By Stewart Port
I’m a 64-year-old guy with heart disease. I ride for everyday transportation and errands when I can, and occasional 10-20 mi. jaunts for exercise and recreation. I’m otherwise in good shape, but I have a hard limit for sustained exertion– the arteries to my heart are narrowed and propped open with hi-tech Chinese finger-cuffs. So when my (mostly younger and healthier) pals urged me to join them on their annual weeklong bike camping trip. I really wanted to go, but was torn. I didn’t really have any rolling or camping gear that was up to the trip, and 30 miles of all-out effort while potentially rolling along by myself with the pack far ahead didn’t sound like much fun.
And then there was the Tern, conveniently on loan for evaluation to the publisher of this fine outlet, who happens to be my neighbor, and one of the instigators of the tour.
At first, I hated the idea of being the old guy on the e-bike, but Moe patiently explained that it wasn’t a regular e-bike, but rather an e-assisted bike– Pedal, and the motor amplifies your efforts, with a choice of four levels. No pedal, no go. Hell, you could even turn off the electricity and kick the entire 60 lbs down the road purely on burrito power. And the cargo deck solved the problem of having no proper compact, lightweight camping gear– I just stuffed my quilt and pillow in a soft bag and gathered up my usual car camping kit and backpack and mini-cooler, and bungeed the whole impossible pile down on the rear cargo deck.
First, a short ride to the train station. Starting out in the lowest gear, my first pressure on the pedals produced powerful acceleration. (Note: Hold on tight when starting out! There’s a bit of a learning curve, but the various power levels make it possible to really dial in the effort, spin rate and speed for varying conditions) With a hand from an obliging conductor I loaded the thing up into an Amtrak San Joaquin, and we were off to Antioch, our starting point at the edge California’s Sacramento River Delta.
The trip from Antioch to Locke, a picturesque old Chinese town up the Delta, was about 30 miles, and apart from the half mile of 7% grade climbing up the Antioch bridge, the route is the very definition of flat, though the winds can be stiff. For the most part, I found myself switching between equal periods of pedaling unassisted and using the first level (“Econo”) to keep up with my crew’s 10-12 mph pace (Yes, the speedometer is very cool!). I found myself wishing that there was an even lower level of assist available. When I used the assist, I consoled my wounded pride by figuring I was using just enough battery power to make up for the thing’s fat tires, 60 lb curb weight, and the ridiculous pile of gear strapped behind me. I was surprised at how easily and smoothly it rolled un-assisted.
The fit adjustments were convenient, especially the handlebar quick-release adjustments which made stopping and making minor changes to avoid fatigue a reasonable solution to the straight bars’ lack of different places to grip– If I were using it mainly for touring, I would want to add climbing pegs or some sort of bar extension. When we got to our bivouac for the night, an orchard and adjoining wood, the fat tires did nicely on the rougher surfaces.
On the trip back, I put it to a harder test. I was traveling alone for the last 15 miles, and I had a train to catch, so I allowed myself the second and third levels (“Touring” and “Sport”) and cruised along at 15-16 mph, switching to the highest level (“Turbo”) for the bridge. At about a mile from the station, I noticed the ride getting a little squooshy, and sure enough, the rear tire was looking low. With no patch kit or pump, and not much time to spare before my train, I gave it the juice– I put it on the highest setting and the lowest gear, and pedaling hard, fishtailed into the depot on a completely flat tire, with scant minutes to spare. Amtrak came through for me again in Oakland– The agent was kind enough to let me leave the rig in the secure baggage area while I walked to my house to get my car. Getting it into the trunk of the old Jetta for the ride home proved easy enough, and without taking off the wheels it only projected a foot or so beyond the back of the car.
Of course, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone abuse defenseless rubber and aluminum so, but the wheel and tire appeared none the worse for wear when I broke them down to patch the tube (A small sliver of glass that had worked its way through, and eventually cut the tube..)
All in all, the GSD, and its fine-grained pedal assist control system is a great addition to my life. For a lot of folks and situations it can tip the balance towards making a trip on two wheels as opposed to four, or not at all.
Read Part One here: Tern GSD review Part 1
The longtail cargo bike, with its stretched rear end, has been my go-to whip of late due to its ultimate versatility, utility, and fun. And with an electric motor for extended range, there are no worries about what (or who) you might pick up during your travels, or how far you might go in a day. But longtails are long, taking up a good amount of space and being difficult to load onto a larger motor vehicle.
So when Tern showed up in the cargo bike market with its GSD, I was Intrigued. First, what does GSD stand for? Get Stuff Done is one answer. And secondly, aside from its attractive looks, what is so new and exciting about this bicycle? Tern calls it a new kind of bicycle, a compact longtail.
