The History of Brompton Bikes
Where it all began!
Starting from humble beginnings in a West London railway arch, the company now calls to a 22,000 square foot factory in London home. This acts as its head office and the location where all its bikes are handmade by fully qualified specialists with a wealth of qualifications and experience in designing state of the art bikes, designed to ride, fold and last. The original design of the Brompton bike was created in the bedroom of Andrew Ritchie well before he started the company. Since then the name Brompton has been synonymous with high-quality folding bikes. A folding bike is a bicycle that is designed to fold into a smaller compact form allowing it to be stored or transported with ease. When they are in their folded form, these bikes can be more easily carried into buildings, taken on public transport or put away at home.
Designed for both Commuters & Cycling Enthusiasts
Crafted with the high build quality and a design that has been refined over 25 years means Brompton folding bikes provide years of regular urban use for commuters and cycling enthusiasts everywhere. Brompton has been incredibly influential when innovating and designing folding bikes, their vision and the products that have been created from it have helped make them the market leaders when it comes to specialist folding bikes. Brompton bikes are specifically designed for commuting in urban environments. Folding bikes themselves (unlike most other bikes) are small enough to be taken on trains and buses meaning that commuters do not have to choose between cycling and getting public transport, they can do both if that is the best way to reach their destination.
The Magic Carpet Inspiration
When coming up with his original concept, Ritchie was inspired by the idea of a ‘magic carpet’. Something he could pull out when he needed to be whisked away to a new place but fold back up when no longer needed. This idea ran away with itself, and the Brompton bike was born. Of course, folding bikes already existed but the new Brompton design, with its emphasis on portability, changed the conversation forever and then the industry itself. Ritchie had studied engineering at Cambridge University and had been “dabbling with inventing” since he graduated.
Ritchie filed the first patent for his design in 1976 after borrowing money from friends and after several challenging years was able to finally get them into production after getting noticed by a savvy investor called Julian Vereker. Vereker introduced Ritchie to new suppliers and backers. With this support behind them, they were finally able to hire a factory, and that is when the company really got their start. Andrew Ritchie did various jobs while trying to get his business off the ground working as a gardener, a builder and a delivery person. His idea was to work as something as noncommittal as possible while he pursued his real dream of building and selling his Brompton bikes.
Hand Built from the Ground up
When speaking about his work Ritchie is the first to admit he developed an almost obsessive attention to detail for his product, tweaking and altering his design based on the feedback he received from customers. If a certain part or element of the design received criticism, then he would rebuild from the ground up. Ritchie refuses to accept his design will ever be completed or perfect, describing it as an ongoing process where there is always room for improvement. Ritchie rides his own bikes and is always identifying areas that need revision.
One interesting revelation from Andrew Ritchie was that his Brompton bikes are not aimed at cyclists. Admitting that this is an odd thing for a manufacturer of bikes to say, Brompton bikes are designed to be appealing to none cyclists. They are for people looking for a new tool to get them from A to B in a densely populated urban area. Seasoned cycling enthusiasts may not understand or be drawn to the simple practicality of a Brompton, aiming for something more advanced and suited to their needs. The foldable nature of a Brompton lends itself more to a commuter aiming to save money on bus fair living on a shoestring wanting to lose a few pounds, rather than an experienced lycra-clad cycling expert who has been buying bikes all their life.
A Bike Designed by Knowing their Customers
This does not mean that Brompton does not value all their customers and aim to produce the best quality bike they can, but that they understand who their target market is and strive to cater for them first. Knowing full well that their customers are usually commuters going to work and back Brompton bikes are now working on a foldable electric bike to save their customers getting all sweaty before they begin their shift. Where this may defeat the object of cycling to keep fit, every customer has the option to pedal should they choose. Some customers may choose to pedal home from work only, where the risk of becoming sweaty and fatigued is less important, and their shower and a change of clothes await.
Awards for Innovation & Design
Brompton has won numerous awards for its innovative designs. In 1995 Brompton won a Queens award for export, in 2009 the ‘Prince Phillips designers prize’ and In the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 2010, the company was awarded two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in the Innovation and International Trade categories. Ritchie himself was also given an MBE for his enterprise and commitment to British industry. In 2017 Brompton now exports 80% of their bikes overseas to every continent, including Antarctica, where a researcher ordered a bike to help him move quickly between research facilities while keeping warm while doing so from the exercise.
This just shows how far Andrew Ritchie’s vision has reached and continues to do so as the company looks for its next innovation. https://www.bicycledoctor.co.uk/brompton-bikes-manchester/