Tern Link D8 review

Tern Link D8 bike

Searching for a folding bike

About a year ago, I had the need for a folding bike to commute to work on. If you’ve ever stayed somewhere with no bike storage and up a couple of flights of stairs, you’ll understand the appeal of being able to fold a bike, rather than struggle to manhandle a full-size machine.

If I asked you to name a folding bike manufacturer off of the top of your head, I’m certain you’d say ‘Brompton’. That’s where my search started. Sadly, finances dictated that the Brompton was out, so my search continued. That’s when I came across Tern.

Tern is a relatively new brand, run by the ex-wife and son of the founder of Dahon. They have a range of no less than 28 folding bikes, some of which look remarkably like those in the Dahon range and undercut most of them on price significantly.

Tern sell their bikes on the their N-Fold technology. This rotates the front wheel 180 degrees, while keeping the handlebar facing straight. They have described their design as “very intuitive” and claim that it “takes about 10 seconds” to unfold the bike. I’d be putting this to the test.

Tern bikes, as with Dahon, have a greater range of wheel sizes than the standard 16″ Brompton, and it was this that drove it’s appeal.

Enter the Tern Link D-8.

Described by Tern as the Jack of All Trades in the range, the D8 is designed as an everyday travel companion – great on the road, and small and light enough to take on public transport.

The frame of the bike is Aluminium and it’s driven by a dérailleur based, grip shift 8-speed transmission. It rides on 20″ wheels and weighs 12.1 kg (26.7 lb). The bike comes complete with full mudguards and a Biologic rear rack (which is compatible with KLICfix bags) which are very useful on a commuter. You can also mount luggage on the front via the luggage socket.

The 2013 model of the Link D8 comes in at £435 at Evans Cycles. This is actually £40 cheaper than the 2012 model.

The Fold

As mentioned the bike uses Tern’s N-Fold technology which results in a faster, and more compact fold. N-Fold Technology includes new frame and handle post geometries and spins the front wheel by 180 degrees before the central fold. All of this results in a fold that’s not a great deal larger than that of a traditional 16″ wheeled bike.

To fold the Tern Link D8 bike, you simply disengage the mid-frame catch, fold the bike in half while rotating the front wheel. You then disengage the handle post catch and fold the bars down, finishing off by lowering the seat and (optionally) folding the pedals. It’s just about possible to do it with one hand and really is simplicity itself – nothing to unscrew like a Brompton, and nothing to go wrong.

Riding the Tern Link D8

One of the key selling points of the bike is the 20″ wheel size. As I am sure you know, bigger wheels traditionally mean a better ride – especially on the rough, potholed roads we have in London. The bike certainly does have a smooth ride, and rolls really fast for a folding bike – many times I’ve passed lycra clad commuters on carbon bikes much to their surprise! There are gears that allow you to get some speed up, and enough to ensure that you don’t run out of gears when the terrain gets really lumpy.

Living with the Link D8

I’ve lived with the Tern Link D8 for the last year, and put close to 1000 miles on it in total, so what has it been like?

Well, its on road manners are surprisingly full-size bike like. I’ve never noticed any instability from the front-end, and the rear of the bike is planted even in the worst conditions. It really is a nice ride.

The fold is simple – it really does take the advertised 10 seconds once you’re used to it – and the folded size is not bad at all. The Tern Link D8 is pretty light, although as with any folder I wouldn’t want to carry it too far!

I’ve had a few punctures – to be expected on city roads – and changing the tubes is as  easy a job as on any road bike, and general maintenance requires no specialist tools beyond a normal road bike.

The rack has proved very useful with its integrated bungy cords, often I’ve strapped a bag of shopping on the back and its remained resolutely secure.

All in all, the D8 has been a good introduction to folding bikes for me, but it has not been without its problems…

Problems with the Link D8

Having been complimentary about the fold size and method, I do have a couple of criticisms. The first – and most important – is that the 2 halves of the bike are secured by nothing more than a small magnet when folded. This is fine when the bike is sat stationary in your hallway, but it falls apart with alarming regularity when negotiating stairs and public transport. Many times I’d almost dropped the bike as the 2 halves separated and unbalanced the whole package! This is a real downside to the folding system in my eyes.

The other issue is that the chain and dérailleur are on the outside of the folded package. This results  in you constantly having to worry about not brushing it against your (or other people’s) legs for fear of oily marks on your trousers. Again, this is a potential show-stopper for a folding bike in my eyes.

