A while ago, I did a few stories about the urban mobility specialists Tern Bicycles. I reached out to Tern while writing one of the stories for some clarity on a topic, we exchanged emails back and forth, and eventually came to the realization that I was local to its Los Angeles location. After some discussion, Tern invited me to review one of its bikes. The Tern Short Haul D8 cargo bike.
The Short Haul D8 is Tern’s “entry-level” non-electric cargo bike and retails for only $1,099. That’s a really great price, and I’m here to tell you that you get a lot of value for that money. I was excited to try it out.
So, my wife and I ended up going to Tern’s end-of-year get-together in early December, so I could eat, drink, put faces to names, and pick up the Short Haul for review.
Here’s something: In 2021, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics did a study focusing on the number of daily trips taken in the United States. It found that 52% of all trips, including all modes of transportation, were less than 3 miles. 28% of them are less than a mile.
Hopping on your bike to make those short trips makes a lot of sense, is more fun, better for you, and better for good ol’ Mother Earth. Investing in a bicycle that allows you to do that easily seems like a great option.
I’m fascinated by the concept of the “cargo bike” as a whole and would love to own one at some point.
That being said, I try to run a lot of my errands on my Rivendell Clem Smith Jr. The Clem has a front Wald 137 basket and the Tunitas Carryall Basket Bag, which allows me to carry quite a bit on this bike. But when there is a bigger, heavier grocery run that needs to get done, I do, unfortunately, have to take the car … this is where a cargo would come in handy.
Tern Short Haul Specs in, Err, Short
The Short Haul is a non-electric, longtail cargo bike with a frame that uses a patented, low step-through design. It’s made from 6061-AL, uses a steel fork, and both the frame and fork have been EFBE Tri-Tested up to 140 kg (309 pounds) maximum gross vehicle weight.
It comes with a rear rack that can carry up to 50 kg (110 pounds).
The bike I reviewed came with the optional front rack capable of handling loads of 20 kg (44 pounds) that’s attached by handy quick-release levers.
The one-size Short Haul can fit riders from 147-190 cm (4’10”-6’3″) who weigh up to 120 kg (264 pounds). It has a 1×8 Shimano Altus derailleur with a trigger shifter and hydraulic disc brakes.
How Did the Short Haul, Haul?
Tern told me ahead of time that I was only going to have the Short Haul for a little over a month. I like to review bikes for longer periods of time, so I tried to ride the Short Haul quite a bit. At the end of the month or so, I hadn’t ridden it as much as I would’ve liked but definitely enough to get an idea of what it was capable of. But this is, by no means a long-term review, but more of a “short-haul” review. Hey-oh!
Upon picking up the bike, I noticed that it had a few accessories I actually would’ve chosen if I were to buy a Short Haul for myself. Namely, the storage box/trunk containers, a front rack, super cavernous rear panniers, and fenders.
Cool Storage Compartments
The Tern Glovebox is a cool, water-resistant carrying case, made specifically for either the Short Haul or the Quick Haul. It bolts to the frame right under the front of the top tube and looks like a gas tank.
It zips on both sides and has a detachable Velcro divider as well as internal pockets. It worked great for multitool, wallet, and phone storage.
The Tern Carryall Trunk is another cool trunk-like storage area. It’s actually made specifically for the Short Haul as it goes where the battery would normally go. No battery means more storage on the Short Haul. It’s a brilliant use of unused space.
It is water resistant, seems really sturdy and durable, and uses a Fidlock magnetic buckle for easy one-handed operation, which came in handy a lot. It also had a Velcro divider to help organize the inside a bit.
It’s big enough to hold some layers for longer rides, or when the weather looks dicey. It’s tall enough to fit a water bottle, flip-flops, a U-lock, or anything else that you can think of and is perfect for smaller cargo, leaving the panniers for larger and heavier sundries.
The Tern Cargo Hold 37 Panniers are enormous. They are a combined 74L capacity when using both panniers.
They are roll-top panniers with the ability to fold up flat against the bike when not in use. Doing so converts the panniers to “Bucket Mode” with the pannier sides folded in.
