I’ve never been so excited about a meeting in my life. I’ve been to many meetings in my time and usually it’s a dull head-office meeting where you just get to see a slightly different variation of the office you work in. Not that I wouldn’t have been happy to see the inner workings of the Brompton office but now I actually get to see how a Brompton Bicycle is made. I felt like a kid again, visiting Toys R Us in the run up to Christmas.
I met Mike who works in marketing at Brompton. It’s fantastic to meet someone who’s passionate about a product and not just a day worker who outside of the 9-5 hours couldn’t care. Mike truly cares about his product and I could tell he really enjoyed the opportunity to give a tour in person. When you start work at Brompton regardless of your position you have to spend a few weeks to months in the factory learning how to build a Brompton. How cool!
As I entered the main reception Mike showed me the very modest Brompton Museum (3 walls in the stairwell) On each wall was a version of different incarnations of Brompton Bicycles starting from prototype 3 all the way to an early production model. What was particularly cool were the letters they had from various banks and companies rejecting Andrew’s original dream and bids to get funding from top banks through to major bike manufacturers. I’ve never seen so many rejection letters, which is a marvellous testament to anyone who’s been told they can’t do something.
The tour of the factory was fascinating; I’ve been working as a developer for years and as a result studied many production-line methods, mainly the Toyota production line in the agile process of software development, but this was the first time I’d actually seen a real life production-line factory. Each component is handmade by a professional in the factory. The coolest thing I was told is that each component is hand stamped and signed by the person who made it and you can see these stamps on my very own Brompton.
This is purely for quality reasons: if a defect somehow gets to production they can trace it back to the person who made it. I think it’s particularly cool that I can walk around and shake the hand of each person who built my bike right here in London. No other bike manufacturer I know of gives this kind of service. They’ve also got pictures on the wall of each builder and their specific braising style. (Braising is like welding but instead of fusing the metal together, it’s braised with a different metal acting like a glue which in fact helps the steel relieve stress, making for a more comfortable ride and stronger bike.) I always wondered why the raw lacquer paint was more expensive on a Brompton as it seemed like a cheaper way to paint a bike just layer of varnish; however, it’s more expensive primarily because they hand pick the finest frames created by their best builders in order to show the high-quality braising details.
Don’t worry about a few bad ones slipping through the net, the QA process (quality assurance) is second to none. I walked through the rejects section of the factory inspecting parts trying to guess what defect it might have had. I couldn’t spot one but when I asked the inspector he would point out the smallest degree or tiniest blemish which he deemed unsatisfactory.
Basically, when you buy a Brompton you’re not only getting a handmade bike from London where you can walk in and shake the hand of the person who built it, you get each part inspected down to the finest degree. I know a Brompton bike a little on the pricey but the saying “if you buy cheap you buy twice” couldn’t be more true. I’ve spent my life buying the cheaper equivalents and been let down oh so many times. I’m so happy I decided to buy a Brompton and can say without a doubt I have the finest made bike in the world.