A red Brompton MK 1 under a spotlight A red Brompton MK 1 under a spotlight

The Brompton Story

Andrew Ritchie was a young engineer who thrived on solving problems. When he moved to London, he decided there must be a better way of moving around.

In 1975, in the bedroom of his flat overlooking the Brompton Oratory, he invented a bike with an ingenious 3-part fold. A lightweight vehicle that transformed into a small locked package in under 20 seconds. A bike that you could take anywhere. A ‘magic carpet for the city'.

A ‘magic carpet’ for the city

Over the next ten years, Andrew obsessively honed his invention and self-taught bike building skills from a small, rented workshop in a local engineering company - hand-making every customer bike to order.
Andrew Ritchie in the factory holding an early Brompton bike.
Yet, despite the demand, Andrew faced endless rejection letters from banks and bike companies to invest. His determination paid off when in 1987, an impressed Brompton owner and founder of Naim Audio, Julian Vereker, stepped in. After persuading Andrew to participate in the Cyclex Bike Show at Olympia, London, the Brompton folding bike won the coveted Best Product Award.
A rejection letter to Andrew Ritchie, inventor of the Brompton bike

The first Brompton Factory

“Bollo Lane” or the Brentford Factory was housed inside two old railway arches. The team hand-built 60 bikes a month—all-steel, black and fitted with a rack. Customers could choose 3 or 5-speed hub gears. By 1991 Brompton had 56 outlets in the UK and an even bigger export market. Andrew is pictured (far left) with his team outside Bollo Lane. Mark, 4th from the left (and his son), still works at Brompton today. He no longer wears a shell suit to work.
Andrew Ritchie and his team stood outside the first Brompton Factory

An unusual price

In the early days, the 3-speed Brompton cost £320.78 and a 5-speed cost £368.95. These exact to-the-penny recommended prices, calculated by Andrew, became as much of a feature as the fold. Some retailers offered tongue-in-cheek discounts of 78 pence. In loyalty to the smaller bike shops with him from the start, Andrew never gave larger companies preferential treatment. The bike was sold ‘at the same fair price to all’.
A red Brompton bike in the studio.

Brompton World Championships

Andrew Ritchie engineered a purely functional bike that owners find seriously fun to ride. Since the first official Brompton World Championship in Barcelona in 2006, fans from around the world, including a Tour de France stage winner, have come together for the annual 'strictly no Lycra' race. Prizes are also awarded for the World's Fastest Fold and Best Dressed. In 2019, over 550 riders raced a 16km lap around St James Park in London.

The Brompton evolution

The launch of the Brompton Superlight model in 2005, engineered with a lightweight titanium rear frame and forks, represented an evolution for both bicycle and company. Shortly afterwards, Will Butler-Adams, one of the lead engineers on the project, took over the role of Managing Director. Now, as Technical Director, Andrew focused on engineering. Before stepping down in 2016, a futuristic idea outlined in his original patent was brought to life - a Brompton folding bike with ‘an electrical motor’.

An accidental design icon

For many, the bike you can recognise from a distance is as London as a red double-decker bus, the Underground and Big Ben. The Brompton was chosen to represent London in the closing stages of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Less than twelve months later, it was awarded the Prince Philip’s Designers Prize for ‘outstanding achievement in design’.

Brompton Junction

In 2011, the first Brompton Junction store opened in Kobe, Japan. A space where the curious and existing owners could experience the engineering first-hand with test rides and specialist advice. Today, there are 16 stores in cities across the globe. Which have become hubs for local owners with meetups and rides.

The Brompton T Line

The lightest Brompton ever made. 7.45 kg. Precision engineered titanium—TIG-welded by hand in a purpose-built factory in Sheffield. A dream first shared between Andrew and Will in the early years, brought to life in 2022.

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