The Tern HSD has got some work to do to live up to the other bikes in the Tern stable. The larger Tern GSD is still my favourite e-bike ever: with massive cargo capacity and bags of versatility in a bike that’s no longer than a standard shopper, it’s a genuinely brilliant thing. The folding Tern Vektron is also excellent: less a folding bike, more a really versatile city bike that happens to fold.
The HSD is in the middle of the two. Some people don’t need the cargo capacity of the GSD, and some people don’t need a bike that folds. The HSD is, because of its 20” wheels, shorter than a standard 700c-wheeled city bike, but the shortish cockpit and extended tail apes the GSD, just not to the same extent. The rear rack isn’t an integral part of the frame but it’s still rated for a 60kg load, so a child seat and some standard panniers (both of which will fit at the same time) won’t trouble the limit. You could even give bigger kids a lift; there’s no passenger kit yet but one is in development. You can add a flatbed rack at the back that holds a standard crate, and another one on the front bolted to the mount on the head tube. There are a bunch of other city bags and baskets available too. so there’s still masses of load space and versatility.
The HSD doesn’t fold, but like the GSD it will stand on its end thanks to rubber feet on the end of the rear rack, and you can collapse the seatpost with two quick releases. There’s a folding hinge in the stem too, borrowed from Tern’s folding range. So if you haven’t got outdoor storage it’ll fit in a surprisingly small space.
I had the opportunity at Eurobike to have a go on the top-spec HSD S+ model. It sports an Enviolo rear hub with the company’s new Automatic shifting system. I say new; the hub in its previous incarnation as Nuvinci was also available with automatic shifting as Nuvinci Harmony.
This new system is slimmed down. Before you had the option of manual or automatic control, with a twist grip. Now the shifting is plumbed directly into the Bosch e-bike system on the bike. You can set your preferred cadence on the Intuvia display and the bike will do the rest.
To be honest I wasn’t entirely convinced that it’s a system I’d want if I were to buy the bike. It’s not that it doesn’t work – it does – but just that it tends to reward leisurely and low-impact pedalling, and in the stop-start of city riding it’s nice to be able to hoon the bits you want to to keep up with traffic. The bike’s also available with an 8-speed Nexus hub gear and a 9-speed Shimano Alivio derailleur transmission, but those two bikes come with the less powerful Active Line Plus motor, as opposed to the Performance Line unit used on the bike I was riding. That being said, the Enviolo hub does feel like it uses quite a bit more of the bike’s power to overcome its own inefficiency, so there’s probably not that much between them.
Riding the bike is simplicity itself. It’s comfortable and steady, with a nice upright riding position. Tern has tweaked the cockpit angles, raking the seat angle back a bit so that it works a bit better at the top and bottom ends of the size range. Tern says anyone between 1.50m and 1.95m should be fine, so that’s most of us. I’m approaching the top of that range at 1.89m and the bike felt absolutely fine for me.
It’s a bit more lively than the GSD because it’s lighter and not as long, but it still feels very solid and reassuring when you’re flying down a hill, with masses of grip from the big-chamber Schwalbe tyres and braking confidence from the Magura disc brakes. Unlike the GSD you get a suspension fork at the front, which does take a few of the hits for you on rougher surfaces. Because it’s a short fork it doesn’t have masses of travel, but that also means that it doesn’t flex or dive noticeably under braking. The S+ spec also gets a Cane Creek Thudbuster seatpost for comfort at the other end, which works very well.
The test bike I used was fitted with Tern’s Cargo Hold 37 panniers which look to be excellent. Like the bigger GSD panniers they fold down flat when you’re not using them, and they have a lovely magnetic/mechanical clip that I spent a full minute clipping in and out with a smile on my face. I know, little things. Opened right up they’ll swallow masses of shopping, and they have a bucket mode too where you can fold the roll-top back inside the pannier and just chuck stuff in them. You can use the strap to stabilise anything heavy. They’re just the ticket for everyday use and very nicely made to boot.
I’m looking forward to putting the HSD through its paces for a full review, but the first impressions are very positive. I’d probably have bought a GSD by now if I really needed the kind of carrying capacity that it offers, but realistically something a bit smaller and lighter would do the job for me. The HSD looks like it might be just the thing, but only time and a proper review will tell. Stay tuned for that soon.