'A Bike That Will Replace Your Family Car.' We Test It Out

cargo bike with kids.jpg

Can a bicycle replace a car? That’s an option with a model from Yuba Bicycles LLC or other manufacturers of “cargo bikes.”

Made to haul large loads, from groceries to children sitting on back, cargo bikes have extended frames and platforms over the rear wheel.

I tested the Mundo model from Yuba this summer and early fall. It is a capable hauler, and with big pannier bags hooked onto the frame a rider can roll home with a full grocery cart of food.

For kids, the bike is an excellent alternative to a car on short trips. My young boys, aged 4 and 6, jump onto the Yuba with smiles. They howl for more as we rocket down hills.

yuba mundo bike.jpg

Mundo cargo bike from Yuba Bicycles LLC

The company specs the Yuba Mundo as capable of hauling hundreds of pounds. It is built with a steel frame, oversize hubs, strong wheels, reinforced drop-outs, and other burly parts.

You can customize a Mundo bike on the company’s website with various racks, bags, kid seats, a basket, and even utility straps to tie down boxes or other big objects.

The Mundo was an impressive ride in my test. It’s speedy on flats and downhills, though depending on your haul going up hills is hard. With my kids on back I had to shift to the bike’s lowest gear and still work hard to crank up the steeper hills around my house.

cargo bike frame.jpg

Mundo frame spec’d to hold up to 440 pounds!

Indeed, the bike is not light — my test model weighed more than 60 pounds. It’s large, too, at more than 6 feet long. In my garage it takes up a space where I park three regular bikes.

Yuba offers the Mundo frame alone for $399 if you are motivated to construct a custom bike. A complete Mundo bike starts at $1,299, and the price goes up depending on features and add-ons.

For example, you’ll likely want a set of pannier bags to carry groceries or gear. If you have kids, seat pads and handle grips are needed extras.

cargo bike adult on back.jpg

Grownups can ride on back, too. Preserved dignity not guaranteed

I worked with a local bike shop, Calhoun Cycle in Minneapolis, to customize the bike. The shop staff helped me pick the right components for my family and also adjusted the bike to my riding style.

Calhoun switched the seat and gave me flat bars instead of stock risers after my first test ride. Just like with any new bicycle, fit is important. For cargo bikes, where you’re hauling kids and pedaling hard with heavy loads, fit is even more crucial to comfort and performance on the ride.

Over two months I rode the bike mainly in the city of Minneapolis where I live, from short 2-mile rides to longer, 10-mile trips. I used it for fun as well as on errands where I might have otherwise driven a car.

When alone, I stocked the bike’s panniers with groceries from a store and rolled home. I could hardly feel the added weight.

The bike easily replaces a car on quick trips in the city. It’s fast and as easy to maneuver as a normal city commuter bike when loaded with 40 pounds or less.

For my kids, the Yuba was seen as a recreational vehicle. When we pedaled to the beach or playground the journey was just as fun as the destination.

nuvinci shifter.jpg

Handlegrip and NuVinci twist shifter

Yuba gives a lot of choices when you are set to buy, from racks to drivetrain options. The bike I tested had a slick internally-geared hub from NuVinci N360 instead of derailleurs and a cassette.

The sealed internal NuVinci N360 hub offers lower maintenance than a derailleur, and instead of clicking into gear the rider uses a nob on the handlebar to smoothly adjust the gearing. It was perfect for a cargo bike.

All the extras add a lot of cost. The bike I demo’d — a “lux” Mundo version with all the bells and whistles — would run about $2,100 off the shelf.

But if the bike can replace a car that cost could be worth it. You’ll save on gas, insurance, repairs, and at the same time you’ll stay in better shape and have more fun running errands.

Your kids will be onboard, no doubt. They will love the ride.

I need to return the demo bike we have this week, but my little ones are already begging that we buy a Yuba of our own.

—Stephen Regenold is the founder of GearJunkie.

cargo bike kids.jpg

The author and his boys loaded up, ready to ride

Comments