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Genetically Modified Bromptons

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Genetically Modified Bromptons

Page last changed October 21, 2001

Front suspension
Brompton Recumbent Conversion Kit
Leonard Rubin's UFB ("Ultimate Folding Bike" or "Super-Brompton") project
Aluminium Brompton clone?
Electrically powered Bromptons
Wish lists

Front suspension
Mark Lewis, May 1998:

[...] I've had a few ideas about how a suspended front fork could be achieved.
The neatest would be to use the standard forks with a modified suspended steerer tube. This would have two
closely fitting tubes one inside the other fixed together through a small suspension block sitting in the middle
(probably like the Cannondale front suspension [...] came out about five or so years ago and is now marketed
under the 'HeadShok' name. Have a look at their website at . They sell forks for
standard MTBs with the suspension unit built into the steerer tube. It looks very neat and sounds like a better
system (at least in theory) than the standard twin fork suspension that almost all mountain bikers seem to
have. I've never actually seen anyone riding a bike with one of these forks so perhaps they aren't as good as
the makers would have us believe?)
The outer tube would be threaded either end for the headset and be fixed somehow to the handlebar stem. The
inner tube would turn with the outer tube by a series of grooves and corresponding ridges in the faces of the
inner and outer tubes (or a better system would employ bearings to achieve this). This would allow the inner
tube to move up and down suspended by a suspension unit in its centre. The front fork crown would be fixed
to this inner tube with some kind of rubber seal between the two sliding tubes. If the internal suspension unit
relied on a compressed volume of air to provide the bounce it could easily be constructed with a standard
high pressure tyre valve to allow the air to be be pumped in with a normal bike pump to vary its response.
More importantly, and with the addition of a locking mechanism to prevent the inner tube's vertical
movement, air could be let out completely to allow the front fork to be locked into its highest position for
normal folding.
It would then look very similar to a normal folded Brompton. For short rides the unfolded bike could be left
with the headset suspension locked for a normal ride or released and inflated for a suspended ride!
Martin Ball, Jul 1998:

I've had an idea for frount suspension. How about a sprung hinge at the join between handlebar and
stem? I find that most bumps seem to throw the handlebars backwards more than upwards. Therefore if
the hinge could give in a forwards direction even a little many high frequency vibrations may be
removed. Of course the hinge would have a back stop so that we can still pull back on the bars for
speed or hills.
Leonard Rubin, Sep 1998:

I am working on a new Ti front fork that should soak up alot of road "surface noise", while further
reducing the weight at the same time.

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Brompton Recumbent Conversion Kit

Carl Etnier:

It clamps on, so it can be

installed and removed, leaving
no permanent change. They
say the folded package is
almost as small as the vanilla
Brompton, although it is 2 cm
too large to fit in the carrying
case. No information on
additional folding time. It will
be manufactured and
distributed by
Juliane Neu
Haferberg 2
21509 Glinde
Tel: Germany 040 71095104
For more information and a picture, see This site contains the sum of all
information I have about the kit. I hope to see it in use this summer sometime.
Custfold, Feb 1998:

The recumbent Brompton ISTR uses the front carrier block to take the extension which supports the
new front crank, complete with a LONG toothed belt which drives the chainring, and it also has an
extended handlebar stem.
For the former Brompton are very concerned (ie invalidate any claim I would have on warranty) if
excessive loads are placed on the front carrier block. In my experience a front pannier full of papers is
just such a load (c.20Kg) which with the natural 'wobble' of cycling will loosen the 2 set screws which
fasten the block on. Static loads of considerably more can be placed on the block, but any load
imposing a moment about the mounting will loosen or shear off the screws. One solution has been
described previously and involves some butchery of plastic. The use of the OEM block with the cyclic
loading of a set of cranks and what would happen if it fell off in motion may have upset the
manufacturer - although the problem is not insoluble.
Channell Wasson, Nov 1998:

It seems fairly certain that we will have in hand by January/February for sale five of the Brompton
recumbent conversion kits. These kits are a result of development headed by team leader Juliane Nuess
of Hamburg Germany. They fold almost as small as the Brompton package and do so quickly. I have
ridden one and they are quite amazing. The price for the kit is hopefully expected to be between $700
and $800 plus shipping from San Francisco area. Reservations will be accepted with a $50 deposit.
Channell Wasson, Jan 1999:

Latest news from Brompton Recumbent Kit manufacturer, Juliane Nuess in Germany as of January 18
is that five kits are now paid for and will be shipped by air freight from Germany to C.M. Wasson Co.,
Brompton Bicycle USA Distributor, within the next three weeks. Subject to firmer information on
shipping costs and import duties the complete kit price is expected to be $1,150. Kits will be sold direct
to users. But please note that this is a conversion kit for the Brompton Folding Bike, and the kit does
not include a Brompton bicycle. The Brompton Recumbent Conversion Kit will fit any model of
Brompton. Furher inquiries are welcome.
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Rob Cope, Feb 1999:

A to B issue 8 (Oct/Nov 98) reviewed both this & the GNAT

folding recumbent trike. Final sentence: "The Neuss recumbent
kit is superb". See [Where can I find out more? - A to B] for back
issue & subscription details.
Todd Bettenhausen, Apr 1999:

A very extensive look at the kit can be found in Recumbent

Cyclist News #50. This is a reprint from A2B magazine.
Kohan, Keith, Sep 1999:

RCN can be contacted by e-mail at Telephone 253-630-7200.
Olaf Schultz, Sep 1999:

My Brompton is a (4 year old) T3. The Conversion-Kit is mounted since february '99. I used it several
times, but mostly only on train-travels: Kassel (hilly, also on ice and snow), Germersheim (flat),
Esslingen and Tuebingen (hilly). And sometimes in Hamburg.
The main problem at mine is that the SA 3-speed hub slips inside of the gear on high pedal-forces:(. So
there is no starting on 20%-uphill with an full 60~ltr.-Rucksack on the lugage-carrier. On the normal
upright-Version I never had this problem, but with the recumbent-version the pedal-forces are
sometime greater than body-weight.:)
So I am thinking on converting a Sachs (SRAM) 3x7 for the brecki. There's enough place in the hub,
that the left bearing can be go to right nearly inside of the hub and will be replaced through another
ball-bearing. But what's with the tailord chain-strut and the spokes, so there will be perhaps a complete
new rear fork (one scottish Brompton-Driver made it some time ago). It can be made at the Brecki
because there's no problem with the chain-strut an the feets and no with the folding on the left side.
Oh, the point luggage. Just put the Rucksack on the carrier an fix him with the expanders at the seat. Or
pick normal Bike-Packers (Ortlib or Karriermor...) on the top of the seat, there's a rod for such things.
A big advantage: Be faster than lycra-racingbike-drivers, even with jeans and and luggage. We did that
on the trip to Germersheim in Mai, one 16V (SWB, OSS) and I made wind-shadow, the upright had no
Also it's no problem to go over ,,long''-Distance (40 km or so).
One Problem for person with long legs: The knees may come in contact with the handlebar, also with
the extender, deliverd with the conversion-Kit. Juliane plans to make anoter handlebar, so that this
problem can be solved.
The only disadvantage point: My cantilever-beam is nearly brooken (after 400 km) at the bottom-plate.
I think I did it in Esslingen with my luggage (30 kg or so) on nearly 20% uphill (not signed). I'll go to
get a new one before this weekend (Julianes Shop is only 20 km far away). I'am the first with this
problem and my normal bike-dealer said some years ago, that I'am not longer their test driver because
I'll break everything.-)
Arndt Last (German HPVler) built a USS for the Brecki and made a side2side-Tandem out of two
Brecki's, mentioned in the new InfoBull, the newsletter for ther swiss and german HPV. I also tougt
about USS for the Brecki, but in my view the advantage (no problems with the knees) is not so great as
the disadvantage (not so good in manoverability, no stacking for arms and head if only seating or
rolling through pedastrian-zones)
Some links for the Brecki:
Channell Wasson, Sep 1999:

