I Threw Away My Bike For A Brompton And Loved It! So Why Am I Ditching That Bike Now Too?
A Review Of The Tern Verge P10
Over two years ago, way back in 2016, I, a long time cyclist and lover of bikes, famously threw away my commuter, sold my road bike, and fell in love with a Brompton Bicycle. It was a different time, Obama was still president. The world seemed to be moving in the right direction. Facebook only seemed slightly evil.
Ah, we were so innocent then….
But here in NYC, for over 2 years of commuting and riding my Brompton, up the bridges, over hills, around parks, aggressively, in all seasons and all weather conditions, on grit, in grime, salt, gravel, dodging potholes, cars, pedestrians, and shitty cyclists, and yes, even riding (and coming in 6th out of 80+ people) in the Brompton World Championships in Harlem, much like the state of the U.S.A., not everything was awesome.
The Tale Of The Brompton
You see, I ride hard. I’m an aggressive rider who likes to go fast. In any other environment, you’d probably see me in spandex on a carbon bike chasing Strava trophies. This isn’t a brag or humble-brag or whatever. I’m not the fastest rider by any means. I’m sure plenty of people can beat me in a crit or a drag race on a two-block segment on Strava, but compared to most people scooching around on their bikes in the city, I’m more likely to pass you than be passed. I’m an ex-roadie, a “fred” in disguise if you will, who likes to use my bike rides to “push it”. I tell my legs & lungs to shut the fuck up and go.
Yeah. I’m one of “them”.
And as an ex-roadie who commutes in NYC and hates leaving their bike outside to be pissed & rained on, I absolutely loved my Brompton, I really did. It’s an easy & fun bike that folds up so teeny tiny nom nom nom nom nom….
But to be straight up honest, I was running into a real problem. I was just wearing down the bike too quickly. In two years I had stretched out a couple chains, burned through gears, brake pads (so many brake pads), and THREE rims!
Basically, I was racking up too much cost and way too much downtime fixing my bike. And well, I just want to ride.
Is this Brompton’s fault? Absolutely not. I just don’t think their bikes are made for hard riding without serious modifications. They are made for tweed coat London commutes where one is like to mix a train ride in with their morning shuffle to work.
The reason the gears wore down and the chains stretched was simply from pedal mashing in lower cadences. Stopping often, “revving” back up, smashing up hills, bridges chasing down other roadies, it just wears down the gears and stretches out the chain.
Braking though…. well, a couple things. Little wheels generate about twice as much heat as their big wheeled counterparts. For example, braking 10 feet means a big wheel only rotates X number of times, where a 16in wheel will break around twice as much! And no, I’m not doing the math. That means that those little brake pads are rubbing the same spots that much more, generating heat, wearing down the pads, wearing down the rims. This gets exponentially worse in bad weather when grit and salt are involved.
I am not a fair-weather “chill” rider. I tried different brake pads, different brake techniques, “pumping” and alternating, whatever, but one nasty day would just wipe out the pad. Before you know it, the rim would wear down to nothing and bust through.
After the 3rd wheel busted through on a lovely mid-spring ride home from work, I knew something had to change…
It was time to, ahem, Tern the page — HA!
With the Brompton back in the shop waiting for a new wheel to be delivered and installed, I did a bit of research and found a Tern Verge P10 to test ride as a potential new ride.
Okay, stop…. Why the Tern Verge P10?
Two Things My Friend: Gears & Disc Brakes
If you go to the Tern site and read all the bullet points about the Verge P10, they give you great reasons to consider the bike if you are shopping for a folding bike. That’s all well and good, but for me, it came down to two very simple things… More gears and disc brakes. For my riding style and being on small wheels, these were the new deal breakers when searching for my next bike.
With the Tern Verge P10, you get a 10 speed cassette that covers the gamut. And you get a lovely pair of Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. I mean, look at all that bike shmexy! Unf!
The 1x10 gearing is really good. I think it’s normally used on mountain and cross bikes. Whatever. I’ve been eyeing a 1 x something since before the Brompton. It’s nice to have the range. I have yet to need the big boy in the back and only on really good days when I’m “bombing” down the bridge do I wish I had maybe just onnnnnne morrrrrrre gear (maybe I’ll upgrade the front one day with a few more teeth). As opposed to the 2 speeds on the Brompton, I’m able to keep the high cadence these gams like that also keeps less torque and tension on the chain and gears at a good amount.
Brompton lovers, I know what you are thinking. What about the 3 and 6-speed Bromptons? Well, we have a 3 speed and yes, the extra gear is definitely appreciated. Doubling up would only be twice as nice, but three things: I’m not a huge fan of internal shifting (warning NSFL! see here), I don’t appreciate the weight penalty, and it doesn’t solve the brake/wheel issue.
So yeah, about the disc brakes, dear sweet baby jesus….. these things are amazing. Yes, they brake like brakes do, and like disc brakes do, they brake quickly and aggressively. But, more importantly, my wheels, my rims, stay fresh and new and heat free. 3 months in and through a weird mix of summer weather, braking has been consistent, never “squishy”, never feels worn down after a nasty day, and isn’t gummy. With nary a squeeze, I brake, I stop.
