Tern Orox All Terrain e-Cargo Bike Review: Packing Lots

After about a month of using the Tern Orox in a particularly snowy and cold spring in Santa Fe, John has penned a review of the e-cargo platform, which speaks to the bike’s versatility and aligns it firmly in the “car replacement” category. Let’s check it out!

When Cari and I worked on the Globe Haul review last year, I had a feeling that we’d be expecting a torrent of requests to review e-cargo bikes, and I wasn’t wrong. Lots of bike companies have contacted The Radavist, asking for us to review their e-cargo models but I only took on two cargo bikes to review this year: the Omnium MiniMax (pedal) and the Tern Orox (electric).

My reasons for the “why” will be revealed as I pull back the fascia on why I am fascinated with both in their respective reviews. First up, obviously, is the Tern Orox.

Quick Hits

Two Build Kits:

  • R14, with Gates Belt Drive, 74.5 lb, in Graphite ($8,999 )
  • S12, 73.2 lb, in OD Green or Yellow ($6,599 – 800 Wh $6499 – 725 Wh – as reviewed here)

Two Sizes:

  • Medium 5’1″ – 6’1″
  • Large 5’5″ – 6’5″

e-Bike System:

  • Bosch Performance Line CX
  • Bosch Smart System w/ ConnectModule
  • Kiox 300 Display
  • PowerPack 800
  • Dual battery option to lengthen in between charge cycles


  • Max Rider Weight: 286 lb
  • Max Gross Vehicle Weight: 462 lb (on-road), 396 lb (off-road)
  • Max Rear Rack Load: 220 lb

Expensive, but so is vehicle maintenance

When you consider that the average cost of vehicle maintenance in 2023 was $2236.50 (not including gas!), and most Americans use their cars for one-to-five-mile trips, the Orox S12 configuration’s price tag of $6,499 suddenly doesn’t seem to pinch as much. The cost of car maintenance rises with each year of ownership, and most of your car’s wear and tear comes from sub-five mile trips, i.e., inner-city driving.

Also, the passing of H.R. 1685 is a great incentive:

“This bill allows individual taxpayers a new tax credit for 30% of the cost of a qualified electric bicycle. The bill defines qualified electric bicycle to mean a bicycle or tricycle that does not cost more than $8,000 and that is equipped with fully operable pedals, a saddle or seat for the rider, and an electric motor of less than 750 watts designed to assist in propelling the bicycle or tricycle under certain conditions”

A 30% tax credit towards the $6499 S12 model would net almost $2,000 off.

We’ve been pretty good at almost reducing our around-town car use to once a week in the winter and almost altogether in the warmer months. We have noticed a reduction in the amount of money we spend maintaining them and filling them up with gas. A bike like the Orox is a front-loading expense that could save you money in the long run if you can strike a balance between automobile and e-cargo use.

Bike Taxonomy

The Orox is a longtail cargo bike, assisted by the Bosche e-bike system. It is a dual-wheel size platform offering 29″+ or 27.5″+ wheels and tires and it comes in two sizes. These larger diameter wheel sizes are what make it unique in Tern’s lineup, as the brand has used only 20″ wheels in the past. It is a Class I e-bike, meaning pedal assist up to 20 MPH.

High Tech

Like modern cars, the Orox connects to the CPU of the bike via Bluetooth and offers insights into battery use. The Bosche system itself offers a number of e-assist modes, ranging from Eco, Tour, e-MTB, and Turbo, all with varying battery drains.

You can track the bike, set an e-bike alarm (which is loud!), and map your route utilizing Google’s mapping data all within the Tern app. This helps keep you on cycle routes rather than busy car thoroughfares. This is thanks to all that juicy Strava data that Google began to buy to help cyclists navigate cities and towns.

The Orox has the ability to run two batteries, with a claimed distance of 200 miles. Our model shipped with only one battery, so we had no way of testing this claimed distance, but our time with the bike has revealed that 100 miles per charge is accurate for that single battery. For cold climates, you can move the back-of-seat-tube mounted battery to the included frame bag’s mounting location to extend the battery life when the temperature dips.

With a daytime-running rear light and an automatic front light, the Orox is designed for commuting and offers lots of light for remote/rural dirt roads without street lights. Both lights can be turned on or off via integrated light switches on the Magura brakes.

