Tern GSD Gen 1 Electric Cargo Bike Review. Gsd tern electric bike

The Tern GSD Cargo Bike Hauls It All—and Then Some

Strap 400 pounds to this cargo bike—in the form of kids, bags, food, beer, you name it—and go!

Price: 3,999 (with single 400wh battery); 4,799 (with dual 400wh 500wh batteries)Weight: 59.6 lb. (claimed)Use: Commuting, errand-running, cargo haulingBattery Life: Up to 150 miles (w/two batteries, depending on mode)The right bike for: Giving up your car, but still having the means to haul a couple of kids to school, hit the grocery store, run to the post office, and stop for a case of beer—all on the same battery charge.

Built around a heavy-duty alloy frame, the GSD eschews many of the traits of other cargo bikes: long wheelbases, bigger wheels, and especially, an unwieldy ride. Yet it boasts an extensive capacity, nimble handling—even fully loaded, thanks to a short wheelbase and 20-inch wheels—and enduring range in a package not much bigger than most non-cargo e-bikes. The stout frame holds a 250-watt Bosch motor that gives up to 275 percent of your power back to the pedals and reaches 20 mph. The GSD has room for two battery packs, extending the batteries’ combined range to a claimed 150 miles and making the Tern one of the longest-lasting e-bikes on the market. A laundry list of accessories and a (claimed) 396-pound carrying capacity round out the GSD’s status as an epic day-tripper.

One Bike, Copious AccessoriesThe Tern GSD can be configured in so many different ways that it might as well have its own model range. In base trim with one 400wh battery, the GSD will set you back 3,999. Get it with a second, 500wh battery for 4,799, or buy the spare later for 945. The à la carte accessories menu includes a smattering of reasonably priced seat pads, panniers, foot pegs, trays, and racks—a full list of which is available on Tern’s website. It also comes in three colors: beetle blue, silver blue, and orange.

Tern GSD detail gallery

Dual Batteries

Two Bosch batteries give the GSD up to a 150-mile range.

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Quality Motor

A Bosch Performance Line motor propels the GSD to 20 mph.

Integrated Rack

The integrated rear rack fits two Thule Yepp Maxi child seats.

Double Kickstand

The Hebie dual-leg kickstand supports 175 pounds.

Step-Through Frame

A 50cm step-thru height is accessible for riders of all sizes.

Integrative Design for Every TripTo fix the problem of transporting and storing a hefty e-bike, the GSD’s handle post (essentially a tall bar/stem combo) folds down to allow the bike to fit in the back of a car, truck, or SUV. The GSD’s rear rack doubles as a stand, allowing the bike to rest vertically for storage. Other Smart details include a durable twin-strut center stand, an SKS chain guard, and a telescoping seatpost that accommodates riders from 4-foot-11 to 6-foot-5. Built-in lights and an easy-to-read display for the Bosch motor complete the package.

Starting and Stopping a 60-Pound BikeWhether you have e-assist or not, a cargo bike needs the gear range to tackle (almost) any terrain. A simple 1x drivetrain from Shimano’s Deore line handles the shifting duty, moving the chain over a 10-speed, 11-36t cassette. The motor has four settings controlled from an easy-to-reach thumb button on the handlebar: Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo. Braking is courtesy of Magura 4-piston MT5 hydraulic disc brakes, and front and rear thru-axles support Tern’s own Atlas 20-inch heavy-duty cargo wheels shod in Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires with puncture protection and heavy-duty sidewalls.

Living with the Tern GSDThe Tern GSD handles more like a conventional bike than any cargo bike I’ve ridden. Our test bike weighed nearly 70 pounds with two batteries, a front rack, and front and rear panniers. While in motion, it never felt that heavy, but the mass was evident while lifting or pushing the bike around the garage (this was helped by a saddle handle and walk feature on the motor).