What makes it compact? Well for one thing, with the help of dual 20” wheels, the GSD has a length similar to your average bike. Combined with a folding handlebar and highly adjustable saddle, it’s easier to get it into the back of your SUV, easier to take on public transportation, and a lot easier to store. In fact, the GSD can be stored vertically on its tail, taking only a small footprint.
It’s also electric. Some of you are thinking that is not what you are looking for. A while ago, I wasn’t either. But once you get accustomed to the increased range and versatility you will likely be sold for life. Power comes from a 250 watt Bosch motor, putting out a maximum 63Nm of torque in Turbo mode. That’s right, the GSD controls offer four power modes from Eco to Turbo. Different levels of assistance for different needs. In Eco the motor gives you 50% more power than you pedal into it, up to Turbo where the motor is adding 275% more power to the bike. Stock battery is 400 Watt-Hours but you can also buy the GSD with a 400 plus 500Wh battery for extended range. This pushes the GSD into the touring realm.
Versatility is key. Accessories unlock the GSD’s potential. Kids? The GSD will easily take two Yepp child seats for the small ones. Big ones and adults can ride on the back using accessory foot pegs, seat cushions, and grab bars. Panniers? Enough for all your groceries. Racks? Front and/or rear for even more hauling capability. One size fits most all here with the GSD fitting riders from 5 feet to 6’5”. I’m 6’4” and had no trouble with it. Plus the handlebars rotate around the stem for further fitting options.
The build is pretty heavy, in a good, strong way. The frame, while aluminum, appears beautifully built and ready for anything. In fact, the weight capacity is 400 lbs. so there’s not much you can’t haul. The feeling of solidness is welcome here. Weight comes in under 60 lbs. in the single battery configuration. Component-wise there are a few things that stand out. Tern-specific Schwalbe 62mm tires on Tern-specific 36mm rims with plenty of spokes and Boost axles. Magura 4 piston brakes handle the stopping with great power. Super solid, top notch, up to date modern stuff. I would not hesitate to carry anything with this bike, as long as I could get it on there.
Accessory-wise you won’t need to add much to this bike. Lights, fenders, center stand and bell are all included with the bike. Optional accessories to consider include Tern’s Cargo Hold panniers, child seats, and the Shortbed tray that is on the test bike. Handlebars and pegs are also available for adult passengers as well.
In practice, it is easy to get on and go. The step-through frame and low center-of-gravity sure help. Turn the motor on, select the amount of assist you’d like, and go! Easy-peasy. The Bosch motor helps as little or as much as you need. But you still have to pedal. Power is solid, but keep in mind this is no motorcycle.
My friend Stewart and I shared the testing duties. We both found the GSD to be super-capable for a wide range of tasks. Loads included a pile of camping gear, the band’s bass drum, passengers, boxes of magazines, garage sale items and more. As much as Stewart did not want to use the motor (Out of pride I believe), he was glad to have the motor as an insurance policy in case he got tired too far away from home. Me on the other hand, I just enjoyed the lack of throttle as I bopped around town picking up random articles. But I did wish for a bit more power on some of the steeper hills. I do weigh well over 200 lbs you know. The good news is that the 2019 model will have more, power that is. The other small improvement we’d recommend would be a larger center stand as the current one is a tad small for parking on uneven surfaces.
The best thing about the GSD is its foldability and storability. The handlebar folding down made it much easier to load the bike into a SUV or minivan. As for storage, grab the rear brake, pull back and the GSD sits on its tail, taking up only a small amount of closet space.
The Tern GSD is sold with single 400Wh battery for $3999 The dual 400 plus 500Wh model will run you $4799. Panniers run $150 a pair and that rack runs $120. A lot of money? For some, yes. But this bike is a game-changer, a car-pooper, sonic reducer, life-changer. Imagine parking that multi-ton behemoth automobile and spending your time outside! Quality time! Quality life!
One of the most interesting cargo/utility bikes I have seen in a while, The Tern GSD is bound to get more butts on bikes, and that is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Click here for part 2, in which Stewart shares his touring experience!
Dorothy is an 80’s chrome Ross Mt. Whitney mountain bike I obtained from my old pal and frequent Dirt Rag cover artist, John Hinderliter. Purchased from Ambridge Bike Shop in 1983, it was the top-of-the-line model at the time. When I came into her, she was converted directly to use as an urban assault vehicle for fun use. As many accouterments as possible!