The fact that Orox uses the Bosch system is worth calling attention to as it will extend the life cycle of this bike indefinitely. Bosch’s motors and batteries are some of the best in the business. The batteries are replaceable (even recyclable), and the motors are serviceable. A big no-no when buying e-bikes is buying one with a motor from a non-reputable company. You’re just buying eventual landfill trash…

Marketing vs Use Case: A Brief Tangent

Let me clarify something before we move any further. I was intrigued by how the Tern Orox was marketed, but in use I found it an interesting conundrum. Images of duffle bags strapped to the cargo platform on forest roads, singletrack, or in wilderness-feeling locales brought about feelings of expeditions and electronic bike touring.

Even the bike’s demeanor—rugged, big tires, wide bars, racks, olive drab, off-road lights—spoke to this. Coming from a place where I enjoy 4×4 touring in the remote deserts of the Four Corners, I felt that there were many similarities between the outfitting or “rigging” of the Orox and how car companies market their SUVs—visually speaking.

It makes you want to take off with all your camping stuff loaded on it!

Yet, at least in New Mexico, the Orox’s use is limited to US Forest Service roads only. E-bikes are illegal on singletrack here. Chances are, they’re illegal on your US Forest Service trails, too. In fact, only 38% of USFS trails are legal for e-bikes and those trails are also open to motorcycle and ATV/OHV use. So unless you see motorcycles on your singletrack, e-MTBs are most likely illegal there too. Some of my favorite trails in the Lost Sierra of California are mixed-use OHV, like Downieville, but you wouldn’t want to ride the Orox there.

I bicycle tour to get away from cars, SUVs, ATVs, motos, SXS (side-by-sides), and people who aren’t willing to move deep into the backcountry via their own power. This is why I love to tour on singletrack, especially in New Mexico. While there are a few techy sections of trails, most of the extended day-by-day tours are relatively low-risk. The Northern NM CDT, for instance, is a very easy trail to tour on.

As previously stated, electronic bikes are illegal on trails in most Western states. Because they are motorized, they fall under the “no motorized vehicles” underwriting in the US Forest Service laws. So, in short, you can only ride the Orox where cars go, and again, the whole point of me getting out on a bicycle to go camping is to get away from the “cops, the cars, and the concrete” to borrow the saying from the 1970s Repack crew.

This is a whole issue I don’t have time to get into here, nor do you want to read about it. You’re here for an e-cargo bike review, after all! The TL;DR on this conundrum comes down to land managers, (lack of) enforcement, and groups like the Sierra Club, who are using the spike in e-bike use on USFS trails as a pry bar into banning bikes altogether via usurping USFS land into Wilderness-designated areas through lawsuits that overwhelm the opposition (cyclists.) On top of all that, when is the last time you saw a MTB company laying all this out in their marketing material? Yeah, icky. Yeah, convoluted. Yeah, let’s move on…

All this to say, I didn’t feel like I was going to do the Tern Orox justice in this review because my use case didn’t align with the bike’s marketing, as it’s pictured in many of the marketing images on singletrack trails. I couldn’t even legally use it for trail work here in the Santa Fe National Forest, regardless of whether our trails are still blanketed by snow and will continue to be most likely until May.

How Cari and I did use the bike is both humorous and insightful into answering the question: “Is the Tern Orox a car replacement?”

The Answer is Yes: It is a True Car Replacement

Here we are, 500 words in, and I’m just now getting to the bike review. That’s how it goes. I’m a fan of establishing intent and context in my reviews. It’s gotta be my design school training or something. What was my intent in this review? To embrace the Orox to all but eliminate the need for “car hauling” trips, in a controlled use case experience anyway. We don’t generally drive around town, even in the winter months, so this was more of an experiment to uncloak if the average American could use the Orox in such a way.

The two ways we use the car here are for big grocery hauls and when we’re both too tired after a big day of physical activities to ride across town.

People Haulin’

The Orox has a super comfy cargo seat in the configuration we reviewed. With a back rest, a comfy, long seat, and two arm rests/grips. We don’t have children, so I hauled Cari around on the bike any time I took it out just to get a feel for how it rode with the weight of two adults on it. We’ll get to that later, but let’s talk about how people occupy the rear cargo space.

A very nice feature on the Orox is the fold-out foot rest. When closed (via a locking/indexed spring plug), these shelves keep the panniers inboard of the bike, eliminating any protruding bulk. When open, they provide a foot shelf. Granted, Cari is a 45-year-old woman, so her legs were long enough to reach these foot rests. Small children might not be able to reach them.

Tern offers a variety of accessories designed to safely haul kiddos around from rain enclosures that fit around the seat, to seatbelts, wheel spoke/feet guards, etc. There’s even a bike hauling Tow Kit!

