Product review: Velospeeder Brompton electrical assist kit

Published by Andrew on 21 March 2017

Electric bikes can help take the worry out of the hills and get you where you need to go faster. Richard Peace reviews Velogical's Velospeeder electrical asset kit for the Brompton.

Brompton with Velospeeder kit installed

Full kit installed and ready to go.

Velospeeder electrical asset kit for the Brompton
RRP £983, plus conversion rack, £214
Available from velogical-engineering.com

Velogical is an ingenious German engineering firm which, after developing the highly efficient and tiny Velogical rim dynamo, went on to apply the principles in reverse, so to speak, to develop the extremely lightweight Velospeeder e-assist rim drive system.

Whilst the original design has been around for a while, Velogical has now produced a Velospeeder kit version for the classic UK design, the Brompton folding bike, made to fit models with a standard rear rack only.

The company say the kit can be self-fitted by a careful and competent bike mechanic.

The kit

As the Brompton is one of the few folders that classifies as hand luggage on Eurostar, naturally this e-version of possibly the world's best folder was of great interest and an offer to test the bike was eagerly accepted.

The Velospeeder Brompton kit features two small motors that are spring tensioned against the rear wheel rim, with a crank motion sensor kicking the motors into action on pedalling. They're powered by a small frame-mounted battery which sits on top of the Brompton frame in the angle with the seatpost. There's also a three-point switch on the handlebars (on / off / wet weather mode), which on my test bike came in the shape of a three-speed cable shifter, though the wet weather mode wasn't enabled and so couldn't be tested here.

Brompton Velospeeder rim motor   
Two motors drive the rear wheel.

The kit barely affects the legendary folding ability of the Brompton, though the battery placement does mean you have to skew the seat to one side of it or keep the seatpost raised just an inch or so – in practice this makes little difference to the folding action.

Folded Brompton with Velospeeder kit installed

The Velospeeder will only work with Bromptons that have the company's own rear rack fitted (R models) and even then the racks must be modified so that they have suitable stays on which to mount the two small motors. Velogical supply the modified stays.

Velogical say the motors are not meant to give mountain bike-style power, but more of a helping hand – the kit is claimed to add around 2kg (4.4 pounds) in total weight, including the battery.  

The performance

When not in use, it's advisable to disconnect the battery by opening the little battery pouch and disconnecting the power cable (this stops the bike being accidentally switched on at with the handlebar switch and accelerating away if the pedals are accidentally turned). 

Once connected, flick the cable switch to 'on' and when you start pedalling, the motor kicks in. This happens slowly at first but gives a very appreciable push once you pick up a bit of speed. A nice safety feature is the lights that come on immediately on connecting the battery.   

The Velospeeder motors are beautifully engineered little devices and I found that over moderately hilly countryside they give a real boost to performance, especially once you reach around 8mph, though it should be noted I didn't test them in really wet weather. There is some noise and it will be clear you're on an electric assist bike. 

If you don't need the motor assist, it's a simple matter of flicking it off using the handlebar switch; if you are travelling longer distances unaided, you can use the spring tensioning system to to pull back the motors from the rim to ease the slight pedalling resistance they give when not in use.

Undoubtedly the system's big weakness is the lack of climbing assist up very steep hills, but for places with only occasional steeper hills – such as London or Paris – this is a real performance booster with little extra weight penalty when compared to just about every other electric assist kit out there. Total weight of the M3R Brompton, all in, with batteries and motor was 14.3kg on our scales.

The downside of the small battery is small range – we estimated it at around 10-15 miles based on our test rides with a battery capacity of 95Wh. However, as the batteries used here are from the world of radio-controlled models and are consequently relatively cheap to replace, extra range with several extra batteries is an affordable option, and larger capacity options are available (£60 plus shipping for 350Wh spec, for example).

Velospeeder kit for Brompton battery 
The supplied battery.

This is a pricey but very sophisticated assist kit and might be just the thing that owners of lightweight Bromptons who want to keep them that way have been looking for.  

Velospeeder electrical asset kit for the Brompton
RRP £983, plus conversion rack, £214
Available from velogical-engineering.com

OUR REVIEWER
Richard Peace is founder of Excellent Books, specialists in cycle publishing. He has made several tours of France (including on electric bikes and folders). He is the author of Cycling Southern France, Cycling Northern France, and Electric Bicycles: The Complete Guide. He is a regular contributor to A to B magazine, Bike Europe and writes for Eurobike Show Daily.

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