Bike test: Tern Link B7 folding bike
Small-wheeled folders go anywhere: on trains (for free), in offices (without reproach), and in tiny flats (without being tripped over). The king of compacts is the Brompton. Yet it’s also expensive and has an idiosyncratic ride. Enter Tern. The company makes premium folders too but the range starts at under £500 with the Link A7. Above that are Link B, C and D models.
They look much the same, featuring 20in wheels and chunky aluminium frames. Folding is different, however: C and Ds ‘N-fold’, which leaves the front wheel pointing forward; A and B fold in half conventionally so the front wheel points backward.
Since a Tern ‘handlepost’ (the bit between headset and stem) folds to the left, the handlebar of the cheaper models ends up between the wheels rather than resting alongside. Folding nevertheless takes only 10-20 seconds, and the folded package holds together with strong magnets.
At 34.5×80×70cm, it won’t slide between train seat backs but will fit a luggage rack fine. Tern sells a CarryOn Cover (£50) if you need it.
Unfolding the B7 is slower as you need to gauge the seat height; there are no guides on the seatpost. Once aboard, it rides well. It’s more stable than a Brompton thanks to bigger wheels, more trail and wider, stodgier tyres.
Aside from those tyres, the B7’s only obvious budget-related drawback is its mediocre drivetrain: 7-speed Shimano Tourney with a screw-on 14-28 freewheel. The range isn’t much wider than that of a 3-speed hub, without the latter’s longevity or stationary-shifting convenience. It works – enough said. The basic V-brakes, on the other hand, are surprisingly effective.
The B7 doesn’t have Tern’s ‘Luggage Socket’ on the head tube like the more expensive Links, so you’ll need to invest in a big saddlebag or rack-plus-trunk-bag to avoid a sweaty back.
Less than half the price of a Brompton M6L and more than half as good, the Link B7 won’t inspire the same devotion but it gets the job done. It rides well, without flex or shopping-trolley steering, and folds small enough.
B’Twin Tilt 100 £199.99
The cheapest Brompton by some margin is a 3-speed that uses some older-style parts. You’ll want mudguards (£68/set).