2015 Tern Verge S27h Folding Bicycle: Initial Impressions Review

Posted on Jan 18, 2015
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Posted on Jan 18, 2015

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I bought a Tern Verge S27h 20-inch wheeled folding touring bicycle the other day. This is an evolving first-impressions review blog post. Folding bikes with small wheels. They elicit all the usual questions: Don't you have to pedal faster? Aren't they really cramped?  It must be hard work?

Last updated Oct 14, 2018

The answer is of course no to most of those questions under most cycling conditions: The speed at which one must pedal depends not on wheelsize alone, but also the size of cogs; smaller wheels require larger cogs…once you’ve sorted that out, you’ll be pedaling just as fast or slow as the other larger-wheeled bicycles. And they’re only as cramped as the frame size determines them to be: buy a small-wheeled bike with a large enough frame, and it’ll feel just like your bigger bike.

The smaller wheelsize does have it’s limitations though: bumps, potholes, and for us up here in northern Japan soft snow are not the surfaces where the 20-inch wheels shine.

That said, I’ve been mulling over getting a folding bike for some time now. I live in Japan with my partner Haidee, and on our frequent journeys on trains here with our bikes, we’ve often wished we had something more compact; bikes have to be bagged on trains in Japan, which adds undue stress to the start of a trip (removing pedals, handlebars, seats, front wheels etc etc.). For a while we got away with having the handlebars and seats of our big bikes sticking out of the bike bags, but our local train station has cracked down on this and we need to dismantle the big bikes more thoroughly now.

Taking bicycles on a train in Sapporo Station, Hokkaido, Japan

To this end, Haidee got herself a Bike Friday Silk, which is a beautiful bike. The Gates Carbon Drive belt-drive system is so clean and smooth, and Bike Friday makes a great bike. I was keen on the Tern Verge S27h, however, because it seemed a little more cost-effective, and I wanted to try out something I could order from a local bike shop.

The Tern Verge S27h comes in any color you want so long as it is black, and it is one of Tern’s few cycle-touring oriented bikes. For under US$2,000 (in Japan), you get a bike with dual racks, full dynamo lighting system, a long-wheelbase frame, Rholoff-ready drop-outs, eccentric bottom bracket, an in-seat-tube floor pump, Avid BB7 disk brakes, and a Sram Dual-Drive drivetrain (consists of a 9-speed cassette mounted to a three-speed DD3 internal gear hub). The fold is very neat too.

2015 Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle

2015 Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle

Even before I took delivery of the bike, I had intended to more or less immediately swap out the Dual Drive drivetrain for an Alfine 11-speed internal gear hub. I abhor derailleur drive trains. I find internal gear hubs are cleaner, and just less hassle. The rim I wanted to use for the new wheel didn’t arrive in time for the bike, so I’m still waiting to build a new back wheel up, but that will happen in due course. The adjustable eccentric bottom bracket means an internal gear hub can be fitted without the need for a chain tensioner.

As it is though, the Dual Drive drivetrain is nice enough: the changes are solid and reliable. I don’t really feel like I need 27 gears though…

I’ve also swapped out the stock standard saddle with a spare leather Selle Anatomica saddle I had sitting around…I like my leather saddles. The stock saddle felt comfy enough on the 15 minute bike ride home from the bike shop, but on a longer tour, who knows.

The headlight gives a very nice strong light, but I feel like it shines too much in a concentrated beam, with too little light directly in front of the front wheel. Compared with the Busch and Muller Lumotec IQ Cyo that I have on my big bike, which gives a more even beam from close to far, the Tern light falls short in this regard.

Initial ride impressions is that this is one very solid bike. At 16kg, it really is a solid bike (especially for one with 20-inch wheels). Once I had the seat height tweaked and the (very nicely adjustable) quick-adjust stem adjusted right, it felt like a very nice geometry. I am 179.5cm tall (around 5’11), and the bike feels just about right. It is not a custom fit like you’d get with a Bike Friday, but for the last few days I’ve been enjoying the fit so far.

2015 Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle on winter snow (Muroran City, Japan)

I’m currently running Schwalbe Marathon Winter (20×1.6) tires on the bike for winter here, but the bike comes stock with Schwalbe Big Apples (20×2.0). Those Big Apples are going to be very nice to ride once the snow leaves (in about three months time).

2015 Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle on winter snow (Muroran City, Japan)

The long chain-stays on the bike mean that heel-strike is not an issue. I wear a size 11.5 winter boot, and my panniers were always out of the way of my heels.

There are a couple of inexplicable niggles about the bike though. One is the fact that there are no bottle-cage mount braze-ons on the top-tube. All of Tern’s other bikes have these braze-ons. Why on earth does Tern’s only bicycle marketed as a serious tourer not have these?! (UPDATE 2015/5/25: See the bike’s designer Thomas from Velowerk explain the reasoning in the comments). Also, my Ortlieb panniers, when mounted on the lower rails of the (excellently stiff rack) hit the Dual-Drive shifting mechanism, which causes the gears to skip. Not ideal. (UPDATE 2015/5/25: See the bike’s designer Thomas from Velowerk comments about that below.)

Overall though, the bike seems to do it’s job. Lined up with the Bike Friday Silk I can’t help but feel that the Bike Friday is a more mature design and finished product, but I do feel like the Verge S27h has potential. Potential that we hope to put through its paces in the coming years.

2015 Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle on winter snow (Muroran City, Japan)

2015 Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle on winter snow (Muroran City, Japan)

(To be continued….)

