Are you in the market for your first electric bike, maybe a small everyday capable bike or you have been looking at cargo bikes and they are just SO big? The Tern HSD electric bike may be for you. Read on to learn more!
At the time of writing this, I've worked around the bike industry for 20 years. It really takes a lot for me to be excited and impressed with a product. Sometimes I'm excited, sometimes I'm impressed, but very rarely both things. The new Tern HSD electric bike offering has me solidly feeling both. In this review, we are going to dig into the pros and cons of the HSD, who I think it is for, and what I hope to see from Tern in the future. You can read my initial thoughts on the Tern HSD here. Don't want to read all the details? Scroll to the bottom for my conclusion and who I think the HSD is for.
Key Takeaways of the Tern HSD
- Class 1 Electric-Assist Bike - This electric bike assists you when you are pedaling up to 20 miles per hour. After 20 mph you are on your own without assistance. This does not have a throttle.
- One size fits most - This is a game-changer to be able to comfortably share that expensive electric bike with other people in your household or family.
- Smaller wheels and lower battery placement - This makes this bike feel much more stable for riders as the weight isn't so high (The P9 model is 56.5 pounds).
- Everyday capable - Carry up to 374 pounds, and the bike is designed to carry stuff. Kids, groceries, your bags, pull a trailer, etc. Many other electric bikes look nice but can't carry a kid or panniers very well (more on that in a second!)
Transportable - As long as you have a smallish SUV and can fold down 1/3 of your backseats, this bike will fit thanks to the folding handlepost and low seatpost design. This is huge for an electric bike as you often have to purchase a really expensive rear hitch rack to transport these heavier bikes. I would suggest to rig up some sort of ramp so you aren't lifting the 50+ pound bike but with two people it is made very doable.
- Rear Standing - For the last couple of years, Tern has been designing their bikes around a rear standing feature. Great for storage and servicing your bike. Watch a video on this feature here.
- Accessories - Tern has a great ecosystem of accessories, and adapters to make other accessories work with their bikes with more options coming in the spring.
- Bosch Only - Bosch makes arguably one of the most reliable and dependable systems but it comes for a price. This bike is not designed to compete with an internet direct bike.
- Starting price of the HSD is $3200 for the Tern HSD P9
Comparing the HSD Models
Reviewing the similarities and differences between the HSD models can get a bit confusing. Here is what they all have in common:
- 20" wheels, aluminum frame, Suntour suspension front fork
- Bosch motors (motor type and battery size change with the S+)
- Rear-wheel lock keyed alike to battery
- All touchpoints (saddle, grips, pedals) seem to be the same from spec
- The rear rack fits one Thule® Yepp Maxi, Yepp Nexxt Maxi, or Bobike® GO Maxi child seat—no adapters needed
- Side-arm kickstand
- Max vehicle weight capacity: 374 pounds
- Max rider weight capacity: 264 pounds
Differences between models:
- The HSD P9 uses a Shimano 1x9 Alivio drivetrain with an e-bike rated chain, a derailleur and Shimano disc brakes (180 front rotor, 160 rear rotor). Bosch Active Line Plus motor and 400Wh battery with Purion display.
- The HSD P9 Performance is the same as the bike above but with a bigger motor (Bosch Performance) that gives great torque and assistance, this is found on their cargo bike line and a bigger battery at 500Wh.
- The HSD S8i switches to a Gates Belt instead of a chain, Shimano internal 8 speed rear hub (the gears are inside the hub allowing you to shift when not pedaling or stopped), and Magura MT4 disc brakes (180 front rotor, 160 rear rotor). Same motor, battery, and controller as the P9.
- The HSD S+ is a unique partnership with Enviolo to have the new AUTOMATIC shifting system. This required a new Bosch Performance line motor (more torque) and the Intuvia display. You also get the largest Bosch frame battery available at 500Wh, and a Cane Creek Thudbuster ST seat post. If you are in a hilly area or looking for truly hauling a kid I would look at a performance motor model.
Overall Thoughts on the Tern HSD P9
The Tern HSD P9 is what I have had in and what this review is based on. Once my HSD S8i and S+ demo come in I'll do a more detailed review on those specific models.
