I got my Brompton six years ago, while I was still reverse-commuting every day from central London to Hampshire. Nokia’s UK design studio was located in glamorous Farnborough at the time, and quite a few of us travelled west from Waterloo for an hour or so, where there was a incredibly-depressing shuttle bus to the anonymous office park where we drank a lot of tea and tried to seduce implacable engineers and product managers with endless flash mockups of what we thought were better UIs than s60.
But that’s a tale for another day.
The train ride you could cope with – competitive crosswording with Matt Brown, Joe McCloud’s stream of consciousness narration of the suburban landscapes we trundled through (think Jonathan Meades meets Bill Hicks), Eddie’s terrible puns – but wait for the shuttle bus and the cramped, smelly bus ride itself were the last straw for many, who opted to bike the last couple of miles to the office every day instead.
There were a few tribes – the fast and furious fixies of Adam and Silas, Tom and Mattias the oak-legged mud-loving MTBers… and then, me… initially on a Strida, with its rubber belt, tiny wheels, pennyfarthing-seating and terrifying twitch-steering.
Despite it’s quirks, I loved the Strida – at least compared to the shuttle bus. It was perfect for the train -> work -> train -> pub -> first floor flat daily life I had back then.
The lack of gears started to be noticed on even the slight climbs between Farnborough station and Nokia HQ, so after only a few months, in September 2006 I upgraded to my Brompton.
Up until last year it was my primary bike – until I started cycling my entire route to work rather than folding up and getting on the train. It sat forlorn in the studio, and then my kitchen – until last Saturday when I sold it to welovebromptons.co.uk, from where it will hopefully find a new home.
I loved my brompton as I’ve not loved many of my possessions. Not only for it’s utility and efficency – but also for what it represented: British design, engineering and manufacture.
I was fortunate to be invited to the Brompton factory in 2010.
I believe that at the time it was (and it still maybe) the only full manufacturing site in London. It was fantastic to see the skill, care and attention to detail that was given to every process.
Also the integration of design, engineering and manufacture – the continuum of concern that the designers had for the material and human processes at work in the factory.
Design was not an abstract activity, but an integral one – with a tight feedback loop from the shop floor, the testing suites, the customer service.
And the shop floor itself was a treat for a designer – a rainbow of coated metal…
So, sadly it’s goodbye to all that for now, no longer will I be able to tuck my green machine into the convenient parking bay provided by The Shepherdess…
But I dare say I’ll own one again, one day.
Handsome, handsome machines.