First and foremost is the “Dorothy” nameplate I picked up at a bicycle swap a while back. My Mom’s middle name. Much like the bicycle license plates you can buy with popular names on them (Except “Maurice”), there was a day when you could buy sticky tube emblems with all the popular names on them. Except for Maurice. The chrome has seen better days, yes?
The most O.G. part on Dorothy is the original Shimano Deore (Meaning Deer) derailleur that’s still on there, serving me well. And Spokey Dokeys. For the unfamiliar, these are beads that snap on to your spokes and slide up and down to make noise when you roll at a slower speed. Popular in the 80’s yet still available in some form to this day…
So many wonderful parts. I once visited Jack Witmer in California and scored these sweet Cook Brother’s not-cruiser bars. They provide a sweet upright lean-back position but render Dorothy untalented when it comes to climbing hills for sure. Props to Wilderness Trail Bikes for their Trail Grips, Honka Hoota for their awesome yet sun-damage-prone horn, and whoever invented the tassle.
Check out my siren. I do need to put an activation cable on there though. These were illegal in many places due to their police car siren sound. Note FAT Schwalbe Super Moto tires and Shimano dynamo hub.
A Ringlé hub expertly laced by Dave’s Wheels. Reelights generate their own power with magnets to light your way whenever you’re moving!
Saddle by Brooks. Bag by Rivendell. Fenders by SKS
D.O.R.c. or Disgruntled Off Road Cyclists of Pittsburgh.
The whole enchilada. Seen on a wonderful ride above Pittsburgh, PA, home of Dirt Rag!
His name is Erik Mathy, he is an awesome human. He says it best…
I have ridden my bicycle, cameras in hand, 1200 miles along the old Butterfield Overland Mail Route (BOMR) to Tucson. Back in the late 1800’s, the BOMR was the main conduit for communications between St. Louis and California. As I was researching the route I was struck by how much has happened along it over the years. Japanese Internment and labor camps during WWII. Migrant labor camps from the Dust Bowl that are still in use today outside of Bakersfield. Indian reservations. Borders that have moved and shifted over time.
As I ride through all of these places Conducted short interviews and took portraits of people who are involved in all of this, both currently and historically. These are conversations that we should be having as a country and we just aren’t. My goal is to collect as many voices as I can in one place to create more discussion. I am doing my best to not just present one side. I am currently in talks with the US Border Patrol, for example, to get an interview while I am Calexico.
My fourth interview of the trip. Sharon Garrison was born in Sunset Camp, a migrant labor camp during the Dust Bowl and the setting for the Grapes of Wrath. Sharon was volunteering at her local polling station, doing so with a broken hip.
As usual, I am pairing my ride with a non-profit fundraiser. In this case, it’s Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). KIND is a legal non-profit that provides legal counsel to children in Immigration Courts. I’m a firm believer that we are all equal under the law. I don’t care how you got there, once you’re there, you should have all the rights anyone else has. Putting a toddler or a 6-year-old behind a desk to face off against a government attorney without legal representation is not “Equal under the law”.
KIND is also working to address the root of the cause, which is immigration policy as set by the Federal government. They have a policy arm in DC that talks to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle every day. If you feel moved, please donate to KIND. The link is below. I appreciate it greatly, and the children appreciate it even more!
And a couple more photos…
Thinking about magical things happen when you put your mind to them. How your desires can be manifested with continuous effort. How if you keep repeating something it becomes the truth.
So there’s this club up in the Berkeley Hills where grown men play with trains. Really big trains. A club that’s been around since 1936, leasing a nice parcel from the local parks department. Live steam it’s called. Steam engines with all the mystery and explosive power of the full size models.
I have ridden by a few times, wishing to get in and meet some of the people that do this insane-looking hobby. It is a private club. And they have a thing on Sunday afternoons where the general public can show up and get a train ride (Donation suggested), but that’s just not for me. I want IN. How do you think I got into the bicycle business?
So on this fine Sunday, the 5th or 6th time I have cruised by there, longingly peering into the members-only area, I saw a full parking lot and rolled right in, parked my bike and walked in like I owned the place. What would Karl do? Ask forgiveness, not permission.
So I start walking around looking at the trains, trying to stand tall, full expecting one of those additudenessly-said “Can I help you?’s” from one of the up-tegenarian old white guys in conductor hats spread around the whole place. Whoa look at these things they are fucking awesome! Steam and fire and metal. What an epic hobby! I saw steam trains that run on coal, some that run on wood, and propane. 1/8 scale. 7.5” track.
Wait here comes someone a little younger, walking toward me. Uh-oh. Just smile and comb your hair, Maurice. As this man moves closer, my eyes begin to focus, and an air of familiarity fills the air…closer…closer… why it’s David Hoffman, my old friend from Pittsburgh. Founder of one of the finest Bike Advocacy groups in the land, Bike Pittsburgh. I am sure both of us were thinking “What the heck are you doing here” but whatever.
