The Brompton Dream


I want a Brompton. I’ve loved these funky, charming, folding bikes for years. In March of 2015, I began to get truly obsessed with the idea.

bumperstickerballardOur little neighborhood of Ballard, in Seattle, is getting more and more crowded. Condo buildings are popping up everywhere, to the extent that a favorite bumper sticker around here is, BALLARD WELCOMES OUR NEW CONDO OVERLORDS (this means I moved to the neighborhood with the most smartasses, which is important). We used to be able to drive “downtown” – down to Market Street – and park one or two blocks away, and then walk to our destination. This worked well, since one or two blocks was about all the fibromyalgia would let me do.

Now, you’re lucky to find parking several blocks away from Market Street on a weekend. You might be okay if you go on an early weekday morning. South of Market, if you have to head into Old Ballard, any time of the week, you’re just out of luck. All these condos, all these people, and Seattle is removing bus lines. The cars are piling up. Suddenly, it’s getting a lot harder to enjoy the neighborhood I love the most (don’t get me started on the demise of La Tienda [throws self on floor and flails, in abject misery]).

In March, I realized I’m facing a new reality:

  • I don’t enjoy driving and parking in my neighborhood anymore, and for better or worse, the traffic problems in Ballard aren’t likely to change soon.
  • Through a combination of having fibro and being overweight, I am too out of shape to walk to the remaining bus lines.

I have options. I could:

  1. Continue taking my car down to Market and spending my time stressfully searching for a spot close enough that I can comfortably walk to where I’m going.
  2. Try to get in shape enough to walk to the farther buses and/or take my bike.

I’ve decided to go for Option #2.

my brompton 1

How is a Brompton more useful than a regular bike?

I have a regular bike. It’s a tall green Novara bike from REI. It’s a great bike and I like it a lot, and I don’t want to get rid of it. Why do I want a Brompton? Scott from Practical Biking wrote a great post on Why I ride a Brompton folding bike, and many of his reasons apply. But for me, a person with fibro, a big reason is the feeling of freedom that would come with having having a mode of transportation with so few limits. A Brompton could always be with me. Maybe not like a handbag, but close. Sort of.

I can ride my current regular bike around Ballard, or at least downhill, but getting it back up the hills is impossible in my current state of health. Even if I can significantly improve my physical strength (and I’m hoping I can!), it’s likely that fatigue will always be a significant issue. I could take a bus, but often the bike racks on our buses are full. If the rack is full, I’m left waiting for the next one. Feeling like I can’t get home, or that I’m stuck standing out in bad weather, triggers a lot of anxiety for me. With a Brompton, I could fold up my bike and ride the bus. I could fold up my bike and enter a restaurant or other public place, and sit down if I’m feeling physically overwhelmed (fibro pain and fatigue, coupled with anxiety, can hit suddenly, and hard). I could call for a ride from friends or family, and no matter what car they bring, I could fold up my bike and make it fit.

After the last few years of feeling so physically limited by fibromyalgia, I crave that sense of freedom, even if I’m only riding around the few square miles of my neighborhood.

The Brompton Acquisition Plan

Buying a Brompton will do me no good if I’m not in shape enough to ride it regularly. I don’t want to spend all that money on a bike that will sit in the corner (nobody puts Brompton in a corner….). So I got this crazy idea, and my husband Greg, to my surprise, said, “That’s the best idea ever. Yes, do that.” The idea? To pay myself to go for walks to get in shape.

Going for walks is stressful. Maybe not for you, but for me, and a lot of other people with chronic pain issues. Fibromyalgia means I’m tired and in some amount of pain nearly every waking moment. People love to say, when you mention trying to get in shape, “Just pace yourself”. I joke I’m going to kick the next person who tells me this. “Just pace yourself” is great advice if your body acts in a consistent way – fibromyalgia is not consistent. One day I can step outside, walk around the block, and feel fine. Another day I can walk six blocks and be too tired to do anything but lay on the couch afterward.

I never know when I leave the house which experience I’ll end up having, it’s frustrating (and demoralizing). Other people can communicate with their body, they can rely on their body. Fibromyalgia takes away most of that sense that you can rely on what your body is telling you.

Yet, I know that studies show that one of the best things to help fibromyalgia symptoms is regular exercise. So what do you? You just get out there. You just try. Yes, living with fibromyalgia is the very definition of the phrase, Your Mileage May Vary, but all you can do is keep trying to rack up the mileage.

But, you know, maybe you give yourself a little motivation. Say, a little bit of cash into your Brompton Dream savings account every time you walk longer than 20 minutes. Even if it takes a year to get your bike, you can know that by the time that year is up, you’re probably in a lot better shape than you started, and you probably have a lot more experience being out, walking, in various types of weather. You now have enough experience “out there” to know that you’ll be a reliable regular rider of your new Brompton.

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