As parents of two developmentally disabled children, my wife Deana and I struggle to wrangle everyone together for family activities. We’ve always tried to find ways to get our kids riding, and despite his visual impairment, that has been relatively easy with our son, Ryan. First, we used a Burley trailer, then a trail-a-bike, and finally a traditional tandem. This has been wonderful and we ride a fair amount, but we were often leaving the ladies of the house behind.
Our daughter, Allison, has gross motor issues and is non-verbal, so while she has good sight, even getting her to navigate a tricycle safely on her own has been a challenge. We had the Burley trailer which served us well and was a way for all of us to ride together for a few years when both kids were younger, but as soon as Allison grew out of that, the bikes fell by the wayside as a group option.
When we recently moved to Boulder, Colorado, all of the cycling infrastructure really got us hankering for a solution to get Allison on (or behind) a bike again somehow so we could all ride together. She’s 11, and she’s pretty big. Her inability to balance safely and consistently had us leaning toward some other trailer option. We briefly considered an e-bike plus a larger trailer to account for the added weight. In addition, we were trying to think ahead with a potentially significant investment involved. We wanted something that we felt we could use for at least a few years, and hopefully many more into young adulthood and beyond.
The A-HA! Moment
Brainstorming with my cousin Ellen via email one day, she offered to put us in touch with her friend James to discuss some possibilities. Ellen mentioned that James had recently gotten one of the excellent Yuba Spicy Curry cargo bikes for his family and thought it might be worth checking out and exploring as a solution for us.
As an e-cargo bike, it seemed compelling. After discussing some of the pros and cons, we decided we should go check one out in person. Both Ellen and James immediately pointed us to local cargo bike specialist, Front Range Cargo Bikes, with the thought that we could certainly put our hands on a few bikes there, if not get some novel ideas from folks who deal primarily in this niche.
It was probably only a day or two later when I headed on down to Front Range Cargo Bikes, and that’s when I saw it. Front and center by the open bay door, the first thing that caught my eye was a crazy, bakfiet-looking cargo bike with an electric motor, integrated lights, and a cool looking cargo area made of EPP foam. As I waited for someone to come help me, I started poking around it. The first thing I noticed was a small bench seat bolted in the cargo area with a SEATBELT! QUEUE THE HALLELUJAH CHORUS. Right then, I suspected we found our answer – The Urban Arrow Family.
First Test Ride
The first ride was a solo affair. I figured Deana and I need to crawl before we sprint – we needed to be steady on this bad boy by ourselves before we could strap a child in the front with a clear conscience.
The first piece of advice was that the steering would be much different from I was used to. The analogy used by the folks at the shop was, “it’s like steering a canoe”. I have to say, that’s a pretty good analogy. I was a bit wobbly, but as soon as the Bosch electric motor kicked in with the first pedal stroke, things straightened right out. More about the fantastic motor later.
I pedaled down to the end of the industrial area where the shop is located, and found a nice big area of tarmac to make a complete turn with lots of space, then headed back. Instead of going straight back to the shop, I hooked a left turn and rode on down an adjacent bike path. Before I had even hit the path, I had the steering sorted out, so I opened it up to see how the thing felt at speed. Right away, the bike is confidence-inspiring. At just under 100 pounds, one might think it would be a bear to manage, but with a low center of gravity, and a lot of the weight out in front of the long wheelbase, this thing is very stable. If there was a precise moment I knew the bike would work for us, it was then, on the path.
A return visit with Deana and Allison proved that the bike was, indeed, a winner. The test rides with those two went better than I expected. Deana quickly handled the awkward transition to driving a long and heavy machine, and Allison showed no fear riding in the front. In fact, Allison clearly loved having the wind in her face and was actually resistant to getting out at the end of the first test ride. Smiles and high fives ensued!
Tires, wheels, etc
The Urban Arrow has features galore that really make it a legit car replacement option. In fact, since we got the bike, my car has seen fewer miles than it has in years. A big reason why is all of the features that make the bike easier to grab as a first transportation option.
Starting from the ground, a thoughtful spec is apparent. Supporting you are two Schwalbe Big Apple Plus tires that serve two purposes – durability and suspension.
These things are impenetrable, and even at the higher end of the pressure range, they offer a surprising amount of shock absorption over inconsistent tarmac. My only complaint with the tire set up would be the odd Dunlop valves which are sort of a combination between Presta and Schraeder and only fit one of my two pump heads in my home garage.
