Using a Brompton bike in Korea is a lot of fun. It’s the perfect around town bicycle that folds up small and is pretty darn stylish too. The Brompton also makes a fair touring bike for exploring the countryside – many Bromptons come with a luggage rack where you can strap on a backpack and you can also get a clip on front bag for carrying even more gear. And of course your Brompton folds up so neatly you can fit it in a cupboard, the boot of a taxi or in the luggage storage section on a high-speed train.
Benefits of the Brompton Bike in Korea
I bought my used pink and blue Brompton from Craigslist and we got Seb’s navy Brompton from a bike shop for roughly the same price – a hefty $1,000-1,2000 (KW 1-1.2k). Brand new they’re about $2,000 in South Korea. Bromptons are made to last, with a strong frame, sturdy fold and clever design. They’re handmade in London and what results is a nice looking bike with great functionality, especially for city cycling. They have smaller wheels than you’re probably used to, but don’t be fooled- that doesn’t mean they’re slower. You will feel the bumps a bit more but they have the advantage of being stronger and lighter, so you may even go faster! Another advantage of the Brompton is they’re great for bicycle touring with kids. The Bromptons makes the journey a little easier, giving you the option of folding up and jumping a taxi if you have an emergency.
The Brompton Bike on the Taxi, Train & Plane
The main benefit of a Brompton bike in Korea is that we can take them on the subway any day of the week – as long as they’re folded. Regular bikes are only allowed on the Seoul subway at certain times and days of the week – and only on some lines. Having said that, even with a Brompton, if you try and travel during the extremely crowded peak hour in Seoul (around 8am and 6pm) you’ll get a lot of dirty looks. The trickiest part is getting the bike in and out of the narrow ticket gates. Look out for disabled entrances, they’re much easier to use.
Having a Brompton gives us the option of taking them in taxis, train and even the plane for more long distance travel. Travelling by plane we bought B&W travel cases and found them to be heavy but manageable to transport. We were able to stuff all our clothes, gifts and things around the bike so we needed only one suitcase each and managed to be *just* under the weight limit of 30kg.
The Brooks Saddle on the Brompton
We all use a leather Brooks saddle on our Bromptons and find them really comfortable. At times they can be annoying when it’s raining, particularly in Korea’s summer typhoon weather it can be hard to keep them dry. When the leather becomes too wet the shape of the saddle can soften too much and collapse – but so far so good.
Downsides of the Brompton
The main disadvantage of the Brompton bike in Korea, is that it doesn’t have very good gears for riding up some of the incredibly steep hills we often encounter. Our Bromptons have six gears (the most you can get), but in mountainous Korea it just doesn’t seem like enough. When I took my Brompton to Melbourne, Australia, the gearing was absolutely perfect, with only a few gentle hills to climb.
Brompton Bicycle vs. Bike Friday Folding Bicycle
Jarrod’s Bike Friday (also a folder) outformed our Bromptons on our bike touring trips. The Bike Friday’s wide range of gears and stability on rougher roads makes for a much easier ride. The Bromptons are also a bit unstable on steep descents when the surface was a bit rough and we were moving really fast. The Bike Friday has enough gears to get up nearly any hill, while steep climbs were very tiresome in a Brompton.
When it came to packing our bikes onto the KTX high-speed train to come back to Seoul, the Bromptons won hands down. A few of minutes was all it took to remove the bags, fold up and tuck it all away in the luggage area.
In comparison, the packing up process for Jarrod’s Bike Friday was a source of some stress. Koreans aren’t very patient on public transport, including the train conductors. Folding it up and packing away all of the gear took around 10 to 15 minutes.
Bromptons in Korea
If you’re after an around town bike in Korea the Brompton is a great choice. However, if you live near very steep hills, the Brompton’s gearing will probably annoy you. It’s a good bike for exploring South Korea, but if you’re going into the mountains it’s not the best. Overall I’m happy with my Brompton bicycle as an around town bike and for the occasional weekend or long distance bike trip away. It’s easy to fold up and take back home on the train or subway and the front bag and back strap are very handy and quick to use. If you plan to do only an occasional long trip and mainly want to zip around town or take a leisurely ride along the Han River, the Brompton is definitely the way to go.