Forget clunky Forevers and common-as-muck Phoenixes; move over flashy, try-hard fixies. There’s a new ride in town, and it’s dinky, foldable and as British as fish ’n’ chips. With a canny eye to Asia’s hunger for heritage brands and after extensive research into China’s most cycle-friendly cities, iconic UK bike manufacturer Brompton have opened their first dedicated China store on Fuxing Lu.
Set over two floors of a converted lanehouse, the ground floor is where the action’s at, with 40-plus bikes in every shade of the rainbow (there are 15 colours available) folded into oversized pigeonholes or dotted about the wooden showroom floor. This lends the space a pleasant workshop feel complimented by a vintage repair stand.
Brompton don’t have standard models per se (because ‘nothing we build is standard’) but they do offer four key types based on different handlebar styles and gearing. Most popular is the all-rounder ‘M-Type’, but sporty types can opt for ‘S-Type’, handbag-toting ladies for the ‘P-Type’ – which comes complete with parcel shelf – and, ‘for those who like to travel in unhurried style’ (difficult in Shanghai), there’s an upright ‘H-Type’. They also stock super-light titanium versions.
And what of the famous folding mechanism? It’s easy when you know how, claims sales director Ben Yen. ‘We give customers a test, and we don’t let them walk out with the bike unless they pass.’With a mark-up of around 30 per cent on UK costs, the eye-watering 11,000-15,000RMB price-tag isn’t likely to deter affluent locals if Brompton’s success in South Korea and Japan is anything to go by: international sales make up 75 per cent of the brand’s turnover. For that price, you also get a free MOT service for the first 500 miles.
Also available are high-end accessories, including Brooks Brothers leather saddles (from 600RMB) and Brompton’s own label messenger bags in leather or nylon (from 1,340RMB). Or head to the second floor, where you’ll find the obligatory VIP leather seating area, a few sparse rails of gentlemanly cycling attire (‘Oratory’ cord jacket, 2,000RMB) and an original, fire-engine-red 1982 model that the store claims is still in working order.
By Selena Schleh