Brompton has today unveiled its brand new flagship bike, the titanium T Line. With fully titanium tubing, a lightest ever overall weight of 7.45kgs, and a brand new compact 4-speed gearing system, the T Line represents one of the biggest new releases in Brompton’s history.
Brompton has ridden a wave of exceptional success over the last few years. With a broad cultural shift toward cycling in cities and broader multi-modal (google it...) transport patterns across the world, the brand has been perfectly positioned to become a market leader. Add the fact that Brompton does all of its own manufacturing almost exclusively in the UK in the era of immense supply chain issues, and it's no wonder that the brand is floating on air.
Brompton has been a champion brand amongst commuters, but eyes a wider market
Brompton even made it big on US television, when Ted Lasso used a Brompton bike to create the perfect cosmopolitan picture of Richmond AFC’s sport psychologist. When the series’ PR expert Keeley Jones exclaimed “That’s not a bike, that’s a transformer!” you had to suspect Brompton felt happy with the acknowledgement.
Brazing at Brompton's UK factory
Lighter weight, better ride
Yet, far from being solely a utility solution, Brompton has also come to develop a cult status amongst keen road cyclists, perhaps best reflected by David Millar’s collaboration with the brand for his Brompton x CHPT3. The bike seemed to affirm that Brompton was the chic choice for city riding amongst painfully cool pro cyclists.
So it’s no surprise to see a titanium update to Brompton’s line, given the material's long-time association with premium and general quality. Yet, a slightly surprising side of Brompton’s business is that lots of riders see a Brompton as far more than a functional utility bike. “Our purchasers are actually split between commuters and recreational riders,” says Joel Natale, Brompton’s Head of Product Management. “We didn’t market for that, we stayed very focussed on what people expect – the commuter market – but the market is there. Lots of people think they know what a Brompton is for, and put it in a really narrow band. But it can do so much more.”
One of the T Line bikes in construction
As far as riding for enjoyment goes, the Grade-9 titanium tubing offers two considerable advantages: it's a far lighter overall build, but also gives a gain in compliance.
“It maintains the stiffness from steel to titanium,” says Natale. “It sneaks in more compliance, with comparable realistic stiffness.”
Larger wheels for carriage are another subtle marginal gain
The real headline is, of course, the 7.45kg total weight. With disc-equipped endurance road bikes hitting similar (if not heavier) figures on the scales, there’s no debating that the T Line is in exceptionally light territory for a folding bike. It's only surpassed by 6.9kg Hummingbird's fully carbon folder.
The T Line cuts around 2kgs off Brompton's previously lightest bike — the P Line. Many will be happy to hear that comes at a reasonable 110kg max rider weight. For ride quality, practicality, and pure engineering prowess, the weight is truly a game-changer.
The ultra-wide tubed Grade 9 titanium has played a part, but that’s come alongside a host of other subtle and meticulous updates.
4-speed and the finishing touches
While Brompton has longsince offered a 6-speed groupset option, the T Line urban has the largest number of rear sprockets that the brand has ever created. Usually Brompton bikes rely on an internal hub gear for three shifts, and external sprockets for two. The 4-speed rear cassette and rear derailleur is a first, created in order to offer the most efficient power transfer across the range where an internal hub gear will result in slightly more resistance at either end of the range.
“What we're trying to get here is a derailleur with a better range,” says Natale. “I mean, are you gonna ride this in the mountains for days? No, there are lots of bikes better suited to that. Could you ride it for a day? Yes, you might kill yourself in terms of effort, but you’ll get up the mountain.”
The seatpost is another area where we see a mixture of high performance and brutal pragmatism, with Brompton's first ever use of carbon fibre.
“This is the literal opposite of what we see in early carbon road bikes, which applied carbon external layers to a seatpost,” says Natale. “You have a carbon tube on the inside and you have 0.3mm of steel sitting on the outside of it, just to protect against scoring of the carbon, because of the repeated movement of the post.”
Other innovations could be easy to miss, such as the first ever A-headset and carbon fork on a Brompton, alongside a new stem faceplate. A new magnetic fixture for the pedal offers a far slicker aesthetic and a more rigid pedal body for more efficient power transfer.
By any measure, the T Line represents a ground-up redesign of Brompton’s folding bike. We couldn’t wait to see what that felt like out on the road.
Brompton's first A headset
First Ride Impressions
I first rode the T Line Urban over 12km across London. A longer distance than many would expect on the folder, but I was eager to put the longer term claims of ride quality to the test. My longest ride previously on a Brompton was around 35km on the Brompton Explore.
From the outset, the T Line struck me with its startlingly light weight — 2kgs is a lot to lose on any bike, and it shows. Compared to full sized bikes, the T Line also offers a slightly livelier sense of acceleration. Small wheels often offer a strange sense of hyper-acceleration, and the Schwalbe One tyres, alongside a lighter more sparsely spoked wheel, created the sense of a far easier spin up to speed.
With wider tubing only achieving comparable stiffness, I had expected the T Line to feel a little flexy and detached, but the bike felt connected. I’ve always been a fan of titanium’s unique ability to deliver feedback from the road without disturbing the ride with sharp jolts from road scarring. That’s very much the case with the T Line.
Simply put, it was a smooth ride.
I found myself opting to ride the T Line above my usual city get-around, even when folding wasn't a necessity. Certainly, it's no S-Works Tarmac, but take your eyes off the fold for a moment and you could be convinced you were riding a custom titanium commuter.
Certainly, I wouldn't choose it for a fast road ride in the country or a weekend in the mountains, as a few kilograms doesn't compensate for the major sacrifices in geometry and handling stiffness. But as far as riding in a city goes, the T Line does the job very nicely indeed.
Given Brompton’s cult status, especially in territories like China or Indonesia, expensive Brompton builds and modifications aren’t hard to come by. In that sense, I was fairly happy that the T Line looks understated. Despite its titanium finish, many passersby might glance past it assuming it was alloy or steel. Yet look closely at the hand-crafted welds and you'll see a story in homegrown hand-built manufacturing at Brompton's Sheffield facility, and a meticulous attention to detail behind the T Line. It was ever thus with titanium, the quiet overachiever, and one reason that it's one of my favourite materials on a bike.
Having ridden other high-end folding bikes, a functional but critical appeal of Brompton’s bikes is the foldability. Few others fold nearly as small. Brompton has also honed the process admirably, with the tiniest of details reflecting generations of refinement — from the wheel-shaped curved of the titanium downtube to the scratch-resistant steel-encased carbon seatpost, to the rubber grip under the saddle to offer a more ergonomic handle.
I’m conscious the T Line is still a V1 in its category. Building with titanium for the first time, and with several critical components made in carbon, this is a big leap for Brompton. For my part, Brompton seems to have taken to the production changes very well, but I’ll be intrigued to see if teething problems creep into this first batch of bikes.
Stepping back, though, you have to give Brompton huge credit as a rare example of homegrown, hand-crafted bike building in Europe. The T Line evidences a hands-on pragmatic bike building knowhow that few big WorldTour brands could rival, alongside a surprising willingness to innovate. It’s an invigorating start to titanium building for the brand, and we can’t wait to see how Brompton’s line of titanium bikes progresses.
For now, though, the T Line is about as much bike as you could hope for in a foldable form. Expect it to become an emerging fixture in the cycling fanatic’s ever-growing garage of dream bikes.