We Are Brompton | James Batstone
We are creators. Everyone at Brompton plays a small part in making these bikes and getting them into the hands of people to ride, find their route and enjoy.
From first sketches through to today, it’s the people behind the product that make us different.
Decades of hard work and so many stories. We are Brompton.
Introducing James Batstone, who joined our design team just over a year ago. He’s an expert on Speculative Design and now leading Future Product Research. He looks at emerging trends in society to try and understand how they’ll impact us as an organization. From physical product to the digital elements, the distribution to the service areas and how that all wraps together into what we create to keep people moving in cities.
The team are constantly innovating and thinking forward to how we can always be the original and best folding bike out there as the competition try to hunt us down.
In your opinion, what makes working at Brompton so special?
For me, the most interesting aspect of working at Brompton is being able to see the entire eco-system of an organization under one roof. There are very few organizations that operate like this. I’m not only involved with the design side but can see exactly how it plays out on the factory floor.
Do any areas of the factory particularly fascinate you?
What’s really interesting for me about our existing model is the way it’s made – steel tubes come in one end and a hand brazed frame comes out. The women and men on the floor who have become experts in this craft never stop me from being excited about what we make – it’s a direct connection to how bicycles have been made for hundreds of years.
The Brompton Factory is very a unique place. Do you think the “all under one roof” set up is beneficial?
From a design point of view, I think it’s vital to keep that hook in reality for what’s being created and how it can be created. Whilst the projects I work on aren’t going to be immediately seen going down the production line, I still need to understand it. This means when I’m looking at what future trends are happening in society, the production aspect is also at the forefront of my mind.
Relaxing and unwinding is always important. How do you like to spend your time outside of work?
This year, I spent my summer on a road/ surf trip around Europe with a group of friends, starting from Hackney in East London down to the ferry, wild camping through France, Spain and Portugal. We spent most nights on beaches and it was amazing. When your main priority is finding waves, shelter and food it’s the perfect way of hitting the reset button… Especially when spending a lot of my time in and around London.
Earlier this year a group of friends and I went on a cycling trip. The plan was simple; catch the sleeper train up to Scotland on Thursday night and catch the ferry to Barra. From there we’d cycle the length of the islands jumping between land masses by boat and sleeping on beaches and in bothies along the way. On Monday we’d catch the sleeper back to London ready for work on Tuesday morning. But you can never trust the British weather, so our plans didn’t last long. Strong winds and rain damaged the only boat off the first island - Barra. After a few days there I needed to find an alternative way of getting off the island. Barra airport is the only one in the world where scheduled flights use a tidal beach as the runway and so it was to the air I looked to for my exit off the island. With a roar of the propellers we lurched along the sandy beach, took off and headed for the mainland. A connection later I landed in London, unfolded the Brompton and cycled home.
After this, I knew that the next time I embark on an adventure, the first thing I should pack is that funny little folding bike.
Away from bikes I’m fascinated by the intersection of design and art. This intrigues me because as a designer, we’re continuously trying to have empathy for other people in order to understand how they behave in society. As an artist you reverse that perspective by trying to give other people empathy for your perspective. Reflecting upon this in my own work helps give me perspective.
There are so many different roles within the business, requiring a range of skills and characteristics. Is there anyone you’d switch roles with for the day?
No doubt about it, I’d go and be a brazer for the day (but I know Colin [Factory Brazing Manager] would let me nowhere near a bike which was going out the door so I’d go and hangout with Brian [Warehouse Manager] in stores and have a go on the fork lift truck).
Tell us your most memorable moment in Brompton since joining?
There’s been a lot; the first time I got handed a brazing torch, the first (and second, and third) time I fell off a Brompton, the first time I was sent a prototype part I designed, but I guess a significant portion of my time this year has been looking at the process of Design-Thinking within Brompton. How to look beyond the evolution of our existing product. I worked on how to adapt the Design-Thinking process to find out where Brompton goes next in terms of the bikes we make and the systems which support this. To do this, I wrote a Design Manifesto which looked at existing trends in society and what’s happening in the industry along with predicted changes in cities around the world. The next stage of this will be the Brompton Design Lab – this is a new initiative which will bring ideas and prototypes to select customers in small trials before they go to production. There’ll be more on this soon…
It sounds like bikes are a big part of your life. Can you tell us how you got into the saddle?
It was a red and white Raleigh BMX – my mum use to take me to the local park and I’d pedal around like mad!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
My guilty pleasure is probably some of the music I listen to – the names of the bands I definitely can’t repeat here!
Has there ever been a time where work life and home life have crossed paths?
By the nature of the role I’m in, we’re always thinking about different elements of moving in a city – which is what I spend a lot of my time doing. I like the fact that when I wake up, I’ll think about a project I’m working on or why one city has different behavior habits or bike culture to another. I don’t mind the cross over at all, it’s a huge part of what I’m giving to my role as a designer. It never stops!
You clearly have a passion for the outdoors and adventure, can you tell us about the recent adventure you had with your Brompton colleagues?
Bromptons aren’t just great in the city, they’re also perfect for escaping the city. A few of us recently rode our bikes to a local station, went as far as we could by tube and then carried on cycling. A pub meal and a few miles later we “unfurled the bivy” and set up camp for the night. No better way to spend a school night!
Can you tell us a few interesting facts about you?
I used to be a very keen rugby player, appearing on Sky Sports four times playing rugby league. My University had a big match every year (The Varsity Match) that was televised on Sky Sports. I had one trick and that was the ability to run really fast… I can’t do that anymore unfortunately!
It takes the hard work of every single Brompton staff member to take our little folding bikes from the first sketch to shipping them out our door. To see our whole factory in action, check out our “How a Brompton is made” video.