Brompton Electric review: E-folding bike with a touch of F1!

Brompton Electric review: E-folding bike with a touch of F1!

The Brompton Electric is a folding e-bike that fits easily into your trunk and weighs less than 20 kg - battery included!. A real Formula 1 legend provided enough juice in the electric motor to get it going as well. In this NextPit review, I pulled away not only from bicycles, but also from cars and motorcycles at the traffic lights. Talk about an ego boost! You can find out just how long I was able to keep my nose in front of his detailed review.

Rating

Good

  • Megafast
  • Super compact
  • High quality workmanship
  • Good lighting system, good brakes

Bad

  • 30km range only at full throttle
  • Battery gets loose when traveling on cobblestones
  • Very expensive

Brompton Electric in a nutshell

I don't think it ever gets boring to ride the Brompton Electric to the front at the traffic lights and pull away from the angry looks that waiting cyclists throw your way at an incredible speed. The fun factor never gets old with this e-folding bike, as you secretly know you're riding with tires that are far too small. Brompton's legendary folding mechanism provides all the flexibility you require at just the right weight.

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Admit it, you just wanted to see how the Brompton Electric looks folded. As punishment, you will have to read the entire review now! :) / © NextPit

However, Brompton's folding bikes are already expensive in the first place, which leads to high prices that begin from $3,800 onward. Having said that, tiny issues like engine failures whenever you're riding on cobblestone paths become all the more unforgivable. However, commuters who can afford or want to finance the Brompton Electric may simply pick it up for its status symbol. This is especially stark considering how the name Brompton emblazoned across the steel frame is equated to a quality, long-lasting product. 

Design and quality

The Brompton Electric is a folding e-bike and can thus be folded to the size of your everyday suitcase. When folded, the e-bike only takes up 65 x 58.5 x 27 centimeters of space, tipping the scales at slightly less than 17 kilograms with the battery attached to the front of the handlebar alongside the carrying bag. Alternatively, there is also a larger bag with additional storage space, different handlebars, seat posts, and a choice of two or six gears.

What I liked:

  • Folding mechanism is lightning fast once you've mastered it.
  • High-quality workmanship with cool attention to details.
  • Fits in your carry-on luggage, trunk, or even on the passenger seat.

What I disliked:

  • Small wheels were quite slippery in wet conditions.
  • Handlebar design caused a sore spot on the inside of the thumb during longer rides.

As it is with folding bikes, we always have to distinguish between the unfolded state and the folded state with the Brompton Electric. What is clever with this design is the very first step in folding that involves the rear wheel, which then doubles up as a bicycle stand. It is then the bike will stand on two small wheels, but with a rather small wheelbase, it is not 100% stable, albeit functional.

However, this small wheelbase is necessary in order to fold the bike into a tiny pocket dimension with two more subsequent folding steps. When fully folded, the Brompton Electric is only as big as a suitcase and throughout my review, it managed fit on the passenger seat of a VW Crafter as well as in the trunks of a VW ID3, an Audi A5 Kombi, and a VW Polo. You almost forget just how small it can be when you ride the Brompton Electric.

This is because even without electric support, the Brompton rides very well. If you were to look forward to longer rides, you will forget that you are actually riding on a tiny bike. This is because Brompton managed to deliver an excellent handlebar, saddle, and pedal position that resembles that of a conventional bicycle. The one provided by the manufacturer also came with six gears.

The 6-speed version is more expensive and therefore, adds more weight. Since I only switched between third and fourth 'gears' on the sprocket most of the time in the review, I would personally settle for the cheaper option without any hesitation.

Although Brompton relies on high-quality Schwalbe Marathon Racer tires, I felt rather unsafe when riding in the rain. The small tires always felt as though they were about to slip away. While I never experienced any dangerous situations, the engine was powerful enough to spin the front wheel while I was in gear three under wet conditions.

Before we talk about the motor in the Brompton Electric, there are three more things to know: First of all, you don't look majestic on the folding bike. This is even more pronounced for tall people, which Brompton has taken into consideration with a telescopic seat post and a higher handlebar, making you look a bit like the proverbial "monkey on the grindstone".

During my review, however, I decided against letting looks influence the overall score while cycling. On the one hand, I don't care how I look on a bike as I also ride with a helmet 90 percent of the time (and that alone makes me look dorky), while on the other hand, it's a feature that all folding bikes have in common.

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The tiny wheels make the Brompton Electric look a bit like a clown bike! / © Brompton / Michael Romacker

On the other hand, Brompton's bikes are known for their durability. Even with the electric model, the manufacturer uses a steel frame which does weigh it down a bit. According to the manufacturer, the manufacturing quality standards are so high that there are specialized employees who do not weld the steel parts together, but rather, solder them.

Last but not least, one more criticism concerning the bike's design: On long rides, I always ended up with a sore spot on the right side of my thumb because the skin on that part kept on getting scraped at. Perhaps I'm just as delicate as a pretty butterfly.

TL;DR: The Brompton gets full marks for design and quality. To criticize it for not looking elegant while riding a folding bike is difficult. This is because that is something you have to live with when it comes to folding bikes right from the very beginning. It is more about the practicality and riding experience, and those are departments where the manufacturer really gets everything right.

