First Look: Tern Vektron folding e-bike

The Tern Vektron promises the portability of a folding bike with the hill-flattening power of an e-bike. Does it deliver?

Commuter riding Vektron e-bike

The Tern Vektron offers the portability of a folding bike with the hill-flattening power of an e-bike. I set out to test the company’s claim that it’s a “folding bike that doesn’t ride like one”.

How much?

The Vektron retails at $4999, which is on the pricey side, but you do get quality components. The mid-drive Bosch motor and battery are complemented by 10-speed gears, front and back disc brakes and a very comfy seat. The frame sits low, which makes climbing aboard easier.

The seat post extends to a point Inspector Gadget would be proud of, and the handlebars also tilt. This combination means the bike can be adjusted to suit just about any sized rider. Tern claims the Vektron fits riders from 147-195cm (4’10” to 6’5”). We’ve had riders at both extremes riding it comfortably.

Taking it for a spin

My test route took me along a blustery Wellington waterfront, followed by climb up Mt Victoria. The first thing I noticed when I got on the saddle was the upright riding position. While this is comfortable, I couldn’t lean down to avoid copping the full brunt of the wind. I cruised along at 32km/h before the motor stopped its assistance. The Vektron was nimble, with very responsive steering, and its tyres did a good job at soaking up the bumps. The build quality shone through during my ride – it felt incredibly sturdy under me, even when dropping from kerbs.

I switched on the bike’s “turbo” mode before starting my 2.5km climb and flew up without even breaking a sweat. After admiring the view for a few minutes I pointed the bike back downhill and took off. The low, centrally mounted battery and motor contributed to good balance and handling and the disc brakes proved their worth by reining me in on tight corners. I was worried about the frame flexing all over the show from the hinges on the frame, but the clamps hold things together well.

Know when to fold ‘em

Three steps are required to fold the Vektron: lowering the seat; folding the bike at the frame; and then folding the handlebars down. The clamps were quite stiff, to the point where I found it hard to undo them. The one on the frame was definitely a two-handed job, which could prove too hard for some people. That said, I’d expect those levers would loosen up over time.

It took just over a minute for me to fold and unfold the Vektron. The folded product was about the size of a small suitcase. It weighs 22kg, so it’s in the heavyweight category. I found it OK to carry a short distance but hefting it up stairs, into car boots or on and off public transport was a struggle. When folded, you can pop up the seat and push it around like a trolley (although it’s not well balanced and tends to tip over to one side all the time, but it’s certainly less trouble than carrying it).

Judgement time

The Vektron rides just like a normal e-bike and the motor is great. It’s adjustable enough that one bike could suit an entire family. A major selling point of folding bikes is how easy they are to transport and store. It can sit under your desk at work or fit into your car easily enough. However, it’s heavy to the point where not everyone can pick it up. This will be enough to turn some people away from buying one.

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