To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This review was sponsored by Tern. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased, this video and written review are not meant to be an endorsement of Tern products.
Tern has recently updated their line of folding bikes in the Vektron line for 2019. The Vektron comes in other available configurations like the S10, P9, and D8, each offing different battery systems, drive systems, and even number of gears. But today we are focusing primarily on the Bosch Active Line mid-drive, the Q9. The ‘9’ in Q9 stands for number of gears though the Shimano Alivio cassette, and with that Bosch mid-drive, you also get a Bosch PowerPack 400 battery. We will dive into all that in a bit, but first, I want to talk about this frame. Tern has taken a one-size-fits-all approach with the Vektron line up. The Q9 comes in blue with reflective silver accents and the one frame size, but has a lot of adjustability. On the handlebars, you have an Andros adjustable stem which can pivot forward or backwards really letting to get the fit just right. The seat post is actually a double set letting you get the seat up quite high if you like to get that full extension in pedaling… Of course, you could swap those out for a suspension seat post too, the top one is 30.9mm and the bottom one is 34.9mm. The setup really makes you feel like you are riding a standard bicycle, however, you will notices these smaller tires; a set of Schwalbe Ballon Big Apple tires sitting at 20” x 2.5”. These have K Guard Level 3 puncture protection and reflective sidewalls. If you wanted to, you could get more comfort by dropping the tire pressure, they are rated for 30-55psi total. Overall, they are a little wider and offer a bit of stability, are easy to load with, have a lot of comfort, and keep the weight nice and low. It is however a higher attack angle, so you could feel more bumps. Other comfort points I am seeing here are this nice saddle, locking ergonomic grips, and this angled Bosch battery which is another great way to keep the weight low and stable… you can tell a lot of engineering went into this frame. Also featured here are these battery integrated lights, both in the front and the back. I love that these are becoming more common and are a great safety feature, however, I will say the rear light is tucked in a bit which may hinder visibility, but this is likely to keep it protected at the same time. I can’t mention the Q9 or its siblings without talking about this amazing rack. Included with all of the Vektron bikes is this Atlus rack. The rack is engineered to be extra long with this thick and oversized tubing. This makes it great for longer panniers and even normal panniers feel at home here since they can lock on the frame so they won’t slide back and forth. There is also a couple of Yepp windows to fit a single seat in a couple of different load positions. Also included is this bungie cord system which can loop, go at a 90 degree angle, and clip in to really hold things together. Other features include bottle cage bosses, a kickstand positioned out of the way to eliminate pedal lock when reversing, plastic fenders, integrated bell, and quick release on both wheels. Overall, the total weight for the bike with everything attached is 48lbs.
The Vektron Q9 is driven by the Bosch Active Line motor, which is the entry level Bosch motor, not to be confused with the Bosch Active Line Plus. While it is somewhat more limited than the other Bosch motors, it still bears the brand name extremely well. It offers 40nm of torque and is lighter (6.3lbs) and quieter than the others in the line up. The it still has shift detection and feels very efficient while maintaining that gentle and responsive Bosch feeling. I did notice a bit of drag when you stop sometimes… you can kind of feel a slight clunk with a little bit of pressure which seems to be common in the Active Line setup. Mechanically, the bike has a 11-32 tooth 9 speed Shimano Alivo which is a lighter wight and more reliable cassette. Also, there is a 52 tooth chain ring which is considerably big. This gives you no pedal drag, no reduction gearing, and really offsets the smaller wheels well. Overall, this setup gives you great mechanical advantage with these compact wheels. The whole chain system is covered with a plastic chain cover, which I really appreciate. For stopping power, I was pleased to see that they matched the smooth Bosch motor with a set of hydraulic disc brakes. Its a 160mm rotor setup in both the front and the back and are complimented with 3 finger levers with adjustable reach if you have smaller hands.