I mostly rode the GSD for errands and the morning school run. Even during slow-speed rides, it never felt tippy or awkward. The motor cuts in and out of e-assist without surges. With two batteries installed, the range exceeded the claimed 150 miles for most of the time I tested it. That said, the range was affected by cargo weight and the motor setting—I chose Turbo most of the time—but it still managed more than a week of daily commuting per overnight charge.

I never got close to the nearly 400-pound cargo limit, but I did schlep a week’s worth of groceries in the rear panniers, my 9-year-old son on the back platform, a case of beer on the front tray, and canned goods in the front Ortlieb panniers. The GSD hauled everything I could strap on it. important, its usability expands the rider’s perception of what a bike can do.

Amazing E-Bikes for Everyone

Everyday Commuter

Benno eJoy 9Carries 88 pounds on the rear rack; lasts 80 miles.3,400

Singletrack Ripper

Specialized Turbo LevoAll the fun of a mountain bike—with a boost.5,600

Midtail Errand Runner

Felt Tote’mHas everything you need to ditch your car.4,000

Passengers Welcome

Riese Müller Load TouringTwo batteries 220-pound capacity = fun7,755

Tern GSD Gen 1 Electric Cargo Bike Review

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)

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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

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.

A host of subtle, but highly functional, updates make an already-fantastic cargo bike option even better.

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[ct_story_highlights]What it is:The second-generation Tern GSD e-cargo bike.||Frame features:Updated and upsized TIG-welded aluminum frame, dual 20″ wheels, integrated rear cargo rack, folds and stands upright for storage, latest-gen Bosch CargoLine mid-drive e-assist motor.||Weight:34.98 kg (77.1 lb), claimed, without accessories.||Price:US6,800 / AU10,000 / £5,900 / €6,500.||Highs: Ultra-compact size combined with full-sized hauling capability, super broad array of accessories, improved ride and handling, quieter and more powerful motor, great range, generally excellent spec.||Lows:Finicky kickstand, 20″ front wheel still makes for somewhat twitchy handling, one-size-doesn’t-really-fit-all.[/ct_story_highlights]

The original Tern GSD e-cargo bike was one of the most interesting and innovative bikes I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing in my 17 years as a tech editor. Despite the dual 20″ wheels and unusual proportions, it boasted a truly outsized capability – not to mention capacity – that positively dwarfed its compact dimensions. I equated it to one of those European-style microvans: small on the outside, but giant on the inside. A paragon of space efficiency.

But despite its tremendous utility, there were things I didn’t love about it. The handling was overly twitchy in my opinion, and the short wheelbase and little wheels also made for a bit of a bucking-bronco ride quality.

Tern later released a second generation of the GSD, and while it strikes so similar a profile as to be virtually indistinguishable to casual observers, there are some key changes cleverly tucked away that address some of the original version’s shortcomings and make the GSD v2 an even more enticing – yet still very unconventional – option for those looking to jump into the e-cargo bike lifestyle, but are short on space.

A recap of what makes a GSD a GSD

Longtail-type cargo bikes have long adopted 20″ rear wheels as a way to reduce the load height for their capacious rear racks. However, Tern – one of the preeminent proponents of dual-20″ wheels for its wide range of folding bikes – also went with a 20″ up for the GSD. The overall layout is still essentially a longtail, but the proportions almost make it look like Tern took a traditional longtail and applied some sort of weird image filter.

There’s some solid thinking behind the idea, though.

By going with 20″ wheels front and rear, Tern was able to make the GSD remarkably compact, with a total length roughly the same as a conventional non-cargo bike, but a wheelbase that’s much longer. The low-to-the-ground layout also makes for very easy mounting and dismounting for the rider (and potential passengers), as well as a low load height for the optional front cargo carriers.

Quite cleverly, the dual-stage telescoping seatpost and extended stem also collapse vertically (meaning the GSD can fit inside many smaller SUVs and mini/microvans), while four standoffs on the rear of the bike allowed you to stand it up on end, allowing for very compact storage. You could even fit the GSD upright in an elevator.