A more abstract criticism of the bike in general is that it ‘lacks character’. Depending on how you look at it, this might actually be a positive, but to me it rides too much like a normal bike and has no unique character of its own.

If like me, you like your bike to stay clean, the Tern Link D8 is probably not the bike for you. The frame structure makes keeping it clean very difficult. It has a lot of recesses and cross members that trap filth and are hard to get a brush or cloth into. It is a little thing, and I realise that this won’t bother a lot of people, but to me it means the bike looks ‘used’ very quickly.

I would also say that the range of gears provided (12-32T rear cassette) are unnecessarily wide for a folder. I find myself using no more than the smallest 3 cogs 99% of the time which would indicate that a hub gear might be a better option – and an option that would be easier to maintain.

Review

The Tern Link D8 is certainly an attractive prospect at an attractive price point – under half that of a Brompton – but it’s not without its problems.

If you are looking for a folding bike that primarily rides well and is well priced then you could do an awful lot worse than the Link D8.

If however, if its  true practicality – and a touch of character – that you are looking for most of all then it is probably not the bike for you.

The Tern is available at Evans Cycles for £435 for the 2013 model.

Tern Link D8 at Evans Cycles

What’s good about it?

  • Price – under half that of a Brompton
  • Wheel-size gives a smooth and composed ride
  • The fold is very simple and very fast
  • Comes with everything you need for city riding
  • Easy and cheap to maintain

What’s bad about it?

  • Fold is not very secure
  • Fold leaves the oily bits on the outside
  • Lacks character
  • Hard to keep clean
  • Dérailleur gears not really well suited to the bike

Tern Link D8
Date published: 03/04/2013
3 / 5 stars

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33 Responses to Tern Link D8 review

  1. Vedomyr 04/03/2013 at 10:47 am #

    I have my Tern Link D7i for about a year and I can approve that everything you’ve written is right. Till now I’ve been not sure about my choice between dérailleur and internal hub bike. Now I really see the difference, so thank you.

    Matte black bike is getting dirty very fast too, and I am still looking for a way to make folded bike more secured. The single speed chain with its plastic cover saves my clothes very much. Generally I am happy with my bike, and I would give 4 of 5 stars to D7i model.

  2. Rodd 05/03/2013 at 8:33 am #

    An interesting review. Good work.

    I’ve had a Dahon Mu Uno for about six months now. It’s a single speed 20″ wheel folder. The more recent model comes with v-brakes front and back (previous iterations had a coaster brake on the rear and an ‘optional’ front v-brake on the front!).

    I wanted something simple, requiring minimal maintenance, relatively light, solid and affordable. I’ve taken it all over the UK, in snow, rain, ice, mud and sand. It’s been excellent. Although i bought it for a particular few months of work I’ll definitely hang on to it to supplement my main bike. It’s great for visitors of various heights to ride, and it’s great fun too. Also handy to have as a spare.

    Brompton was out of my price range and i wanted to avoid gears and the Mu Uno has proved well worth it. The lack of gears hasn’t on the whole been a problem. The relative hard time i’ve given the bike has proved that fewer bits to go wrong was the right decision to make. The big balloon Schwalbe Supreme tyres have been great in the ice and snow too.

    Gripes are similar to yours – chain on outside of fold, magnet closures can be flakey.

    I did upgrade the pedals to MKS FD-7 (well worth it) and i seemed to find the last SKS Dahon mudguards in the land. Dahon seem to makes spares and parts very hard to find which doesn’t encourage me for future problems, although some dealers in the US seem to have a comprehensive selection of spares.

  3. Paul Draper 05/03/2013 at 8:38 am #

    All your hyperlinks appear to be broken!

    • Andreas 05/03/2013 at 6:35 pm #

      Which links are you referring to Paul?

  4. Eve 06/03/2013 at 12:24 am #

    Hi Sam, I have a Dahon Speed D7 which is a Tern’s ‘older brother’ and I absolutely love him. My two gripes are – its weight (12.5 kg), so I hope to upgrade to a lighter folder at some point (one of those high end terns probably) and the oily marks (I’ve learnt to carry it so I wont get any on myself, also switched to black cycling tights).
    Have you tried carrying your bike unfolded? It’s much easier – more options to grip it securely and more stability whilst climbing stairs. I have to climb 2 flights of stairs to my flat and carrying it folded was too cumbersome. I also love the wide range of gears as I live in a very hilly part of London (whichever way I go there is a damn steep hill to climb) and because the gears are so nicely spaced climbing hills is a doddle. My bike seems to have plenty of ‘character’ and seems to ‘look after me’ (because I look after him lol?) – on the two occasions something was wrong ( a puncture or a cracked main hinge) I was able to get home safely and only then I noticed the fault.

