Brompton is a brand that prompts strong opinions. It has a cult-like following and is commonly viewed as the gold standard for folding bikes, especially amongst city workers who want a stylish bike and don’t mind paying for it.
Yet, for every advocate, there are others who’ll argue there are similar options available at a fraction of the price. So, how does Brompton’s e-bike compare to the rest of the field? We spent three weeks test riding the manufacturer’s bike to find out.
Brompton Electric price, competition & design
As reviewed, the Brompton Electric M2L retails at £2,875, placing it firmly in the premium category for electric folding bikes.
To bring its e-bike to market, Brompton’s designers teamed up with Williams’ F1 engineers to maintain the brand’s original folding design while working with an entirely new powertrain.
For first-time users, the six-step folding mechanism might seem daunting, but thankfully the manufacturer has a detailed video on how to fold and unfold the e-bike. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll feel like you’ve attained a privileged membership to an exclusive club, where you’ll be capable of collapsing or reassembling the bike in seconds.
A key detail that distinguishes the Brompton from other folding bikes is the positioning of the battery. Rather than having to mount it to the frame and compromise the folding mechanism, Brompton incorporates it into a bag that sits just below the handlebars. It’s a practical and aesthetically pleasing decision, making the bag easy to carry, on and off the bike. Those worried about security will be pleased to know that the bag locks into place, which means thieves can’t easily snatch the battery pack while you’re riding – of course, if one leaves the bike unattended, it can still be stolen as there’s no additional security mechanism.
As for the included bag that sits around the battery pack, it’s large enough for your phone, wallet and keys. If you require more storage space, a larger bag capable of fitting a laptop is available at an additional cost. Turning to functionality, the battery is simple to operate and offers three levels of assistance – more on this, below.
The seat height is easily adjustable too and will accommodate a wide number of consumers – short and tall. The in-built lights and the hand pump that comes integrated on and within the frame respectively, also add a nice touch. However, we do take a slight issue with the placing of the brake levers. They’re fine for short journeys but using them on longer rides does result in some discomfort.
It should also be noted that there is nothing stopping users from occasionally leaving the battery at home and using the Brompton as a regular bike. This can prove useful when wanting to nip to the local shops while leaving the battery on charge.
Brompton Electric performance review
When it comes to performance, the Brompton is the best folding bike on the market. It’s ingeniously designed, responsive and can be taken anywhere. The battery can be fully charged in just four hours with the supplied power brick, and easily lives up to the advertised range of 20 to 45 miles, even on maximum assist mode. The latter being easily selectable via the battery pack.
Unlike some e-bikes, the pedal-assist is very natural and but for the gentle whine of the hub motor you could easily forget you were riding a powered bike. With just two fairly small gears to choose from in the M2L (and H2L) variants, you won’t be setting any speed records, though that’s not really the point. The promise is that it will get you to your next destination hassle-free, feeling fresh and with minimal effort, even when travelling up significant hills.
It’s therefore well suited to those journeys best completed partly by bike and partly by some other mode of transport. It will seamlessly transport riders on the first and last miles between their home, train station, and office; or fit neatly into the boot of a car for those wanting to take it out of town.
The addition of a hub motor in the front wheel adds a couple of kilograms but it’s still light enough to carry for small distances on those multimodal journeys. Equally, it’s reassuring to know that should you get tired or encounter a problem, there’s always the option of bundling it into the back of a taxi and getting home.
Yet, despite all these plus points, for most riders, we can’t help but question what additional value the electrification of the regular Brompton brings. This is because, first and foremost, Brompton bikes are designed for short city journeys where the addition of a battery brings little to the experience. Most users are unlikely to be riding long enough to get sweaty and the benefits of the motor are partly negated by the extra weight. Furthermore, there are compromises that must come with designing a compact, folding bike.
Firstly, the small 16” wheels dramatically impact ride comfort and cause riders to feel every bump and pothole in the road. The ride quality is noticeably harsher than on a conventional e-bike. There’s also no space for panniers, meaning a backpack is required to carry anything more than the absolute essentials.
Finally, the range of gears is rather limiting. The motor means you’ll never struggle to get up and over hills. But on flat terrain, you’ll find yourself frequently being overtaken by other non-e-bike riders as you’ll quickly run out of gears. Of course, one could opt for the M6L (and H6L) instead, however that costs upwards of £3,020.
TotallyEV’s verdict on the Brompton Electric
If your circumstances dictate the need for a folding e-bike and you’re willing to pay a premium for quality, then the Brompton is a whole-hearted must-buy. It’s a great option for those wanting to take their bike on the train and needing to tackle a nasty hill between their home, train station, and office. However, we’d encourage the rest to carefully consider whether this is the best bike for their needs.
For budget-conscious consumers with limited storage space, there are a lot of very good alternative folding bikes available at a lower price point. And for those wanting to do longer journeys, or for whom easy storage and transportation are less of an issue, then there are benefits to investing in a full-sized e-bike.
For the same budget, there’s also a very attractive third option for those with the space for two bikes. That would be to invest in a regular Brompton alongside a conventional e-bike. For example, the non-electric Brompton M6L with dynamo lighting can be bought for £1,465 and is ideal for short journeys where the benefits of a battery are negligible. That would still leave enough money left over to purchase an e-bike such as the Pinnacle Mercury 2021 or Pendleton Somerby for other rides.
This could offer the best of both worlds. It would provide all of the convenience and flexibility of the Brompton for short journeys and those that need to be broken up with other forms of transport. Yet, it would allow for the greater comfort and luggage-carrying capabilities of a full-sized e-bike for longer journeys that could be solely completed by bike.
Brompton Electric M2L Specs – as reviewed
- Edition: Brompton Electric
- Handlebar type: M type (1015mm)
- Gears: 2-speed
- Frame Material: Steel
- Colour: Turkish green
- Saddle: Brompton Standard
- Lighting: 40 Lux Busch & Müller AVY LED front lamp
- Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon Racer
- Wheel size: 16″ (349mm)
- Folded dimensions: 565mm high x 585mm wide x 270mm long (22.2″ x 23″ x 10.6″)
- Weight (approx.): 13.7 kg (16.6 kg total with battery)
- Luggage: Essential bag; 1.5 litres
- Battery: 36V, 8.55Ah, 300Wh
- Quoted range: 20-45 miles (30-70km)
- USB port to charge portable devices: 5V 1.5A
- Integrated HMI & LED display
- Charger: Standard charger (included) and 2A charger (Approx. 4 hours to full charge)