Despite the incredibly compact form, the GSD still boasted a substantial 200 kg total load capacity (including the rider), all motivated by a Bosch mid-drive e-assist motor with optional dual batteries and fantastic range even with just one. Even the standard front and rear lights (powered by the main Bosch battery) were reasonably bright.

I usually don’t think twice when review bikes go back to their motherships, but that wasn’t the case when I reviewed the original GSD back in 2019. In my opinion, it was a prime example of super clever and thorough engineering and design, all laser focused on a specific task.

I seriously considered buying the thing (and it was perhaps a good thing for my bank account that Tern needed it back for another tester).

The changes

As impressive as the original GSD was, there was still room for improvement (isn’t there always?). The handling was twitchy, particularly at even moderate speeds. The ride quality was pretty rough. And in what could be perceived as the ultimate in nitpicking, the original kickstand was just woeful.

I’m happy to report that all of that has been addressed.

First and foremost, Tern gave the second-generation GSD a revamped TIG-welded aluminum frame. The larger-diameter tubing is stiffer than the old profiles, and while that might not seem important on a cargo bike, torsional stiffness is incredibly important on long tails, particularly when they’re heavily loaded. Ever tried carrying a wiggly toddler or hauling a hundred kilos of sand – in traffic! – on the back of a whippy bike that’s longer than some tandems? It’s not exactly confidence-inspiring.

Up front, Tern addressed the handling with a slacker head tube angle for (somewhat) more relaxed steering geometry. Taking a page from Electra’s original “Flat Foot Technology” concept, there’s also a more laid-back seat tube angle to make it easier for riders to put their foot on the ground while still maintaining good leg extension on the pedals.

A standard suspension fork also aims to settle things down when you hit a bump, and upper-end models get a suspension seatpost too.

The latest models also get Bosch’s more powerful – and substantially quieter – motor units, and although Tern’s catalog of accessories for the GSD was also sizable a few years ago, it’s somehow managed to grow considerably since then.

Settle down

To a large extent, Tern’s revamps have yielded the desired effects.

As promised, the steering feels more relaxed than it did before, offering more of the buttoned-down confidence that’s so critical for bikes in this genre, and what seemed lacking to me in the first-generation version. It’s definitely less nervous and twitchy.

There are still limits to what Tern could do with that tiny 20″ front wheel, however, and anyone used to a more conventionally sized front wheel will still have to undergo some recalibration before they’re totally comfortable; small movements here can equate to big changes in direction if you’re not careful, particularly when combined with that relatively short (at least for a cargo bike) wheelbase. It’s an improvement nonetheless, though in my opinion, the GSD is still best suited for low-to-medium speeds in tight urban environments than suburban settings where you might be able to go a little faster.

Arguably offering a more substantial change is the addition of suspension. My S00 test sample was one of the upper-end build kits, featuring a 70 mm-travel Suntour Mobie A32 suspension fork up front (with a tapered chromoly steel steerer!) and a 50 mm-travel Cane Creek Thudbuster suspension seatpost out back.

You might be thinking neither is a lot of movement, and you’re right. But in this application, it’s more about absorbing the small-to-medium impacts that might otherwise bounce you off-line, not swallowing more severe stuff like inadvertently smashing into curbs. And in that sense, both bits do the job admirably.

Whereas the first-generation GSD’s occasionally unnerving twitchiness was only further exacerbated by ground imperfections, having suspension – even just this little bit – makes for a much more planted and stable feel. Both wheels are much less likely to bounce around, and traction is more consistent when on the brakes or turning. Instead of bracing for impact as I sometimes had to do on that original GSD, I could instead relax and just glide across the tarmac and multi-use paths without having to worry as much.

There are also benefits in terms of comfort and cargo.

Needless to say, even that modest amount of suspension makes for a smoother ride, all without having to resort to lowering tire pressure more than you might otherwise want to properly accommodate heavier loads. And at least for front-mounted cargo, that suspension fork reduces somewhat how much that stuff gets tossed about. That’s not a big deal in terms of cargo damage, mind you, but rather how much all that mass moving around can potentially affect handling.

Speaking of cargo, the second-generation GSD certainly hasn’t lost any of its remarkable carrying capacity. Despite its tiny footprint, this thing can still carry a ridiculous amount of stuff. It’s not the best for carrying big items in my opinion, but it barely blinks when loaded down with a lot of mass when properly outfitted.

To be clear, Tern doesn’t include any cargo-related accessories with the GSD aside from the built-in rear rack. While that can obviously be viewed as a serious bummer, it also allows buyers to configure the GSD exactly how it makes the most sense for them.

There are the usual things like several sizes of panniers and bags, but also things like oversized running boards and basic rack pads, a dog carrier (!), an extra-wide rear tray, and even a fully enclosed compartment for keeping kids warm and dry in inclement weather (sorry, mom or dad, you’re still getting wet). Suffice to say, the complete range of accessories available for the GSD is seriously impressive, and it speaks volumes for how important Tern considers the GSD to the company’s success.

I received my test sample with the humongous Cargo Hold 52 panniers for hauling groceries, a Clubhouse for hauling my kid, a Captain’s Chair for hauling adults, and a Transporteur front rack so I could still carry stuff when I had a passenger on board. Those panniers can hold two full-sized grocery bags each. My kid could easily hop into the Clubhouse on her own (and if I wanted more stability, there are even optional outrigger feet to supplement the seriously beefy Atlas Lockstand kickstand). The front rack is big enough for a medium-sized suitcase.

No matter how you have it loaded, the second-generation GSD’s more solid frame construction keeps everything secure and stable, and somewhat remarkably, I never noticed a single hint of creaking.

This thing is just as much of a workhorse as it was before, and the improvements have only enhanced its capabilities and livability.

Spec notes

As I noticed with the first-generation Tern GSD, whoever is choosing the build kits on these things is doing a heck of a good job, as the choices made demonstrate just as much careful thought as the bike itself.

The wheels are particularly noteworthy, built with seriously burly house-brand “Atlas” 36 mm-wide rims, 13g straight stainless steel spokes, and brass nipples joined in a 32-hole (plenty for a 20″ wheel), three-cross configuration to a thru-axle front hub and Enviolo continuously variable internally geared rear hub. Wrapped around those rims are a 62 mm-wide Schwalbe Super Moto-X rear tire and 55 mm-wide Schwalbe Big Ben Plus front.

Although I’d like to see a tubeless setup straight from the factory (I regret to admit I forgot to check if the rims can even be converted), lots of prior experience has proven those to be some of my favorite cargo bike tires overall, offering an efficient roll, good grip, excellent puncture protection, and great wear characteristics.

Opinions will vary on the Enviolo CVT-style rear hub. The stepless gear ratios are somewhat funky to operate with the goofy twist shifter, and it can be difficult to shift under moderate-to-hard pedaling efforts. However, I find the 380% range to be plenty for urban use (especially with the motor assist), and particularly when heavily loaded, the ability to shift when at a standstill can be a godsend when it comes time to get moving again and you realize you hadn’t downshifted beforehand.

Nevertheless, Tern offers both conventional derailleur-based drivetrains and even a Rohloff internally geared rear hub should you so choose.

Either way, the matching Gates belt drive on the IGH hub builds makes for a fantastic low-maintenance and quiet pairing, and the full-wrap guard keeps loose clothing from getting stuck in the drivetrain, too.

