When Peter asked me to compare the Tern Eclipse S11i and the Pacific Cycles IF Mode, I must admit I was a little nonplussed. One is a fully-loaded luxury commuter packed with convenient features to make long urban rides a breeze; the other a futuristic head-turner with innovative and even experimental touches that make it hard to classify. But for their many differences, these bikes actually have a surprising amount in common--both are built around folding frames manufactured by some of the best brands in the business, both are designed for use in an urban setting, and both feature high end components with price tags to match. So you have some money to throw around, you know you want a folding bike, and you know you will be biking around the city...which bike is for you? Hopefully by comparing some of the key aspects of each, we can find an answer.
Let's start with perhaps the most immediate and practical distinction between the two--gears. The Eclipse S11i has eleven gears while the IF Mode sports a mere two. Essentially, the more gears you have, the more varied terrain and weight loads your bike can tackle, so on the face of it, the Eclipse has the solidly upper hand in this regard. However, gearing also has a lot to do with riding style. Single speeds and fixies are popular with riders who don't mind working a little harder to accelerate from a standstill or get up a hill, but find themselves cruising in one gear most of the time. If this describes you, the IF Mode's two gears might be an ideal choice--one gear is pretty low, and is to be used to accelerate and climb hills, while the other is pretty high, for cruising at top speeds. I found that I didn't really need much more than these two gears to get around New York City, and I greatly enjoyed using the Mode's unique spur-like bottom bracket-mounted shifters. That being said, I was still able to get around faster using the Eclipse's more traditional gear range.
As folding bikes, both models have slightly smaller wheels than traditional road bikes, with the Eclipse S11i's 24-inch wheels making it a bit shorter when folded than the IF Mode with its mountain bike-standard 26-inch wheels. However, the folding game is where the IF Mode really excels, as its clever design and folding pedals affords the bike a much slimmer profile than Tern's bike, as well as the ability to be rolled along the ground using a handle that is cleverly built into the frame.
When it comes to accessories and conveniences, however, the Eclipse S11i really shines. This makes sense, given that the IF Mode is designed as a stripped-down minimalist marvel. With a rear rack, integrated dynamo lighting, innovative chain guard, ergonomic grips, and slick 11-speed internal hub, the Eclipse simply has everything when it comes to frills. It makes for a fulfilling ride that never leaves you wanting. The IF Mode features none of these amenities--futuristic beauty aside, it is really just a pair of wheels and gears that folds down really well.
If you are looking for a folding distance commuter that makes riding comfortable, safe, easy and fun, you cannot go wrong with the Tern Eclipse S11i. It is certainly a beautiful and practical bike. But for the design buff, who wants something new in their biking experience, who wants an ultra-portable bike that travels well on the subway, and--let's face it--wants a little extra attention, the IF Mode is a drool-worthy package. As one customer recently put it, "It's like something out of a James Bond movie."