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Hey there, if you’re in the market for a folding bike, you’ve probably heard of Dahon and Tern. Dahon is basically the big cheese of folding bikes worldwide, but Tern has a reputation for being one of the most innovative brands out there.
Interestingly enough, the two companies have a family link, albeit a stormy one.
When you’re comparing Dahon vs Tern folding bicycles, you’ll notice similarities between certain models (e.g., the Neos rear derailleur).
In this article, we’ll look at the history of the two companies and pit them against each other in a battle of folding bikes.
Dahon Folding Bikes: The History
Established in 1982, Dahon is by far the leading manufacturer of folding bikes in the world. It was founded by David Hon (Da-Hon) and has its HQ in Los Angeles, California.
After failing to attract established bike makers with his multi-patented folding bicycle invention, David Hon and his brother Henry set about securing investment.
The Hon brothers accrued $2 million worth of funds, including $60,000 from Henry Hon to kick-start the project. In 1984, Dahon began manufacturing bikes in its first factory and has since become a world leader in this cycling niche.
Dahon now has manufacturing facilities in China, Taiwan, and Macau.
Because it is such a large concern, Dahon can afford to fund an active R&D department. This is reflected in the patented tech that features on all its bikes.
Although Dahon makes bikes at various price points, value for money is one of the company’s main selling points.
Tern Folding Bikes: The History
Tern was launched in 2011 by Florence Shen and Joshua Hon, the wife and son of David Hon of Dahon. The Tern company has a good reputation for producing top-quality folding bikes, but its start in life was tumultuous.
Soon after being formed, Tern faced litigation from Dahon, which was settled two years later in 2013. This family feud caused quite a stir in the bike industry at the time (see Dahon v Tern: it’s now a lawsuit). The nature of the family’s current relationship is unknown.
Tern makes its bikes in Taipei, Taiwan. Mobility Holdings is the parent company that owns the Tern brand as well as Bickerton Portables and Biologic Accessories.
Among the Tern bicycles currently available are Vektron e-bikes (which feature in our fastest folding e-bikes list) as well as Tern Link, Verge, Eclipse, and Node models. Some of these bikes offer features not easily found elsewhere.
In the Tern vs Dahon fight, you’ll see plenty of blows and counter-blows. Both brands are innovative, so it helps to know what you want from a bike before picking one over the other.
You can easily spend over $1000 or even $2000 on a folding Tern bike, whereas that kind of price isn’t so common among the Dahon range except for e-bikes. What do you get for that kind of cash? Find out below.
Tern Vs. Dahon Comparison
No one can definitively say that Tern bikes are better than Dahon bikes or vice versa.
Although Dahon bikes are full of evolved, patented technology, Tern folding bikes have a reputation for premium build quality and creative design.
Which Brand Do I Choose On A Budget?
If you’re on a budget, Dahon is more likely to suit your needs than Tern. You’ll find a choice of bicycles in the $450 to $1000 range, including the ever-popular Dahon Mariner D8. The Mariner came second in our list of the best folding bikes for heavy riders.
The Tern Link C8 is one of the more affordable models that Tern bikes hold. That comes in at well under $1000, but the price still doesn’t cater to anyone on a very limited budget. It won runner-up in our best folding bikes roundup.
As a side note, Zizzo sells cheaper bikes still and is another brand with Hon family pedigree (Henry Hon is a co-founder). You’ll get a sturdy bike from them without all the patented tech.
Which Is More Compact?
This isn’t such an easy category to judge. Tern makes plenty of compact folding bikes that you could easily use on a commute, for instance.
However, if you compare the Dahon Mariner D8 to the relatively affordable Tern Link D8 at a similar price, the Mariner has a more compact fold.
Also, Dahon produces the ultra-compact Curl i4, which competes with a Brompton for its small folded size. This is mainly because of its small 16″ wheel size and Brompton-like fold with the rear wheel flipping under the main frame.
Read more: Brompton vs Tern
Video: Folding A Dahon Curl i4
Which Is Faster?
One key factor that makes some folding bikes “faster” than others is the gearing. The higher the ratio of the top gear(s), the more torque you can put into the pedals without spinning them absurdly fast.
Tern is one of the first brands you should look at if you want a fast folding bike. In particular, check out the Tern Verge X11.
The Tern Verge X11 has a 52t chainring and a wide 10t-40t gear range on the rear cassette. This alone is unusual on a folding bike. The fastest gear is roughly akin to riding the third or fourth highest gear on a 700c road bike with a compact crankset. That’s fast for a folder!
Also, the larger 451 mm (nominally 20″) wheels of the Tern Verge enable it to hold its momentum a little better than a more common 406mm /20″ bike.
Agile handling and a sporty geometry add to the speed of the Tern Verge. No bike quite like this is made by Dahon. This isn’t to say that Dahon speed is lacking; it’s the rider that makes the most difference, and there are plenty of Dahon bikes with decent gear ranges.
One of the downsides of a bike with smaller wheels is that you slow down faster if you coast, and that of course reduces your average speed.
