Tern GSD Gen 1 Electric Cargo Bike Review

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The Tern GSD electric cargo bike is considered a midtail cargo bike, you can learn more about midtail cargo bikes over here. It isn’t too big but it is certainly more capable to carry things than a standard single occupancy bike due to the longer rear end.

The Tern GSD information was released in 2017 and was rated a top product by many media outlets. I finally took delivery of a review bike in mid-spring and much to Tern’s PR agency’s frustration – I wouldn’t give it back until our production model came in. (Sorry!!)

Key Details of the Tern GSD (Gen 1 version)

This is a mid-drive Bosch electric-assist cargo bike (motor is in the middle of the bike). It can carry 2 kids, uses 20″ wheels front and back, and has an aluminum frame with either 1 or 2 batteries mounted under the rear deck. 

MSRP: $4,799 (two batteries) or $3,999 (one battery)

Pre-production Tern GSD cargo bike

Riding and Using the Tern GSD

I had a preproduction Tern GSD for a couple of months and that truly shifted my outlook and requirements for cargo bikes.

Tern really did their homework on this bike and most importantly, they took feedback well and are implementing small changes quickly with each production run. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the GSD was the kick I needed to open a family and transportation bike shop (now closed). Finally – there is a good selection of readily available products to help families bike more and worry less – I just needed to create a bike shop experience to show them off!

Looking at the bike, the GSD has an uncommon look to it. The wheels are small and the frame has an angular step-through design. If you are too stuck on what a bike “should look like” then you may not get over the design of this bike. If you let go of these notions and embrace the electric, little bike, hauling machine. This bike will surprise you. 

The little wheels make the bike seem less cumbersome. The shorter length and handlebar that folds out of the way allows it to be stored and transported easier than a long tail. Now the shorter length rear end doesn’t allow you to carry as much as say the Xtracycle Edgerunner that could carry 3 decent size kids and room for tons of bags or groceries in the side bag. The Xtracycle though is hard to transport or store and most importantly, it is sometimes TOO much bike for people, especially if you are smaller or ride in tight places. These are clear pros and cons to both and really come down to your particular needs.

I must also mention that the little wheels and the “midtail” design make this bike only slightly longer than a single-occupancy bike (SOB.) This matters for storage, carrying on bike racks, trains, and locking to bike racks. It also allows you to take the bike on more adventures in our experience than a typical cargo bike that doesn’t easily fit in the SUV or camper without taking up too much space or being taken apart.

Tern GSD length vs a normal bike – the same!

The ride quality is what I consider quick and stiff. This is great for efficiency and if you want a cargo bike that steers more like a single occupancy bike (SOB). The tires can be run at a lower PSI to add some cushion and I will be stocking suspension seatposts to help take the edge off if the bike is TOO stiff. In general, 90% of people that have ridden this bike love the ride quality. It feels like a normal bike, even with a load on the back compared to say a Yuba Spicy Curry or Xtracycle Edgerunner. The shorter length, smaller aluminum paired with 20″ wheels makes it handle better in dense (city) situations but does make the bike stiffer than the Xtracycle Edgerunner or RFA. 

The Fit of the Tern GSD Cargo Bike

The GSD was designed around an electric motor which means that it wasn’t designed to make the rider super aggressive or in the “most efficient position” because that’s what the electric assist is for! The fit is easy to adjust with the multi-direction adjustable stem but in general, the fit is upright and comfortable. Why? An upright position allows you to see better in traffic and gives you a more stable platform to maneuver around with extra weight on the bike.

Tern GSD Andros Stem which is quickly adjustable

The handlebar has a nice sweep to it where the bar sweeps back towards the rider giving you a more ergonomic fit. Speaking of ergonomics, the Tern GSD comes with Ergon grips that have this nice natural fit to give you more support for your hands.

Parts Selection of the Tern GSD S10 Electric Cargo Bike

The components and “build” of this bike are where I started getting excited as a bike nerd. The bike is purpose-built to be used for mobility or simply – getting places. Accessories like fenders, kickstand, comfortable grips, a bell, and durable tires are standard.

