Published: 13 August 2020
This is an unbiased review of the Brompton M3L folding bike by someone who knows absolutely nothing about bikes and the company have not paid me to write this. I just wanted to share my honest experience of the bike with those who wanted to learn more about it.
If you’re a serious cyclist and are considering buying a Brompton, I wouldn’t base your purchasing decision on this review. And I apologise in advance if I name parts of the bike incorrectly; like I said, I know nothing about bikes. I just know they have frames, handlebars, brakes and two wheels.
And now on with my rubbish review of the bike.
I purchased my Brompton folding bike just over a week ago from the Covent Garden Junction in London after giving one of their bikes a test ride. After two minutes, I fell in love with it and bought the M3L model after interrogating one of the helpful staff about their bikes for 30 minutes.
After riding it for several hours every day for a week, I can say I’m very happy with it. It’s comfortable to ride, it has good manoeuvrability and acceleration thanks to its 16” wheels, it’s really convenient to carry or roll along the ground when folded and it folds into a neat little package that is small enough to store in my moderately-sized room.
To help others decide whether a Brompton is right for them, I’ll cover the main features of the folding bike and what my experiences with each have been so far.
I’ll start with the folding process as this will be the main reason why most people will consider a Brompton.
Folding and Unfolding
One of the best things about Brompton bikes is that they are quick and easy to fold. There are five steps in the whole process:
1. Fold the back wheel under the frame;
2. Fold the front wheel over the frame and clip to the frame of the back wheel so it doesn’t come loose;
3. Fold the handlebar down and clip to the lower part of the stem;
4. Release the saddle so it drops down into the frame;
5. Fold the left peddle.
Folding the bike takes me 25 seconds when done casually. Unfolding is the same process as above but in reverse and takes me about the same amount of time. I’m sure others will be able to fold and unfold it much quicker than I can. Reading forums and other reviews of the bike, owners can do it in 10 to 15 seconds. Very convenient if you need to take the bike onto public transport and you’re in a rush.
However, there is one issue that can make folding the front wheel over the frame difficult. I’ve found that if the pedals are in certain position when I fold the back wheel under the frame, the right pedal is repositioned to prevent the front wheel from folding. This means I have to unfold the bike again, reposition the pedals, and start again.
This is a minor issue and is easily fixed when I ensure that the right peddle is at the back of the turn before folding so that when the back wheel is folded under the frame, the pedal moves to a position that doesn’t block the front wheel from folding over.
When the bike is unfolded, the front part of the frame and handlebar stem are securely held in place with the clamps shown below:
It feels so secure that I sometimes forget I’m riding a folding bike and it doesn’t feel like it’s going to collapse under me.
I took a short journey on the London Underground to see how convenient the Brompton was to carry around on public transport.
Weighing in at 11.7kg, I did struggle carrying it around the Underground and had to change hands every so often.
However, the bike does have little roller wheels like those you get on a suitcase so it can be pulled along behind you, using the unfolded handlebar stem as a handle. I didn’t get a chance to use the standard set of wheels as I replaced them with the larger Eazy Wheel rollers at the cost of £17.50.
The Eazy Wheel rollers made transporting the bike around much easier than carrying it. When being pulled along, the wheels kept the bike stable when walking in a straight line but wobbled when turning corners so I had to walk slower to stop it from tipping over.
When on the Underground train, I went to the end of a carriage and placed the bike neatly between the two standing seats next to the emergency door leading to the next carriage. This kept it well out of the way of other passengers boarding and exiting the train.
I haven’t had the chance to take it with me on the Underground during peak times but I imagine it would cause a bit of hassle, especially if you can’t tuck the bike in a corner somewhere on the train. But that’s to be expected from something that size, even when folded.
When folded, the M3L measures 60cm x 60cm x 30cm. As I live in a shared house, I have to keep it in my room but it’s compact enough that it doesn’t get in the way or look too unsightly.
The Wheels and Tyres
The wheels are 16” in diameter, making the bike highly maneuverable. I’ve been cycling in parks and can weave through randomly dispersed walkers with ease.
The tyres are quite thin which makes riding on London’s roads pretty uncomfortable as I can feel every hole and imperfection so I’ve stayed away from the city’s traffic. However, the bike is complete joy to ride in parks and areas that have smoother surfaces.
The saddle that comes standard with the bike is pretty hard. After a few hours of riding on my second day of owning it, my bum was in a bit of pain and couldn’t sit on it properly the next day.
It still caused some pain in the following days but not as bad as on that second day. This is probably something that all cyclists experience when riding for long periods so this isn’t a major issue for me.
While at the Brompton Junction at Covent Garden London, I met another owner who purchased the Brooks Saddle B17 from the store and said it was comfortable. This may be worth looking into if anyone experiences bum pain with the standard saddle.
When I got my bike, the handlebar brakes were a bit too far forward, meaning I had to reach over the handlebars to apply them, which felt unnatural. I prefer to have my fingers resting comfortably on the brakes so I can easily apply them when required.
I went back to store to get them rotated back a bit which the mechanic was happy to do and they are now in the perfect position.
However, the brakes can only be rotated so far back, otherwise it will compromise its ability to fold properly. This may be an issue for those who like their brakes quite high up.
The brakes themselves work really well. There have been times when I was riding in the park kids have suddenly veered into my path. I had to react quickly by applying the brakes and managed to stop with plenty of distance to spare.
Should you buy a Brompton folding bike?
After owning my Brompton M3L for just over a week, I can say I have already fallen in love with it because it’s comfortable to ride, easy to transport and doesn’t take up much space in my room.
If you plan to buy one as a means of travelling to work, I would recommend finding a route that won’t leave bruises on your bum cheeks as it can get pretty challenging on bumpy roads.
I was initially planning to spend no more than £300 on a folding bike but ended up spending £1,300 for my Brompton and I don’t regret it.
To sum up, if you need a folding bike and can afford a Brompton, get one!
That wraps up my review of the Brompton M3L. I hope it has helped you in deciding which folding bike to buy.
If you’re interested, find out how and why I chose a Brompton over its competitors.