If you're in the market for a folder or solid commuter bike look no further than Tern.
It is very much the belief of Headset Press that every type of cycling is valid and of interest. The type of cycling that is valid to everyone is commuting and cycling as part of the transport needs of humans. There is also no reason why this shouldn’t be done well and executed in good design and form. Tern has this at the core of it’s business and this is why Headset Press believe in them. But does that mean their bikes are any good?
A folding bike has to be put in to context, it’s not a racing bike, not that you can’t ride it fast, it’s not a mountain bike either. A folding bike is transport in a general sense, being able to adapt to the transport needs depending on the situation at hand. This is where a Tern excels, providing people with bikes fit for the purpose. The purpose being transport. The transport being a versatile bike, and that is what you have in the Eclipse P7i.
Initially when I asked Tern to let me review a bike, I thought it would be a Verge or a Link perhaps. What they offered me was the Eclipse P7i a 24″ wheel folder. I said sure, butnot sure what a medium sized wheel would bring to a folding bike. The up-shot is pretty good, the comfort is improved and so is top end speed – from the 24″ wheel. The down side is a slightly larger folded size (really only a little) and a bit more weight. Tern has worked very hard to make the frame of the Eclipse P7i as stiff as possible, which is a real challenge. Again in context, the Eclipse P7i is noticeably stiff and plenty of your power is going to the drive chain without being sucked up in a flex frame – day in day out this matters. The frame itself is hydroformed 7005-AL with Tern’s patented OCL Joint and DoubleTruss technology (the bit that keeps it stiff when not folded). The forks are 6061-AL (AL is for aluminium). As far as folding frames go this is the good stuff.
So what do you get on the Eclipse P7i? For me the highlight is the Nexus 7 internal gear hub and Joule 3 dynamo front hub. The Nexus 7 might not suit all, but I found the gear range ample for urban/city riding, dealing with the slopes in it’s top was gear easy enough. Beyond that I think some commuters would run out of gears – for me it’s fine. As for the Joule 3 dynamo front hub, the thing is flawless and matched up with the recharge kit it’s free energy to charge your phone, a must for most commuters. The Eclipse P7i also comes fitted with full mudguards and rear rack. Other features are; small tool kit in the handle bar grip, an integrated bell in the brake lever, chainguard, and Schwalbe Big Apple tyres. The Schwalbe Big Apple tyres are superb and add to the confidence of riding this bike in all weather conditions.
So how easy does it fold? Simply put very easy. It can be done in less than a minute, I didn’t time it, but I’m sure it could be done in less than 30 seconds. The fold system works incredibly well both on the frame and the steerer. One of Tern’s big features is the Physis Handlepost which helps to ensure the stiffness of the bike, it is also very nice to use. Opening from folded is as easy and the whole action that bit quicker. The extra size and weight is the only detractor for the Eclipse P7i, it’s just a little bit more to heft about. Although this bike is probably less likely to be folded than the smaller wheeled folders. It would make a very good exploring bike, say for touring with the use of trains between points. It would also suit the longer distance commuter who uses the train as part of the commute.
I enjoyed my time with the Eclipse P7i, unfortunately I didn't get to commute with it as I currently work from home (which is what I wanted to do). Instead I used it to make photography trips, where riding a racing or mountain bike puts you in the wrong position and is not ideal for my photography trips. The ride is comfy, not lively, but confident enough. Steering is again confident, agile and under control at low speeds as much as higher speeds. I must stress that I'm talking in the context of folding bikes, don't expect to get on and ride it like a racing bike, it isn't going to happen, but if you can see past that, these bikes are fun and practical. With many options available for Tern bikes in general, useful things, like front racks that mount to the frame, they really can serve many practical purposes. The only down side for me was the cabling, it was a little easy to tangle when folding. It's really only a minor niggle and something that is easily forgotten when riding and not something to put anybody off. The Eclipse P7i is easily a very good contender for a practical bike. We at Headset Press really like the look of Tern's, coming in good colours and generally well styled (not common for folding bikes!). They pay a lot of attention to the aesthetic of their bikes and it really shows. So if you're in the market for a folder or solid commuter bike look no further than Tern.
Review date: 15 November 2012