It was dark outside when I finally finished unboxing the UBCO 2×2 Special Edition electric bikes. The packaging had been extensive, but like a kid on Christmas, that had only ramped up my excitement.
Despite the hour, when the shiny new bikes were free of their cardboard containers, I immediately grabbed a helmet, hopped on the rugged 2x2s, and zapped silently into the night — onto the adjacent golf course.
I figured the cart path would serve as a perfect after-hours test track. And it did. My partner and I flew from hole to hole on two bikes. We cruised between 20 and 30 mph, banking corners, rolling over hills, and charging along the winding route. Our bright LED headlights cut through the darkness ahead of us.
We moved so silently, I passed a large buck deer standing 10 yards away from me in the middle of the fairway. Then, a couple of holes later, I almost ran over a skunk. No doubt, that quiet factor is what has made UBCO so popular among hunters.
Supposedly, these bikes’ batteries have a range of 75 miles. But by the end of 18 holes, the battery charge indicator on my dash had decreased from 12 bars (full) to 11. It wasn’t down by much. But I started to wonder if these Special Editions would actually be able to drive us (and all our gear) 25 miles up the rugged road we’d chosen to camp at the end of and back again.
That night, I plugged both bikes into their high-speed chargers to make damn sure we’d be setting out at 100% the next morning.
In short: UBCO Electric Bikes were made for ranch work, but their capabilities translate seamlessly to off roading and backcountry camping. I tested the brand’s Special Edition on dirt roads and trails in Colorado over a month, from late summer and into fall. They’re nimble and handle well, and they are very durable, dead simple to operate, and a lot of fun. Anyone looking for a street-legal electric vehicle they could locally commute with and then take out on a proper off-road adventure should consider one of these.
- Top speed 30 mph
- Max range 75 mi.
- Charge time (includes fast charger) 4-6 hrs.
- Battery pack 3.1 kWh
- Weight (with battery) 156 lbs.
- Height 41"
- Seat height 32"
- Width (handlebars) 32.3"
- Length 72"
- Wheelbase 47.8"
- Included accessories Peak Design phone mount, Giant Loop pronghorn straps
- Regenerative braking system charges battery on the go
- Full suspension and 2WD makes rugged roads easy to overcome
- Lots of attachment points to secure gear/supplies
- Street legal
- Not light
- Battery drains fast when traversing steep and rugged terrain
UBCO 2×2 Special Edition Review
The Utility Bike Company (UBCO) started on a ranch in rural New Zealand in 2014. Daryl Neal and Anthony Clyde wanted to create the most efficient and practical off-road electric bikes that could still traverse the rough terrain found across the country.
In the nearly decade since, UBCO bikes have been adopted for use by hunters, commuters, pizza delivery companies (namely Domino’s), and more. The company established a second headquarters in Eugene, Ore., in 2017, and its inventory has grown from one bike model to four.
They all weigh between 111 and 116 pounds without the battery. With the battery, you can add 40 pounds to those numbers — 151 to 156 pounds. They’re definitely heavy bikes — but they’re in line with other comparable e-motos on the market. Unfortunately, at that weight, you won’t be using a standard bike rack to move any of UBCO’s bikes around, batteries in or not.
The Special Edition
All of UBCO’s bikes are built on the same heavy-duty welded steel frames. They all include a 3.1kWh battery pack, travel racks with strapping points, front and rear suspension (130 mm and 120 mm, respectively), hydraulic brakes, and a digital dash display. The batteries are easily removable for charging or to break up weight during transport.
UBCO’s bikes are all also 2WD, meaning the wheels operate independently via separate motors. That’s a pretty unique feature in e-motos, and it helps improve UBCO’s bikes’ fuel economy.
What makes the Special Edition (SE) so special? UBCO specifically designed this bike so that it is street-ready.
It’s got a horn, side mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate platform on the rear. All you have to do when you get a SE is register it and attach your license plate, and you’re ready to legally commute along roadways like any other motor vehicle. The tires on the special edition are multiuse and balanced for both street performance and off-road grip.
The SE arrived with a center carry case (that sits between your legs) as well as UBCO’s own rear carry case — that we found was also compatible on the front. UBCO also includes a phone mount, so you can magnetically secure your phone to the bike for navigation, and two rubber pronghorn straps for lashing gear to the racks.
Observations: Off the Bat
These off-road electric bikes/motorcycles are simple enough that a 5-year-old could probably figure out how to operate one. There is a key fob that’s apparently resistant to hot wiring (according to the brand). When in proximity to the bike, all you have to do is press the red button on the right handlebar, and the dash will light up. To shift out of neutral, hold the left brake and press the red button again. You’ll see the mode switch to “Drive” on the dash. Then you’re ready to ride.
Similar to regular motorbikes and motorcycles, the throttle is on the right and twists toward the rider to accelerate. The brake lever on the left side of the handlebar controls the front wheel, and the one on the right controls the rear. Turn signals, horn, and headlight controls are on the left-hand side.
Be forewarned: UBCO’s bikes have some get-up-and-go. When you torque that throttle the first time, do so slowly and gently. And hold on tight.
As soon as you take off, the first thing you’ll notice is what you don’t hear: an engine. Unless you’re riding an UBCO SE, you can’t really hear them until they’re passing you. It can be unnerving how easy it is to sneak up on people.
If this were my city commuter, I might be concerned that other drivers wouldn’t hear me. But the same could be said for any bicycle or e-bike on the road.