This matters because those accessories add up to make a bike an actual functional daily commuter before adding on the accessories for your unique lifestyle like hauling kids or business supplies. It sometimes leads to difficult conversations to show a customer a great electric bike for $3,000 and then tell the person to make it reasonable to ride through the city of Denver every day they should upgrade the tires, lights, and fenders to add $200-400 to their bike.

The Products and Parts That Matter to Us and Why

Bosch Performance Line Mid-Drive Motor – If you listened to the podcast with Josh Hon you know that this little cargo bike was built from the ground up with the Bosch motor in mind. Bosch really has the market cornered right now for excellent electric motors and you’ll love the instant response it provides when pulling a heavy load.

20″ Wheels – This allows the bike to be lower to the ground for stability when you have 2 wiggling kids on the back. The step over of the frame is one of the lowest in class to carry 2 kids and it also allows for a stiffer yet playful ride because the smaller wheels turn quicker but are stiffer by design.

Gearing – Tern uses a 1×10 mountain bike drivetrain which is very common on electric cargo bikes. The Shimano Deore Shadow + rear derailleur is commonly used for aggressive mountain biking. It is very durable but also provides precise shifting for many miles. The “+” in the derailleur name means it has a lever that stiffens up the derailleur to stabilize the chain during bumpy terrain. If you ride over rough terrain or take the path less traveled then use this feature! It does slow down the shifting oh so slightly (most people don’t notice) and I wish more cargo bikes with an extra long chain had it.

Magura MT5 Brakes – I love Magura for their 4 piston brake calipers. These 4 pistons (vs 2) have a longer pad surface to really grab the 180mm rotors. Some shops aren’t too fond of Magura brakes because they aren’t as simple to set up. I, fortunately, have been using Magura on our mountain and city bikes for over 10 years and the setup is no problem.

Cockpit – The handlebar and seat post design were borrowed from Tern’s folding bikes like the Tern Vektron. The handlebar rear and height are easy to adjust on the fly with “Tern Andros (G2), adjustable, forged construction, patented technology” and the whole handlebar folds down for storage using a massive lever on the handlepost. 

Super easy and adjustable handlebar “stem”

Fold down handlepost

Boosted Wheels – “Boost” is a design feature borrowed from mountain bikes. The hub (center of the wheel) is wider than an atypical bike allowing the frame to be wider (stiffer/stronger) and the wheels have thru axles which also allow for a much stiffer wheel mounting than a quick release. This design was initially released for mountain bikes to help with limit flexing in the frame or fork when turning or braking. It makes the Tern GSD feel like a stiff cargo bike when under load and it also makes for a more durable wheel build.

Lights ALL The Time – I am a big fan of using lights all the time, just as cars have daytime running lights, I wish more bike riders would use lights during the day. Most good city electric bikes have built-in lights that run off the battery. The Tern lighting system is bright and a clean install. 

Double the Battery, Double the Fun – The GSD is one of the few bikes equipped with Bosch’s latest Dual-Battery technology. You can connect up to two batteries for a range of over 155 miles *your miles may vary depending on what you are carrying, terrain, and speed. What is VERY cool is that if you buy a single battery GSD it already has the battery harness for a 2nd battery to save you time and money in the future. Most brands charge you $200-400 extra for this 2nd battery harness.

Hidden Battery – The batteries are cleanly tucked into the frame which is visually very appealing!

Tern GSD Accessories

Accessories are really what make or break a great cargo bike. As of the original posting of this review, I haven’t received all the newest accessories and will update in a couple of days once I have them in. Below is what I have tried and our feedback on the products, I will update as I try more accessories! Also, please note pricing for all things can change so check your local bike shop for the most updated pricing!

Yepp Seats – These aren’t Tern accessories but they are required to talk about because many people will be using the GSD to haul kids. The Tern GSD can hold TWO Yepp Maxi Easyfit seats with the adapter built into the frame. This is the only midtail cargo bike I know of that can do this. 

Cargo Hold Panniers $150 – These are the massive side bags (sold as a pair) for the sides of your bike. They can be folded up and out of the way when not in use which is very slick. Yepp Maxi Easyfit seats can slide over the flap of these so that the kid’s feet are sticking inside of the bags. These bags (or something comparable) are a requirement in our opinion if you are carrying small kids without Yepp seats. It keeps their feet from the rear wheel. While the Tern GSD has the most protected rear wheel of any cargo bike without a wheel guard, I don’t chance it and do recommend a bag is there. 