  5. Rodd 06/03/2013 at 3:48 am #

    I agree Eve, I often carry mine unfolded as it’s much more comfortable. This isn’t possibly on a Brompton as the rear wheel does that funny ‘fold under’ thing.

    How did you get your main hinge repaired? I’d be interested to hear about how Dahon handled it.

    On another not, the larger wheels (4″ bigger than a Brompton) make me feel less like a clown on the mini bicycle and the ride feels a lot more stable!

    • Sam 06/03/2013 at 9:32 am #

      Thanks for the feedback folks :)

      I did carry it unfolded where possible, but on the Tube in central London that’s not possible (and is not allowed during peak times). It is certainly easier for quick up/down stairs routes.

      Oh and for the record, you can carry a Brompton unfolded in the same way as the rear wheel only folds under if you release the locking mechanism….

      • Vedomyr 06/03/2013 at 10:01 am #

        This is not the worst case. I have to pack my Link into a CarryOn cover each time I have to travel by local subway, because bicycles are not allowed here.

        • Sam 06/03/2013 at 9:22 pm #

          Oh wow, what a pain that must be. We are at least allowed to take bikes as long as they are folded (and can take them unfolded outside of the peak times)

  6. Nico (@nfanget) 06/03/2013 at 2:35 pm #

    Anyone round here tried the Decathlon Tilt 9? Looks very well equipped for the price (7-gear hub, hub dynamo+integrated LED lights, belt transmission…), but I have serious concerns about the folding mechanism. It looks very fragile to me.

    http://www.decathlon.co.uk/tilt-9-city-folding-bike-copper-id_8202739.html

  7. Eve 08/03/2013 at 10:32 am #

    @ Rodd
    I bought my bike second hand so I wasn’t sure if Dahon would be happy to service it.
    I was able to fix the problem myself – I bought the hinge online (from the excellent CHWhite&Son who are folding bikes dealers http://www.foldingbikes.biz/ ) and managed to change it myself (under my bike savvy friend’s eye).

  8. Charlie2 08/03/2013 at 11:09 am #

    Thanks for the review, I have the Dahon P8 and it has been all over the UK and Europe, great way to see new places. So is Tern a rebranding ? The bikes seem exactly the same … Would be interested in reviews of the lighter versions of the range…
    I’m always envious of Brompton owners pushing their half folded machines along on the 2 little luggage rack wheels, very smart design, but 16″ wheels are just too tiny for me…

    • Eve 09/03/2013 at 12:25 am #

      Tern is a result of a family feud and different concepts in regards to development, marketing and quality. Dahon Global (owned by Josh Hon and his mother, main force behind the development) where not happy about the marketing strategy (make as much profit as possible) whilst peddling substandard bikes churned out by Dahon China (owned by David Hon, the creator of the brand) , so they set up their own shop. In short Tern brand themselves as improved version of Dahon bikes.

  9. Jorn 08/03/2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Hi Sam,

    nice review on this attractive bike. Anyway, you describe the link D8 delivered completely with mudguards and biologic storage rack while Evans offers this model “naked” only for the mentioned 435 GBP. That’s a bit disappointing.

  10. Dave Greenwood 08/03/2013 at 1:23 pm #

    Our household owns a Brompton M3 and a Tern Link D7i. The Tern is a good bike for the money and does ride better on bad roads, but in the folding stakes it’s just not in the running compared to the Brompton. By comparison the Tern is a faff to fold and unfold, and the folded package is much less compact, portable and tidy. On one occasion I took it into the office instead of the Brompton, and colleagues jibed that it was the first time they’d seen a bike that actually got bigger when you folded it.

  11. Vincent 08/03/2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Sam > I’ve had a few punctures

    Get puncture-resistant tires, eg. Schwalbe Marathon Plus or Marathon Supremes (www.schwalbe.co.uk/tour/), or Greenspeed Scorcher TR (“thorn-resistant”).

    > If however, if it’s true practicality – and a touch of character – that you are looking for most of all then it is probably not the bike for you.

    Are there any commuter-friendly folder with character?

    • Sam 10/03/2013 at 7:33 pm #

      I have puncture resistant tyres on a couple of bikes, and although I’ve had fewer punctures with them installed, there are things that always get through – mainly sharp flint and glass so far.

