Tern GSD review£3,995.00

Urban utility close to perfect

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Tern's GSD is in a class of its own — it's a folding electric bike with huge cargo- and kid-carrying capacity that stands on its rear end. And it's amazing.

Tern GSD highlights

  • Urban, utility, folding electric bike
  • 400wh Bosch battery, upgradeable to two batteries
  • Range: 50-110 km (31-68 miles)
  • 20in wheels
  • 181kg / 400lbs carrying capacity
  • Compatible with a range of cargo accessories

The view from the saddle is a bit different but nicely uncluttered
The view from the saddle is a bit different but nicely uncluttered

Impressive details

The more time I spent with GSD, the more details I noticed and appreciated. 

Tern seemingly thought of everything on the GSD, the chainguard is one small example
Tern seemingly thought of everything on the GSD, the chainguard is one small example

Little details were tucked everywhere: the custom chainguard, the extra-long top flaps on the panniers, the front wheel stabilising spring that stops the wheel from flopping, the kickstand that tucks back and up for more ground clearance and the additional rack lash points so the cargo accessories attach rock solid. They're all well engineered.

The full-coverage fenders, ergonomic grips, headlight, tail-light, flat-resistant Schwalbe Super Moto X tires and the fact it folds and also stands vertically on its rack add to the extensive list of useful features.

All told, it was a revelation to find more and more things to admire rather than wonder why certain things were not included. 

Adjustable sizing and an easy ride

Let's get this out of the way first, if you're thinking about performance in any speed, weight, or aerodynamic metric, the GSD isn't even in the ballpark. 

If, however, you're thinking of performance in terms of how many days you can go without driving a car or how much gas money you can save in a month, the GSD is a world-class competitor. 

A 400Wh Bosch electric motor provides plenty of power and range
A 400Wh Bosch electric motor provides plenty of power and range

Tern's GSD doesn't come in a range of sizes, but what it does have is a giant range of adjustability. 

The telescoping seatpost offers a huge range, the stem can be adjusted in seemingly endless ways and the bars rotate to work with riders of all shapes, sizes and attitudes. 

Instead of 'one-size fits all' being a joke, it's actually an accurate statement with the GSD. Tern claims riders from 1.5m to 1.95m / 4ft 8in to 6ft 4in fit the GSD.

Hopping on and off is about as easy as can be, with a low standover of 51cm / 20in and a solid, easy-to-use center stand. 

With its upright riding position, pedalling the GSD takes on a heads-up, carefree vibe. It's not a powerful position, but that's what the four modes of electric assist are there for. 

Shimano's 10-speed Deore drivetrain with 11-36 cassette is a good match for the Bosch Performance motor. Rarely did I want for higher or lower gears, instead toggling through the four assistance modes.

Super powerful four-piston Magura MT5 disc brakes are welcome as hauling down a heavy bike loaded with gear takes some grunt. 

Tern GSD battery life

The GSD I had in for review looked close to new, so that means the battery was fresh. 

Headlight and taillight are included, turn indicators are still up to the rider however
Headlight and taillight are included, turn indicators are still up to the rider however

That said, Tern's suggested battery range of 50–110 km / 31–68 mi was accurate. Like all e-bikes, mileage range varies greatly depending on hills, speeds, and what power mode you have the motor set. Turbo sucks it down. 

Being in the US, the electric assist topped out around 20mph / 32kph (the max is 25kph in Europe). With other e-bikes I often find this super annoying, but on the GSD 20mph felt plenty fast.

The small wheels are wrapped in hard, round tires and there's a long handlepost (Tern speak for steerer tube), which take a bit of getting used to when compared to a regular bike.

Tern GSD downsides

The GSD does present a few challenges when used for its intended purposes. The first, and biggest, issue is weight.

The GSD with a single battery weighs over 27kg / 59.6lbs. Add another battery for when you want mega range, plus some accessories on the rear rack, and you're easily lugging over 30kg / 66lbs. 

The handle on the seat is useful, there are no two ways around the GSD's weight
The handle on the seat is useful, there are no two ways around the GSD's weight

Pedalling that weight isn't the issue, the electric motor makes sure of that, rather it's when you're trying to park, or worse, haul the GSD up some stairs when it becomes a problem. But, it's worth repeating, while the GSD is a tank, it can haul an astonishing 181kg / 400lbs.

The other downside is the ride quality. The 20in wheels, flat-resistant Schwalbe tires and stiff, beast-of-burden aluminum frame and fork assure the GSD won't win any ride quality awards. But chances are you'll never walk up to a flat tire, worry about fixing a wobbly wheel or stress about hauling too much weight. 

For this type of bike, and the utility it offers, both of these are very worthy tradeoffs I'd take every day.

Who's the Tern GSD for?

Could you park your car and really only use the Tern GSD? If you live, work and play in an urban area the answer is 'yes'.

The GSD's strongest attributes are that it's purpose-built to be a car replacement. With kid seats, panniers or racks attached it could replace the car for most daily activities and chores.

Tern's GSD is true urban utility bike that can actually replace a vehicle
Tern's GSD is true urban utility bike that can actually replace a vehicle

The battery's mileage range is good, or incredible if you upgrade to two batteries, and the load carrying capacity is likely more than you'll ever need, while the speeds are comparable to city traffic. 

If $4,000 seems like a lot of money, you're right, it is. But if you take an honest look at what a car payment, insurance, and gas and maintenance costs you each month that four grand shrinks down pretty quickly. 

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Age: 39
  • Height: 6'3"/190cm
  • Weight: 175lb/79kg
  • Waist: 34in/86cm
  • Chest: 42in / 107cm
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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