The commuter bicycle market is jammed with about a million different options for getting from point A to point B. Arguably the most practical of them is the folding bike; and nothing screams “my bookcase is in alphabetical order and I have a steady job” like a folding bike. But deciding to break the mold and fold still leads to many, many options, and they all ride differently. The easiest way to boil it down is that you get a trade-off: a very compact, easy-to-carry, small-wheeled and nearly toy-like folder, or a heavy, thick-wheeled but more traditional bike that just happens to fold. The Tern Eclipse S18 ($2,100) is the latter, and after testing it out in New York City, it turns out it’s a damn good bike to commute on.
The first thing you notice about the Eclipse S18, at least if you’ve been around other folding bikes, is that it’s quite big. No dinky 16-inch wheels here; the S18 gets straight-up pimp 24s with beefy tires on a hefty (35 pound) aluminum build. You would be hard pressed to notice the heft when you’re riding the bike, but the second you fold it, lift it up and carry it that weight becomes very apparent. You might even begin to wish you picked up something smaller — but once you actually ride the S18, the weight and awkward size is worth it.
The problem with many folding bikes, especially smaller ones, is that you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time on one; the small wheels can’t always handle rough roads, and some lighter folding bikes sport flimsy frames. The Eclipse doesn’t have these problems. Its Schwalbe Ballon “Big Apple” tires are great for long rides and were more than willing to eat up rough cobblestone streets, dirt roads and gravely paths. The Eclipse’s DoubleTruss frame and Physis 3D handle post are both incredibly stiff and make for a sturdy, confident ride, just like a regular bike.
No dinky 16-inch wheels here; the S18 gets straight-up pimp 24s with beefy tires on a hefty aluminum build.
The Eclipse is also feature rich. It uses Avid BB7 mechanical disk brakes, which, apart from being easier to maintain than hydraulic brakes, are extremely quick to stop, particularly useful for avoiding the cab that just cut in front of you or the occasional wayward bystander in Central Park. The Eclipse S18 also has 18 speeds for a huge range of usability — perhaps too much for a city like New York, but just right if you live and work in San Francisco.
Also useful for commuters are the VALO 2 headlight and Biologic Joule 3 Dynamo Hub. The hub uses the movement of your front wheel to power the headlight and — though it wasn’t configured on our test bike — a charger for your phone. Another handy feature is the adjustable Andros stem system: simply unlock the bars and move them around until they meet your desired position. This allows that Eclipse’s geometry to better fit any number of riders; the entire process takes seconds. Finally, if all this adjustability and gadgetry isn’t enough for you, the seat post is a Biologic PostPump unit — an integrated, full-sized bike pump, built right into the seat.
Of course the key feature here is the folding, which is incredibly handy. Tern claims that the time it takes to fold the bike is about 10 seconds, though with practice it can be broken down in half that. Once it is collapsed it stows away pretty neatly, so you can bring it into the home or office (or a quick stop at a store) without worrying about your $2,100 bicycle being violated out on the sidewalk. For city dwellers who decide to take public transit when it rains or are too exhausted to ride home, the folding mechanism is a godsend on buses and subways, sparing you many dirty looks from aggravated commuters as they try to cram themselves aboard.
Overall the Eclipse proved an excellent way to get around the for the duration of the test. At $2,100 it isn’t exactly cheap, and it could be a bit easier to carry around when folded, but that’s the price you pay for a folding bike with the amenities of a mobile home. While folding and traditional bikes have their advantages and disadvantages, it’s clear that Tern has built a thoughtful city machine that can handle anything you can throw at it.