Skip to content
Home » Tern NBD S5i Review: Cruise It Out

Tern NBD S5i Review: Cruise It Out

There’s one big problem with electric bikes as an alternative eco-friendly mode of transportation: Most people who own one already have several bikes (guilty!). It isn’t really reducing carbon emissions if the person who buys an ebike was already riding a bike, skateboard, or scooter.

Some companies have opted to appeal to non-bike-riders by making bikes bigger or more carlike. But I think this approach is misguided. I ride a bike; I don’t ride motorcycles. Big bikes are heavy and scary, especially if you’re smaller or mobility-challenged. I’m not chasing 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 specific design feature—a step-through so low that the whole time I was riding it, all I could think about was comedian Frankie Quinones’ CholoSpin. Just cruise it out, homey. It’s way too expensive if you yourself are not mobility-challenged, but I have to admit that for weeks, it was the easiest bike to grab on my way out the door.

Low Rider

Photograph: Tern

Let’s talk about this frame. Many cruiser electric bikes advertise themselves as step-throughs. The top tube is lower than a normal bike, so it’s easier to step through, instead of over, to mount it. (I like a horizontal top tube because it’s easier to carry, but that’s another thing entirely.) In practice, the top tube is usually still straight. There’s more space, but not always as much as you’d expect.

The NBD’s top tube is so low that it sits directly on top of the Bosch Performance motor. You only have to lift your leg about 15 inches off the ground, or about 4 inches lower than the already-low step-through on my Tern GSD. It’s so low that my muscle memory couldn’t handle it—I kept automatically flinging my leg over with many extra inches of clearance.

I’m not mobility-challenged. Still, I can imagine having hip or knee problems and finding this bike very easy to bestride. The problem that it solved for me was much more shallow—I like wearing long, floofy dresses around the house, but I usually have to change out of them to skateboard or bike around. With the NBD, I didn’t have to worry about flashing my neighbors when I biked to get burgers with my kids.

Pretty much everything about the NBD is designed for extreme comfort and ease of use—more or less, just like a CholoSpin. The handlebars are curved around so you can sit up easily, and the grips themselves are big and ergonomically designed for resting your wrists. The Bosch display is huge and bright, and the buttons are also big and clearly labeled, with touch bumps so you can identify the button easily.