Speaking of the drivetrain, I’m a big fan of the latest Bosch mid-drive motor systems. There’s more torque than on earlier models (now 85 Nm instead of 75 Nm), and now that Bosch has finally done away with the internal gear reduction system (which necessitated those characteristically tiny chainrings), the whole system is substantially quieter, emitting a barely-audible whir that quickly fades into the background. As is usually the case with Bosch motor systems, the power comes on smoothly and seamlessly with no delay when you apply pressure to the pedals, with no weird surging that can often accommodate cheaper systems.

The centrally mounted Bosch Purion computer isn’t as fancy as the company’s higher-end offerings (particularly the ultra-fancy Nyon), but the display is large and easy to read, and perhaps more importantly, it’s easy to use, particularly with the remote control pad sitting right by your left thumb.

Total range is especially impressive, all things considered. Bosch offers four different levels of assist, with 50/32/26/23 miles of stated range when fully charged. Actual range obviously can vary a fair bit depending on terrain and load, but I generally found those figures to be surprisingly close – and if you really need more, Tern offers a dual-battery option, too.

Also earning high marks are the Magura MT5 hydraulic disc brakes, sporting four-piston calipers more often found on enduro bikes, as well as larger-diameter 180 mm rotors front and rear. Although the lever feel is a bit spongy, there’s power for days along with a superb level of control. Magura’s hydraulic fluid is mineral oil-based instead of more finicky DOT formulations, so while annual re-bleeds are still recommended, they’re not quite as critical since mineral oil doesn’t absorb atmospheric moisture. Either way, it’s not unusual to see cargo bikes with what I feel is adequate stopping power, so it’s good to see one come stock with brakes suitable for the task.

The finishing kit is very good too.

The saddle on the first-generation GSD wasn’t all that supportive, but the one Tern includes now is a big improvement, with firmer padding and a more agreeable shape. Genuine Ergon grips can be found at the other end, and while the wing shape looks a little odd, they’re very comfortable, particularly when you’re bare-handed.

Other niceties include front and rear fenders (although the front fender could do with a flap), updated front and rear lights that are a fair bit brighter than before, a standard Abus front wheel lock, and even a standard bell that doesn’t suck.

Overall, it’s a solid assortment of kit.

What I didn’t like

Surely you didn’t think I found the revamped GSD to be perfect, did you? Well, truth be told, it’s a pretty short list of complaints.

That new Atlas “Lockstand” is so named because of how it securely locks in place for additional security. It’s easy to engage – just push the kickstand foot to the ground and rock the bike rearward – but to release it, you need to push a remote lever on the handlebar. It’s neat when it’s working properly, but the one on my test sample was frustratingly finicky. It required perfect cable tensioning for proper functioning, and even then, there was more friction in the cable and housing than I would have liked (and keep in mind that my sample was new). I think I would have preferred Tern spec the non-locking standard Atlas kickstand and left the Lockstand as an available upgrade.

The bike wasn’t the only thing that underwent a lot of changes from the original to version 2.0; the monster-sized panniers went through a revision too, and I unfortunately liked the older ones better. They were easier to fold up when not in use, and the buckles were easier to use. You also can’t just leave the buckles undone on the new panniers either, as they’ll drag on the ground while you’re riding.

What else? Well, as convenient as that front wheel lock is, it hardly counts as even moderate security. Abus offers a heavy-duty chain that plugs into that same wheel lock for additional peace of mind, but I wish Tern just included the thing.

There’s also that not-so-small elephant in the room. Like many cargo bikes, the Tern GSD is only offered in a single size that the company claims will work for riders ranging from 1.5 to 1.95 m in height (roughly 4’ 11″ to 6’ 5″). Recommendations are one thing, real-world experiences are another. I fall right in the middle of that range, and even I find the GSD to feel a little small, if only due to those little wheels and the compact form factor of the bike in general. I think riders at the lower end of that range will still be ok thanks to that very neat adjustable handlebar setup, but I just can’t imagine riders at the upper end can avoid feeling like they’re a circus bear on a mini-bike.