Re the Brompton conversion kit. I bought five kits from Juliane Nuess for our inventory in USA. So far
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one has sold over a period of almost a year. There was keen interest for it, but as soon as it was
available, interest evaporated. I have assembled one for my own use and find it wonderful to ride. I
definitely plan to keep mine and am slowly upgrading it. V brakes have been installed, and the seat has
been upholstered which made quite a diference. Now I am upgrading to alluminum oxide rims (custom
made at $42 ea,) and a Rohloff 14 speed hub gear will replace the Stumey 5 speed. The hub is large and
the spokes will be short. This hub installation is still in planning stage. AtoB magazine had a good
review of the kit. It rides well and has to be the smallest recumbent when folded. Not a lot larger than
the Brompton standard when it is folded. Regards, Channell
Deborah Eacock, Sep 1999:

Just want to confirm that the recumbent Brompton is incredible. It is very agile and comfortable to ride,
and it folds about 6 inches taller and wider than the stock Brompton. Since it is much faster than the
"wedgie" Brompton, the Sturmey-Archer 5-speed hub is not adequate. Also, as we have discussed
many times on this web-list, the brakes are not safe.
I am very interested, but the cost has put me off. One must have a Brompton, then modify the brakes
and gears.
For the price of the kit, one can buy a complete Bike-E that can be "adapted" to fit into a golf bag. On
the other hand, there is no other recumbent on the market that folds as quickly and completely as the
Neuss Brompton.
However, as age catches up with my elbows, wrists, and shoulders, my love for my Brompton will
enter a new chapter.
Spidra Webster, Sep 1999:

I bought the Brompton several years ago when I could still ride uprights without as much pain. I LOVE
the stock Brompton. I had been telling myself that when I finally had the money, I would buy the
recumbent conversion kit. When my worker's comp came through this year, that's what I did. I was a
bit hasty and didn't research again. I still thought the Brompton conversion kit was the only folding
recumbent out there. After I had already made a commitment to buy I found out about the Bike
I still didn't feel *too* bad since there were no local dealerships to try the Bike SatRday and it was
more expensive than the kit. I took a test ride of the Brompton with conversion at Channell Wasson's (I
happen to live close to the US distributor for Brompton). I was a bit disappointed. My knees were
knocking joints that wouldn't have been hit in the upright position. My knees were also hitting the
handlebars. I pointed this out to Channell and he thought that he could adjust for that. Since I didn't
have much of a choice (I now can't ride the upright Brompton for more than a mile without severe
pain), I ordered one. I knew that the ride was going to be seriously bumpy as well. The seat was metal
and foam instead of mesh and I had gotten used to the front suspension on my Haluzak.
Needless to say, when I got my conversion I was disappointed. I think another factor was that although
it was still a reasonably compact fold (It folds to a much smaller size than the Bike Saturday), I
couldn't roll it in that position as I could with the stock Brompton. That loss of convenience was a big
bummer as it made it really easy to go to the grocery store, fold, and roll the bike along with me in the
store. I suppose if I were handier I could invent a sollution to this by making some kind of out- rigger
wheels for when it's in the folded position.
Green Gear came near enough for me to visit in June or July. I took a test ride of the Bike SatRday and
it was so much more comfortable to ride. It felt like a non-folding recumbent. The only slight
discomfort was that the mesh seat ended at my shoulderblades. I thought I would think about it some
more, but some clever salesmanship got me to place an order on the spot. BTW- Green Gear charges
more money for USS. I can't ride as comfortably with ASS. Once again the disability makes me pay
The bike arrived right after I made the decision to move so I haven't had many times to try it. It's
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definitely very comfortable. It's also a little unwieldy folded since it doesn't fold as compactly as the
Brompton and there's no "click" into the folded position. Again, that requires hand strength I don't have
to keep it folded. On the other hand, it's possible to use its own wheel to wheel it along. It also requires
a bit of creativity in figuring out how to get a light, computer, etc. attached to it. I have no doubt that
the tinkerers on the list can do it. It takes a few tries for me, though.
Right now I'm still deciding between the Brompton and Bike SatRday. I use a folder to take BART and
also to run quick errands. I haven't yet used the Bike SatRday to do either. I suspect that I will like the
Brompton better for peak commute times on the BART and the Bike SatRday better for times where
there's a little more room on the BART train.
So, to summarize:
costs less if you already own a stock Brompton
folds more compactly
can be tied into that compact folded position
costly for a kit and something you have to install yourself
no tech support since it's a 3rd party conversion (although Channell is a nice guy and
will help you with some things. There's no support from the actual manufacturer)
bumpy ride
only available in ASS
Not as well suited for tall riders
Bike SatRday
rides like a non-folding recumbent
has many parts choices for bike weenies
Can be rolled a bit more easily while folded (for someone with hand problems)
Green Gear has premium customer support
some disassembly needed to fit into hard case for travel
Doesn't fold as compactly
No adapters for lights (Green Gear sells one for bike computers, though)
Expensive as hell even without accessories
Jim McLaughlin, Nov 1999:

Yes, the Brecki is the German kit. I had to make some minor changes to leave the Mountain Drive in
place. This took about $2 in longer bolts from the hardware store and some work on a milling machine
on a crank arm for the shifter. Otherwise the assembly took me a couple hours in the evenings after
I got comfortable with the handling quickly due to a lot of recumbent experience. I never have gotten
comfortable with under seat steering for instance, but I'm sure that is also a matter of time. The Brecki's
turning radius is much smaller than my long wheelbase recumbent, but I prefer the later for, say, riding
one handed downhill at high speeds on bumpy roads. You can hit the front wheel of the Brecki on your
shoe when turning very tightly, like many recumbents. It is not an issue once you learn it.
I shift the Mountain Drive by hand now. It takes a half second longer than by foot but I'm used to it. I
have the "easy shift arms", I don't think the button shifters would work as well for hand shifting. I put
the belt on so that the cranks are matched front and back. (There are 4 cranks the way I set it up, though
the ones in back have no pedals.) When I want to shift up I leave my left foot at the top of the stroke
and I know I can reach the shifter quickly on the left idler crank. (I just realized that if I converted it to
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under seat steering, it would be a very short movement to reach the Mountain drive shifter...) I leave
the right pedal up to shift down.
I haven't taken the Brecki kit off again yet and I doubt I will, so I'm not sure how long that might take.
It should be quick since the Mountain Drive does not have to move.
Taking off from a start was tricky when I first tried a recumbent years ago. But if I bet the same goes
for the first time you ride any new bike geometry, it is just like your first bike when you were 5 years
old. Recently I was riding with some children whose seats were too low. When I raised them up the
kids had a hard time starting again but they finally accepted it when they realized they could go so
much faster. Anyway the Brecki is easy to start for me even going up very steep hills.
Just expect it to be a new experience with some relearning required and you will love
Ian Miller, Oct 2001:

Note that Bromptons manufactured before April 1993 had a smaller head-set than more recent ones.
The standard Julian Neuss conversion kit does not fit this model. Although they don't advertise it, there
is a smaller version of the conversion kit. I advise anyone with an old Brompton to check the size of
the frame tube surrounding the head-set. If it is 1.5 inch OD then the standard conversion kit will fit. If
it is 1.25 inch OD then you need the small conversion kit. I would explicitly ask for the smaller block
AND the smaller handle-bar extension.
[The standard kit's extension is 25.4mm, the older Bromptons need 22.2mm.]
Ian_Miller FAI-D10204 <>;
PGP Fingerprint: 2A20 4610 E596 2740 91B1 95BA CAD3 BC14
Antworten auf Deutsch waeren mir angenehm.

