A folding bike! It conjured up memories of those Bickerton bikes you saw in the 1970s and Eighties, the sort of thing men who drove Robin Reliants and carried Thermos flasks and Tupperware boxes of cheese sandwiches cleave to.
But any anxieties I had were dispelled when I got my Brompton: everything the Wandsworth Road zealot had said was true – after a 10-minute tutorial I could assemble the Brompton in 30 seconds. The ride was so good that in the first month of owning one I'd done a 50-mile run in a day on it. The versatility of the machine meant that I began leaving home with it quite casually for four- and five-day mini-tours, during which I'd cycle a bit, hop on a train or bus, then cycle some more. Most of all, it liberated me from the ghastly feeling of disorientation I got when I was doing tours to promote my books, and would travel to a new town every day. Having the Brompton forced me to orient myself – to know where I was. Cities such as Birmingham that I'd been visiting for years suddenly became legible – and I was fitter, too.
During the first few years I had the Brompton it was still an object of either curiosity or risibility. In the sticks small kids would shout and run after me, while the Tupperware men – and Melamine women – would stop me for a nerdy chat. But as Brompton have sold more bikes (sales have more than doubled in the past six years), the sight of full-sized people pedalling about on tiny wheels has become less worthy of comment.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Tupperware men and Melamine women
At the Independent, Will Self has a very good piece on the delights of riding a Brompton bicycle: