Q+A: Brompton Bicycle
If you are thinking about incorporating cycling into your daily commute, consider a Brompton folding bike. Each Brompton bike has such a small footprint that you can easily take it with you wherever you go, which makes the bike a perfect first/last mile solution. In this Q+A, we talked with Juliet Scott-Croxford, president of Brompton in North America, to know more about Brompton’s ingenious bike design and the importance of community building in promoting and sustaining a cycling culture.
Could you introduce a little bit about yourself and about Brompton Bicycle? What is the story behind the design of this iconic folding bike brand?
My name is Juliet Scott-Croxford. I'm the president of Brompton in North America. I joined the company about five months ago, having known the brand for a very long time as I grew up in the UK and lived in London. I've been in New York for five years and was living in Dumbo until last year. We moved out of the city to Westchester as our family expanded, but I’m thrilled that I can get back every week as our office is located in Dumbo.
And about the story behind the brand, Brompton is an urban bike brand. It was made in London to cities all around the world. Our iconic folding bike was designed in London in 1975 as a first/last mile solution to connect commuters in the heart of London by making it easy and fun to incorporate cycling into their commute. Founded by Andrew Richie in 1975, our folding bike design, reputation, and quality have continued to create urban freedom for city dwellers all around the world over 40 years later. Our purpose is about urban freedom for happier lives; and our vision in North America is about being the leading urban bike brand in key cities across North America over the next five years, with New York being at the center of that.
We're committed to producing the most useful and high quality bike for riding in cities.
There are other folding bike brands out there, so what is your recipe in making Brompton unique?
I think it's one part the ingenious design and the quality, one part innovation, and one part magic.
There's no denying that the Brompton Bicycle is just both smaller and smoother than most folding bikes and that the original design has always set us apart. However, we've never been satisfied, and we're committed to producing the most useful and high quality bike for riding in cities. This has meant a constant feedback loop with our community of riders to refine and improve on that original design and introduce improvements, usability, comfort, and durability that underpin our reputation to bikes that last a lifetime.
I think the magic part really speaks to the power of our community. When you meet a Brompton owner, they are so fanatical about the product and have such a strong sense of belonging. I think that the community is something really special, where we're excited to highlight and build on moving forward, as Brompton attracts more people together. It brings them together to form our global community of Brompton owners that's popped up in cities all around the world. And so they're so engaged: they self-organize to meet up to socialize and share their love of cities, cycling and urban transformation. I think it's that magic human connection that really sets Brompton apart.
As you were mentioning about the Brompton community, I wonder what are the strategies that Brompton Bicycle is using to reach out to its community and tighten this connection.
We engage our community both on- and off-line. We have product launches and innovation that our community is interested in, and we have meetup groups, which are self-organized by active members of a digital meetup group.
Doing events and content to engage our community is certainly part of our focus going forward to further deepen our relationship with our community and continue to really engage them in a meaningful way beyond our product. That means really tapping into ways we can focus on clean transportation, urban freedom, and urban transformation for not just the benefit of Brompton but for the benefit of everyone.
That sounds really great, I would love to be a part of that community. Is there a product that will fit my budget as a recent college graduate?
We do have a range of products. Our latest T line and the electric bikes are obviously at the higher end of the scale, but we do have some entry models as well. I would welcome you to go and visit our stores to see some of the different options there.
Do you have any tips or advice for people who want to start urban biking or who want to join the Brompton community, especially for a city like NYC?
My advice would be not to think too hard about it. I think the joy of cycling would be the same as when you were a kid and it would come back very easily. And I would recommend not putting pressure on yourself and feeling like you have to cycle every day. Pace yourself, start small, and remember to reward yourself each ride by finishing at a cafe, grabbing a coffee or anything to make it fun. Another recommendation is to find people who love what you do and to hang out with them. I think there's nothing like the motivation of a like-minded community to motivate you to keep going and to learn from.
In a more practical sense, as I usually get the train to Grand Central Station and then cycle from there across the bridge over to Dumbo, cycling actually saves me time and certainly saves me stress. I really like the freedom of being more in control of how I can get there and how quickly I can get there.
And obviously, it is visually pleasant, as well. It's so nice to be above ground and to be looking out, and not to be in traffic.
What are the impacts that Covid-19 has been having on Brompton for the last two years, and what are your future trajectories?
I think we've seen Covid-19’s impact mostly in our own community of Brompton riders. During the pandemic, the membership and activity level of our community really took off. Our ride leaders set up to provide safe outdoor opportunities to socialize multiple times each month throughout the last two years. It was really incredible to see what we have always viewed as a brand became a community as our riders wanted to connect at such an isolating time. They found safe ways to do that in their city together, despite the darker depths of lockdowns. And I think it's just a really human way to deal with isolation during the pandemic, and it is the magic Brompton offers to our community. Going forward, we're really excited to explore and really unlock the power of our community to build and drive momentum for the brand.
Of course, the pandemic has had a tremendous impact on our business as the bike boom spiked demand significantly for anything with two wheels globally. We expect that the wave of new riders introduced to cycling during the pandemic will continue. And at Brompton, we feel uniquely positioned to help those new to cycling to support more bicycle-enabled lifestyles, thanks to all of the ways bicycles can integrate into one’s daily life.
Another way the pandemic has impacted Brompton is that the bike boom really accelerated our direction as an omnichannel distribution platform. Originally, we distributed our bikes through a wonderful retail network and through our B2B network. However, it became quite apparent through the pandemic that there was such a demand, so we also switched on our direct channels, of which e-commerce is a big part. So, going forward, we are certainly building a great omnichannel experience for our consumer, the one that can delight them, surprise them, and enable them to connect with Brompton however they choose.
Going forward, we're really excited to explore and really unlock the power of our community to build and drive momentum for the brand.
As Brompton has been in Dumbo for a couple of years now, do you think the neighborhood is a good place for cycling? What changes in the neighborhood that you think would better promote cycling culture?
Dumbo has been our home for about five years, and we love being in Dumbo. It is like the intersection of Brooklyn and Manhattan, and the experience of getting to Dumbo just got even better with the new cycle paths across the bridge. It is great to cycle along Dumbo’s waterfront all the way down to Red Hook.
About ways to promote cycling culture in Dumbo, of course, cycling infrastructure is so important in enhancing the experience of bikers. But I also think that the community aspects are not less important. Meetup groups and community rides can be a great source of encouragement for one to start urban cycling.
As you were mentioning the importance of community in promoting cycling culture, I’m curious about your relationship with Redbeard, a bike shop in Dumbo and a Brompton dealer?
We're huge fans of Redbeard, and actually, when I was thinking about my favorite places in Dumbo, I thought Redbeard had to be one of those. Ilya and Kasia put so much passion into what they do. They're such passionate owners and they've created a world of world-class cycling experience in the heart of Dumbo. They offer really high-quality experience and honest input to the best cycling products available to New Yorkers. If you haven't checked them out, you absolutely should.
Lastly, what are your favorite places in Dumbo - other than Redbeard?
Well, Redbeard is definitely one of my favorites for bikes and cycling experiences, and I know our team likes the shop very much as well. For coffee, I would say Usagi or Butler. They both have very good lunch options, and Butler offers breakfast as well. And I also love Cafe Gitane, which is in Vinegar Hill. It has such a nice calm vibe, especially if you just want to step away from all of the hustle and bustle.