Powering the motor, integrated lights, and backlit display panel, is an interchangeable battery pack from Bosch. The battery, a PowerPack 400, clicks neatly in the cage behind the seat from above. You can charge the pack off of the bike frame or plug into the battery while mounted to the bike. Lithium-ion cells, including the 18650 cells used in these packs, tend to be very reliable if you maintain them at 20% to 80% capacity when not in use and store in a cool dry environment vs. extreme heat or cold. I frequently store my electric bike indoors because it isn’t as heavy or smelly as a moped or motorcycle, and this keeps it clean and safe while also protecting the battery from extreme temperatures. Charging happens a little slower here, but that is not necessarily bad news.. the 2amp charger included from Bosch is meant to be smaller and more lightweight than their 4amp charger. This portability makes it a perfect travel companion and I assume since Bosch batteries are interchangeable, you could do the same with the charger and get a faster 4amp charger if you really wanted. In closing, the PowerPack weighs less than the PowerTube at 5.4lbs vs. 6.3lbs, but you’ll want to make extra sure to hear it click into place on the frame when mounting before rides. If you have another PowerPack battery like the 500, it will work with the same interface as the PowerPack 400, so you can swap packs or rent and borrow if you travel frequently.
Once you’ve charged and secured the battery pack, operating the bike is pretty straight forward. The control panel consists of a grayscale LCD with four surrounding buttons. The power button is built into the top edge, a + and – button is reachable along the left front portion, and a walk mode button is built into the lower edge. Pressing the power button brings the LCD to life quickly, and a faint white glow is active at all times making it readable in low lighting conditions. Also, I’ve created an in-depth guide to the Bosch Purion display panel, with video overview, in the EBR forums. It’s not removable however, and the Micro-USB port on the right edge is not active for charging as is the case with the larger Bosch Intuvia. I much prefer the Intuvia for its size and additional menus (shift recommendation, clock, max speed, average speed, and trip time), and some shops can upgrade you to this display for ~$200. With Purion, you’ve got a streamlined and simple interface with the necessities including trip distance, total distance, and range estimate. You can cycle through these menus by holding the – key, and you can reset trip distance by holding – and + simultaneously for a couple of seconds. The main portion of the display is used to show your current speed and assist level. If you’d like to change units from miles to kilometers, you simply hold – and tap the power button. Anytime you change from one assist level to the next, the menu briefly changes. In my experience, the buttons don’t click in as consistent as Intuvia, and there’s no dedicated light button (hold + to activate the lights if you’ve got the CX motor), but it gets the job done. If this was the only display that Bosch produced, I might be a little more enthusiastic about it here, it is a great display, I think I’ve just grown to appreciate the charging, removability, color, and Bluetooth features on some of their nicer displays. Most of the mountain models I review here do spec Purion, to hide and protect the display. For me, it would have been worth an additional $50 or $100 in the price tag given how expensive the bike already is, but it’s not a deal killer by any means.
Finally, one side note I wanted to touch on that could make a bit of a difference in the lives of certain users is the storage of this bike. For those that use the Q9, you may be in a more densely populated or urban type area. If you live in an apartment, or have limited storage, having a bike as a tag-a-long can be cumbersome and in some cases, a deal breaker. Tern has remedied this by making the frame itself capable of standing up on the end of the rack when folded. This makes for very stable placement, and you can fold down the handlebars and use the attached rubber cinch to clamp to keep everything neat and compact. As I said before, this works wonders in tight spaces or if you have limited storage space like a closet, Ive been told a lot of people use and appreciate this function. For those still on the fence, the Q9 goes a step further and maintains mobility since Tern designed the frame to be carted around when folded. Not only do the brakes still work, but you can keep the handlebars up and engage walk mode. The whole thing was designed to fly straight when you use this feature and I try to show it off toward the end of the video review. I would highly recommend checking it out as it is a neat little feature. While the Q9 is a great bike, I do have to call out a few of the tradeoffs. The Purion is a good display, but not my favorite, but I supposed it does stay out of the way. As mentioned before, the smaller wheelbase provides a mechanical advantage, but the attack angle it produces means you may feel some more bumps in the road. I will say the higher volume tires do help with this though. Also, the Active Line motor is one of the more limited setups from Bosch, but it is a step up from the older Vektron. At the end of the day, you can tell there was a lot of time and thoughtfulness put into the design and I really like the additional features. Tern claims they are still the only folding Bosch ebike in the world, and if they were to be incorrect, I would be surprised if someone made one much better. Since it is a Bosch bike, you do end up paying more ($3,199) but it is backed by a dealer network and a 2 year drive system warranty as well as a 10 year frame warranty. I think the Tern did a great job with the Q9 and I want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to review the bike and put it through its paces.
