All too often picking out a folding bike is a matter of compromises. You can get a super-fast racing bike that won't stand up well to New York City potholes, or an excellent commuter which weighs way too much to haul up the stairs to your apartment. A folding bike that can handle long distance touring might not do so well with the off road detour you end up taking through a rocky river bed, and even Montague's excellent full-sized folders sacrifice some convenience in their folding mechanism for the sake of accommodating their big 26" and 700c wheels.
As one of the leading manufacturer of bleeding-edge folding bike technology, Tern was well versed in this problem, and one of their newest models directly addresses the issue of compromise. The Tern Joe P24 is the long-awaited folding bike that can perform any--and I mean any--role admirably well. As a jack of all trades, it isn't the absolute best bike for any specific function, but is an awesome bike with as versatile a setup as can be found.
Let's start from the wheels up. The Joe P24 rolls on 26" wheels, the standard size for mountain bikes. These full size wheels are equipped with Schwalbe's excellent, wide Marathon Supreme tires. I was really impressed with the combination, as the tires were wide enough to float over even the nastiest potholes and roughest cobblestone I encountered in my test ride, but the low-key traction pattern on the Marathons allowed the bike to fly quickly over the asphalt with very little resistance. This was a revelation on a bike that feels very much mountain-ready, between its sturdy, sporty frame and extra wide, flat handlebars.
Straddling the line between racing bike-style stiffness and commuting comfort, the Joe P24 can get around at a quick clip. In its top gear you can really fly, so long as the pedestrians stay out of the way, but it was the low end of the gearing that really surprised me. Even though this is a bike designed primarily for urban environments, it packs more than a few mountain bike parts, including a triple chainring up front. This allows for a super low gear of 18 gear inches, making the Tern Joe P24 an excellent folding bike for anyone who needs to content with significant hills on their daily commute, or needs to tow a trailer full of gear or children.
Having charged through a fair amount of flat, paved bike path at the beginning of my ride, I was intrigued by the Joe's mountain bike-like geometry, and couldn't resist taking it over some unpaved, pathless terrain to see how it fared. Again, I was impressed by the breadth of the drive train, as I was easily able to find the perfect gear for handling this new territory. Likewise, the responsive mechanical disc brakes were able to keep me in check as I navigated high top speeds, curbs, dirt knolls, and more on my ride.
A host of clever details round out this fun and useful bike. Although I rode the Joe P24 in a pretty standard, flat configuration, handily adjustable components allow riders to alter the height and angle of the handlebars easily. This makes the Joe a good bike for those looking for a very specific fit, or anyone who might still be growing. Of course, due to its 26" wheels, the Joe P24 is not as compact when folded as the bulk of Tern's line, but it still folds down to an easily-stored package quite quickly and without any dissassembly. Finally, the main hinge lives up to Tern's excellent reputation in that department, featuring a huge amount of surface area where the two halves of the frame meet, making for a highly stable mechanism.
I, for one, am relieved that we are now carrying the Joe P24--no longer do I have to explain the compromises our customers face when picking the out the perfect folding bike! For almost anyone looking to bike almost anywhere, the Tern Joe P24 is an excellent choice as a versatile, affordable folding bike. What are you waiting for? Order yours today!