Brompton Bicycle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brompton Bicycle Limited
Founded3 June 1976[1]
HeadquartersGreenford, Greater London, England, UK
Key people
ProductsFolding bicycle
Revenue£42 million+ (2019)[3][4]
£3.4 million+[4]
Number of employees

Brompton Bicycle is a British manufacturer of folding bicycles based in Greenford, London.[6]

The Brompton folding bicycle and accessories are the company's core product, noted for its self-supporting compact size when stored. All available models of the folding bicycle are based on the same hinged frame and 16-inch (35×349 mm) tyre size. Components are added, removed, or replaced by titanium parts to form the many variations. The modular design has remained fundamentally unchanged since the original patent was filed by Andrew Ritchie in 1979,[7] with small details being refined by continual improvement. Ritchie was awarded the 2009 Prince Philip Designers Prize for work on the bicycle.[8][9][10]

Brompton is the largest volume bicycle manufacturer in Britain,[11] producing approximately 50,000 bicycles each year.[5] The company's bicycles are also available for hire.[12]


Four stages in folding. The final step of lowering the saddle locks the package together

All Brompton folding bicycle models share the same curved frame, consisting of a hinged main tube, pivoting rear triangle, fork, and hinged handle-bar stem. The main tube and stem are made of steel in all models. The rear triangle and fork are either steel or titanium, depending on model. The steel sections are joined by brazing rather than welding. Wheel rim size is 349 mm (13.7 in), carrying tyres with 16″ tread diameter. The handlebars and some peripheral components are aluminium.

A Brompton bicycle uses over 1,200 individual pieces, many of which are specific to Brompton.[13]

As of 2022 the combinations allow one-, two-, three-, four-(P and T line versions) or six-speed gearing options to be factory-fitted, with higher or lower gearing available as an option.

The Brompton uses a combined rear fold and suspension design. During riding, the main frame and the rear triangle intersect at a rubber block which provides suspension. The suspension block is kept in compression by the rider's weight. There is no suspension for the front wheel, although the titanium forks of the Superlight versions provide a small amount of spring.


Brompton frame parts at the factory in Kew

In 1976 Andrew Ritchie founded the company, named after the Brompton Oratory,[3] a landmark visible from his bedroom workshop where the first prototypes were built. At the time he was working as a gardener. Ritchie obtained backing from friends and sought to license the design, but after five years began manufacturing the bicycle design himself. Production ground to a halt in 1982 after which Ritchie continued to explore possibilities for continued manufacturing whilst undertaking other jobs.

Finally in 1986, again with backing from friends and former customers, enough was raised to resume production on a larger scale. With a bank loan underwritten by Julian Vereker (founder of Naim Audio), production was restarted in a railway arch in Brentford.[14] By early 1988, mass-production Brompton bicycles were once again in circulation.

From 2002, when Will Butler-Adams joined the firm (he became Managing Director in 2008), to 2013, production increased from 6,000 to approximately 40,000 bikes per year. The workforce increased from 24 to 190.[5]

In March 2009, Brompton Bicycle achieved a record monthly turnover of just under £1 million; the employees were rewarded with fish and chips.[15] In the same month, the company stated that it was hoping to continue a 25% rate of growth;[16] partially enabled by switching to just-in-time stocking for some of the parts being sourced from suppliers, and by having those suppliers hold the stock until it is needed rather than parts living for periods at the Brompton factory.[17]

The company was awarded The Queen's Award for Export in 1995.[18]

In the Queen's Birthday Honours of 21 April 2010, the company was awarded two Queen's Awards for Enterprise, in the Innovation and International Trade categories.[19] This was the second time Brompton had won the International Trade Award, they first received it in 1995. It is very rare for a company to receive two of these awards in one year.

Will Butler-Adams, Managing Director, was awarded Order of the British Empire in 2015.[20] In July 2015 a plan to move the company from Brentford to nearby Greenford was reported.[21] In February 2022 another move, from Greenford to Ashford, Kent was announced.[22]

Clones and licensing[edit]

In 1992, Brompton agreed with Euro-Tai in Taiwan to allow the manufacture of a licensed copy of the Brompton bicycle for distribution in Eastern Asia.[23][24] A joint venture company called Neobike was then established to manufacture them. Brompton Bicycle in the United Kingdom would loan tools and drawings, and be paid on a per-unit royalty basis.