Tern also makes folding bikes with larger wheels of up to 26″ (e.g., Tern Eclipse D16), which hold their speed well when you stop pedaling.
Which Is More Comfortable?
This one’s almost impossible to answer, as various elements affect comfort which have little to do with the bike.
The above being said, look closely at the Tern range. Tern bikes often have a steel fork (more often than Dahon), which tends to improve ride comfort by soaking up road vibration.
Tern also offers riders several folding bikes with larger wheels (e.g., Eclipse and Node models). Larger wheels don’t jar so much when you hit obstacles or potholes in the road. They’re better for riding over rough terrain.
You can’t say a Tern bike is more comfortable than a Dahon. However, you might get the feeling looking at the Tern range that cycling comfort is higher on the agenda. For example, Tern’s swept-back “Dutch” handlebar on the Node D8 is kind on your wrists and back.
We’ll give Tern the nod on this one, but you’re still likely to be comfortable on a Dahon bike over typical folding-bike distances.
Video: Tern Node D7i Folding Bike With 24″ Wheels
Which Is Lightest?
For some purposes, like commuting, a lightweight foldable bike is beneficial. You might want to carry it onto public transportation. But, how light is lightweight in this case?
Any foldable bike under 30 lbs is respectably light. Anything around 25 lbs is good (e.g., most Bromptons) and anything around or below 20 lbs is exceptionally light.
Some bikes forfeit equipment to achieve their low weight, including gears, racks, or fenders. Thus, the lightest bikes aren’t always the most expensive. They can just be sparse.
How do we decide whether Dahon or Tern bicycles are lighter? Well, we can’t reliably, but maybe we can get an idea by looking at several different models from both companies and averaging their weight.
We studied the weight of 5 comparable folding bicycles from both brands (no e-bikes). The collective difference was below 1 lb, so we’ll call this one a draw.
The K3 Plus is one of the lightest Dahon bikes you’ll buy at 21.6 lbs (9.8 kg). The Dahon K3 was lighter still but is no longer available new.
Tern’s lightest foldable bike is the Verge X11 at 22.5 lbs (10.2 kg), but that bike has bigger wheels and even more gears than the Dahon K3 Plus. Both bikes have disc brakes, though the Verge has lighter/better hydraulic disc brakes.
Which Is More Durable?
Tern and Dahon are well-known names in the foldable bike industry and offer a range of durable folding bikes. It’s hard to say definitively which brand is more durable as it can depend on the specific model and usage.
Both companies typically make bikes with an aluminum frame and aluminum or steel forks.
Tern is particularly well known for its robust frames and the quality of its hinges, which are designed to withstand the rigors of daily use. They also offer a 10-year warranty on the frames of their bikes, as opposed to 5 years from Dahon.
In summary, Tern and Dahon offer durable folding bikes, but Tern may have a slight edge in terms of overall durability and its related warranty.
However, it is important to consider the specific model and usage when making a purchasing decision.
Which Is The Better Commuter Bike?
Dahon and Tern both make folding bikes that are great for commuting. Therefore, you should pick the model that takes your fancy for commuting purposes, regardless of brand.
We almost gave this category to Dahon because it’s made one or two very compact models and the bikes are often cheaper. You don’t always want to ride an expensive bike on your journey to work.
It’s impossible to generalize and say one brand is better than the other for a commute. Dahon and Tern both offer a load of accessories like bags, fenders, and racks. Carrying stuff is often a part of commuting, as is riding in all weathers.
Not all folding bicycles are equal in terms of adjustability. Not all human beings are proportioned the same way, either. It’s useful to be able to adjust various bike elements like the saddle or handlebar position.
What features do Tern and Dahon offer in this respect? Dahon bikes are sometimes fitted with a telescopic Radius handlebar post for easy height adjustability.
You can also adjust the angle of Dahon handlebars with a VRO or Flat Pak stem (the technology varies from bike to bike). Can you do this with Tern bikes?
Tern bikes have the Andros handlebar stem, which allows considerable adjustment to height and angle. However, the Tern Physis handlebar post (aka handlepost) is not telescopic. In reality, this won’t often create problems, as the bikes are designed to be one-size-fits-all.
Nonetheless, taller riders of a Tern bicycle may need to buy a longer Physis 3D T-Bar handlepost before achieving the required comfort.
Tern bikes also allow adjustment of height, tilt, and fore/aft position in the saddle. This is what you’d expect in any decent bike. Dahon bikes allow the same seat adjustments.
We’d probably give Dahon a bit of an edge in adjustability owing to the telescopic handlebar post that exists on assorted bikes.
Tern Or Dahon: What Is Best For You?
If you’re looking at new bikes for travel or commuting, a foldable bike may be worth considering. Dahon and Tern are both top names in this field.
Because these manufacturers offer bikes in different price brackets, only a few models are comparable. Weigh up the Dahon Mariner D8 against the Tern Link D8, for instance.
Ultimately, the way to choose between Dahon and Tern is to look carefully at individual models and decide which best fulfils your needs.
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