Review: Tern Short Haul D8 2022 |

2022-11-07 15:31:20 By : Mr. Arvin Du

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At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.

The Tern Short Haul D8 rides perfectly well but, more importantly, its total 140kg carrying capacity makes it hugely practical for family or commercial duties. However, that huge practicality is allied to the fact that it is also pretty huge, so it's probably mainly of interest to a fairly niche segment of riders.

Let's be honest, testing a cargo bike on is a bit like opening Auto Express and reading a review of a road-going mobile crane. Okay, it's got wheels and it's perfectly at home on asphalt, but it looks a bit strange when parked up at work in the morning.

> Buy now: Tern Short Haul D8 for £1,100 from Tredz

The Short Haul D8 is a pedal-only version of Tern's often electrically assisted cargo bikes. In terms of ride quality, it's actually not too bad at all. The mass of tubes among its substantial frame does make for a very stiff experience. That's great for spinning a heavy load up to speed, but can create a fairly crashy experience over big bumps. Little road imperfections pass by without any great bother and it's generally perfectly acceptable in comfort terms, although not an armchair ride.

Power delivery is straightforward, which is a relief because even without any extra baggage, the D8 hits the scales at 16kg. That's actually not bad for the amount of bike you get, but this is no flat-bar road bike, and while performance is better than expected, it's not lively.

Understandably – because this is a machine built with criteria in mind that doesn't include razor-sharp handling – handling is a bit wallowy, too. It's not so much the front end, which is as direct as any smaller-wheeled bike, more the fact that the rear wheel is further behind than normal, making you conscious of the fact that it's a slightly unusual machine to wield on the road.

That said, the Short Haul D8 does provide a stable ride, and it feels particularly planted with a bit of weight at both the front and rear. Equally sensible is the rather upright riding position, which is perfectly suited to this kind of bike and means you won't get neck ache looking at the road ahead.

In short, the Short Haul D8 is not a bike that you'd necessarily ride for fun. But if you need to load up with deliveries – or even passengers – it's a surefooted way to take to the road.

The Short Haul D8's unique reinforced step-through frame, made from 6061 aluminium, is very tidily put together and has been approved to carry a total load of up to 140kg, including the rider.

It can do this in a multitude of ways. Obviously there's the fitted large Atlas Q rear rack, with side bars, 'upper deck', and sections that protect the side and rear of the back wheel.

There's also a mount at the head tube for a front rack, and a 140kg-certified steel fork with low-rider rack mounts. Tern also produces a range of frame bags that can be fitted to maximise carrying potential.

With our test bike, Tern supplied a front Hauler Rack that simply bolts onto the head tube; a funky CarryAll Trunk that slips into the substantial gap between the seatstays and seat tube; and a Shortbed Tray that can be mounted on top of the rear rack (although, on the Short Haul D8 it seems it can only be mounted sideways rather than long-ways as with other Tern cargo bikes). The Tray effectively turns your bike into a flatbed pickup.

Those are but a small selection of available luggage or transportation options. Other Tern accessories including panniers, baskets, dog boxes, children's seats and enclosures, even a Captain's Chair, a general-use rear rack seat pad, and a branding board to go in the gap at the front of the frame should you want your Short Haul D8 to become a marketing tool.

Before you go crazy, one thing to note, though – the rear rack has a maximum load of 50kg, so don't expect to be giving 'backies' to every Tom, Dick and well-fed Harry.

Somewhat surprisingly, given the nature of this bike, Tern has fitted the Short Haul D8 with a 1x8-speed Shimano Altus derailleur gearset. As this is a practical bike and far from being a speed machine, I would have thought a geared hub might be a valid option.

The Altus setup works perfectly fine, though, with its trigger shifter doing a reliable job of switching ratios. And the 52-tooth chainring and 11-34 cassette offer enough gears for most jobs, including climbing while heavily laden.

Despite the drivetrain experience being essentially similar to any other Altus-shod machine, the Short Haul D8 does feature a couple of extra elements: the extra-long chain length requires a chainguide two-thirds of the way along, below the chainstay, and there's a lengthy SKS Chainblade guard above it.

