Folding electric bike and above all intended for the city, the Brompton Electric passed through our hands for a few weeks. What is this two-wheeler sold for 3,270 euros worth by the British brand? That’s the whole point of this test.
Brompton, folding bicycle pioneer
Founded in 1975 by English engineer Andrew Ritchie, the Brompton Company has made folding bikes its exclusive spearhead. The brand has gradually grown around the world and is now positioned in nearly 50 different markets. Its machines are available in more than 1,500 stores, including 14 Brompton Junction brands dispatched to the four corners of the planet – but not in Paris.
Based in Brentford, Greater London, the manufacturer did not want to miss the electric boat. In 2018, Brompton therefore launched its first trendy model – which has since seen several versions – by trying to surf on its image as a reliable and reputable manufacturer. From a pricing perspective, the Brompton Electric follows in the footsteps of its mechanical counterparts. Is it worth it? This is the question we will answer.
Brompton Electric technical sheet
This test was carried out with a copy on loan from the brand.
Understanding the Brompton Electric
What is a Brompton Electric? Unlike some specialist builders such as Cowboy or VanMoof, to name a few, the Brompton Electric is nothing but an evolution of the mechanical Brompton. Here, the firm from across the Channel did not start from scratch to create a product from scratch, but “more simply” added a motor and a battery.
A representative of the group assured us that strengthening work had been done on the gallows. Enough to make the front more robust, thus being able to properly accommodate the necessary electrical components.
Brompton cultivates a high-end brand image, both in the way it manufactures its bikes and the price lists assigned to them. A Brompton mechanical bike is a minimum of 1600 euros, a maximum of 3000 euros. An expensive price that the company seems to justify by production methods that it does not hesitate to highlight.
“ All bikes are hand brazed by skilled craftsmen in our London factory ,” says Brompton, who plays the card of reliability and durability. “ All brazers are trained by Brompton for 18 months and have a ‘signature’ which they put on the parts of the bike they work on “. “Unique pieces”, in a way, or at least from a symbolic point of view.
A Brompton is also the guarantee of a light, compact and transportable bicycle. And this is one of the main assets hammered out by the brand: its multimodal side, also well suited for journeys by car, metro, train, thanks to its ultra compact appearance when folded.
This contextualization brings us to a precise point: the price of the Brompton Electric, set at 3,270 euros for the two-speed version, and 3,400 euros for the six-speed variant. A price that suggests a high-level technical sheet and a premium design … at least in our imagination.
We will therefore not stop putting this crushing price in perspective throughout the test.
A design… worthy of a Brompton
As explained in the preamble, Brompton took the backbone of his mechanical Brompton and integrated a battery and a motor into it to make an electric one. At first glance, the bike doesn’t really breathe high-end: it’s visually loaded, cluttered, even messy. Visible wires run all the way through the machine and the frame welds are visible. This reinforces the lack of aesthetics. For the clean side, it will be necessary to iron.
The battery is placed in a clip-on bag at the front of the bike, near the stem. In short: it looks like DIY. For a bike sold over 3000 euros, we expected more. The open frame only has a slightly wavy central bar, which has the advantage of leaving us plenty of room to get on our mount. It’s always convenient.
The battery weighs 2.2 kilos, and climbs to 2.9 kilos with the bag. Bag in which the charging cable is located. To remove it, a button located on its upper base allows you to unclip the battery. Next to this button is the power button – which allows you to play with the assistance levels – and the headlight button. Several indicator lights indicate the remaining battery life: estimate requires, it is not very precise.
Still at the front, the motor is located at the wheel hub. Manufactured in-house, it delivers up to 250W of power, allowing assistance to provide electrical assistance at speeds up to 25 km / h. Once this speed is reached, the engine shuts off and it is with the strength of your legs that you must move forward. The engine block is supported by a torque sensor: the bike therefore delivers power according to the force of your pedaling.
The lack of hydraulic disc brakes on a bicycle that sells for more than 3000 euros can also make you tick. It will be necessary here to be satisfied with inevitably less biting double pivot brakes. But at the same time, is it a surprise? Not really, because Brompton did not want to technically disrupt his base model. This type of brake is also lighter and easier to maintain than disc brakes.
The Brompton Electric has a classic chain transmission, with two speeds for our test model. A six-speed version is also available for sale. For piloting, you have to rely on a fairly narrow handlebars on which a bell is fixed.
