Not only was I able to fit two in the trunk, there was plenty of room for other stuff to spare... stuff like Swimbo's grocery bags! There was also a lot of room vertically. I could imagine fitting two Bromptons and enough luggage for two for a couple of days with little or no problem. No roof rack. No bike rack on the rear. No problem. Excellent design.
One of the little bits sticking out on the Birdy is the seat hinge. It has sharp edges that have scratched and marred the inside plastic trim in that trunk. That will be a little secret between ISWE readers and staff. We'll consider Swimbo on a need-to-know basis. Rest assured with a Brompton, such an occurrence of scratching would be much less likely.
Just below the bag, you can see the halogen lighting system on this Brompton. It operates off of a Shimano hub-driven generator. No batteries here. Turn it on, start riding, and it lights both the head and taillight. It also charges a small battery in the rear to power the lights during stops. It really is a neat system. The drag it creates in the on position is virtually unnoticeable. My experience with battery-powered lights is that, when you need them, they are either dead or missing (because you popped them off of your bike to use as a flashlight). This is a very smart design.
One of the many advantages to folding bikes is security. I once met a bike store owner in Columbus, Ohio who was absolutely paranoid about carrying his bikes around on roof or trunk racks on his vehicles. Imagine that, always being stressed out wondering if someone's stealing your seat while you're in the grocery buying Twinkies (Did they stop making those? I hope not.) Why not stash your little bike in the trunk instead. Rooftops are no place for bikes or politician's dogs. Keep them inside the car, safe, and happy. They are family after all.
- Compact, stay-folded, flat fold goes to Brompton. Man, it's crazy. Andrew Ritchie is a genius. (ISWE staff begins slow clap).
- Ease of folding also goes to Brompton. Main point: you don't have to get your hands dirty. While one has to, at some point, handle both the front and back wheels during the Birdy fold, one never has to touch anything potentially dirty while folding the Brompton. One touches only the rear wheel latch, the folding knobs, the seat, and the handlebar stem. Even a white-gloved gentleman could do it. Superbe.
- Accessorizability also goes to Brompton. The luggage options for this thing could almost satisfy a Kardashian. Amazing. Brompton even offers their internal aluminum frame as an individual option. One could attach anything to that thing, even including a custom bag built by, oh I don't know... me.
- Support. In that Birdy bikes, and a lot of other folding bikes for that matter, are not commonly sold in the US, parts can be a problem. The ISWE staff, for example, recently broke the Birdy kickstand. That's going to cost about $100 to replace. Order a new one or hire a welder. Bad options. No problem with the Brompton. Brompton parts will undoubtedly be readily available, should you ever need them, for years to come.
- Provenance. Bromptons have an intangible edge in the form of tradition. Buy a Brompton, and you're buying into a little bit of history, into a little bit of myth, and a little bit of, well, enthusiasm. Bromptons definitely have some x-factor to them.
- Suspension. While the Brompton and Birdy rear suspension systems are very similar, the Bromptons lack the Birdy's front suspension. With the rigidity of tough little 16" wheels and high pressure tires, that makes a real difference, but not enough to get riled up about. For the advantage of the Birdy front suspension, one pays the cost of being able to take one's hands off of the handlebars for even an instant. While the Bromptons will pilot themselves, the Bridy will do an immediate cross-up. Something to do with the geometry. The front suspension on the Birdy also looks totally cool. Makes you feel like you're from the future or something. It has a certain je ne sais quoi.
- Gearing. The Birdy operates on a single 8-speed MicroSHIFT twist grip. It's super easy to shift and, knock on wood, I've never had the first bit of trouble. The ease of shifting is awesome. The only downside is the presence of a derailleur that sticks out and makes folding difficult. The Brompton M6R uses a combination of a two-sprocket rear-end with a three-speed hub. This makes the transmission narrow, but a little more complicated than the Birdy's SRAM. A little getting used to it, though, and the Brompton would really be a lot of fun, like a standard transmission in a VW bus.
- Performance. In terms of crank arrangement, gearing, and riding position, one could probably hammer down a little more aggressively on the Birdy. Although, I'm not sure I would in actuality. While the gearing and riding position of the Birdy are more aggressive, it is made of aluminum. For some reason, partly due to the presence of many strange suspension parts, the idea of frame failure on the Birdy is ever-present. When you look down at the front suspension, it makes your wonder, "Hmmm, that doesn't look very strong. It makes me a little nervous from time to time. So, you probably ride faster, but you'll worry. No worries with the Brompton's steel construction. Bromptons appear to built like tanks.
If the ISWE staff could have only one folding bike (which is subject to the approval of Swimbo) it would probably be a Brompton. In that the point of a folding bike is to fold, and the Brompton does that like no other folding bike, there really is very little question. It folds easier, smarter, smaller, and more solidly than anything I've encountered. A+ to Andrew Ritchie. For this fold, one pays a little in performance, but only in a way that actually increases the character of the experience--again, like shifting the standard VW bus. The fold, combined with the ride character, and the virtually endless array of Swiss-Army-like accessories, makes the Brompton an easy choice. Now, if only we can convince Swimbo :)
Thanks to Dave Tortora at Accent Bikes in Carmel, Indiana for providing ISWE entre to the wonderful world of Bromptons. Stay tuned for an interview with Dave. For more information on Bromptons, feel free to contact Dave directly via the Accent Bicycles website.