Philadelphia hosts Brompton Championships

Inaugural US rendition of British folding bike racing

Tweed, ties and formal wear are hardly what comes to mind for bike racing attire, that is, unless you’re racing a Brompton championship event. This British style of portable bike racing comes to the US this weekend.

The first US Brompton Championships will be held in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia on Saturday, March 20. The event will be held in conjunction with Philly Phlyers, the largest collegiate bike race in the country and sanctioned under USA Cycling.

“I have always sponsored part of the collegiate race,” said Michael McGettigan, local organizer and owner of Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia. “The organizers heard about the Brompton race in Europe and we cooked up the idea to do a US version of it. The company Brompton put their heads together and had it organized in a few days.”

The Brompton Championships is not your typical bike race. Bring your portable Brompton bikes but you can leave your Lycra at home because this race calls for business attire. The event is designed to display two points. First, that you can ride your bike to work in suit and second, you can ride a folding bike, darn fast.

“It’s a gathering of the folding bikes,” said McGettigan. “People who ride Bromptons want to commute in work clothing. These bikes are fast, they are agile little bikes.”

West London’s Brompton Bicycles design portable bikes that are made for commuting to work. Six years ago, there were only two US importers, C.M. Wasson in San Diego and Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia. Now there are nearly 20 dealers nation-wide.

The Brompton World Championships were first held in Barcelona and have since moved to Blenheim Palace in the UK. Tour de France stage winner, Spaniard, Roberto Heras placed second to Alistair Kay from Britain in 2008. Heras returned to win in 2009.

The Philadelphia Championships expects 100 participants from eleven different states and internationally from France, Italy and Japan. Participants will complete one 9.6 km lap starting near Memorial Hall in West Fairmount Park.

The first male and female to cross the line will receive a trip to the Brompton World Championships set to take place in October in London, plane tickets and entry fees courtesy of Brompton Bicycles.

Although the Brompton Championships attracts a competitive crowd, Brompton’s North American Representative Ed Rae says the event is more about having fun.

“People who do this race do it for its great mardi-gras style of festival,” Rae said. “For a lot of people it is more about having a fun day. The idea of wearing suit jacket attire gives it a carnival-type atmosphere. To some degree it will never be a hardcore race, although people do come out to win it, that’s for sure.”

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