To continue on the equipment, know that the Brompton Electric is delivered with fenders. It’s always good to take, especially in bad weather. Coming to work or home with a wet butt is never very pleasant. Forget the kickstand, instead rely on the first step of the folding system to stabilize your model.
At the press of a button, the rear wheel swings forward: the bike then stands on small specially designed wheels to keep it straight as a stake. But we will come back to this in the part “How to fold your Brompton Electric” . Small bonus: a small pump delivered as standard is nestled at the rear base. On the scale, the bike weighs 16.6 kilos, including battery.
How to fold the Brompton Electric?
This is one of the great strengths of Brompton Electric: a proven folding system that makes it one of the most compact e-bikes on the market. Accessing this ultra-practical format requires following a few steps. At first, it is not the most obvious. But after a few attempts, we get our hands dirty.
First step: remove the battery. Just below the seat clamp, press down on the small latch. This unlocks the rear of the bike, which you tip forward.
As explained above, the Brompton then stabilizes on its own. You can even roll it with two small wheels. However, the rear wheel blocks the front wheel: it is therefore impossible to turn to the right.
On the left front part of the frame, a small system allows you to unscrew the frame, which then folds vertically. You must then tilt the front wheel parallel to the rear wheel, and come and fix everything using the clever hook placed on the left side of the fork.
Next comes the turn of the handlebars, which must also be unscrewed and then attached to a small system placed on the upper part of the fork. The maneuver is relatively intuitive. All you have to do is lower the saddle to its maximum, fold the pedal back, and your Brompton Electric is folded.
To unfold it, follow the same steps, but in reverse order. Just remember to reassemble the saddle, at the risk of not succeeding in unlocking the frame.
Is the Brompton Electric practical?
On this point, Brompton wins his bet. And at the same time, the brand has proven it for several decades now. The only downside inherent in the electric version is the transport of the battery by hand or in a backpack. But when folded, the Brompton Electric becomes almost “tiny”. It is also much more compact than the Xiaomi Mi Fold Bike .
In a cramped apartment, he will have his place. In a subway train (even a busy one) between your legs or next to you, this will not be a problem. In a TGV or TER, its small size will easily find storage space. In a car, same song. At work, he should also be forgotten. In short, the Brompton Electric is a real all-purpose machine.
By hand, the 13.7 kilos are suitable to carry: however, avoid long journeys on foot which may tire you out. At worst, use small wheels.
For the city above all
The Brompton Electric is an electric bicycle made for the city. Its all-purpose template makes it easy to slip between road users and cars when needed. Its relatively narrow handlebars can be considered an asset on this point, even if the handling can seem strange at first. You have to get used to it. Its autonomy (see below) also confines you to urban use during short and medium journeys.
Decent electric assistance, but not responsive enough
Manufactured in-house, the 250 W electric motor fulfills its role correctly when you are riding: the assistance sent allows you to climb to 25 km / h without a lot of effort … except when starting. This is the whole problem with Brompton Electric: its lack of responsiveness when it comes to the first pedal stroke.
It’s simple: you have to wait a good second for the engine to propel you. For dynamic starts, it will be necessary to iron. You can always use the lower speeds to make your start easier, but the latency observed is no less frustrating.
Same observation for the times: when you stop and then resume your pedaling, the bike observes a short waiting time before delivering assistance. Not very practical for delicate situations where the responsiveness of the two-wheeler is sometimes essential.
Once the assistance is activated, the Brompton Electric offers a classic behavior that allows it to pass other riders with ease and a pace of 25 km / h as to climb a few hills. These will make you lose a few km / h, but nothing really annoying. Overall, the effort is minimal.
The Brompton Electric offers three levels of electric assistance: personally, I have largely favored the most powerful, which best meets your needs at the moment T. Switcher to the second level to save a few percentages of autonomy can be an alternative.
On the other hand, remember to define your level of assistance before your departure, or at least when you stop. The button provided for this purpose is located on the battery, which is attached to the front of the handlebars. Changing modes mid-ride requires you to drive with one hand and lean your body slightly forward to press the button. It’s dangerous.
On the product page, Brompton guarantees freewheeling and very low drag when driving without assistance. In fact, the brand is right. But anyway, the Brompton Electric is not cut to reach 30 km / h either, average efficiency requires due to the small wheels.
Pedaling at a cruising speed of 25 km / h in a straight line without wanting to exceed that speed is therefore the most natural behavior that I adopted during my test.