With an adult passenger, they had to be mindful of their movements. When I was toting Cari around, she had to anticipate turns, much like a passenger on a motorcycle. However, the long tail of the Orox greatly helped with passenger, and thus driver, stability. It took both of us just one trip to get the hang of it. Hauling Cari around was always a hoot. People clapped, shot photos of us on their cell phones, and always asked the question: what’s it like without any rear suspension?

Sans Suspension

Offering a brief departure from our use case, let me say that these 27.5+ tires, inflated to around 20 psi in the rear and 16 in the front, were all the suspension I needed for our horrible roads here in Santa Fe. Potholes, speed bumps, and even rolling up curbs were a cinch! Even for Cari, whose majority of her weight was behind the rear hub, at the end of a trussed aluminum structure was plenty comfy.

Suspension components would considerably increase the bike’s weight and add to more maintenance over time.

Regarding the tires and wheel size, I was happy with the 27.5 x 4″ tire configuration because I used the higher-volume tires to smooth out the ride quality. Tern also makes the Orox in a 29 x 2.6″ wheeled chassis, but the tires aren’t nearly as large. For longevity, something to consider is that 29er tires in the 2.6″ range will be around longer than 27.5+ tires; in my opinion, anyway. I rode the bike on plenty of icy and snowy days here in Santa Fe and found the larger footprint of the 27.5+ tires to be quite helpful in terms of traction.

Grocery Gettin’

We are privileged to live close to multiple grocery stores, which was a requisite for us buying our home. We wanted to be within walking distance of many daily needs. On multiple grocery runs, Cari would ride on the back of the Orox; we’d lock it up and load between two days and two weeks’ worth of groceries.

On the day I brought a camera along, it was more like two days’ worth for illustrative purposes.

The Tern panniers designed for the Orox are massive. They offer a whopping 72 liters or 44 lb of capacity, and even though these photos are from a bright and sunny day, they came in handy when it was snowing, sleeting, or raining. With the bags completely stuffed, the bike’s long, trussed rear end provided ample heel clearance.

Here’s where we found one issue with the bike, as was reflected by some questions in our First Look back in February: “where do the passenger’s feet go when the panniers are full?”

We found the best response to this issue to be the simplest: outboard. Cari described this experience as initially feeling sketchy due to a lack of footing but found it comfortable in the end. Again, the times we used the bike like this with the panniers completely full were the only times she had no foot placement. If the bags were half empty, she could sneak her foot under the pannier and plant her feet securely.

The pannier’s closure presented another issue in the system. Comparatively, on the Globe, we can just drop grocery bags into the pannier “buckets” and be on our way. With the Orox’s panniers, we have to unbuckle two KlickFlix buckles, unroll the panniers, load the bags, roll them, squeeze the air out via the drain holes in the bottom of the bags, and then tighten the straps.

It’s not cumbersome and is a by-product of the pannier’s waterproofness and security in case it’s raining, ultimately making it a better “all-weather” option than the Globe’s bucket pannier method. Still, it is a hassle in a place that only has less than 70 days of rain on average per year.

Storage, Heft, and Transport

I’ll go ahead and say it. If you have a small apartment and stairs, the Orox might not be for you. It is a large bicycle with a spanning wheelbase that barely makes it through doorways (on the size Large, anyway). Yet, there is a unique storage feature for those with limited floor space. You can hold the rear brake and bring the bike onto its rear, where a rubber bumper allows you to slide the bike around on smooth floor surfaces.

We don’t have a garage, which would be ideal for such a large bike, so every time we used it, we had to heft it up three stairs, up a door sill, around a tight corner, and through a 2′-6″ door into Cari’s painting studio. There, it lived in the back of the room until we needed it again as illustrated above.

I’m 6’2″ and 190 pounds with a muscular physique and it took a lot of concentration to do this. Cari was able to slide it around by herself if I wasn’t home, but she couldn’t lift it up or move it in these tight spaces by herself. However, she did exclaim how easy it was to roll the bike around outdoors compared to our Globe, which was much smaller but suffers from having the weight condensed to a shorter footprint, making it less easy to maneuver, if that makes sense.

Another issue is the ability to travel with the Orox. Last month, we drove out to Los Angeles, bikes in tow, to attend a wedding. I had some photoshoots: one with Travis, and at Fabrica de Rosas Shop Visit to tack on as well. The day we were packing, I had the idea: “Wouldn’t it be cool to bring the Orox to Los Angeles?”

