On the weekend of July 13th, the Brompton US Championships rolled into Washington, DC, tiny folding wheels and all, to crown the United States champion of Bromptoness. While this race was semi-serious, the winner received a free trip to England to compete in the Brompton World Championships at Goodwood Raceway. In true British style, racers were highly encouraged to dress “dapper”. Therefore, it is difficult to take any bike race seriously when racers where tweed coats and bowties on tiny wheeled folding bikes in 90 plus degree heat. Nonetheless, we had ourselves a race!!!!!
For those unfamiliar with Brompton, they are a British bicycle manufacturer specializing in folding bikes since 1988. All of their bikes are designed and built in London and remain one of only two bicycle frame manufacturers in England.
The weekend of Bromptonness started out right….with a party. On Friday evening the British Embassy hosted a private party to promote British cycling brands such as Brooks, Pashley, and Brompton. Of course, no party is complete without booze. In this respect the British did not disappoint with variety of whiskey, gin, and beer from “the motherland.”
After some socializing, the group moved to an adjacent room for more festivities. Jordan, General Manager at BicycleSpace, gave a brief presentation on Brompton bicycles followed by a contest to see who could unfold and refold a Brompton the quickest. It turns out, the best time was 24 seconds. It was a sight to see.
On Sunday, I woke to a hot muggy day. While fancy dapper dress was highly encouraged, the heat and humidity of Washington, DC in July made me reconsider my clothing options. In the end, I went with shorts and a cycle jersey for the sake of comfort such as it is in the DC heat (take that dapperness). I decided to join BicycleSpace for a Social Ride down to the Brompton racing action at Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) stadium. I met my friends Ted, Kevin, and Jean to meet the group at BicycleSpace. With all the Brompton’s around I felt a little out of place with a full sized bike. However, everyone was welcoming and excited for a bike ride through downtown DC and the Capital Hill.
Along the way, we stopped by the US Capital to cruise through the grounds. For the out of town participants, this was an amazing and possibly once in the lifetime experience. For locals who have done this before, it just never gets old and remains difficult to take for granted. Do we look like a terrorist cell? Don’t ask Courtland Milloy.
Finally, we arrived at the main attraction of the day: the Brompton US Championship. This was for all the marbles as they say (I am not sure who “they” are but that’s what your supposed to write I think). If I didn’t mention is before, everyone is racing a Brompton bike in dapper clothes. This is how the British do it every day (maybe) so this is how it it went down on this day.
The race started in……well….Brompton fashion. This was a variation on the Le Mans-style start except with some Bromptonness “folded” in (did you see how I did?). All racers folded their bikes and placed them on the starting grid.
Racers then gathered at the starting line behind all the Bromptons. The starter blew the horn and all the racers took off running towards their respective Brompton. This is more difficult than it sounds. There are only so many colors of Brompton offers and there were many duplicates. It was very easy to run to wrong bike in the chaos. Some racers left their blinky lights on to act as a homing device. Needless to say, it was a minor miracle everyone ended out on their own bike…..or did they.
Once reaching the correct bike, they quickly unfolded and took off with all the furry their tiny wheels could muster. Racers traversed the 6.5 course while dressed in their Sunday best’s with a smile on the face of every person the whole time. This was an event meant for fun. It delivered in spades.
A huge thanks good out to BicycleSpace for hosting this event and for inviting me to the party. An equally big thanks goes to Brompton and the British Embassy for bringing the US Championship to DC and supporting #BikeDC.