Smart Living

Brompton goes electric

The familiar sight of a Brompton bicycle could become even more common thanks to a Formula One inspired innovation

Words by
Johanna Derry

The Brompton Bicycle is a familiar sight to the London commuter, whether tucked under the arm of businessmen on the train or ridden on canal towpaths by hipsters. When it was invented by Andrew Ritchie in 1975 it was a prescient piece of engineering that has held its own in our ever more congested cities.

Though cycling in London has increased by 91 per cent over the past 14 years, the capital still falls far behind other European cities – 13 per cent of journeys in Berlin are made by bike, and more than half in Copenhagen, compared with just five per cent here.

One of the reasons perhaps our European neighbours hop on a bike more often is the rise in e-bikes, whose batteries help take some of the strain if the journey to work is a little bit too long to go the whole hog. Another possibility is that, when space is at a premium, finding places to safely store your prized cycle is challenging, putting people off cycling into town.

So Brompton have risen to the task, integrating a 300Wh battery into a bag which clips onto the front of the bike, while retaining the iconic design, style, craftsmanship, and of course portability. To ensure the Brompton e-bike maintained the level of excellence in engineering associated with the brand, the team joined with Williams Advanced Engineering, the engineering and technology business of the Williams Group, which includes Williams Martini Racing. Together they developed a motor that integrates seamlessly into the complexities of a folding bike – fitting into the existing design schematic as well as being lightweight and powerful.

‘We’ve spent three years taking William Racing technology and integrating it into the Brompton,’ says the brand’s CEO Will Butler-Adams. ‘It’s been harder than any of us imagined but we believe we have created a product that will inspire more people to get out form under the ground, out of their cars, and back onto a bike to rediscover their cities.’

The bike’s battery weighs only 2.9kg, bringing the total weight of the e-bike up to 13.4kg, allowing for a range of between 25 and 50 miles. The 250W motor sits on the front hub, but the bike still folds down to a third of its size, just like the standard model. The Brompton e-bike also includes a torque and cadence sensor, three assistance modes, and a smartphone app allowing the rider to customise their ride settings, track mileage, and keep on top of the bike’s service history. 

Of course all Brompton bikes are custom-made and the e-version is no different, taking into account riding style, route to and from work, budget, and even wardrobe. Every bike is hand brazed and marked with the signature of the brazer who completed the work, a sign that innovation doesn’t have to mean a loss of personality or commitment to craftsmanship.