Tern GSD Review

I started writing a personal review on my Tern GSD R14 purchased last August on my Mastodon. But this is probably better kept in a blog post format, so here it is.

Now that I have used it for a few months, I would like to share some experiences with the Tern GSD cargo bike.

First impression: it is heavy. Especially since I got two batteries. My bike is over 37 kg. The weight makes getting on the bike and maneuvering in tight spaces more challenging. The good thing is that it is built like a tank, sturdy and stable when parked.

After getting used to the weight, it is actually not a huge problem to ride most of the time, given the powerful Bosch cargo line motor. Getting on 12% hill with full of cargo feels like a breeze. However, I do feel like I need extra attention if I need to jump off the bike, because then I need all my strength to hold the bike steady.

It is also quite a challenge to get it into small elevators even when you can lift it upright, so I would not recommend getting it if you live in an old apartment building. Newer ones typically have deeper elevators so it wouldn’t be a problem to push it right in. Overall, I think the Tern HSD or Quick Haul might be better options if you want a more nimble and agile bike.

That said, this thing is a beast when it comes to hauling cargo. I have the Clubhouse+, Storm Box, and the Transporteur rack accessories installed. Buying groceries, picking up packages, dropping off recyclables to local recycling station has been so efficient, honestly I prefer it to cars most of the time, since I don’t need to bother finding a parking spot in the city.

It is quite capable getting passengers around too. Since we have a lot of rain and snow here I also have the Storm Shield installed, and it is so helpful at keeping the wind and water out. Comparing to a smaller bike like the HSD or Quick Haul with similar (mini) setup the GSD gives more space for the passengers, so you can fit in some cargo even when carrying a kid.

For anti-theft I use the local BikeFinder, a GPS tracker hidden in the handlebar. It comes with a 200 NOK/month insurance that allows me to use the built in frame lock only. The tracker works fine but I do wish its battery last a little longer, and easier to charge.

I got the R14 model with Rohloff hub which is quite a bit more expensive than the base S10 with Shimano Deore or the S00 with Enviolo gear hub. But I’m glad that I made the choice because the Rohloff R14 has been flawless and a joy to use. I found gear 8 or 9 is my sweet spot. And belt drive is such a good pairing with electric bikes in muddy conditions.

For winter tires, I followed Tern’s advice and got the Schwalbe Marathon Winter Plus 20×2.15. You do sacrifice quite a bit of speed compare to the stock Schwalbe Big Ben Plus due to much heavier weight and more rolling resistance, but in icy or packed snow conditions it is also much safer. The only thing I can’t safely ride with these are fresh, loose snow, especially going down or uphill.

The studs helped a little for the traction but not quite enough especially when you need to turn or going from one tire track to another. I was quite nervous when going over a motorway overpass bridge in condition like that. The bike lanes within Oslo ring 3 are fine though, as there weren’t much snow on there.

Changing into the winter tires hasn’t been much of a trouble either: putting the bike in upright position saved me from using a bike repair stand (my stand can’t handle the weight anyways). The front one is pretty straightforward. The rear one requires unplug the Rohloff cable, which is quite tightly coupled. You can find guide on YouTube or Reddit for the steps even though Tern didn’t provide an instruction officially.

For carrying our little one I first went with the most straightforward solution: Thule Yepp Maxi EasyFit. It is really simple to put on or take off, and the safety belt is easy to fasten as well. It should be quite comfortable on its own given the bike has a suspension. Having the Clubhouse+ in addition is kind of nice as it gives the child to have something to hold on to while riding. The Storm Box meanwhile can keep their feet warm and dry by blocking wind and water.

You can certainly still carry an adult plus a kid with this setup as long as the total weight including the bike is within 200 kg. But that is pushing the bike a bit far especially going uphill. It also feels less safe since you have to keep the adult closer to the center and the kid further at the back to balance the weight distribution, otherwise the bike will tilt to the back when loading.

Another option is attaching a trailer: we went for a Thule Chariot Sport 1 because for longer trips, having the child fall asleep on the Yepp feels awkward, as they certainly don’t look comfortable sleeping upright. Tern has a guide on fitting trailers to the GSD gen 2, however the M10 nut and bolt pair for attaching the Thule Chariot arm is surprisingly hard to find here. I had to ask our local bike workshop (Evo) for help.

Comparing to the GSD, the Quick Haul my wife owns has a simpler quick release skewer and the longer skewer Thule provides fits perfectly. Once attached, getting the trailer on or off is quick, steering it through the roads is also quite easy. I expected that to require some getting used to but we were able to do it as soon as we get on our bikes.

Having the kid in the trailer free up a lot of cargo space as well, we were able to ride to our local Plantasjen to get a few bags of firewood with this setup. Each bag is 40L and fits perfectly to the Storm Box slots and stacked on the rear rack quite secure with the Clubhouse+ keeping them from falling off. We can stack even more by fasten the bags with some bungee cord.

As for the front rack, the big Transporteur rack I got is handy at loading package boxes, pizza boxes, or backpacks, but it also makes sliding the bike into normal stationary bike stand a challenge, since most of those stands are in a reversed U shape the rack likely will get in your way, especially if you want to lock it with a chain or U lock.

Author: Jiang Jiang

A software engineer from China, working on some OS for a fruit company. Interested in typography and science fiction.

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