Moving up from the tires brings us to the excellent SKS fenders that came stock on our Urban Arrow. These are the bolt on variety and are wide enough to accommodate the Big Apple tires, and as anyone who has any experience with SKS fenders will tell you, they’re great. They come with buddy flaps installed and everything, so the coverage and splatter protection are top-notch.
Mounted to the top of the front fender is an integrated headlight, and there’s a tail light mounted under the seat in the back that is similarly hard-wired. The lights can be turned on and off from a switch on the Bosch head unit, and the lights run off of the prodigious battery. The lights work well enough, but they do leave some room for improvement. The headlight is adequate, but not particularly bright. Because it’s very adjustable, I was able to point it in a way that maximizes illumination and it works well enough. The rear tail light is large, but again, if I could have it 100% my way, I would like to have an option to make the tail light blink. Despite these minor issues, both lights appear to be high quality and completely adequate.
Cockpit and Shifting
I have to admit, it took me a while to get used to the bendy bars. With hands resting in position on the grips and just straight line cruising, it’s a very comfortable setup. The grips are…grippy, and the ergonomic shape is comfortable. Standing up in the pedals took a while for me to confidently figure out with this setup. There’s rarely a need to do so in order to accelerate or power up a hill – you have the battery-powered e-assist. Where it occasionally becomes handy is going over bumps, across uneven driveways, or otherwise navigating a bumpy section of road. Even though the saddle and tires are cushy, sometimes it’s nice to stand and use your arms and legs to absorb some of it.
The stem is like unique and provides lots of adjustment options:
The bike came with the stem almost as high as it would go. The upside to that position is that it clears the bars out of the way for larger passengers inside the cargo area. In a lower position, which is more comfortable for me as the driver for several reasons, the bars _might_ get in the way a larger passenger’s noggin. So far, this has not been a problem for us, even with Ryan who is a 5 foot 7-ish inch 15-year-old and always wears a helmet.
Shifting via the NuVinci N380 system is a key component to the killer spec on this bike. It’s a completely sealed and continuously variable shifting solution that’s contained in the hub of the rear wheel. There are essentially two extremes (easy and hard), with a rotating grip shift to adjust between those extremes. I find that I need to pause shifting for a beat to make the up-shifts as smooth as possible. Downshifting seems to go much smoother while pedaling, but I find that I still pause my pedal stroke for just a second when going in either direction. This is no different from what most people should be used to with traditional derailleurs.
Conveniently, you can shift to the easiest end of the spectrum while at a standstill. This comes in handy if you have to stop short, or just forget to downshift. This allows you to restart a 100 lb. bike from a standstill without needing to crank over a huge gear which is a must. The closed system of the NuVinci also continues the low-maintenance, durable theme of the bike. The chain is also enclosed in a rubberized Chainglider cover. As with the shifter, this keeps the chain entirely sealed, keeping water out, and also protecting the pant leg of your Armani suit from drivetrain lube, should you choose the take this mean machine to work after dropping the kids off at school.
The Key Bits – Cargo Area and Motor
What sold us on this bike is the integrated, purposeful human hauling capabilities. There is a cushioned bench that comes stock with the Family version of the Urban Arrow, and there are adjustable nylon belts to secure your passenger (or passengers). A second, smaller bench is available as an after-market option, which allows for a forward-facing and a rear-facing passenger in the cargo area. We haven’t gotten the second bench yet, but we may at some point. For now, the main bench is perfect for any single passenger.
I purposefully avoided the use of “child” in reference to the passenger, because there’s room for a full-sized adult. The hauling capacity in the cargo area is rated at 400 pounds, so with that much room, you could technically put two average-sized adults in there, as long as they were willing to share some knee room. We haven’t tested the upper ends of the hauling capabilities, but it was reassuring to know we had room to grow.
The Bosch Active motor and battery are phenomenal. I had no experience with any sort of e-bikes or e-assist motors at all before test riding this bike. The first thing I noticed when stepping on the pedals is that the engine assists you right away. As with the downshifting capabilities described above, the instant assistance of the electric motor is VERY handy when you have a heavy and unsteady payload….such as an excited, hand-flapping, 100-pound autistic girl. The assistance is subtle and, in a word, perfect in those situations. It allows the driver to confidently lift both feet on to the pedals at very slow speeds, so steadying the bike is a breeze.