Well, actually the words said are “what are you doing here?” “Well I am just poking around” say I. “I have a engine here” says David. “What? Cool! How’ve you been?” “Let me show you around! Meet my daughter Ma’ayan. Check out my engine, it’s powered by a car battery. Those steam engines run $40,000 and more”….
And I proceed to get a grand tour of the place, checking out all the hardware, getting several loops around the 5000 foot track and having a ball.
I love it when a plan comes together.
One reason I keep doing this magazine-publishing thing year after year is my belief in putting more people on bikes. And my belief that the industry and the cycling media work together to get more people on bikes. The advertisements that support our magazines not only tell readers about their stuff, but support the journalism that should take place. At Bicycle Times and Dirt Rag we strive for that.
But today my soul is weary. Much like in the more serious and important global political discourse happening in God-Blessed America and the world right now, the bike journalism field is following a steeper and steeper fall-line trail downhill. Pay to play. Where rather than conveying honest, objective opinions, so-call journalists write what corporations pay them to write.
Read on. (But please read part 1 first if you have not, thank you).
Recently, in what is now the 2015 ad contract season, I inadvertently received an email containing a proposal from one of the top mountain bike websites in the world to the marketing department at a parts and accessories and clothing branch of one of the largest bike companies in the world.
Not only did the proposal include the usual “Cost-per-eyeball-per-thousand’ for the site, but it included a specific amount of editorial coverage for 2015. Leaving my heart heavy, especially since the “Client” in question had gotten tons of editorial love from us over the years, yet had never thrown down to support us with an advertising buy.
This left me questioning. Should I send an invoice to the company that’s getting all the free editorial coverage while not throwing us a dime for advertising support?
Or should we stop covering their products in our magazines as a tit-for-tat response? It’s an option I am considering, but one that I feel would break the journalistic code to tell our readers about stuff they will find interesting.
Does anyone else give a shit about where this is going? It’s looking unlikely. Most of the bike media and the corporate world are playing in the sandbox just fine. They both make money, and you, dear reader know, it is all about following the money.
So look around, do your homework. Take everything with a grain-o-salt. Value and respect real journalism when you read it. And support our advertisers! They get it!
As some of you may already know, I publish a couple of magazines* about bicycles, Dirt Rag for 25 years now, and Bicycle Times for five . Publish, yes. While I oversee editorial content for both magazines, I mostly chase dollars to keep these ‘zines afloat and food on the table for our now-large staff.
Other staff people are editors, they work real hard to create “Content” to be delivered to our loyal readers. Honest, true, hands-on. Journalism.
Our loyal readers trust us to keep the editorial “Church” and the advertising “State” separate. Journalists on one side, “Ad Slime” on the other. It’s a fine line we have been walking for 25 years now.
But look what I have to deal with now. I have always suspected that there was some kind of “Pay-to-play” thing at some of the other titles, I still found myself flabbergasted when I saw this email from a potential ad client:
“We would really love to work with Dirt Rag, and look forward to doing so in the future, but for now I am going to pass.
My resources are limited and I need to ensure our brand gets the most possible editorial coverage as possible. I understand and respect that you can’t guarantee this, but all the other publications we are working with have been able to guarantee at least quarterly editorial, and have included it in the insertion orders.”
Soooo what the fuck. Guess I am putting this out there for two reasons. One is to share with anyone who reads this blog what I have to deal with on a regular basis. The other is to assure everyone that no, we do not sell editorial.
In fact the current Dirt Rag cover features a company that has politely turned us down for ads this year. While we have better relationships with some companies than others, the editor decides what is going in the magazine based on journalistic integrity.
Thanks for listening, I feel better now. All I can ask is that if you read my magazines you support our advertising and promotional supporters! Thankfully they get it.
*Or should I say “Media entities” as we have print, digital and web covered.
Hey look I took some photos at NAHBS a while back, and just got time to post them. A couple of bikes, but mostly just a bunch o dudes styling and not. And one lady, shot from behind cuz I liked her curls or something. Priority given to folks in Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times apparel of course.
Next time I will work harder but for now, take a look.
Well, I told ya I worship some rotating masses. Here’s some 24 inch masses rotating for your pleasure. Gotta love this one. What can we say about this guy? Other than liking him some McDeath burgers, he does worship at the Church of the Rotating Mass, somewhere in Richmond, CA. Just so you know, I approve this vehicle, except for the fake plastic orifices on the side.