Tern NBD S5i Review: Cruise It Out

There is a big Problem with Electric Bicycle as an alternative eco-friendly mode of transportation: Most people who own one already have several bikes (sin!). It doesn’t really reduce carbon emissions if the person buys an ebike ready ride a bike, skateboard or scooter.

Some companies have chosen to appeal to non-cyclists by making the bikes larger or more car-like. But I think this approach is wrong. I ride a bicycle; I don’t ride a motorbike. Big bikes are heavy and intimidating, especially if you’re smaller or hard to maneuver. I don’t chase thrills on the highway; I just want to go to the grocery store without worrying about parking.

The Tern NBD accomplishes this task with one particular design feature—a step so low that during the time I drove it, all I could think about was comedian Frankie Quinones’ CholoSpin. Just cruise it out, homey. It’s too expensive if you’re not an exercise buff yourself, but I have to admit that for weeks it was the easiest bike to get when I was out the door.

Low rider

Photo: Tern

Let’s talk about this framework. Many electric cruiser bikes advertise themselves as superlatives. The top tube is lower than a normal bike, so it will be easier for you to step over, rather than over, to mount it. (I prefer the horizontal top tube because it’s easier to carry, but that’s a whole other thing.) In practice, the top tube usually stays straight. There’s more space, but not always as much as you might expect.

The top tube of the NBD is so low that it sits directly over the top of the Bosch Performance engine. You only have to lift your foot about 15 inches off the ground, or about 4 inches below my already low foot Tern GSD. It’s so low that my muscle memory can’t handle it — I keep swinging my legs automatically with extra inches of distance.

I am not challenged with mobility. However, I can imagine myself having hip or knee problems and find this bike very easy to ride at best. The problem it solves for me is much more shallow — I like to wear long, flowing dresses around the house, but I often have to change them to skateboard or cycle around. With NBD, I don’t have to worry about disturbing my neighbors when I ride my bike to buy burgers with my kids.

Almost everything about NBD is designed for comfort and ease of use – more or less like CholoSpin. The handlebars are curved around so you can sit on them easily, and the grip itself is large and ergonomically designed to rest your wrist. The Bosch display is large and bright, the buttons are large and clearly labeled, and there are touch buttons so you can easily identify them.


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