Beyond the instant availability of the e-assist, the motor feels and works very intuitively. It’s not a motor in the traditional sense – when engaged, the motor will not propel the bike by itself. It only assists the pedaller while pedaling with variable amounts of power based upon the four settings: Eco – just enough boost to take the edge off of completely pedalling the thing by yourself; Tour – a bit more power, more than enough to help get over moderate hills with a light load without too much extra effort; Sport – the next notch up, great for powering up hills with a kid in the front, getting up to speed in traffic, and most any situation; Turbo – tons of power for getting over the steep hills with a full load.
The battery life on the unit is pretty good so far. The higher power settings obviously eat up battery life much faster. If you left the bike in Sport mode, you might get 15 miles of pedaling assistance. I find that I most often use Eco mode when riding by myself, and the estimated range on a full battery in that mode is somewhere around 25 miles. My technique to extend battery life has evolved to maximize life between charges. When going downhill, I’m getting better about turning off the motor and just pedaling. I think Bosch got the design right when they developed this product because the toggle switch between e-assist modes is easy, intuitive, and right at your fingertips. Your mileage will obviously vary, but so far, we get two to three days out of a charge. That’s with regular use riding at least one child to school every day (sometimes two), and using it for nearby errands and/or short fun rides around the neighborhood every day.
The Extra Bits
There are several key features built into the bike that really help put it over the top and make it easy (and fun) to grab as a primary transportation option. First, Urban Arrow used a sturdy, double-legged kickstand that engages and disengages with relatively little effort.
The only thing you might need to take into account is steadying the bike when a passenger is getting in or out of the cargo area. When the kickstand is engaged, if you don’t have weight on the seat, the bike will tip forward about an inch and weight ticks forward to the front wheel (you can see this better in the first picture at the top). This is a natural consequence of the kickstand acting as a bit of a lever when it’s engaged with the bike defaulting toward leaning “back” toward the heavier back-end of the bike. You can also just push the front down to ensure the weight is tilted toward the front of the bike to steady it that way if the passenger prefers that when they’re stepping in. This is a very minor thing and is hard to explain, but I thought it would be worth mention. In either case, the bike is very stable and otherwise steady when parked with the kickstand in use.
Next, the seat has a hard molded plastic handle built into the underside:
This thoughtful addition serves a specific purpose. As you’ll find out after test riding the Urban Arrow, it has a very large turning radius and is very long. This makes the bike hard to handle and manipulate in tight spaces. Having a sturdy handle to grab helps pick up the back-end to move the bike around a bit quicker when you need to…and there will be times you need to (think parking on a tight sidewalk area). Because of the length of the wheelbase and the relatively low clearance, it could be pretty easy to scrape the bottom riding off of a tall curb or other obstacles, so just be careful in those situations – you can use the handle to lift the back end a bit to walk the bike over. As for the low clearance, I have yet to come across any major slam scenarios, but I did strike the crank arm while pedaling up and over a grassy sidewalk/path interface while riding my son to school one day. This was undoubtedly a consequence of the low clearance (and perhaps a poor line choice by the driver!)
Next on the list of nice extras is an integrated lock:
With the flip of a lever and a turn of the key, a miniature u-shaped bar wraps around the rim, between the spokes, and locks into the other side. This essentially immobilizes the bike since attempting to move it causes the rear wheel spokes to bump into the bar, so you can’t roll it when engaged. To retract the bar, all you do is insert the key and twist, and the lock springs back, hidden away and locked in the housing. The key (shown above) is locked in place when the lock is retracted, so you can keep it there and don’t have to worry about it falling out while riding around. To disengage the key, you have to push the lever and fully engage the lock. This is really handy and is another critical factor that makes the bike so easy to use.
Skeptics might be worried about relying upon a tiny locking device like this to secure the bike. The fact of the matter is, this bike is at least 5 feet long end to end and weighs right around 100 pounds. It would take at least two people, a truck, and some planning to pick up and make off with this bike while it’s immobilized. For almost every use I have for this bike, the integrated lock is sufficient and is all I rely upon. I bring along a larger cable lock if I know I’m going to be away from the bike for more than a little while, and obviously, your circumstances may vary.
Lastly, this thing has a siiick bell! A Dutch neighbor recently showed me a very similar bell that she has on her bike that she said she picked up on her last trip home, so I think these bells are a Dutch thing. Anyway, there’s a great chance that you’ll be one of the few folks with a cool bell like this in your town. It’s just a small cherry on the top of an already stellar package that makes it fun to ride.
