Up a creak with the Tern Link P7i folding bicycle

I haven’t recently folded and unfolded the Tern Link P7i (on loan for evaluation from Tern Bicycles). Ridden it, yes, packed it for storage or transport, no.

Much of my recent riding has been on nearby dirt roads. I’d call them gravel roads, but the gravel has been pushed to the very edge of the surface and serves the same decorative function as bricks along a flower bed. Sure, you could walk on a narrow brick path, or bike on a narrow gravel path, but what’s the point? Better to hoof it out in the yard or crank across the dirt.

The roads have surface issues: ruts, erosion and washboard sections, the latter caused by motor vehicles braking on the downside of the hills.

I’m not a gonzo rider, far from it. But a good amount of riding on goat tracks like these is bound to shake something loose. And when things on a bicycle go out of adjustment, the announcement often comes in the forms of clicks, squeaks or creaks.

I had a creak: a small creak at first, easily ignored, but it inevitably turned into the kind of sound you don’t want your bicycle to make: the kind that can be heard 10 feet away. In a car. It was embarrassing. Action Needed to be Taken.

Fortunately, I once analyzed problems just like this one as a mechanic in a bicycle shop.

You start by understanding that sound is a liar. You hear something in the crank and it turns out to be a loose rear hub. You hear a clunk in the rear hub and it turns out to be the seat tube, cleanly separated from the bottom bracket.

In this case, the creak was clearly coming from the handlebar area, which made sense because the handlebars, far from being an impregnable fortress of inadjustability, can easily be repositioned by hand, without tools. So I assumed that the bolts holding the locking clamp had become a bit deranged. I opened the clamp, fiddled with the adjustment and went for a ride. Nope. No change.

Well then, it had to be the handlepost itself (on a folding bike, handebar stem doesn’t summon up the diameter and length of the mighty handlepost), probably where it hinges at the top of the headtube. Easy enough to access the area. I undid the latch, checked the adjustment of the bolt that governs tension of the latch and applied a thin layer of grease to the mating surfaces of the hinge. Then I raised the handlepost back into position, locked it down, and we were off.

Except the creak was still there. Same as before.

Maybe it was the front generator hub. I knew the sound was coming from the front of the bicycle, but I didn’t want to mess with the hub right then, so I hoped I was wrong and continued to think through the problem.

Remember, sound lies. So ignoring the idea that the sound was coming from the front, I tackled the interface of seat and seatpost. I applied pressure to the front and rear of the seat, repositioned the seat, greased and retightened the seat clamp bolt. Went for another ride. No change.

I grabbed the rear wheel and moved it side to side to see if the hub was loose. Nope. Checked the pedals: still securely connected to the crank arm. The crank arms were properly torqued onto the bottom bracket spindle. The spindle itself turned freely. The bottom bracket cups were firmly threaded into the frame.


I sat on a lawn chair for a few minutes and looked at the bike from 10 feet away. It was that generator hub, wasn’t it? As much as I liked that feature I knew that turning the hub of a bicycle into a mobile power plant was fraught with complications. Technology had turned against me. Again.

Yep. Had to be the front hub. I needed to switch the P7i’s front wheel with the non-electrical 20-inch wheel from the Dahon Bullhead downstairs. I needed to positively identify the hub as the cause of all the commotion.

I stood up and turned away. That’s when I remembered a bit of vital information. This bike folded in half. Somehow, I had forgotten about that. I opened the main frame latch. It seemed a bit loose. I gave the bolt that sets the tension for the latch a turn. Closed the latch. It felt tight. Felt right.

I went for another ride. No creak. Silence. Bliss.

Total time analyzing the problem: 20 minutes over four days and several rides. Total time actually solving the problem: 20 seconds. I may once have done this for a living, but it’s a good thing I don’t charge myself for my time.

I can’t afford me.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
This entry was posted in Tern Bicycles and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Up a creak with the Tern Link P7i folding bicycle

  1. lardavis says:

    Like the wylie coyote and the road runner, sometimes it’s the cliff edge, sometimes it’s the false tunnel opening.

  2. Ray Keener says:

    How’d you like the bike, Sam?

    • I think Tern has done a fine job with the Tern Link P7i. The hydroformed aluminum frame puts the material in the right places for rigidity, without adding weight. The latches are comfortable to manipulate–important, perhaps, for people with less strength in their hands. The drivetrain, featuring a 7-speed internal hub, is bulletproof and, most importantly for a bike that exposes the chain when folded, includes a durable, all-enveloping plastic chain cover. Nits: the short right grip, combined with the twist shifter forces the hand into a somewhat uncomfortable angle; no problem on short commutes, but I started paying attention at 15 miles, switching to a thumb-over-grip strategy. I’d like to see something replace the magnets that hold the folded bike together: I put a premium on a fold that will not come apart, say when the bicycle is held in a stacked wheel position. Folded size makes the bike, like most 20-inch folders, a good match for apartment storage and car transport, and the tires/wheels, unlike those on a 16-incher, handle improved, but soft, trail surfaces very nicely. Nicely equipped with lights, rack and fenders. Cost-conscious fair-weather riders may want to consider a more stripped-down version: same high quality without the items that run the price up.

  3. woo says:

    I would like to find the acme website do you know what it is ?

  4. Adam says:

    I just bought a new Tern Link D8 and on the second day of riding, I kept hearing an annoying creak coming from my handlebar. I could actually reproduce the noise while stopped by shaking the handlebar. So new and creaking already? I decided to cut a circular piece of black silicone about the size of a quarter (The silicone came from an old black silicone case for my iPhone) and fit it into the circular exposed groove when the handlebar base (bottom of the T shaped bar) is folded down. I then unfolded the handlebar base and reclosed the hinge. To my surprise, the creaking disappeared while riding or even shaking the handlebar while riding. Yeaaaah! If I wanted to make it more permanent, I could just glue the silicone to the circular groove. However, I will hardly be folding and unfolding the bike so I will just not bother gluing it. Problem solved.

    • In a way, I’m a bit torn between two worlds when it comes to maintenance. On the one hand, I agree, a new bike should be perfect. But on the other hand, I appreciate how bicycle technology, unlike that of the automobile, is still “shade tree mechanic” friendly. Just curious, though: did you adjust the release tension?

      • Adam says:

        I actually just read your question after I posted my update which is below. I am such a newbie to folding bikes. I actually watched a YouTube video later on about OCL joint adjustment and I did just that. Thanks for the response anyway.

      • I believe all bicycle companies can benefit from YouTube maintenance/benefits/did you know videos. I know their customers do. Your experience with joint adjustment was very similar to mine, except that you discovered the answer more quickly. Enjoy your bicycle. Given the mix of price and features, the D8 looks as though it should be one of Tern’s biggest sellers.

  5. Adam says:

    Here is an update to my previous post. I had watched a YouTube video on how to adjust the OCL joint. I unhinged the base of the T handlebar where the creaking noise was coming from. I made a slight adjustment to tighten the hinge (about a 90 degree turn) with my finger or you can use a 6 mm wrench as per the YouTube video. I then reclosed the hinge which was now tighter than before. Voila! No more creaking noise! I no longer needed that circular black silicone I had previously used as a remedy. Good thing I did not glue it!

  6. Bc says:

    Thank you!!!
    I love(d) my Tern. Love it again!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s