Brompton is a design classic, there is no doubt about it. This is probably what most people think of when you say “folding bike”, which puts it in a territory that approaches things like “Hoover” where brand names become so synonymous with a particular product that they become the name of that product.
For a time it was just ‘a Brompton’, and it was never a case of ‘which Brompton’, but now the company has four different models, from the basic A-Line to the T-Line all in titanium, not including any electric models and special editions. The P-Line is a relatively new version of the Brompton series, and it lies between the standard C-Line and the extremely flashy T-Line. It has a construction in half steel, half titanium for weight saving, and the proprietary four-speed gear from the Ti model as well. Is it the perfect bowl of porridge; the comfortable middle ground between budget and hyperpremium, or is it actually a slightly confused product that solves a problem that does not exist? Will it be on our list of the best folding bikes? Let’s find out.
Design and aesthetics
The first Polish dictionary from the 18th century did not mess up. The definition of a horse was “Everyone knows what a horse is”. I want to make sure everyone also knows what a Brompton is. The silhouette, which is shared between all the models, is iconic: A thick, low-slung top tube that connects two 16-inch wheels that sit under a huge protruding seatpost and an equally high stem. Narrow handlebars with varying heights round out the front, along with an integrated set of rolling wheels for when folded.
It is clearly a well-considered design, which you would expect for a brand with such a legacy that has undergone many repetitions. The hinges are robust and can be folded down to a small size. P-Line is only available in gray and black, although there is a small flake on the paint so that it bounces up in strong sunshine. The forks and the rear triangle are painted flat black, to mark them as different in their non-ferrous nature.
Slightly rudimentary rim brakes of their own brand and a welcome square crankset (the ideal standard for a commuter) complete the construction, along with Schwalbe One tires and a proprietary saddle that comes with a softly padded area under the nose for more ergonomic carrying capacity. you drag it up some stairs.
The main deviation from the more basic models, in addition to titanium front and rear, is the use of a new proprietary four-speed gear, which offers a gear range of 163 percent. The gear body is made of plastic, as is the gear switch that activates it, to save a few grams. In comparison, the C-Line Utility model weighs 11.8 kg, instead of 10 kg for the P-Line I tested.
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Riding a Brompton requires some getting used to, especially if you come straight from a 700c bike. The tiny wheels and the short wheelbase make the handling very smoky, especially in speed. It’s a little disturbing at first, but you get used to it quickly. In an urban environment, it really comes into its own. The narrow turns around fences that serve to slow down the KOM hunters on bike paths are run in twice as fast a time, and frustrated U-turns on the wrong path are a breeze. It is probably a bit of a cliché to compare it to a London taxi, where both offer an impressive snuff circle. The tires, too, an improvement in grip and rolling resistance over the Schwalbe Marathons on smaller premium models, grip extremely well and glide with pleasure.
Braking was also surprisingly good considering that the calipers appear to be relatively flexible. P-Line comes with full-length Jagwire housings, which is encouraging to see as cheaper housings will offer more compression and are likely to result in spongy braking. Thanks to the design and cable routing, however, the cable to the front brake is pulled slightly at hard right turns, so that the bit point gets closer the tighter you turn. However, it was rarely anything more than remarkable, and never a problem.
The ride quality was also decent, especially considering the size of the wheels, even though I have only ridden a very short model that I can not directly compare. Suffice it to say that it is perfectly fine for commuting distances, even without padded shorts. The hall is not the best for longer trips, but this can be easily changed.
Once you get the fall when folding, it only takes 30 seconds or so. Getting the saddle height right when it unfolds is the difficult part, but soon becomes muscle memory, and it was a joy to just swan on any train without having to pre-book a bike seat.
The pedals were a small battlefield, in that the left is folded and the right is not, which creates a different Q-factor left / right. It’s not the end of the world for commuter distance riding, and folding the pedal while carrying the folded bike is necessary to prevent it from hitting you in the leg with each step. If you want my advice, I would replace the pedals with some rinko pedals: Rinko bikes are a predominantly Japanese style, designed to be easily disassembled for train transport, and rinko pedals come loose completely without tools, so you can have better grip than the bearing models and do not bruise your legs.
While I really enjoyed riding the P-Line, I could not shake the feeling that it was a slightly pointless bike. To me, a Brompton should be one of the best commuters, unless your name is James and you decided to ride ultras for one crazy reason. It’s to get to and from work, day in and day out, and to switch to a four-speed gear system, I think Brompton has made the bike worse for the main purpose.
Unfortunately, the shifter of my first test bike failed. It skipped shifts to begin with, and then refused to shift at all. In his honor, Brompton gladly replaced the bike with another, this time with a different handlebar, but I was still not in love with the gear. The plastic construction of the gearbox and gearshift does not feel particularly durable, and although the replacement bike shifted sharply most of the time, it still occasionally skipped over when reversing, as I often do in traffic lights to put my feet up for off. While voltage adjustment is easily done on the fly by the gear changer instead of the gear, the gear limit screws use such a small Allen key that it would be impossible to do on the road with a standard multi-tool.
I will be very honest now: If you want a Brompton for commuting, you should buy the C-Line over the P-Line. You will receive a small weight penalty, but the whole bike will be more skilled for the intended purpose. Marathon tires will be more puncture-resistant and long-lasting than those to begin with, but most importantly, the powertrain will be significantly more robust and require less maintenance. A three-speed Sturmy Archer hub gear may seem archaic, but it offers a wider gear range than four-speed gears, and durability is a proven fact. I have worked with hubs from the 50’s that only needed a little light oil, plus the gearing can be done while standing still (ie at traffic lights) and the single speed chain and single drive will last much longer and run happier when you inevitably forget to wash the thing for a month in the winter. On an aesthetic point of view too, although I admit that this is a matter of taste, the C-Line comes in a range of bright colors instead of the monotonous options here.
You will also save around £ 1,000, which is not to be sniffed at in a cost of living crisis. It can give you a good bike lock, a commuter helmet, a bike insurance, an annual service, a couple of pizzas or even a significant part of a season ticket for the chosen railway route if you cycle-train-bikes. way of working.
The only conceivable situation I can see in my mind where P-Linja would outcompete the C-Linen is not as a commuter, but for railway-based cycling tourism. It still allows for wonderfully easy train travel, and the better tires and lower weight help on hilly walks in the countryside (however, there are no climbers, after testing it out in the Lake District). The smaller steps between the gears certainly help it feel more like a “regular” bike, but given the gear range is smaller than the C-Line Utility, and significantly smaller than the C-Line Explore, which boasts a 300 percent gear range, even This is hard to sell, since you can choose one of them and just put some new tires on it.
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I really enjoyed riding the Brompton P-Line. It handles well, it stops well, it is a joy in an urban environment and it makes it easy to hop on a train home when I have run out of beans on a test drive. However, it is not as optimized for commuting as its cheaper all-steel siblings. The shift fell below the target for me in terms of performance and durability, and since the cheaper models will handle extremely similar P-Line, it is a very difficult bike to recommend unless you have a special need to save a kilo.
|Design and aesthetics||Iconic, and the gold standard for folding bikes. Failure of limited color spectrum.||9/10|
|Components||Sub-standard setup for commuting compared to other Bromptons, with some durability issues, although the tires handle very well||5/10|
|Performance, handling and geometry||For commuting, using public transport and diving down bike paths, it is second to none||10/10|
|Weight||It’s lighter than the standard model, but it’s still pretty hefty all things considered||8/10|
|Value for money||£ 1000 more than the C-Line, and not so well specified for commuting||2/10|