The Final Analysis
Because it perfectly fit as a solution to a problem that had been nagging at our family for quite some time, this is my favorite bike in the stable, and is the most fun I’ve ever had riding a bike. It’s certainly not going to get you anywhere as fast as other machines, and of course, you’re limited by its natural range of capabilities. You’re not going to go touring on it, you’re not going on any serious off-road trails, and you’re certainly not going to race this bike. I like to do all of those things, and this does none of them.
What this bike _does_ do is change your life. It changed our lives, at least. We’re lucky enough to live very close to a lot of amenities. We have two grocery stores, several banks, restaurants, dry cleaners, etc, all within a mile of our house. Our kid’s schools are next door to each other and sit less than two miles away. We also have an extensive network of multi-use paths and bike lanes right outside our door. These things unquestionably make riding a bike easier.
The undeniable fact is that we drive much, much less, and we are riding as a family again. If you think that you’re ready to make an investment in a purposeful, workhorse machine as a commuter, a grocery-getter, and an all-around car replacement, the Urban Arrow Family does all of this and more. Go get your hands on one and pedal it.
I have to give a huge thanks to Ellen and James for helping us find this bike. It really has been a blessing to have an option to ride together again with “all four friends”, as our son might say. We all owe you guys big.
Also, I can’t forget to mention that, if you’re serious about pulling the trigger on one of these awesome machines, be prepared to talk to people. More often than not, people want to talk about the bike when I’m out and about on it. People are perplexed, curious, confused, amazed, and otherwise very interested in the bike, and they WILL ask you about it. It’s a great conversation starter and it turns heads wherever you go. You’ve been warned – enjoy!
LONG TERM UPDATE – OCTOBER 2018
Time and miles have not changed much with this bike. Pretty much everything has proven to be durable and reliable after extensive daily use, with two minor exceptions:
- The Chainglider chain cover came loose after several months and became difficult to secure. As a result, the chain would rub against it on the inside and generate a bit of noise when pedaling. After futzing with it for a few weeks and trying to find a way to get it to work unsuccessfully, I decided to just remove it. While this eliminated the built-in grease protection for your pant legs, things immediately became quiet again. I don’t wear pants where chain contact is much of a concern, and to be fair, I made no attempts to contact the vendor or take it to the shop. I’m fine with lubing, cleaning, and otherwise maintaining an exposed chain as with my other bikes.
- The stock pedals are not great. They were pretty smooth on the surface and would probably work well with a variety of shoes (including dress shoes), but they also began to make noise after some significant miles. I decide to replace them with some inexpensive nylon Odysseys and everything has been smooth and quiet since.
I consider both of these issues minor and neither change my previous enthusiastic endorsement.
Note: Corrected 10/10/18 to reflect the following note from Urban Arrow-Ed. “The box on this bike is not EPS, the material used inside bicycle helmets. That stuff is brittle and purposely intended to break on impact. (absorbing shock in the process) We use Expanded Polystyrene (EPP) which is actually what’s used inside motorcycle helmets – a more expensive and durable material altogether. It’s sort of rubberized as you’ll see if you press on it. Almost impossible to do more than scuff, and it will not shatter like EPS. Also note that flashing taillights on bikes are illegal in many Euro countries as flashing is reserved for emergency vehicles and red flashing for trains rear facing”.Tweet Print
The longtail cargo bike, with its stretched rear end, has been my go-to whip of late due to its ultimate versatility, utility, and fun. And with an electric motor for extended range, there are no worries about what (or who) you might pick up during your travels, or how far you might go in a day. But longtails are long, taking up a good amount of space and being difficult to load onto a larger motor vehicle.
So when Tern showed up in the cargo bike market with its GSD, I was Intrigued. First, what does GSD stand for? Get Stuff Done is one answer. And secondly, aside from its attractive looks, what is so new and exciting about this bicycle? Tern calls it a new kind of bicycle, a compact longtail.
What makes it compact? Well for one thing, with the help of dual 20” wheels, the GSD has a length similar to your average bike. Combined with a folding handlebar and highly adjustable saddle, it’s easier to get it into the back of your SUV, easier to take on public transportation, and a lot easier to store. In fact, the GSD can be stored vertically on its tail, taking only a small footprint.
It’s also electric. Some of you are thinking that is not what you are looking for. A while ago, I wasn’t either. But once you get accustomed to the increased range and versatility you will likely be sold for life. Power comes from a 250 watt Bosch motor, putting out a maximum 63Nm of torque in Turbo mode. That’s right, the GSD controls offer four power modes from Eco to Turbo. Different levels of assistance for different needs. In Eco the motor gives you 50% more power than you pedal into it, up to Turbo where the motor is adding 275% more power to the bike. Stock battery is 400 Watt-Hours but you can also buy the GSD with a 400 plus 500Wh battery for extended range. This pushes the GSD into the touring realm.
