Just in: Tern Verge X30h £1,600

'Speed To Go' aka 'a racing bike that folds' says new Taiwanese manufacturer

by nick_rearden   March 6, 2012  

The first flight of Terns are here and we have the flagship, a 30-speed speedster with 28mm slick tyres running 120psi. We aim to find out if a folding bike really can be as 'high performance' as they'd have us believe but meanwhile here's a quick once-over.

Small-wheeled bikes and folders in particular have a reputation for being sluggish and/or utilitarian which is not necessarily a bad thing if your trip is short and you want to fit your bike into the space between seats on a Virgin Pendolino.

Which is unfair as back in the 1960s Dr Alex Moulton sponsored famous place-to-place record holders like David Duffield and on one famous occasion Tom Simpson to race his bikes before the UCI of the time stepped in to ban anything unfamiliar-looking from 'proper' racing. Dr Moulton believed and still believes that small wheels are lighter in all-important rotating-mass, stiffer, stronger and present a smaller area to cut through the air, with the rider aboard able to sit in as aero a stance as they care.


Top top curves and splits elegantly into rear stays. Note neat TIG welds, bosses for rear rack, etched graduations on seat post should make quick adjustment, well, quick.

 

However frustrated Moulton was at the time, he's not showing it now because his bicycles are ridden by  aficionados who pay thousands for them and meanwhile Brompton, Airnimal, Strida, Riese & Müller and most numerously Dahon have all gone on to carve themselves a niche in the market ranging from cheap and cheerful to microscopically-folding in best origami style.

Mentioning Dahon the world market leader in small-wheel, folding bikes is apposite here as Tern the maker of our Verge X30h just in is an offshoot of the Taiwanese parent; quite literally as the man behind Tern, one Joshua Hon, is the son of Dahon's founder.

We don't need to go into the court battle now taking place over ownership of patents and whatnot but it's not pretty to industry insiders who can see the strengths and arguments for both camps. Suffice to say that from here it looks like the classic case of the ambitious son wanting to forge ahead with new ideas while dad prefers to steer in safer waters. It's like The Archers, only for reals.


Of course, there's a cover to make it look tidy for putting on the train but this is what it looks like folded. The saddle is your handle and 23lbs isn't too onerous.

 

There certainly are some new ideas in the technical attributes of our Tern - the folding mechanism is fun to play with for hours if you're that way inclined - but the real big thing now they're in the Evans shops as reported coming up back in October is that the bikes seem to possess a degree of sex appeal that even Dahon's keenest exponents could never have claimed. Value, reliability, track record, you name it but never the kind of pizzazz that this bike has been attracting this last day or two bearing in mind we are lucky enough tho try some pretty snazzy bikes.

Anyhow, the old "is it all-show, no-go?" question will be answered once our reviewer is doing his thing and we might add that there's a proper roadie who also catches trains on the job. What are we giving him?

In Tern-speak 'Verge' with the subhead Performance to Go' means it's one of their roadie, racy-orientated  machines as there are more utilitarian or multi-terrain families of models in their range as well; for example, the 'Joe' bikes are full size hybrids that simply fold in half in the middle to reduce their impact on your car's interior or hallway, maybe.


People who like levers that work 'just-so' will love this and the similar one that hinges the stem. Owners of the smallest hands should still find this a doddle.

 

There are six Verge models all based on the same hydro-formed 7005-aluminium frame that mostly consists of a rather beautiful curving, tapered beam that hinges in the centre by means of what they call their "patented OCL Joint and Double Truss technology. Whatever they call it, it works beautifully and intuitively and there's another clever lever joint at the bottom of what forms the handlebar stem so that the whole shooting match doesn't just halve in length but also loses half its total height to a folded package of 42 x 79 x 72cm. A clever magnet catch then keeps it all together. They're claiming a folding time of 30 seconds which we won't argue with until we've had a chance to practise but cannot see why that won't be doable.

The six Verge models start with a £775 simple two-speed and head on up to our 30-speed X30h via various permutations of derailleur and internal hub gears but what ours has is both a Shimano Tiagra brake and gear shifter on the right hand operating a familiar 10-speed derailleur and 10-speed cassette as well as a SRAM three-speed, internally-geared rear hub also controlled, funnily enough, by a matching left-hand Tiagra shifter.

What we end up with is a total of 30 ratios offering a 578% range or in gear inches from 28" - 121". That's wide although it remains to be seen whether that translates into nice useable, evenly-spaced jumps.


Alloy fork, paired stainless spokes and look at those skinny tyres. The disc is part of the magnetic holding-together system when folded.

 

Otherwise most noticeable for folk hoping for a fast cycling experience are the tyres from Schwalbe; they're folding, Kevlar-beaded Duranos, a familiar and popular aftermarket upgrade with what they call "Dual Compound Silica casing and RaceGuard anti-puncture protection" and they make a satisfying 'ping' when they're pumped up to their recommended 100-120psi operating range. What's less familiar of course is that they're BMX-size 20" diameter and mounted on aero-section aluminium rims painted in our case yellow to match the go-faster colour scheme.

