When I decided my next bike tour would be in Cuba, I began thinking about what bike to ride. There is no fixed route that I plan to cycle. Rather, I am flying to the East of the island and four weeks later I will depart from the West of the island. In that time I’ll be cycling about the island on a day-to-day basis and since I might also be taking busses and trains, the idea was born to do this bike tour with a folding bike.
I have got two such bikes at home, my small Brompton and my Tern Verge S11i, both which I love.
By coincidence, several months ago I was asked by Tern Germany if I wanted to test the brand new Tern Verge S27h, a folding bike that was especially made for touring.
A quick bit of research about the new bike showed that the German bike touring magazine RADtouren had already tested it and called it “very close to the perfect foldable touring bike”.
So my decision was made, and just a few days later the bike had arrived at my place.
Upon unboxing and checking all adjustments (what every bike shop would do too, before selling it to the customer) I went for a few very short test rides.
My very first impression was: Wow, what a heavy-duty machine!
The bike is literally heavy, it weighs 16.6 kg.
While riding it the perspective over the handlebar down to the front tire even increases the feeling of riding a machine that is made not to go fast, but far. Massive little tires .
The bike’s ‘Schwalbe Marathon Big Apple’ tires are only 20 inches in diameter yet 55 mm (2.2 inch) wide. That’s both incredibly stable (for the small wheel) and massively heavy duty at the same time.
I call this a consequent decision.
Since the fork of such a small bike is short, it cannot offer much road absorption. The tires must then act as the suspension. I am riding with 4 bar (58 PSI) in the rear for speed (a little more than recommended) and for comfort 3 bar (43 PSI) on the front (a little less than the recommended).
This works well, and the bike goes quite easily over bumpy roads, especially considering its small wheel size.
The bike comes with 27 speeds, which is a challenge for any folding bike.
It therefore combines two gearshifts, both in the rear wheel: A 9-speed cassette with 11 to 32 teeth with a SRAM X7 derailleur and a SRAM DualDrive 3-speed rear hub. The three speeds of the hub plus the 9 speeds of the derailleur multiplies to 27 speeds.
Great work – and yet still foldable
In the easiest gear one rotation of the pedals only moves the bike 56 cm (22″), and in the hardest gear 297 cm (117″). This is a ratio of 5.3 (meaning the hardest gear is 5.3 times faster than the slowest gear), which is enough by far for any touring bike.
This bike is more than just the sum of some bike parts. It is a well-optimized bike and the gears and the wide tires fit perfectly together. You can see what I mean, if you switch to the easiest gear, which brings the chain as close to the tire as possible (photo below).
This is not a coincidence, but a well-planned use of all the space available.
I call this an optimization of the given space.
Tires and wheels are all made for acceleration, but what about the brakes?
Well, the two Avid BB7 MTB disc brakes are rock solid and all is well protected by the small wheels anyway.
The cockpit of the bike offers Avid FR5 brake levers and SRAM DualDrive 3×9 shifters. All shifting is done with the thumbs, and you can literally feel the precision inside the shifters.
The head stem is incredibly adjustable. Tern is using their patented technologies. Just compare the following two photos to see what I mean by adjustable.
All this is done without any tools and within just two seconds.
I am convinced that it is highly recommended to only adjust the handle bar (up – down, front – rear and even the angle of the bar) while off the bike.
But honestly, this is an adventure bike and I am an adventurer so I always (carefully) try to do it while riding. And it works great ;)
I call this freedom with a great device.
This head stem device even got some minor improvements compared to my Tern Verge S11i. The small slider now feels more stable and works with better precision – as does the switch for the light.
Just compare the quality of the switch from the new Tern Verge 27h (above) with the old switch from my Tern Verge S11i (below), which always hurt my finger when using it.
Formerly the Tern engineers had tried to use white paint to indicate something dark. What a beginner’s mistake. It never works!
And I also never knew whether the symbol of the sun was referring to my light (to be used in dark surroundings) or to the sunlight (when no light is needed). So finally the usability of Tern seems to be good again even in that detail.
I call this attention to detail.
I am 185 cm tall (6 feet 1 inch) and unlike my Brompton the bike perfectly fits my size. For my Brompton I needed an extended seat post that now interferes with the folding. The Tern comes with a seat post that fits riders even taller than me.
On the website the Tern specifications say the bike is good for riders up to 190 cm.
I’m sure that this is true, if not even taller.
The bike comes with a decent (BioLogic Phia) saddle, but I will replace it with my beloved Brooks B17 – as I would do with any touring bike.
The seat post has two further surprises.
There are useful marks for the adjustment. Since this is a folding bike, you will constantly be pushing the seat post in and pulling it out. Unlike my Brompton the Tern helps you instantly bring the saddle back to your specified position.
The second surprise is actually in the seatpost.
