Cycling is an enjoyable way to get around a city. Timings are reliable, fitness and ecological benefits are considerable and in the summer it’s a great way to avoid the clammy heat of the train or bus commute.
But it’s not for everyone. Buying a bike isn’t cheap and even with the best lock they’re not immune to being stolen. So bike hire schemes are a clever alternative: no purchase price, no maintenance costs and in the case of systems with strong docking stations like London’s newly re-sponsored Santander Cycles, no risk of the bike being nicked.
But those Boris Bikes, for all their strengths are hefty, heavy machines. Sure, motorists give them a wide berth because they assume there are amateur cyclists on the saddle, but you wouldn’t want to cycle one all day. Anyway, the pricing is structured so you return it every half hour – keeping one out of a dock for an entire day is very expensive.
Brompton, British manufacturer of the best folding bikes around, has an answer. Bromptons, by the way, are outstanding because the wheel size, smaller than on most other folders, and the cunning design of the bike itself make for a tinier, exceptionally portable object to carry when you’re not actually riding. The riding position is extremely comfortable and the ride is nippy, responsive and pleasant.
And the benefit of folding bikes is that you can take the folded machine indoors with you, parking it under your desk, say, to avoid the possibility of theft. They’re also more welcome on public transport or even in a taxi than full-size bikes.
So Brompton Bike Hire may be the way to go. Earlier in the week, the company announced seven more docks around the country, joining the existing ones in Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bristol and London to create a network of 40 docks.
Since the cheapest Brompton is over £700, hiring one is an easier option, not to mention a good way to try a Brompton to see if you like it. The rental system is straightforward: first decide if you want the Frequent or the Leisure tariff. Frequent costs a £20 upfront annual fee, Leisure just £1 for the year. Hiring charges cost £2.50 per 24-hour period on the Frequent tariff, £5 a day on Leisure. You can rent a bike for more than one day, which is handy if you plan a cycling weekend, say.
Once you’ve registered, you can book a bike at your chosen dock online or by text. You’ll be sent an access code by text which opens the locker. Unfold the bike and you’re away. Returning the bike is similarly simple.
Incidentally, it’s not just Ian Fletcher from W1A that has initial trouble folding the bike, it does take a go or two before it’s second nature – there’s a handy video on the Brompton Bike Hire website.
The site also has full details of the nearest docks, some of which are on commuter rail stations like Ashford and Guildford, which is handy. Most are public, though a few are just for the use of the staff of enlightened companies, like Sky, for instance.
Brompton’s set-up is worth investigating: good bikes, a simple system and affordable rates. The main downside could be that there’s not one near you.
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