It's that unassuming Latin guy who looks like someone's absent-minded dad, until he decides to dance the salsa with the restaurant owner on the sidewalk in front of her taco place. Suddenly, you forget that you were just snickering at his New Balance gym shoes, and his polo shirt coming untucked in the back. Cuz all you can do is just look at his hips in those narrow black jeans, and wonder how can he pack that much passion into such slight movement, how do his feet just know where to land, and how does he manage to utterly command the dance without for one second losing concern for his partner.
The Brompton S1E (especially in your basic black) is all that. Plain. Slightly introverted. Charmingly unpretentious. But always ready to respond to your needs. Personal transportation needs, of course.
If single-speed bikes are the last word in cycling simplicity, the S1E trumps them with compactness and portability. No matter how sexy and elegant, your fixie still has to ride on the bus rack, or wait at the curb while you go to work or eat a restaurant meal. Not so the S1E -- this one is welcome anywhere you go, and is never vulnerable to others who might be tempted by its charms.
It folds small. Really small. Two feet by two feet by eight inches small. That's what happens when you design a folding bike with tiny wheels to fold not in half, but in thirds. It fits demurely under your desk at work, travels quietly in the trunk of your car or taxi, and sits neatly near your front door at home, lying in wait.
Because, really, it's always ready to spring into action. The beauty of the trademark Brompton 3-part fold design, is that unfolded, the bike is longer, more sure-footed than any other compact folding bike. And that's a better ride, small wheels notwithstanding.
So, what's the ride like? Great. Really great: fast, nimble, responsive. The S1E feels light and maneuverable, offers great control in an urban setting, and can take off like a rocket on an unobstructed trail. It's hard not to feel zippy on this bike, even after you've put in a long day's work. Bring it down from the office, unfold it with a practiced hand, hop on and maneuver deftly through the parting sea of pedestrians who look on incredulously (seriously, you're gonna ride that thing?), as you coast seamlessly into traffic. But you just start pedaling and you catch your cadence, your rhythm. Half-way down the block, you feel like you've grown wings, when you start to dance this crazy urban dance with your perfect two-wheeled partner.
S1E is the simplest Brompton configuration available: flat handlebar, single speed, without rack or mudguards. Simple pricetag too: $1200.