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Tern Orox S12 Review: An Adventure, Cargo, eBike Beast

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike hero(Photos/Ron Frazelle)
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Back in February, when I shared the press release of the Tern Bicycles Orox, I said to myself “What a great idea for a bicycle, I’d love to try it out”. First, let me say that I really like, nay, love the idea behind the Orox – blending both adventure and cargo, sporting up to 462lbs of cargo capacity, and potentially a candidate for a full car replacement.

The Orox is a Class 1 eBike, which means that it will offer pedal assistance up to 20mph. The Orox can run 27.5 wheels with 4″ tires (tested), or a 29″ wheel with a “plus” sized tire (sans fenders). This is Tern’s first run at a bike with bigger wheels, as their lineup of cargo bikes has been of the 20″ wheel variety.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike back side
(Photos/Ron Frazelle)

The Orox is big, true. But this bike is solid as well. It’s well spec’d, and was sent with some great accessories that I couldn’t imagine doing without if I owned the bike. Although to me, there were a few spec choices that could be improved upon, and we’ll touch on that later.

I’m going to keep this review a little “top-level”. I won’t be going into the weeds on the Bosch electronics and the Bosch Flow App, other than how it performed for me. For everything you need to know about the Flow app go here. Cool?

Let’s get started on the review.

Tern Orox S12 Review

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike dropping the Orox off

I received the size large Orox S12 in the Satin Highland Yellow. Tern is local to me, and for my last review of the Tern Short Haul D8, I was able to drive over and pick up the bike from their So. Cal. HQ.

But the Orox is a very big bike, so the folks at Tern arranged to have it delivered to my door. That was super nice! Thanks, Steve!

My review time for the Orox S12 was around two months. I rode it a lot, but not how I first intended to. When I got confirmation that I was indeed going to receive it for review, I had all kinds of grandiose plans for it. Honestly, plans that not only were right in the Orox’s wheelhouse but plans that would’ve made this review a little more interesting. Alas, time got away from me, my apologies.

The Tern Orox is a great bike with so many things going for it. And although I love the idea of the Tern Orox, it has some shortcomings that I thought I would get out of the way.

Orox, Large and In Charge

To say that the Orox is big is an understatement. I mean, yes the bike is big in actual size, but its “presence” is big as well. Meaning, that it is unwieldy at times. It is difficult to do simple things, like get it off the ground for maintenance.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike in front of shop

For me, turning it around in my shop (12′ x 14′) was not possible, I had to back it out and then back it in. If you don’t have a truly dedicated spot for the Orox in your garage/shop, you might experience the same thing. The bike is almost 8′ long, bow to stern.

Didn’t Fit my Hitch Racks

I could not get my current hitch racks (Rocky Mounts Guide Rail, Rig’d Supply RambleRack, or 1Up USA ’24 SD Rack) to hold the bike. Nor could it fit in the back of my Jeep. So, I couldn’t transport the bike somewhere else to ride it. That was a bummer. Tern does not provide the wheelbase figure for the bike, but you can be sure that it’s longer than the maximum for many tray-style bike racks. It’s also quite heavy, so you need to take the bike’s weight into consideration for the rack as well.

Slappy Kickstand

I’ll admit, this is a little thing, and may not be a big deal to someone else. But the kickstand is loud while riding the Orox offroad. It sounds kinda horrible when it is slapping the frame over (almost) any size bump on the trail. The Orox is not the first bike we’ve experience this on though, and seems to be a design quirk specific to most center stands.

Grand Plans that Didn’t Happen

When I was given the green light by Tern to review the Orox, I had just moved up to the mountains 30 days prior. When we bought the house we made sure that it was close to town so I could run my errands on my bike. So, I used the Orox as a true car replacement for the time that I had it.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike out and about

But, there is so much wild around my house that I made some pretty lofty goals for the Orox. Like some bikepacking, S24Os, and bikefishing. These goals would’ve been fine, and doable… if riding the Orox was the only thing I had to do to fill my days.

I Couldn’t Use Local Single Track

Another thing to consider when trying to execute the planned adventures is that eBikes are illegal on any singletrack where I live (Angeles National Forest). In my immediate area, the Angeles National Forest is Federal land, and our new California eBike Law does not apply. Therefore, the USFS allows eBikes on motorized OHV trails and OHV fire roads.

So, that being said, and with those small hurdles, I ran out of time and didn’t get to my planned adventures.

The Orox is a Very Fun & Capable Beast

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike hardware store run
Hardware store run…
Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike at the brewery
Brewery run…

Since my adventures didn’t happen I was on the Orox for all of my grocery, hardware store errands, coffee, lunch, and dinner outings, plus our many brewery visits. The bike turned a lot of heads and started many conversations. It was uniquely comfortable and capable.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike front side

Although the Orox is a longtail cargo bike, with mine weighing in at around 75lbs, it was surprisingly nimble and easy to ride. And when the road fell away to the rough stuff, it handled it without issue (other than the slappy kickstand).

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike local trail

It kept its line on the fast stuff while keeping the cargo in place with a few strategic bungee cords and Austere Manufacturing Straps.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike toolin'

Tooling around town and taking some of the fire roads around my area, I found the Orox to be a really fun bike to ride. It handled predictably despite its length and girth.


Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike water bottle cages on the front rack
Water Bottle bosses on the front rack

Tern sent the Orox to me with their front heavy-duty Trail Rack, rear Atlas X Rack (included with the Orox), rear Cargo Hold 72 Panniers, and Stow Decks that support passenger feet or a fully loaded rear pannier.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike front driveside

These accessories would be a must for me if I were to own this bike. They made loading all types of cargo easy and balanced.