All up weight on the road.cc scales is 10.65Kg or 23.5 lbs. Tern claim that the one-size-fits-all frame suits riders with height 142 - 190 cm or 4'8" - 6'3" thanks to the lengthly seat post and ingenious adjusting stem both from German brand Syntace - more commonly seen on posh aero triathlon bikes. Maximum rider weight is 110Kg or 243lb, so they're clearly not offering this as a too-fragile-to-actually-ride bike. Let's see, shall we?

Details: evanscycles.com


Handlebars and adjustable stem by Syntace should offer enough familiar hand positions for a roadie. The combined gear levers and brakes are familiar Shimano Tiagra items with a nice light action. 

12 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I like the look of this. I like the low spoke count front wheel, so maybe you don't get the pedal jammed in the spokes so easily when folded.
Can I borrow one for a year to road test please Cool Cool

posted by brodibike [12 posts]
6th March 2012 - 15:48

4 Likes

Iv'e always liked the idea of folders but never thought myself as a "folder person". This makes me want one more but I don't really know when I would use it. Thinking

hi

posted by cool guy 999 [54 posts]
6th March 2012 - 17:39

3 Likes

i had the dahon version of this which looks suspiciously identical to this, they are sheer madness, in a good way! if i commuted i would have one again

posted by russyparkin [579 posts]
6th March 2012 - 19:41

6 Likes

Russy, 'suspiciously identical'? Not surprisingly very similar, it's the same design team! I've got a Dahon Speed Pro TT- as I imagine you did- and it's terrific. Barely slower than my road bikes, comfortable, nippy, no creaks or rattles (unlike the Dahon Jetstream it replaced). The Verge has a stiffer frame and better hinges etc, so it looks like a real step forward from what was already an excellent bike.

posted by StuAff [103 posts]
6th March 2012 - 23:09

4 Likes

Looks nice, although that drive train is going to eat ten speed chains, given how close it is to the ground.

Also, no mudguards?

Hmm.

Cool Guy 999 - Folders are chuffing brilliant. I got a Brompton on cyclescheme back in 2009, and they're great little take anywhere bikes. Not sure of the bike parking at the end of your journey? Take the folder. Can get a lift in somewhere, but not out again? Take the folder. And so on. I use mine when I'm working late, have to do site visits, go to meetings where I don't want to lock a bike up outside...the list goes on.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [421 posts]
7th March 2012 - 9:31

7 Likes

Can someone start making folders that don't have near-vertical seat tubes please? I appreciate the design issues behind it but I'm 6'5" and pedalling my Dahon was incredibly uncomfortable because the seat was virtually over the BB. That's the only reason I had to sell what was an otherwise excellent bike.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [381 posts]
7th March 2012 - 12:18

3 Likes

I got a Dahon folder on the c2w scheme a couple of years ago and within 2 weeks there was play in the hinge. Distinctly un-impressed and replaced it with a brompton after some haggling with the shop - which proved to be a better made machine but i just hated riding it (and sold it a year later), it was so cramped whereas the dahon at least felt relatively spacious and like a regular bike you could put some miles in on.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [825 posts]
7th March 2012 - 14:19

5 Likes

Alex Moulton was a keen believer in small wheels but only with suspension. Isn't the ride of the Terns going to be harsh, especially for longer rides - which I assume it is aimed at.

posted by andydale [31 posts]
7th March 2012 - 14:37

3 Likes

The Tern folks have very politely pointed out that we could have done a tidier job of the folded version; here's how they recommend it finishing up. Note how with the seatpost fully 'down' and with the handlebars swivelled 'up' the folded unit free stands using the bottom of the seatpost as the third leg of the tripod and not Shimano's lovely STI lever.

Tern-Verge-X30h-folded.jpg

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
7th March 2012 - 17:45

4 Likes

andydale wrote:
Alex Moulton was a keen believer in small wheels but only with suspension. Isn't the ride of the Terns going to be harsh, especially for longer rides - which I assume it is aimed at.

I wouldn't say 'harsh' bearing in mind this is aimed at people who might otherwise be riding a conventional high performance sporty bike with even narrower than the 28mm tyres fitted. In theory the extra volume of the 28 over 23mm will introduce some useful plushness for longer distance comfort but that remains to be seen from the review. But you're right; Dr Moulton is an exponent of suspension with smaller wheels and there's no doubt he would claim his system is luxuriously plush over *really* long distances. He wouldn't be wrong but then there is extra weight and especially cost and a Moulton doesn't fold this small if that's a priority. As ever it's all in the details of what you're looking for.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
7th March 2012 - 17:57

4 Likes

I've never understood why Dahon and now Tern orientate the hinge so that the drive train is on the outside when folded. It's dirty and vulnerable, so surely best to tuck it away as Brompton do. Sure, it's more of an engineering challenge, but this can't be beyond them.
Apart from that, very nice looking. I've owned several Bromptons and now have a Dahon, which rides better and faster but isn't such a good folder. Compromises, compromises!

Paul Robison

posted by paulr [6 posts]
8th March 2012 - 9:48

6 Likes

Hmm - pretty, but will they market this in France, with that name? (Try google translate if you don't see the issue with calling it "verge").

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [587 posts]
8th March 2012 - 10:02

4 Likes