An interview with an influential cycling group in Italy undertaking big adventures on a small bike. Bromptorino has been pushing the limits in the cycling world and putting the saying "90% head, 10% bike" into action. Get to know how Gabriele & Andrea explore Italy on a humble folding bike.
Tell us about yourselves and how you got into cycling.
Hi, we're Gabriele Garofalo and Andrea Baino, and we're both Digital Explorers: Andrea is a web designer, while Gabriele is a graphic designer at Cosmo Design Studio in Turin. Since 2020 we have been faithful supporters and owners of Brompton bikes and founders of the Bromptorino page. We have been joined by new cycling companions over time, like Andrea, Stefano, Eros, and many others.
Gabriele: I was looking for a practical commuting bike. I've had others, but they never really got me that involved. With the Brompton, it was love at first ride, and the more I push myself, the more I'm hooked.
Andrea: I started in the most classic of ways: road cycling. I discovered the Brompton after trying Gab's, and my first reaction was literally, "It feels like a racing bike!" the rest was history.
Why ride a Brompton instead of a regular bike? What drew you to riding a Brompton everywhere and challenging yourselves?
We must admit this great passion happened to come about by chance from a few outings in the area with this incredible bike.
The first thing that struck us about this bike is its practicality: you fold it up and carry it with you wherever you go. It enables us to constantly challenge ourselves because each time, we have to overcome the limit set by the bike. This can only be done with the right mix of tenacity, stamina, and healthy madness. We like the idea of putting ourselves to the test, leaving everyone speechless, and, above all, simply having fun.
Since we like to travel slowly and enjoy it while capturing the moment, we created the Bromptorino group to build a strong community that reflects the same values we are striving for.
Sacrifice, challenge, hard work, practicality, and sustainability.
We want to break away from the classic contexts of the cycling world with our Brompton pride by demonstrating that we can ride up the steepest climbs, go long with randonnées, crush gran fondos, and other competitions with this humble folding bike. We are not limited by the bike; in actual fact, it motivates and inspires us. When we participate in these events, other cyclists often underestimate or sometimes laugh at us. That's until they see us keeping up with them in the middle of the group. The reactions speak volumes.
We like to be different and simultaneously show that while the bike can make a difference in many contexts, it doesn't make a difference in many others. And this is how we make one of the most frequently used cycling mottos - 90% head, 10% bike – our own.
There are some amazing places around our city, rich in culture and history and immersed in almost pristine nature. Think of the Turin hills with their most notable destinations: the Colle della Maddalena and its Faro della Vittoria (victory beacon), the Basilica di Superga, etc. The hills of Asti and Monferrato are not far away, and some lowlands as far as Pinerolo, the Cuneo area. Not to mention the mountains from Colle del Nivolet to Val di Susa, and then pushing on even further, we reach the sea in Liguria.
Even with these places just a stone's throw from home, exciting challenges motivate us. We like getting to know our surroundings better without traveling too far. The idea of reaching these places on our own steam, by cycling (or at most, by taking a train in typical intermodal spirit), really gratifies us.
Truly nothing is missing in our part of the country!
At first glance, I would assume that a Brompton is not capable of riding up steep hills or going far. So what are some challenges of riding a Brompton up steep mountains?
The only challenge is that it is harder with 16'' wheels because when there are bumps in the ground, the small wheel produces fewer meters with each rotation. Another thing to keep in mind is when you descend the mountains, you have to be careful because the rim brake on the small rim heats up a lot, much more than on a classic racing bike. So, we advise you to manage your braking better and use your water bottle to cool the wheels in extreme cases. The last thing you need to watch out for is punctures (the risk is always around the corner).
The biggest advantage of folding bikes is the incomparable feeling of freedom. If something goes wrong, you can easily load it onto any other means of transport (bus, train, car, etc.). The comfort and ease of loading bags are also clear advantages.
Talk to us about your setup. For example, did you rebuild or upgrade anything to make it climb better? or is it a factory build?
The more we use them, the more our needs change and increase. Some of us have changed the front sprocket to a 44-tooth, and others have replaced the crankset using a 50/39. Some have chosen lighter tires, trying not to make the bike too heavy for the rider. Several of us have modified the pedal by adding a cleat.
Did this journey answer some questions you had about yourself as a cyclist? And did you come out of it eager to do something like it again?
Yes, this new way of approaching cycling has led us to discover slow cycling and cycle touring. However, it is also amazing to be able to climb a mountain. We didn't think this was possible at first, but now we know that the most wonderful thing is to ride slowly as if on a gravel bike and, shortly afterward, get into the slipstream (or provide it for a while yourself!) of a racing bike.
What was your most memorable cycling experience on the Brompton?
There are many. But the most notable ones must be when we climbed a mountain, setting off from home without using a car. It is memorable because we could leave with our bikes and bags from Turin to Ceresole Reale, sleep in a campsite, and climb Colle del Nivolet (2,641 m) the following day. Or We decided to participate in a randonnée starting 170 km from home. What better randonnée spirit would there be if we didn't arrive at the start by cycling from home?
Another one has to be the Turin-Noli trip. From the city to the sea, a beautiful bike ride took us through southern Piedmont straight to the sea, a fantastic experience that we often repeat.
Or was it perhaps the ascent of Col de Larche (the real Colle della Maddalena), one of the first climbs on a Brompton that took us over a 1,996 m high alpine pass in the Western Alps between Italy and France.
But we think the best is yet to come, like working with Bike ID, a shop specializing in the sale of folding bikes, in promoting the Brompton World Championship Torino 2023 (the only Italian stage, see poster below) for the second time. Our skills in the communication field allow us to make our firm a media partner of the event, so we handle all communication and create the poster.
We can't wait to see what the future brings.