Thursday, September 10, 2015

The New Steed!

So among other things, last week, I had some fun at bike shops.

They did not have fun at bike shops.  But they like to use each other as pillows.  

I'd been in the market to replace my commuter for a while now.  I have a Trek 7100, men's (a high cross bar).  These days, I'm commuting mostly in normal clothes, so I had gotten hooked on the step-thru frames of the Capital Bikeshares so I could ride in dresses or skirts.  But in my neighborhood, Bikeshare is so popular that the docks are frequently empty by the time I go to work!  I will not give up Bikeshare, but I was frequently wanting something that would be available all the time.

I started test riding a few months ago, driving the shops nuts because I research things to within an inch of of sanity.  I rode a couple of frames called a mixte (MIX-tee, MIX, or MIX-eee, we think).  I ruled out stepthrus because they were heavy.

And then I rode a folder.  A folder is a bike that folds up- like Bike Fridays, Bromptons, Dahons, Terns, and Citizen Bikes, to name a few.  In some cases, they can even be put into a suitcase and traveled with!

The DC Metro does not allow bikes on trains during rush hours... but they do allow folded folding bikes!  Since I frequently mix up my commute (between bike, bus, and metro), I like the idea of flexibility.  You know, just in case I'm really tired and want to ride from work to the Bethesda metro, then get off at Tenleytown and not wait for the bus.

What with one thing and another, I now own a lovely used Tern D7i.  It's a great bike with a few commute friendly special features: an internal hub (safe from grit, potholes, and road junk!), a funky covered chain (not a chain guard- a covered chain!  To keep pants clean), and an extra bonus front rack.  I thought I'd hate that rack and pull it off in a day... but I find I'm using it constantly.  It attaches to the frame, so the weight is borne on the frame and not the handlebars.  Unlike the Bikeshare bikes with their baskets on the handlebars, this doesn't affect the steering at all.  I also have a rear rack which has lent itself to the discovery that I can now pack more stuff when I go to work.  On a Bikeshare, I was always working to minimize my load.  The racks mean that I can now ride without worrying about weight or bag size.  HANDY!
Here's that internal hub and covered chain. 

(Because, yes, there were a few days when I took the bus or drove if I had more things than I could fit into a single bag.  I don't need to do that if I don't want to, now.)
And hey, check it out- reflective wheels!

I'm considering panniers for that rear rack, in fact.

But first things first.  I need to get a bell and some lights for riding at night.

Here's my new-to-me Tern!
Overall, my not-scientific review is that the Tern is blowing my expectations out of the water.  I was a little hesitant to get a folder, thinking it might be a one-trick pony.  I took it on metro last Friday just to see how it would handle the job.  Folding it has been easy.  And at my destination, a friendly Metro employee helped hold the gate for me as I carried it out.  He didn't bat an eye, so I guess he sees a few of these each day!  I unfolded the bike and whizzed along to my destination- a store where I replaced my running shoes.

I strapped the box on my rear rack and secured my bag on the front and headed out.

I planned to take the metro home.  But I saw the W&OD trail... a fun, easy trail in DC that is a huge commuting zone.  I did not have water or supplies, so I didn't think a big ride was in the cards. I thought maybe instead of East Falls Church, the stop right in front of me, I could ride to Ballston instead.

So I whizzed along the trails.

And when I got to the signs for Ballston, the ride felt so good I kept going.  Maybe I'd go to Rosslyn, I thought.  

And I kept whizzing along to Rosslyn, past that fun sign where it counts trail users.  And as I approached Rosslyn, I reminded myself that it was on the Blue/Orange/Silver line, and I live off the Red, so I'd still have a metro ride and a train change in front of me... but I was right near Georgetown and maybe I'd just go take the bus.

Here's the folded Tern ready for sitting in the office, with the handlebar still up since I'm trying to figure out how to roll it for short distances.  IT'll never roll like a Bike Friday Tikit or a Brompton, but it'll roll a little bit! 
So I whizzed along into Georgetown where the main drag was clogged with vehicles honking and belching at each other as they gridlocked.  Thinking I'd best get above the fray, I hopped on a side walk, rode up a street, headed down a cobblestone street that I have now nicknamed "The Iron Cooter" for the jolting it hands out, and started noodling up a side road.  I popped out near the library, and realized I had accidentally climbed part of the famous Big Hill of Georgetown.  Whoops!

Besides, I stopped to check the bus arrivals, and the bus was about 22 minutes away in traffic.  I was only half a mile from home.  I could ride half a mile in a fraction of that time.  So I took off, and arrived at home.


The Tern has really been surprising me with its comfort and ride-ability.  It's riding like a real bike, even with the smaller tires.  I am pacing road bikes, unless they have e-assist, which is cheating and probably feels really awesome.  I am really glad I spent the extra money to get the Tern instead of the other entry level bike I was considering- the better components and the folding pedals have been totally worth it.

There are a few quirks... I am still getting used to the folding and I am trying to master rolling it.  Technically, you aren't supposed to be able to roll a Tern or a Dahon, but there are videos that demo it, so it must be true!  That would certain make metro commuting a little easier.  And the magnet on the wheels doesn't hold all that strongly.  So I'll probably do a hack of some sort of keep the wheels together.

Overall, I think I'll be very happy on this little bike... and I am actually looking forward to my next trip so I can take it along for the journey!

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