As always, I welcome questions and feedback in the comment section below. Whether you own a previous version of the bike, have taken a test ride, or are brand new to the space, my goal is to provide an objective and honest resource. You can also join the Tern forums and share your own photos, videos, and review updates to help others! Have fun out there, and ride safe :)
- Tern is a well-recongized and trusted company with years of folding bicycle and now folding electric bicycle expertise and leadership, their folding handlebar post with rubber clasp, Andros adjustable stem, and telescoping seat post feel solid and can accommodate many riders
- The adjustability of the seating and riding, smoothness of the motor, and centered weight make it feel like you are on a normal bicycle, not a smaller folding bike
- Safety is a big deal to me because I sometimes ride in the early morning or evening surrounded by traffic, so I love the reflective color accents, reflective tires, and the integrated lights that run off of the main battery
- The angled battery and small wheels are just one of the many ways Tern engineered the bike to maintain a low center of gravity, this is great for loading cargo, carrying a passenger, or just riding around town
- The motor used here is one that I have reviewed hundreds of times before on other electric bikes and it has earned my trust as being reliable, it’s also very responsive, I have never felt out of control with it or wondered if it would leave me stranded
- I love how the battery pack can be charged on and off the bike, this is convenient for those who commute to work and need to fill-up for the ride home or errands and then home, the Bosch 2amp charger is compact and great for traveling
- A lot of time and attention went into the buckle clasps, they lock securely, can be adjusted and even serviced with new bushings… and they don’t flop around (Tern has a patented flat-fold design)
- I love the Atlas rack because it offers plenty of space on top and on the sides, it felt secure and can carry up to 55 lbs, the pannier bars on the sides have little metal protrusions to stop bags from sliding off the back when you fold and wheel the bike or if you’re noticing that your heel is striking your bags while pedaling (you can mount the bag further back to avoid this but know that the bag won’t slide off)
- Power and range are important but so is stopping, especially with a bike designed to haul gear or an extra passenger, the hydraulic brakes are fantastic, you get adjustable-reach levers, and the 160mm rotors are great for the 20″ diameter wheelset
- I love that the frame was engineered to be carted around when folded, you can keep the handle bars up while the rest of the bike is folded, use walk mode as well as engage the brakes when needed, and the whole thing will fly straight thanks to the design
- High quality, full sized crank arms and pedals that don’t flex under force and weight, I like that instead of using cheap plastic folding pedals Tern developed a quick release system for the right pedal… the bike is still compact when folded but rides much better
- The Atlas rack also includes a bungie system which you can loop, go at a 90 degree angle, or clip in to really hold things together
- The extra tubing on the Atlas rack allows the bike to sit while folded and stay compact, great if you live in a small space or need to store the bike somewhere
- Ergon locking grips feel nice and won’t twist under pressure or when you’re lifting and folding the bike or crack if the bike tips, just a nice upgrade
- The Bosch Purion display is relatively easy to read, backlit, controls the lights and is easy to reach while gripping the left bar, you don’t have to take your hand off to use it (which improves safety) but it’s very intuitive to use still, and each press of the buttons delivers a nice tactile click
- Both folding latches have a two-step unlock system so you won’t accidentally come unfolded while riding
- I like that the seat post has clear markings on it so you can remember and re-adjust each time you fold and unfold the bike to the appropriate height
- I think the way that they mounted the battery is wonderful, it doesn’t raise stand over height, doesn’t hang way off the back or take up rack space and can still be easily removed WITHOUT taking off the seat
