Tern NBD test: How good is the super compact & lightweight urban e-bike in everyday use?

In our Tern NBD test, we want to find out how the compact urban e-bike performs in everyday use. Especially for this test, we organized a riding safety workshop for older people or "newcomers", where participants could try out four Tern NBD test bikes for a month. This gave us authentic feedback - exactly from the target group that the new Tern compact bike with 20-inch wheels is aimed at...

The manufacturer itself says the following about our Tern NBD test e-bike: “It is an e-bike with particularly easy handling. The Tern NBD is for those who often have difficulty finding a suitable bike because of their small stature. Older people who may not have ridden a bike for a long time. And not least for people who have difficulties with the sheer size and weight of conventional e-bikes. We are sure that the NBD will make it much easier for these people to get on and just drive off.

That sounds like a coherent concept! But of course we didn’t want to rely on what Tern itself promises about its latest urban e-bike. That’s why we came up with a special test: Not only did we want to take a close look at the new Tern NBD – we also wanted to give the target group the opportunity to test the compact bike extensively: older people or “newcomers” for whom many bikes are simply too bulky. What was the result? We can tell you this much in advance: A test event that we won’t forget in a hurry and that everyone had a lot of fun at!

The lifeCYCLE X Tern riding safety workshop

Cycling is fun, healthy and simply practical in everyday life. But there is often an uneasy feeling because there are no cycle paths or there is a lack of riding experience. This is definitely the case in the home town of lifeCYCLE editor-in-chief Martin Donat. This gave rise to the following idea:

“The infrastructure for cycling here in Halver and the surrounding area is not (yet) ideal. We can’t change that in the short term. However, it would be a real shame to leave your bike behind because you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. That’s exactly where we wanted to start: With a cycling safety workshop for anyone who feels unsafe on their bike in everyday life. We wanted to give tips and tricks and improve the feeling for the bike with practical exercises. After the workshop, participants should feel more comfortable on their bikes and be able to react safely and confidently to adversities in traffic.”

E-bike manufacturer Tern thought the idea was great and was immediately on board: the manufacturer provided four brand new Tern NBD test bikes . They were all equipped differently and could be extensively tested by the participants for a month – including on joint tours to exciting destinations in the Halver area, but also on their own in everyday life. In this way, we wanted to kill two birds with one stone: firstly, we wanted to make a small contribution to the transport transition by making the issue visible and getting people on their bikes. Secondly, we wanted to obtain as many authentic testimonials as possible for this Tern NBD test. Formulated by the very riders the new Tern NBD is aimed at!

The Tern NBD test – the bikes

Four different Tern NBD test bikes were available for this test. There are basically two model series. The Tern NBD S5i and the Tern NBD P8i. We received two of each model series. Equipped with different accessories, the four test setups that we would like to present below were created.

Tern NBD P8i

The P8i is, so to speak, the “entry-level model” into the Tern NBD world. In terms of many parts, it is equipped to the same high standard as the more expensive S5i. The differences lie primarily in the drive: the P8i is equipped with a Bosch Active Line Plus motor. This offers 50 Nm of torque and 270 percent support. The bike also has a 400 Wh PowerPack battery from Bosch. Gears are shifted with a Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub, which is driven by a chain. The brakes are hydraulic Shimano brakes. Equipped in this way, the basic package costs 4,499 euros.

Tern NBD S5i

In contrast to the P8i, the S5i has the more powerful Bosch Performance Line drive with 65 Nm torque and 300 percent support. The power for this comes from a 500 Wh Bosch PowerPack and is transmitted to the hub by a Gates belt. A Shimano Nexus Inter-5e hub gear is used here, which has been newly developed for use in e-bikes. A high-quality MT4 disc brake from Magura is used to bring the bike to a halt. This package costs 5,399 euros.

Summary Tern NBD P8i vs. Tern NBD S5i – what are the differences?

We have already listed the exact details. To summarize: Both bikes are equipped to a high standard and are powered by proven Bosch components. The P8i is a little “weaker on the chest” and is likely to have a shorter range. The S5i has a more powerful drive, a more powerful battery, a virtually maintenance-free belt drive and higher quality brakes. With these facts, it should be the better choice, especially in mountainous terrain. Is that the case? Let’s find out!

