One of the great things about riding bicycles, and small-wheeled bicycles in particular, is that it is a great way to get to meet and interact with a lot of really interesting, enthusiastic people. Recently, I had such an opportunity. I spent the afternoon getting to know David Tortora and his Brompton bicycles.
David Tortora is a bicycle enthusiast who operates Accent Bicycles in Carmel, Indiana, selling folding bikes and electric bikes. David has a great deal of experience with bikes and people. This allows him to expertly match a rider with the bike that most closely fits his or her needs.
Currently, David has a pretty impressive inventory of Bromptons. He’s also evaluating Tern folding bicycles as perhaps a lower-cost alternative to Bromptons for beginner riders or riders on a budget. Although David sized me up immediately as a Brompton fan, he couldn’t resist showing me his new Swiss-designed Stromer electric bicylcles. They operate in three modes: 1) bike mode (in which the bike operates basically as a cruiser-type bike that handles pretty well for its weight); 2) power-assist mode (in which the bikes purpose-built 600-watt electric motor helps you pedal and makes you feel like Superman; and 3) power-on-demand mode (in which the bike basically functions as an electric motorcycle). Wow.
David has been generous enough to contribute some of his thoughts on folding bikes in the form of a short interview. I hope you will enjoy reading it. We’ll look forward to keeping in touch with David in the future. Perhaps he can send us a report from one of his many Brompton cycling adventures.
If you are interested in folding or electric bicycles, don't hesitate to contact David directly at:
11700 Oak Tree Way
Carmel, IN 46032
Thanks again to David for a great afternoon and a great interview!
Barry Barker: During my visit to your shop, you mentioned first discovering Brompton folding bicycles on a trip to England. That seems like the perfect introduction to what is the quintessential British folding bike. For those of us who haven't had the opportunity to see a Brompton for the first time in its native land, can you share a little bit about what that was like?
David Tortora: Thank you Barry. I’d be happy to, as it was a very nice, educational experience for me.
I saw my first Brompton while visiting London about ten years ago. The first one I noticed was when I was going into a teashop for a cup of tea. As a side note, I do not drink much tea, but while in London, I just sort of go with the crowd. Anyway, as we were walking into the teashop, I noticed what appeared to me to be a crunched-up wheelchair. I had never seen a folding bike before so I had no idea what I was looking at.
When we were about to leave the teashop, an elderly lady got up to leave just in front of us. She was using a cane to walk and was walking quite slowly as it was apparent that she had difficulty walking. My wife and I walked very slowly behind her. She paid her bill near the door and proceeded to walk out the door. We paid our bill right after she did. When we got out of the shop, I saw her put the cane on the handlebars, flip the bike in a single motion into the riding position, and ride away better than she could walk!
Before I left London, I actually interviewed some riders. The night before we were to leave, we were in an outside pub and about a dozen riders all came by and every rider was on a Brompton. I went up to them and ask how they liked the bikes and how they use them. To a man (and woman) they said that they ride them to work, ride them to race, and ride them for general fun and travel. They had NOTHING negative to say about this bike.
The next day I was scheduled to leave in the afternoon. In the morning, I went to a Brompton dealer and purchased my first Brompton.
Barry Barker: Some people say the Brompton just feels different. I think I experienced a little of that riding your Arctic Blue M6R, it just felt right. What do you think it is that makes the ride of the Brompton feel so different from the ride of other bikes?
David Tortora: The Brompton was designed from the very onset as a folding bike. Andrew Ritchie, the inventor of the Brompton, had worked for Brickerton, another folding bike manufacturer. Mr. Ritchie felt that he could design a better folding bike. It turns out that he did, as this bike is considered by almost everyone as the best folding bicycle made anywhere.
The Brompton has many patents that protect its uniqueness. One of the very best patents is its unique contoured main frame. This allows the wheel to fit snuggly under the mainframe thus making for a much smaller over package than other folding bikes. Also, many other manufacturers use standard bicycle parts to make their folding bike offering. This clear compromise usually makes for a more difficult, less compact fold, and can compromise the ride as well.
Finally, many people feel that because of the 16” wheel that speed is compromised. This is simply not true as the Brompton is certainly fast enough. The 16” wheel does allow the rider to make much sharper turns than a bike with a larger wheel.
Barry Barker: I know I have a really nice memory of riding my Birdy folding bike around the National Mall in Washington D.C. It's a trip I'll never forget and I don't think it would have been so enjoyable, or even have happened at all, with a conventional 27" bicycle. Is there any favorite memory you have that you can share about riding a Brompton?
David Tortora: Yes. One place that I like to go is to Milwaukee during their many ethnic summer festivals. They have one every week. My wife and I have gone for four or five weekends every summer. We simply put the Bromptons in the trunk and go. Many times when we’re traveling with our Bromptons, we chuckle when we see others carting their bicycles on racks on the back of their cars. Usually, the wheels are spinning and if it rains, the bikes are filthy. Also, there is always the danger of a bike falling on the road and causing an accident. This can’t happen when you carry your Brompton inside your vehicle. Also, I’ve taken many trips to Chicago and ridden along the lakes and visited the popular spots for eating and enjoying the atmosphere.
Barry Barker: What advice do you have for people who are thinking about buying a new bicycle? Should they consider a folding bike? Should they consider a Brompton?
David Tortora: I think a folding bike is more practical for almost any occasion as it has flexibilities that are not available with a standard-size bicycle.
I would always consider a Brompton. The Brompton is probably the most costly but then again, it is considered by almost everyone to be the best folding bicycle made. I, too, am one of those people.
Barry Barker: You spent much of your career prior to bicycles as an entrepreneur working on the cutting-edge of computer technologies. You are also a long-time Indianapolis area resident. You know bikes. Throwing all of those things into the mix, what do you think the future holds for bicycling in the Indianapolis area? What does it look like ten years from now? What, if anything, should cyclists be doing now in anticipation of years to come?
David Tortora: To begin, Mayor Ballard, a bicycle enthusiast, has contributed much to embracing bicycling here in Indianapolis. I believe he has added close to (or maybe more) than a hundred miles of bicycles trails in the city. He also has his yearly summer ride and just last year started his day after New Year’s ride. The Monon trail, which connects to the Cultural Trail, which connects to the Canal makes for an excellent offering to/for bike riders.
In short, bicycling is fun and healthy. I ride to work almost every day in the summer. I typically lose about ten pounds without really trying. It also saves a bit of money by not using as much gasoline.
It seems like a forgone conclusion that bicycling will grow both here and in other locals. Actually, Indianapolis is still very much behind in its acceptance of bicycles. We do have some disadvantages, as the Indianapolis area is not conducive for commuting to work. Many people that live in Carmel, Fishers, and other surrounding towns simply do not have the correct roads to commute. I think someday that a high-speed rail connect (which has been discussed in Fishers) might solve part of that problem (i.e. commute to a downtown location and ride the rest of the way to work).
Barry Barker: Thank you so much for taking time to contribute to the ISWE blog. To finish things out, I would like to like to ask one more question. I'm fascinated with axioms, adages, maxims, and (for lack of a better word) rules of thumb. In your experience with bicycles, or folding bicycles in particular, is there one simple rule you can share with readers that will improve their bicycle riding experiences?
David Tortora: Yes, the folding bicycle is so very easy to take anywhere so, simply do it. Make it part of your life, especially when visiting other areas. You can see so much more when visiting other places on a bicycle than by walking and/or cab. Your latest trip to Washington DC essentially proved the point. Thank you, Barry, for this opportunity to discuss something that I enjoy so much.
Stay tuned for more from David Tortara in future ISWE Blog posts!