By mid-1992, Neobike had recruited three senior research and development employees from Dahon, another folding bicycle company, and had started to produce other designs and copies in addition to the official Brompton design. Brompton's licensing contract with Euro-Tai/Neobike lasted approximately ten years until it expired on 31 December 2002. By this time, five senior Neobike employees had been convicted and jailed for stealing trade secrets from Dahon and Ritchie had previously stated that the franchise contract had been "under review",[25] there having been quality issues with the Asian-built Brompton bicycles.[26] Euro-Tai and Neobike failed to return the Brompton-specific tooling loaned by Brompton Bicycle.[27] One week later after the expiration of the official licensing agreement Euro-Tai sold its controlling stake in Neobike to YTE Manufacturing, an aluminium supplier that was already involved with producing frames for Neobike.[28]

At the 2003 Eurobike trade show, Neobike exhibited their—now unsanctioned—clone of the Brompton, offering it to potential dealers within Europe. Neobike-produced copies of the Brompton bicycle were then imported into The Netherlands branded as the "Scoop One" and "Astra Flex V3".[29] Later, Neobike's interests in its copy-bicycle business were transferred to an entity called Grace Gallant Enterprises,[27] for sale under the brand "Flamingo". Between 2004 and 2010, several batches of copies were imported into the European market: into the United Kingdom under the name "Merc", into Belgium, and into Spain as the "Nishiki Oxford". Taiwanese-manufactured clones bear the model numbers FL-BP01-3/FL-BP01-7 standing for Flamingo, "Best Persuader", 3-speed/7-speed. As of 2014, Grace-Galant continue to make clones for the East Asia market under the Flamingo and MIT brand names. Later iterations of the clones had their frames made of aluminium, rather than the steel frame of the originals.

Court cases[edit]

Following the expiry of the Brompton patent,[30] Brompton Bicycle's legal actions against Neobike/Grace Gallant have all been brought on the basis of copyright- and industrial design-law.

A court case was held at the Groningen civil court in the Netherlands on 24 May 2006, which ruled that the industrial design of the Brompton folding bicycle was protected by copyright. Additionally, the Neobike-provided manual had included direct copies of those drawings found in the Brompton user manual.[31] The Brompton Bicycle Limited v Rijwielbedrijf Vincent Van Ellen BV ruling held that there was creative flexibility in the design for a bicycle beyond those choices made purely for functional reasons; in the Brompton case this included the M-style handlebars, curved main frame tube and the cable-placement.[31] Each of these were noted to be distinctive design decisions that another manufacturer could change without compromising the ability to create a functional folding bicycle. Such a level of perceived similarity was therefore likely to cause "confusion in the market" under the Dutch copyright law, Article 13. Neobike did not choose to appeal and Brompton Bicycle was granted the right to have all of the imported bicycles destroyed with an injunction against future imports by Neobike's distributors.[31][29]

In June 2010, Brompton Bicycle gained a further injunction against the import of the unlicensed copy Brompton models into Spain, this time under the name "Nishiki Oxford Bicycle". The case was decided on the basis that Grace Gallant predecessors' had not returned all of Brompton Bicycle Ltd's drawing and toolings upon the termination of the earlier Eurotai/Neobike franchise agreement.[27]


