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Whilst waiting at some traffic lights on a recent ride into the city, I was able to admire the engineering and styling of a minimalist, black Brompton folding bike. Its rider was wearing work clothes on a sunny morning, carried no bags, and was capped off with a pair of Ray-Bans and no hi-viz.
I think their brand department would have enjoyed this image. Brompton is easily the best known brand within the folding-bike market, and it’s clear to see the movements it has made to take its ergonomically-packaged products away from under the desks of professorial, buttoned-up types, and onto the more widely welcoming longer commutes of a band of potential customers who are getting lifestyle cues from their local cycle lanes.
Discerning Cyclist is a fan of the brand’s patented ingenious designs, function and ease of transportation. They are comfortable to ride and very well made. They’re expensive, but in spite of competition from cheaper sources, their annual sales to the end of March 2022 topped £100 million.
Nearly three-quarters of their bikes were sold in the export market, and they recently announced a plan to open an eco-friendly factory and HQ in the South East of England.
By their own admission, Brompton needed to move away from some of the naming conventions and combinations available within their product line and make the process of choosing a new model easier and clearer to understand. With the launch of lighter frames, improved transportation solutions, eBikes, a subscription service, and with 80 hire pods popping up across UK cities, the brand needed to clear up any customer confusion, especially with its most popular models at the base of the range.
At the same time as refining the product range, the company came up with a new naming convention at its keenest price points and under the stiffest competition – the A Line and the C Line. We’re going to take a look at these models below and hopefully help you identify some of the key differences.
The C Line includes an electric option which we will exclude from this feature, as there is no A Line version to which we can compare.
Brompton does away with the hyphen. But not the dash.
It says the A Line (previous name Brompton B75) is the ‘perfect introduction to city cycling’ . It’s a pared-down model, comes supplied in a single gloss painted white steel handmade frame, the most well-known three part folding mechanism and easily-maintained gearing.
The C Line is the new name for the original model and keeps the same elementary and functionally simple elements as the A Line but brings new design cues and riding options to broaden the brand appeal to newer customers, beyond the Monday to Friday commute.
Brompton A-Line vs C-Line
|Model Range:||One model only||Three models – Urban, Utility, Explore|
|Folded Size:||64.5cm (H) x 58.5cm (W) x 27cm (D)||64.5cm (H) x 56.5cm (W) x 27cm (D)|
|Frame:||Main: Precision drawn heat-treated steel tubing with hand brazing and selected auto-brazed joints. Rear: Hand brazed cold-formed micro-alloy steel tubing||Main: Precision drawn heat-treated steel tubing with hand brazing and selected auto-brazed joints. Rear: Hand brazed cold-formed micro-alloy steel tubing|
|Fork:||Steel brazed fork||Steel brazed fork|
|Weight:||25lb (11.5kg)||(From): 24.8lb (11.2kg)|
|Gears:||3-speed hub gears||2,3 or 6-speed|
|Wheels:||28-spoke, double-wall rims, internal gear hub||28-spoke, double-wall rims, internal gear hub|
|Tyres:||349 x 35C Schwalbe Marathon Racer||349 x 35C Schwalbe Marathon Racer with reflective sidewalls|
|Pedals:||Non-folding composite pedals||Brompton folding left-hand and non-folding right-hand pedals|
|Lights:||Front and rear reflectors||Front and rear reflectors|
|Handlebars:||Mid||Low, Mid, High options|
|Pannier Rack:||Front carrier included separately||Adaptor included to accept Brompton luggage (purchased separately)|
|Colour Options:||White||Three at entry-level, rising to nine for the C Line Explore|
|Estimated Price:||🇬🇧 £899|
A-Line vs C-Line: Key Differences
Both models offer the classic Brompton fold which can be negotiated in under ten seconds, carrying the legacy of founder Andrew Ritchie’s 1975 design.
The A Line is the company’s most essential and robust model with one colour, three speed gearing and packaged as a one-size fits all model.
The C Line offers gearing and component options and different colourways.
Weight differences are negligible. The one-size-fits-all approach to the A Line means one weight too – 11.5kg. The C Line Urban sheds less than a pound at 11.35kg and increases to 11.8kg for the Utility then 12.2kg for the Explore.
The A Line three-gear selection comes from a hub gear, sealed from the elements within the rear wheel. Hub gears allow for stationary shifting, which is efficient when stopping and setting off regularly. The A Line chainring is a 44 tooth.
The C Line offers two-speed gears in the Urban model, three-speed in the Utility model and six speeds for the Explore model. The Urban rolls with a 54 tooth chainring, dropping to 50 teeth on the Urban and Utility models.
The A Line features the Mid level handlebars only for the classic experience and the C Line can be acquired with a choice of Mid, Low or High handlebars. The High suits the ‘Dutch’ style of riding and the Low is the most focussed. The handlebar choice is particularly relevant to taller or shorter riders.
The A Line is stripped of some of the creature comforts of the C Line model and that will no doubt help its price point. Rest assured that the classic Brompton fold and compact carrying is unaffected. The folded dimensions of the A and C Lines are broadly the same. Brompton sells a range of tailored add-ons to standard models.
|Pump||Not included||Not included with Urban model or Utility model, Brompton Zefal Pump included with Explore model|
|Mudguards/Fender||Not included||Mudguards with rubberised flap|
|Front carrying mount||Not included||Included to fit all types of Brompton luggage|
Prices are approximate
Folded Size: 64.5cm (H) x 58.5cm (W) x 27cm (H)
Weight: 25.57lb (11.6kg)
Gears: Three-speed hub behind a 44-tooth chainring
Designed with city-riding in mind
Low maintenance gearing
The A Line is a single bike. It only comes in one colour. You get the classic Brompton fold and carry experience. It’s made in the same factory to the same standards as the C Line.
You don’t get some of the features that you might miss if you cycle in most weathers and want to take some gear with you.
You can always add these if you want at a later date and out of the box you still get the essence of the classic Brompton experience.
Prices are approximate
Folded Size: 64.5cm (H) x 56.5cm (W) x 27cm (D)
Weight (from): 24.69lb (11.2kg)
Gears: 2,3 or 6-speed
Gearing options widens riding comfort over distances
Mudguards/Fenders as standard
Choice of colours
Described as the ‘classic’ overall Brompton experience, the C Line has the built in features you may (or may not) one day yearn for – like mudguards/fenders and the front carrying block for luggage options and the possibility of a road lit by batteries or dynamo.
There are three models in the range, Urban, Utility and Explore. The gearing gets wider to match the breadth and depth of your adventurousness or needs. The weight differences are negligible and the folding experience is the same.
Which is Best: Brompton A-Line or C-Line?
By their own code, the C Line appears to deliver the classic Brompton experience. It’s possible that this is because the features and out-of-the-box ride offers more opportunities than the A Line.
Bromptons have been taken all around the world on multiple surfaces. But if your day-to-day riding goes beyond a handful of kilometres in one go and in all weather, the C Line might be better.
The A Line might be best if you are one of the growing number of people whose life is 100% in the city and you need to use a bike as a transportation tool, maybe from cab to tube, to office, or for covering that part of a journey to supermarket, urban coffee stop or catching up with friends.
The single paint option of the A Line might make some riders think that they are part of a fleet – good or bad, whereas the colourways and other options of the C Line allows a little more scope for individuality.