Versatility is key. Accessories unlock the GSD’s potential. Kids? The GSD will easily take two Yepp child seats for the small ones. Big ones and adults can ride on the back using accessory foot pegs, seat cushions, and grab bars. Panniers? Enough for all your groceries. Racks? Front and/or rear for even more hauling capability. One size fits most all here with the GSD fitting riders from 5 feet to 6’5”. I’m 6’4” and had no trouble with it. Plus the handlebars rotate around the stem for further fitting options.
The build is pretty heavy, in a good, strong way. The frame, while aluminum, appears beautifully built and ready for anything. In fact, the weight capacity is 400 lbs. so there’s not much you can’t haul. The feeling of solidness is welcome here. Weight comes in under 60 lbs. in the single battery configuration. Component-wise there are a few things that stand out. Tern-specific Schwalbe 62mm tires on Tern-specific 36mm rims with plenty of spokes and Boost axles. Magura 4 piston brakes handle the stopping with great power. Super solid, top notch, up to date modern stuff. I would not hesitate to carry anything with this bike, as long as I could get it on there.
Accessory-wise you won’t need to add much to this bike. Lights, fenders, center stand and bell are all included with the bike. Optional accessories to consider include Tern’s Cargo Hold panniers, child seats, and the Shortbed tray that is on the test bike. Handlebars and pegs are also available for adult passengers as well.
In practice, it is easy to get on and go. The step-through frame and low center-of-gravity sure help. Turn the motor on, select the amount of assist you’d like, and go! Easy-peasy. The Bosch motor helps as little or as much as you need. But you still have to pedal. Power is solid, but keep in mind this is no motorcycle.
My friend Stewart and I shared the testing duties. We both found the GSD to be super-capable for a wide range of tasks. Loads included a pile of camping gear, the band’s bass drum, passengers, boxes of magazines, garage sale items and more. As much as Stewart did not want to use the motor (Out of pride I believe), he was glad to have the motor as an insurance policy in case he got tired too far away from home. Me on the other hand, I just enjoyed the lack of throttle as I bopped around town picking up random articles. But I did wish for a bit more power on some of the steeper hills. I do weigh well over 200 lbs you know. The good news is that the 2019 model will have more, power that is. The other small improvement we’d recommend would be a larger center stand as the current one is a tad small for parking on uneven surfaces.
The best thing about the GSD is its foldability and storability. The handlebar folding down made it much easier to load the bike into a SUV or minivan. As for storage, grab the rear brake, pull back and the GSD sits on its tail, taking up only a small amount of closet space.
The Tern GSD is sold with single 400Wh battery for $3999 The dual 400 plus 500Wh model will run you $4799. Panniers run $150 a pair and that rack runs $120. A lot of money? For some, yes. But this bike is a game-changer, a car-pooper, sonic reducer, life-changer. Imagine parking that multi-ton behemoth automobile and spending your time outside! Quality time! Quality life!
One of the most interesting cargo/utility bikes I have seen in a while, The Tern GSD is bound to get more butts on bikes, and that is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Click here for part 2, in which Stewart shares his touring experience!Tweet Print
Maybe driving a car is something you’d like to do less often. A cargo bike can make this a reality and can even replace the gas hog as a way of moving kids and groceries. Yuba, a company out of northern California, has been making longtail-style cargo bikes since 2006, first with the Mundo, Boda Boda and Spicy Curry models. Now, Yuba has expanded into the realm of front-loading cargo bikes with the Supermarché.
Call it a Front Loader, Long John, or Bakfiets if you want to get fancy – the Supermarché puts the load low and in front of you for certain advantages. Compared to a longtail, a front loader opens you up to carry a wider variety of loads more easily. Small children can be sat side by side as you pedal along, chat them up and keep an eye on them. Front loaders are also great for those odd or heavy loads like boxes of bicycle magazines, bass drums or kegs. Not that you need to chat with your drum or your beer, but those are the kind of thing I like to carry. The center of gravity is low, and the cargo space itself can be configured to accommodate a wide variety of “things.” The Supermarché can (soon) be had in an electric version if you live in a hilly area or just want some more juice to go further without questioning your physical ability to do so.
