Does a new wheel size and top-end spec justify a spend of £2,400 on a folding bike? Oswin Grady tested this speed-injected folder to find out
Tern Verge X11 frame
Tern’s Verge X11 is built around a 22in wheel size (451mm) – meaning that although it’s a long way off the standard 700c you’d find on a road or hybrid bike, it’s larger than your average folding bike.
The result is a greater degree of momentum which means faster rolling, and a ride a bit closer to your average experience on a full-size bike. However, it also means that the folded unit is larger than a traditional folding bike – which often has 16in wheels.
With the Verge X11, Tern has also tweaked the frame to develop what it calls T-Tuned Geometry. The design boasts a longer wheelbase, tweaks to the fork rake and head tube angle, and a slacker seat tube. These alterations create a riding position that feels sportier when compared with standard designs.
Tern Verge X11 specification
With a price tag of £2,400, you would expect a top end spec list – and you wouldn’t be disappointed.
The Tern Verge X11 is shod with hand-built Kinetix Pro X wheels, with just 20 paired, straight-pull spokes per wheel, shod with resilient Schwalbe Durano tyres.
The crankset is SRAM’s Force 1x, with carbon cranks and a 52-tooth chainring alongside a 10-42 cassette. Upping the wheel size creates a greater gear ratio, which means that there’s enough power to push on descents, yet the large cassette means there are plenty of climbing cogs too.
Shimano Deore disc brakes offer fast stopping power and there’s a Biologic rear bike light built in.
A Syntace VRO adjustable stem has been designed for Tern and allows the rider to alter their position to a lower, more aggressive stance, or a more upright one for casual comfort. The handlebar is a Kinetix Pro X made from double-butted alloy with Ergon grips and saddle.
Tern Verge X11 ride
With a matt-black finish, Pro X wheels and flashes of metallic blue the Verge looks unlike most folders – fast and attractive. Pick it up and it feels seriously light for a folding bike.
The Tern Verge X11 rides like a fast hybrid bike. It’s light, stiff, pretty agile, accelerates well and rolls along much quicker than you’d expect from a folder. It’s fun to ride and pretty smooth – you could certainly travel a good distance on it; it’s not a bike limited to short commutes. The hydraulic disc brakes are awesome in terms of stopping power, which is great on a stop-start commute.
I did everything from short rides to the station, blasts through the centre of London, up to a nine mile ride out of the Farnborough office to test it on a longer ride. The 10-42 cassette means it copes really well when faced with a climb, and also enables you to get up to a decent speed on the flat. Comparing Strava stats from rides on the Tern to that on a Brompton S3L, it definitely has the edge on speed.
One gripe from a commuting perspective is the lack of mudguards.
Compared to a Brompton, which is probably the benchmark in this area, the folding mechanism doesn’t feel as well thought out and intuitive. Small details just aren’t quite perfect – the magnet that holds the folded bike together can ping open quite easily, the brake levers rub against the fork when folded – which could damage the smart paint job in consistent use. It just feels a little clumsy.
The main problem is, it’s rather large when folded. To the extent that on a rail commute it was sometimes tricky to work out where to put it – it certainly didn’t fit in a standard luggage rack. With this in mind the Verge doesn’t feel like a bike that you would want to use on a regular commute involving public transport. It certainly can’t compete with a Brompton in this area – it may be a bit quicker but if you lose all that time trying to find a place to put it on the train, then that additional speed becomes irrelevant.
When it comes to carrying the bike, unfolded, the Tern is light to put over your shoulder and carry around, up and down stairs at train stations and so on. Folded, due to the large size it’s less practical, but does roll along well on the wheels.
At £2,400 you’d like the Tern to tick all of the boxes for a folding bike. But the thing with folding bikes is that even though they're exceptionally clever, they are by definition a compromise. The bigger wheels make for a faster, more 'proper bike' ride feel – but the downside is the compromise on folded size. So while the Tern didn’t feel like the perfect folding bike for a commute involving public transport, it would be brilliant for someone with limited storage space at work or home who is looking for a fast, fun and good-looking folder.