Lockdown life tested my ethical car-free lifestyle choice to the limit. Other people were zooming off to the seaside for their permitted ‘daily exercise’ but my family hadn’t been beyond a 3 mile radius of our home for over three months. We usually rely on public transport to get around, including the occasional taxi for hard-to-reach places. What if I needed to take my child to a medical appointment? Or one of my parents got ill? I started to wonder if I needed a car after all.
Yet the climate crisis isn’t going away. Even though some emissions have dropped due to the current pandemic, global warming is still happening. Plus, one of the silver linings of the pandemic for me was experiencing daily life without traffic noise and pollution. Buying a car would be hypocritical. So, for the time being, I’ve expanded my horizons by getting an electric cargo bike…
Enter the Tern HSD p9!
I’ve had this beauty for a month now, and have already clocked up 250km.
At 170cm long, the HSD is slightly shorter than most standard bikes. This means it can squeeze throught some tight spots and can be taken onto trains. I’ve got the Captain’s Chair seat fitted on the back, which can take passengers or even fit a large crate.
Me and my six year old recently hopped on the Bristol to Weymouth train with it, and joined the Sustrans National Cycle Route 2 from Dorchester to the Bride Valley. The journey took us past Maiden Castle where we stopped for a picnic, then a short off-road section took us through farmyards and chalky lanes. We joined a quiet road up to the Hardy Monument on the summit of Black Down, where we stopped to relish the sea view while enjoying a a delicious passionfruit sorbet. From there it was a speedy descent past the Valley of Stones and down into the Bride Valley. Our destination was my uncle’s house in Long Bredy, and it was great to arrive under pedal power for the first time ever!
The panniers are very generous and can be used as ‘buckets’ to take luggage. I packed in everything I needed for 5 days away from home, with room to spare. Cycling in the lowest gear using the ‘turbo’ setting meant I could climb to 780 ft carrying around 40kg without breaking a sweat. The bike’s maximum weight capacity is 170 kg (374 lb), but I wouldn’t like to try that up a steep hill! The 400 Wh battery can last up to 110km, and the charger is compact and easily fits in a small bag.
I’ll be honest here. It wasn’t cheap: the HSD is around the price of a decent second-hand car. But without the ongoing vehicle duty and fuel costs it will work out a lot cheaper in the long term. To be extra careful I’ve got insurance from Yellow Jersey (which covers theft, accidents and third party liability) and a ‘gold’ rated lock, which folds up niftily and fits onto the frame. I bought the bike from a local cycle shop (Avon Valley Cyclery) instead of ordering online, as it’s great to support local buinesses. I had two test rides before buying, and asked a million questions. The staff were really patient and helpful, and it’s great to know that I can pop in if something goes wrong. So far I’ve had one puncture and was all set to try and fix it myself, but my friend Kev happened to pop round at exactly the right moment and did it for me. The wheels are both quick release, but the back wheel release is blocked by one of the foot rests, so it was good to be shown how it all works by someone with better bike maintenance skills.
I’m looking forward to seeing where my Tern will take me. So far I’ve visited a ruined castle, eaten woodfired pizza on a farm, been mulberry picking at a manor house, collected biodynamic veg orders from my local grower, ridden over aqueducts and down bridleways… as well as more mundane things like trips to the supermarket and the school run. I’m also excited about using it for my work as a chalkboard artist, zipping around between pubs and cafes in the Bath and Bristol area with my chalk markers. Travelling by bike is the best! Where will my Tern head next…?