Leonard Rubin's UFB ("Ultimate Folding Bike" or "SuperBrompton") project

Len is too busy to update his web-site, so here's the last news heard on Brompton-Talk:
Len Rubin, Aug 2000:

As many of you know I have spent every spare moment and dollar over the last four years or so
developing prototypes of some diabolical ultralight, professionally equipped human-powered urban
stealth vehicle inspired by the Brompton. A few of you have even purchased and are currently
commuting on some of these prototypes. many more of you have curiously and patiently followed the
rumors and sightings.
Having created a busy network computer consulting company to fund the endlessly expensive research
and development of this elusive fantasy, I have found myself increasingly unable to personally
participate in most of the fabrication or even ride much anymore these days! I am reduced to
manufacturing money, and managing the several brilliant designers and fabricators who know toil away
at my dream for me.
Last week I received the long-awaited and much-anticipated last prototype iteration/first "production"
test sample (what in the computer world would be called the "Golden Master") of the heart of the UFB
(Ultimate Folding Bicycle, formerly known as the "SuperBrompton" project) -- the rear triangle.
The last several days have been particularly busy for me. Each day after working a grueling 16-18
hours doggedly transforming computer problems into solutions, grafting order onto chaos and often
driving hundreds of miles up and down the clogged arteries of the San Francisco Bay Area (sadly
ironic for the technological heart of the world), I would wearily glance at the triangle sitting in my shop
downstairs, and then climb up into bed, unable to even think of picking up a tool.

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Last night I finally said, "Tonight is the night!", and at 1:00 A.M. I completed the assembly of the bike!
I then test rode it up and down a couple of the more imposing hills of San Bruno -- and I was
re-animated! The new rear triangle is amazingly light and simultaneously surmounts several formidable
design challenges that have been vexing me all along.
I am finally pretty satisfied with the latest geometry and engineering (and I am not easily satisfied, as
my now extensive consortium of bicycle and aerospace fabricators will all tell you!)
Last night's build, with 27 gears, a stock unmodified Brompton main frame, the Brompton folding
pedal (heavy enough to satisfy the Russian military) and our patented on-the-fly adjustable stem -which fairly matches that pedal in over-engineered mass -- weighed in at 21.4 lbs. (that's with a STEEL
rear triangle, folks!!!). I am now satisfied that we will deliver our promised curb weight of 20.5 lbs. for
the complete steel UFB and, at most, 17.5 lbs. for the Titanium one.
Our first production run of rear triangles is in steel, and then we shift production to Titanium. a few of
these will be loaned to customers who have orders in for Titanium, but are anxious to ride their new
bikes while they wait for the Ti production. When I get these back, they will represent some additional
steel ones available for sale (the first run of steel triangles is otherwise sold out.)
I am taking orders/deposits on the next run. As I indicated previously, I am also considering producing
a version with an internally-geared hub for the UK/European market.
We also have a new goodie: a re-designed Titanium replacement frame for the front cargo bag. As soon
as I get some sleep, I will try to post some new pictures on the site!
If you are interested in any of these items, please don't respond here -- contact me privately at:
Thanks again to all who have sustained interest over these past few years and supported this unusual
Len Rubin, Jul 2000:

In brief: In the first production runs, we are producing ten steel and then ten Titanium rear triangles.
These will accept our ultralight nine-speed rear wheels.
Attention UK & Europe: We will then begin production of the titanium replacement rear triangles (two
models) that accept Sturmey-Archer and Shimano internally-geared hubs!
One can currently order full bikes in either 27-speed (9 x 3) or 18-speed (9 x 2) configurations. These
consist of a Brompton frame (with numerous subtle modifications and custom braze-on fittings for
front derailleur, Shimano V-brakes or Magura Hydrostops), cable stops and guides, etc.) mated to our
custom rear triangle, and equipped with ultralight, purpose-built componentry of the finest calibre. For
a glimpse, visit the (humble beginnings) web site, if you haven't already done so (
Alternately, one can order rear triangles only, but without our upgraded componentry, it would only be
a starting point for a future conversion.
Exact pricing for the newest bikes is still uncertain, (until production begins in the coming weeks, we
won't know precisely how many hours the fixtured building process will save from start to finish--we
can only estimate, based on our previous experience with entirely hand-built versions, and the
knowledge gained from initial work with the early (partial) set of fixtures, which is a real stretch, as in
production, the most recent tooling and fixtures will reduce the building process by several more
hours!), and customers have been ordering the bikes with a variety of component options which greatly
affects the total price, but each generation has been cheaper, and we are taking refundable deposits of
as little as $1500 to reserve bikes in this historic first production run. We have pre-sold approximately
50% of the run already, so if you are seriously interested, please contact us by e-mail or phone now
Our first priority is filling existing orders. I will be responding to all general inquires individually in
the next couple of weeks. For the time being, your continued patience is profoundly appreciated.
Len Rubin, Dec 1999:

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How much of the UFB is original Brompton? From the pictures I would guess main tube,
front forks and perhaps wheels?

A. Eventually all frame components will be Titanium (each with additional design improvements as
well). The first phase is the Titanium rear triangle, which will be offered initially for 9-speed derailleur
gearing, and later, if there's sufficient demand, 7-speed or 14-speed internal hub gearing.
Our new suspended Titanium fork will follow shortly, along with our special edition MoraTi cranks
that feature an exclusive plug-and-play pedal system (for quick pedal changes: clipless for extended or
training rides, clips-and-straps for trips to the store.)
The wheels are actually completely redesigned for high performance and low weight, using special Sun
M14A rims, UFB compact sealed bearing hubs and Wheelsmith double-butted spokes and alloy
nipples. The Titanium 13-32 8-speed cogset is completed with a custom hardened stainless steel 11 in
an outboard 9th position, and matched to special Sachs/SRAM/Ritchey 9-speed GripShifts!
Actually the pictures are a bit confusing - one shows Brompton style handlebars, others
show the modified design.

A. If you look closely, these crude-first-effort pictures show two different bikes, which together
showcase much of the technology. One has traditional Brompton bars, Magura Hydrostop brakes and
an early prototype design Titanium rear triangle; the other has our exclusive, patented adjustableon-the-fly stem, Shimano XTR V-brakes and an early steel version of our current design Ti rear
triangle. Sorry for the confusion, I just wanted to convey as much info. as possible in a limited space.
Any indication of likely pricing?

