The designer of the famous folding Brompton Bicycle, Andrew Ritchie MBE will be presented with an honorary degree on Tuesday 1 July at Bath Abbey by the University of Bath’s new Chancellor, HRH The Earl of Wessex. Also graduating in the same ceremony will be engineering student Jon Ridley, who hopes to emulate Ritchie’s success with his own adaptable mountain bike handlebar design.

In the mid-1970s Andrew Ritchie was working as a self-employed landscape gardener. However, a chance encounter was about to change his life forever. An acquaintance of Andrew’s father asked him (as an engineering graduate) for an informal opinion on the design of a new portable bike. He concluded the design left much to be desired and immediately began sketching out his own ideas for a folding bike.

It was the beginning of a forty-year passion to create the best portable bicycle in the world. Named after the Brompton Oratory, just opposite Ritchie’s London flat where the early prototype bicycle designs were born, Brompton Bicycle Ltd is now the largest volume bicycle manufacturer in the UK. The company has 230 employees and manufactures almost 50,000 bikes per year which are exported to 39 countries around the world.

Ritchie’s response when he learnt he was to be offered a degree was “I’m naturally honoured, but also delighted that it should be from the University of Bath which has such a strong record in bringing new engineering talent to the UK’s manufacturing sector.”

Mechanical engineering graduating student Jon Ridley has developed a design for an off-road bicycle handlebar where the rider can adjust their grip position ‘on the fly’.

Road cyclists can move their hands around a ‘drop’ handlebar to improve their aerodynamics, performance and comfort, while for off-road cyclists riding on varying terrains, current bicycle designs offer limited ability to change their position while riding.

Ridley’s Adjustable Geometry Mountain Bike Handlebar is an articulating mechanism where the controls and grips move between carefully designed positions. After an intensive design process, a fully-functioning prototype received valuable feedback when trialled with local competitive cyclists. Patent protection is now underway and it is hoped the technology can be licenced for commercial development in the mountain bike industry, along with potential medical applications.

Looking back on his five year course at the University of Bath’s Faculty of Engineering & Design, Ridley said: “The Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Bath has been a great place to complete a project like this: with enthusiastic and helpful technicians, well-maintained machine shops - whatever you’re trying to do there’s always an expert in the Department. This inspiring environment has been the key to me taking this project as far as I have.”