Thursday, 24 September 2015

Long Term Review: VIKING BROMLEY Singlespeed Mixte

It's now been a year since I purchased this bicycle to take over central London commuting duties. Aside from a couple of problems in the beginning -- the strangest being the left crankarm unscrewing itself while I pedalled, several days running, without any apparent cause and no problems in the past 10 months -- the bike has done rather well. 

Taking stock now, the main problem has been (and continues to be) the brakes. Everything about them is cheap and flimsy. It doesn't help that the braking surface happens to be painted rims. 


As expected, the paintwork is not surviving very well. It was obvious straight out of the box that the paint was applied very thinly, possibly just 1-2 coats, and unevenly.  What is unexpected is how the wear is manifesting itself:  in tiny round/oval dots! Presumably these are stone chips, but I've never seen anything like it on any of my other bicycles, even after many years.

As far, as actual rust developing, so far this is confined to nuts and bolts. However, the degree and severity is already about the same as what I see on my five-year-old Surly Cross Check (which, by the way, has powdercoat paintwork which is proving very durable). 


The bar grips have split, again as might be expected as they are unbranded and no doubt cheap. I am a little sad about this though as I found them very comfortable and haven't yet found replacements with a similar feel. 

Biggest Issues: Brakes

As mentioned at the start, the brakes are a problem and have been from new. They are a non-standard size ('narrow gauge'?). The pivot arms are short so braking power is pretty poor. 

A recurring problem too has been the little black doo-daw that tensions the brake cable correctly. It flips itself up (undone) all by itself!


I bring the Bromley home for a 'service' approximately every 3 months. At these intervals, the brakes have pretty much become useless. Adam replaces pads and cables and adjusts them and they work at a barely acceptable level of functionality for a few weeks before fading off again. 

This last time it came home, I put my foot down about replacing the brake levers themselves. The ones that were fitted new were very wobbly at the pivot and just basically felt like operating cheese. 

The Shimano ones in our parts box are much, much better!

We also replaced the split handlebar grips with a still-in-the-box faux leather pair from our parts collection. I might have intended these from Lucy the Brompton at some point, as the shade of brown is quite orange. These are okay. They feel slippery when they get wet, however, which is not ideal for 'hop on in ordinary clothes' use in town, but since my commuting gear usually includes mitts or gloves somewhere in my bag, it's not a big deal to dig them out to have something between my palms and the non-grippy grips when it's raining. 

Performance / Expectations

What all these various flaws do not reveal, of course, is that the Bromley is really nice to ride. It handles well, with just the right balance of stability and maneuverability that you need in city conditions. The bike cruises along at a steady speed where that's possible but also turns very well at all speeds. I find the handling so good that I duck on and off segregated cycle paths almost at a whim, with the bike responding exactly as I wish.

I did not expect a great deal from this bike, to be honest. My priorities were for something cheap (no great loss if stolen) and easy to maintain (hence singlespeed). Not quite essential but high on the 'nice to have' list would be decent ride quality -- or at least for it not to feel awful!

Against those criteria, the bike is a great success.

I knew from the start that components were cheap, mostly unbranded, and that the paintwork was likewise poor quality. I expected to see visible signs of wear and generally degradation after a year. I am surprised by the form that the paint wear has taken -- I was expecting rust, not stone chips -- but overall, the bicycle's durability has been about what I expected, perhaps a bit better.

In terms of performance, the brakes have been the only real ongoing concern and the recent swap to quality brake levers has made a great difference to stopping performance. Last winter, I did not find braking appreciably worse in the wet than in the dry. Ideally, I would upgrade the wheels simply to get rid of the painted rims, but as this bike is probably not a long-term proposition, I will probably keep what I have.

The other downside, which is a design flaw that can't be rectified, is the very tight clearances, which means we cannot fit wider brake units or tyres.

All in all, this is a cheap bike. But I'm only doing a few miles a day on it -- slow miles at that -- and I'm been content to put up with various minor annoyances for the sake of having a bike I can leave locked up in central London overnight without much fear of it being stolen or vandalised. 

Taking all these factors together, I would not wholeheartedly recommend it as a new bike purchase, particularly to beginners, but if you need a cheap, second bike and you have some mechanical skills and enjoy low-cost but frequent fettling, this could be an acceptable option for you. 


  1. I've been waiting for your review for a while on this bike, but understand your reluctance until it's been thoroughly tested.. I love the style and see what you found attractive about this bicycle. But despite the painful review, thanks for your honesty. It may help someone else who is considering a similar purchase. It sounds like you wanted this bike to be more than it actually is, but in reality is an inexpensive bicycle, which ends up suiting your purpose just fine.

    1. Thank you, Annie! I realised after posting that I hadn't said anything about its ride qualities, so I've added that. You also prompted me to address the matter of expectations and whether the bike has met these, so thank you for that as I think those are important considerations and I've added my musings on those too.


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