- The motor is mounted really well, it doesn’t hang down much and is protected by two tubes with plastic caps that allow the bike to rest evenly when folded… it’s one of the most stable folded electric bikes I have tried, many other designs tip easily
- A larger chainring paired with a 9 speed cassette make pedaling feel natural, they designed it to ride like a normal full sized bicycle even though it has smaller 20″ wheels, it climbs very well and can reach 20 mph but I had to change gears to reach the top speed
- The rear wheel dropout is raised a bit to allow for strong mounting of the disc brake and more space for the rack and fender eyeletts, I believe it also lowers the center of gravity on the bike
- I like that both wheels feature quick release because it makes the bike easier to work on or fix flats on the go… just bring a spare tube, mini pump or CO2 in one of your bags
- Tern offers a 2 year warranty on the drive system, and a generous 10 year warranty on the frame itself, also a network of dealers for service needs
- It appears that the charging port for the battery (when mounted to the frame) is blocked by the chain guard and chain. I haven’t confirmed this issue, but visually it stands out and has been mentioned by other readers so I’m raising it here.
- The Tern Vektron is definitely one of the more expensive folding electric bikes, it offers premium components, a first class drive system and an amazing warranty but that comes at a price
- Very minor complaint here, but the Bosch Active Line motor can feel a little limited when facing a formidable hill and is rather suited for city riding, there is also a bit of a clunk when stopping, something that is common in the Active Line motors
- While I love that the seat raises so high, it wasn’t clear how you’d be able to raise the handle bars to match without some special accessory, the Andros adjustable stem helps a lot but some other folding electric bikes have telescoping handle posts to address this
- There’s just one color choice here, if you buy a couple of these for a his and her setup it might be tricky to tell which is which uless you add some accessories ;)
- The stand over height isn’t super low, Tern purposefully uses a curved tubing design for strength and puts their folding joint back a bit but this means you’ll have to step higher to get on than some competing models
- I love that they included bottle cage bosses but probably wouldn’t mount a cage and bottle here because it would be nearly horizontal and might leak, consider a folding lock, mini-pump or other compact accessory (or a tight bottle!)
- It’s great that Tern went with wider tires for their official electric bike offering because in my experience, you tend to ride at a higher average speed and for longer distances and comfort can be an issues. Otherwise, there’s no suspension fork or seat post suspension… consider a Thudbuster or other 30.9mm after market seat post
- The Bosch Purion display panel isn’t removable like the Bosch Intuvia but it’s much more compact and still delivers all of the same readouts (hold + to activate the lights, hold – to cycle through menus)
- Unlike a lot of other premium full sized e-bikes, the wires are not internally routed on the Tern Vektron (which makes folding and repairing easier) but they could get snagged easier and the front wires might interfere with the optional front rack and cargo if you remove the head badge on the head tube and install a “luggage truss” on the “luggage socket”
Gregory Pohlman4 years ago
Is Tern planning on developing a “rapid transit rack” for these new model 2 frames? Live in a high rise condo and need to park bike in my unit. Also, do you plan on reviewing the P9 or D8? Interested in your opinion of the difference between Bafang and Bosch mid drive motors. Thanks, really enjoy your reviews!Reply
Court4 years ago
Hi Gregory! I hope to cover the Bafang Tern at some point. I’ve got the Vektron 9 speed in the works now. Can you clarify what you mean about the “rapid transit rack” like post link or explain a bit more? I’m not sure that I understand your question.Reply
Gregory Pohlman4 years ago
It’s the optional rear rack with suitcase spinner wheels that lets you roll your bike in any direction. It also comes with a cover. It appears that this rack will only fit gen 1 frame. We live in a high rise condo with several doors + elevator and want something my wife and I can move effortlessly, especially if we have groceries etc. to carry in.
