Is it worth buying an "old" Brompton?

thenay

Member
Hi, new to the forum here!

I'm after a folding bike, as I'll need it for a new daily commute involving trains. After reading a lot of reviews, it seems that the Brompton would be a better choice for what I need, as they fold small and keep their value well. However, buying a brand new one is something I can't afford at the moment.

So I've been looking for second hand models, and came across a 2003 M3L at an affordable price (£450). It's had a single owner, who recently changed the gears, shifter and cables; as well as rear wheel, chain, brake pads and mudguards. From the sound of it, the only thing that might need updating soon would be the front wheel... the saddle seems ok, although I've only seen pictures.

But I have no idea how much it costs to maintain a Brompton, let alone an old model. Could more experienced Brompton users advise me on the (dis)advantages of owning an old model? How easy / expensive is it to replace stuff if things go wrong? How easy is it to resell? Is it worth the effort, or better to invest a bit more and get a more recently made 2nd hand bike?

Many thanks in advance!
 

shingwell

Well-Known Member
6 months agi I bought a 2010 M6R with dynamo lights and padded storage bag for £500 (eBay). Hardly used - the owner bought himself and wife a B each in a fit of fitness enthusiasm, used them a bit, and they then sat in a bag in his garage for 9 1/2 years. I was bit apprehensive but it arrived in a as-new condition, just needed some air in the tyres. I think zi lucked out but yours sounds rather heavily used in comparison. If you can wait I wonder if prices fall in the autumn/winter months?

I have since modernised mine with a folding clip, around £15 IIRC from Brilliamt Bikes (if you're unaware: when you pick an older B up by the saddle eg to move it, it starts folding. On later Bs you need to pull a little lever before it starts collapsing, can be retro-fitted easily.) I also replaced the lights with LED ones but kept the bottle dynamo (modern Bs have a hub dynamo), and added a front luggage block (only a few £) to the front so that I can use B's luggage system (watch out for the price of bags though, all types over £100.)

It is a joy to use, once you have swallowed hard at the initial price I don't think you will regret it.
 

shingwell

Well-Known Member
I'm not saying they are, just speculating! It wouldn't surprise me though if second hand bike prices generally were lower in winter. I commute by bicycle all year round in all weathers but I hardly see any other cyclists in winter, but lots in summer.
 

Smudge

Über Member
Location
Somerset
For the crazy prices that Brommies seem to go for secondhand, i would be tempted by the B75 from Halfords for £745, but wait until the next discount code comes round. These codes come round quite regular.
A few weeks ago, the CYCLING15 code brought this Brompton down to around £640.
 
You don’t need to use expensive bags. All you need is the frame to fit the block and then the bag of your choice. Mine cost £11 from Aldi some years ago and is described as a basket but any reasonable bag can be fixed to the frame.
 

berlinonaut

Über Member
Location
Berlin Germany
6 months agi I bought a 2010 M6R with dynamo lights and padded storage bag for £500 (eBay).(...)
I have since modernised mine with a folding clip, (...) I also replaced the lights with LED ones but kept the bottle dynamo

Just for the record: Judging from the features it is not a 2010 model. 2010 brought the hub dynamo (you have a bottle dynamo), the rear frame clip became standard at the beginning of 2008 (your bike was missing it). So your's is probably before that. If it still has the serial number on the sticker at the back of the seat tube: The first four digits tell year and month of the build. If it has gone missing just post (or PM) the frame number wich makes it possible to tell a rough date of production.
 

shingwell

Well-Known Member
@berlinonaut useful info I did not know - thanks, will have a look!
 

smutchin

Cat 6 Racer
Location
The Red Enclave
So I've been looking for second hand models, and came across a 2003 M3L at an affordable price (£450)

For a Brompton of that age, I would want to know how much mileage the owner has done on it, and whether he has ever replaced the rear hinge bearings. If not, expect to have to get them replaced soon - and note that this will be an expensive job (the special tools you need are not on general sale to the public, so it has to be done by an official Brompton service centre).

Also bear in mind that Bromptons use a lot of bespoke parts, and these have been refined and upgraded over the years. A Brompton of that vintage will likely have an older design of many parts - it would be well worth upgrading to the more recent brake levers especially, as they are a vast improvement.