As I mentioned in my initial thoughts of the Tern HSD in this article, I named this the crossover electric bike and I really have high hopes for the HSD pushing the electric bike market into functionality. Electric bikes are wonderful but I've tried so many that the rear rack is subpar, and the bike is often designed around the sport rider instead of the "everyday" rider. The fact that Civia has put out a whole line of Bosch equipped bikes without lights and fenders designed for "everyday life" really annoys me as a retailer and daily rider. In contrast, I appreciate that Tern has been evolving as a company thinking about the buyer's complete journey down to what they provide stock with the bike and the accessories they make in-house instead of relying on 3rd party options. For example, every single one of their electric bikes come with lights and fenders, and now the HSD comes with a rear-wheel lock that uses the same key as the battery. This is pretty standard for European bikes but pretty uncommon in the United States.
While I don't believe the HSD will be for everyone, it has won over many customers so far for me that have placed preorders for the P9 and S8i models that will be arriving in late 2019. (You can still preorder one so contact me if you want one!) See all the way at the bottom for who I think the key owners of this bike will be.
Thoughts on the HSD P9 Specifically
The HSD P9 at $3200 has a good and reliable parts selection. Nothing too fancy that will cost a ton if you have to replace it due to wear, but also not too cheap that I would worry about the longevity of the bike. This specific build will be what I bring in for demos and rental use while the S8i will probably be my top seller.
As I mentioned, the HSD S8i will certainly be my goto bike in this line-up and already my top seller. For $600 more you get an internal hub, Gates belt drive, and much nicer brakes for carrying cargo. Depending on your attitude for maintenance, the S8i is pretty maintenance-free from month to month. You'll need to pump up the tires, check your brake pad wear, and ride. The internal hub will need servicing but nothing I would be too worried about, I prefer the enviolo 380 for an internal hub but it would add money to the price.
Tern HSD vs Gazelle Medeo
There are many Bosch equipped bikes under $3,000 on the market. Last year I brought in the Gazelle line simply because they had a $2,500 Bosch equipped bike with fenders, lights, front suspension, and a rear rack. Simply put, that bike really let me down when it came to capability. It is a wonderful bike but the Magura rim brakes don't do well if you are heavier than 200 pounds or want to tow something. The rear rack with battery mount is not Yepp seat compatible like Gazelle originally stated, and the battery up so high on 700c wheels make the bike very top-heavy. I will continue to keep the Gazelle Medeo on my floor for demo and if you are on a tight budget I still believe that it is a very good bike with a Bosch motor BUT I believe the Tern HSD checks more boxes, most of which I laid out in the "key takeaways" section above. Let me know if you want to see a Batch electric bike, Gazelle Medeo or EasyFlow reviews.
A quick recap of what makes me prefer the Tern HSD over the Gazelle Medeo: Yepp seat compatible, lower weight due to smaller wheels and lower battery placement, disc brakes, adjustability for multiple rider heights, built-in rear wheel lock that matches the battery key.
Tern HSD vs Tern Vektron
The Tern HSD is a much more comfortable ride compared to the Tern Vektron. In part this is due to the suspension fork but also the geometry of the bike. The seat tube angle is much more relaxed moving your weight further over the rear wheel instead of pitched over the handlebars. It is also worth mentioning the step-thru design is much lower at 18.5" for the HSD vs 23.75" for the Vektron. The Vektron is still a wonderful bike and a class leader for folding electric.
Handlebar Height and Handlepost Options
The front end of the HSD compared to the Tern GSD is 5cm higher to begin with because of the suspension fork. I tried the HSD with the taller handlepost available from Tern (350mm vs the 290mm stock handlepost) and really preferred it for my 5'10" height. I had many customers also try it with the taller option and most preferred it except for one rider that was 5 feet even. While you can get a pretty upright position adjusting the Andros stem, I prefer using the handlepost as it allows the stem to be angled forward over the front wheel giving better steering (in my opinion) and more weight over the front wheel which is important when steering or riding in the rain or snow. I plan on offering this to all my HSD and GSD customers in the future for $150.
Kid Carrying on the HSD
I have tried a few different options for kid carrying (and very small adult carrying) which included the Sidekick handlebar and pad system, the Yepp Junior seat with EasyFit, the Yepp EasyFit, and pulling a Burley Trailer.
