Uphill with a Brompton

Bromptons and uphill to PalumaWhat are Brompton folding bikes like to ride up hills? We know they’re great for flat, city style riding, but how do they cope with longer distances on varying terrain?

With our Brompton cycle touring trip in Tasmania looming ever closer, we thought we better get some more kilometres into our legs. We know Tassie is really just one big hill after another, and would like to have enough fitness to enjoy the trip and not just feel exhausted every day.

According to the gazillions of blogs and articles written by people who use a Brompton for all sorts of riding, the Brompton can handle just about anything. Dmitry and Mila from ‘Our Story – Our Life Unfolded’ and Russ and Laura from ‘A Path Less Pedalled’ have blogs full of stories about their cycle touring trips on their Brompton bikes. ‘Practical Biking’ uses his for general commuting and Sophie @dontforgettostop came through Townsville on her beloved Brompton that was showing some wear and tear from 8 years of commuting and touring use in cities around the world.

It’s one thing to read this stuff, but we needed to prove to ourselves that we would be able to make it up the Tasmania climbs on this differently styled bicycle to what we are used to. The perfect opportunity arose when our friends were doing a Sunday morning ride from Frosty Mango at the bottom of the Paluma Range (about 60km north of Townsville) to the Paluma village at the top (about 20km), and return. We decided not to load the Bromptons up on this ride though due to a bit of concern about our fitness levels (ahem). We did use the Brompton T-Bag to carry some extra water and money for the taxi…I mean breakfast when we got back to Frosty Mango.

We did a trip up to Paluma and further on our loaded touring tandem earlier this year . How would the Bromptons compare?

Bromptons and friends preparing to climb the Paluma Range

Bromptons and friends preparing to climb the Paluma Range

In short…brilliantly! We were actually pretty blown away by how well the Bromptons performed. They feel a bit like riding a nifty little vehicle with great acceleration (something we never get when we’re touring on the tandem!) and zipped up the hill with no problem. The zippiness became less ‘zippy’ as we got tired, but this was not the fault of the Bromptons.

The range of gears (we both have the 6 speed, 12% reduced gearing version) was perfectly sufficient and neither of us needed to use the lowest (easiest) gear. We fully expect, however, to have to use the lowest gear at some point in Tasmania when we are carrying 10-20kgs of gear and climbing up steeper hills than the Paluma Range, (the gradient of which apparently averages only 5.1%). And if we encounter a hill that is just too steep, the Bromptons are easy to jump off mid-pedal without a major calamity!Brompton on an uphill climb

Now that any lingering doubts about the Brompton’s ability to climb hills have been laid to rest, we just have to work on our level of fitness before we head off at Christmas time (although if necessary, those Bromptons do fold up quite small…).Bromptons reach the Paluma Range Crest.

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