James Daley: The Cycling Column

Think cyclists are crazy? Meet the brommies...
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I'm sorry to admit it, but I seem to have developed a new and passionate prejudice over the past few weeks, and it's got to the point where I can no longer resist the temptation to air it: I've a problem with people who ride Bromptons.

For those of you who are not familiar, Bromptons are those odd-looking bikes with tiny wheels, which cleverly fold down to the size of a small dog. Hence (like a small dog), they can be easily carried around when their owners - or Brommies as they shall now be referred to - can't be bothered to ride them any more.

The first time you come across one of these things, you can't help but be impressed. The most agile (and saddest) of Brommies will boast that they can turn their bike into a portable mish-mash of metal and wires in less than 15 seconds. And from a purely engineering perspective, there's no doubt that these are pretty clever pieces of machinery.

But I think this may be where the problem lies. Every Brommie has such pride for their contraption, and so admires how beautifully and easily it folds away, that within hours of purchasing it, they begin to develop a rather annoying smugness.

Although these bikes do fold down into quite a handy size, they are still awkward and ugly things once they have been collapsed. Apart from guaranteeing bruising on the legs of anyone who is carrying one, they also end up injuring passers-by. While anyone else would be profusely apologetic if they accidentally whacked a stranger on the leg with a large piece of metal, Brommies have a special look of contempt which they reserve for these moments, which screams, "how dare you touch my beloved Brompton!"

My worst fears were realised the other day, when I came across The Folding Society - a club that dedicates itself to the beauty of folding bikes, and where adoring Brommies (and other fold-up cyclists) can share stories about how much they love their hunks of metal.

In one recent newsletter, the society reported the tale of a Brommie who came home late one night from a trip abroad, to discover that while his wife's Brompton was neatly folded up at the end of their bed, his was not nestled alongside it as usual. When he went to climb into bed, however, he discovered (to his delight apparently) that his Brompton was in fact tucked up under the covers on his side of the bed!

It's strange enough that this couple are so infatuated with their bikes that they keep them at the foot of their bed. But to elect to sleep with your partner's foldaway bike when he goes away on a business trip is surely certifiable.

It's not just when they bump into you, or when they're blocking the train doors as they're collapsing their bikes, that their smugness prevails either - the attitude of Brommies on the road is equally irritating. With wheels that are only 16 inches in diameter, Bromptons are neither particularly stable, nor very fast. Yet Brommies seem intent on deluding themselves that their bike can keep pace with any other cyclist.

On more than one occasion, I have nearly had a crash with a crazy Brommie, who has decided to try to show me just what his little wheels can do as I'm overtaking him.

Don't get me wrong, I can see the appeal (some of my best friends are Brommies, you know!). It must all be very convenient to commute into a city and finish your journey on a foldaway bike, rather than tackling the claustrophobia of the train or bus.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that there may be a day when I have to bite the bullet and buy one myself. But I can promise you that I won't let myself fall in love with it, sign up to a Brommie fan club, or develop the Brommie affectation!

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