Brompton Electric bike review

11 Jun 2020

The leading folding bike has been given an electric makeover and made life so much simpler. Or has it?

Cyclist Rating: 
• Motor makes life so easy • Still folds perfectly
• Needs to be made lighter for universal use

I must start my review of the Brompton Electric with a bit of a moan. Not with the bike, no, but with the stigma that seems to be latched upon e-bikes. 

Whenever Cyclist posts a story about e-bikes, whether that be the potential outcome of more people cycling or just a review of a new bike, it is met with a strange response: Readers assume that e-bikes are for the 'lazy' or 'unwilling' and that it is in some way negating the entire point of riding a bike. 

It does seem that this small group of people slightly miss the point of e-bikes. Realistically, they serve two purposes and neither of which is the quest to replace your normal bike with one with a motor.

The first purpose of an e-bike is to offer transport. Cycling as transport and cycling as a sport/hobby are two different things, something we often fail to recognise, particularly in the UK. 

Look across the channel to Belgium or the Netherlands and you will find people using the bike as their primary option to get from A to B. The e-bike simply allows you to do that without arriving at your destination all flushed like a hot mess.

Secondly, the e-bike also keeps people that can no longer cycle or are too afraid to - for one reason or another - still riding.

I've encountered quite a few older cyclists recently who are still pedalling and would not be if it wasn't for the assistance of the little motor attached to their downtube.

Buy the Brompton Electric now from Pure Electric for £2,715

They can keep up on the club run and even still climb a mountain much later in life than before thanks to electricity. And even Eddy Merckx rides one, and he is the greatest.

Rant over, now I can back to the important stuff, telling you about the Brompton Electric.

New batteries needed

Getting the Brompton Electric off the ground was more than just a telephone call to a company like Bosch or Yahama followed by an order of 10,000 existing motor units. 

For tapping up existing products was not an option if Brompton wanted to keep true to its transportable roots. Instead, with a £200,000 Smart funding grant from the government, London-based Brompton set about developing its own motor.

One thing led to another and eventually, in-house engineers and top bods from the Williams F1 team combined to devise an entirely new system.

Brompton's motor is intelligent. It doesn't just whizz up to full bore at the first pedal rev. Instead, it reacts to you, judging pedal torque, cadence and speed via a bottom bracket sensor before providing you with the assistance you need. 

The Samsung lithium-ion battery then kicks into action giving you the power needed for that particular time to a range of 250w. It's a smart bit of kit that considers how much you need rather than just give you everything.

What this makes for is a spritely kick off the line. Putting down the pressure at a set of traffic lights, you are comfortably the quickest thing off the mark, propelling clear of other traffic in an instant. 

To my delight, I found myself with plenty of breathing room ahead of fellow cyclists, motorbikes and London buses when pulling away without having to dig deep into my soul to get the 16kg frame shifting.

When you get going, the motor then sends you into cruise mode. I could stop thinking about the physical effort of cycling when riding around town and instead concentrate on the busy traffic and the beautiful sights around me. 

Buy the Brompton Electric now from Pure Electric for £2,715

Honestly, you could spend an entire day rolling around a city on this electric Brompton without a second thought to whether you'd get all hot and sweaty or you were going to tire yourself out.

What also surprised me is that despite the weight of the bike, the motor was powerful enough to drag me up some challenging gradients.

The 15% peak of Powder Mill Road, local to home, was little match for my Brompton and I found myself at its summit, 300m later, neither out of breath nor drenched in sweat.

I'm pretty confident that the electric Brompton would proove a match to any city's terrain, no matter how hilly it is, especially considering Brompton also has this bike in six-speed as well as two.

The battery will then also recognise when the pressure was off, say descending a hill, instantly reserving its juice for a later date.

To save battery, you can also run the motor at three different intensities, although I only ever found myself opting for full whack.

The battery sits neatly above the front wheel operating a rear and front light if you need it to while also including a nifty port to charge your phone.

Give it four hours and the battery will be fully charged, enough I found for at least 7 working days of back and forth rides to the station and the office.

Ride of your life

The long wheelbase of the original Brompton made for a stable beast but the addition of 3kg in weight has really helped plant this bike to the floor making for a smooth, stable ride.

Even the most gnarly pothole did little to throw me off course and my body noticed little vibrations from the road, such is the quality of the ride.

Ride quality is also assisted by the trusty Schwalbe Marathon Racer tyres which are wide and comfortable and everything you want from a little city hack.

With that extra weight on the front end, you would expect the handling to have been thrown a touch off-kilter but this isn't the case.

The extra bulk on the front has done little to hinder cornering and I found that the extra zip provided by the motor allowed you to take corners with added vigour.

On the bike, I really cannot fault the electric Brompton. It became indispensable when I had it on test. Vital to any short journey and the envy of my colleagues at Cyclist HQ despite its eye-opening £2,595 price tag. 

However, as it always tends to be, there was trouble in paradise.

Dead weight

As with all first iterations of a product, there are parts that can be refined and this is no different for the Brompton Electric. 

The cabling for the rear brake and two-speed mech runs down the spine of the bike towards the rear but for the bike to fold as it does, this needs to sit on the drive chain side.

This puts loose cable precariously close to the chainring while also leaving a clump of wire near the handlebar clamp, in the way.

I also found that the latch to lock the bike in would also sometimes sneak itself in-between the chain and the chainset if the crank arms were not at the right angle, leading to greasy fingers after having to untangle it. 

But by far the biggest elephant in the room for Brompton will be the weight concern. Tipping the scales at 16.6kg I found it a bit of an ordeal carrying it around.

To put this into perspective, my formative years were filled with playing rugby meaning I made a habit of moving heavy things. So, I thought that the short trip up and down the stairs at Dartford Station with this Brompton would be fine.

Unfortunately, it wasn't fine rather a slight chore. The dead weight of it is hard enough to lug around as it is but this isn't helped by it being such an awkward carry.

You can only get the purchase you need from underneath the saddle, which keeps the weight low and therefore harder to manage.

Buy the Brompton Electric now from Pure Electric for £2,715

It also meant that when I walked any faster than snail's pace, the bike would rock, inevitably bashing me in the leg bruising me like a neglected peach. 

You can detach the battery from the bike to distribute the weight but that doesn't solve the issue of having to carry 16.6kg, which leads me to the concern that the Brompton Electric could be quite a limiting bike. 

Realistically, it was only a limited time that I carried the electric Brompton off the floor but it was enough to be a hindrance and some will not even be able to get it off the floor at all. 

Yet, in all honesty, nothing's perfect is it? So to bear down too heavy on the issue of weight would be inconsiderate to what I would go as far as saying is the best bike I've ridden all year. 

This bike will likely evolve with time, get lighter, get more commuter savvy and alleviate the issues I had. Now all I need to do is get the e-bike naysayers out on this rig to change their minds.

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