First Impressions. If the GoCycle is all flash and dash stallion, then this e-bike is a stately old dray, not so much slow as steady. Unprepossessing, reliable, not one to make a fuss. It’s really a classic case of the English understatement. When I were a lad, there used to be a class of car which were called Q cars. They looked totally normal, but underneath the bonnet the owner had shoehorned in something huge and menacing, and the first the Porsche owners knew about it was when this super tuned monster screamed past them on the dual carriageway.
This bike reminds me of that.
In use. The Brompton Nano melds a classic Brompton M3L folding bicycle with an impressive Tongxin 250W brushless motor and Lithium Ion battery. All of this translates into a bike which moves impressively well under throttle control. The first thing you notice about riding this Brompton is the fact that the throttle control is very smooth. So smooth in fact compared to the GoCycle that you only realise you’re travelling at a fair rate when you zoom up behind a conventional cyclist and pass them with a smug grin. And only a whisper of sound. Oh yes, this is a beautifully quiet motor indeed.
Practicality. The absolutely most greatest thing about this e-bike is that it’s invisible. No one takes any notice of you as you effortlessly whizz up the hill, dumpy little legs silkily pumping away, smile on face. You don’t worry about nasty thieves nicking your pride and joy as you park it against the railings outside the local grocery store. It’s just another little folding bike among many. And as for riding it. Well it’s a Brompton. That means you have to push yourself a little more to get it going because it’s got smaller wheels, but if you cheat and twist the throttle, whoosh.
The result is you cheat a lot more on this than with the GoCycle. Cheat off the lights, cheat up the hills, cheat down the hills, along the straight. In fact it’s hard not to cheat, because it’s just so much fun. Who wants to pedal when you’ve got a massive Lithium battery willing to send you up to 50 miles on a charge? And maybe that’s the problem. Rather than being a nice bike with a battery assist, the Brompton feels more like an OK bike which really comes to life under power. So you use it.
It’s also great to have a useful bag there into which you can stuff shopping, as long as you are careful of the battery nestled at the bottom. You also quickly learn the trick of how to carry the bike when you’re not riding. Take the battery out first! Otherwise it’s a heavy unwieldy carry, what with all the weight of motor and battery at the front. And let’s not forget it folds like a trouper. Unlike the GoCycle you can lug this thing onto a crowded train within seconds of arriving at the station. Beautiful.
Verdict. The Brompton Nano is like a cuddly, quixotic old uncle with a bundle of quirks and old fashioned habits, but you love him all the same. You’ll need to remember the bike clips if you don’t want oily bits on your troos, those little wheels are a tad unforgiving on deep potholes and the cute little gearchange feels like something out of a 1950’s movie. But the thing has *bags* of character and a game little heart. It’ll puff itself up just about any hill you throw at it – albeit slowly sometimes – and still come back for more, mile after mile. Just give another twist of the throttle and your grin returns each time.
Price: From £1449.00
Pros: Great little motor allied with a hefty Lithium Ion battery gives you real commuting power on tap. Renowned for its light weight and amazingly compact folding ability, the Brompton really is a versatile workhorse in all conditions. Whisper quiet motor and ultra discreet design makes it a more secure option too, especially in a hostile urban environment. Available in kit form for £749 as a retro-fit for your existing bicycle.
Cons: Small wheels are bound to be more unforgiving on rough urban terrain, and the handling is not quite as balanced and assured as the Gocycle. A little pricey in comparison to alternative options, although you’re getting top class components, and you can always retrofit a 2nd hand model on the cheap.