Tern in Toronto with Shifting Serendipity

tern p9

Tern in Toronto

Didn’t realize it at the time, until @crankphoto mentioned it on Twitter, but it’s been a year since we were in Taiwan for the launch of Tern – a brand of folding bikes. A year later I’m traveling with a P9. When packing the P9 up for the trip, I noticed a derailer I hadn’t seen before. It’s a Suntour.

For bike geeks, Suntour is component manufacturing company that was based in Japan. Legendary for microdrive, a concept before its time, and for inventing the slant-parallelogram rear derailer. They’re now owned by a Taiwanese manufacturing conglomerate.

Back to the derailer, it had been decades since I’d seen a SunTour and this one looked different. Tern had it made for them and I inquired….


Suntour NEOS 3, made for folding bikes

Tern responded with this story.

The product you have is the Neos 3.0. It’s our product – made by Suntour. Jojo designed all the shapes. We also use a Neos 1.0 on bikes like the Link D8.


We’re tech geeks and we’re always looking for cool, innovative new tech that will improve our bikes. Our bikes generally have smaller wheels so using these long cage traditional derailers means that the cages almost scrape the ground AND they protrude really far from the frame package (especially when folded) so they are easily damaged.

SunTour derailer

So about 8 years ago, we saw this cool derailer technology developed by a Mr. Iwai in Japan who had a long-standing relationship with Suntour. It mounted on the chainstay and the body of the derailer sat completely underneath the chainstay, well protected from side impact damage. It also used a very short cage. We loved the technology and because of our good relationship with Suntour, they were willing to adapt and develop it for our exclusive use.

Before greenlighting the project, we had some serious discussions on whether we could successfully push a new derailer into the market, given consumer preference for the big S. Discussions with some of our distributors weren’t terribly positive because people tend to prefer what they know. But we decided to ignore the feedback and push ahead anyway because we believe in function first.

So after about a year of development, testing and tooling, we had the Neos 1. The derailer was super low profile: we were shadow, before shadow. The cage was very short and we discovered that not only did it give us much more ground clearance, but that shifts were much faster and more precise because the shorter cage (and mounting on the chainstay) resulted in more stiffness.

After 2-3 years, we developed the Neos 2, and last year, we introduced the Neos 3. We’re really happy with the Neos 3 because it now has the sleek good looks to match the great function.

Also from Tern’s Chief Designer, Joakim Uimonen, this note

Neos 3.0 has some functional advantages in addition to better looks. Neos 3.0 has now forged main shifter bodies with CNC machined pivot points, which makes it movement more accurate comparing to Neos 1.0 or Neos 2.0, which have bend plate shifter bodies. These advanced structures make the shifting of Neos 3.0 even more precise.

Shifting Serendipity

Then last night, back in the hotel room after another ride around town and a photoshoot, Josh Hon sent me this photo. That’s Kawai in the middle who invented the original SunTour derailer and founded the company. He met Kawai unexpectedly at an event in Japan.

suntour ballah

Suntour’s founder and inventor of their derailer

Besides being tucked up into the frame perfectly for folding, it’s sure snappy. If a folding bike company can have a custom derailer made for it, why not Cross?

High-rez photos lightboxed on G+.

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