For certain parents, especially those in the US, the decision to bike or car to school often depends on the weather. Sunshine and blue skies make it an easy choice to take the bike. But when the clouds roll in and there’s a hint of rain in the air, the idea of arriving with two soggy kids on the rack often sends some parents reluctantly to the car.
Bad weather is really just an excuse. People in other more bike-friendly countries will cycle in all seasons. Are they made of sturdier stuff than us car-spoiled Americans? Yes, but maybe we don’t need ice in our veins to drive through blizzards and hurricanes. Maybe we just need better accessories.
Fortunately, Tern has a solution to make these decisions a lot easier. The Taiwanese bicycle company’s GSD is already one of the best cargo bikes on the market. But with the addition of the Storm Shield, which provides an impressive layer of protection for passengers on the rack, you might be tempted to drive straight into the eye of the storm, hell or high tide.
Let’s start with the bike itself. Tern first introduced the GSD in 2017 and has since released several updated models. I tested the top model, the GSD S10 LX, with the Bosch Cargo Line motor. Tern also lent me his Storm Shield, Storm Box and Clubhouse accessories. Here’s what you need to know:
- Engine: Bosch Cargo Line
- Top speed: 20 mph (32 kph)
- Range: 32-65 miles with single battery configuration
- Battery: 500Wh
- Weight: 71.7lbs (32.5kg)
- Brakes: Magura MT5 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes
- Drive: chain-driven Shimano 10-speed gear hub
- Tires: 20 inch
- Extras: SunTour suspension fork
- Price: $5499
Looking at this bike may leave you scratching your head at the design. The GSD doesn’t look like a traditional bike, with its small wheels and angular entry frame. The rear half of the bike frame is a jumble of intersecting triangles and trapezoids. But looks are deceiving. The wheelbase is only slightly longer than most single-person bicycles, which is very important for storage and transportation, whether rolled on a train or mounted in the back of your car. It’s also narrower than front bucket designs from European companies such as Urban Arrow and Carqon, making it easier to maneuver through tight spaces.
Like its smaller, but no less capable sibling, the HSD, the Tern GSD is a workhorse e-bike with a host of custom components that make cycling feel seamless. It’s a mid-tail cargo bike, meaning it’s big enough to fit two kids on the rear rack, while also being compatible with a bike rack with a trailer hitch. It has a longer wheelbase than most traditional bikes, but is still considered shorter than a longtail cargo bike. The Tern GSD can carry up to 440 pounds, including the bike, rider, cargo and accessories.
The GSD is easy to store thanks to Tern’s dedication to bringing some of its folding bike technology to most models in its e-bike range. The handlebars of the GSD can be folded down and the bumpers on the rear rack allow the entire bike to be stored vertically. That said, it’s still a cargo bike, so you’ll need to consider the size of the bike and its storage.
One of the things I admire about Tern’s lineup is its flexibility. The low step-through frame combined with tool-less raising and lowering handlebars and seatpost, as well as a custom SunTour fork, make this a bike that can easily be passed on to family members or friends. Riders of all shapes and sizes will feel comfortable on the GSD. I’m six feet and while I usually appreciate a taller bike frame, the GSD’s one-size-fits-all frame hasn’t put me off in the least. The riding style is more upright than your typical road or racing bike, which can take some getting used to.
The GSD is a Class 1 electric bike in the US, meaning it has pedal assist with no throttle and has a top speed of 20 mph. There were times when I missed the twist throttle, especially when starting from a standstill on a steep incline with a child and extra luggage on the luggage rack. The Shimano 10-speed gear system certainly helps. But I also understand why some manufacturers avoid the throttle—and frankly believe that throttles will eventually run into regulatory trouble in the future—so I try not to begrudge any bike because of its exclusion.
The Cargo Line motor is one of Bosch’s most powerful systems, specially designed for heavy-duty e-bikes. It’s also a step up from the Bosch Performance inline motors in the earlier models. The S10 LX comes with a 500 Wh or 1,000 Wh system with a motor that delivers 85 Newton-meters of torque and up to 400 percent pedal assist in the highest setting.
In terms of performance, I wasn’t too impressed with the 500Wh battery pack, and if I had the money I’d definitely invest in the second battery. While Tern claims the GSD has a range of 32-62 miles (52-105 km), I found myself needing to recharge the battery after just 20 miles of riding at the highest assist level on mostly flat surfaces with a few steep hills mixed in. The motor lacked some of the torque you’d find in a smaller, nimble e-bike. And although the top speed is listed as 20 mph, I was only able to hit it while going downhill. With a low center of gravity, stability was great and it handled well as I cycled through my small suburban town.
GSD stands for “get stuff done”; that’s exactly what I did when I got it: take the kids to school, run errands, use it for all the small, finicky errands I’d normally use the car for. All told, I probably put 150-200 miles on it in a month of testing. I’m not trying to sound like a broken record, but e-bikes are car replacements, period. They get a lot of shit from the cycling community because they get a lot of energy out of cycling, but that’s exactly the point.
The Tern GSD is an example of their potential. If you live in the US, you have been conditioned to believe that you need a car for everyday life. And you probably should too, because your community is built to exclude most other forms of transportation to make driving as frictionless as possible. E-bikes, especially cargo bikes like the GSD, can help break that conditioning and invite you to live in a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable world.
Let’s get off the soapbox and talk accessories because that’s what really put me on the GSD.
In addition to lending the GSD, Tern also supplied a whole host of cool add-ons, including two 52-liter panniers and three other accessories called the Clubhouse, Storm Box and Storm Shield.
The clubhouse is essentially a seat cushion with a backrest for the rack and the rail that surrounds it to keep passengers from falling off. The Storm Box provides a waterproof cover for their legs, while the Storm Shield is a waterproof nylon canopy that fits over the rack, with side panels that can be rolled up or down depending on the weather.
All in all, Tern calls it the Clubhouse Fort, and my kids definitely treated it like their own private funhouse. Each morning they couldn’t wait to board the 3.5-mile drive to their school. At the end of my testing period, I found all kinds of gummy snacks and Goldfish crackers at the bottom of the Storm Box. I did not mind.
Of course it is not cheap to equip your bike with all these accessories. The Panniers ($250 for two), Clubhouse ($240), Storm Box ($220), and Storm Shield ($220) are all pretty expensive, especially in total. And when added to the price tag for the GSD – $5,499 for the single battery configuration, $6,299 for the dual battery – you’re looking at an overall price tag of over $7,000, which is simply stunning.
More expensive than your average 10-speed, sure, but think about it compared to the cost of car ownership. For vehicles traveling 15,000 miles per year, the average cost of car ownership was $9,561 per year, or $797 per month, in 2020, according to AAA. That figure includes depreciation, interest on loans, fuel, insurance, maintenance and fees. In other words, the highest specification Tern cargo bike, complete with all fixins, is equivalent to approximately nine months of car ownership in the US. Not a bad decision.
Sure, I wish Tern was a little cheaper – and you can certainly find cargo bikes with a similar range of accessories for less – but I also know that the company puts a lot of effort into making some of the best e-bikes on the market today. They are versatile, reliable and powerful. But they can also help you break free from the constraints of car ownership. To me, that alone is worth the price.