The 1100 KM review: 4.5 months on a Tern Eclipse P9

I have a 17km, 30 minute car commute that I loathe to a job that I quite love,  and after 2 years of losing an hour a day I decided it was change the job or change the commute.  I had a chance to demo an electric bike and quickly decided that this was going to be my next mode of transport, or at least for 6 months of the year here in Raincouver.

For a variety of reasons I decided I needed a folding bike on which I could put a Bionix pedal assist motor.  There were a couple of problems with this though, namely:

  • I think folding bikes look really goofy
  • the Bionix battery makes the bike look even goofier

For the record, I’ve always had nice, racing quality bikes.  This foray into the world of folding felt like I was joining the RV and Florida set, but I’ve since come to terms with the fact that while I enjoy cycling and have some residual skills, I have no desire to monitor my heart rate and RPMs on my way to and from work, and I certainly don’t want to get there sweaty.

This reconciliation with what certainly felt like a new phase of life pretty much influenced my decision to go with the Tern Eclipse P9 as opposed to any of the Dahons, other Terns, or other folding options.  Basically, the Tern Eclipse was pretty, and for the first time in my life I found myself purchasing a bike based on the aesthetics–white rims, white bike rack, nice tires, nice red detailing–rather than the more important features such as disk brakes and gear ratios.  Plus it looked like an almost real sized bike, and I expected it to give me a real sized bike experience.

A Tern Eclipse/Bionix ride is neither road bike or mountain bike–it feels like a Stanley Park seawall ride on steroids, which is basically what I was looking for.  I shamelessly kitted it out with a very stylish (and matching!) Basil pannier, upgraded to a matching Giro helmet, and added a cute little bell.  It looks great and invites lots of comments from bystanders.  I pack about 30-40 pounds in my Basil pannier, and obnoxiously ding ding my bell on my route because the pretty bike goes pretty fast with that pedal assist.

The Details

There were a few trips to JV bikes for tweaking and adjusting (thank god for free maintenance for life), including upgrading the chain, adjusting the Bionix which was initially running at a bit of a lower speed than it should have, and some derailleur and disk brake adjustments.  The bike felt settled in after about 800 km, but there are a few upgrades that will be needed.  The bike has folding pedals, which are a bit wimpy and the left one feels close to breaking already.  I’ll probably swap for heavier duty (although non-folding) ones with a toe strap or something to make pedalling a bit more efficient.  I’m pretty thrilled with having disc brakes and a Bionix system that goes a distance of 40 km on full speed without needing a charge, or 80 km on low speed.  The turbo boost throttle button was a nice surprise–I can accelerate really fast after being stopped at lights or going up hills, which has been surprisingly useful.  And the few times I’ve had to put it in the back of an Echo have been useful, although the Bionix motor makes it too heavy to want to do this very often.

The Verdict

After 1100 km I can honestly say that this bike has changed my life.  I’m riding more than I ever would have bothered to ride thanks to the pedal assist.  And even with the electric motor you still get enough of a workout to knock off a few pounds and tone up.  I’ve learned to appreciate how much more you feel part of a community when you are riding through it on a daily basis on the bike routes, comfortably off the car choked and often soulless main roads.  All good things.

So far the bike has stood up as a pretty good commuter bike, and if occasional folding matters, its a good option.  However I wonder whether a Bionix on a really good commuter bike isn’t a better option for the hard core commuter set.  The Tern is all about the fold, and while there are some great components on the bike (eg. the brakes, the Kojak tires), I might have selected different cranks, shifters, derailleur, and definitely pedals.  Adding a Bionix on a folding bike adds a ton of weight onto something that is supposed to be lightweight and easy going, and unlike some of the other Terns, or other folding bikes, you don’t buy the Eclipse if you are going to be folding it everyday, in my opinion.  But it’s pretty, and the Bionix makes you go fast pretty effortlessly.

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7 thoughts on “The 1100 KM review: 4.5 months on a Tern Eclipse P9

  1. I’m glad to have found your review. I’m planning to buy an Eclipse P9 from JV Bike this month. I intend to use it for my short commute, doing errands, some group rides, and short tours. What’s your experience with the bike in the rain? And how is it for cleaning after riding in the rain?

    • I’m a pretty fair weather rider, but it’s been fine in the few times I’ve ridden in the rain. Cleaning is the same as any other bike, but I haven’t really had to clean it in any big way since I got it. JV might be able to tell you more.

      • I bought it on Sunday. And wouldn’t you know it, my 1st ride was in a light rain. Rode in the rain again yesterday, and in the downpour this morning. I’m quite surprised how much cleaner it’s been in the rain than my single-speed with rim brakes; that bike gets messy. Disc brakes are a revelation to me! And combined with the more upright stance, I’ve never had an easier ride in the rain. This very white bike doesn’t get dirty easily! Loving the bike.

    • It’s an aluminium frame so pretty stiff, and you have to keep the tires pumped pretty hard, so it’s not a bike for bad bumpy roads. Keep in mind that the Bionix adds a lot of weight and changes the ride too…so I can’t really say how bumpy it is without the Bionix. I definitely avoid potholes and bumps where I can, because you do feel them more than you would on a mountain bike.

  2. I’m joining the show a bit late, having my Tern P9 (one of the last ones) since summer, and now looking into looking into giving it a pedal assist. So maybe the question is still right: What BionX motor did you install way back then, and how did it hold up?

    • I can’t remember the name of the bionix…the battery installed on the frame (I would opt for one that sits on a pannier rack next time). The motor has held up well…after sitting dormant for about a year, I was able to revive it using the trick I read about in some forums- turn the pedal constantly for 5 minutes and it will kick back in.

      Now that I’ve had some distance on this topic, I’ve been asking myself whether I would do the Bionix or other e-system again. It’s great for a long commute, which is why I bought it. But it adds a lot of weight to save a bit of effort. And if you like to have a quick and easy bike to jump on when you go get groceries or something, then having a Bionix on it is a bit of overkill. So now I have ANOTHER bike that is pleasure only. So the second that these EV systems get lighter, I would switch.

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