Tag Archives: Tern

Tern GSD compact longtail review part Two: Stewart’s ride

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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