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Brompton Bicycle is a bicycle manufacturer based in Kew Bridge, London, in the United Kingdom. It is notable for its folding bicycle and being the last transport manufacturer of any kind based in the capital city. It is the largest volume bicycle manufacturer in Britain, the other being Pashley Cycles. Approximately 22,000 bicycles are produced by the company each year of which 70 percent are exported. The company was awarded the The Queen's Award for Export in 1995.
The Brompton folding bicycle and accessories are the company's core product, noted for its self-supporting compact size when stored. All available models of the folding bicycle are based on the same hinged bicycle frame and 16 inch (349 mm) wheel size. Components are added, removed, or replaced by titanium parts to form the variations. The modular design has remained fundamentally unchanged since the original patent was filed by Andrew Ritchie in 1979, with small details being refined by continual improvement. Ritchie was awarded the 2009 Prince Philip Designers Prize for work on the bicycle. In reviews of folding bicycles, the Brompton is often the winner.
Folding bicycle Edit
All Brompton folding bicycle models share the same curved frame, consisting of a hinged main tube, pivoting rear triangle, and hinged handle-bar stem. The steel sections use brazing to join the steel (instead of welding). Wheels are 349 mm rim size, carrying tyres with 16" tread diameter. The handlebars and some periphery components are aluminium.
A Brompton bicycle uses over 1,200 individual pieces, eighty-percent of which are manufactured purely for the Brompton design.
The fold Edit
The "Brompton fold" is unique to Ritchie's design, allowing the bicycle to shrink both vertically and lengthwise during folding, but keeping all of the parts attached to one another. The elements which allow the design to work are:
The final folded package is 565×545×250 millimetres (22.2×21.5×9.8 in) and weighs between 9–12.5 kg (20–28 lb) depending on the configuration. Folding takes 10–20 seconds meaning that normally the bicycle can be pushed or cycled until the very last minute and only folded before stepping onto the train or entering a building.
Models are named using a code containing two letters either side of a number to describe the handle bar type, number of gears and factory attached fixtures. An optional suffix is appended to show the inclusion of titanium upgrades. As an example, the model code of "M3R" refers to classic "M" handle bars, "3" gear speeds using an internal hub and an "R" for having a rear rack. The same model, but making use of titanium where possible would be "M3R-X". Template:Clear
"R" models may have the wheels on the corners of the rack replaced with larger eazy wheels, to aid pushing when folded. All models can choose to have no lights, lighting powered from battery, bottle shaped tyre dynamo or front wheel hub dynamo. Seat posts can be swapped between standard length, extended or telescopic for tall riders (each with a titanium equivalent). Bicycles are offered in black or red matt colours as standard, with the optional selection of further colours, or transparent raw lacquer coating. Titanium areas are left unpainted, in their natural titanium colour. The standard Brompton saddle can be substituted by a Brooks B17 Special leather saddle ladies' or men's versions. Non-titanium models have braze-on fittings for holding the supplied Zefal HP compact high-pressure bicycle pump.
All models may have the front luggage block fitted to carry cargo, this is fitted to the main frame (rather than to the forks or handle bars) to avoid interference with the steering. The hub dynamo option uses a special narrow-width SON XS hub dynamo fitted at the centre the front-wheel and manufactured by Schmidt Maschinenbau.
A full superlight variant uses titanium to save weight, combined with lighter wheel components. The option replaces the rear triangle, front forks, seat post and other smaller parts. The main frame structure remains steel. This upgrade represents the largest cost increase of any upgrade, and reduces some variants to below ten kilograms in weight.
Tyres can be swapped at any point between Brompton yellow, kevlar based Brompton green, heavier Schwalbe Marathon or very narrow Schwalbe Stelvio.[t 1]
A small saddle bag can be fitted behind the saddle for the Brompton cover and any tools or spares.
When fitted with a front luggage block, a choice of folding basket, large touring pannier or two variants of bicycle-messenger style flip-over bag can be attached to the bicycle. These bags internally share a common design of lugguage frame, which can also be used separately.
The core design has proved to be very close to the optimum; the folded package being restricted roughly to the size of the wheels used, plus a small overhead. As such, design improvements have generally been subtle and introduced in such a manner as that they can be retrofitted on earlier production models of the bicycle.
Further modifications are provided by some Brompton dealers or skilled individuals, the most prominent examples being:
Brompton owners and designers with suitable engineering expertise regularly try to improve the design, although there is limited scope to do so as any additions attached are likely to compromise either the final folded size, carried weight or folding action.
In 1976 Andrew Ritchie founded the company, named after the Brompton Oratory, a landmark visible from his bedroom workshop where the first prototypes were built. At the time he was working as a gardener. Ritchie obtained backing from friends and sought to license the design, but after five years began manufacturing the bicycle design himself. Production ground to a halt in 1982 after which Ritchie continued to explore possibilities for continued manufacturing whilst undertaking other jobs.
Finally in 1986, again with backing from friends and former customers, enough was raised to resume production on a larger scale. With a bank loan underwritten by Julian Vereker (founder of Naim Audio), production was restarted in a railway arch in Brentford. By early 1988, mass-production Brompton bicycles were once again in circulation.
In March 2009, Brompton Bicycle achieved a record monthly turnover of just under £1 million; the employees were rewarded with fish and chips. In the same month, the company stated that it was hoping to continue a 25% rate of growth.
In 1992, Brompton started an agreement with the Taiwanese-based company Neobike to allow the manufacture of a licensed copy for distribution in Eastern Asia; a market not already served by Brompton directly. The licensing deal lasted approximately ten years until 2002. At this point in time, five senior Neobike employees had just been convicted and jailed for stealing trade secrets from Dahon and Ritchie stated that the contract was "under review".
Originally Dahon had been working towards a licensing deal with Brompton Bicycle Limited, but the Dahon employees working on the deal left Dahon and started up Neobike instead with the agreement negotiated.
Following the expiry of the Brompton patent, Neobike started to import its Scoop One and Astra Flex V3 models into Europe. A court case was held at the Groningen civil court in the Netherlands on 24 May 2006, which ruled that the industrial design of the Brompton folding bicycle was protected by copyright. Additionally, the Neobike manual included direct copies of drawings found in the Brompton user manual.
The Brompton Bicycle Limited v Rijwielbedrijf Vincent Van Ellen BV ruling held that there was creative flexibility in the design for a bicycle beyond those choices made purely for functional reasons; in the Brompton case this included the M-style handlebars, curved main frame tube and the cable-placement. Each of these were noted to be distinctive design decisions that another manufacturer could change without compromising the ability to create a functional folding bicycle. Such a level of perceived similarity was therefore likely to cause "confusion in the market" under the Dutch copyright law, Article 13. Neobike did not choose to appeal and Brompton Bicycle was granted the right to have all of the imported bicycles destroyed and an injunction against future imports by Neobike.
An unlicensed Chinese-made Brompton "clone", the Merc, is available for less than half the cost of a Brompton. It has an aluminium alloy main frame (rather than steel) but is no lighter in weight. Components also differ in quality, although the same 3-speed hub is used.