Tern's HSD S11 Is a "Compact" Cargo Electric Workhorse, Will Empty Your Pockets of $5K

HSD 9 photos
Photo: Tern Bicycles
Let's face it; the bicycles most of us grew up with are something entirely different these days. With the arrival of motors and batteries, the bicycle has begun to transform into something else entirely.
One crew that's been taking a different approach to bicycles is Tern, the one and the same that's been in the news on countless occasions, always whipping up some monstrous machine that, more often than not, can replace our cars, even if only for a few activities.

If the name Tern sounds familiar to you, then you probably know what to expect from the machine in question today: the HSD S11. If you have no idea of who or what I'm talking about, then read up for just a few minutes. Why? Well, you may find that solutions for leaving your car at home do exist, and the S11 may just be one of them.

Now, the idea behind the S11 was to build a cargo bike that can be considered compact and even features foldable components (the steering column) to reduce its size in case of transport or storage, which is a bit of a change in comparison to what Tern typically builds: massive and overly capable e-bikes.

That's not to say that the S11 is no less capable, just smaller. For example, the manufacturer's website states that this workhorse only weighs 62 lbs (28.1 kg), which is a few pounds under the weight of the average e-bike but has a max weight limit of 397 lbs (180 kg). Clearly, it has a whole lot more capability than your average bicycle.

Photo: Tern Bicycles
All this is made possible first by the sort of frame that the S11 has and, secondly, by the sort of components Tern has decided to add to this hunk of aluminum, the material used to complete that twisted framework. Twisted indeed, and maybe even chunkier than most riders want, but it's got all the right junk in all the right places.

In the process, Terns didn't just create a bicycle that can carry your groceries to and from work, but, according to the manufacturer, even two adults can take a ride on the S11 without the frame warping or burning your motor.

Speaking of motors, Bosch is the crew that Tern has chosen for the S11, as with most of their other machines. Here, a Performance Line Sport motor brings 75 Nm (55 lb-ft) of torque to the game and up to 340% assistance. Best of all, North American riders have the benefit of a maximum speed of 28 mph (45 kph).

Now, flying around at 28 mph with cargo on the back is a bit hazardous if you ask me, so to ensure that you and those around you are safe, not only are there MT4 hydraulic disc brakes from Magura, but motor cut-off is also part of the magic. Other safety features include lights and a bell, but you should always wear a helmet, so nothing out of the ordinary. You could, however, throw on Bosch's latest ABS system. Yes, ABS for e-bikes is a thing now.

Photo: Tern Bicycles
Tern has also been working with Bosch for as long as I can remember and, in doing so, has created a bicycle that's tuned around Bosch e-systems. This means that the motor is perfectly integrated into the frame design, and so is the battery, seen under the seat and hidden within the frame, even protected. It is removable, so don't worry about range; just grab another battery. Oh, and in case you're curious, Tern states that up to 76 mi (114 km) of range is possible with an S11.

But what about comfort? Well, Tern has a reputation to uphold in this department, too, and in doing so, equips the S11 with several features to soften the blows taken up by our glutes. Not only is there a pair of Schwalbe Big Ben tires standard, but so is a front fork from Suntour with 70 mm (2.75 in) of travel.

Oh, and the magic doesn't stop there. Personally, I loved the fact that Tern decided to add a suspension seat post to the S11. As standard, a Cane Creek Thudbuster seat post with parallel linkage boasts up to 90 mm (3.5 in) of travel. That's almost MTB-level status. Don't get any ideas now. You should always ride a bike within the limits set by manufacturers; they're there for a reason.

Photo: Tern Bicycles
As for the rest of this bugger, Shimano is yet another powerhouse that Tern has chosen to equip the S11 with. A Deore setup with 1x11 speeds is responsible for your propulsion, but from what I've noticed, HSDs can also accommodate a belted drivetrain. It's just going to cost you a tad more.

Speaking of price, this is where Tern may encounter a problem in getting the S11 into as many hands as possible. Currently, you'll need to dish out $4,900 (€4,500 at current exchange rates) to get your hands on one of these workhorses, but before you lose your cookies over that number, try and remember that this isn't your typical e-bike; it really does stand a chance at replacing your car for some activities.

Better yet, find a local dealership that has one of these puppies in store and take one out for a test ride. Just be warned, once you see what a Tern machine can achieve, you may need to head home to grab your checkbook; just bring it with you for good measure.

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Editor's note: Images in the gallery display an array of Tern HSD models.

About the author: Cristian Curmei
Cristian Curmei profile photo

A bit of a nomad at heart (being born in Europe and raised in several places in the USA), Cristian is enamored with travel trailers, campers and bikes. He also tests and writes about urban means of transportation like scooters, mopeds and e-bikes (when he's not busy hosting our video stories and guides).
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