Another small disappointment observed: when driving at a brisk pace on a surface that is too irregular, the battery is led – at times, not always – to disconnect due to the shock produced. Suddenly, the engine is disconnected for a few seconds before starting again. Once again, for a bike sold over 3000 euros, one wonders how this can happen. Here, therefore, Brompton is making a design error.
Poorly managed stability
Due to its size and small wheels, the Brompton Electric is inherently very manoeuvrable thanks to a good turning radius. But by installing the battery and motor up front, the brand created a huge balance problem on its model. All the weight is concentrated in one place, in this case on the handlebars.
Consequence: the balance becomes precarious at times. These moments are the passages over bumps, for example. Or when you use your one-handed bicycle to scratch your nose. In this case, make sure you stay focused on your handling as this may scare you. Forget about driving without hands, even for testing.
If you need to carry the bike for x or y reasons, the rear lifts with amazing ease, on the contrary , as you might expect, the front which weighs extremely heavy . Once again, don’t hesitate to use the first step of the folding system to take advantage of the famous little wheels.
The poor distribution of electrical power at start-up forces you to “tightrope” to keep your balance before picking up speed, since it is difficult to keep the handlebars stable due to the poorly distributed weight.
For short trips, the Brompton Electric provides a decent level of comfort, but not exceptional either. In the absence of suspensions, the small wheels unfortunately do not erase all the roughness of the road, especially, and logically, the most marked. On this point, the driving experience is therefore not perfect, but remains acceptable for a few kilometers.
Regarding the saddle, my 63 kilograms while wet felt relatively comfortable on it, as long as I kept a seat well oriented towards the back of the saddle. For larger sizes, this finding could differ.
Slightly biting brakes, but progressive
As we explained earlier, the Brompton Electric benefits from double pivot brakes that are necessarily less biting than disc brakes. In fact, it has to be. We would have appreciated more incisive braking and stopping, but the brakes installed for the occasion have the merit of being sufficiently progressive to regulate everything well. Just remember to press the levers very hard to stop in time. It’s not optimal, but you have to live with it.
Also, the ergonomics of the handlebars do not seem perfectly suited for small hands, like mine in this case. In my opinion, the brake levers are looking too towards the ground, forcing me to “stretch” my hands to get a firm enough grip. Except that after a few minutes, this physical strain causes small twitches.
On the equipment side, Brompton could perhaps review the location of his bell, attached to the brake module. With each trip, my index finger came to activate it inadvertently, because naturally placed too close. A little annoying. The bike also skips any screen or on-board computer to check its speed or remaining range. Pity.
Good news: the model is equipped with standard mudguards, accompanied by small tabs at the end that ensure no splash on your legs. These tabs are not without reproach, however, since water drips into them after a ride on wet ground. In an apartment or office, a small puddle is created in a few minutes.
As already mentioned on several occasions, there is no kickstand that can stabilize the bike when it is stationary, but the trick of the small wheels can be used as an alternative in case of extreme necessity. Front and rear lights also ensure your visibility to other cyclists in the night environment.
Real autonomy vs announced autonomy
With its 300 Wh battery, the Brompton promises on paper a range of between 30 and 70 kilometers depending on the level of assistance used. In practice, the 30 kilometers are effectively reached with the highest power. Difficult to calculate with precision the radius of action of the bike in the absence of application and counter: I therefore had to list each of my trips and do the calculation at the mano , as in old times.
My estimate is that each battery indicator light is approximately 6.4 kilometers. You can therefore travel a total of 32 kilometers before having to recharge the battery. In other words, the Brompton Electric will deserve to be plugged in regularly if you make short and medium trips every day.
If your place of work is located 15 kilometers from your home, it will therefore have to be recharged every day after a round trip. This is something to consider when making your purchase. Regarding the recharging time, allow about four hours with the charger supplied as standard. A more powerful charger available as an option (the official website does not indicate the price) allows a full charge in two hours.
Price and availability of Brompton Electric
The Brompton Electric is available for € 3,270 two-speed or € 3,400 six-speed from several dozen French dealers. Its price may vary slightly depending on the brand. The bike is available in three colors: Turkish Green, Bolt Blue and Black. To lighten the burden, you can turn to the financial bonuses for the purchase of an electric bicycle , which sometimes go up to 500 euros depending on your city, county or region.