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Tern GSD First Impressions

I got the test ride the Tern GSD on the weekend. It was amazing. If a bike like this had been available during my university days, I could have had so much fun and saved so much money.

It felt like something out of science fiction. Rather than just riding a bike, I was piloting some small dragonfly-esque craft. I think it’s a combination of the electric motor, the upright seating position right at the front of the bike, and the long tail for cargo.

The bike is built to an obviously very high standard. Everything is smooth, gear changes are phenomenally precise, and the layout is very well thought out. For a bike about the same size as a regular mountain bike, it packs an impressive amount of cargo – one option is two kids seats on the back, and a large basket on the front. It’s been called the minivan of e-bikes for good reason.

The Bosch mid-drive electric motor is great – hills just disappear, even in the lowest pedal-assist level. I also tried pedaling without electric-assist, and it was surprisingly easy to keep the bike moving – about the same as riding a loaded standard bike. I easily kept an average speed of about 15mph during the test ride without breaking a sweat.

The range is 70 miles with the 400Wh battery, and 140 miles with the 900Wh upgrade.

There are some aspects that could be improved – an internally geared hub would have benefits over the cassette and derailleur, including less maintenance, and most crucially, the ability to change gears while stopped. With the electric assist, it’s easy to forget to gear down when coming to a stop.

The gear shifter was also slightly awkward – changing to a higher gear requires inserting a finger between the brake lever and the handlebar. You get used to it, but it could be better. The controls for turning the lights on and off could also be improved, the scheme is not the most intuitive and it’s hard when riding the bike to know whether the lights are on or not.

One last improvement for security would be requiring a key to ride the bike – sort of like a wheel lock, the mid-drive motor would refuse to turn unless the key was inserted.

Overall though, it’s a fantastic bike and definitely viable as a car replacement. It’s pricey, starting at 3,999 USD, but that’s peanuts compared to buying a car. I liked it so much I came this close to buying it on the spot after the test ride. A bike like this is definitely in my future, I just wonder if I have the patience to wait.

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