Hundreds of foldable electric bikes made by UK firm Brompton have been recalled for repair by the US government. A software fault is causing the bikes’ electric motors to deliver “forward momentum” when the rider is not pedaling. It’s an issue that poses “fall and injury hazards,” according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), but can be remedied by a free software upgrade performed at certain Brompton dealers.
The problem affects roughly 600 bikes sold by Brompton’s US dealers between June 2020 and March 2021, with the bicycles themselves retailing for between $3,500 and $3,800.
Owners can check if their bike is one of those affected by entering the product’s serial number (found on a sticker on the frame) into a tool on Brompton’s website. If necessary, they can head to a Brompton dealer to get the firmware upgrade. Anyone affected can apply for a $30 credit voucher provided by Brompton “as a gesture of goodwill.” Presumably this voucher can only be redeemed at Brompton’s online store, where you can find a range of sensible biking wear and leather accessories specially designed for commuting fetishists.
Although unwanted acceleration is pretty high on any company’s list of “software oopsies we don’t want affecting our electric vehicle,” Brompton says the actual danger posed by the issue is extremely low.
“Under specific circumstances if a system failure occurs, there is a low possibility that the electric system may continue to provide assistance to the motor, causing continued forward momentum, when the rider is not actively pedalling,” said the company in a statement on its website. “The risk of an accident occurring is very low with only one reported minor fault, which did not result in any injury or accident.”
If you want to hear this same message delivered in soothing tones by Brompton’s chief design and engineer officer Will Carleysmith, you can watch the video on the issue below:
Brompton’s folding bicycles have achieved something of a cult status among a certain sort of nerdy and affluent urban commuter. However, a combination of Brexit and COVID have hit the company’s manufacturing operations hard, causing material shortages and rising production costs. A recall is hardly good news in such a tricky business environment.
In our review of Brompton’s most recent folding electric bike (unaffected by the software issues that prompted this week’s recall) we found it to be extraordinarily adaptable thanks its folding design but lacking in comfort needed for longer commutes.