Founded in 2011, Tern now make a huge range of folding bikes covering the transport needs of all kinds of cyclists whether that’s getting around town or heading off on a fully loaded touring adventure.
They also make some fairly swanky e-bikes for those who need a boost on their ride to work. For our test, we looked at the Verge ‘urban performance’ range, designed to be fast and efficient on the road, whether that’s a sprint across town or on the daily multi-modal commute. While five of the models in the six-bike range come with flat bars, it was the drop bars of the Verge X18 that caught our eye. But would the ride match its distinctive looks?
If the Verge X18’s designers set out to make people stop and gawp, they can consider the job well done. This is a funky looking machine and no mistake. Drop handlebars are an unusual sight on a folding bike, and the shiny silver and blue paintwork is a refreshing change from the default matt black. And then there are those wheels – deep aero rims on a folding bike are certainly a break from the norm!
On The Road
The first thing to note is how close the ride position feels to a conventional road bike. As with all the other bikes on test, the Tern uses a one-size fits all approach, but has the unusual feature of an adjustable stem. This means that even shorter riders should be able to set the handlebars low enough to be able to adopt a tucked-in riding position, making the most of the drop handlebars, while taller riders can raise the bars to avoid feeling like they’re on a slammed down track bike.
The Sora shifters meant that our hands felt instantly at home, gravitating to their default position on the hoods, and once we got moving, shifting down into the drops and putting in some real effort felt as natural as it does on our Sunday club ride bike. Despite weighing over 10 kg, the Verge is quick to get up to speed and has no trouble maintaining it. The weight is felt a little on steeper hills, but with the wide- ranging 18-speed set-up, there are enough gears at the low end to cope with most gradients.
Standing back and looking at the Verge X18, we couldn’t help thinking it looked more stretched out than the other bikes on test, and indeed the 1,060mm wheelbase is a couple of centimeters longer than the Brompton – not a huge difference, but perhaps enough to contribute to the very different ride feel. The Verge feels much less twitchy than the Brompton, especially when travelling at speed. That feeling of stability carries through to the cornering, which is reassuringly predictable.
The stiffness of the frame and wheels helps in this respect, too, with no discernible flex in the front end – although there’s a welcome bit of give in the double-butted handlebars to absorb some bumps. As with the other bikes on test, there’s plenty of exposed seat post sticking up out of the frame, but being an oversized 34mm alloy model, it has enough inherent rigidity to overcome this, removing the bouncy feel you get from some folding bikes. At the same time, 28mm tyres do their bit to ensure the ride isn’t too harsh.
Hydro formed aluminum tubing is used throughout, with a chunky main beam providing a solid core. Although split into two parts by the central hinge, its swooping line follows through to the rear hub, giving it an elegant look. Cables are all external but are neatly retained with zip ties and don’t spoil the styling. The hinge clamps have a pleasingly chunky feel and are easy to operate, with solid mechanisms that feel strong and secure.
Although designed to be ridden fast, this is a very sturdily built bike intended to withstand the rigors of the everyday commute. Concealed rack mounting points at the rear add to its practicality.
If there’s a weakness in the X18, it’s the bike’s folded size. The folding process itself is straightforward enough, taking around 15-20 seconds. Simply flip the handlebars down then fold the bike in half- a rubber strap secures the bars while a magnetic clasp at the rear holds the folded bike together, and the lowered seat post acts as a prop.
Unfortunately, the handlebars protrude significantly, adding to the already wide stance of the folded bike-if this is a serious concern, one of the fat-barred Verge models might be a better bet. On the plus side, the right pedal is removable and can be stowed in a special port under the saddle.
Shimano’s Sora nine-speed shifters feel slightly clunky in operation compared to the more refined 105 or Ultegra but we can’t fault them for reliability, and the gear indicator dials in the hoods are a nice feature. Derailleurs are Sora at the front, Ultegra at the rear, which seems a slightly odd mix but it gave us no issues on our test rides.
The FSA chain set is fitted with the old-school racer’s choice of 53/39 chain rings, which makes sense when you consider that the small wheels effectively reduce the gearing. Paired with the 9-26 cassette (yes, that’s right-the smallest sprocket has just nine teeth) it gives a range of 28-109 gear inches, which is comparable to a standard compact road bike gearing set-up. Kinetix dual-pivot brake callipers do a decent enough job of stopping the bike, and high-quality Jagwire cables do their bit to ensure smooth operation.
It’s not often we highlight a stem as the most interesting component on a bike, but the Syntace VRO is well worth a mention.
It’s a cunningly simple design that can be rotated to easily adjust the handlebar height-the only one of our test bikes that allows this. The Kinetix ProX alloy handlebars are a middle-of-the-road shape that shouldn’t give anyone any difficulties, while the Kore Performance saddle offers thick, dense padding and a moderate degree of flex -Ane for daily commuting duties, and as long as it fits you, would also serve you well enough on longer weekend leisure rides.
With their 42mm-deep alloy rims, the Kinetix ProX wheels, built for Tern by American Classic, are undoubtedly one of the most eye catching features of the Verge X18 –especially the front with its minimal-looking 14 Sapim CX-Sprint bladed spokes in a paired radial pattern. They certainly feel stiff and strong in use, if not especially light. The Shimano Capreo hub at the rear is designed specifically for small-wheeled folding bikes to allow the use of that extra-small cassette. Schwalbe’s Durano tyres offer decent rolling speed and better than average puncture protection, making them an ideal choice for a bike of this nature.
- Frame: Tern Verge hydro formed 7005-AI, Tarsus 6061-AL hydro formed fork,Tern Physis 3D handIe bar post
- Groupset: Shimano Sora shifters and front mech, Shimano Ultegra rear mech
- Brakes: Kinetix dual pivot
- Chainset: FSA Gossamer, 53/39
- Casette: Shimano, Capreo, 9-26
- Bars: Kinetix Pro X drop bars
- Stem: Syntace VRO
- Saddle: Kore Road Performance
- Seatpost: Syntace Stasis 7050-AL
- Wheels: Kinetix ProX Aero, 20in
- Tyres: Schwalbe Durano, 28c
- Weight: 10.84kg