National Park Board has just purchased 26 Brompton bikes for 2200 sgd making the purchase costs about 57000 sgd. They purchased the bikes mainly for doing on site inspections at the parks around Singapore by providing a quicker way of transport rather than walking. What makes the tender even more suspicious is that there is only 1 bid and the Board somehow approved the bid. Even more mysterious is the fact that the dealer that they bought it from is not the authorized distributor in Singapore!
Why not Bromptons ?
Before people flame me and say that why Nparks cant buy such an expensive bike,here is my take on why Nparks has made a bad purchasing decision. While I totally appreciate Brompton history of producing good hand-made bike and that it is hand-built in England, these traits would only be interesting to the foldable bike enthusiasts and not to the rest of the market and certainly not to corporations.This is due to a few reasons and they all are interlinked.
- Proprietary parts
- The availability of other substitutes in the market
At 2.2k sgd, a Brompton is a very expensive folding bike. The reason for its cost is simple. It is built and assembled by hand at the factory in Brentford,London. Being build and assembled by hand means that most of the parts are proprietary and are exclusive only to Brompton. Being exclusive means that Brompton is able to at least monopolize the market by forcing consumers to buy only spare parts from them should the bike suffer a mechanical problem.Besides having proprietary parts, even the wheels and tires are not commonly found on other bikes which could potentially lead to long downtime and high cost. The high start up cost and the potentially expensive maintenance cost means that it would not be rational for a government agency to buy the bikes.
According to Wikipedia, a Bromtpon consist of “over 1,200 individual pieces, 80% of which are manufactured solely for the Brompton design” While I do not have any fuss over whether proprietary parts are better, one thing is for sure, should the bike suffer a mechanical failure, the waiting time for repairing would be long particularly for those parts which are rare and not in stock (examples rims) as the supplier would be waiting for those parts to be shipped by the manufacturer.Given that the purchasing decision was based on being more efficient to move around, this point along proves to be an irony and it is weird choice.
The availability of other substitutes in the market
To look at this point we need to look at the specifications of the tender which is
- 16 inch wheels
- Compact and portable
- Easy to fold and unfold
- Easy to carry when commuting
- Weight between 11 kg and 13kg
- Minimum 6 speeds
At first glance this looks like Bromptons are more suitable for the tender! But let take a look at other contenders in the open market.
The Dahon Curve SL 550 pounds (approx 1100 sgd) source:bike radar
Flamingo HS F6
Given the above choices, there are at least 2 other bike models that compete with the Brompton in the bid. The one that I will be looking more closely is the Dahon Curve SL which is approximately half the price of that of the Brompton. It weights in at 10 kg (lighter than the Brompton) has 9 speed Shimano Capreo (hits the minimum requirement) and takes approximately 15 seconds to fold (slightly slower than the Brompton) The best part about it is that it is cheaper (by approximately 50%) and that it is not using proprietary parts instead relying on parts that are designed by other manufactuers such as Shimano. It inter-compatibility of parts from road bike and mountain bike makes it easy to repair as well.Though its a bit slower to fold and a little bulkier. This minor disadvantage is suppressed by its price and its maintenance costs (which is crucial for a agency that wants to both increase its productivity and reduce its costs)
While Nparks has blew up big time on this purchase, and there are even talks of corruption involve as there is only 1 bid.Nonetheless the bikes has been purchased and payment has been made. Awareness of a project by advertising in the newspaper or sending a bulletin to major bike shops in Singapore would definitely see the purchase to be cheaper. While I do not think there is foul play involved, what I see though is an overzealous Brompton fan sitting at decision making seat.