      In my opinion, the Brompton has character in spades Vincent. The fold means it goes everywhere, it rides very well for a small wheeled bike, and is pretty perfectly geared. It’s just a little less ‘clinical’ than the Tern and Dahon offerings – again in my opinion :)

  12. RobbieC 09/03/2013 at 1:05 pm #

    I have a Dahon SpeedTr which I use less now that I have an Airnimal Joey. I cycled on the Dahon for three years from 2008 and found, in spite of regular annual servicing that it had significant maintenance issues as parts wore out (apart from finding the spare parts in the first place). Two incidents were scary – the mid frame fold splitting near the British Museum and the Handlepost snapping on St Martin’s lane. I hope the Tern is not like this.

  13. Richard 11/03/2013 at 11:32 pm #

    For those saying the Brompton is out of their price range; a couple of points.
    1. Tap into the Bike to Work scheme and that will make your money go a lot further.
    2. Brompton makes all their new parts and developments compatible with all models so you can keep changing parts and updating it safe in the knowledge that your model will never be discontinued. Both making it a long term investment and a sustainable design option.

    But the most important point is that Bromptons are lovely little bikes but they do not feel like you are riding a little bike; as Sam puts it, they have character in spades. You will not just be riding a folding bike, you will be riding a design icon. Now that’s got to put a smile on your face!

  14. Alan Southern 13/03/2013 at 8:43 pm #

    It is a pity the review was not proof read before its issue. There are at least three ‘it’s’ that should read ‘its’. One of those ‘it’s may be correctly used if the sentence deleted a word. I’ll leave it to the rest of the readers to find it! By the way, if ‘it’s can be read as ‘it is’, ‘it has’ or ‘it was’ it is correctly ‘it’s’. If it cannot then it should be ‘its’.

    • Sam 18/03/2013 at 7:48 pm #

      Apologies for my shoddy grammar Alan – it is something I usually notice so I am surprised I let them slip in, and let myself down!

      • Andreas 18/03/2013 at 8:11 pm #

        My bad too – should have spotted. Have corrected now!

  15. Aldo from Br 02/05/2013 at 2:56 pm #

    My criticism has to do only with the derailleur that could have more speeds, eg 11-32t rear and 58/46/34t in front, for a performance near 11-34t and 46/38/28 on bike with 26″ rim. I am willing to replace the whole gear (also don’t like gripshift, rather rapidfire shifter) but I can not get these parts, especially the front derailleur frame clamp because it diameter, and itself. If anyone can help, I’m grateful.

  16. Karl 06/08/2013 at 1:42 pm #

    I bought a Dahon in 2007, which was great, but found that I used it much more than I had expected to and that my initial penny pinching (like the reviewer I initially baulked at the price of a Brompton) was not justified. Since then I have bought 3 further folding bikes and sold my only non-folding bike (a Carrera Subway) as I found that I was no longer using it. Finally I came around to buying a Brompton (in September 2010) and have not looked back. There is simply no comparison in terms of versatility. The folded package is so much more compact, doesn’t fall apart until you want it to, and the oily bits are retained in the inside, so no fear of transferring oil to your own clothes or those of others. The ride of a Brompton does not feel like a standard bike, but what initially seems like ‘twitchy’ handling soon seems like ‘responsive’ handling, and that of a larger-wheeled bike soon comes to feel ponderous. The potentially harsh ride of a 16″-wheeled bike is taken care of by a simple but effective rear suspension system. This bike has actually saved me considerable money as my partner and I have gone down to one car between us rather than the 2 we used to run – I would not have done this without a bike as versatile as the Brompton. If you want a folding bike, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with a Tern or a Dahon, but if you can afford it my advice would be to buy a Brompton.

  17. tapash 18/09/2013 at 10:21 am #

    Thanks for the detailed review… I am in verge of buying C7 and then bumped into your review. I was thinking how does D8 compared to C7, in terms of performance and reliability. Of course that comes with a £50 difference. Is it worth paying £50 extra for D8? Some places I have seen people having problem with handlebar and slipping chains… what is your opinion?

    Thanks

  18. Dave 05/02/2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Have a read of this thread. I think there maybe a recall of this model soon as the frame has failled on some Link D8’s

    http://www.ternbicycles.com/forum/tern-link-d8-frame-shearing-two

  19. Terry 04/04/2014 at 12:54 pm #

    First of all, great review.

