The first week with my Brompton

anouk-google

Anouk today, at the Fremont Google campus, waiting for me to take her down to the Burke-Gilman Trail below (where the other cyclist is) for our ride home. The body of water is the Fremont Cut.

The short review:

I love this bike. ❤  

The longer review:

I’ve had my Brompton for ten days, ridden her almost every day, and it’s everything I’d hoped it would be.

The fold is easy.
Watching people fold it fast on YouTube makes it seem easy, but these are folks that work in bike shops. I wondered if it would really be that easy for someone out of shape, overweight, and with a chronic pain condition, who hadn’t ridden a bike in a decade. It is really that easy. I’m not as fast as the guys in the video, but today I pulled up to my bus stop right as the bus came, and with 4 people in front of me, I was able to fold the bike before it was my turn to board. After ten days, that ain’t too shabby.

I took her to an appointment today. She folded right up and sat in the waiting room with me.

I took her to an appointment today. She folded right up and sat in the waiting room with me.

The fold is compact.
It’s really as small as it looks. I’ve had three people stop me to ask what kind of bike she is, and when I say she’s a folding bike, they want to see the fold. All three times, they gasped when she folded all the way down. Cracks me up, but I know what they’re feeling, because I did the same thing when the guy in the shop folded her down! How is it possible to get a real, rideable, robust bike, into such a small package? I’ve taken her on the bus four times this week. No issues. She just sits at my feet, or if the bus is very empty, I’ll put her on the seat next to me.

The ride is great.
The next thing people ask me, after wanting to see the fold, is whether it rides “like a regular bike”. They’re wondering if the wheels are too dinky, if it wobbles, if it feels flimsy. The answers are no, no, and no. I’m not light, in fact the weight limit for a Brompton is around 245 lbs, and I’ll just say it: I’m close. With the fibromyalgia, I’m scared to fall, I wouldn’t feel comfortable on something rickety or weak. But Anouk is a steady, strong bike, and at only 22 pounds, this seems miraculous every time I go for a ride. The 16″ wheels are the biggest surprise, how can they be this comfortable?

Taking her into stores is so easy!
All you have to do is fold her halfway, and you have an instant shopping cart. It’s crazy. Yeah, everyone looks at you, but that’s just because they’re wondering how you got to be that awesome.

Having a folding bike makes bicycling with fibromyalgia much easier.

I can use the bus, which means I now have access to most of the city sans car. Fibromyalgia pain means (for my body – not all bodies with fibro are the same) that I can’t ride long distances, so I can’t (yet?!) rely on a bike as my sole form of transport. But, I can bike a short way, take a bus, and bike again. I could use the bus with my regular bike, but I have to hope the bike rack is empty, and I have to wrestle it into the rack. It’s heavy, and unwieldy, and this is hard for me to do (I’ve done it a half dozen times). If I have full panniers, the process is even harder. The Brompton is much easier to use on public transportation. I throw the messenger bag over my shoulder, hold Anouk in one hand, and I’m good to go.

embracethemoon-anouk

Anouk at the place where Jason takes Tai Chi. I rode from home to a local store, got a few things, and then waited for him to get done with his class so he could give me a ride home. Worked great!

I can easily get a ride from family. This is gold. Before Anouk, I might want to take a ride, but I could never go farther than a few blocks. Beyond that, I’d end up going too far downhill, which meant going uphill later. I’d be experiencing too much pain and fatigue to do that. It was too risky. So I just never rode my bike.  Now, I can tell someone in the household where I’m going, and they know that if I end up in too much pain to take the bus home, I can call them and easily get a ride. Even the smallest compact car in our household will fit a folded-up Anouk.

The relatively small size of the bike is helpful when I need to rest, or walk up a hill. Today I did a “big” (for me) ride, and had to stop several times to rest. I just pulled over, got off the bike, and relaxed for a few minutes. Anouk’s small size makes her easy to stand against a building, on a sidewalk, and not be in anyone’s way. People don’t trip over her wheels. And when I’m walking her up a hill, her small size and weight make her easy to push. And the fact that her left pedal FOLDS, means that I don’t scrape my right leg on the pedal while I’m walking with her next to me! Those genius Brits.

appt.selfie

This is the face of someone who just arrived at her appointment by her OWN power (well, the bus helped), and who is sweaty and sore and will need a nap later, but right now? She feels awesome.

Having a folding bike makes living with fibromyalgia easier. In ten days, my optimism and attitude about having this %^$#ing chronic pain condition has dramatically improved. Yes, this sucks. I wish I weren’t sick, I wish I felt like my old self, I wish I didn’t have this condition. But today I rode almost two miles along a mostly flat route, along water, and it was gorgeous. Sure, I came home and was stiff for hours, exhausted, and needed a nap, but who cares? That happens anyway. But I was in the sun, I was out with other bicyclists, I could feel the wind, watch the trees fly by, and I felt normal and independent for a little while. I was moving at my own pace, by my own power. I can’t tell you what that simple concept does for my mental health. See also: why I love sailing my little boat.

I can move much faster and with far less pain, being on Anouk, than I can when I’m walking. Walking is a great exercise, but it hurts me so, so much. Bicycling is, for some reason, is far easier on my body. What this bike is giving back to me in terms of mental health is worth the price of admission several times over. Oh, and I also sleep better! Big bonus! I wasn’t expecting that. Even on a day when I’ve had only a short ride (we’re talking a half mile or less), I sleep better that night, even if I came home and took a nap after the ride (I almost always do).

In summary…

She’s the best bike ever. For me, anyway. I wanted to start riding again, I wanted to get out of the car and try to take more trips by bike, and now I can, and I’m so grateful. When I ride, I feel like a kid again. Even small rides are an adventure. I also feel self-sufficient, and independent, and when you have a chronic illness, those feelings can be hard to generate.

I’m hoping that riding will help my physical health too, over time easing the fibro pain. There are no cures for fibro, but consistent exercise is pretty much the only thing besides medication that studies show can significantly impact pain levels for the better. I don’t currently take any fibro medications; the side effects are very difficult to live with. That leaves exercise and diet as a way to help this, and I’m committed to doing both. Swimming is the only other exercise I can do without show-stopping pain, and our pool’s public swim hours aren’t great. Being able to bicycle regularly will hopefully have a big impact.

4 responses to “The first week with my Brompton

  1. Glad you’re enjoying your Brompton. I just got my second 🙂 They’re magical!

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  2. Brompton is great! It’s a bit pricey but totally worthy!

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  3. Hint: Flip the back wheel under and it will stand by itself. It’s the first part of the fold. Can’t wait til we can go poodling around together.

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