Today we’re covering the Tern Verge S8i, and I am proud to say that it’s the first folding bike we’ve ever featured here on Feed the Habit. You love us for our in-depth review of road and mountain cycling gear, as well as backpacking and mountaineering: but what about for when adventurers need to voyage into the city for some final mile commuting? Enter the whole category of folding bikes, and this really dialed-in offering from Tern: The Verge S8i.
Tern Verge S8i Features:
- Shimano Alfine 8-speed internally geared hub for low-maintenance riding
- Revolutionary Gates Carbon Drive drivetrain for a quiet, light and clean bike
- Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes for extreme stopping power
- Andros™ handlebar stem for tool-free riding position adjustments on the fly
- Bright, wide-beam Valo™ Light powered by the BioLogic Joule™ 3 electricity-generating hub
- Schwalbe Big Apple tires with Kevlar puncture protection
- Folds in under 10 seconds to fit under a desk
- Fenders for rainy days
- Cargo Rack for hauling up to 25 kg (55 lb)
- MSRP: $2,199.00
Playful Performance in Pint-Sized Packaging
I have never used a folding bicycle before. I imagine that I’m like most people: I ride full-sized bikes on the road and trail and I enjoy the performance. But, I’m also in clinical rotations for medical school in Seattle, and this has meant a major adjustment to my commuting patterns and lifestyle. Depending which hospital I was rotating through, my commute could be pure biking, or light rail then biking, or light rail then bus then biking. For the last rotation, I drove and then biked the last mile. This is a very bike-centric life, but at times I struggled to find space on the crowded light rail or safe places to lock a full-frame bike around an urban hospital. Enter the idea of folding bikes.
What I loved about having a high-quality folding bike (and the Tern Verge S8i is definitely a high quality folding bike) was having the freedom and performance of a bicycle coupled with the peace of mind of knowing that I could fold it up and haul it anywhere with me. I loved being able to roll up to work and then dump it in a safe room within the hospital. To see how to fold the Verge S8i, watch this video.
We will talk about some of the nitty gritty details of materials and geometry, but some of the things that I noticed the most while I used the Verge S8i were the thoughtful commuter-friendly features that are built in. A major perk is the Valo 2 headlight which, along with a taillight, run off a dynamo hub to provide awesome riding visibility, both for you and for drivers. The dynamo is great: you never run out of batteries.
Along similar lines, a built-in front cargo rack can hold up to 25lbs, and there’s also a rear rack for your pannier hauling needs. Front and rear fenders do an awesome job of keeping you dry, which was a major boon on rain-soaked February mornings in Seattle.
Arguably one of the most significant commuter-centric features of the Verge S8i is the Gates Carbon Drivetrain, powering a Shimano Alfine 8 speed internally geared hub with gear selection courtesy of This combination is hard to beat: you have the maintenance-free performance of a belt drive and fully-sealed internal hub. For busy people who don’t have space for a bike maintenance stand, this is a major boon for peace of mind. I was happy with the Alfine’s gear ratios, too. According to Sheldon Brown (still the authority!), the ratios are 0.53, 0.64, 0.75, 0.85, 1, 1.22, 1.42 and 1.62.
Something that sets the Tern Verge S8i apart from the competition, notably Brompton, are the relatively large wheels. 20″ wheels come standard on the Verge, which gives the bike a more comfortable, plush ride. Brompton’s can only do 20″ wheels by conversion, and it interferes with how they fold; they do fold smaller thanks to their smaller wheels. It’s a tradeoff, but I appreciated having the puncture-resistant 20″ Schwalbe Big Apples rolling around Seattle and absorbing bumps. It also made the bike feel a bit more ‘normal’, and less of a clown bike.
That brings me, more or less, to riding and using the bike. Like I said earlier, I’m not a big folding bike guy. I love the speed and performance of a full-sized bike. Any folding bike will, to some degree, compromise on what makes a full sized bike great. When I was riding the Tern Verge S8i, I appreciated that it could still feel fast and whippy but I couldn’t get away from the feeling that each pedal stroke wasn’t taking me as far as I wanted it to. Mathematically, that is true. So, a good folding bike will do its best to work around the limitations of its size.
Tern does that in a few ways. We already talked about the 20″ wheels, which are a major perk. There are other features too though, including the adjust-to-fit Andros stem. This makes it a pinch to adjust the height and offset of the handlebars depending now hat type of riding you’re doing. Probably more important, though, is the rock-solid OCL+ Frame Joint.
These bikes are made to be carried, and one really clever and minimally intrusive feature that makes that easier is the Porter+ seat. From above, it looks like a normal (if extra cushy) bicycle seat. But there’s a special plastic moulding under the nose that’s designed to conform to your shoulder and keep the seat rails from causing pain if you’re hitching the bike on your shoulder.
That’s a lot about the specs and design. What is it like to actually ride the bike? Well, for the most part, it’s really fun. The actual experience of using the Verge is made more pleasurable by the fact that the features are so thoughtfully chosen and well integrated. At the same time, it’s a folding bike with tiny wheels. Where I noticed the size the most was actually in the cranks and chainring, which are both underpowered compared to a full sized bicycle.
When you have shorter crank arms, the torque that you can put into the system is effectively reduced. I never felt like I could generate the power that I wanted to. Is that a problem when you’re commuting? Well, it depends how fast that diesel F350 dually is rolling coal at you. In other words, yeah, I missed the power.
Those 20″ wheels were a key part of keeping the Verge rideable. You do pay for it in packability, but compared to comparable Bromptons that I’ve ridden, the Verge felt less like a clown bicycle. The wheels are nimble, but at the same time can feel twitchy. They transmit bumps from the road to the rider, and it’s hard to get around that reality.
One piece that continually shines is the absolutely stellar belt driven transmission. Shifting was always smooth, predictable and maintenance free. I was seriously impressed.
- A looooong list of features shows how much attention went into designing this experience
- A few things, like the Valo 2 dynamo-driven headlight and Gates Carbon Drivetrain and Shimano Alifno internal transmission, are absolute gems
- Larger wheels treat the rider to a smoother, faster-rolling experience
- The folding experience is smooth, and the joints feel stiff and sturdy for my 200lb frame
- Integrated racks make haulage an easy part of life
- Hard to escape the limitations of a 20″ wheel and short(er) crank arms
- 20″ wheels also mean a larger folded size, although only the under-the-desk storers will likely be bothered
The Bottom Line: Tern Verge S8i
Riding a folding bike will always feel a bit different than riding a full sized bike. That’s part of the fun, and it’s just the reality of having that extra folding convenience. With that said, the Verge S8i brings the world of folding commuter bikes into a really exciting level of performance, again thanks in part to those larger wheels, the absolutely stellar belt-driven drive train and the plethora of features. All of those things make this really fun to ride. The Verge S8i comes ready for commuting right out of the box, and it was a trust friend for commuting on busy Seattle streets.
Buy Now: Available from TernBicycles.com