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?
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.