News & Views

Bike maker creates city culture change

Above: Brompton - which exports about three-quarters of its bikes - says it has a "significant presence" in about 45 cities around the world.

Brompton Bicycle is “effecting cultural change” through its role in encouraging cycling in cities and improving people’s lives, according to its chief executive.

Will Butler-Adams says the company’s folding bikes – which can be packed into a small space and carried on public transport – have helped in “making cycling more attractive and comfortable” in cities.

“Travelling by bike is positive for many reasons – it improves people’s mental and physical health and encourages people to move away from using cars and causing pollution. We are helping to bring about a cultural change.”

The company – with sales of about £43m in the year to March 2019, roughly three-quarters of where are exported – has become one of the few UK manufacturers to have established a global reputation in a major consumer industry.

While Brompton is far from being the only folding bike manufacturer, the company is regarded as one of the market leaders. Others with a strong presence include Dahon and Pacific Cycle (which produces the Schwinn brand) in the US and Hummingbird, another UK business.

With 350 employees mainly in a factory in west London, Brompton is one of the best examples of a manufacturing business offering attractive job opportunities for young people, an area of focus for Made Here Now.

Ricky Do of BikeFolded, a US-based website, says of Brompton: " I haven't found another manufacturer so passionate about making a flexible transport solution for city dwellers and travellers. While other manufacturers are struggling to survive and many stopped making folding bikes, I strongly believe Brompton will stay in the business for a long time, simply because they put their heart into their products."

The bike maker's London plant can make 100,000 bikes a year - but could run out of space in the 2020s.

Butler-Adams says the company’s impact has been most marked in London – where Brompton has sold 130,000 bikes since its inception – and has been noticeable also in Brussels and Barcelona.

“But we still have a long way to go. While we have a significant presence in about 45 cities around the world, we sell only about 50,000 bikes a year – which is pathetic given the potential for this mode of transport.”

The company bases its bikes on designs devised over the past 30 years for joining about 1,200 metal and plastic parts, most of which are unique to the Brompton bike.

Butler-Adams says the company has made a “solid start” in developing a new series of foldable electric bikes, in a development with the Formula One racing team Williams. About 10 per cent of the company’s planned bike output of bikes in 2019 will be electric models.

Brompton’s factory has the capacity to make 100,000 bikes a year. Assuming it can continue its increase output at 15 per cent a year, the company will run out of space within the next decade, which explains why Butler-Adams has started to look at options for a second plant.

Find out more about Brompton Bicycle here in Made Here Now's updated case study