I also have to say, because of that chain length and associated paraphernalia, there's a fair bit of clickety-clacketing that goes on with this bike. If you're somebody who enjoys the whispered swoosh of tyre rubber on asphalt, you're going to be out of luck. Regardless, getting moving is fulfilled fairly competently.

The big question, though, is: when a bike has the potential to be this heavy, how does it stop?

Here, Tern has specified Tektro hydraulic discs (not Shimano discs, as listed on the Tern UK webstore). They're one of the most necessary choices on the bike, with decent stopping power, giving you the ability to judge braking quite accurately. That said, I'd always prefer Shimano M200s.

The Short Haul D8 rolls on 20in wheels – not as dinky as you'll find on some folders, say, but still pretty small. They feel very, very sturdy and, although not exciting, they should do the job for miles to come. My personal opinion is that they also play a part in the ride quality being a bit solid at times, though.

In terms of that ride quality, the Schwalbe Big Apple tyres do their best to level things out, with quite a nice wide profile despite their small stature. They also come with puncture protection and offer good grip in most conditions, up to and including wet roads.

Elsewhere, despite its slightly bizarre looks, the Short Haul D8 features some fairly standard finishing kit.

The aluminium riser bar contributes to the nice high seated position; the Velo Comfort saddle is just on the cusp of being too padded; the non-slip Urban pedals are actually as surefooted as their description suggests; and Tern even throws in a couple of mudguards as the cherry on top of this ultra-practical cake (if, indeed, a cake can be ultra-practical).

There's not a whole lot of specialist cargo bikes on the market, and some of them cost a small fortune. That said, the Cargo Bike company makes some incredible machines to order right here in the UK, and you might be pleasantly surprised at the price: a Tamar Cargo Trike starts at £1,495.

If you want something a bit more like the D8 but with 26in wheels (remember them?), American brand Mongoose has the Envoy, which retails in the US for $1,049.99. Or, also from the US, there is Surly's famous Big Dummy, also on 26in hoops, for $2,249.

Closer to home, there's the highly regarded, Mike Burrows-designed 8Freight available from Leftfield Bikes for £2,274, which actually seems like a bargain price for a little bit of genius.

So in that company, at £1,100, the Short Haul D8 looks like very decent value, and compared with the two American bikes listed above, it has the advantage of actually being available here in Blighty.

Speaking of which, Tern also has the Cargo Node folding bike, which is a fair bit bigger with a slightly higher weight carrying ability and 24in wheels, for £1,900.

> 15 easy ways to carry stuff on your bike

However, we've looked solely at alternative pedal-only cargo bikes here. Cast your net wider to include electric-assist options and there's a whole raft of choices, not least from Tern itself.

That brings us to probably the biggest problem with the Tern Short Haul D8: an electric version would make your life a lot easier, and the e-cargo bike market offers a far wider choice of brands and models. Our sister site, ebiketips, has tested a few.

That said for anybody operating a locally based, eco-virtuous delivery service, who doesn't want the faff of electric power, the Short Haul D8 is a fine option that offers good load-lugging ability while retaining the feel of a normal bike. For people with less specific needs – such as parents looking for a good platform for a childseat – I'd recommend getting a decent hybrid instead.

Surprisingly capable cargo bike that offers huge carrying capacity and almost a normal 'bike-like' ride

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Make and model: Tern Short Haul D8

List the components used to build up the bike.