Go get things done

Otherwise, I remain as impressed with this second-generation GSD as I was with the old one – more so, in fact. The small-on-the-outside/big-on-the-inside concept is brilliant, the execution is incredibly well thought-out overall, and the range of available accessories is beyond generous.

To come up with just a fantastic (and very clever) cargo bike like this is one thing, but to put in the effort to create a complete ecosystem like this just puts this thing over the top. I still adore my Urban Arrow, and firmly believe there are inherent advantages to a front-loader in a lot of situations. But if I didn’t have a garage to store that massive thing, I almost certainly would’ve purchased one of these instead.

The New Tern GSD Is the Best-Equipped Electric Cargo Bike

The revamped bike includes a high-torque motor, suspension fork, brake lights, wheel lock, and other useful additions.

By Dan Roe Published: Aug 10, 2020

The Takeaway: The new Tern GSD pairs a stronger, extremely useful frame with top-notch components and cargo-focused features to form the most complete electric cargo bike on the market.

tern, electric, cargo, bike
  • Bosch Cargo Line motor climbs every hill with ease
  • SR Suntour front fork improves the ride
  • New features include a remote locking kickstand, a rear brake light, and an Abus front wheel lock

Price: From 4,599 (8,399 as tested)Wheel size: 20 in.Weight: 82.1 lb.Range: 63 to 128 milesMax assisted speed: 20 mph

When it came out in 2017, the original Tern GSD was one of the most useful e-bikes we’d ever tested. The new one is even better. The frame is stiffer, it can carry heavier loads, and there’s a 70mm suspension fork now, making the latest GSD (get stuff done) ride ultra smooth while carrying heavy loads.

Every model in the range gets the Bosch Cargo Line motor, with 85 Nm of max torque and extra support at low cadences to get you off the line. The cockpit features a high/low beam switch for the headlights and there’s even an always-on brake light that intensifies when you squeeze the Magura MT5 eStop levers. That’s just the beginning of a long list of improvements and design elements that will make you want to move some money around to put one of these machines in your garage.

Tern GSD R14

Odds are you came here to get the lowdown on every new feature of the 2020 GSD, so we’ll lead with that. The performance and features of the 8,399 R14 earned it our Editors’ Choice award, but we’re even more excited by the 4,599 base model because Tern did an excellent job of maintaining most of the features across the three-bike GSD lineup. We’ll get into why the R14 model costs so much and whether it’s worth it shortly.


The old GSD was already a solid, cargo-worthy bike, with a combination of round and rectangular tubing that boasted a 400-pound gross weight limit (rider and bike included). The new bike has wider, internally reinforced tubing, so the gross weight limit is up to 440 pounds. Tern slackened the seat-tube angle slightly so that the seat moves even further away from the handlebar as you raise it, increasing reach for taller riders—a Smart update on a one-size frame. The new frame also has integrated lower decks that support heavy panniers and give passengers a place to rest their feet. There’s a dedicated trailer mount and, like the last bike, this one stands on its rear end to take up minimal floor space in apartments and garages.

5 Things We Love About the Tern GSD

Brake light

Let nearby road users know when you’re slowing down

Suspension fork

Complete with a lockout dial and preload adjustment

Bosch Cargo Line

85 Nm of torque and 400 percent assist

High/low beam headlight

Available on the LX and R14 models

Full Chain Guard

The machined metal guard doesn’t rattle while riding

Suspension Fork and Seatpost

The new GSD gets a SR Suntour suspension fork that was custom-tuned for Tern. It has preload and lockout dials for on-the-fly adjustments, and we found that the fork makes the bike much easier to control than the previous one while riding over chunky pavement and rooty tow paths. For your bottom, a Cane Creek suspension seat post damps vibrations and provides modest cushioning over bumps. You can even customize the seatpost suspension by swapping out the elastomer damper for firmer or softer options.

