I’ve just got back from a lovely holiday in Brittany with the family. I didn’t take a bicycle, but did throw in the boot a piece of metallic origami that some people really really like but tends to leave me with a bit of sick in my mouth whenever I look at it. The intention was to use the device for le baguette run tous les matins. This involved a short fait du velo to la boulangerie.
Before i left Will gave me a crash course in how to unfold and fold the beast. I tried my best to remain level-headed and unimpressed with the clever engineering involved. Any vaguely inappropriate thoughts were dispelled when i attempted to lift the hefty piece of folded scaffolding; the brompton is pas légère.
Once in France I unfolded the petit monster on a couple of occasions. it has three gears in an old school sturmey style. The straightforward percentage increases make it easy to ride and it can go relatively fast, particularly when heading down a steep incline with a strong tailwind and pedalled by a heavy-set rider.
It served one clear purpose, namely, allowing me to get Belle’s croissant aux amandes and Penny’s croissant normale. Penny does like the croissant. I also got to achieve one of life’s richer pleasures: riding a bicycle, any bicycle, in France. It’s a cosmic experience. France was part of a wider plan written in the primordial days of the big bang; at some point as the atoms and various cosmic things hurtled outwards, they coalesced into an area of solidity which became la France Profonde, a nation, culture and geographical space at one with the transformative power of the bicycle. France + cycling = a celestial symbiosis.
Whilst I would have preferred to have ridden my road bike, the apotheosis of bicycle design, I will settle for riding a folding piece of carefully engineered steel. It was a lot better than many other bicycle-shaped objects I have ridden in the past and in a perverse and unsettling way i was impressed with the Brompton, at least in part because it’s the answer to a question that was actually asked, unlike most other ‘innovative’ bicycle designs (the wretched flying gate, for example). Nevertheless, I think if i ever had reason to purchase some sort of quasi-bicycle it would probably be a Moulton, rather than the slightly neurotic Reliant Robin of cycling, the Brompton.