With their 20-inch wheels, there's not denying that folding bikes look a little funny. There's also no denying, however, how practical they are, be it for urban dwellers with little storage space or world travelers who like to roll through their final destinations without paying exorbitant baggage fees for normal size bikes (often around $300 round-trip these days).
The only catch? Even the best folding bikes compromised on performance, ease of repair, or sex appeal—or, in many cases, all three. Which is why we were so pleasantly surprised when we started test riding Tern's new Verge X10 (above). The bike initially caught our eye at Outdoor Retailer this past summer, but we finally got an opportunity to actually put one through the paces. The verdict: Bravo. It rides like a real bike.
Tern’s secrets? Years of experience. Although the company just launched this past summer, the company's founder, Joshua Hon, is the son of Dr. David Hon, who founded Dahon bikes, the biggest folding bike company in the world. Tern's bikes feature a proprietary joint that’s taller, stronger, and stiffer than anything on the market. Hidden bearings that make the folding friction free (but still dealer serviceable—it takes less than five minutes to replace them), and locking joints that give Tern bikes side-to-side stiffness when you’re pedaling. Add high end components, including a Sram 10-Speed drivetrain and custom spec'd, hand-laced, tension-checked wheels, and a zero flex adjustable handlebar, stem, and seatpost, and our Verge X10's performance rivaled that of a high-end hybrid bike.
If you're already a folding bike fan, you'll want a Tern because they're faster to fold and they resulting bundle is flatter. Without reading the directions, it took me less than 30 seconds to figure out how to unfold and fold the Verge X10 the first time. Now that I'm a pro, it takes me about 10 seconds to fold it or unfold it.
Still can't picture yourself riding around on mini wheels? There still might be a Tern for you. The Joe series have 26-inch (mountain bike size) wheels and, while they don't fold down quite as small, they roll over obstacles much better. And won't make you bigger guys feel like you're riding a kid's bike.
Available now, $1800, ternbicycles.com.