How many ways can you fold a bike?
This is not some cycling joke or riddle but a legitimate question. According to the Verge S27h, Tern's crack at a touring bike, it folds twice—a break in the top tube and just above the head tube.
If you're a road warrior or live on the trails, you might sneer at a bike that has half-sized wheels and folds like an aluminum origami. Any normal passerby would likely do a double take—something I, unsurprisingly, experienced riding on the streets of a major city in Texas. And, yes, if you're not pedaling with a baguette under your arm on the streets of a Western European metropolis, you might feel a tinge out of place at first. However, any lack of comfort quickly dissipates once in the saddle of this tank on 20-inch wheels.
Mythbusting the Foldable Bike
Foldable bikes, and particularly the Verge S27h, have a small, niche market made up of touring cyclists and hardcore commuters who value space. While in the U.S., these bikes elicit funny looks and inevitable questions such as: "Do you have to pedal harder?" or "Isn't it cramped?" Foldable bikes fill the roads and sidewalks of continents where space is a valued commodity, namely Europe and Asia.
And to answer those inevitable questions: no and no. Foldable bikes make up for their smaller wheel size with larger cassettes. This offsets any speed reduction one would experience pedaling smaller wheels. Also, how cramped you feel on a bike depends on the frame size, not the wheel size. I felt just as erect and roomy as I would on any other commuter bike.
That being said, smaller wheels do come with certain limitations. With most foldable bikes, I wouldn't feel confident popping a curb or treading over potholes and bumpy roads. But is Tern's S27h any different?
The Frame is, well, heavy. Yeah, you can fold it, utilizing Tern's clever and intuitive "N-fold," but you could also use it as a dumbbell once in its compact form.
Weighing in at 36.6 pounds, the hydroformed aluminum frame feels sturdy and steady. No, you do not have to worry about the bike folding in half while you cycle. The latches feel secure and the frame absorbs bumps incredibly well considering its size.
The standard Verge frame this is not. The chainstays were widened to allow for proper heel clearance when carrying panniers, which, on this bike, is a near must. In addition, Tern widened the front fork and rear triangle to accommodate its larger, all-terrain tires (more on those later).
While riding the bike, you feel like you're operating a heavy-duty piece of machinery. And, you are.