For me bikes are basically about utility. And, as my journey to work is bike-train-bike/walk I’ve always preferred the idea of a folder over any other type. But I don’t live anywhere particularly straightforward – my ride takes me up and down some undulation, along some tracks, shared cycle paths and roads of uncertain quality. And all of these can be liable to turning into rivers after rain. I’ve tried a Dahon folder (20″ wheel, Vitesse) and it didn’t enjoy it. I’ve tried a couple of non-folding hybrids and whilst they were okay I couldn’t take them on the train. With the inspiration of #cycletoworkday and the promise of a bit of finance I looked again at the possibility of a folder that could handle all that I (a non-expert cyclist and chubby, unfit personage) could throw at it.
I was specifically looking for something that could address this question: is there a bike out there that rides like a solid bike, is straightforward to look after, can handle my incompetence and the British weather and roads – and folds, simply, into a useful package?
The Tern Joe does not fold tiny but it does fold quick. This is not a lovely little package like a Brompton or even a small imprint folder like a 20″ wheel bike. In its standard fold the handlebars remain resolutely handlebar-y so you’ll need to have the width of the wingspan free as well as a nice 30″ zone to rest the bike. If you’re lucky like me and your commuter train isn’t properly rammed this isn’t really an issue – if you do travel whilst playing grown-up sardines people will hate you. But folding is very simple and, so far, whilst not ‘locked’ the fold up feels solid. It doesn’t roll so you’ll have to unfold to walk your wheels anywhere but, as said, the transition is so speedy this isn’t a problem at all.
The other aspects of the bike come across well. The handlebar can be adjusted to suit preferred riding style and the tool to do this has its own little slot. The grips are comfortable compared to the other folders and hybrids I’ve ridden. The brakes are responsive although not to the extent promised in the sales pitch. Gear changes are an absolute dream. The big *fat* tyres are big and fat and, being puncture resistant, make very light work of the potholey roads and poorly maintained cycle tracks that define my commute. The saddle has come in for some harsh words – I have to say it’s not something I’ve really noticed but if I were really looking for comfort on this I would get it changed. And whilst it not a make or break thing for me but I do like the styling of the frame although the black and red does a little bit like someone wanted to recreate the A-Team’s van in folding bike form.
I live on a big hill and ride over a bit of undulation to and from and work. The Dahon folder was a nightmare on anything slope-y, especially if I was extra laden with a bit of shopping; I’ve found that the Pinnacle hybrids I’ve had were better but I always felt they were complaining a bit. The Tern Joe seems to actively enjoy the harder parts of cycling (which, for me, is anything not flat and straight). Basically, overall the ride is significantly better than any of the lower end hybrids I’ve owned.
However this is a bike sold in Britain so it can’t be all practical. It doesn’t come with mudguards, rack, front reflector, bell, lock or lights. You get a detachable rear single light and reflector which would be fine for lit roads in the twilight but probably not for anything else. Unlike a lot of folders all of the aforementioned can be added without any difficulty – and without compromising the fold. But obviously there are costs involved additional to the price of the bike. It’s a pain but unless you track down a Dutch bike shop you’re nearly always going to be in this situation when buying a bike new here.
In the UK I believe only Evans sell Tern bikes. I don’t like Evans much but I swallowed my pride after internet research pointed me in this direction. In true UK cycle shop style the sales rep couldn’t answer my questions about comparative fold size but did try to sell me extra-quick pedals and shoes. Be assured though: this is not a MAMIL bike. It is a good, practical solution to the specific question I raised at the start.
And it is fun too.