    Secondly, I have to agree with Dave there! I’ve been following this tread on Terns forum for a while. More people are now reporting frame failures!!! Not just the Link D8 but other models….Scary stuff!

    I was thinking of purchasing a Link D8 or even the bigger frame bikes (hence why I was looking at your review) but now I think I’ll get a Brompton. Yes, a good deal more expensive, but I think it wont fall apart while riding on the road!!!

    Oh, and now Tern have made the ‘tern-link-d8-frame-shearing-two’ private…. which seems like they dont want people to stumble across it. You now have to be a registered member in order to read it.

    And by the looks of things the injured riders still havent heard back from Tern.

    NOT GOOD!

  20. Rob 16/04/2014 at 8:11 pm #

    Thanks for lots of useful info, which is what forums are all about, shame about an apostrophe in the wrong place, totally ruined my life and I will not be able to sleep tonight……………………………….

  21. Gary E 03/05/2014 at 1:46 pm #

    Here is the link to the Tern that broke into two:

    http://www.ternbicycles.com/us/forum/tern-link-d8-frame-shearing-two

    that is scary stuff. Check out recalls on-line, a number of Terns in USA have been subject to recalls due to problems over welds, welding aluminium can be problematic and failure of the joint has been proved by the recall and the event last December.

    I have been in the process of buying a Ferrari Scuderia 20″ folding bike, identical to the Tern, which was essentially a “counterfeit” (until 6th March 2014 until Avocet Sports made an agreement with Tern) and manufactured in China by a completely unknown company (Komda Holdings), no come back if this bike fails… Thank goodness for Distance Selling Regulations as I discovered all the negative feedback after making the order, but not before receipt, so my purchase can be returned.

    I feel I have had a lucky “get-out”, I would have been very unhappy to have started using the bike to discover the frame weaknesses that are inherent in the Tern (could be worse in the copy…).

    The evidence of defects is out there, and for such a safety critical item to fail does not bear thinking about, I am certainly not going to take the risk.

    I have today collected my new Brompton, Bromptons are well-built, tried and tested and we know where the factory is, what price safety?

    Don’t take a chance, do your research and then make a decision, I am just glad to have found out before it was too late.

    • Gareth S 15/07/2014 at 2:46 pm #

      Hi Gary,

      Probably a bit late to offer my opinion, but just to say I bought a Tern Verge X10 14 months ago and have had numerous problems: Chain drop issues – very dangerous on my cycle to Shoreditch on busy London roads, spoke failure (3 times in 9 months) on the original wheels before changing them to that from a lesser model. However, the real reason I’m replying to your post is because last Sunday in Clapham on a quiet hill, the frame snapped in 2!!! I was only doing about 5 miles an hour so have only come away with scratches and a bruised rib from where my chest hit the handlebar. Anyway, I just want to say, the rate of instances of this happening is alarmingly higher than one would think. I have been offered many apologies and a full refund from the UK tern rep who told me they ‘always stand by their product.’ I think there will be a different attitude when someone is killed. Stick to Brompton mate, if you truly need a folder.

  22. Richard 31/07/2014 at 6:52 pm #

    I have had a Tern D8 for about 5 months. First and foremost it has changed my life for the better. iinstead of a grinding public transport commute I now have a peaceful joyous bit of exercise at each end of my work day….I am converted! Having said that, as a machine the Tern does have it’s shortcomings, most obviously the lame bottom bracket and chainring which are cheap and flimsey (I mean aweful). Likewise the Neos rear deraileur is average at best. Overall the drivetrain leaves a lot to be desired and i have already started the upgrades. I don’t want to put people off buying this fabulous machine, but just be aware that there are some substandard features on this model (reflective of the price!!!). As for frame snaps, whilst I don’t want to downplay this issue it seems a limited problem and its not an issue thats nescessarily limited to this bike. Having said that I’ll be keeping an eye on my centre joint! Thanks for the interesting review, it hits the nail on the add only like I’ve said, I was dissapppointed with the drivetrain.

  23. Vedomyr 31/07/2014 at 8:59 pm #

    I’ve had an advice from service center to regularly check and tune locks. They should be a little hard to lock and unlock, it grants the security. If they are loose, collapsing may occur.

  24. Richard 30/09/2014 at 9:09 pm #

    Further to my last comment Tern is now in the middle of a full on recall of specific frames….check their website which has more details and I suppose regardless keep an eye on the centre joint which seems to be the issue. Some dodgy aluminium welding!!!

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