Alan4 years ago
Thanks for all the great reviews… Could you provide some buying advice since the 2018 S10s are now on sale. Would you recommend an older model s10 over the Q9? or even a used 2017 s10 overe the Q9 2019? My use case is transporting a 40lb child in Yepp! seat 3 miles to school and towing his 16 inch bike to the park on weekends.
Court4 years ago
Hi Alan! I feel that the quality on all Tern bicycles is above average, and would choose a model based on motor type. Bosch is super reliable and I prefer their Performance Line vs. Active Line, especially if transporting extra weight on a child seat/rack setup. I think the rear racks are fairly similar and then it just comes down to availability and pricing. If you can get a deal on the S10, that could be a great way to go. I haven’t looked at all of the Tern models and am traveling, so I’m not being super specific right now, but I hope this general feedback helps and that others can chime in too :)Reply
Farrell4 years ago
This bike checks a lot of boxes for me: I live in a densely populated area, and would store the bike in my apartment. I need a bike to commute to work, but more importantly to tote my 5-year old daughter across the city to school in the mornings. The rack looks sturdy enough to hold the weight of my daughter and the child seat (we would use the Yepp Easyfit Junior). I read on the Tern website that the weight capacity is 27 kg (or 60 pounds), which seems okay for my daughter, who weighs around 21 kg right now. What is of more concern to me though is the height of the bike: the wheels are only 20 inches. I wanted to ask: do you think the bike height is too low to transport a 5-6-7 year old child? It would make mounting easier, but during the ride I’m worrying about their legs being too close to the ground.Reply
Court4 years ago
Hi Farrell, that’s an interesting question. It’s difficult for me to estimate on this because I don’t have kids and am not sure exactly how far their legs would go down? Any bike with child seat could expose hands, arms, and legs to nearby obstacles such as walls, railing, even cars parked on the side of the road. If you’re worried about their legs hanging down and actually touching the ground, that’s something you could train them to be careful around… lots of cargo bikes have the padded seat + peg option, and kids or adults can usually put their feet down (with 20″ or 24″ wheels) which is great for stability, but presents an opportunity for twisted ankles and side scraping. It’s a risk for sure, but you could start out at low speeds and try to teach them, or consider a pull-along trailer like one of these.Reply
Don4 years ago
Looking forward to you doing an in-depth review of the Tern HSD S8I when it is finally available.Reply
Wai3 years ago
Where does Tern manufacture their bikes? thanksReply
Court3 years ago
Great question, Wai! I’m not sure about that, but I know that many frames these days come from Taiwan or Vietnam. I’m not sure where Bosch manufactures their motors, but they are a German company :)Reply
Abe1 year ago
I purchased a used Tern Vektron Q9 a week ago. Great price. I don’t see how I can charge while battery is on the bike. The connection sits below the chain guard, or seems that way. I have a Vektron S10 waiting for me at a shop. Wondering if I should just stick with S10. Thanks for any assistance. – AbeReply
Court1 year ago
Wow, good catch Abe! I’ve added that point, about the charging port being obscured by the chain cover and chain, as a con in the review here. I haven’t confirmed it and do not have one of the bikes in front of me at the moment, but I see how it very well could be an issue. As for the S10, I found a thread from one of the forum users discussing the bike… but it’s not one that I’ve been super familiar with. Hard to say whether it’s worth a switch. Perhaps you can look it over and report back on the pros and cons vs. your Q9?Reply
Abe1 year ago
I reached out to Tern and awaiting response.
I tried the older Q9 today and it had a harder time with the hills (The Bronx), than my recently purchased Tern HSD P9 with the Active Line Plus. It was good enough though and was a fun ride. I would imagine the Vektron S10, would do even better. I have to decide today if I am going to pick up or cancel the order. Of course, the prices is $4200 plus tax, which is quite a bit of money. The ride is much different on the P9 than the Q9. P9 is like driving a Cadillac, the Q9, like a Honda Civic.
Again, many thanks for all.