I have a 17km, 30 minute car commute that I loathe to a job that I quite love, and after 2 years of losing an hour a day I decided it was change the job or change the commute. I had a chance to demo an electric bike and quickly decided that this was going to be my next mode of transport, or at least for 6 months of the year here in Raincouver.
For a variety of reasons I decided I needed a folding bike on which I could put a Bionix pedal assist motor. There were a couple of problems with this though, namely:
- I think folding bikes look really goofy
- the Bionix battery makes the bike look even goofier
For the record, I’ve always had nice, racing quality bikes. This foray into the world of folding felt like I was joining the RV and Florida set, but I’ve since come to terms with the fact that while I enjoy cycling and have some residual skills, I have no desire to monitor my heart rate and RPMs on my way to and from work, and I certainly don’t want to get there sweaty.
This reconciliation with what certainly felt like a new phase of life pretty much influenced my decision to go with the Tern Eclipse P9 as opposed to any of the Dahons, other Terns, or other folding options. Basically, the Tern Eclipse was pretty, and for the first time in my life I found myself purchasing a bike based on the aesthetics–white rims, white bike rack, nice tires, nice red detailing–rather than the more important features such as disk brakes and gear ratios. Plus it looked like an almost real sized bike, and I expected it to give me a real sized bike experience.
A Tern Eclipse/Bionix ride is neither road bike or mountain bike–it feels like a Stanley Park seawall ride on steroids, which is basically what I was looking for. I shamelessly kitted it out with a very stylish (and matching!) Basil pannier, upgraded to a matching Giro helmet, and added a cute little bell. It looks great and invites lots of comments from bystanders. I pack about 30-40 pounds in my Basil pannier, and obnoxiously ding ding my bell on my route because the pretty bike goes pretty fast with that pedal assist.
There were a few trips to JV bikes for tweaking and adjusting (thank god for free maintenance for life), including upgrading the chain, adjusting the Bionix which was initially running at a bit of a lower speed than it should have, and some derailleur and disk brake adjustments. The bike felt settled in after about 800 km, but there are a few upgrades that will be needed. The bike has folding pedals, which are a bit wimpy and the left one feels close to breaking already. I’ll probably swap for heavier duty (although non-folding) ones with a toe strap or something to make pedalling a bit more efficient. I’m pretty thrilled with having disc brakes and a Bionix system that goes a distance of 40 km on full speed without needing a charge, or 80 km on low speed. The turbo boost throttle button was a nice surprise–I can accelerate really fast after being stopped at lights or going up hills, which has been surprisingly useful. And the few times I’ve had to put it in the back of an Echo have been useful, although the Bionix motor makes it too heavy to want to do this very often.
After 1100 km I can honestly say that this bike has changed my life. I’m riding more than I ever would have bothered to ride thanks to the pedal assist. And even with the electric motor you still get enough of a workout to knock off a few pounds and tone up. I’ve learned to appreciate how much more you feel part of a community when you are riding through it on a daily basis on the bike routes, comfortably off the car choked and often soulless main roads. All good things.
So far the bike has stood up as a pretty good commuter bike, and if occasional folding matters, its a good option. However I wonder whether a Bionix on a really good commuter bike isn’t a better option for the hard core commuter set. The Tern is all about the fold, and while there are some great components on the bike (eg. the brakes, the Kojak tires), I might have selected different cranks, shifters, derailleur, and definitely pedals. Adding a Bionix on a folding bike adds a ton of weight onto something that is supposed to be lightweight and easy going, and unlike some of the other Terns, or other folding bikes, you don’t buy the Eclipse if you are going to be folding it everyday, in my opinion. But it’s pretty, and the Bionix makes you go fast pretty effortlessly.