I've just got my hands on the Brompton T Line, and it's the most fun I've had on a bike in 2022. Perhaps that's no surprise as I've been recently trialling ebikes almost exclusively. They're great, but they're also heavy and all go at exactly the same speed – 15.5mph – unless you pedal really hard. The T Line weighs an incredible 7.45kg, and is the summation of all Brompton's long and hard-won expertise in building folding bikes. And it does speeds other than 15.5mph, so that’s a plus.
Don't consider this a review, as I have only had it less than a day, but these are my thoughts on the Brompton T Line so far. I was so impressed, I just had to let y'all know.
Want more? We also have a Q&A with Brompton's head of design that covers the T Line, some thoughts on electric scooters, and more besides.
While rival folding bikes have improved their folding mechanisms a lot in recent years, there's still nothing like a Brompton. Having not ridden one for a few years, my initial attempts were a bit clumsy, but I got it folded in under a minute. However, with a little practice I was soon folding the T Line like an origami master. The trick is that you need to sort of 'swirl' the front wheel as you fold it back, so the clip on the right hand side of the wheel is propelled towards the frame, which it grips.
Recent innovations include screw-in clamps that don't need to be fiddled into the right position and orientation, as you had to do with older Bromptons. This makes folding and – particularly – unfolding even easier. You can also whip off the left pedal with a squeeze and a pull, and sit it on a little mount on the frame. I can't see myself doing this often, but it could be handy if hallway space is really limited, and you want to sit your Brompton flush against a wall.
Sadly, this model didn't come with a front bag mount, as I love clacking a Brompton bag on and off the front of the handlebars. Bromptons may look decidedly odd, but using them is like a series of beautifully engineered and tactile pleasures.
While the T Line is made of titanium, and had to be practically re-engineered from scratch to make it work, as you can see from the photos above, it still looks like… a Brompton.
There's no getting around it: Bromptons look weird and dinky. I always think they are much better suited to smaller men, and women because anyone remotely tall – I'm 6ft1 – looks rather peculiar when riding one. However, as I always say about ugly blocks containing attractive flats: once you're inside your flat, you can no longer see the ugly block. Bromptons look tiny but they don't ride like they're tiny. Arguably the GoCycle G4i replicates a full-size bike riding experience using a scaled down frame and wheels as well as a Brompton, but nothing else comes close. And anyway, that’s an ebike.
Woo! With just four gears, two brakes – operated by very satisfying, all-new levers – two little wheels and a few kilos of titanium, Brompton has come up with a truly exhilarating ride. From the first pedal stroke, it feels speedy, stable and focussed. With the wheels being just 16 inches in diameter, cornering is very fast, and the bike always feels nippy even when you probably aren't going all that fast in reality.
After a few years of ebikes, which all tend to feel like riding by remote control, the Brompton T Line was a real breath of fresh air for me. Bromptons have always had good shock absorption and the T Line is no exception. It practically laughs in the face of London's gnarlier roads. Unlike some small-wheeled, folding bikes I've had no difficulty hopping it up onto or riding off of kerbs, and while I would not want to hit a pothole of any size on a bicycle with 16-inch wheels, it dealt well enough with some smaller pockmarks.
Even better for commuters returning to the office, it is light enough to carry up station stairs and small enough, when folded, to be carried on a tube or train without everyone tutting at you. Another rather brilliant new upgrade is that the underside of the handle now has a textured grip, making it even better to use as a handle when carrying it. The little trolley wheels on the back have also apparently been upgraded, and trundling it along like this was also pretty straightforward, although I did experience a bit of 'wobbly shopping trolley' syndrome at times.
I've only ridden the T Line for about 10 miles so far but I am keen to do more! An interesting design tale for it is that the gears – of which there are only 4 – were tested in Amsterdam (ie: flat) and San Francisco (ie: bastard hilly). It will be interesting to see how this little warrior copes with central London's small number of steep hills, but I suspect it will get up them with little difficulty. Hauling it over the annoyingly steep curve of Lambeth bridge was not a problem.
I don't have a steel Brompton to hand to do a direct comparison, but the lightweight, titanium T Line rides in a very similar way. Except, because of the lighter weight – and perhaps a bit more flex in the frame? – everything feels sportier and zingier. And expensiver.
Brompton T Line: would I buy one?
Aha well, now you're asking a big question. So far, as you can tell, I am loving this bike but when I looked up the price, I did blanche a little. Bromptons are famously reliable and easy to service, and Brompton serves up great after-care and long warranties.
But I think I'll say overall that while I'm very pleased to try this one for free, I will probably leave the buying of them to people who are a little better off than me. But it's only day one of trying it out… Ask me again when I get the full review done.
Brompton T Line: price and availability
The T Line is a limited edition and it is not cheap, people! This is one for the true Brompton connoisseur.
• T Line One (single speed, no mudguards, 7.45kg) £3,750, $4,795, €4,360, AU$7,100
• T Line Urban (4-speed gears, mudguards, 7.95kg) £3,950, $4,995, €4,590, AU$7,500
The bike is exclusively available via a ballot system on Brompton.com (opens in new tab) and through selected Brompton Junction stores in London, New York, Shanghai, Singapore and Paris.