Tern NBD test – the accessories

Tern always “thinks” its bikes modular. This means that there are all kinds of accessories with which you can “knit together” your perfect everyday bike. We were able to experience this principle clearly on our four test bikes. Below we present our four different test setups.

Tern NBD Test Bike 1: NBD P8i silver/blue

Pack Rack | 70 Euro
Bucketload Pannier | 90 Euro

This Tern NBD test bike is equipped with the rather minimalist “Pack Rack” at the front. It comes with a wide tensioning strap so that larger bags, for example, can still be attached. The “Bucketload” side pocket is attached at the back. This bag is particularly versatile. It is simply strapped to the luggage carrier with Velcro and can be folded up if required. These two transport extras are hardly bulky and do not increase the pack size of the bike when not in use. In other words: If you’re not transporting anything, they won’t get in the way. If you need to take something with you spontaneously, you are prepared.

Tern NBD Test Bike 2: NBD P8i black / silver

The “Luggage Truss CMT” system from Tern is an alternative to the conventional front luggage carrier. The advantage: you can securely attach special bags in seconds. But you can also leave them at home – then you have nothing with you except the small holder, which is permanently mounted on the bike. The holder is equipped with a lock so that your bag cannot simply be stolen.

The system is “Klickfix” compatible – this expands the possibilities for suitable accessories, which do not necessarily have to come from Tern. In this case, however, the bag is a real Tern: The Go-To-Bag, which is intended as a commuting messenger bag and is sized to fit 15-inch laptops. If it rains, the contents stay dry thanks to the rain cover supplied. The Fidlock magnetic closure ensures quick handling.

Tern NBD Test Bike 3: NBD S5i blue / gray

Transporter Rack | 175 Euro
Weather Top bag | 140 Euro

The transporter rack is for anyone who regularly wants to transport a little more. It is firmly bolted to the front of the frame and can be loaded with 20 extra kilos. Its dimensions are matched to Euro boxes measuring 300 x 400 mm or to a drinks crate. The item comes with its own expander straps and has two bottle cage holders. Ideal for longer tours.

The “Weather Top Bag” is a perfect match. It is quickly fastened with Fidlock magnetic fasteners and protects your (bulk) shopping from the rain. Thanks to the practical shoulder strap, you can easily take it with you to the supermarket and don’t have to rearrange everything later.

Tern NBD Test Bike 4: NBD S5i red / silver

Hauler Rack | 150 Euro
Market Basket | 99,95 Euro

The “Hauler Rack” is, so to speak, the “compromise” between a minimalist pack rack and a massive transporter rack. It is so compact that it hardly affects the handling of the bike – but can still be loaded with 20 extra kilos. Of course, large combi boxes do not hold by themselves, but they can still be lashed down. Or you can screw them down: thanks to four holes in the rack, this is at least an option.

If you need to go faster, the “Market Basket” at the rear is a great thing: thanks to the Klickfix TopKlip system, it is quickly attached to the luggage rack. It has a capacity of 23 liters and can easily be taken to the supermarket for shopping. It also has a cool, charming look.

Tern NBD: Flexible everyday bike for the whole family?

Tern is known for the fact that most of its models are extremely compact. This characteristic obviously applies to our Tern NBD test bike model. However, this does not mean that the bike is only suitable for small or petite people. This quickly becomes apparent when we adjust the bikes to the participants during our riding safety workshop: From small and light to big and powerful, we have all dimensions represented here. The NBD is perfectly equipped: The seat post can be adjusted over an impressively wide range.

The handlebar position is also very variable thanks to its ingenious system. With the help of two robust quick-release levers, the “stem clamp” can be released in seconds. The handlebars can now be moved forwards, upwards or backwards – just as the rider finds most comfortable. This means that everyone can quickly find a suitable seating position. This is naturally upright and comfortable rather than sporty and stretched – the Tern NBD is an urban bike for everyday use. With the help of these two adjustment options, it can be set up for a wide variety of riders in no time at all – the perfect bike for the whole family!

We have not yet mentioned one adjustment option: the firmness of the suspension seatpost. This can be adjusted – at least on the S5i model – either with a T-wrench inside the seatpost or with a small knurled screw at the top of the seat clamp. The first option naturally requires a corresponding key. The second option is rather fiddly and requires some patience. Nevertheless, the steel spring inside can be pre-tensioned in this way and adjusted accordingly. The spring stiffness of the P8i is not adjustable. You should therefore make sure that the spring rate is correct during the test ride at the dealer.

