Tern’s New Quick Haul Is Another Serious Contender for the Future of Urban E-Bikes

The Quick Haul is clearly designed at a lower price point for a slightly less demanding customer.

Tern Quick Haul E-Bike
Tern Quick Haul E-Bike.

Arleigh Greenwald

“Do NOT ride on Hillandale. Here’s my route."

Arleigh Greenwald (aka @bikeshopgirlcom on Twitter) sent me the DM above as I was heading to her house to test out the new Quick Haul e-bike from Tern Bicycles. (She now serves as North American Marketing and PR Manager for Tern.) True to form, she was thinking about the practicalities of biking as transportation: which route would be more pleasant, which one would get me there alive, and how we can all make each others’ rides just a little more practical. 

Arleigh is my kind of bike person. And her approach to biking and bike advocacy is one she seems to share with her employer. Tern has made a name for itself developing bikes and e-bikes that focus squarely on convenience, reliability, practicality, and comfort, and on getting us and our stuff from A to B as effectively and efficiently as possible. That approach was evident when Derek Markham covered the launch of the Tern GSD electric cargo bike back in 2017.

But, back to the ride in question. I arrived safely at Arleigh’s house, and she led me into her garage which houses an impressive array of e-bikes, cargo bikes, bike accessories, and filming equipment. She introduced me first to the compact, but neatly specced out Tern HSD, which has been out for a while now and has developed quite the cult following if my e-bike Twitter mutual are anything to go by. In fact, Treehugger design editor Lloyd Alter once called it “the future of urban e-bikes.”

Whether it’s the easy step frame, the in-built frame lock, or the ability to park this thing vertically, there really is something very refreshingly practical about the bike. But my favorite feature might just be the rapidly adjustable Andros stem that allows you to not only move the handlebars up and down but forwards and backward too—something Arleigh explained was explicitly included so riders can conveniently share their ride with a family member or friend. 

Having "oohed" and "ahhed" a little at the bike itself, I then got to check out some of the various bike accessories Tern has to offer. From the quick release, heavy-duty front racks to child carriers, clip-on grocery totes, and paniers, I could honestly do a whole article about how cool it is to see bike accessories designed for a normal life. “Our stuff is designed by folks who actually ride our own bikes,” said Arleigh.

Then we got to go for a ride. 

Having spent the last few years riding e-bikes with hub motors, the first thing I’ll note is the HSD’s crank drive motor (a Bosch Active Line Plus) is a smoother, subtler, and altogether more bike-like experience. While with a hub motor you feel a bit like someone is pushing you from behind—a not unpleasant feeling, and sometimes quite fun—the crank motor instead is more like you’re just a little bit stronger than you realized.

The other thing I noticed, immediately, is how pleasant and maneuverable the HSD is to ride. Sure, it can behave like a cargo bike—carrying kids and groceries and all that jazz. But it felt, unlike the much larger e-cargo bike I’ve been riding recently, that it could easily pass for a regular bicycle in terms of handling and convenience. 

Having taken a quick spin around the block on the HSD, we switched bikes and I got to ride the new Quick Haul, which has many of the same benefits as the HSD but comes in a slightly pared down and simplified form factor. With no front suspension, a simpler up-and-down adjustable telescoping stem, and fewer premium features in general, the Quick Haul is clearly designed for a lower price point and a slightly less demanding customer.

As Arleigh explained: “For many e-bike riders, they are looking for a solid mode of transport. Tern has always been at the higher end of the e-bike market, but we are well aware that for many riders they aren’t going to necessarily care about every single premium feature. This bike retains the core reliability, practicality, and design aspects that folks love about the HSD, but is able to come in more affordable and lighter because we stripped back some of the really premium components that some daily riders just aren't going to care about.”

As Arleigh went on to explain, she’d regularly hear from HSD riders whose significant others were now interested in an e-bike, but who couldn’t really justify buying a second $5,000 machine. So the Quick Haul was designed to meet that need. Coming in just shy of $3,000, it’s still by no means cheap. But then, Tern buyers are looking for a serious machine that can replace a significant portion of car trips, and perhaps even the need for a car at all. 

As for the ride, if anything the Quick Haul felt zippier and a little sportier than the HSD. (We deliberately chose a route that let me whizz around a deserted traffic circle a few times.) As I remarked to Arleigh, there was something about the experience that felt a little like the old folding Brompton I used to own back in my 20s. 

Being neither a technical bike nerd nor an industry expert, I won’t delve into a deep analysis of the technical differences between the bikes. Suffice to say that Tern’s website offers the ability to compare the specs of multiple bikes at once—so interested parties should definitely dig in to compare and contrast. 

For my part, I left with a deep sense of appreciation for exactly how far superior, in many ways, a well-designed e-bike can be to the silly big metal boxes that most of us drive each day. That said, I still had to make my way home through the streets of Durham, N.C. And while Arleigh’s route provided some relief from the traffic, I still ended the journey surrounded by large trucks and speeding motorists. 

This just served as a reminder: Bikes designed for actual living are one part of the puzzle. Cities designed for the same are quite another. But we’ll save that for another post.