E-motor and driving fun

Brompton purchased the Williams Formula 1 and has used the latter's expertise to develop its very own motor for the electric bike. The motor has a power of 350 watts and is adjustable in simple three steps and via a bottom bracket sensor. According to the manufacturer, the motor has been optimized to cause as little resistance as possible without any further assistance required. I must admit, this undertaking has proven to be rather successful.

What I liked:

  • Motor provides an enormous boost.
  • Sensor in the bottom bracket is very precise.
  • Control in three stages proved to be extremely useful.

What I disliked:

  • Motor cuts out if vibrations are too strong.
  • Companion app is only available for iOS until the end of 2021.

Brompton has placed the electric motor in the front tire. It looks a bit like a conventional hub dynamo that might be power your bike's lights when it gets dark. The position in the front wheel makes you feel like you're being pulled rather than being pushed. After the press bike tour organized by Brompton, I still had the feeling of being pulled forward even after dismounting. One participant described a similar feeling to me when asked. However, it takes just a few rides to get used to such a feeling.

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The motor is located in the front of the Brompton Electric! / © NextPit

What you won't get used to is the joy you will feel when you engage the Brompton Electric at traffic lights. The motor has a power of 350 Watts and offers even more power than the VanMoof S3 (250 Watts). By the way, over in Germany, the maximum power rating for e-bikes stands at 500 watts. Here is another tip from a racing pro: The second gear on the right thumb and the third support level are the best mix to help you pull ahead of the pack quickly. This way, you will leave all the other cyclists behind - as well as cars and motorcycles eating your dust (albeit for a few meters) with a little effort.

Gradients and strong winds do not pose to be a challenge with so much power at your disposal. If you prefer to take it easy, you can achieve a very balanced riding experience with one of the lower gear levels. It is then the motor does precisely what it was designed for: to support you while cycling.

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The controls reside at the front of the bag, and are still rather easy to reach when riding / © NextPit

In Berlin, however, it fails in its job when the going gets bumpy or rough. Apparently, the Berlin city center consists largely of ancient cobblestone paths and due to the strong vibrations, the motor often failed to work. The reason behind this? Brompton hooked the battery via a vertical holding mechanism on some contacts. In doing so, the amount of vibrations it receives is probably too much, that the battery automatically switches off for your safety. To remedy this inconvenience, I had to remove the battery completely at times.

By the way, the bike does not offer so-called regenerative braking, i.e. charging the battery while braking and idling. In this regard, the manufacturer told me that calculations involving regenerative braking for the battery when it comes to e-bikes is different from those in electric or hybrid cars. The additional weight compensates for the gain in battery power, but because of the weight, you still end up with a net loss in power.

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Sensors in the bottom bracket detect whether you are pedaling or not / © NextPit

The companion app, which shows your speed, provides an overview of the service history and other information, and is only available for iOS as of August 2021. There will be an Android version coming later this year, according to Brompton's PR agency.

TL;DR: Besides its portability, the fun factor is a real reason to buy the Brompton Electric. The bike lurches forward in such a manner that you can do nothing but smile during the first few rides. Only when the motor fails on cobblestones and app's availability on iOS are the only two drawbacks, in my opinion.

Battery performance and durability

The battery of the Brompton Electric resides in a bag that is attached to the front of the handlebar. This is a practical design when you fold the bike as you either have a counterweight on the arm that does not carry the bike, or you can sling the bag over your shoulder. The 70 km maximum range certainly makes it stand out from other e-bikes.

What I liked:

  • Easy handling of the battery.
  • 70km range is excellent.

What I disliked:

  • Charger can be a bit fiddly.
  • Only certified workshops can repair it.
  • Many parts are custom-made.

Brompton stated the range of the 300 watt hour battery is anywhere from 30 to 70 kilometers, depending on the level of assistance and condition of your bike route. If you've already read my earlier observations concerning riding fun, you would know that it was closer to 30 km for me. During the review period, however, I only ran out of juice only once. And that was a good thing, because it allowed me to discover two other important things:

Firstly, riding without a battery is still a pleasant experience, as the motor actually offers very little resistance. Secondly, the very good and bright light still works when the battery is empty - which means you can still get around safely in the dark even when you are all out of juice. This is definitely a positive surprise that I had not even thought about before the battery ran dry.

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The connector for the battery is protected by a cap / © NextPit

The 70 km range stands out compared to other e-bikes in the market. The VanMoof S3 touts a maximum of 60 km alongside the Sushi Bike, while the Cowboy Bike 3 is able to achieve what the Brompton Electric can in our e-bike comparison. We must also remember that you will often use the Brompton Electric more as the "last mile" ride.

Hence, you can cover distances of up to 35 kilometers from the train station to work every day, leaving in the morning and returning home in the evening comfortably. If you plan for longer routes, you can still take the Brompton Electric with you on public transport without having to pay extra.

The charger which you have to plug into the back of the battery bag, unfortunately suffers from a drop in quality compared to the rest of the bike. It offers some LEDs for information, but does not show the remaining charging time.

Charging time can be rather long at four hours in total and unfortunately, I discovered that the battery was not charged the next morning despite leaving it plugged in during my review period - and this happened twice! The reason behind this? You must first place the charger in the wheel and then plug in both together into the socket. Practice makes perfect, but still, it can be annoying. 

Brompton still offers a quick charger, which halves the charging time to two hours.

Durability

The Brompton Electric receives an additional plus for its durability. And there is a very simple reason for doing so: many bikes in the city are plagued by rust when left outside to be battered by the elements daily. With the Brompton Electric, you can easily take the folding bike into your flat. The backyard of my apartment has many bike racks without a roof and I never take my heavy 0815 bike upstairs. It's simply too cumbersome and takes up too much space in my apartment.

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By default, the battery sits in a shoulder bag. I sat down next to it as a size comparison / © NextPit

Brompton also produces each bike by hand in a factory in London. According to Brompton, high-quality materials should easily ensure a lifetime of over 20 years. Whether the battery will last that long, however, is a questionable affair for the electric model. What's also exciting is the value of the bikes that tend to remain stable over time without suffering from too much depreciation.

TL;DR: For the infamous "last mile" travel, the battery life of the Brompton Electric is entirely sufficient. However, only 30 kilometers are possible when the weather is hot, and also do take into consideration the rather long charging time of four hours via the included power adapter. For an additional money, however, there is an optional fast charger that reduces the charging time to two hours.

How and where do I buy the Brompton Electric?

You will only be able to find Brompton bikes if your bike dealer is an authorized dealer. Therefore, I have included this short segment in the review, where I will break down the different pricing tiers and purchase options for the Brompton Electric. Let's begin with the cold, hard facts: How much do you need to budget for if you're interested in picking one up?

  • 6-speed model: From $3,800
  • Larger bag: City Bag for $250 (optional)

Depending on where you live, certain dealers might provide the right kind of financing plans to suit your budget. Do take note that Brompton does not offer any options for leasing.

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When I heard the price of the Brompton Electric, I ran away / © NextPit

Do you want to talk to a bike dealer about the options or ride the tested e-bike yourself? Then you can locate a local branch via the Brompton website which will show you all authorized dealers in your area.

Brompton Electric technical specifications

Models & technical data

Feature 2 speed 6 speed
Folding size 645 x 585 x 270 millimetres (HxWxD) 645 x 585 x 270 millimetres (HxWxD)
Weight 16,6 kilogram 17,4 kilogram
Max. Load 110 kilogram 110 kilogram
Brakes Dual Pivot Dual Pivot
Battery 36 V / 300 Wh / 2.2 kilograms 36 V / 300 Wh / 2.2 kilograms
Range 30 to 70 kilometers 30 to 70 kilometers
Sensors Torque and cadence sensor integrated in the bottom bracket Torque and cadence sensor integrated in the bottom bracket
Motor BLDC front wheel motor with 250 Watt rated power BLDC front wheel motor with 250 Watt rated power
Max. speed Speed approx. 25 km/h approx. 25 km/h
Colours Black Gloss, Bolt Blue Lacquer (tested), Turkish Green Black Gloss, Bolt Blue Lacquer (tested), Turkish Green
Price from €3,320 from €3,495

 

Final verdict

Spending a few weeks with the Brompton Electric resulted in a series of positive surprises. The sheer degree of flexibility that the bike offers and the high fun factor speak for themselves. At the same time, you enjoy a quality ride that is not only fun but safe. It is unique in the sense that you can find tiny details on the bike such as the folding instructions in the brake levers. The materials used are so robust and of such high quality that cycling becomes intuitive and safe despite the relatively tiny wheels.

The brakes grip well in traffic, and there were many times when I was able to quickly escape from potentially dangerous situations with the electric motor. Thanks to the high power and reliable pedal force detection, you can use the power of the hub motor in a controlled manner when required. Such situations can also simply mean beating cars from at the traffic lights.

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Folding is the biggest strength of the Brompton Electric / © NextPit

The folding mechanism is extremely easy and becomes second nature after some practice, allowing you to fold and unfold the bike in under a minute. Although placing the battery in a handlebar bag is a handy move, Brompton needs to come to terms with connectivity issues where strong vibrations are concerned, as that is one of the very few things that wasn't fun about the e-folding bike during my review run.

Last but not least, this could also boil down to the fact that the bike was loaned to me for free. To fork out close to $3,800 of my own money would certainly change the way I look at it in a review. The Brompton Electric is very expensive, as anyone who were remotely interested in it balked when I informed them of the price during the few weeks I rode it.

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You can find little icons and folding instructions everywhere on the bike. That's really charming / © NextPit

However, I still don't think this price is unjustified and over a period of 20 years, you can say that this is a very good investment to consider.

Disclaimer: Brompton invited Nextpit on a bike ride at the beginning of the review period and bought me drinks and food. The benefits provided from the outdoor press trip had no bearing on this review.

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  • Forest Markson 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    I dont understand this, ordinary bike is better anyway