Tern NBD Test – General impressions

Before the first workshop date, we were very curious to see who the people were who had registered with us in advance. And: What kind of bike they usually ride. The denouement was quite exciting because an interesting mix of different “cyclist types” came together here. The one thing they all had in common was that they all felt unsafe – especially in traffic. Previous experiences with bikes ranged from non-motorized Dutch bikes to sporty e-mountain bikes. A super compact urban e-bike like our Tern NBD test bike was new to everyone.

In this respect, the first few rides gave everyone a little “aha” moment: “It rides really well and you don’t even notice that the bikes are so small! Everyone quickly felt comfortable and was ready to tackle the first exercises, and before the first tour together we gave tips and tricks on how to steer and brake correctly and showed the participants a few fun balance exercises. Everyone was surprised by how well the disc brakes grip and how precisely they can still be controlled. However, there were two features of the NBD that particularly appealed to everyone: the low overall weight and the incredibly small turning circle.

After the first workshop appointment, one of the bikes was taken away by car – although it was not clear at first whether the bike would fit easily into a normal car. And how it fitted: seat post in, handlebars folded down and the small bike fits almost anywhere. That’s really practical!

Tern NBD Test – The Workshop

Now you can finally get started! Before we go on a real tour, we will carry out a few simple riding technique exercises with the participants in the schoolyard in front of the Halveran school center. This gives everyone time to get used to the new bikes. We also want to convey a feeling for important riding maneuvers such as braking and steering. Very few everyday cyclists think about this, but it is important to approach the limits and know how a bike reacts in difficult conditions.

Our exercises are enthusiastically received and we get our first impressions. People say things like “but it’s pleasantly light”, “it rides totally normally, despite the small wheels”, “wow, it has a small turning circle” or “the low entry is totally pleasant”.

In short: Due to its very compact appearance, there was a certain amount of skepticism about the NBD’s suitability for everyday use. This had vanished into thin air after a few minutes. Everyone had fun and, above all, everyone felt safe.

Tours in hilly terrain

Time for the first tours for our Tern NBD test! We had chosen some great sustainable shopping destinations in the Halver sustainable shopping destinations in the in advance. In this way, we wanted to show alternatives to the supermarket and also offer the opportunity to test the Tern NBD under real conditions. Incidentally, all destinations are idyllically located in the countryside outside the city. First destination: the vegetable farm at Stöcken. Here, two women grow seasonal vegetables in the traditional way and without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, which you can buy in a quaint self-service store.

The ride there includes fast descents and steep climbs – ideal test conditions for the small Tern NBD test bike! The “learning curve” of the participants could be observed particularly well here. While we were still quite “leisurely” at first, we were soon rolling along the small country road in the countryside at quite a pace. The longer we were on the road, the more relaxed and confident everyone seemed.

As already mentioned, the steep ascents and descents were the striking feature of this tour. Here we were able to gather feedback on three components of the bike in particular: the motor, the gears and the brakes. With regard to the motor, the most noticeable difference between the Active Line and the Performance Line motor was particularly striking. On the uphill, the first one “weakened” considerably, while the cyclists on the more powerful NBD S5i outpaced the others.

The difference is manageable on paper, but clearly noticeable in reality. While the Active Line motor does a good and sufficient job on flat terrain, everyone agrees that they would clearly prefer the Performance Line motor on very hilly terrain like here in Halver.

As far as the brakes are concerned, both the Shimano and Magura stoppers do a very good job. And although our course participants are not very experienced, they all get on very well with the snappy brakes, which are obviously very easy to control.

The hub gears took some getting used to, especially the 8-speed Nexus on the NBD P8i: it doesn’t like shifting maneuvers under load at all. Several times the cyclists on the P8i came to a standstill on the hill in this way. Shifting gears with foresight is important here – you should also take pressure off the pedal briefly. Untrained riders will definitely have to get used to it first. On the S5i with 5-speed hub and more powerful motor, the drivetrain seems better coordinated overall.

