Day 11 of 80 — Folding Bikes

Around London in 80 days

In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.

And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.

Day 11 : Folding Bikes

Near Covent Garden, on Long Acre, is one of my favourite London shops. A window full of stacked up, stylish bikes, a small shop and a downstairs repair workshop with diligent, competent staff : London’s Brompton Junction, the official Brompton shop which saved me more than once when I needed emergency repairs. The shop itself has historical connections, as it stands on the site of the workshop from where Britain’s first hobby-horse bicycle was made and sold.

If you don’t know, Brompton is a brand of quite expensive, high-quality fold-up bikes ; made in London, they have become increasingly popular in big metropolitan cities, where the ability to combine public transport, cars and cycling is priceless. And their commercial campaign is striking : one parking space can fit as many as 42 Bromptons !

Of course, as a Brompton adept myself, I suppose I am biased. When I first bought a half-priced, second hand Brompton back in Belgium, I thought it would be a useful extra bike. Little did I know that it would actually become an essential part of my everyday life, to the point of featuring on my business card, along with my instruments (and my cat) !

Quintessentially British, the Brompton brand organises events such as the Brompton World Championship, an annual race requiring participants to wear a shirt and tie (or a shirt-and-tie-printed cycling jersey) —noblesse oblige, or the “Brompton Fastest Fold” competitions :

The sort of serious silliness that brought me to this country in the first place…

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