As the seasons change, the small leaves on the trees grow larger and become a deeper green colour in front of a brighter and bluer sky. With these changes, certain sporting events in the calendar become our focus. Goodbye Premier League, Hello Euefa World Cup. Rugby League takes a rest (probably for hospitalisation rather than hibernation), Wimbledon and the Tour de France all begin to feature heavily on our television screens.
Now there is a new kid on the block. The Brompton World Championships. The small wheeled bicycle has taken its place on the stage amongst ginormous and iconic sporting competitions. Ensconced in the London based Cycling Extragavanza that is Prudential Ride London, it is winning the hearts of much of the Capital and all its competitors.
The day before, an opportunity to visit Brompton’s new home in Greenford followed by a bike ride and lunch seemed the place to set the cycling standard.
It was tempting to add the words “doesn’t quite seem enough” to the side of their building.
A group of 35 fellow Brompton owners were led around the factory which is, quite frankly, enormous. The meeting room seemed the same size as the entire office area in their previous Kew location.
Understanding how Bromptons are made is a level of detail that cannot be comprehended by me. Machines are made to make machines to make some of the various parts, metals are taken to degrees higher than any university then dropped at speeds only Chris Froome can achieve whilst sitting on his top tube.
We all stood about, vaguely recognizing some of the parts of the Brompton, listening to how they are made. The openness and simplicity of it all is the essence of the entire brand and indeed the bicycle.
During the last ever tour of their Kew home, we were introduced to the two people responsible for the move. I kept my eye out for them but once I’d heard that Brompton only lost three days of manufacturing during relocation I realised those two peeps would have been having a lie down somewhere, probably on a beach! What an achievement.
The factory isn’t up to full capacity yet, apparently. But the space is there and it is growing. It still looks like something out of a Bond film. Braziers and standards in hot competition. Research departments pushing boundaries for the next development – the electric Brompton is also on its way.
Yet each stage of manufacture is as meticulous and painstaking as it always has been. Peering through a door, a machine was testing the durability of a strap on one of the Brompton bags. Nothing is left to luck. Fastidious, ingenious attention to detail continues through every aspect of production. The very essence of Andrew Ritchie that has made this magical transportable machine.
A bit gobsmacked about the size of One Brompton, we moved out under a cloudy sky for a ride along the canal. Thanks to British Cycling and Breeze ride leaders who had us pedalling passed houseboats, narrow boats, herons and curlews.
The mud stayed dry, our Bromptons stayed clean(ish) and we all chatted away in true Brompton ride style.
A lovely lunch allowed us to actually meet each other – including representatives of the Facebook Philippines Brompton Club, Japan Brompton Club and The Melbourne Brompton Club! All of whom had travelled across the globe to take part in The Brompton World Championships.
It’s extraordinary to think that these clubs are not generated by Brompton but by the enthusiasm and excitement of owning one.
Two hours later it was time to join the Pre BWC 2016 London Brompton Ride which is another fantastic opportunity to meet Brompton owners from around the world. A start with drinks at Brompton Junction before cruising round the capital, taking in the iconic sights on our iconic sets of wheels.
No longer virtual conversations through keyboards and Ipads – we were all really looking at each other as real, actual people! The spirit of the Brompton stayed with us, no bragging or one-upmanship, just a group of people who have come to realise how having a bicycle as a wardrobe accessory opens up so many avenues to discover what’s on our doorsteps.
Three-mile journeys in a car are a chore and a bore. Three-mile journeys on a Brompton are a joy.
Eventually at Rapha we stopped for a drink and a shop before several of us headed to Waterloo (not something to be typed often!) for dinner.
A quick photo opportunity on The Millennium Bridge where it began to sink in how brilliant the day had been. It may not be possible to tour the factory every year but The Pre BWC ride is a really special event which I hope becomes a permanent affair.
Over dinner, the banter continued and the atmosphere that had started so much earlier in the day simply did not stop.
Gone midnight – training for the BWC was still nowhere to be seen! We headed off in different directions, knowing we would all be reunited the next day – either as competitors or spectators. Not many of us slept, it was all just too exciting!