One question came up so often that we simply tried it out: Can you ride the Tern NBD through the forest? Obviously, it’s not a mountain bike and the 20-inch wheels are not predestined to simply swallow up large bumps. And of course you can feel this as soon as the surface becomes looser and bumpier. The low-profile tires reach their limits in mud and on damp grass. The bike itself, on the other hand, is robust enough to go for a ride off the tarmac. Ultimately, it’s up to the river: as long as it feels safe, the NBD will do most of the work. However, occasional detours along typicalSauerland gravel paths are generally no problem.

Shopping with the Tern NBD

Once we arrive at our destination, the Stöcken vegetable farm, we start by exploring the farm. It is idyllically situated between meadows and forests. The vegetable garden is located in an area separated by hedges. An old brick house in which the sale takes place is somewhat out of the way. All customers enter their details in a cash book and leave the money in a till – all on a trust basis.

The shopping easily fits on the four bikes – whereby the additional equipment of two models is particularly suitable for everyday shopping: The Tern NBD S5i with transporter rack proves to be a real pack mule. But the Market Basket on the red S5i also fits a lot. What we like about both bikes is that the bags or basket can be quickly removed and used as a shopping basket. This saves annoying rearranging after shopping.

Engaging the Market Basket is a little tricky and takes a little getting used to – but in principle the KlickFix TopKlip system is easy to use. The Bucketload Pannier and the Go-To-Bag have a very limited load capacity and are primarily intended for commuting use. Laptop and binder fit in here much better than pumpkin and broccoli.

Tern NBD – what didn’t you like so much?

This list is relatively straightforward, but of course we don’t want to ignore this aspect. There were still a few points:

  • As already mentioned above, the hub gears of the P8i tend to bea little choppy under load. The Active Line motor caused difficulties for some riders when starting off on (steep) hills.
  • The NBD is very compact and relatively light for an e-bike. Around 23 kilograms still posed a small challenge for one or the other under certain conditions – for example when climbing small stairs. The bike is light, but of course not a featherweight.
  • The relatively small stand reaches its limits in certain situations. If the bike is loaded (especially at the front) and is not completely straight or slightly sloping, it tends to fall over. If you often want to transport heavy loads with the NBD, there is a useful retrofit option: the DuoStand S. It may not be cheap, but the NBD is stable and secure even when fully loaded.
  • The pedals supplied are a little slippery in wet conditions.

Tern NBD – What did we like?

The first impression is a lasting one: the compactness of the NBD is and remains a real highlight! It ensures safety for the driver and easy handling in an urban environment. A quick turnaround? Super easy. Take the bike somewhere for a quick ride and leave it in the hallway, for example? No problem.

And there’s another thing that goes without a hitch (which we would never have found out for ourselves, as we don’t use a car): With the seat post lowered and the handlebars folded down, the NBD fits easily into any not-too-small car. With the rear seats folded down, you should easily be able to fit several NBDs into a normal estate car. The NBD takes up just as little space in the garage: in the upright position, it fits into even the smallest corner – that’s really practical!

Another highlight is the overall performance of the bike: it is simply well thought out and leaves a well-rounded impression. It has everything you need for everyday use and everything works exactly as it should. The bike comes with lights and mudguards and is therefore ready for use even in the dark and in bad weather. All the accessories make sense and do a good job. All you have to do is choose the right one. And last but not least, the bike is totally robust, an all-round carefree package. From the tires to the brakes: the equipment of both models makes perfect sense.

Everyone agrees that the S5i is the better choice for hilly terrain. The reason: the more powerful engine offers significantly more power on the mountain. The special e-bike gearshift also works a little more smoothly. Shifting gears under load or starting uphill is much easier for all testers with the S5i. Another highlight of the S5i is the belt drive: it is quiet and virtually maintenance-free – a great advantage for anyone who wants to use their NBD in all weathers.

The P8i is the perfect choice for anyone who mainly rides on flatter terrain. The motor power of the Bosch Active Line is absolutely sufficient here – the bike rolls perfectly on flat terrain even without the e-drive. With this model, you can even save quite a bit without any major loss of functionality: the P8i is also very well equipped.

Both NBD models have one thing in common: they are super compact and offer easy handling even for smaller people who don’t have that much strength. They are high-quality, reliable and totally practical everyday companions! All in all, the small bike convinced everyone in the test and surprised us with the fact that it has much more to offer than you might think at first glance.

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