While countless businesses languish as a result of covid-19, others are seeing their sales speed up. Perhaps it’s due to people seeking a new way to exercise, or taking advantage of quieter roads, but it’s estimated that sales of bicycles are up by around fifteen per cent.
“People are thinking, I want to have independence,” says Will Butler-Adams, chief executive of the folding bike company, Brompton.
Brompton is a design classic that is practical, easy to use and instantly recognisable. Furthermore, it’s a beacon of commercially successful British engineering. Brompton is not only a success in British manufacturing but has revolutionised the way bicycles can be used in this country. The bike’s party trick is a clever, bomb-proof folding mechanism that sells well with commuters because onerous regulations prevent many from carrying full-size bikes on trains. “Many are all too quick to write off UK manufacturing as dead and buried but if you look a little closer you’ll find a lot of small, entrepreneurial companies that are exciting, innovative and prosperous” says Butler-Adams.
Andrew Ritchie built the first Brompton bike in 1979 and has been refining the design ever since. However, some might say the brand has been slow to innovate. In fact, Brompton owners are such a resourceful bunch that they retrofitted electric motors to their folders before any official battery assist version. And one owner addressed criticism of the Brompton’s weight by building one that tips the scales at under 6KG. So while it might be true to say the brand isn’t best known for innovation – it’s electric model was launched many years behind schedule, for instance – the British-built Brompton now sells across the world and such is its success that the company struggles to keep up with orders.
The ethical choice
The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. And 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance, travel insurance, breakdown cover and home insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.
We had a go at customising a Brompton ourselves back in 2010. The bike started life as a stock Brompton S2L, which we stripped down, polished, plated in copper and finally covered in 24ct gold. The plating company we used buys gold from small artisanal mines in order to minimise its environmental impact.
The bar-mounted selector has been replaced by a specially fabricated jockey shift gear change with a pool ball on top.
All cables are gold braid, the spoke nipples are gold. The plastic fittings you use to secure the folding frame have been replaced with stopcock handles. Soon after its launch, the Guardian website bike blog describes the Brompton as having been “pimped through flash, gaudy, and vulgar, out the other side into ironic, and beyond that into uber-cool. Perhaps.”