Within a few weeks we will receive the finished fixtures and begin testing production runs. At that
point I'll know what our labor costs will be with the new tooling.
The materials costs are fairly well known by now, but some design changes on the production model
mean that some re-calculation is necessary. All I can say for now is that we expect our flagship model
will be under $5000.00 US, and that several cheaper options will be offered.
We will also offer upgrade options for existing bikes. The costs will come down as volume increases
and we can pass on the economy-of-scale savings to our customers. We are already taking orders and
deposits on the first production run. For further info., please e-mail me privately at:
Finally, thanks to everyone that has encouraged me, believed in this crazy dream and especially to
those brave and patient souls who purchased the successive generations of hand-built prototypes (all of
which are still in daily service)--without of all you this would not have been possible.
I owe a special debt of gratitude to the designer of the Brompton, Andrew Ritchie, without whom
folding bikes would still be the slow, bulky, heavy, awkward rusting garage ornaments that many
unfortunately still are!
Larry Chinn, Dec 1999:

One UFB prototype came in the store today for some adjustment, owned by Daniel. I test rode it. Very
nice. Titanium seatpost, rear triangle, XTR 9 spd, hydraulic brakes, Sun Rims. The mechanic liked it

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to. I prefer my saddle, the Terry Liberator. That hole makes a world of difference to me.
I noticed the significant weight difference when carrying it folded. The XTR derailleur doesn't work as
well as the stock chain tensioner. Daniel showed me how you need to be a little more careful when
flipping the rear wheel.
Here is the history of the project:
Leonard Rubin, Oct 97:

The Super Brompton project, as it has been dubbed, resulted in the fullfillment of a lifelong dream: a 20lb.,
24-geared (20"-100"), hydraulically-braked, super-performance urban assault vehicle that folds instantly to
disappear before your very eyes, enabling one to always have a magical "pocket taxi" at hand without the
back-breaking inconvenience normally associated with carrying a folding bike around all day long in an out
of buildings, buses and trains!!!
For the British market, which seems to have expressed a definite preference for the heavier and less efficient,
but aesthetically and practically appealing internally geared hubs, I am building a new prototype using a
Sturmey Archer 7 speed hub. Unlike the quite expensive titanium rear triangle I will be producing for the US
market, my thought is to make the rear triangle for that out of steel (4130), to reduce cost. It will still result in
a modest weight savings, and when combined with some of our other superlight components and custom
replacement items, could still result in a very light bike.
I braze on a front derailleur hanger to the frame, which produces the lightest, most beautiful and trouble-free
setup. However, this involves tremendous precision, and is a delicate and time-consuming operation,
involving a lot of pre- and post-operation work, so it is not less expensive than Channell Wasson's ingenious
bolt-on system (it is a helluva lot lighter though!!!).
To the many, many people that have expressed interest in my replacement wheelsets, titanium telescopic
seatposts, titanium bolt-kits, full Super Bromton coversion kits, etc. I can say here that they are all finally
available, and that I am so busy designing, fabricating and working to pay for all this R&D and merchandise
that I have no time for advertising brochures, pricelists and that sort of thing.
If you are seriously interested in lightening up your bike and or improving the performance, drop me a line
( or Len Rubin 3123 Shelter Creek Lane, San Bruno, CA 94066), or call (650) 737-0303,
and we'll discuss a specific custom solution. A last word: it is neither easy nor cheap to achieve the
contradictory goals embodied in a truly lightweight and simultaneously strong and comfortable collapsible
bicycle -- it's all but impossible! So please don't expect or bemoan that these custom solutions are more
expensive than off-the-shelf stuff! That said, I welcome your inquiries (or enquiries for the rest of you).
{Leonard Rubin, Jan 98} I hope to have the first run of the new PRODUCTION Titanium rear triangles ready
to show by Folder Forum III. They will initially be spec'd for our own ultralight high-performance wheels
(and conventional high-performance derailleur drivetrain, using Titanium Shimano freehub bodies and
Titanium cogs), though I know that many in the UK have a "rationalized fetish" for the lead-weight/molassesfilled internally-geared hubs (which you can't PAY cyclists around here to ride!) but the unparalled
performance, amazing weight (and recent cost reductions through clever CAD re-engineering) may make
believers out of some of you Brits yet. My latest 24-speed, hydraulically braked SuperBrompton tipped the
scales at 20lbs. and I'm just warming up!
Leonard Rubin, Mar 1998:

Long time Brompton-Talkers will remember me as the crazy American behind the "Super Brompton"

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project. For the past few years I have dedicated enormous amounts of time and money to answering the
following question:
If the need to hold the cost of a folding bicycle down to a generally accepted market-set "reasonable"
maximum price were set aside temporarily, what would/could an ideal implementation of the Brompton
concept look like?
Freed from the constraints of "reason", then, I set out to re-engineer the areas of the bike that I thought
could benefit from improvement (no small task, as Andrew Ritchie's years of brilliant work resolving
the chinese puzzle of the mutually-contradicting design requirements of a compact folding bicycle
produced the best design/production compromise ever to see the light of day, in the form of the
amazing Brompton design!)
My goals (which were formed from my experiences riding, carrying, folding. storing, selling, servicing
and designing folding bicycles in large American cities over the last 25 years) included:
1. Reducing the weight by at least 30 percent At 5'7", I find it very impossible to carry a nearly 30
lb. (typical curb weight of normally accessorized Brompton) parcel with extended arm for more
than a few minutes, and rolling it along on tiny castors is of limited use in the urban jungle
(stairs, uneven, interrupted and constantly changing surfaces, the need for moving quickly and
efficiently in often dense pedestrian traffic, etc.)
2. Increasing the gear range by at least 50 percent The steep hills in San Francisco pose unique
challenges, as does the need to pull loaded trailers (up and down hills) occasionally, and given
that, despite the occasional truth of that exaggerated-through-distillation Bicycling Magazine
piece on my commuting habits, I still particpate in the hectic, stupid waste-your-time/life/moneysitting-in-a-15,000-dollar-2000-lb.-toxics-spewing-me tal-crypt-several-hours-a-day culture
(dictated by my current source of livelihood which is as an equipment-laden emergency-response
computer newtwork consultant covering a very large geographical area not well served by public
transportation), I am not exactly in peak athletic condition!
3. Improving the riding comfort for longer distances or harder riding In order to effectively and
comfortably use the body's muscles to climb hills, and cycle longer distances, it is necessary to
be able to modify the nearly-bolt-upright position that only works well for slow speeds and very
short distances. This means being able to lower the handlebars in my case. The stock bike's
handling, shock absorption and braking are also not at a level comparable to my other, more
expensive pro bikes.
4. Improve resistance to scratches, dents and rust and thus eliminate the need to periodically
re-paint normally associated with any folding bike that is subject to daily bashing about on
luggage racks, cargo holds, etc.
So I set about shedding weight, adding gears, improving adjustability and long-term durability. As
some of you know, this odyssey eventually became an obsession, as the formidable technical
challenges taunted me, and I began to see the need for thinking VERY creatively, eventually designing
and manufacturing many custom lightweight replacement components. I was rewarded with
phenomenal improvement in usability, comfort, efficiency and enthusiastic encouragement from many
of you when I spoke about/demonstrated the early stages of this work at last year's Folder Forum in
This project has convinced me that there is a real need to re-define the notion of what constitutes a
"reasonable investment" in personal, non-motorized transportation. For myself, and I suspect/hope,
many others the unimaginable (honestly) technological improvements made possible by raising the bar
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on initial cost are appealing.

