In a first ever collaboration between Philadelphia-based Trophy Bikes, Brompton USA, and the Thompson Bucks County Classic, Brompton folding bike owners from across the region will find their way to Doylestown, PA, on September 9 for a very unusual type of bike race.
Sandwiched between the pro womans race and the pro mens race at the Classic, this first-ever ‘Brompton Burst,’ will see riders complete five laps on the same 1.4 mile course as the pros. But a Brompton race isn’t just another bike race.
First, all riders will be on Bromptons!
What’s a Brompton? It’s arguably one of the coolest things to come out of London. It’s a folding bike with 16-inch wheels that folds in to a compact package in a jiffy. It’s optimised for city life, where space at home and inside bike parking at work is limited.
When folded in to a stable package about the size of a medium suitcase (less than 2ft square and about 11-inches ‘deep’), the lightweight bike can be carried by a nifty hand grip built in to the seat, or it can be wheeled along by the handlebars. You’ll often see them tucked underneath desks at work, or under tables at a café.
It’s also quite common in New York or London or any big city across the globe to see men and women in full business attire riding to work, or to and from the train station in a truly multi-modal commute.
Suit jacket and tie, no visible lycra
Indeed, business attire factors in to the Brompton Burst. All riders are required to wear business or formal attire, with no visible lycra. The race starts LeMans style, with all bikes fully folded. When the gun fires, racers run to their bikes, unfold them (it’s a skill!), and set off.
Some will really be racing. These scorchers will be on bikes kitted out with partly titanium frames and bits of carbon, along with itty bitty, skinny Schwalbe ‘Kojak’ slick tires pumped up to 100 psi or more. These riders — many using clipless pedals and proper cycling shoes — take the race part of the day very seriously. As serious as a race can be when you’re wearing a tuxedo with bow tie, or a seersucker suit with a full necktie.
Many others see the event as more of a parade. These folks often focus on the race within the race, the Awards for Best Dressed Man and Best Dressed Woman. Sartorial choices will range from simple business suits to military attire to humor. Past sightings include those dressed in tuxedoes with black tie, lots of mens and womens business suits, a World War I uniform, and even Captain Obvious!
The Brompton Burst being held as one of the events at the Thompson Bucks County Classic borrows from a decade-old series of races called the Brompton World Championships (BWC). The Brompton World Championship is the flagship Brompton-only racing event, with qualifying heats held in 15 countries and a final in the UK. The event has been running for 10 years and is held in cities around the world. The US BWC qualifying heat has been held in Philadelphia, New York and Washington, DC, in recent years. Notably it’s also twice been held on the famous Laguna Seca race course in California, and in 2015 Brompton racers got to do a lap on the real World Road Cycling Championships race course in Richmond, VA.
Just as you’ll see different types of racers, you’ll also see different types of Bromptons at the event. The main difference will be in handlebar shapes. Many racers or riders who like a more aggressive posture will use a flat bar, while other options can put the rider in to quite an upright position. As the bikes are often commuters, racks and fenders are common. A one speed bike is an option, but 2-, 3-, and 6-speed versions are more common.
While the little bikes are perfect for city commutes of a few miles, or the run from a commuter’ suburban house to the train station, some use Bromptons for touring or longer rides.
There’s even a ‘Brompton 100 Club’ group on FaceBook for riders who have completed a 100 kilometer or 100 mile ride on a Brompton.
Travel is also the bike’s strong point. Many use the bike’s small size to carry it on to airplanes. Others check the bike inside a large suitcase for a budget travel option.
Travel and trains can also be part of your day if you’re a Philadelphia-based Brommie racer. Trophy Bikes, the Philadelphia Brompton dealer involved with the Burst, has arranged for a special ‘Brompton Car,’ leaving 30thStreet Station on the 9:16 to Doylestown. Meet at 9am sharp at the station to join them.
Mark Hallinger, Movement Sport MidAtlantic Editor signed up for the 2015 Brompton World Championships held on the World Road Race course in Richmond, VA, before he even owned a Brompton. Then he found a used one, then a 2nd bike so a friend could join him. He’s since raced twice at Laguna Seca and in Harlem, always getting somewhere between 11th and 16th overall, and contributing to Gold and Silver Medal winning teams. He blogs at redbrickbikes.com