Handlebar: Low riser, 6061 aluminium 31.8mm

Spokes and nipples: Stainless steel

Tyres: Schwalbe Big Apple, Performance Line

Shifter: Shimano M315 trigger shifter, 8spd

Cassette: Shimano 11-34T, 8spd

Bottom bracket: FSA Cartridge, sealed bearings

Pedals: Urban with non-slip surface

Kickstand: Pletscher design, rear mount

Rack: Atlas Q Rack, UpperDeck mount system, Vertical Parking, 50kg capacity

Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

This is actually quite a compact cargo bike with the potential to transport goods or indeed, little people. Tern has quite a lot to say about it, but we'll just give you the intro here: "Few things in life are simple anymore - which is perhaps why so many consumers have a newfound appreciation for well-designed, built-to-last essentials. In these complicated times, simple solutions that get the job done right hold a special appeal, and that's exactly what the Short Haul offers. The Short Haul is for riders who need to get themselves, their stuff, and their families from Point A to Point B with minimal fuss, often multiple times each day. These riders want to mount up, enjoy the ride, arrive at their destination, and then turn their attention to whatever comes next in their day - without wasting mental energy on navigating traffic jams, crowded public transit, or parking. The Short Haul fills this essential role perfectly. What it lacks in bells and whistles, it more than makes up for with thoughtful design choices that seek to maximize utility and flexibility...." You get the idea.

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

This and the far larger but folding Cargo Node are Tern's sole pedal-only cargo bikes – the others are all electrically assisted.

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Very smart and well engineered frame.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

6061 aluminium for the frame, steel for the fork.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Well, now we're entering uncharted territory. The front half of the Short Haul D8 is fairly simple, although it does provide quite a high seated position. But it's at the back where things go a bit crazy, with ultra-long seatstays and chainstays to accommodate the humungous rear rack.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

Reach and height all fine.

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Fairly comfortable. It's a very stiff bike, as you'd expect, to cope with the potential carrying load, so there's not much give, but it's not a complete bone-shaker.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Yes, it's efficient, although in this case that doesn't mean it's quick. There's a lot of bike to lug around even before you start using its carrying capacity.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Fairly lively at the front – the little wheels help a bit with that.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

I'd say the wheels seem very firm.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

The jury is out, but I don't like the look of that very long chain length.

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

The Shimano Altus 8-speed single chainring setup is perfectly fine and has obviously been specced as a decent budget option, but for long-term use I wonder if something a bit more hardy – perhaps even a belt-driven hub gear – would have been a better option, even if it raised the price a bit.

20in wheels that seem sturdy rather than sporty.

Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?

They seem a sensible option, all things considered.

Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?

I'm quite a fan of Schwalbes generally, and these Big Apples are quite a nice surprise on this bike.

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

Pretty much as you'd expect on a self-proclaimed 'budget cargo bike'. It's all hardy stuff, though, and I like the aluminium riser bar. My only complaint is that the Velo saddle is a bit too cushioned for my liking.

Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)

The Short Haul D8 comes with Tektro hydraulic discs rather than Shimano as stated on the Tern UK webstore. That's not a huge issue – they do the job fine in this context; Shimano M200s are better, but probably benefit spirited riding more than utility cycling.

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Not really.

Would you consider buying the bike? Not for me.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, if their specific requirements suited its abilities.

How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on

There's not a whole lot of specialist cargo bikes on the market, and some of them cost a small fortune. That said, the Cargo Bike company makes some incredible machines to order right here in the UK, and you might be pleasantly surprised at the price: a Tamar Cargo Trike starts at £1,495.

If you want something a bit more like the D8 but with 26in wheels, American brand Mongoose has the Envoy, which retails in the US for $1,049.99. Or, also from the US, there is Surly's famous Big Dummy, also on 26in hoops, for $2,249.

Closer to home, there's the highly regarded, Mike Burrows-designed 8Freight available from Leftfield Bikes for £2,274, which actually seems like a bargain price for a little bit of genius.

In that company, at £1,100, the Short Haul D8 looks like very decent value.

Use this box to explain your overall score

As I mentioned at the start of the review, this is a bit of a departure for us. However, while the Short Haul D8 would be found wanting in pure performance terms compared with almost any hybrid or typical urban/commuting bike, judged on its own merits as a cargo bike, it's surprisingly adept. It feels almost like a normal bike to ride, although its carrying capacity is anything but normal. I think people who need something like this, who might be anxious about what they'll end up riding, will be pleasantly surprised. And in terms of how it compares to other cargo bikes on the market, you'd have to say it's very good value.

Age: 39  Height: 6'0  Weight: 16 stone

I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29  My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure

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