This research and development has also proved beyond a reasonable doubt, that in terms of weight,
efficiency and range, there is simply no comparison between internally-geared hubs and high-end
derailleur systems. Where weight, efficiency and range are not the most important considerations, the
other obvious benefits of internally-geared hubs may outweigh (ouch!) their disadvantages, of course.
The results of my long and costly ongoing research and development project are finally bearing real
I have developed and produced (and am now tooling up to manufacture) a kit to modify any existing
Brompton, transforming it into a miraculous hybrid blend of clever, practical design (Andrew Ritchie's)
and selectively applied advanced aerospace technology with a few precisely engineered design
improvements enabling the average owner to realize the full promise and potential of the design,
making it unnecessary to additionally own a mountain bike or racing bike, unless you actually do ride
through boulder-strewn streams and muddy single-track or compete in sanctioned category racing! For
most of us, the mountain bike is valued for its very wide gear range and comfort, and the racing bike
for its speed, agile handling and efficiency.
By dramatically improving the gearing, comfort, handling, efficiency and speed, the Brompton actually
delivers the holy grail of transportation: a reliable, well-built, comfortable and responsive bicycle with
great gearing and brakes that speedily and easily wisks you and serious cargo about when needed, and
disappears into a superlight, unobtrusive package as quickly and easily as a folding umbrella, yet is
also suitable for longer distance cycling, travel and sport riding!
The kit includes:
1. A replacement Titanium rear triangle designed to accomodate a special 10-32 9-speed Titanium
Shimano XTR cassette, derailleur and "V" brake
2. Titanium replacement fork, designed to accomodate Shimano XTR "V" brake, Chris King
ultralight, precision sealed-bearing headset
3. A set of replacement state-of-the-art wheels, consisting of a rear wheel designed around a
peerless custom CAD/CAM designed ultra-narrow, sealed-bearing Titanium cassette freehub,
Sun Rims superlight and super strong aero section 16-spoke rim, highest-quality butted, stainless
steel spokes, alloy nipples, and a front wheel designed around a matching custom, jewel-like
sealed-bearing Titanium hub and 16-spoke rim. Primo tires and tubes.
4. Superlight, indestructable (made and individually tested to Military specs by an aerospace firm
unsurpassed in Titanium fabrication!) Morati Titanium cranks w/triple chainrings (34/46/60),
sealed-bearing Titanium bottom bracket
5. Sachs/SRAM/Ritchey (Tom not Andrew, hence different spelling) 9 x 3 twist-grip shifters, Sachs
Quartz front derailleur, front derailleur mount
6. Shimano IG-90 chain, XTR brakeset, XTR long-cage rear derailleur
7. Fixed or telescoping (depending on rider's height) Titanium micro-adjust seatpost (with quicksaddle-release feature for stowage in airline overhead bins), comfortable, ultralight Titaniumrailed saddle
8. Titanium bolt kit (nearly 30 bolts, including beautiful superlight, hollow folding-pedal fixing
9. Bontrager foam grips, all cables & housings
The upgraded bike has the following specifications:

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Weight: 20 lbs. (The planned optional replacements for remaining steel frame components will bring
the weight down to approximately 16.5 lbs.)
Gearing: 27 gears (5 to 1 ratio, 17" to 96")
Performance: Acceleration, braking, handling and all other aspects of performance are so greatly
enhanced as to be literally unimaginable -- you simply have to ride it to believe it!
Comfort: Greatly enhanced due to improvements in shock absorption and adjustability, better gearing
and reductions in resistance and wasted energy
For those of you who think this is excessive, more modest options are possible (double instead of triple
cranks, or omitting the Ti seatpost, saddle, or bolt kit for instance), but the synergistic effect of all the
improvements makes it hard to choose where to draw the line.
Also some minimum threshold is necessary to achieve the major improvements, as achieving correct
spacing and chainline for derailleur gearing is impossible without the re-designed rear triangle, and the
triangle alone makes no sense without the rear hub; similarly once the gearing is in place the bike begs
to be ridden longer distances and at greater speeds and needs much better brakes and a better headset to
handle and stop like a pro bike.
We have built and tested several generations of protoypes, under prolonged, demanding real-world
conditions (all types of riders, months of hard riding in all types of weather, loaded travel, deliberate
abuse, etc.)
It's all real!
For the time being we have been hand-making these, on a custom, individual basis.
They are therefore, understandably "REALLY EXPENSIVE"! There are two common paths used by
small custom builders to finance the production of enough volume to bring the costs down to merely
"expensive". I can take advance orders and deposits and hold them until I have a reasonable number of
orders, and let people know there may be a long wait, or I can solicit outside capital investment (often
tricky finding the right match).
Anyone who is interested in either ordering a kit or possibly helping to finance the first round of
production, (which is the most capital-intensive, as it involves ordering the many custom-machined
items in runs of a thousand each, to bring the per-item costs in line) should contact me.
Leonard B. Rubin
3123 Shelter Creek Lane
San Bruno, CA 94066
Voice: (650) 737-0303
FAX: (650) 589-2636
Leonard Rubin, May 98:

The hubs we developed for the Super Brompton project are the lightest high- quality adjustable sealed
bearing hub available. They are constructed of the finest Titanium and Aluminum and use the finest
sealed bearings. Our design also features an internally threaded titanium axle which accepts either a
superlight quick-release skewer or bolts.
We offer these hubs professionally laced into Sun M14A narrow aero section rims, using Wheelsmith
2.0/1.7mm double butted stainless steel spokes (16 spokes, which when paired with a high quality rim
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and properly tensioned double-butted spokes, we have found optimal for all but the very heaviest
riders) and Wheelsmith alloy nipples. These wheels have been road-tested for thousands of miles and
under riders of varying weights and riding styles throughout many months of punishing real-world
touring and commuting in several US cities.
The weight savings is unbelievable -- our COMPLETE WHEEL with Primo tire, tube, rimstrip,
mounting bolts and washers (oh -- right, plus enclosed volume of pressurized air) weighs just 635
grams (the hub weighs only 70 grams)! And bear in mind that this is rotational weight, so its effective
significance is much greater.
Note: Our front hubs are slightly narrower (70mm) and use the conventional (stronger) 9.5mm QR
axles found on all pro bikes, so minor modifications need to be made to accommodate them on a
standard Brompton. (Of course you can also buy our ready-made ultralight Titanium or steel
replacement forks.)
For even greater weight reduction (among a long list of other benefits!), matched wheel sets are
available featuring a matching rear hub with Shimano XTR Titanium freehub unit sporting 9 Titanium
cogs (10-32), but these require either our replacement steel or Titanium rear triangle (available in our
upgrade kit.
Note: We are now offering fittings for Shimano V-brakes, as well as our original Magura Hydrostop
fittings; when ordering, please specify which is desired. We have found the XTR V-brake to be even
better suited to the design of the Brompton than the Magura Hydrostop, and are now providing them as
standard equipment on all our bikes. These are truly the last word in rim brakes!
Leonard Rubin, Sep 1998:

