Brompton S6L-X £1160

Traditional folding bike

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

For many the terms folding bikes and Brompton are synonymous. The company have three models in their range – distinguished by their handlebar shapes – but these are made into a bewildering variety of finished bikes. And you can even go down the custom route.

The S-type we tested is the lightest, sportiest of the three, and comes with bars that are lower and further forward than on the other models. We trimmed weight from the standard model by going for the ‘superlight’ version, with titanium rear triangle, fork and seatpost. This reduces the weight by a kilogram, but the standard spec at £750 is cheaper and probably the choice for most.

  • Frame: Standard Brompton frame with titanium forks and rear triangle to reduce weight (9/10)
  • Handling: Extremely lively – almost tiller-like – fine over short commutes (7/10)
  • Equipment: Plenty of assorted extras: lights, mudguards, bag and pump all present and correct (8/10)
  • Fold: The Brompton gained its reputation for good reason. A quick, intuitive and straightforward fold results in a bike that’s compact in all three dimensions (9/10)

The Brompton fold is still the benchmark; it proved pretty intuitive and trouble-free. And unlike some rivals, the Brompton was a doddle to carry up steps without getting in people’s way.

Inevitably a bike with small wheels and a long stem is going to present some handling issues if you’re not used to riding one. The feel is incredibly direct and lively, and there’s also noticeable flex in the stem. But in practice this is something you get used to very quickly, and small wheels do get up to speed rapidly in traffic.

Our model came with six speeds, but depending on the type of riding you’re planning, you could go for one, two, three or six gears. In addition to this, 12 colour options are available.

The rule of thumb is that the shorter the ride and the flatter your route, the fewer gears you’re likely to need. For hilly cities like Bath and Bristol, where we did the testing, half a dozen seemed the right way to go.

It’s true that the Brompton’s ride won’t please everybody, but if you are looking for a bike with an ultra-fast, fuss-free fold for everyday use, then the Brompton is still the bike to beat.

The small wheels and the lively handling mean we wouldn’t recommend riding across continents on one, but this doesn’t mean you can’t rack up serious miles on a Brompton. One of Cycling Plus’s contributors, Rob Ainsley, toured Japan on his Brompton, riding 50 miles a day.

And Rob’s not Brompton’s only fan. The novelist Will Self, in typically acerbic style, wrote last year: “If I can’t convince you that a Brompton folding bicycle is not only a superior means of locomotion, and a perfect antidote to the stresses of the modern world… then I personally guarantee to come round to your house and sort out your old Allen keys – or something like that.”

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