Trigger’s Broom

There’s a great gag from an episode of Only Fools and Horses where street sweeper Trigger has been rewarded by his local council for using the same broom for 20 years.

“This old broom has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles in its time.”

This is actually an example of Theseus’s paradox, a thought experiment about an object – in this case a ship – that has had all its part replaced over time.

I bring this up because my Brompton bicycle has been in for major repairs. There were small cracks on the frame and the main frame assembly needed replacing. For those who don’t know, Bromptons are folding bikes, and their frames come in several parts. A few years ago I also had to replace the rear assembly.

Other parts that I’ve replaced over time include the seatpost, the saddle, both the cranks, the pedals, the chain, the mudguards, the handlebar grips, the tyres, and one wheel. Assorted other consumables have also been replaced.

At this point, the only original parts on my 8 year old bike are the fork, the handlebars, the brakes and gear changers, one wheel (which has been completely rebuilt) and the handlebar stem. So do I have a new bike or can this still be said to be the same one?

I’d argue that it is, the same, and in this instance, there are still original parts. But the nature of Bromptons means that even those remaining parts could be replaced in due course. I must admit, that having borrowed a newer model while mine was being repaired (a nice service that Brompton Junction in Covent Garden offers) I’m very tempted by the newer shifters and brake levers you can get today. But that’s for another day.

[One sidenote was that Brompton has changed the shade of red they use for their bikes in recent years. My bike was all red, and now it’s a little two-tone red. It’s not massively noticeable, but it’s there. I could have gone for another funky colour, but I couldn’t really think of something that would have worked with the remaining red parts.]