We have received a substantial number of inquiries following some unexpected (but welcome) recent
web press about our performance upgrade kits for the Brompton folding bike. We have decided to post
a detailed response to one, in the hope that others may find the frequently asked questions and answers
>Really Expensive?
Well, it's all relative, isn't it?! I personally happen to think that making a total investment of a few
thousand dollars for a nearly-impossible futuristic high-tech-yet-low-tech light, high-performance,
durable, versatile, collapsible, non-polluting dream vehicle sounds like an amazing bargain, but I
understand how it may sound at first hearing to most folks!
>How much are you looking at for a super-brompton conversion kit,
It's horribly frustrating, but I still can't quite pin it down (a precise figure) until the all the production
jigs are done (still a matter of several weeks), and we actually fabricate a fixtured bike (all our previous
bikes have been done mostly freehand!)
The largest determinant of cost is actually the component mix. This is where the greatest weight
savings occurs as well. They are directly proportionate, so the lighter the components, the lighter--and
more expensive--the complete bike. The custom components alone (superlight hubs, rims, spokes, tires,
cogs, cranks, chainrings, bottom bracket, headset, seatpost, saddle, derailleurs and shifters, Titanium
bolt kit, fender stays, etc.) are all quite expensive, but also account for most of that weight savings!
So, you can pretty much just determine where your comfort level is and spend accordingly: The range
for a complete bike from us will probably be $3000 to $6000. Upgrade kits will probably start at
around $1500. Additionally we--or, where available, a qualified local framebuilder or machinist--will
need to be involved in the assembly, due to the non-user-serviceable nature of Brompton's main pivot
bearing. (Safe disassembly, reassembly and adjustment of that bearing invloves heat, solvents, anerobic
adhesives and rigorous adherence to a precise proceure.) The same goes for adding our front derailleur
braze-on, as it involves replacement of the seatpost bushing (plastic, and as such, subject to heat
damage), which is a similarly exact and demanding procedure.

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>and how much is it likely to be reduced to, if you get a reasonable >production run?
The price of the Titanium rear triangle alone will probably vary from $899 down to possibly
$499-$599, depending on production volume. but this is just a guess. Most of the cost is obviously due
to the other components.
For a meaningful performance upgrade to an existing Brompton, the absolute minimum you would
need to buy initially would be a rear triangle (could be steel to save a few hundred bucks, but I don't
recommend saving money here, as you can't later incrementally upgrade that to benefit from the
substantial weight reduction and increased performance, durability, comfort and beauty--it would mean
ordering a whole new one in Titanium!); a rear wheel (here you could certainly save money by
ordering a steel freehub body and steel cogs, which could later be upgraded to Ti); some drivetrain
components & rear brake.
You will probably want us (or that qualified local framebuilder) to braze on our special fitting for a
front derailleur, but this is technically optional (I say technically, because a true wide-range gearing
setup really requires it). The use of a bolt-on mount here is currently unactractive to us for weight, cost
and aesthetic reasons, though we are looking at it. (Note that Channell Wasson's nice bolt-on adapter
won't work in this application, because it is designed for use with an internally-geared rear hub, which
necessitates much smaller front chainrings, and so locates the derailleur way too low to be of any use
here. Its geometry also wouldn't support triple chainrings with a workable chainline, as the derailleur
would not shift inboard far enough, and finally, for our purposes, it is quite alot of additional
unnecessary weight and expense.)
There are several ways to substantially reduce other costs, however:
Although it might be difficult (psychologically) to get a superlight, narrow, gorgeous new rear wheel
and not replace the heavy, now mismatched original front wheel at the same time, this could be a smart
way to stick to a budget--one could always be ordered later. Similarly, while the incredible new rear
brake (our rear triangle has integral mounting studs for a Shimano V-brake or Magura Hydrostop)
screams out for a matching high-quality front brake, requiring one of our replacement forks (Ti or
steel), or at least that braze-ons be added to your existing fork, you could postpone that as well, saving
more money.
Next, you could use ordinary cranks, bottom bracket, headset and derailleurs, rather than the incredibly
light (and consequently quite expensive) state-of-the-art choice Ti componentry we use here. All of
these could easily be upgraded at a future date. Finally, you could forego our exquisite superlight Ti
post and Ti-railed saddle, Ti bolt kit, Ti fender stays, etc. for the same reasons.
>I'm sort of interested but nervous about how much it might all cost.
Hope the above suggestions help.
>And, have you had any thoughts about the more modest options. > >Like, I'm not convinced about top
of the line 9-speed gears. Presumably >conversion could be do-able with adequate Shimano Alivio
level 7 or 8 >speeds.
To achieve normal derailleur gearing with a 16" diameter wheel really requires the use of a 10-tooth
cog. This is done with a special outboard cog, which replaces the normal lockring. This turns an
eight-speed freehub body into a 9-speed body. We could use a 7-speed body, thus achieving an 8-speed
cluster, but I am unsure how long Shimano will continue to have replacement 7-speed bodies available,
as they have clearly moved away from 7-speed setups. Other than that, it can be (and has been) done.
An added benefit of the 9-speed setup, however, is that you can then use a 32-tooth cog, thus greatly
improving the low-end. Also, it allows reasonable gearing with just two chainrings, if you don't need
the super-wide setup produced by three (we do here in San Francisco!)
Carl Etnier, Oct 1998:

I've now had my Super Brompton for a little over a week, and feel ready to make some preliminary
comments on it.
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The gist: I love it!

The details:
The Super Brompton is Len Rubin's creation, a 24-speed wonder tricked out with Magura brakes,
titanium seatpost, ultra-lightweight cranks, saddle, etc. The particular machine I bought is his original
prototype, which has a rear triangle wide enough to accomodate a Nexus hub. For now there is an 8
speed cassette on it, but it's nice to know I have the option of replacing it with internal gears if I want
It has no lights or luggage rack on it, but it does have fenders, including a mud flap on the front fender,
and a carrier block for the Brompton front rack.
I've got the handlebars sticking straight up on it, to give a less aero but more comfortable ride. Len
Rubin recommended they be angled 30-40 degrees forward.
The supreme foldability and admiration-harvesting nature of the Brompton are well known. The first
place I took it into was a bank. I wheeled it through the doors and folded the back wheel under the rest
of the bike in a corner of the lobby, not bothering to fold it the rest of the way. An employee walked by
me to her office as I did that. Instead of the looks of suspicion I'd expect when bringing a normal
upright bike into a bank, she just said "Wow" and continued on her way.
The Super Brompton amazed the guys at the LBS not only with its foldability, but also its light weight
and components. They were nearly drooling over the Sweetwater cranks and XTR rear derailleur,
amongst other things.
Performance is excellent. With the large gear range (19"-96"), I have no problems coming up the three
mile long, 700 foot hill I live at the top of, and spinning out in high is rarely a problem. The Maguras
perform admirably in all the situations I've tested them in.
Len gave me a choice of saddles, and I said that I'd just be using the bike as an extension of public
transportation, not for long trips, so I opted for the lightest one around, regardless of comfort. I'd
forgotten just _how_ uncomfortable and hard upright saddles can be. OTOH, after a little getting used
to it, I made a 20 mile round trip on Sunday without much discomfort. Maybe the novelty of being on
an upright so long distracted me from the saddle discomfort?
The Super Brompton proved its versatility yesterday. I had taken the BikeE into the LBS for some
warrantee work, and went to pick it up yesterday. First I took apart the Yak Coz trailer and put it inside
its luggage box. It was no problem to strap this rather large (26x18x12", or 92 liter) package onto the
front rack of the Brompton and ride down to the bike shop. Once there, I put together the trailer,
attached it to the BikeE, and strapped the Brompton in the back. Worked fine both for the trip over to
the Ultimate game on the Statehouse lawn and back up the hill.
It has struck me that one could use a similar arrangement to pick up or drop off a single visitor coming
with the bus or train, if one doesn't have a tandem.
The only thing I really need to worry about is to make sure the bike is in the largest chainring when I
fold it, even when just folding the back wheel under the bike. When folding it completely, I also pretty
much have to have the chain in the largest cog in back. Otherwise it can easily develop chain snarls,
which are no fun to try to work out.
I should close with a word about the pleasure of doing business with Len Rubin. Readers of the
Brompton list have seen his enthusiasm for this project, and it extends beyond engineering, into sales.
He has been ready to answer my questions at length on the phone, and has called me a number of times
just to make sure everything was satisfactory, and to walk me through the folding procedure the first
time. As he prepares to go into production with the titanium rear triangle, I gotta wish him luck in
getting more of these beautiful machines onto the road.
Len Rubin, Jun 1999:

