The Brompton P Line is the Baron of Bromptons and could well be the best folding bike made to date. I say that because Brompton already has the cleverest folding mechanism in the business, and with this update to the old Superlight line, practically everything has been honed and improved, with the weight shaved down and the gearing and handling improved. I haven't actually ridden the P Line yet but it appears to be the pinnacle of and logical conclusion to what the brand has been doing for the past 45 years.
Like you, I may occasionally mock Bromptons for their looks. That distinctive – nay, iconic – frame always looks a little peculiar, especially when it's being ridden by someone who's quite tall, as I am. However, I would never knock the engineering or ride experience of Britain's favourite folding bike, because these bicycles are superbly built and remarkably good fun to ride. That's why Brompton owners always look so smug. They're steaming along on their nippy little bike, without a care in the world, safe in the knowledge that when they get to whatever well-paid office job they're going to, they can fold it to about the size of record box and secrete it under their desk. And that it will probably continue to do so for decades to come.
Why would the Brompton hardcore massive want something like the Tuck bike which I wrote about earlier this week? Sure, that may fold up small, yet resemble a normal bike when in use. Yet it's an unproven brand and anyway, where's the fun in looking normal?
From today there's a new Brompton in town. It is the new flagship, and I am there for it. I'm not quite sure why the fellows at Brompton have decided to call it the P Line. But while the name may sound vaguely lavatorial, there's nothing piss-poor about this collapsible urban steed. It joins the A Line – which is also a type of skirt – and the C Line – which is also the correct name for the © symbol – in the new Brompton Line-up.
This elite folder is super-light, larded with top-level components and no doubt goes like a rocket. I wouldn't necessarily say I want to buy one, but I would certainly love to try one. Alas, since my day job largely revolves around riding the world's best electric bikes these days, I will probably have to make do with the Brompton C Line Electric, although no doubt that is also excellent.
The heart of any Brompton's appeal is that it folds up so fast and so small. The P Line, however, adds sportier performance and a range of componentry so advanced, it will leave Brompton lovers dizzy and panting.
Standard Bromptons are not exactly weighty, but the P Line has been slimmed down to a mere 9.65kg – nearly 2 kilos less than the Brompton C Line. That's been achieved by using an all-new rear frame and forks made of titanium – the world's sexiest metal, and the only one to have a bombastic rave tune written about it by David Guetta and Sia.
There's also a very swanky, patent-pending, Brompton-designed compact gearing system that finds a clever 'third way' between the usual Brompton gearing options. It employs a derailleur, but it's 4-speed – Bromptons with derailleurs usually just have two – and in a similar ratio to the 3-speed hub gear used in some other Bromptons. Hub gears are great but using one here would, of course, push the weight back up. This is a cunning compromise.
That lighter weight means the Brompton will be even easier to carry over bridges, on to trains and up stairs. I recently had to hump the Xiaomi Mi Smart – a folding ebike that weighs 20 kilos – up the punishing staircases of London's Embankment Bridge, so this is an appealing notion, to me.
Another key feature of Bromptons is that they are way more comfortable to ride than they look. On the P Line, the brands says that the naturally shock-absorbing nature of titanium, plus the redesigned suspension block, will smooth out city roads even more. As you can see from this photo, you can really throw these little fellas around corners.
The ingenuity does not end with the riding experience however. The dual-locking seat post system – also an improved design apparently – has two positions. You can push it fully down for storing or keep it halfway up – or indeed, all the way up – whereupon it becomes a handle, used to roll your semi-folded Brompton along. There's more good news here: the shopping trolley-style rolling wheels have been made larger and lighter, which should make them less of a pain to use when on uneven surfaces.
The main wheels are lighter and sturdier than ever as well, 'tested in all weathers for hundreds of hours.' Brompton says the wheels are also designed with easy roadside maintenance in mind. So that's nice.
Some more prosaic spec details include the fact that the P Line comes with 500-lumen, front and rear lights, which recharge via USB. The brakes are old-school V calliper which is not optimal, but probably unavoidable to keep the weight down and facilitate easy folding. If you want to feast your eyes on the full spec, you will find it near the bottom of this page. Because this is not tubing. This is precision drawn heat-treated steel tubing with hand brazing and selected auto-brazed joints. Mmm-mm.
Will Carleysmith, Chief Design & Engineering Officer at Brompton has something to say to you before we go: “With its titanium rear frame and forks, the Brompton Superlight has always offered a superior user experience than it’s all-steel equivalent. The new Brompton P Line is a leap forward from the Superlight, it is faster to ride, lighter to carry and easier to move around the city in every way.
"Significant weight savings and performance improvements have been achieved through the entirely redesigned rear frame and lightweight components including the compact 4-speed gearset.”
Brompton P Line: price and availability
The all-new Brompton P Line is available to order now in Storm Grey or Midnight Black, in shops from £2,100 to £2,324 depending on options chosen. Please note that because of the smaller number of options available, prices at Brompton’s online start at £2,244.
I don't have American or Australian pricing yet but that should theoretically equate to $3,026-$3,134 or AU$4,160-AU$4,308. It'll be available in the US and Oz from January 2022.
Brompton P Line specification (including options)
Folded Size 645mm (H) x 585mm (W) x 270mm (D) (25.3'' x 23'' x 10.6'')
Main Frame, Front Frame and Stem Precision drawn heat-treated steel tubing with hand brazing and selected auto-brazed joints
Rear Frame Superlight Advance rear frame made from Titanium with a replaceable hanger, redesigned suspension block and new 54mm roller wheels.
Fork Titanium fork with a threaded headset
Handlebar Mid and High Handlebars -type triple butted (6061) aluminium handlebar with shot-peened finish
Low Handlebars (7050T74) aluminium handlebar with solution heat-treatment and shot-peened finish
Grips Superlight lock-on grips with precision ground lightweight foam adhered to ultrathin engineered core weighing just 42g per pair
Seatpost Chromoly steel tube, centreless ground, chrome plated for hardness, delivered in a standard length, suitable for maximum inside leg 33 inches / 84 cm
Saddle Superlight saddle with chromoly rails, carbon reinforced base and lightweight padding. Includes integrated carry handle and light mount. Includes lightweight Superlight Pentaclip.
Seat clamp Machined aluminium seat clamp and rear frame clip in anodised matt black finish
Chainset (6061) forged aluminium crank with 50T chainring and integrated chainguard
Pedals Brompton Folding left hand and non-folding right-hand pedals
Derailleur Patent-pending direct mount 4 speed derailleur
Sprockets 11-13-15-18 tooth
Chain tensioner Advance chain tensioner with replaceable hanger mounting
Shifter 4 speed trigger shifter
Chain Hollow pin Superlight Advance Chain
Headset Superlight headset
Hinge Clamps Machined aluminium hinge clamp levers and plates anodised matt black finish
Brakes Dual pivot brake calipers
Mudguards Curved profile mudguards with titanium stays and rubberised flap
Front wheel Lightweight rim, double-butted spokes and aluminium hub body with sealed bearings and hex key axle.
Rear-wheel Lightweight rim, double-butted spokes and aluminium hub body with sealed bearings, newly developed 4 speed freehub body and hex key axle.
Tyre options 349 x 35C Schwalbe ONE, Addix race compound, v-guard puncture protection, folding bead
Tubes Tubolito S-tubo 34g tube with Schrader valves, Schwalbe Presta valve
Lighting Brompton 500 lumen USB rechargeable front light and rear battery lamp, front and rear reflectors
Pump Brompton pump with flexible hose compatible with Schrader and Presta