All options worked well, the larger the human the less I would like to do it all the time. I would say around 8-9 years old I would use it occasionally but it wouldn't be my choice if I always had someone on the back of that size all the time. For example, if your main goal of this bike is to cart your 10-11 year old around, maybe this isn't the bike for you.
For the Sidekick handlebar with pad or Yepp Junior seat, I would require the Cargo Hold 37 bags so the person's feet and legs are safe. Unfortunately, there isn't a footrest design out yet for the HSD so all the weight of the feet will be placed on the bags. Something to keep in mind and I hope this will be remedied with the passenger kit coming out in the spring (see below).
Future Passenger Kit and Double Kickstand?
Based on the bottom plate on the HSD and rumors of a new Passenger kit, I believe and hope the new Tern Atlas double kickstand will fit the HSD. This would be a requirement for me to regularly carry smallish children on the back, or if you plan on hauling a lot of cargo so you aren't relying on a side-mounted kickstand. I'll update this as I learn more.
Speaking of Accessories
One of the reasons I really fell for this bike is the front bags and attachments. Specifically, the Go-To bag that attaches to the front using a Tern Luggage Truss™ adapter. Also, hidden on our demo bike is a "cache box" which isn't released yet but I love that Tern is using this "dead" space for amazing new products.
Things I would change on the HSD
This is always a difficult section to write as these are very biased opinions. These are based on feedback from many test riders and my own experience from riding it in Colorado.
Bosch motor options
This bike needs a Performance motor option that isn't tied to the automatic shifting price tag. For serious hills with a kid on board, I would want a higher torque/assist motor. June 2020 Update: They now have a P9 Performance option with a bigger motor!
Second battery option
I wish there was a 2nd battery option on the top tube. It would raise the step-over height but would extend the range and all-day riding options for this bike.
It should come stock with the taller handlepost
My assumption is that this bike is targeted to the hybrid or "interested but concerned" rider getting on their first electric-assist bike. I would rather start that customer more upright than not.
The saddle is a bit wide
The saddle is wider than the Tern GSD, I assume to the more upright handlebar position. This was nice to some but many people found it too wide.
I'm still not a fan of the Tern pedals for all-condition riding. They do just fine for fair weather riding but when it is wet I've had many customers complain about their feet slipping off.
Who I Think the Tern HSD is NOT For
I believe that just about anyone could find joy in the Tern HSD. It may be easiest to say who it is NOT for:
- If you need more power but don't want the automatic shifting (Tern are you listening?). This is due to you living in a hilly place or really wanting to carry a human on the back over 60 lbs. The Active Line Plus is a great motor but it will be unpowered
- Someone looking to carry more than 1 human, or 140 pounds on the back
- If you want a speed motor (assistance to 28 mph)
- If you want a throttle (Bosch doesn't make throttle electric-assist motors)
- If you need 2 batteries
No bike is absolutely perfect. As I finish writing this article, I picked up the phone to talk with Davey at G&O Family Cyclery in Seattle. His customer's needs for the bike are completely different than what we experience in Denver, Colorado and it was fun to compare notes. I wish there was a more affordable Performance motor option, the kid hauling accessories were available now, and the handlepost was taller out of the box. Hopefully, all 3 of these things will fix themselves with time!
I can confidently say this bike is going to change the landscape of my bike shop due to the availability, pricing, and approachability of being able to go more car-light with the HSD. I no longer have to sacrifice "affordable electric bike" options on my floor that aren't designed to carry a kid or daily life easily. The Tern HSD is designed for single occupancy use (one rider) just as much as it is for bringing the kid along, and due to the one size fits most a person could justify buying this bike and splitting the use between people of different height.
No longer do you need a dedicated cargo bike to haul one smaller sized child, and no longer do you need to sacrifice everyday errands of groceries or library books because they don't fit in your standard size panniers.
I welcome this new crossover style of electric bike, and just like the Subaru Outback has changed peoples' minds about how large of a car they need to be truly capable, I believe the HSD will change peoples' minds about what they can do daily by bike.
Disclaimer: This bike was provided by Tern for review and trial as a Tern dealer. If you are in the Denver area, book an appointment to test ride one today!