My wife and I are planning to spend a few weeks in New Jersey this summer with her family. As soon as we started talking about spending more than a few days away from home, my mind immediately went to what bike setup I was going to have there. I knew that I’d lose my mind if I was put in a situation where I had to drive everywhere.
While bike rentals are usually available in most places, they’re often annoying — limited by what the store carries, the store’s hours, etc, and you often wind up with a bike that doesn’t fit you quite right and doesn’t have the accessories you’re used to.
I’ve been keeping an eye on folding bikes for a while, but often dismissing them as not really having a place in my life. But after this discussion, I realized that a folding bike is exactly what I needed when traveling — my bike, set up how I want, that I could take anywhere, replacing the need to drive for most trips.
I started researching, and quickly narrowed it down to Brompton. It was obvious that they were the gold standard. But then, which one? They have a ton. I quickly eliminated electric Bromptons, since you can’t carry those on a plane (the battery). I also eliminated ones with no gears (I wanted the freedom to go somewhere hilly), and prioritized something light enough that I would be likely use often and be able to carry along with the million other pieces of luggage we usually travel with as a family.
This narrowed things down to a single model: The Brompton T Line, Urban edition. After a couple months wait, it arrived!
The T Line is so new that Brompton dealers don’t even have it, and can’t really advise on what accessories do or don’t work with the bike. I had to rely on a mix of a Facebook Group specific to T Line owners, Google’ing around, and just trying things to see what worked. Since it took me so long to figure out, I hope I can save others time.
Here is my list of recommended accessories for the T Line:
1. Lights — I went with the Brompton Front Light and the Cateye Rapid Mini for the rear. Both clip in easily to pre-set locations on the bike, and with such a custom bike, these are the only options if you want them to fit like a glove.
2. Mirror — I’ve gotten very used to having a mirror; while it may not fundamentally change how safe you are on the road, it makes me feel safer, and gives me the opportunity to react to things happening behind me. I wanted a mirror that wouldn’t interfere with the fold but that was big enough to be useful. I found this in the Beam — Corky Urban Bike Mirror. The smaller image size takes getting used to, but it’s big enough to be useful.
3. Grips — I wasn’t a fan of the stock grips; they felt cheap to me, and I didn’t find them comfortable. The Ergon GP1 Grips are super comfortable, still lightweight, and don’t interfere with the fold.
4. Phone Holder — Finding a phone holder that was functional and wouldn’t interfere with the fold wasn’t easy. Quad Lock makes one specific to Brompton, but I don’t like the Quad Lock system; I find the cases bulky and they don’t support magnetic charging despite claiming to. Luckily, the Peak Design Out Front Bike Mount works perfectly, and leaves just enough room to work with the fold! I’m a big fan of the Peak Design system — their phone case is the lightest and thinnest that I’ve seen, magnetic charging still works, and the magnet + clip system work great for one hand mounting or dismounting.
5. Rear rack — I decided to get the Brompton Advance Roller Frame Kit; I have to say, for such an expensive bike, it’s annoying that Brompton doesn’t include this in the price as it’s nearly universally needed if you plan on traveling with your Brompton for any extended time and need to roll it. The roller frame fits right in and is easy to install. I also purchased the Advance Roller Rack Straps to be able to bungee things to the rack; again, Brompton’s other rear racks come with straps built in, but for the more expensive T Line and its Advance Roller Frame Kit, they charge extra. But these are the only bungees that will fit in perfectly with the rear rack and not interfere with rolling or the fold.
6. Carrying small things — The T Line is unique as most Brompton accessories don’t work with it, since the frame is thicker than other Bromptons. After going back and forth with support, I got the Brompton Metro Waterproof Pouch, which doesn’t interfere with the rear light or the fold. It can also be mounded on the handlebar of the T Line, but that didn’t work well with the fold.
7. Carrying large things — My initial plan was to use the Burley Travoy trailer, which clips to the Brompton seat post, and can carry a carry-on-sized suitcase and a backpack. But I was having trouble solving how to carry on the bike, the carry on, the backpack, and the trailer, since you’re only allowed to carry on two items, and even gate checking the bike wouldn’t solve this. After speaking with others that have traveled extensively with their Bromptons (thanks especially to Sam Daly of Token Transit and Ron at the awesome Bike Center in Culver City), I decided to forego the trailer and get the largest bag Brompton offers that clips into the bike’s front carrier block — the Brompton Borough Roll Top Bag Large. The bag is waterproof, holds 28 liters of stuff, and I think will be big enough to be my luggage. With this setup, I just have the bike + the bag, which conforms to carry on requirements.
8. Gate checking the bike — I was worried if a gate agent made me gate check the bike, that the bike would get messed up in transit. To minimize the risk of damage, I got some velcro ties to secure the handlebars and wheels, and an Ikea Dimpa bag to put the folded and tied down bike into. The Dimpa bag folds up very compactly and is light weight. The ties easily fit in the Metro pouch.
9. Tools and spares — The tubes that the bike comes with are Tubolito tubes, which weigh 34 grams. However, they’re difficult to order if you’re in the US, and for a spare I wound up going with the Schwalbe 35–349 Inner Tube Presta Valve tubes; while they weigh 85 grams, more than double the Tubolito, I doubt I’m going to notice that difference. I also got a Brompton Toolkit, a Park Tool AWS-10 wrench set, and a portable charger for my phone; all of these things fit easily in the Metro pouch.
10. AirTag — there are multiple places to hide an AirTag on the bike; for obvious reasons, I’m not going to say where I hid mine, but I’d highly recommend an AirTag. The battery lasts about a year and it’s a godsend if someone takes your bike.
I have yet to take my first point-to-point trip, but I’ll do it soon. Can’t wait to bike to LAX, fly, and then bike away on the other side!