Brompton Goes Ultralight With ‘T’ Series Titanium Folding Bike
British cycling icon Brompton has put millions of people on two little wheels – wheels that they can then fold into a kind of neat bicycle ball that fits under a desk, behind a door, rolled up like a suitcase or even stored in a carrying bag. There’s even an electric model I tortured on the hills of San Francisco last summer.
Now Brompton have redesigned their famous foldie and after many tweaks, fine tuning and focus on performance the company is releasing a small number of the new range of T bikes made almost entirely in titanium. If you thought Brompton’s bikes were lightweight before, the new T line almost borders on ridiculous. Brompton was kind enough to send me a $5,020 4-speed “Urban” T Line model for review despite the small number of T Line bikes being created.
If you were expecting a radical overhaul of the Brompton’s famous three-hinge folding design and curved backframe, I’m happy to disappoint you because thankfully the T Line bikes fit right in with the rest of the Brompton models. To be clear, this is not an e-bike or an e-bike, you have to pedal it like a regular bike.
But what’s extraordinary about the T Line is the weight – or lack thereof. Since Portland has many hills, I requested the Urban model with a 4-speed derailleur. There is a second T Line model, the One, with, of course, a single speed. The Urban weighs 17.4 pounds while the One variant shaves another full pound by losing the other three gears. I have a motorbike tires which weigh more.
As you can see, Brompton bikes are light and seem simple, but they are marvels of modern and innovative design. I was a little skeptical about how a 17lb folding bike would perform under the weight of a 6ft 1in, 230lb rider, but Brompton has been refining this same basic design for almost 50 years now and if anything, the strength of the titanium construction added a measure of stiffness beyond that of their other already over-performing models. After quickly unfolding the Urban, which now takes me about 20 seconds since training, I adjusted the seat height and steered the Brompton into Portland’s bike lane network.
The 4-speed derailleur was a bit finicky at first, but a little adjuster on the handlebar shifter quickly fixed the issue and it shifted clean and quick for the rest of my ride. Braking is by side-pull road bike style brakes and despite the small 20-inch wheels, the Urban doesn’t feel very flighty or sketchy while on the road. It rides like a much bigger bike than it is – and much heavier. Luckily they also added a super strong steel armor carbon seatpost to the T line to save even more weight and even though I look like a circus bear riding it it’s a real pleasure to to roll. As you can imagine, it’s also a serious topic of conversation, especially here in the United States.
Arrived on a high hill, I put the newly revised 4-speed transmission in 1st gear and started the incline. I’ve been riding much heavier e-bikes for so long now that I expect a bit of huff and puff as I ride the pavement using the electric assist but with the titanium e-free Urban, I made quite an unexpected progress due to the practically absent weight. Once at the top, I pointed it down the twisty hill and despite speeds probably close to 30 mph, the Brompton continues to confidently track through the corners and the brakes cleared the speed without fade or drama.
But the Brompton Urban really shines best when moving through the urban jungle, maneuvering around cars too close to the cycle path and popping up sidewalks with agility and stability. Far from being new, Brompton bikes are very fun to ride while being very practical. Brompton sent a roomy, waterproof $335 “Game Bag” bike bag (above) that mounts to a quick release above the Urban’s front wheel, and I was able to fill it with some camera gear, groceries and takeaway food, then simply push a lever to release it when the ride is over and use it as a shoulder bag. True comfort.
$5,000 is a lot of money to spend on any bike, but the Brompton T Line Urban makes a living with real-world utility, a sleek and innovative design now refreshed and refined, and that incredible lightweight. My review bike also included useful fenders and a bike bell, but no lights, and it would be nice to see every Brompton (and every commuter bike) include LED lights as standard. A rear reflector sits above the rear wheel.