High Beams and Brake Lights

To make the GSD even more road worthy, Tern added a high/low beam headlight that peaks at 700 lumens for the R14 and LX models. The light is actuated by separate buttons on the left side of the handlebar: an on/off button and a high-beam button. The latter allows you to quickly flash the brights or leave them on. You can also adjust the angle of the light by hand, which is handy for not blinding drivers, other cyclists, or pedestrians.

Tern also equips every model with brake lights. They work regardless of whether you have the headlight and taillight switched on—squeezing the brake lever flickers the light on to alert nearby road users that you’re slowing down. This feature is a Smart addition to road-going e-bikes—one that’s made possible by the brake light feature of Magura’s relatively new MT5 eStop brakes, so we hope to see it proliferate on other bikes soon.

Lockstand and Abus Lock

If you use your GSD to go shopping, you’ll want a stable and convenient kickstand and a method of securing the bike while you’re away from it. So Tern introduced the Atlas Lockstand, which automatically locks in place—simply stomp on one of the feet and push the bike backward to secure it. When you’re ready to ride, a lever on the handlebar unlocks it. It’s a slick and convenient mechanism, only marred by the fact that the feet aren’t far enough apart to keep the bike stable on off-camber surfaces. The bike can also tip over if you unload one pannier and leave the other pannier fully loaded—just don’t do that, alright?

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On the fork, an integrated Abus wheel lock secures the front wheel and makes the bike unrideable when engaged. We’d still recommend an additional frame lock to prevent your GSD from ending up in the back of someone’s truck, but the sheer weight and size of the bike make it an unlikely short-term theft candidate for anyone without a big vehicle to put it in and the strength to lift it (as I learned hauling it up the stairs to my apartment). The key for the wheel lock stays in the keyway until you’re ready to lock the bike—just remember to take it with you because it’s also the key that removes the batteries.

The Lockstand lifts the rear wheel off the ground, locking the bike in its stationary position. You can remount the bike and then release it with the handlebar lever for a seamless takeoff.

Build-In Chain- and Wheel Guards

A rear wheel guard is essential for carrying kids, keeping their feet from going into the spokes. Most cargo bikes only offer them as an option, but Tern puts plastic guards on both sides of the rear wheel. And whereas the old GSD had a partial chain guard, the new one has a full metal chain guard to keep your feet away from the chain or belt.

The GSD R14 packs two 500 Wh Bosch batteries within the frame. The new machined metal chain guard sheathes the Gates CDX Carbon Drive.

Which Version Is Right for You

We got the range-topping GSD R14 for our test, effectively the Rolls Royce of the e-cargo space. It features two Bosch 500 watt-hour batteries for a combined 1,000 Wh—enough to go more than 60 miles on Turbo mode and up to 128 miles in the Eco setting. A big Bosch Intuvia display gives you easy-to-read metrics on speed, battery life, torque output, and the current gearing of the Rohloff E-14 internal geared hub, which is connected to the crank via a Gates CDX Carbon Belt Drive.

I wouldn’t splurge on the R14 because the in-between model, the GSD S00, gives you most of the features for 2,400 less. It comes with a single 500 Wh battery, although you can spend more to get a second one, and an Enviolo internal geared hub connects to the same Gates belt drive. The Enviolo hub offers a smaller gear range (380 percent to the Rohloff’s 526 percent) and isn’t quite as efficient, robbing you of a probably imperceptible amount of power and a minor amount of range. Where you’d want the Rohloff’s 14-gear range is during low-end grunt situations like hill starts, but the Bosch motor has so much torque that most of you won’t need the Rohloff’s smallest gears for anything but insanely steep grades. Apart from the hubs, number of batteries, and display (you get the smaller Bosch Purion on the S00), the bikes are identical.