Load Capacity & Range
The morning of our UBCO camping test, we loaded the bikes to their gills with gear. We used rubber ski straps to secure firewood, camp stoves, sleep systems, food bags, and more to these off-road electric bikes. Then we loaded up backpacking packs and filled those up as well.
According to UBCO, these bikes have a 330-pound load capacity. I didn’t think we were pushing that limit by any means — but I was wondering how the claimed 75-mile range might be affected by so much gear weight. Would we be able to make it 25 miles out and 25 miles back? At 50 miles total, we might be driving these things right up to the batteries’ edge.
UBCO SE Handling Characteristics
Handling the UBCO on the streets around my house, and on the paved golf cart path, was smooth and controlled. At speed, it was easy to follow a narrow winding path. And, with the multiuse tires, I never worried too much if I rode over a patch of sand or gravel. They had more than adequate traction.
Of course, any vehicle is only as good as its brakes. UBCO designed its own hydraulic braking system to have better stopping power, more control, and longer-lasting brake pads. On the road, they felt very responsive and reliable. (More on UBCO’s braking system later.)
Off road? These things scorched. They can climb up steep dirt singletrack, navigate loose rocky roads, and descend in control down hills and variable terrain. I was really impressed with the SE’s ability to crawl up, down, over, and through the backcountry. During testing, I used it largely on dirt roads and singletrack trails.
The drive to our campsite was a true test of their off-road capabilities. And the UBCO SE’s excelled.
The road turned from pavement to dirt, and then slowly started to become narrower, rockier, looser, and less maintained. Eventually, we were riding a rugged double track that would be slow going in a truck or SUV. The UBC’s, however, made quick and efficient work of it.
At a certain point, our progress was halted by a confused herd of cows blocking the road. I’m not sure they would have moved if I hadn’t had that horn to herd them with.
The whole way up, I watched my battery life nervously. The road we were on was fairly steep. The terrain was choppy, and we were weighed down — and the battery life was diminishing accordingly. By the time we had reached our lakeside campsite at the end of the road, my battery was below halfway. My partner (who is decidedly lighter than I) was one bar above halfway. I knew we’d make it home with that much (it was almost all downhill on the way back). But 75 miles would be a stretch.
At least, I thought it would have been. Had I known at the time that UBCO also designed its off-road electric bikes with regenerative braking systems, I probably wouldn’t have worried from the start.
UBCO Regenerative Braking System
The next morning I did some fishing, we hiked around camp, and we took the bikes for a ride around the lake and up into the woods behind it. Then we broke camp, packed up our equipment, reloaded the bikes, and took off downhill.
As we did, I watched the battery, expecting it to continue its decline. Instead, it held level, and after about 20 minutes, it went up a notch. That was thanks to UBCO’s regenerative braking system, I would later discover. The brakes act as small generators feeding energy back into the electrical system as you use them, slowly replenishing the bike’s power supply.
By the time we arrived back in the driveway where we’d started, my battery power was holding just above halfway. It wasn’t a big difference. But I had more battery power after riding home 25 miles than I had at the start of the day. That feature really sold me on these e-motos.
I still think that the claimed 75 miles is highly subjective, depending on terrain and load weight. But, it seemed far more believable after watching UBCO’s regenerative brakes in action.
Room for Improvement
Call me a speed demon, but I would love it if the UBCO SE went faster than 30 mph. There are times, especially when going downhill, where you hit the max speed and can feel the bike brake automatically. That doesn’t seem necessary. These bikes clearly could go faster — but the brand has capped them at 30 mph, likely for safety and liability reasons. But they’d be a lot more attractive if they could hit 40 or 50 mph.
UBCO’s wheels are also pretty small. Typically full-size motocross bikes will have a 21-inch front wheel and a 19-inch rear wheel. The UBCO SE is built with 17-inch wheels. That’s great on pavement, but on dirt roads I wouldn’t mind if the UBCO had a larger wheel diameter. Larger wheels provide more speed, more grip, better inertia, and are generally safer over uneven ground.
The suspension system isn’t anything to write home about, either. While I didn’t have any real issues with it during my testing, most dirt bikes and motocross bikes will typically have up to 12 inches of suspension. UBCO’s suspension is 4.7 inches on the rear and 5.1 on the front. These bikes are not made for jumping or for handling bouldery terrain with big drops. You will bottom out and potentially damage the bike.
UBCO Goes Camping: Final Words
For an electric commuter vehicle, the UBCO SE is as capable and efficient as many comparable gas motorbikes you can buy for the same price. These things can definitely get you around town, without ever spending a dime on gas. The SE is street-ready, and it comes with carry bags designed for the bike that make it easy to transport goods around with you.
These bikes don’t fall short as off-road vehicles, either. They can’t hold a candle to any gas-powered dirt bikes in terms of power, suspension, and range. But as far as e-bikes or other e-motos go, I’d say UBCO is close to the top of the food chain.
There are some other e-motos, like Colorado’s own Terra Bikes, that can go twice as fast (60 mph) and likewise offer off-road capabilities. But, those run for $12,000. UBCO’s cheapest option, the Work Bike, is a third of Terra Bike’s asking price. The SE, at $7,000, is just north of half.
So, if you’ve got a few thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket, and really want an off-road electric bike you can use to access remote camping, fishing, and hunting spots without burning fossil fuels, check out UBCO.
Its website offers the option to book a test ride if you live near a dealer. And, at the very least, it’s worth getting on one of these things just for the fun of riding them — even if you don’t have a golf course or dirt road available to rip around on.