The target weight for the Ultimate Folding Bicycle (the project I started nearly twenty years ago now)
was fifteen lbs. I am getting closer with each prototype. I am now confident that I will get very close, if
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not spot-on, by the end of '99! The benefits of achieving a weight well below 20 lbs. can simply not be
appreciated until you carry the folded bike up and down long staircases, and on and off buses' overhead
racks, day-in and day-out, on the run through a bustling, crowded city for at least a few weeks!
Contrary to what some bewildered foreigners might suspect, my use of titanium and other costly
aerospace materials has never been about status or some abstract performance criteria, but simply the
best way to achieve a simultaneously super-light and still rock-solid and durable machine. I am
committed to doing nothing less, and sincerely believe that the day is near at hand when many of us
will be riding such machines (and comfortably carrying them with us everywhere, without chronic
stress or risk of injury.

Aluminium Brompton clone?

Kong Wai Ming, Nov 1998:

At the Tokyo Cycle Show from 5-7 Nov 98, There was a aluminium brompton prototype on display. I was
told that it weighs less than 9 kg and could be in production from April 99. Also, the new Taiwanese
brompton can carry the optional baggage system.
Mike Hessey, Nov 1998:

I'm not sure if this would be an official Brompton product, a machine produced by the Taiwanese
company that manufactures a Brompton, or an unofficial clone. No doubt more information will
emerge ...
And here is some more news: Brompton in the UK tell me that it is not one of theirs. It seems likely
that this machine has been made by Neobike, who (officially) make a copy of the Brompton for sale in
the Far East (sales are not allowed outside that area).
Mike Hessey, Nov 1998:

Exciting news! Apparently this isn't a Brompton UK development (well, that's what they told me when
I rang just after 9.00am today, so I guess it must come from the Taiwanese company (Neobike?) which
sells locally made machines in the Far East. They don't have rights to sell elsewhere as I understand it.
Bob Gelman, Nov 1998:

I just received link to my friend Hiroki's new page about the Tokyo show. He has pages #1, #2, #3 all in
The folder with the propeller looks like a new concept!
Wow!! Check out that Peugeot Birdy Composite Hybrid. What is it??? I wish I could read Japanese!!!
Somewhere in here, by the way, is a pix of the Aluminum Brompton prototype.
____HPVert Alert____, Nov 1998:

Could it be this? (a different site though)
Kong Wai Ming, Nov 1998:

There are some pictures of the aluminimum Brompton from Taiwan in the home page below:
If your browser cannot read Japanese, you can just take a look at the pictures. Briefly, the Japanese
author of the home page is quite unhappy about the workmanship of the aluminium Brompton.
I am not sure if the aluminium Brompton is made by Neobike, but the above homepage mentioned that
it is made in Taiwan.

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PS: I am not related in anyway to any manufacturer or distributor of any bicycle.

Kong Wai Ming, Nov 1998:

I called up the distributor of the Brompton bicycle in Japan to inquire about the maker of the aluminim
Bromton this morning. I was told by the receptionist that this infomation cannot be revealed.
Mike Hessey, Nov 1998:

FOLDING SOCIETY NEWS No 9b - 15 November 1998

Aluminium Brompton - further information A picture of the aluminium Brompton referred to in recent
issues of FS News is available at
The accompanying text is currently only in Japanese, though we hope a translation will be available

Electrically powered Bromptons

David Haskins, Sep 1997:

Today i managed to fix the Sinclair Zeta II "zero emmision transport assistant" which is Sir Clive
Sinclair's (of zx80 fame) latest wierd invention to my T3 and it works... got me back from the pub
uphill after 4 pints.. but a curious thing... the odd thing is that the brompton still fold with it installed...
it's a small motor with belt friction-to-tyre hi-tec battery thingy...
Giles Wood, May 1998:

Has anyone ever tried any of the power assistance devices that are available - do they fit on a
Brompton, and how well do they work? I'm currently looking at four:Sinclair Zeta II - should certainly fit; cheaper and lighter than the others, but consequently produces the
least power and has the shortest battery life. I've seen poor reviews of the Zeta I, is the Zeta II any
better? EasyBike - a heavyweight kit with a heavy battery. Works in the same way that you pedal, i.e.
via the chain. Either this approach will give it a big advantage, or it is a complete waste of time. ZAP a bit like the zeta, but more powerful and more expensive. Can also provide add-ons such as lights.
Chronos Hammer - looks good on the internet, don't know if it is available anywhere in the UK.
Features an auto-disconnect so that the mechanism doesn't hold you back when you're not using it.
Some of these units are able to recharge when you are going downhill. Given recent comments about
the Brompton's brakes, perhaps that's not a bad idea - they might not be able to cope with the extra
weight of the battery.
Lui, May 1998:

For all the above you have to carry a batteryweight of more than 10 kg if you want an assisted travel
radius up to 20 km in mixed terrain. The rollers will eat tyres, too. They are inefficient, stop working in
hevy climbing. Look at the measures table (for the ZAP) there were lots of problems with some bikes
cause its diameter was too big to fit. All e-assists works best where your body also does - flats.
Climbing with a ZAP will suck the provided 7Ah battery in some minutes, leaving a training
heavyweight. The "winning" for 5 km range compared to a weak biker are 3-5 minutes; therefore you
have to pay with less good handling, braking, maintenance a new batterypack each year (lead) The
recharge by downhilling, braking is a lie, there was no measurable winnings compared to models
without. Its a really bad idea to retrofit a bicycle with an e-assist; there have to be constructional
differences between e-bikes and bikes.
If you really want to go electric take one of the Yamahas or alike; but think twice. They arent "green"
seen by the pack of junk thy leave unused or used; and anytime you want to go for 50 km or more you
have to get rid of the assist - and you have the disadvantage of permanently maintenance, costs, more
trobles, more weight..
Chris Eacock, Sep 1998:

