The only truly disappointing part of a mint Brompton as it is delivered from the factory in London are its cheap foam handlebar grips. Even after riding only short distances of the rough asphalt, used to withstand the cold winters up here in the North, my hands got sore and I got some nasty nerve pain.
I really wonder why a bike of such overall quality is being shipped with such a poor “user interface” – as much fun riding the Brompton has been from day one, these grips seriously had the potential to take the joy out of it at times.
Luckily there is a proven solution for the problem – if you browse around Brompton owner’s websites, you will see that the majority is using what is claimed to be the most comfortable handlebar grips available – the Ergon BioKork GP1 (or GP3 for those who like to have bull horn ends).
Now, the only way to get the old foam stuff off is to cut it into small slices with a razor blade or carpet knife. The grips are glued to the handlebar for safety with a very strong adhesive, making them practically immovable.
While the cutting is the easy part – and trust me, I did not feel any sadness about “ruining” those stock foam grips – the next step is the most time-consuming part of the process: getting of the remains of the glue is hard work.
Eventually, after a lot of scraping and brushing, it was time to unpack the BioKorks from their environment-friendly cardboard package and fit them on. This is, after loosening the brake handles to be able to push them inward towards the centre of the handlebar.
Information on the web had been inconsistent on whether or not the M handlebar, with its distinct curves in the centre, would provide enough space to fit the full size GP1 grips. Some Brompton owners posted images of Ergons cut to fit or using the much shorter Grip Shift version.
I found the grips to fit just fine, without any cutting (NB. this is valid for the GP1, your mileage may vary for the GP3). After a lot of turning and squeezing, the grips eventually moved far enough for the outer clamp to get a good hold around the end of the handlebar (not 100% according to Ergon’s instructions, but with a good 2/3 of the clamp holding on to the handlebar, I do not see any issue here).
The space on the handlebar was just enough for the brake/shifter handles to fit into the edge of the bar’s bend down towards the stem, moving them as far inwards as possible:
I turned the brake handles down to the same angle as they were installed before, as to not interfere with the fold, and after about an hour of work I was able to declare the operation a success: the Brompton now had grips that felt worthy of such a high-quality bicycle – and the cork finish actually looks pretty nice on the otherwise black and white bicycle.
The first test ride, and several long days of commuting and leisure ride since, have proven the investment worth every euro – I have never again experienced numb hands, and the thick grips with their ergonomical shape have been a true joy to use. Two weeks after its delivery, the Brompton is finally delivering the experience I had been expecting.