Skip to content

By David Rooney on

Take Off, Take Your Bike, And Take The Train

Last time, I talked about early cycling, and today’s attempts to recreate the glamour of the past. Most of the time, though, cycling is just a practical, cheap and straightforward way to get around.

What makes it more flexible is the ability to mix modes – to combine cycling with rail travel, car or boat. Jimmy Savile made the point usefully in this 1982 BR poster:

'Ride it by rail' poster, 1982 (NRM / Pictorial Collection / Science & Society)

That family looks like it’s off on holiday, but commuters can benefit from mixed-mode journeys too, and this is where the folding bike comes in very handy (as most commuter trains don’t allow full-sized bikes at peak times).

The Folding Society is a great source of information for anyone thinking of buying a folder, as there are many excellent examples available. One popular make is Brompton, whose work we have on show at the museum.

Brompton L3 bicycle, made 2000 (David Rooney)

Last week, I took a look round Brompton’s west-London factory. Its location rather reinforces my point about mixed-mode journeys, hemmed in as it is by the M4 elevated motorway and a triangle of roads and railway lines.

M4 elevated motorway, 19 April 2010 (David Rooney)

Inside, the factory is a hive of activity as the bespoke cycles are manufactured, assembled, tested and shipped.

Brompton bicycle factory, 19 April 2010 (David Rooney)

Outside, I returned to the nearby Underground station and made my way back to work. Cities are great places for getting around, and the beauty is in the flexibility.

On foot, by car, on the roads or by rail, we switch from one mode to the other depending on what works best – and more often than not it’s quicker by bike!

3 comments on “Take Off, Take Your Bike, And Take The Train

  1. I have always believed in appropriate transport, and I have a very small folding bike for day-to-day shopping and taking in the car or van, a mountain bike for longer rides, a Trojan Bubble Car* for some journeys (including carrying musical instruments and materials for work), plus shared use of a car and a big van. I choose the machine most suitable, or public transport. This makes travel more varied and enjoyable, and means less pointless waste of energy.

    * fairly similar to the BMW Isetta in the Science Museum, but with a back seat.

  2. Great to see the inside of the Brompton factory.

    There’s an extremely obscure connection between your location and another great British folding bicycle. In the 1965 COI film “Design for Today”, directed by Hugh Hudson (who went on to make Chariots of Fire), you’ll see a man take a Moulton bicycle out of an e-type Jag and cycle up the M4 slip road in your photo. (The motorway was not yet open.) The aim of the film was to show off British manufacturing – so everything in the movie was British-made. Even then, it seems, the quickest way through the jams was by bike.

  3. Hi Martin – many thanks for the excellent tip! I see that film’s out on the BFI’s COI Collection DVD so I’ve added it to my Wishlist for next payday… Cheers! David Rooney.

Comments are closed.