The base-model GSD S10 starts at 4,599. A Shimano Deore Shadow drivetrain takes care of shifting and the battery is down to 400 Wh. If a low-maintenance belt drive is attractive to you—one you can shift while at a stop—go for the S00. Otherwise, the Deore Shadow drivetrain takes care of business and saves you a lot of money. The suspension seatpost and headlight that come on the R14 are options in the LX package for the S00 and S10; the LX package also ups the battery capacity to 500 Wh for the base-level S10.

Panniers and Accessories

The ability to accessorize a cargo bike to fit your needs is what makes it most useful, and few bikes have more available accessories than the GSD. You can fit multiple sizes of panniers; the largest, at 52 liters, will hold a week’s worth of groceries. For hauling big kids and adults, the new Clubhouse passenger enclosure provides a secure enclosure for carrying kids, and the Captain’s Chair add-on serves as an adult-sized rear seat. There are also front and rear racks, trays, baskets, straps, and more—find the full list on Tern’s website.

The rear of the GSD can be used to mount panniers, child seats, a chair for hauling adults, trays, and more.

Motor: Bosch Cargo Line (85 Nm torque, 400% max assist)Battery: Bosch dual-battery system, 1,000 WhDisplay: Bosch IntuviaFork: SR Suntour MobiE A32 Cargo, 70mmDrivetrain: Gates CDX Carbon Drive Belt, Rohloff E-14 internal geared hubRims: Tern Atlas, 36mm wideTires: Schwalbe Big Ben Plus, 55mm wide (front), Tern x Schwalbe Super Moto-X 62mm (rear) Seat post: Cane Creek suspensionSaddle: Tern comfortBrakes: Magura MT5 eStop

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The Ride

We received our GSD R14 only a few days ahead of the official launch, so what follows are initial impressions from a few trips to run errands. It’s an excellent bike. The 20-inch wheels and low-standover frame keep the weight close to the ground, minimizing the bike’s propensity to rock side-to-side when you make a sudden turn with added weight over the rear tire. The suspension fork makes the ride even smoother and the bike even easier to control when you encounter rough pavement or gravel.

The Bosch Cargo Line motor continues to impress, with enough grunt to carry us up an 8 percent grade at 15 mph with 40 pounds of groceries in the panniers. It’s also one of the smoothest torque-sensing pedal-assist systems on the market, eliminating the jerkiness you get from lesser drive systems.

The GSD cockpit is fully loaded. Your left hand controls the lights, lockstand release, and pedal-assist settings, freeing up your right hand to use the electronic shifting.

The Rohloff E-14 hub is also very slick: Two buttons on the right side of the handlebar control up and down shifts through the 14 gears. Holding a button down for a moment shifts you through three gears at once, a handy feature for getting up to speed or snap downshifts when the road kicks uphill. There is a momentary dropoff in pedal assist while the hub is shifting; to me, it felt longer than the dropoff you get from comparable chain-drive systems like the Deore Shadow on the S10. By comparison, the Enviolo hub on the S00 has no dropoff while changing gear ratios and allows you to shift while at a standstill (although the Rohloff downshifts for you when you come to a stop). The benefit to the Rohloff is the wide gear range and renown durability under heavy load, but most GSD users will be satisfied with the Enviolo hub or Deore Shadow chain drive.

The bike comes with rear wheel guards that prevent children’s feet from getting caught in the spokes.

For day-to-day usability, we love that the adjustable stem and telescoping seatpost allow multiple riders to use the GSD without needing tools to dial in the fit. And vertical parking and the folding handlepost make it easy to fit in your living room or in an elevator.

Tern thought of just about everything while redesigning the GSD. If you’re in the market for a new cargo bike or kicking around the idea of a car replacement, this bike should be at the top of your shortlist.

The Cargo Hold 52 panniers hold 52 liters of stuff per bag and use a roll-top design to shrink and expand as needed.

A former Division 1 runner, Dan grew up riding fixies and mountain bikes and now reviews everything from performance running shoes to road and cross bikes, to the latest tech for runners and cyclists at Bicycling and Runner’s World.

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