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Brompton x CHPT3 review

3 May 2019
Verdict:

A roadie alternative to the usual Brompton. It has its faults but, fundamentally, it's a supremely exciting bike

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
• Nippy, light and fast • A near-perfect bike to ride around town
Against 
• Saddle too racey to ride without chammy and uncomfortable to carry • Price

When I first got the latest Brompton x CHPT3 to review, I initially spoke to the two central minds behind the bike, Brompton CEO Will Butler-Adams and CHPT3 creator and former pro David Millar.

Both routinely told me that this was a Brompton that appealed to non-Brompton riders: die-hard road riders. Those who rode their £10,000 carbon road bikes to the local cafe and then sat outside to make sure nobody stole them while sipping away at their black Americanos.

It didn’t make sense to me.

Why wouldn’t a road rider want to use a Brompton? Why did Brompton feel the need to design a bike to be more like a road bike in order for roadies to be interested?

After a few months of riding, I think I realised the answer to both questions.

Luxury utility

It didn’t take long to see what Brompton had aimed for with this collaboration with CHPT3. By aiming at road riders, it has actually improved the Brompton's performance.

I’ve ridden quite a few Bromptons in the past such as the S2L and even the Brompton Electric. All were nippy and quick off the mark, mainly due to the 16” wheels, but none has felt truly fast and ridden quite so smoothly.

The Brompton x CHPT3 is fast. Very fast, actually. It gets up to speed quickly and once you’re there holds it. It also keeps you fast through the corners and offers a smooth ride.

Brompton has achieved this by using a mixture of steel and titanium in frame construction which is lighter than the standard steel frames usually used by Brompton across the majority of its range.

The manufacturer has also firmed up the suspension block at the rear of the bike. This didn’t result in any discomfort but it did make the bike feel more secure and gave you the confidence to push it faster and harder in the corners.

There’s also none of the usual add-ons such as mudguards oe provisions for pannier racks. Brompton has also used Fabric slim bar grips which are lighter and machined and refined seatpost clamps and hinges, too.

Altogether the bike weighs just 10.3kg which is pretty light. With the six gears supplied, climbing really isn’t a problem on this bike. In fact, it climbs really well and made pretty light work of gradients that even reached double figures.

Tidy tyres

The aforementioned speed is also down to Schwalbe One tanwall 35mm tyres. They’re the fastest tyres Brompton has ever used and it shows.

Unlike the rhino hind you usually get (which isn’t a criticism, by the way), the Schwalbe Ones are supple with little rolling resistance and sufficient puncture protection carrying across all the performance benefits of their outstanding 700c siblings

It’s also worth mentioning that aesthetically, these miniature tanwall tyres are among the best looking tyres on the market. If only Schwalbe released their 700c One clinchers in tanwall, too.

It’s worth saying that these improvements in performance have all been added without compromising the Brompton’s USP, being foldable.

No compromises have been made with how the bike packs down, it’s like any other Brompton in that sense.

The utility aspects of mudguards and pannier racks have been lost, yes, but honestly that was worth compromising for the improvement in performance.

Perched pains

Taking across small road touches such as a lighter titanium frame and Schwalbe One tyres has worked to improve the Brompton x CHPT3 for the better. Where it has had the reverse effect is with the Fabric Scoop saddle.

When I spoke to Millar about the bike he simply said they had opted for a road-specific saddle because ‘this was a bike designed for roadies and a road rider's backside would be used to this kind of saddle.’

The rationale is there but after a few months of riding, I realised it's not a saddle suited to Brompton riding.

You ride your Brompton around cities and towns in jeans, chinos and suit trousers, not expensive bibshorts.

I know the Scoop saddle is very good on a road bike because I’ve used it but it’s only very good when paired up with bibshorts which have been designed to offer your backside protection against its firm stool.

If I rode anymore than say 15 minutes on the Brompton, I’d find myself getting fidgety, sliding around in my jeans trying to seek comfort all because the saddle was just far too aggressive for casual, urban riding.

Also, as the Fabric Scoop saddle hasn’t been altered in any way, it makes it quite uncomfortable to carry.

Lugging the bike up and down the stairs at Dartford station, I routinely alternated between hands to give myself a respite from the discomfort. Not ideal but at least the Devesa print looks cool.

For more visit the Brompton website here

It’s also worth noting that with an RRP of £1,990, this is about as expensive as a Brompton can get without an electric motor perched above its front wheel. Saying that, if you have the money to spend and a tough backside, this is a really exciting bike.

Riding a Brompton around a busy city gives you such a sense of satisfaction. You're the fastest and most nimble thing on the road. The envy of moaning cabbies everywhere.

With the Brompton x CHPT3, the improvements in performance have only helped personify that pure childish joy of riding your bike around a big and bustling city.

Photography: Peter Stuart

Price: 
£1,990