In hindsight, I think it’s a shame that Brompton hasn’t gone this route yet, leaving it to expensive 3rd party mods. Especially with the introduction of the new e-bike Brompton, which means more speed. There’s a reason why e-bikes have gone the route of disc brakes, you know? Those little wheels are in for a bruisin’.
Any Other Good Things About The Tern?
Yes. This has been my main ride for over three months now and as I’ve settled in, found my fit, dealt with a flat, tweaked a few things, there are some other perks to this bike.
- The stem. With the Brompton, you are pretty much locked in with the stem. You pick the handle bars that work for you and that’s pretty much that. But with the Tern, they have their “Syntace VRO Stem” blah blah blah which is basically fully rotatable to be super aggressive (for me) or full upright for a casual ride, or something in between. I got mine in a pretty nice roadie position.
- The wheels are 451s, which I think measure out to about 20–21inches? The Brompton is at 16in and that extra bit on the Tern takes out some of the twitchiness. Feels more like a sweet spot between the Brompton ride and a full 700 road bike
- Amenities such as a water bottle cage holder in the frame, better ergonomic handlebar grips stock, nice traditional integrated real shifter, and clever ways to remove and store the protruding pedal when folded (though, I put in clipless pedals and my own saddle that first night).
Beyond this, the bike just feels very nice, tight, and premium. It folds easily and becomes second nature after a week (had to kill that Brompton muscle memory). When unfolded and ready to ride, the bike feels good, locked in, and secure. I have no concerns about any failures. I carry the bike downstairs, a few seconds later I’m unfolded and ready to ride.
The ride is good. Not too twitchy, but not quite as fluid as a full-sized road bike. The aluminum frame seems to absorb some of the road bumps but the lack of a bit of suspension in the back did make for an achy back for a week as I adjusted to the new bike and found my fit.
Also, the bike is fast. The extra gears in all the right gear ratios, along with the bigger and more “aero” wheels, the nice weight (11.7 kg / 25.8 lb, similar to a Brompton, though I wouldn’t complain if it was lighter), the roadie-style tires, and the ability to get in a more aggressive riding position means I’m cruising, putting all my Fredly adversaries quickly behind me in our unspoken cat-6 crit races around NYC.
Certainly There’s Some Drawbacks, Right?
No bike is perfect, no matter how much one wants to justify their purchase. Everything has a little give in take.
The number one “con” to the Tern is the fold. See this little diagram from their website:
So cute. So tidy. Well, it actually looks like this.
The main negative is that you lose that elegant, clever, and tiny fold the Brompton is famous for. The Tern fold is fine, but it’s clumsy, awkward, and bigger… but I adapted to it and it’s still much much smaller than a full bike in my little NYC apartment and I can still take it up into (and not leave it locked up outside). But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you carrying the bike around the office is awkward.
Another weird fold feature is the rubbery strap that is housed under the frame that you use to grab the front wheel to try to keep the fold from unfolding when carrying, that and the little magnets do help, but not always. And you still have to “tuck” the little strap when it’s time to ride.
I mean, you adjust and soon it’s just second nature and all, but there’s no sugar coating it, Brompton is THE fold to beat.
Beside the fold, the only other issue is pulling the seat post up and “dialing into” my fit. I’m trying to figure out a good way to mark the height and make sure the saddle is straight, but we are getting there. But this is a common issue with folding bikes. I was lucky on the Brompton that pulling the saddle all the way was my fit. On the Tern, I’m constantly working on finding that sweet spot and keep my saddle straight. Kind of feel like this could be something bike scienticians could’ve figured out by now.
A couple more bits. I got the plastic fenders (NYC, weather, grit, snow, etc) and NYCeWheels installed them for me before I picked up the bike. They put the rear fender on too tight so it cracked after a few rocky roads. They put the front on too lose, so mid ride I lost the post that keeps them attacked to the wheel. I’ve ordered a new pair and will install them myself.
The bell that comes with the bike is a joke. Trashed that and the ridiculous front reflector as soon as I got home.
Also, I didn’t remove the pie plate at first, but after a solid catch on a pothole on a rainy ride, it got jostled lose, started rubbing, and got real noisy, so I got that removed.
Oh, and of course I removed the kickstand. Dead weight.
Speaking of… one little nice thing is that many of the key parts on the bike are not propriety. They are just bike parts. So you can get servicing done at any bike shop if you need too (such as removing a fucking pie plate).
I really loved my Brompton, I really did. It is so much fun to ride, so easy to fold, so compact. We still have our 3 speed my partner rides that I’ll use for little local errands, but if you are an aggressive rider, it might not be the best bike for you.
But for me and my riding style (and location being NYC), the Tern Verge P10 has been the near perfect balance of folding bike and road bike. It’s a great bike and at about $1400 a pretty good deal. If you are a roadie and want a folder, this is the one. If you are a Brompton rider, but want a more aggressive ride and don’t mind the bigger fold, this is the one.
But no matter what bike you have, get out there and ride!