If you are carrying a lot of weight in these panniers I do recommend using the Sidekick Lower Deck to support the bags. 

Sidekick™ Lower Deck $50 – Used as a footrest or to support the Cargo Hold Panniers

Sidekick™ Seat Pad $45 – Pretty straight forward seatpad that has an easy on/off mounting system. Use 2 pads to cover the entire GSD deck or 1 with a Yepp seat.

Sidekick™ Foot Pegs $25 – Give the kids (or adult) a place to put their feet. These fold in and out like a motorcycle footpeg.

Clubhouse™ $190 – This railing system keeps your kids or cargo contained. We will post a dedicated review of this once it comes in as the hoops/rails of a cargo bike are often the most loved/hated piece of long and mid-tail cargo bikes.

Sidekick™ Bars $60 – A mini-handlebar and stem that mounts to your seat post for a kiddo to hold on to. It comes with everything needed including grips and a built-in multitool! 

Transporteur™ Rack $120 – An overbuilt front rack/basket to haul all the things – up to 44lbs of things!

Shortbed™ Tray $120 – If you are using the GSD for business or the business of hauling non-child cargo, this may be for you. It mounts to the frame of the GSD providing a wide platform and carries Eurocrates with ease. 

Batten™ Straps $16 – I personally feel that bungee cords should be banned for safety concerns. Use a batten strap on all the cargo to batten down the hatches!

Who is the Tern GSD Cargo Bike For? 

As I am in the business of getting more families on bikes I am often asked, “What is the right cargo bike for me?”

The Tern GSD to us is a bike that could fit into most households, this is opinion is based off being a family and transportation-focused bike shop. It isn’t too big but it can still haul a trunk load of groceries. You can carry 2 kids and all the camping gear. If you don’t have kids you need to tote then it works well as a single occupancy bike (SOB) that can carry all of your stuff like a computer bag, gym bag, lunch, and all while keeping you sweat free thanks to the Bosch motor.

I strongly believe the GSD will allow many households to go down to a single car. It will also potentially replace several bikes with just one bike. This can easily be your city, kid hauling, weekend enjoying, do-everything bike. Now, it won’t replace a road bike, you shouldn’t mountain bike on it and it isn’t fully enclosed for kids like the Urban Arrow for winter riding. Our youngest child (8 months as of writing this) can’t ride on the Tern GSD yet so I have the Urban Arrow with car seat adapter for him. 

Who is This Bike NOT For?

  • If you want to carry all the kids until they are very big (check out the Xtracycle eSwoop)
  • You want a Class 3 electric bike that goes to 28mph
  • You want a classic looking electric bike (check out the eSwoop)
  • You want a more comfortable ride (check out the most recent Tern GSD with suspension!)
  • You want to start riding with kids really young (check out the Urban Arrow)

No Bike is Perfect

There are a few small quirks of the GSD that I should mention because no bike is perfect. Here is my list of “improvements”!

  • The kickstand isn’t the best we have tried but it certainly isn’t the worst. (Update: Check out the new Tern Atlas Kickstand that solves all of these issues!)
  • The rear light wiring comes a bit too close for comfort to the rear disc brake. This isn’t something a consumer would ever know about but I have personally been throwing an extra zip tie on the wiring so it doesn’t have the chance to move.
  • Ironically, I wish this bike came in a more classic color like black or white. This is completely different than what I said with the Tern Vektron review!

Additional Tern GSD Resources

Love the GSD but want something a bit smaller? Meet the Tern HSD

Tern HSD

Our Tern HSD review is here

Read the Cargo Bike Guide

If you are just learning about cargo bikes, I do recommend reading through my cargo bike guide to help you with your cargo bike journey!

Disclaimer: First off, since writing this article I have gone to work for Tern Bicycles. This article was written before this, and in no way biased. If anything – I went to work for them because they make such wonderful bikes!! The blue/grey model was loaned to us by Tern as a pre-production sample.

Another disclaimer: The orange bike was my personal ride for a couple of years and we did switch out pedals. The grey model was preproduction.

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