This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of the “mini velo” bicycles and the popular Brompton folding bikes.
The Mini Velo’s Advantages
- Feels Like a Regular Bicycle
The main advantage of the mini velo (a.k.a. small-wheel bicycle) is that its geometry and architecture do not differ from those of regular bicycles. The only notable difference is the smaller wheel size.
Consequently, the rider gets a smaller bike with minimal compromises when it comes to overall feel.
- Standard Parts (customization)
A mini velo uses standard bicycle parts that are easier to replace when necessary. For example, if you want new handlebars, you can buy any model that fits your body type and goals. With folding bicycles like Brompton, you can’t do that to the same degree.
Thus, in some regard, mini velos are the equivalent of “open code” that the user can modify whereas Bromptons are “close code” optimized by engineers to maximize specific performance that the user is not supposed to mess with.
- Compatible With Standard Accessories
In most cases, a mini velo can operate just fine with accessories (e.g., handlebar bag) designed for full-size bicycles. Meanwhile, folding bikes often require a more custom solution.
Even the best folding bike in the world is not as stiff as one with a rigid frame. The stiffness of mini velo bicycles results in efficient power transfer from the pedals to the wheels and makes the bike feel snappier.
- Lighter (potentially)
Mini velos provide a lot of flexibility when it comes to engineering. When you add the fact there’s no folding mechanism, manufacturers gain the ability to produce fairly light bicycles. If you simplify the bicycle even more and make single-speed, for example, even more weight can be saved.
Mini velos are simpler mechanically and easier to produce. Consequently, their price is lower. A decent model can be acquired for USD 800 or less. Meanwhile, a mid-range Brompton is about USD 1200.
Mini velo models offer an aerodynamic position that minimizes drag and increases the pedaling efficiency of the rider.
The Mini Velo’s Downsides
- Large Size
A mini velo is almost the size of a regular bicycle even though the wheels are much smaller. Consequently, it’s not as practical to take it on public buses and trains. In some cases, there could even be regulations stopping you from doing so.
If you take off the wheels, the mini velo can be stored in a fairly small space, but the procedure is practical only during long trips. If you have to do it every day, it will quickly get old.
- Exceptional Size Management
Brompton bicycles provide quality and a very intelligently engineered folding mechanism. Hence Brompton is considered the highest standard when it comes to folding bicycles.
A Brompton bicycle will allow you to quickly fold it when needed (e.g., storing it at the office or traveling on a bus) and then unfold it to continue your commute.
Also, folding bicycles require very little storage room and are therefore apartment-friendly.
- Higher Resale Value
Brompton bicycles tend to hold their value on the resale market thanks to the brand’s popularity. Meanwhile, mini velo models aren’t all that popular and it’s more difficult to sell one to the general public.
- Warranty and Support
Brompton frames have a 7-year warranty when the bike is registered. The electric components of the e-bike models have a 2-year warranty.
- Harder To Steal
The compact folded size of Brompton bicycles eliminates the need to lock your bike outside.
- Accessories Made For The Bike
There are a lot of accessories (e.g., bike racks, bags…) that are made specifically for Brompton bicycles. As a result, they can be installed fairly easily on the machine.
- Folding bikes have different handling
All folding bikes will feel twitchy to a new user because they don’t have a stem. The handlebars are connected directly to the steerer tube. The absence of a stem along with the small wheels results in a quick transfer of input from the handlebars to the front wheel. Hence the twitchy feeling.
- More complicated
A Brompton, especially the more sophisticated versions, come with extra complications that minimalist may not like.
As already mentioned, the mini velo models are more budget-friendly.
All folding bikes put the rider in an upright position that creates additional drag and makes pedaling less efficient.
When to choose a mini velo?
A mini velo is a good choice over Brompton when:
- You want a smaller bicycle that’s easier to transport and store, but you don’t want to sacrifice the handling of the bike.
- You don’t plan to carry the bike on public buses frequently or at all.
- You plan on combining your car and a bike for transportation. The mini velo models are much easier to fit in a car than standard bikes.
- You don’t mind locking your bike outside occasionally.
- You are on a smaller budget.
- You already have a lot of accessories designed for standard bicycles.
When to choose a Brompton?
A Brompton is a good choice over a mini velo when:
- You want a bike that’s high-quality and maximally compact at the same time.
- You plan to carry the bike on public buses very frequently.
- You plan on carrying the bike on planes too.
- You don’t want to lock your bike frequently or at all.
- You have the necessary budget to buy a model that fits your criteria.