Review: Yuba elMundo long-tail e-bike

By Maurice Tierney

The Yuba elMundo is a utilitarian wonderbike, bringing heavy hauling capability at a fair price. We tested Yuba’s Mundo in Issue #7 and found it to be one of the strongest long-tail cargo bike options out there, with its well-buttressed steel frame. (Read that review here) It also boasted huge payload capacity and affordability. In this review we’ll cover Version 4 and its improvements over Version 3, including its electric-ready capability.

Having always been an enthusiastic mountain biker, it was easy for me to scoff at the idea of a motor on my bicycle, but things change quickly when you decide to be a card- and-cargo-carrying Utility Cyclist. A motorized cargo machine has many advantages. I can bust a move quickly into the flow of traffic, even with a heavy load on board. Riding at the same speed as traffic is a heck of a lot safer than being a slow-moving vehicle in a fast-moving world. Plus I can pick up my significant other after work and give her a luxurious ride to our evening’s activities without breaking a sweat. These are just a few of my favorite things…

I have been doing half my riding on this bike since last fall. I can leave the home/office on the elMundo and go wherever I want, as far as I want, and never have to worry about where I am going, or who or what I might pick up along the way. Magazines, lumber, stereo equipment, other bicycles, spare clothing, party supplies, groceries. These are some of the things you can find in my saddlebags at any given moment.

There are numerous improvements in the Yuba Mundo (with and without motor) for Version 4. For starters, Yuba took 8lbs. off the bike. This is significant for the non-electric Mundo, which now weighs 48lbs. The elMundo weighs 61lbs. with motor and battery. Mine is closer to 90 with all the accoutrements I have to bring along. With its huge class-leading 440lb. (plus rider) cargo capacity, the weight of the bike itself is of little consequence. As for sizing, both Mundos fit riders from 5” to 6’ 5”.

Other improvements from Version 3 include a SRAM X3/X5 drivetrain, double-wall rims, and Freedom tires. The quill stem is also gone in favor of a threadless headset set-up. It’s less adjustable yet more modern. The rear wheel now features a 14mm solid axle riding on cartridge bearings for strength and low maintenance. And of course, V.4 is electric-ready, as the place for the battery has been designed into the frame.

The component choices are definitely on the budget side to keep the non-electric Mundo under $1,200. The SRAM 21-speed drivetrain is solid and should remain functional for many years (except for the crank and chainrings, which are not serviceable since they are riveted together). The rear wheel has 48 spokes for strength under abusive conditions, while the front wheel sports a hearty 36. The handlebar, stem, seat, and post are all fairly average and functional. The Mundo ships with Promax V-brakes, while the elMundo adds a generic disc brake for the rear.

I did upgrade the saddle to a Brooks and the brakes to Avid mechanical discs, front and rear, mostly because I plan to keep this bike around a while, and also because I wanted the superior power of the Avids for the steep hills in my ‘hood. A taller stem was also in order; as well as bigger, fatter, burlier tires—Panaracer Uff Da 2.3’s provided curb-slamming capability.

You really need to try an e-bike to see what it’s like. The motor is not burn-rubber, pop-a-wheelie strong, but it opens up with authority. This came in handy the most when get- ting started with a load, getting into traffic and such, but believe me, there is still plenty of pedaling to do if you want to stretch battery life. I tried to make the battery last as long as possible, with most charges lasting well over 20 miles. But I’d venture you’d get a good bit less if you didn’t pedal at all (depending on load and terrain, of course). Cost to recharge is estimated at 3-5 cents per charge, and the battery is good for 500 full cycles. Replacement batteries sell for $690.

The front-drive electric system is by eZee. My bike has a 400-watt brushless motor with a 10ah battery. The motor is activated by a twist of the motorcycle-style throttle, and is independent of pedaling. As mandated bylaw, the motor cuts out above 20mph. I have yet to run out of power climbing some of the steepest hills in the San Francisco area.

Yes, I did have to pedal. I’m still a rider, just trying to get my load around town in the most efficient, car-free way possible. Charging is advertised at six hours; I found it best to charge every night before bedtime, to always be prepared. (Note that current elMundos are shipping with a new 500-watt motor, for more juice!)

One thing that all Yuba’s come with is fenders, and that is a good thing. They are decent, quiet, adjustable plastic fenders that will fit different-size tires if you like. A bell is also standard, as it should be. And as of today, the (I consider essential) center kick- stand and Deflopilator front wheel parking stabilizer are now standard.

Additional accessories on my test machine included two of the Go-Getter waterproof bags for easy grocery hauling ($129/ea), as well as three items for my passenger: a Soft Spot seat cushion ($30), Hold On handlebars ($60), and Running Boards ($60). Parents of small urchins will need a Peanut Shell child seat accessory ($169) or two. And I also en- joyed the benefit of the Bread Basket front rack ($129). It mounts to the frame rather than the front wheel, keeping steering easy and giving me one more place to put stuff.

While perhaps smirked at by many a cycling enthusiast, electric bikes are coming of age as we speak. More people on more bikes means more people making a smaller footprint on the ever-stretching earth. This bike’s combo of huge cargo capacity, effective motor, and reasonable price made a big impression on me. The Yuba elMundo is a game-changer for this cyclist. I’ll be riding this one for a long while.

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