Comments | Queries | Discussion

11 thoughts on “2015 Tern Verge S27h Folding Bicycle: Initial Impressions Review”

  1. My Rohloffed Jones Plus is my heavy-duty, go-anywhere tourer. But I think I may add this bike to the stable. The ability to ride some dirt or gravel, then hop on a bus or train, or even toss the folded bike into a packraft and float a river for a stretch is awfully appealing. The possibilities this bike opens up are pretty exciting!

  2. Hi Rob, I’ve really enjoyed your cycle blogs, both interesting and informative. I am now seriously considering buying a Tern Verge Tour (the new s27h model I think.) For me it ticks most of the boxes. My one concern is, even with its beefy16+ kg wt, is it’s long term durability. I have read about recalls following frame failure, some catastrophic, involving some Tern Verge bikes. Just wondered how your Tern has fared and if you had any thoughts on this matter. By the way I once sailed the west coast of Japan, ending up in Hokaido. One day I will return for a bike tour.
    Happy biking, skateboarding etc, Ian.

    1. Hi Ian, funny you should mention long-term durability. I am still assessing that myself after receiving two (!) replacement bikes from Tern so far. I’m now riding a Tern Verge Tour, which is more or less exactly the same as the S27h, apart from one major difference: the OCL joint. I had my first S27h for about 12 months before I broke the bottom screw-in pivot rod on the joint. Nothing catastrophic – i.e., the joint was designed such that something like this would not mean the whole bike would break into two. Tern replaced the entire bike no questions asked. One year on and I did the same to the replacement bike (another Tern Verge S27h with the same old OCL joint) – I broke the bottom screw-in pivot post/rod. Tern replaced this bike also with no questions asked.

      So the latest replacement bike is the Tern Verge Tour with a new re-designed OCL joint. Rather than having two screw-in pivot rods, it has one solid pivot rod. I cannot see how it would be possible to break this, and so far (after 7 months) the pivot is still solid. With the old pivot rod design, after 6 months the joint was already starting to get loose in terms of forward-aft movement (side to side/torsional movement has never been a problem with either hinge).

      So my tentative review at this stage (full review forthcoming) is that they seem to have fixed the one Achilles heel of the old design. The hinge is completely user-serviceable, which is awesome.

      Hope this helps!

  3. hi Rob,

    can you show us the new ocl design. In your other post you mentioned about new design to correct previous issue with the needed of bushing replacement.

  4. Great comments on your touring Tern Verge S27h bike. I have a similar bike the Dahon touring TR. I have had the bike about 7 years and have used it allot. My Danon has mounts for a bottle cage on the top tube and if i use a tight fitting water bottle bracket with the right water bottle it is not a problem. Also your comments on the Alfine 11-speed internal gear hub are great. I have this hub on one of my bikes and i like it allot.
    Keep the bike posts coming, you always have interesting journeys.
    Thanks,
    Mike

  5. hi rob,

    i’m the guy who decided not to put bottleholder-eyelets into the toptube of this bike.

    why? for 2 safety-reasons!

    1. i have seen too many people stumble over orphaned bottleholder cages.

    2. for waterbottles we know better positions, having the bottle down there is risky:
    – minoura-twinset behind the saddle
    -various systems for assembly on handlepost or handlebar.

    luggage/dualdrive-conflict:

    the initial construction of this bike is “pure rohloff”:
    http://velowerk.ch/werx.html
    and the rack i have developped for this bike has specially shaped sidewings protecting diskbrake-mechanism and a dualdrive-tacklebox as well.

    front luggage:

    the fork is specially designed for a tubus duo-lowrider:

    http://www.tubus.com/product.php?xn=17

    unfortunately the “mature design” of the werx was sacrificed a bit for the sake of mass-production.

    thomas

    1. Thomas, thank you so very much for weighing in on this. I really appreciate it!

      Also, thank you for designing an awesome bike. I really love the way the bike handles, both when loaded and when unloaded. Your webpage about the development of the bike (http://velowerk.ch/werx.html) was like eye candy when I was researching the bike before buying…the eccentric bottom bracket was the top selling point for me; having the ability to use an internal gear hub easily is a real plus (I’ve installed a Shimano Alfine 11 now).

      Anyway, your reasoning about leaving the bottle-holder eyelets out of the design makes sense. (EDIT 2015/06/15: I would still prefer to have the option of mounting a bottle cage there however (especially for a fuel bottle for my stove while touring), but that may just be my preference). In any case, I’ve updated this blog post and my other review post (http://www.14degrees.org/tern-verge-s27h-folding-touring-bicycle-gravel-road-review/) to point readers to your comment.

      Thank you also for the tips regarding front rack; I’ve not used front panniers on there yet, but CyclePeter had complained that front Ortlieb panniers don’t fit so well on the stock Tern rack (because they need to ‘bend’ in order to latch on at the bottom). With the eyelets on the outside and inside of the fork blades, I did wonder if they were designed with other rack options in mind.

      Thank you very much again,
      Rob

    2. By the way Thomas, quite a few people have expressed surprise at the catalog weight of the bike. 16.6kg seems quite heavy for an aluminum-framed bike with 20inch wheels (my wife’s similarly-equipped chromoly-framed Bike Friday Silk with (admittedly quite flimsy) racks weighs in at around 14.5kg).

      For a dedicated touring bicycle this is not a terribly large weight, but do you have any comments about that?

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