Fat Tires for the Win

The bike has zero suspension except for the large tires. I kept the tires inflated to around 20psi for both front and rear, which seemed to be great for loaded riding while on the road. But, tended to be a bit hard and bouncy off-road.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike beastly

I lowered the pressure when I knew I would be using it strictly off-road, and it was much better offering plenty of tire suspension when it got rough while providing plenty of cornering, braking, and climbing traction.

The Bosch Motor

The Orox comes equipped with an insanely capable motor in the Bosch Performance Line CX. Bosch motors and batteries are some of the best in the business. The Performance CX motor provides up to 95Nm of torque and 340% support. I’m here to tell you that this motor is torquey, and climbs with no effort, loaded or unloaded, on road or off. And, I enjoyed how quiet the motor was.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike Bosch Performance CX motor

Steep, technical off-road climbs were conquered without hesitation. As mentioned earlier, I live in the mountains, so there aren’t a lot of flat sections of ground to be found. It seems that I am either climbing a lot or descending a lot. The motor climbs and climbs with little effort. The pedal assist was massive, which was refreshing on the steep stuff.

Bosch Battery

Battery life seemed to be fantastic as I went a few weeks at a time without charging, with the bike set to the “Tour” assist level. The bike came to me with one battery, I left it mounted on the back of the seat tube. There is a spot on the inside of the frame bag to mount the battery, for colder weather as well.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike Frame bag, 2nd battery mount

The Orox is equipped to be able to run two batteries, increasing the claimed range to 200 miles. Since one battery was sent with mine, I can’t attest to the validity of this claim.

I will say that the claimed range of 100 miles for one battery, might be stretching it if you aren’t running in “Eco” mode on flat terrain the whole time. I would say that I was getting around 50-60 miles per charge while using it off-road, and extremely hilly terrain running in “Tour” mode almost always.

Descending with Magura 4-Piston Brakes

The brakes that were spec’d on the Orox are the Magura 4-piston. They are very powerful brakes with lever reach adjustment and a good feel. The modulation was great and with the 203mm rotors front and rear, stopping power was impressive.

S12 = Shimano Deore XT 12-speed Drivetrain

This is a great drivetrain. There wasn’t one issue with it while I had the bike. I didn’t have to adjust anything, and always shifted perfectly, even under load. It seemed surprising to me though that Tern didn’t spec the XT LinkGlide drivetrain.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike in the mountains

Maybe it wasn’t available at the time, or maybe they wanted to spec a 12-speed. Although the XT LinkGlide is eBike specific, it is only 11-speed.

A Little About the Bosch Flow App

While I had the Orox, I didn’t use the Flow app to its fullest potential. Mostly because I would forget to use it. But, because the Orox uses the Bosch Smart System and ConnectModule, a lot of cool features were available to me automatically. Like, for instance, the eBike Lock. When you switch on the Orox, the system will automatically check to see if your phone is close by. Only then will the motor support be enabled, unlocking your eBike.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike Kiox display quick release
Easy to detach and reattach the Kiox Display

Or you can lock and unlock your Orox by simply mounting and unmounting the Kiox Display Head Unit. Remove it and you hear a familiar “chirp, chirp” like a car alarm, and your eBike is automatically locked. Come back to the Orox, mount the display, and “chirp, chirp”, your Orox is unlocked and ready to roll. I preferred this method. It worked great.

The Kiox display is a bright LED display that is of high quality. It remained clear and easy to read no matter what time of day I was riding. It displays a bunch of useful info, like Speed, Distance, Riding Time, Total Time, Range, Battery Level, Elevation, Ascent, and Max Elevation, plus a page to find the routes you planned on your Flow app.

Storing the Orox

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike storage in its rack
Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike rear rack stand
Scuffs on the rack from storing on its backside.

I love that the Orox can be stood on its back rack (like most Tern bicycles can) to store it vertically. Although it removes the Orox’s length from the storage equation it does not remove its width. The wheel, when not using something to keep it straight, will turn and still create a large amount of width to deal with when storing the bike.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike Jeep or Orox
When it came to around-town errands, the Orox beat the Jeep every time.

The bottom line with the Orox is that it is a very large bike. Where the bike will live while you own it will have to be seriously considered when purchasing this bicycle. It’s about commitment. Committing to driving less. If you drove less, or better yet, sold one of your cars and replaced it with the Orox, the car is gone, and you would have plenty of room to store/park the Orox.

In Conclusion

If you live in a small space or a space with little storage, the Orox isn’t your bike. The sheer size of the Orox would be my only real complaint about the bike. I mean, I have room, and the bike was still hard to store. And, as I mentioned earlier, it’s just hard to wield around. Something to consider.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike hardware store firewood
Another firewood run…

The Tern Orox S12 that I reviewed comes in at a retail of $6499, without all of the accessories mentioned above. That price seems expensive because it is. But keep in mind that this bike is really about not driving your car. And not driving your car can save you tons of money. Plus, the Orox is a ton of bike for the price.

Tern Bicycles Orox Adventure Cargo Bike fire wood run
Runnin’ with the firewood

So maybe it’s a wash. I know that when I had the Orox, I rarely, if ever started our Jeep to do anything in town. Sometimes the Jeep would remain parked for the better part of a week… unheard of in Southern California.

I enjoyed my time with the Orox. It was an incredible tool to have around the house. And proved to be perfect up here in the mountains. I received the bike in the middle of March, right after a weird late-in-the-season snowstorm dropped two and a half feet of snow in two days and proceeded to melt just as fast. So I didn’t get a chance to ride the Orox in the snow. That would’ve been fun.

Overall, I liked the Orox a lot. I would recommend it to someone ready to commit to it, A bike like this, I think, requires a certain amount of commitment. Committing to not only the cost of the bike but also, perhaps committing to reducing your current automobile fleet to one car. I mean, as long as you can store this bad boy.

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