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Pedal power: Why a Brompton Electric is the perfect commuter bike for swerving the fuel crisis

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 10/15/2021 Katie Strick
Brompton Antwerp-471-Edit.jpg © Brompton Brompton Antwerp-471-Edit.jpg

There’s something satisfying about soaring past queues of cars on every forecourt - especially when even the middle aged men in Lycra are struggling to keep up.

The reason for my cycle-to-work smugness? My shiny new folding speed machine, the Brompton Electric. Though you’ll probably know the name by now, judging by the number of excited fellow cyclists who stopped to quiz me on its attributes every time we stopped at traffic lights.

Indeed, Brompton’s electric edition is no new addition to the cycling scene. The folding bike brand first launched its powered version in 2017 to a chorus of (mostly) rave reviews, despite the enormous £2,595 starting price.

But recently, an upgraded new bolt blue model and a surge in electric bike interest have seen sales soar - and that’s before the current fuel crisis caused e-bike sales to skyrocket even further.

 (Brompton) © Provided by Evening Standard (Brompton)

The main reason(s)? Their comparative kindness on the body and the planet. E-bikes aren’t just better for the environment than driving, but pedal cycling, too, certain experts claim. According to professor Mike Berners-Lee’s eco manual How Bad Are Bananas?, a mile on an electric bike can be 20 times more carbon-friendly than a mile on a conventional bike (one of the many fun facts behind this: electric motors are four times as efficient as human legs at turning chemical energy into bike propulsion, according to Berners-Lee).

Electric bikes are, clearly, having their moment - so why a Brompton specifically? First, its (relative) lightness. While other e-bikes I’ve trialed felt chunky and heavy, Brompton’s felt much more nimble, weighing just 13.7kg (plus 2.9kg for the detachable lithium iron battery, which comes in two sizes of carry case depending how much luggage you need to carry).

 (Brompton) © Provided by Evening Standard (Brompton)

Sure, this makes it heavier than the original Brompton, but it’s still portable enough to carry short distances, whether it’s up the steps into your flat or to the lift at work - increasingly critical, as bike theft continues to skyrocket across the capital. After the violent machete attacks against cyclists in Richmond Park this weekend, being able to store your bike indoors feels like a more important consideration than ever.

Having spent years associating electric bikes with my parents’ generation, I’ll admit it didn’t take long to become a convert (the new dazzling blue colour helped). Once I’d got used to the smaller bike and my new cycling position, the F1-engineered battery-powered boost became addictive. That deadly Hyde Park incline into the wind? No problem. Hill starts? A breeze! My 30-minute early morning commute felt less intimidating. Not only did the Brompton shave five minutes off my Strava time (it reaches speeds of up to 15.5mph - don’t judge my previous commuting speed), but it saved me an outfit change at the other end. Why take a spare change of clothes when I’m barely breaking a sweat?

 (Brompton) © Provided by Evening Standard (Brompton)

As for the cycle itself, my Brompton seems to have earned me a new legion of friends. I’ve grown accustomed to grumpy morning commuters over the years but turns out all I needed to do was switch to my e-bike and suddenly they want to chat. “Is it as good as they say it is?” asks the middle-aged cyclist I pass on King’s Road each morning (yes, if you can forgive the few seconds it takes for the battery to kick in). “Love the colour,” comments another as I whizz past, my bike’s blue lacquer glinting in the headlights. The next day, I pass a glamorous entrepreneur riding her Turkish green version to a business meeting. “I’m obsessed,” she says breezily, gliding off across Gloucester Road, lipstick applied and ready for her morning meeting.

She’s not the only one. Brompton’s battery-powered nudge feels like a magic caffeine hit for cycling, with a 25-mile range and clever smart sensor technology meaning the pedals know when to assist you. The battery separates from the bike with one easy click so you can charge it anywhere, and the latest upgraded model comes with smoother and faster response times and hardware improvements for a higher-quality performance. Since March it’s also come with a shiny new app where you can track your mileage, speed, trip time and battery capacity from a handy dashboard on your handlebars.

Naturally, this kind of magic comes at a price: while thee main two-speed model costs £2,875, you can upgrade to a six-speed gear version for an additional £145 if your commute is particularly hilly. The super-premium bolt blue lacquer finish is another £195 on top of that - a hefty price to pay for a superhuman-feeling commute.

Still, it’s cheaper than forking out for new bikes every season when your shiny new wheels are stolen from a lamppost. The only remaining downside, as a lifelong pedal cyclist like me? Once you’ve got used to the guilty pleasure of your battery boost, you might just struggle to go back.

From £2,875 including free home delivery within the M25, brompton.com

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