Pedal to Perfection: Brompton C Line Electric – So Close You Can Feel It

They have been released into the wild that is the city street, and into suburban side streets, and one of the fastest-growing types of bike is the folding bike. The Brompton Electric C Line. Image courtesy Brompton Electric.I’m writing this while on a folding bike. Not just any time-saving, chain-free device enabling traffic-thwarting, public-transport cheating performance… It’s just that the Brompton folding bike has the fun and logic of an unfolding machine of beauty and efficiency, which slots handily into my life in ways that I didn’t think were possible. Weirdly convenient, actually. Welcome to the world of the folding bike.

EMBRACING the Electric Fold at HOME

The Brompton Electric C Line, in its six-speed incarnation in particular, feels like a gentler offering for those experienced as well as less-experienced cyclists, entering the urban arena as the dapper, electrically-assisted bike-cum-folding bike of choice – the perfectly British vehicle at home in both café as much as on public transport. And most places in between.

On it, you really do feel like everyone around you is a dwarf. It’s an odd little machine, a bike that feels like it fits you perfectly, whatever your size. The electric assist means that the bike is easy to incorporate into your life – even if it’s part of a life in which you carry your bike upstairs, or have to put it in a small car trunk. Unfortunately, at well over $4,000 with all the accessories, the question arises: is it worth it, to have it so easy, so perfect?

Mastering The Fold at HOME

The best evidence of it is the iconic fold of the Brompton Electric C Line itself, first designed in 1975. This fold never looks like it’s fallen out of a car boot sale – on the contrary, it’s an old-fashioned solution to folding, without the promise of ‘lightweight’ and ‘featherweight’ that you might find in Dahons, but definitely not in a Beruit or kiddies’ carpet bike. You must know how to do The Fold – and, once you do, the bike transforms from a form of transport to an appendage that adapts to all the other things your life becomes: if you have grown to love it, it can slip into your flat with you, wheels and all, and if, like me, you occasionally decide to take the train on holiday, suddenly that fold comes in very handy indeed. You get to skip the bike rack.

After a few folds the process becomes an instant reflex, but that’s the point. Everything from the hinge at the rear wheel to the hidden clamp at the tip of the seatpost bears the mark of a team that thought for days about its respective task. The Brompton will fit, and will feel perfectly at home, behind a car seat, under a bar table or alongside you on the metro. It’s the folding bike for the urban traveller.

The Value of Versatility at HOME

It’s at home at a birthday party, accompanying its owner into a coffee shop, brought in a bag to sit behind a desk at work, or tucked into the corner of the living room. Brompton’s new Electric C line is, as demonstrations make clear, a way of existing in the world as much as it is a way to get from one place to the next. With its electric assist, hills and distance become non-issues, expanding the potential audience for cycling.

The Culture of Commuting and HOME

The folding bike, especially the Brompton and other electric versions, seems part of the cultural revolution that suggests we can all use bikes more often to get around the city, and perfectly expresses the tension between individual need and the city as a shared space. Here you have all on the one bike – a means of satisfying the urge to commute without adding to the congestion and the pollution at either end. It’s a commuter’s dream. Cities are absurd, stressful places to live, and flexibility is key — hence the need for a convenient city bike that adapits to whatever the day brings.

Navigating the Urban Landscape with HOME on Two Wheels

But it is in the city where the Brompton Electric C Line comes into its own. And it is the city where it can potentially deal with the ongoing issues of space and speed that confront the urban dweller. It’s a machine that invites us to see beyond our products and owning bikes to an existence where our relationship with them is so ingrained that we stop thinking about it completely. Unless, of course, it once again needs charging.

At HOME with Brompton

But home is also about identification, about convenience, about fitting in. Through their use, the Bromptosts do not simply find a niche within the home; they create a new idea of what home can be. It is an echo of what good design can bring to our everyday lives, and an assertion that very typical, vernacular activities such as biking are still worthy of the emerging craft of appropriate creative response.

The Brompton Electric C Line is no garden-variety folding bike. It’s an in-road to a lifestyle that’s more adaptable, pleasurable and useful than anything else I’ve come across. It’s an invitation to reimagine an established daily activity, to welcome in its eccentricities and idiosyncrasies and to make them part of our everyday experience. It’s one of the most familiar of vehicles taking us to a new place. The Brompton is not adapting to our world but changing the world we inhabit.

Jun 08, 2024
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