Many reviews of Brompton folding bicycles are favourable.[32][33][34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "#01261512: Brompton Bicycle Limited". WebCheck. Companies House. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
  2. ^ Smale, Will (2013). "Brompton boss: The bike-maker who disproved the doubters". London: BBC News. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Wood, Zoe (9 November 2009). "Brompton Bicycle: crafted for cult appeal". The Guardian (Financial). p. 28. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2009. Sales are up more than 25% this year ... all 115 staff
  4. ^ a b Kochan, Nick (30 September 2008). "The Brompton comes of age". The Spectator. UK. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
  5. ^ a b c Smale, Will (14 July 2013). "Brompton boss: The bike-maker who disproved the doubters". BBC. Archived from the original on 20 November 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  6. ^ "new factory opens". 28 November 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  7. ^ "EP19790302096: Folding Bicycle". 10 March 1979. Retrieved 17 March 2009.
  8. ^ "Brompton bike creator wins UK's longest-running design award". The Independent. UK. 16 October 2009. Archived from the original on 20 October 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2009. Andrew Ritchie was named the winner of the 50th Prince Philip Design Award
  9. ^ "Royal award for fold-up bike man". BBC News. 16 October 2009. Archived from the original on 19 October 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2009.
  10. ^ Sutton, Mark (12 November 2009). "Brompton founder honoured". Bike Biz. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  11. ^ Laurance, Ben (7 August 2005). "The bicycle that turned into folding money". The Observer. UK. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2009. Ritchie controls and runs Brompton Bicycle,
  12. ^ "Brompton's folding bikes are available for hire – with new locations". The Independent. Archived from the original on 9 May 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  13. ^ "Folding Bikes, Fold Up City Bicycles, Mens & Ladies Folding Road Bikes | Brompton Bikes". Archived from the original on 8 July 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  14. ^ Laurance, Ben (7 August 2005). "The bicycle that turned into folding money". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2007.
  15. ^ Guthrie, Jonathan (9 April 2009). "Five success stories for recessionary times". Financial Times. Retrieved 16 April 2009. Brompton achieved record monthly sales just shy of £1m in March. The factory celebrated with fish and chips all round.
  16. ^ Jablonski, Renita (24 March 2009). "What will gear up U.K. manufacturing?". Marketplace. American Public Media. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2009. Emerson Roberts is Brompton's Marketing Manager. He says ... "The plan this year is to grow sales by 25 percent."
  17. ^ "Buying power". The Manufacturer. March 2009. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  18. ^ "This year's winners of the Queen's Awards". The Independent. UK. 21 April 1995. Archived from the original on 5 November 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2009. Queen's Award for Export Achievement 1995 ... Brompton Bicycle Ltd
  19. ^ "Another great year for the Queen's Awards for Enterprise". News Distribution Service. Central Office of Information. 21 April 2010. Archived from the original on 2 May 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2010. from enterprising small businesses with as few as three employees to household names such as ... bicycle manufacturer Brompton Bicycle Ltd.
  20. ^ "MD of Brompton, William Butler-Adams appointed an OBE". 2 January 2015. Archived from the original on 22 July 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  21. ^ Cumber, Robert. "Brompton Bicycle set to move production after nearly 30 years". Archived from the original on 31 July 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  22. ^ "Folding bike-maker Brompton rides to new home - with no parking spaces". Sky News. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  23. ^ "Neobike International Co., Ltd". Archived from the original on 7 April 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2009. Neobike was established in 1992, at the same time it cooperated in technology with Brompton Bicycle Limited in England, and started manufacturing Brompton folding bikes in Taiwan.
  24. ^ Somers, Stein (12 February 2005). "Where can I find out more?". The Brompton Folding Bicycle FAQ. Archived from the original on 6 February 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2009. The far east of the globe will be interested in Neobike International Co. Ltd. who make a cheaper and less complete Brompton under license for the Asian market.
  25. ^ "Folding bike copyists to be jailed". Bike Biz. 10 April 2002. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2009. Three of the five guilty defendants are former Dahon employees ... Neobike holds the licence to manufacture and market Brompton folding bikes in the Far East ... Brompton inventor Andrew Ritchie told this deal was "under review"
  26. ^ Kochan, Nick (30 September 2008). "The Brompton comes of age". The Spectator. UK. Retrieved 18 July 2010.[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ a b c Norman, Jason (23 June 2010). "Brompton Wins IP Case". Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2010. won a ruling that states Taiwan manufacturer Grace Gallant has infringed ... involved the "Oxford" bicycle (model "FL-BP01-07") was handed down at Commercial Court No. 5 in Madrid, Spain ... Eurotai and its subsidiary, Neobike, did not return all the tooling ... ordered an injunction of the importation, distribution and sales
  28. ^ "Neobike Attracts YTS as New Principal Shareholder". Bike Europe. Reed Business. 10 January 2003. Archived from the original on 5 November 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  29. ^ a b "Rechter verbiedt namaak-Bromptons". Laatste nieuws (in Dutch). Fiets Gigant. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
  30. ^ Ritchie, Andrew William (15 April 1981). "EP0026800: Folding bicycle / Zusammenklappbares Fahrrad / Bicyclette pliante". European Patent Office. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
  31. ^ a b c "1.9 Brompton Bicycle Limited v Rijwielbedrijf Vincent Van Ellen BV (Groningen civil court, 24 May 2006, 73818 / HA ZA 04-673)". National Unregistered Design Rights Copyright. Bird & Bird. 7 December 2006. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2009. when taken as a whole, is a creation that is not exclusively determined by functional elements, and for which a degree of design freedom exists. It therefore benefited from copyright protection. In reaching its decision, the court was influenced particularly by the curved tube, u-shape handlebars and free hanging cables of the Brompton bike ... within the meaning of Article 13 of the Dutch Copyright Law.
  32. ^ "Brompton Bicycle". Avon Valley Cyclery. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2009. The Brompton folding bicycle is for many the bench mark by which other folding bikes are judged.
  33. ^ "Folding Bikes A Buyers' Guide Compiled by 'A to B' magazine". A to B magazine. The Folding Society. Archived from the original on 9 November 2008. Retrieved 17 March 2009. Still the best compact folder on the market
  34. ^ Tempest, Matthew (4 December 2002). "The Brompton Folding Bicycle". The Guardian. UK. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Overall score? 9/10 – only because perfection is not achievable on this earth.
  35. ^ Reid, Carlton (4 November 2008). "'Timeless, cool' Brompton lauded by TV's Gadget Show". Bike Biz. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2010. The Brompton came out on top, with the top show rating of five Gs.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°29′27″N 0°17′35″W / 51.4907°N 0.2931°W / 51.4907; -0.2931