I presume a 2003 Brompton will have the old design chainset as well, which is an all-in-one design and made of cheese, so it would be worth upgrading to the new chainset with replaceable chainring (the chainring on a 2003 Brompton will be well worn and very likely due to be replaced). I think the new design of chainset needs a different bottom bracket too.

the only thing that might need updating soon would be the front wheel

Why? What's wrong with the existing front wheel?
 

berlinonaut

Über Member
Location
Berlin Germany
But I have no idea how much it costs to maintain a Brompton, let alone an old model. Could more experienced Brompton users advise me on the (dis)advantages of owning an old model? How easy / expensive is it to replace stuff if things go wrong? How easy is it to resell? Is it worth the effort, or better to invest a bit more and get a more recently made 2nd hand bike?

Typically it costs very little to keep a Brompton running. There's nothing wrong with older models in general but they are lacking some of the features of the more modern bikes (like the rear frame clip) and the components may be better on modern bikes (like brakes, brake levers, saddle, dynamo hub, ...) and the general finish is better as well (hex-screws and stuff like that). It makes no sense to buy an older bike and retrofit a lot of modern stuff as you will end up more expensive than buying a newer model but some parts like the rear frame clip and better brake levers are desirable. So I would calculate with 50-150 Euros for upgrades. In general with equally priced bikes the newer one is probably the better choice (apart from the paint that has been more robust in the glossy version up to 2008).
I'd however avoid very old bikes of the MK2 aera before 2000, at least as a daily workhorse,- compontent quality is way worse than on modern bikes. Starting with the MK3 in 2000 things are more or less ok, apart from the frame which is the older version until 2004, when the MK4 with it's longer frame was invented. The issue with the short frame is that some of the frames break around the frame hinge, spare parts are no longer available, it is not impossible but kind of a dubious repair to fix a broken old one. Not every old frame breaks but some do, so this is a risk. Everything else is backwards compatible and it is no issue at all to get hold of spare parts. This is where the Brompton shines. In general, the older the bike the slower they loose value, so often enough bikes of 10 years or older are more or less similarly priced (or not too far apart), so buying a very old one does not make too much sense as recognizably newer ones do not cost relevantly more.
The other thing to keep in mind is that in the UK many Bromptons are used as workhorses: Beaten daily, getting little love and maintenance. So used bikes often come with a deep desire for love and show marks of a hard life. Repairs are not expensive each but can sum up. The rear frame hinge is such a repair that can come surprisingly for the innocent as are rims, chain, sprockets, broken mudguards, tires and other smaller parts. If you manage to buy a beater you may end up with a lot of repairs and these may quickly eat up what you saved before. So looking at the bike before you buy may be a good idea. Everything is repairable, so in the worst case you'll "just" loose some money.
The most recommended are bikes from 2013 on - easily to spot by the spider crank and the more modern "edgy" brake levers. From 2009 on the paint became mate, also relatively easy to spot in pictures. The long and short frame versions can be identified by looking at the hinges, but this is not always easy on pictures. I'd prefer a MK4 from mid 2008 on as it has the rear frame clip, the pentaclip and the new saddle. But the bike in better state is the better buy. The newer bike in better state is the best buy. :becool:
 

smutchin

Cat 6 Racer
Location
The Red Enclave
the pentaclip and the new saddle

I forgot about the Pentaclip. That’s definitely a worthwhile upgrade if not already fitted as it means you can choose your own saddle.

The current Brompton saddle is vastly better than the appalling foam monstrosity that came with mine, but that’s not saying much.
 
OP
OP
thenay

thenay

Member
Thanks a lot everyone, this is incredibly helpful! The bike is far enough from me that it's a bit complicated to go all the way there to view if I'm unsure or buying. The owner used it daily for their commute, and relied mainly on regular checkups done by professionals to keep the bike going (that is, they don't know a lot of details on what's been done, although they said the rear hinge has been replaced recently).
Given how I might end up spending on unknown repairs, I think I'll wait and see if I can get something made more recently... as I'll need it for a daily commute as well.
Thanks for your help.
 
I like my current Brompton saddle. I even bought another to fit on the Bike Friday as the original saddle on that is not comfortable.
 
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