We were staying in a neighborhood with some friends who lived atop a very long, steep hill. I used to ride my road bike up this 400′ hill for inner-city training. The idea of having to ride up and down the hill every time we left the house wasn’t gonna happen but the Orox would solve that problem easily.

I spent a good hour trying to configure it to fit onto our many bike rack options (1-Up, Rig’d, Lolo) and could not fit it either taken apart and stuffed into the back cargo area of our SUV or fit it to any of our bike rack options. It was simply too long. Plus, the fat bike tires wouldn’t fit in my rack arms.

Even picking it up from the local shop here in Santa Fe, Sirius Cycles, I had to drive Cari’s trusty 2001 Tacoma, Betty White, out with a 6′ bed and cock the front wheel sideways. Only then would it fit in the car. It took two people to safely load it up, too! Thanks to Clemente, the owner of the shop.

From tip to tip, the Orox is almost eight feet long!

All this to say, the Orox is a hefty bike, that has a large footprint, and can be cumbersome to move around in tight spaces. If we had a garage, this would not be an issue, but with a large price tag of $6499, I didn’t feel comfortable locking it up outside like a motorcycle.

Conversation Piece and Mileage Use

Here’s where most conversations went with random people I met around town while using the Orox. It’s a real conversation starter! Particularly with macho dudes I would never think would want to ride a bicycle. Countless times I had interactions with this particular archetype that usually began with “what size tires are those?” a common question I would get related to my Land Cruiser. It continued: “Man, that thing looks mean!” I’d never heard a cargo bike be referred to as mean before. “Is it fun?”

Like a car, the conversation would turn into questions of mileage or battery use. But instead of “miles per gallon,” it was “miles per charge.” I’d answer, “Like 100 miles per charge on Eco mode!” “Maybe 60 on Turbo.” You could see their calculator working.

And like a car, I never let a fuel tank go empty. I’m usually a keep it above a half-a-tank kinda guy. As such, we had indoor storage by a wall outlet, so I always just plugged it in after each use.

However, one day, I took the bike on a mixed surface ride–the day I shot the First Look photos–around private, gated neighborhoods that have lovely dirt roads that reach some “locals only” mixed terrain rides. That day, I did 50 miles on the bike in Eco mode and used under half a battery. Meanwhile, one day Cari and I were jonesing for some Thai food, but the food truck was going to close within the hour, so she hopped on the back, and we hauled ass across town on Turbo mode. The 10-mile round trip drank a cool 20% of the battery’s life.

One day, returning from a mountain bike ride in the foothills, I came upon a cool vista to shoot a sunset photo. Returning home, I grabbed my camera gear and tossed it into the Orox, and spent the entire afternoon riding from Santa Fe to the village of Tesuque, up to the start of a US Forest Service road that was still closed due to snow, back to town, warmed up at a coffee shop, and then returned home. 50 miles of mixed terrain, on Eco mode, all on half a battery. Not bad.

As advertised, Tern says the Orox gets 100 miles per charge and I believe Tern’s claims of a 200-mile battery life when utilizing two batteries. Granted, the haul load can affect this.

TL;DR and the Wrap-Up

Cari and I enjoyed our time with the Orox. It made hauling groceries a cinch and provided hours of entertainment as we cruised around this beautiful place. People loved seeing two adults on a cargo bike, and it was a real conversation starter. I found it to be a proper car replacement. Even in the snow, ice, and slush, the bike handled it all with ease.

While I don’t particularly buy into the marketing of it being an “expedition-minded” vehicle, that’s solely based on where I live, not on the bike itself. In writing this review, I found myself pondering two questions:

Could you take the Orox camping? Most certainly. Could it be used for trail work? Of course.

However, where trail work is needed and where I like to camp here in Santa Fe, the Orox is illegal since it has a motor. Yet, that doesn’t mean the land managers where you live might have different laws. I don’t condone illegal e-bike use, but I also know the bike industry has completely ignored addressing this issue and has done a shit job of educating customers on where e-bikes are legal. Sigh…

Perhaps this just speaks to the Orox’s potential as urban/city transport and rural utility, with a dash of expedition potential thrown in.


  • Great battery life
  • Bosch system is reputable
  • Excellent cargo capability
  • A true car replacement
  • Big tires omit the need for suspension with the proper PSI
  • Reputable brand with lots of support and an extensive dealer network
  • Rugged, yet lightweight; stores in small spaces


  • Large, awkward to maneuver in some homes
  • Too big for bike racks I had on hand
  • Expensive

See more at Tern.