FEATURE24 January 2019

The bicycle man

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Brompton folding bikes are the go-to for many urban commuters, but the company’s CEO, Will Butler-Adams, is never satisfied. He talks to Jane Simms about product improvements, international expansion and why he manufactures in London.

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“Come on, let’s get you on the bikes, ” says Will Butler-Adams. The chief executive of folding-bike company Brompton is clearly not a man to be gainsaid – so, despite the rain, off we go, whizzing around the empty streets of the west London industrial estate where Brompton’s factory and headquarters are based. It’s exhilarating, especially the electric bike, Brompton’s new baby.

The e-bike is the future, says Butler-Adams, describing it as the cycling equivalent of the smartphone. In Germany, the cycling bellwether, value sales of e-bikes have already overtaken those of traditional bikes. Brompton’s version finally gained impetus thanks to a collaboration with F1 racing team Williams to develop an electronic drive system. Customers will definitely migrate from the non-electric version, he says, because – let’s not forget – Brompton bikes are ‘urban transport solutions’, not exercise machines for “people wearing Lycra who enjoy sticking their arses in the air”.

There’s an uncanny similarity between Butler-Adams and another ...