They open really wide to fit large bulky items like diaper bags, 12 packs of beer, or as shown above, 12 packs of my wife’s favorite, Topo Chico. They have inside pockets as well to keep the little stuff organized. They seem durable and are made of 1000D water-resistant nylon.
They are equipped with Fidlock magnetic buckles, opening with one pull. There are also reflective decals on the back for visibility at night.
The Tern Hauler Rack was installed on the review Short Haul using the optional Quick Release CMT, making it easy to take the rack on and off of the bike.
Tern likes to call the Hauler Rack the “Goldilocks” of its front racks: “big enough to carry a whole lot of cargo but small enough to maneuver the bike with ease.” Tern supplied a bungee cord with the bike and with the open design of the rack that made it easy to put just about anything on it, from a floppy backpack to a case of La Croix, it handled with ease.
One silly little thing that did take some getting used to was the fact the rack doesn’t move with the front wheel (which is common with many cargo bikes, as it keeps the additional weight from affecting the steering). As I mentioned earlier, I use my Clem for errands all the time, and the rack moves with the front wheel. Riding the Short Haul with its stationary front rack took a few minutes to get used to, that’s all.
Riding the Short Haul
The D8 was a really fun bike to ride. It has a long wheelbase and low center of gravity so it gives a very stable ride. Tern’s “one-size-fits-most” ethos is pretty spot on. I am 6’1″ and fit pretty well without making any major adjustments to the cockpit other than raising the seatpost.
If I owned the bike, I would probably swap in a slightly longer stem, and ever-so-slightly wider bars, though nothing crazy as the skinny bars help a lot when squeezing the bike through tight spots. I did like the fact my wife could hop on it and ride it (she’s 5’5″) by just lowering the seatpost.
Where I live, there are a few decent hills, including one particularly short, steep-ish one (12%) to get out of my neighborhood. This hill was a bit of a bugger with the spec’d gearing on the Short Haul, even when the bike was empty. All of the other hills around where I live were fine.
Still, I feel that with a non-electric assist, I would’ve liked to see easier gearing for climbing. The Short Haul is spec’d with an eight-speed Shimano Altus rear derailleur and trigger shifter.
In the granny gear, the Short Haul is at 31 gear inches. That’s pretty steep gearing empty, let alone with a heavy load. I would like to see a wider range of gears and maybe something along the lines of 20-23 gear inches for the “bail-out” gear.
The cargo bike’s TEKTRO hydraulic brakes worked very well, even when the load got really heavy coming back down that 12% grade into my neighborhood.
One of the cool things about the Short Haul (and most of the Tern Longtail cargo bikes) is that it can be stored vertically by standing it on its rear rack. The rack is made to do this, and in my situation, it really made a big difference when it came to finding space to store the bike while reviewing it.
The Short Haul felt very nimble and easy to handle while riding with a light load. Without a load, it was a really fun bike to ride. Although the light-feeling maneuverability of an unburdened bike was still there, for the most part, when hauling a heavy load, it was expectedly slowed. So some planning ahead is needed when approaching tight spaces like through traffic, around parked cars, crowded bike trails, or while braking. But it wasn’t until the load got really heavy that I actually felt it in the handling.
I really liked the Tern Short Haul. And for the reasonable retail price of $1,099, it’s a great way to ease into the commitment of ditching the car and taking your bike for those short trips. It’s a well-thought-out frame design, with rear cargo or kid hauling and options for additional front cargo hauling. It has a large ecosystem of factory accessories to choose from. It’s compact and maneuverable and can be stored vertically for the storage space challenged.
The one downfall of the bike, in my opinion, is that the gearing is too tall for most people to climb with, especially with a heavy load. If this is marketed as an entry-level cargo bike, I think it needs entry-level gearing that encourages the use of the bike, not parking it, because it’s too hard to ride up hills.
But other than that, all and all, the Short Haul is a very capable and affordable longtail cargo bike that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to someone … who lived in a relatively flat area.
The Tern Short Haul comes in one size. You also get a bell, SKS Chainblade chainguard, a rear-mounted Pletscher kickstand, fenders, the Atlas Q Rack, six-point mounting, vertical parking, and 50kg (110-pound) capacity.
Check out all that Tern has to offer at the link below.