The Tern NBD is a very effective city bike that’s comfortable to ride and easy to store. You can take a surprising amount of stuff with you as well. The very low-step means it’s accessible for a wide range of riders, and the high-quality construction means it’s built to last. You’re paying top dollar for all that though, so make sure you need everything you’re getting here.
If you're familiar with Tern’s range of e-bikes, then you'll probably know that they've been moving more and more from cargo bikes into general purpose city bikes. The biggest bike in the range is the Tern GSD longtail cargo bike and it remains one of my favourite e-bikes. The Tern HSD and Tern Quick Haul both sit somewhere in between a full size cargo bike and a normal city bike. This new NBD is very much a city and leisure bike. It’s a compact, low step design with 20in wheels and a Bosch mid motor. The small wheels - ubiquitous on Tern's bikes - and the frame design mean that this bike has one of the lowest stepovers that you can currently get in a mid-motor bike. It's very easy to get on and off, and the big flat pedals make it easy to locate your feet when you're setting off too.
The frame is all alloy, and Tern hasn't specced a suspension fork on the NBD, presumably because as a lighter and smaller package overall, it's quite a nimble bike and doesn't really require one. At the rear you get Tern’s suspension seat post, although the elastomer spring inside was a little on the soft side; this will be rectified in production bikes. At the front you get Tern’s hinging steerer and adjustable stem which makes it easy both to store the bike in small spaces and also adjust the riding position to your taste. Like many of the bikes in the Tern range, the NBD will stand on its end thanks to a set of feet on the rear rack. This means that even if you're very short on space, you'll be able to find somewhere to put the bike in a flat or apartment. It’s lighter than the bigger Tern bikes but it’s still a well-built city bike with a mid motor, so lugging it up and down stairs is not something you want to regularly find yourself doing.
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The rear rack is designed to work with Tern’s range of luggage and our bike came fitted with the Cargo Hold 37 panniers which are excellent for general day-to-day use. You can also fit a child seat on the back, but the rack isn't rated for larger children so you can't use Tern’s seat pad to give teenagers or adults a lift.
If the rear rack doesn't give you enough carrying capacity then there's also a mount on the head tube which allows you to fit either of Tern’s front racks to give a bit more space for your shopping. An ideal companion to this bike would be the transporteur rack and the Weathertop shopping bag. Combined with the panniers that would give enough capacity for a reasonable weekly shop for a couple or small family. There are loads of other options too – baskets, dog carriers, work bags – all designed to work seamlessly. This bike isn’t necessarily touted as a car replacement, but it could be depending on who and what you need to regularly move about.
As you'd expect with a high ticket bike like this, pretty much everything is included as standard. You don't get any bags as part of the base price, as people’s needs differ and it’s useful to be able to spec what you want. But the rear rack is included, as are mudguards, a kickstand, integrated lighting, and a full chain case to keep your clothes away from the drivetrain. There's also a rear wheel lock which is useful to immobilise the bike if you're just popping into a shop, although obviously you shouldn't rely on it as your main security if you're leaving the bike unattended for any length of time.
I've been riding this NBD for a few months, and on top of that I've lent it to quite a few people to try. One of the benefits of a bike like this is that it's capable of adjusting to fit pretty much any rider. Tern was particularly keen to make sure that small riders were catered for with the NBD, and I've had a couple of smaller people on this bike who found the position very good. Because there's not a great deal of height adjustment at the front, the smaller you are the more upright the bike is going to feel. At 1.89m I’m at the other end of the bell curve, but I found the bike comfortable and pleasant to ride. The more upright seat post compared to the GSD and the HSD means that the ride position is slightly more cramped for bigger riders, but I never found it a problem and it's not a bike that you're going to do long journeys on.
Everything about the NBD is designed to make it easy to use. This S5i build has a 5-speed Shimano Nexus hub gear that is specifically designed for the rigours of e-bike use and it gives a good range of gears for the hills and the flats. It's driven by a Gates CDX belt drive that's proved to be quiet and reliable throughout testing. The main benefit of the belt drive is that it doesn't really require any maintenance from the user, and a quick check every time the bike goes in for a yearly service will probably be all you need to do. The high component quality continues with the Schwabe Big Ben tyres and the Magura hydraulic disc brakes which offer excellent grip and stopping power respectively, in all conditions. You get a Tern own-brand saddle which is made by Velo, and very good Ergon grips.
Tern has gone with the Bosch Performance Line motor for the NBD, so a rung below the top-end CX and Cargo Line motors that you'll find on the bigger bikes that they make. At 65Nm it's still a very powerful motor and this is a smaller and lighter bike, so I never had any issues with the available power. It’s a lot quieter than the more powerful motor, too. Even in hilly Bath where the gradients regularly exceed 10%, it was always possible to get to the top with minimal effort. The range from the 500Wh battery is plenty for a bike like this. My commute is reasonably short at a 9km round trip but involves 150m of climbing every time I go home. The NBD could happily do four laps of the commute on maximum power, and on flatter terrain you'd have enough range for a longer day of riding than you'd ever want to do on a bike like this. It's comfortable enough to ride, but the big wide saddle and upright riding position mean that anything over about half an hour starts to feel like a bit of a chore. If you're regularly going to be doing longer rides than this, then you'll probably be better off looking at e-bikes with a more efficient ride position.
What are the positives of this bike? Well, the main positive is that everyone that I've lent it to has had a great time riding it. It's a very easy bike to get on with. It's simple to adjust so that it fits you well, and it's nimble and powerful. If you have limited mobility then the powerful motor and the low step through are a godsend. If you have limited space then the fact that you can drop the seat post and the handlebars and store the bike upright is a major selling point. If you don't like limited carrying capacity, then the NBD can be specced to swallow quite a serious amount of groceries or work equipment for the commute.
Weighing against that, the main downside is the price. At £4,700 without any luggage this is an expensive e-bike: it's as expensive as a GSD cargo bike, albeit in a lower spec. It's a high quality bike and it's very well kitted out, but this is a more competitive market than the cargo bike sphere where the GSD and the HSD sit. There are a lot of city bikes out there, and a lot of them are very good. Some of them are compact to store, or can fold to take up less space. Some of them can carry an impressive load. Some of them have frames designed for easy access. If you need the particular combination of features of the NBD, then it's pretty easy to recommend, assuming you can afford it. If your requirements aren't that specific – for example if you have plenty of space to store your bike, or you're flexible enough to use a standard size city bike with a low step frame – then there are probably other bikes in the market that will work equally well for you at a significantly lower price point than this.
Overall, the Tern NBD is a really easy bike to like. Pretty much anyone can ride it and it's easy to carry things and to store the bike when you've finished your day. Whether you can justify the spend will depend on your circumstances, and how neatly its design dovetails to your needs.