Once you remove the seatpost from the bike you can unscrew the lid at its lower end.
And out comes a large bike pump.
Now, what I like about this pump (BioLogic PostPump 2.0) is the fact that it is always there and that it is loooong and moves quite a lot of air with every pump action.
What I do not like is that it feels extremely fragile.
And what I like even less is the fact that after using only this one time for the photos it was already broken.
I went to my favorite bike shop (a Tern dealer) and they were puzzled too.
We just could not find the reason why the tire was pumping up my pump and not the other way round. We even had to fully disassemble the pump because after being pressurized by the tire, it just would not fit back into the seat post.
I will now start my Cuba tour with an additional pump. Let’s hope that I was just unlucky with this particular pump.
I will try to collect more experiences about this pump and update the article later.
Well, and naturally that pump is not always clean. But that does not mean anything to a real bike tourer, does it? ;)
Now, enough words about the pump. Let’s not forget that this is about the bike, and the pump is just a little extra that comes with it. Not worth too much attention.
I call the pump a minor detail.
Let’s see what the bike can carry.
one word two words: a lot!
Tern seems to be quite proud of the rear cargo rack. And they have any reason to be, This thing is really great!
First, it is extremely stable and well connected. It is also sitting perfectly horizontally on the bike. And it is far enough to the rear of the long bike so that the heels of the rider won’t touch the saddle bags.
Two more facts come together and make the Tern Verge S27h quite special.
Firstly the small wheels. And secondly the low pannier rails that takes the weight of the saddle bags. Both together bring the center of gravity of your luggage as far down as possible, and this is great for the handling of the bike.
Also it gives my red Rackpack a smooth surface for a stable fitting on top of both the rack and the panniers.
The rack comes with some tiny studs that keep the pannier in place. Well done!
And also the rack allows internal cable routing for the rear light great – since the bike comes with a hub dynamo in the front wheel.
I call this a great rack.
But what about the low rider at the front wheel?
When I fist put my Ortlieb bags to the low rider I thought they were working as well as on the rear rack.
Only after a closer look I got confused.
I was simply not able to attach the lower parts of my panniers to the lowrider.
And this is for two reasons.
The first reason is, that the lower part of the lowrider is just too low.
I can either fix my pannier here – but then I cannot connect them to the upper part that is supposed to hold their weight.
Or I can connect them on the upper part, but then they stay lose and the lower end.
As you see, I am puzzled.
I am either doing something completely wrong, or the lowrider just does not fit my Ortliebs front rollers.
Well, and then there is still the second reason.
Let me explain it with this photo. There is simply no straight connection possible between the upper and the lower part of the low rider. In other words, any bag needs to bend around the middle part. Doesn’t it?
I call this either an open question or a severe down side of the bike.
In my case I don’t really care, since I will be cycling in Cuba (actually from tomorrow on, at the time I am writing this article), and the warm climate makes bike touring easy: no tent, no stove, no sleeping bag. And therefore not front panniers anyway.
I will remove the lowrider and make use of the smart solution to fix a handle bar bag to the head tube:
No photos for that solution yet, but you can see it working well on Rob’s site 14degree’s with a great review of the same type of bike.
And now, the most important feature of a folding bike: the folding process.
As with all Tern bikes this is done in just 10 seconds and works great.
I have heard people complaining that a Bromton folds smaller.
And guess what: they are right. A Brompton folds much smaller than this Tern Verge S27h.
But honestly, this is a comparison of a 3-speed bike with a 27-speed bike. This is two totally different types of bikes.
They both fold. But for good reason the red one is in my car for a quick commute, and the black one goes on a plane for a 4 week bike tour with busses and trains in between. So I am very happy with the size of the folded Tern.
But there is one detail about the way that Tern bikes fold, that I never understood.
The two main parts of the folded frame just hook with a tiny magnet.
Whenever I carry any of my folded Tern bikes I need to secure that magnet with either another hand or a lock about both tires.
Because with just a slight movement that magnet can flip lose and the bike suddenly and without any warning unfolds in your hands.
And guess where I learned this lesson for the first time? Well, just between two cars. Luckily the one that got scratched was “just” mine.
But now, at the end of my first quick review, let me summarize.
The down sides are (1) the pump, (2) the low rider and (3) the magnet.
All three are (at least in my case) not really important to me.
And the upsides of the bike are: just everything else.
The Tern Verge S27h seems to be a great touring bike that folds away quickly within just 10 seconds and carries all the stuff you need to bring on a long bike tour. And it does not compare much to any other bike I know.
I call this a new class of touring bikes.
And I can’t wait to start my real field test in Cuba in just 24 hours from now.
Stay tuned for my posts about both cycling Cuba and my opinion about this bike after 4 weeks. And don’t forget that I might not be able to post anything (and respond to comments) before April 22 when I will have returned, since Cuba is still very much an offline country.
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