Tern shrinks down the cargo bike for more convenient urban hauling
Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer Tern realized a nagging problem afflicting cargo bikes. They're perfect for city centers, where short distances make pedaling the kids to school or carrying groceries home a practical exercise. But the large, heavy bicycles tend to be less than ideal for narrow, crowded streets and small, high-rise apartments. To help solve this conundrum, it's launching the all-new GSD, a compact electric cargo bike that has the wheelbase of a standard bike, along with folding components that help it ride in a car and store in an office or apartment.
There are already folding and compact cargo bikes and accessories out there, but cargo bikes in general tend to have either long, cargo-cradling noses or large rear racks, sometimes both. These bikes can be long, wide, heavy and just plain awkward – not necessarily ideal for riding through compact spaces, let alone carrying up stairs, transporting by car, or storing in small dwellings or offices.
Tern is one of the companies that offers a more compact alternative: the non-electric, folding Cargo Node it introduced back in 2015. That model is designed to offer a blend of cargo-hauling utility, compact size, and easy transport and storage.
The Cargo Node looked quite compact when we first covered it, but it now looks rather long, at least in riding form, when compared to the GSD. The 71-in-long (180 cm) GSD measures 15 in (38 cm) shorter than the Cargo Node while offering a larger 397-lb (180 kg) payload and an electric-assist powertrain to help muscle that payload forward.
Tern says the GSD's wheelbase is comparable to a standard bicycle, and the bike is designed to fit standard car and bus bike racks. The frame does not fold, but the collapsible handlebars and seat help it slide in vehicle load areas and store in small apartments. This hardware works in a matter of seconds and cuts the bike's height by 33 percent and width by 40 percent.
The GSD hauls its load with help from the 31.5-in-long (80 cm), frame-integrated rack in back. That rack can hold the two side panniers that come standard (62 L total storage), two Thule Yepp Maxi child seats, or a single adult passenger. Owners can also add a rear tray, front tray and other accessories, and Tern plans on open-sourcing the frame attachment dimensions so that riders can design their own cargo accessories.
To help the rider more easily pedal all that cargo, the GSD includes a Bosch Performance pedal-assist mid-drive, available with a DualBattery option. Battery sizes and ranges vary by market, with Europe getting 400- and 500-Wh options and the US getting up to 900 Wh. The bike offers up to 155 miles (250 km) of pedal-assist range, and the mid-drive layout makes for a low center of gravity, which Tern promises improves the stability and handling with the stretched 49-in (124-cm) wheelbase.
"When you design a bicycle around an electric drivetrain, you don't need to compromise key functionalities like comfort and cargo capacity to optimize for speed," says Josh Hon, Tern team captain. "With a Bosch drivetrain, 20-in-wheel bikes ride just as fast as 700c bikes, but thanks to smaller wheels, deliver punchier acceleration. The smaller wheels also allow us to maximize cargo capacity. And with top speed removed from the optimization equation, we were free to design the GSD with a comfortable Dutch-bike riding position. Best of all, we were able to fit all this into a package that's only the size of a standard city bike."
Beyond shrinking it down into transport/storage mode, the GSD's adjustable handlebars, cockpit and seat offer another advantage: adjusting to better fit each rider, anyone between 4.9 and 6.4 feet (150 and 195 cm) tall. The low step-over height helps smaller riders, while the heavily buttressed frame and fork ensure support for heavier riders pedaling cargo.
To add robustness, Tern has carefully selected components like the Magura 4 disc brakes, custom 2.4-in Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires, Boost thru-axle hubs, and custom 36-mm rims. Also included are built-in lighting, mudguards, a double kickstand and retractable passenger foot pegs.
Tern announced the GSD ahead of its world premiere at Eurobike later this month. It will retail for US$3,999/€3,999 when it arrives at bike dealers in the first quarter of 2018.