When we crossed the finish line after a mere 9.5 hours the other riders who had already finished applauded. I attempted a bow, but wobbled—everything hurt. Andrew admitted he hadn’t thought we would make it.
“So what happened when you got to the downhills?” one rider asked. “Did you just send it?” Yes I did. I sent it. I only wish there was some footage of that.
Brompton had supplied me with three extra tubes in case I blew a flat. I was worried I would need all three, but I didn’t pop a single tire on the trip. Instead Karin and I kept whizzing by men changing out tubes on their venue-appropriate bikes. It made me feel powerful to know that not only were we two out of few women, but that we were crushing this ride on two of the silliest bikes in the field. Overall the Brompton held up better than I did. I came out with more scratches and damage (and exactly three bugs in my right eyeball) than this beautiful piece of engineering.
So would I spend $5,000 for the titanium Brompton?
Ironically, borrowing it has made me feel less tempted. I used to have back problems as a kid, and a week of riding on the Brompton reminded me that I am not invincible. I do have a longer torso and shorter legs than most people, so it’s possible the bike isn’t optimal for my wonky proportions. Two days after our epic ride I hopped on a plane home, which might’ve had more effect on my back than the ride itself. Also, as I mentioned, this bike is designed for commuting, not long-distance road rides or touring. Yes, it’s shocking, I know. It turns out the bike works better doing exactly what it was designed to do.
The titanium T-Line cost double what you’ll pay for the steel-framed version of essentially the same bike, and in return you get a weight savings of five pounds. If you have a spare $5,000, the titanium Brompton is a very cool toy. It definitely feels zippier—and is much easier to carry folded—than the steel version. But what I really want is a titanium Brompton designed specially for my unusually proportioned body that I can ride for more than 20 miles without discomfort. How much would that cost me?
So maybe I’ve decided I don’t want to ride a superlight Brompton around the world after all. And I have the steel version for any adventures I do want to take, so I don’t need the T-Line. Why buy a Ferrari when a Ford does the job? I hosed the mud off the T-Line and returned it without any regret. Instead of swapping out my own Brompton for a titanium version, I plan to fix those two broken gears and take my lovely little red clown bike—that was cheap (just kidding, I paid $2,200)—on my next trip.
Two months after North London Dirt, I signed up for the Tour de Paris, a bike rally in Paris, Texas. The organizers had included a 24 mile “off-road” option, which sounded like the perfect length for a ride in the Texas July heat. Excited, I told my friends about it.
“Ask me what bike I am going to take,” I smirked.
“Oh, god. Please don’t say the Brompton.”