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Just returned from Interbike 98 in Las Vegas and am pleased to report that of all of the designs for
electric bikes, the Smart Wheel is definitely the best! It will need a wider fork and very short spokes to
fit the front of the Brompton. Channell Wasson had a good look.
"It" is a 6" diameter hub motor with a light-weight 32 volt / 1200 amp battery. Mounted on a Merlin
mountain bike, the whole bike weighed 31 pounds. The web page is
Lui, Sep 1998:

For comparison the very same batteries used with a ZAP gave near double the range with a Schachner
or Heinzmann hubdrive. On my around 20 km trainingsround (very hilly) the ZAP stopped working
after 8 km, in stop & go between 12-15 km. I have done 320 km/ day on my fullfaired Kingcycle
without motor and I pedaled the upright with the ZAP alike.. To keep it short, from all the assists I tried
(the times I needed one for my father this time 84 years old) the ZAP was the worst, lessest effective
one. Its not only my opinion, cause after some days of use I sold it for half the price to a friend and
who feeled the very same. Seems it had around 8 owners before it become unusable (burnt) after 13
months of use..
[The Zap is 12v and the Heinzmann 24v?]
We used 2 batteries parallel/serial.
We have seen that roller drives aren't a solution worth to spend money, seen by their problems.
Hubdrives allowing fast exchange to non motorized pedaling (with range set by userpower, not
batteryweight) give less problems in wet conditions, tire wear. Anyway, no electric assist is "green" or
"zero pollution". Seen by the added weight they make handling, braking, carrying, maintenance more
problematic while giving speeds/range slower/lesser than an experienced rider will have without. So
anyone dreaming for an E-Brompton - decide carefully, your dream may come true ;-) For some parts
of Europe (Germany/Austria and maybe others) there is one problem more for the ZAP, cause his
400W power needs a licence plate as moped (250W allowed without)
David Henshaw - A to B, Sep 98:

Normally I would reject friction drives outright, but we were happy with the dry weather performance
of the Zap. [...] We've since tried the Heinzmann and it's an excellent hub motor, although twice as
expensive as the Zap.. [...]
With regard to the Brompton, the Heinzmann motor might fit with a bit of work (it's too wide for the
front forks). I can see someone making a viable kit within a year, although the factory are quite
Custfold, Sep 1998:

I rode a US and UK Zap - the difference is remarkable

The US version uses 2 motors and centrifugal force when the wheel turns throws the motor away when the power cuts in it throws itself against the tyre - the single motor UK version cannot do this, as
it would be out of balance, so it uses a pin & fixed pressure, resulting in a compromise that can see the
drive skidding away as soon as th tyre gets seriously wet.
As yet the Zap is the only system I've seen that is remotely a proposition for a 3rd floor tenement flat,
and even then it's still heavy compared to even my normal Brompton & load.
Pete Alex, Nov 1998:

For details of the electric Brompton show in the pictures try this site:
/elecbike.html The style and design of the equipment seems to be theirs.
Bob Gelman, Nov 1998:

If I'm not mistaken, this is the same bike I saw at a Sharper Image store some months ago. It had no
gears and weighed "a ton". When I asked the salesperson why anyone would buy one of these, he said
someone might like to keep it in their trunk (boot) in case their car broke down and they didn't want to
walk to get help. Seeing the bike my impression was that I'd rather walk.
____HPVert Alert____, Nov 1998:

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Ian Oliver, Aug 2000:

[About Kinetics' Zap-Brompton] I have a five mile ride to work. Downhill nearly all the way at speeds
of between 20 and 30mph. Only a couple of gentle uphill bits. Takes about 15 minutes and is great fun.
The ride back is 25 minutes of slog at 6-10mph. The Zap turns this into easier 2nd gear work with
speeds of more like 10-12mph. I've ridden it with Zap broken and it MUCH more civilised with the
So overall I'm happy and I feel it's worth the extra weight. Problems:
1. Friction drive is crude and slips in the wet. OK about 6-8mph (wheel speed closer to motor
speed) but like really bad clutch slip below this.
2. Heavy. Lead acid is bomb proof, but roll on NiMH!!!
3. The kit has needed some running repairs. Bolts need more threadlock, things need adjusting,
roller swapped for new one, wires frayed and needed replacing.
4. The motor doesn't help above 12-14 mph, so for gentle uphills it's legwork!
5. Ben isn't doing it anymore! Distributor stopped supplying; new one now stepped in, but Ben's
working on something new.
If his new system is as good as it seems like it could be I will upgrade!
Nothing has broken since that bracket. Now I've got past the teething troubles it's pretty good. But it's
still a bit of a Heath-Robinson approach!
Ben Cooper, Aug 2000:

Good, that seems to justify my decision to drop the Zap! My general impression was that it was pretty
good, but didn't last very long in serious use. I've still got a couple of Zaps left actually.
The Heinzmann-Brompton is now off the drawing board, but it's an expensive beast - 900 to do the
conversion. There's lots more info on the website ( At present, the Heinzmann is
the best there is (for both durability and power) and it is a tried and tested design - we build about 4
bikes per week with it and I wouldn't use anything else. I haven't had to fix one yet, either!
Fitting the Heinzmann is trickier than the Zap - you need to fit new forks which are wider to take the
hub. The battery goes on the front luggage block (although I am considering other places to put it) and
there's a twistgrip on the handlebar to control the throttle.
Bob Gelman, Aug 2000:

Here is another interesting electric motor system that we heard about, but could find little in the way of
"user feedback". The ability to use one of these on a particular folder is in doubt, but it otherwise looks
Ben Cooper, Aug 2000:

[...] it's still a friction drive - not good :-)

Ben Cooper, Aug 2000:

That's why the Heinzmann is so good - the motor itself runs at a pretty high RPM, but the internal
gearbox gears it down for road use. It's impossible to stall the things - believe me, I've tried!

Wish lists
Dave Horne, Aug 1997:

I have noticed one small improvement that could be easily made. The bolts for the folding sections of
the bike could be longer with a cotter pin on the inside to prevent them from coming out (or some other
design) when the bike is in its unfolded position.

14-Jan-2017 22:06

Genetically Modified Bromptons

20 of 20

PHolden960, Feb 2000:

Well, actually I have suggested that the screws at the folding hinges be replaced with quick release
Granted it only takes me 5 or 6 turns to unleash the hinge, but often the T-handle on the screw(s) gets
caught on the pannier backing and another item I have attached. So, if instead of taking 6-10 seconds,
if there were a quick-release that took one or two seconds (and pulled the clamper away from the hinge
plates simultaneously), the folding would be that much quicker -- re: handier. (Mimicking the ease of
making the B "sit", IMO.)
Roland Elsenberg, Feb 2000:

What could we want more? A collapsible chain-case perhaps? Better rims? Front suspension?
Erwin de Vries, Apr 2000:

One thing I would like to have as an option is brake drums (I know Americans don't like them, but over
here in Holland the terrain is flat, but the cycle paths always seem sort of muddy, and it's raining all the
time). When I brake on my Brompton I resent the horrible scratching sounds coming from the wheels,
and I dread the day my wheels fall apart because the rims are worn through.
The Brompton Folding Bicycle FAQ - please comment

14-Jan-2017 22:06