On Monday, The Duke of Edinburgh officially opened a new Brompton Bicycle factory in Greenford, London. The Duke met skilled engineers and the inventor, of the folding bicycles, Andrew Ritchie.
Ritchie’s company has received several awards including the Prince Philip Designers Prize in 2009 and The Queen’s award for Enterprise: International Trade last year. Brompton Bicycles LTD is the most successful bicycle company in the UK.
Mr. Ritchie invented the Brompton bicycle in 1975 in his south Kensington flat which overlooked the Brompton Oratory Church; and since then, over 450,000 bikes have hit the pavement. A new bike is created every 3.5 minutes or 5 each hour.
Comuters and city-dwellers alike love the brompton because it can easily be compacted to take on a train or other public transportation. Riders aren’t daunted by the price, the most basic model is £1,000.
The public’s imagination was caught by simply being able to fold the bike. Mr. Ritchie explains to The Independent: “I somehow crossed a threshold from the ‘fold-in-half’ bikes. It wasn’t a big change, but it was enough to make the thing much smaller and that much easier to manage, so that folding bikes caught the imagination of the bike-riding public.”
While touring the new facility, The Duke observed the various stages of the creation and manufacturing of the A-cemetrical folding bicycles. He shoewed great interest in this process as he met the workers before unveiling a plaque to celebrate the opening of the facility. This was no normal plaque. It was made of brass, hand-brazed by Brompton workers who utilize this same method to manufacture the bikes. To make these bicycles, they must undergo eighteen months of specialised training.
Mr. Ritchie told The Independent of the company’s growth of the development of the Brompton over the past four decades: “It was rather like having a small puppy that you pulled behind you, and it was well behaved. But it grew and grew and grew, and then it was me reluctantly being dragged forward by this large creature.
“When finally people were out there buying it and loving it, it was just really rewarding, so it was easy to keep at it.
“There’s a lesson that anybody, even a non-buccaneering chap like myself, can get a business going that actually has some substance.”
Mr. Ritchie was quite pleased to see the Duke again: “We’re thrilled. He has been once before – and it’s incredibly nice of him to come a second time. I’m just bowled over by that,” a release on the Brompton website said.
The Duke of Edinburgh isn’t the only royal who shoed a keen interest in these bicycles. During the first Invictus games held in London in 2014, Prince Harry cycled on a Brompton between events at Elizabeth Park.