Bikes > Cycle

Straight out of Brompton with the C Line Explore

Is this trifold bike really worth P89,900?

The Fire Coral paint job garnered compliments from onlookers. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

On the totem pole of folding bicycles, the Brompton trifold sits on top being the grail bike of many. It’s compact, convenient, and charming. But is it worth the price of P89,900?

The particular unit lent to us is a C Line Explore. This is Brompton’s classic model, and its code of M6L signifies that the variant comes with a Medium-type handlebar, a six-speed drivetrain, and fenders.

The IGH protects the components from the elements. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The trifold bike rolls on a pair of 16-inch wheels with Schwalbe Marathon Racer tires. The drivetrain is comprised of a three-speed Sturmey Archer internal gear hub (IGH) and two sprockets. These are shifted separately.

You can choose among the three internal gears for climbs, flats, and descents, while the two external gears let you fine-tune your cadence. The 300% range isn’t the widest out there, but it’s fine for ordinary commutes.

The suspension block provides a bit of shock absorption. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The hinges are the most crucial parts of a folding bike. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The tensioner prevents the chain from getting slack when folded. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Parking isn't a problem when you can bring the trifold indoors. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The Brompton has hinges for the rear triangle, the frame, and the stem—which is also the order in which it is folded. In contrast, a normal folding bike only has hinges on the frame and the stem. At its smallest, the trifold is no bigger than a suitcase, and this allows it to be brought indoors.

The left pedal can fold so it doesn’t get in the way when you’re carrying the bike. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The key to maximizing the Brompton is bimodal transit. If your destination is too far, you can hop on a bus, a train, a boat, or other forms of public transportation to cover most of the distance. And then pedal for the last mile.

The front carrier block is rated for a load of up to 10kg. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The bike can be used like a pushcart when folded. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The front carrier block allows the rider to attach a bag. Since it is part of the frame (not the stem), you can leave a bag attached when the bike is folded. The position also keeps the center of gravity low, and putting weight on the front helps stabilize the steering. There’s no provision for a bottle cage, though, so you’ll need a stem bagor something similarto hold a drink.

The Brompton has a unique silhouette. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The trade-off for such portability is that the ride quality suffers. Smaller wheels are easier to accelerate, slow down, and turn. This is good for stop-and-go traffic. But it’s inefficient for long, continuous stretches of road where you’ll appreciate being able to carry momentum.

The wheelbase is similar to a full-size bike, yet the steering is still twitchy. And the combination of small wheels with thin tires doesn’t help with bumps and potholes. So, if you were hoping for plush and stable handling, you’ll have to dismiss your expectations and adjust your riding style.

Good luck rolling the folded bike with this flimsy, little wheel. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

I normally roll a trifold by putting my hand on the saddle and pushing it like a stroller, with the folded bike resting flat on the floor. The first time I tried that with this Brompton, it felt more like dragging a bar stool. That’s because it didn’t have a rear rack with proper roller wheels to support the bike.

Disappointingly, that accessory isn’t standarda cheap cop-out in my opinion. It can be argued that some would want to keep the bike as light as possible. That makes sense for the sporty P and T Lines, but not for the commuter-oriented C Line.

My 3Sixty and Cranston folding bikes (which are Brompton replicas) came with one. And it made a world of difference compared to the usual bifold design. It is integral to a trifold’s ease of use, and you won’t get the full experience without it.

In terms of weight, this Brompton C Line Explore tips the scales at 12kg. If you’re not familiar with bicycles, you might be surprised with how easy it is to lift. But for those used to aluminum or carbon-fiber frames, it’s quite heavy, which is understandable for a steel bike.

Sitting on the Brooks B17 felt like riding a horse. The saddle was stiff with barely any cushioning. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The included seat for the test unit is a Brooks B17, which isn’t stock. This saddle is a popular upgrade choice among Brompton users. It looks nice and commands a hefty price tag of P8,500. However, that doesn’t mean everyone will find it comfortable.

I don’t mind it. But there are better alternatives out there for me, such as the ordinary Brompton saddle, which is what I use on my personal trifold. Another drawback is that since the B17 is made of leather, it has to be broken in and must be protected from rain and moisture.

As for the rest of the cockpit, the stock grips provide a good, firm grasp of the handlebars. The left-side pedal folds so it doesn’t get in the way when you’re carrying the bike. Personally, I’d swap the pedals for quick-release ones that are wider for better footing.

Hanging out at Couch Club Kapitolyo. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The author visited Laya Coffee after a morning ride in UP Diliman. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Enjoying a sandwich at Barbarians Cheesesteak in Kapitolyo. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

In addition to the rear rack and a bag, you’ll want to add basic accessories such as a kickstand, front and rear lights, and a repair kit. Brompton has its own toolkit, which can be cleverly stored inside the frame. However, it is expensive at P3,800, and you’ll have to be knowledgeable for it to be of use.

Fixing a flat won’t be easy since a spanner is needed. To access the rear wheel, you’ll have to disengage the IGH and remove the chain tensioner as shown in this video. Also, not just any bike mechanic can service the IGH, so be warned.

In the author’s experience, nothing beats the convenience of Brompton’s trifold design. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Overall, the Brompton C Line Explore is a fun bike to ride. The form factor gets rid of any pretense that you have to be sporty or athletic. It’s highly maneuverable, and the portability opens up a variety of mobility options. Plus, you won’t have to worry about parking since you can bring it indoors.

As mentioned above, the C Line Explore costs P89,900. It is made in the United Kingdom and is available at Bikeary Bicycle Lifestyle in Quezon City. Needless to say, despite all the benefits of this trifold bike, it is not affordable.

Once the initial excitement wore out, I realized that recommending it would be difficult. There are other practical alternatives at a fraction of the price. And the lack of a rear rack (which is close to P7,000 at other dealers) is something I can’t forgive for something so expensive.

Can you tell the difference between the original and the replica? PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

If you just need something easy to store, an ordinary folding bike will do. There are also Brompton copies in the market that we can’t ignore. Although the hinges aren’t as smooth and the build quality isn’t as refined, the clones still get the job done while costing roughly a third of the price.

There’s no shortage of branding stamped on the bike. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Frankly speaking, the only people I’d recommend a Brompton to are those who are financially capable and already value the brand. Don’t get me wrong; it is a good bicycle. But whether purchasing one is a good decision, is a different story that only you can tell.

Leandro Mangubat

Leandro is our staff writer. Although having a background in mechanical engineering, he enjoys photography and writing more.