s, and the influence remains to this day. Milwaukee is famous for its cream colored brick buildings that were made in the Menomonee River valley.

Read more.

Give 3 Feet


With the implementation of the 3 Feet Law in California, the Orange Country Transportation Authority released this humorous PSA about sharing the road. I like it, but WHY OH WHY did they make the cyclist look like he time traveled from the 80s? Still..point made.

Issue #44 – Available Online

Urban Velo 44Contents include: Fixed Gear Freestyle—It Ain’t Over Yet, New Courier Renaissance, News and Views, Future Bike, The Cincinnati Bikeway Product Spotlight, Interbike and Eurobike Coverage, Product Reviews: Brompton, Kryptonite, Chrome, and more, City Report—Milwaukee, ISO Tire Sizes, Biking With Isa, The Piano Pedaler, and I Love Riding in the City.

Download it for free, purchase it from the Apple Store or order a printed copy online.

Cyclist Collides with Pedestrian

jill-tarlovA New York cyclist, Jason Marshall, struck a pedestrian while riding in Central Park on September 19th. The cyclist was allegedly riding in the bike lane when he swerved to miss a group of pedestrians, ultimately colliding with another pedestrian, Jill Tarlov. It is reported Tarlov later died from her injuries, and Marshall is not to be charged at this time.

There is much to be said about our responsibilities as road users, both being vulnerable and dangerous at the same time, but I’ll leave that discussion alone for the time being. However, it’s hard to ignore this article by the NY Daily News, which is both painfully thorough and skewed with opinion, considering how cyclists are normally portrayed when the collision involves a vehicle.

More about the collision via Animal NY.

Swobo Scofflaw

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The $1249 Swobo Scofflaw is meant to take you off the beaten path where some mustachioed man can question your presence. The Reynolds 531 steel frame features a tapered carbon fork, Avid BB7s disc brakes, sliding dropouts and fender mounts for the commute. Clearance for up to 42 mm tires lets you put some meaty treads on, and while the complete bike ships as a single speed it comes equipped with a cassette hub, narrow-wide chainring and derailleur hanger — ready for a 1x setup. This looks like a great bike to get lost on all day, or for a quick city lap with friends come nightfall. Great platform to ride as is, or build up and upgrade as you go. With full length housing mounts, it wouldn’t be that hard to have an alternate geared setup that only takes half an hour of wrenching to swap. Pre-order today for $50 and get one when they become available in January 2015.

City Reports