So what sets the Yuba Supermarché apart? One design goal was making a cargo bike that would fit a wide variety of people and carry a wide variety of loads. This is accomplished with a loooong seatpost and a looong steerer tube for a wide range of seat and handlebar adjustments. I had no trouble fitting my 6’4” frame on to the Super – in fact, I found it fit quite well whether I was sitting or standing to pedal. With its short seat tube, the Supermarché is designed to fit riders as small as 4’7″.
Another goal was to make the Supermarché as easy to ride as possible, so Yuba’s team selected a cable-actuated steering system which not only eliminates the usual damage-prone steering rod extension to the front wheel but allows for an even lower center of gravity. They also used different sized pulleys and played with fork rake to make the Supermarché relatively easy to handle.
The drivetrain is of the Shimano 3 x 8 trigger-shifting variety and connected to 20-inch wheels front and rear, providing ample gearing for the steepest of hills. Those 20-inch wheels have fat 2.4-inch tires and 36/48 spokes (front/rear), which provide confidence when carrying heavy loads. Plus, there’s only one innertube size to keep in stock for flats. Braking is handled by Tektro hydraulic discs for ample stopping power. The frame is aluminum the fork is cromoly and a wide kickstand holds the whole thing up without issue when loading or parking.
Other pertinent info? The Supermarché weighs 58 pounds before accessories and is capable of carrying up to 300 pounds of cargo, 220 pounds in the front and 80 pounds over the massive rear rack.
Accessories are a big part of the Supermarché thing. There are a variety of bamboo platforms and boxes available to customize your ride. My review rig came with the $250 bamboo box, which is pretty key if you just want to drop stuff into a box and forget about it. If you want to haul children, there’s a $150 seat kit that attaches to said bamboo box. And for the minimalist with a huge load, there’s a simple bamboo baseboard for $70. You are also free to build your own solutions and mount them to the frame. A third child can be put in a $199 Yepp child seat mounted to the rear of the bike. One more cool accessory is a $35 frame lock that slips through a special bracket that locks the back wheel from turning.
How about the ride? Starting off on the Supermarché is definitely easier than a couple of other front loaders I’ve tried riding. The step-through frame makes it easy to get on, and once you push off there’s no drama, even with a large load. The riding position is comfortable whether sitting or standing and wide MTB-style handlebars with ergonomic grips made controlling the bike a breeze.
Acceleration was great for such a large bike with the smaller wheel size. Loaded, the low center of gravity was appreciated. I have carried some pretty heavy loads with the longtail Mundo, and getting the weight even lower was yummy. The burly center kickstand also makes parking a breeze. Mind you, the wheelbase is quite long, so it doesn’t have the turning radius of a regular bike, but it does feel pretty natural once you get rolling. The only thing that felt odd to me was the five feet of bicycle sticking out in front of the handlebars. This made it a bit weird when, say, pulling out from between two parked cars, but I got used to it. The added length (8’5″ total) also takes the edge off the roughness of the smaller wheels when the going gets rough.
Coming off the Yuba’s Mundo longtail, there were a few things I noticed right away. First of all, I found myself picking up and moving more odd loads of various sizes – a bass drum, Dirt Rag magazines, people, etc. This can be addicting. Why bother with a regular bike when you might decide to do some shopping, stop at a garage sale or flea market, or want to give someone a ride home? The Supermarché is becoming my daily driver.
In the past, I had already been handling many daily chores on my Yuba Mundo cargo bike. But now, with the Supermarché my car is going to be parked even more. Yuba makes it easy to go car-free! Breathe the outside air, enjoy the day and be happy!
More info can be found on Yuba’s website.
(Edited 2/1/18 to reflect earlier use of cable-actuated steering system)
Today Surly launched the Pack Rat, a road/commuter bike designed specifically for front-loaded cargo. The Pack Rat is the culmination of years of experimentation with different ways of hauling stuff on the front of bikes, with geometry and design features that offset the negative handling characteristics of front-loaded bicycles.
Why would you want to put your cargo on the front of your bike? As Surly says, “Having your stuff in front of you means it’s close at hand and easily accessible. It also allows for better weight distribution. A front load keeps the bike nimble and allows you to more efficiently use your body English to steer from the rear.” However, front-loaded bikes traditionally have their own handling drawbacks. The weight pulls you through turns with less control and makes for a less enjoyable ride. The Pack Rat’s design aims to eliminate these issues while still providing a great ride without any cargo, and it accommodates a rear rack as well.
The Pack Rat is built around a steel frame and fork with front and rear rack and fender mounts. The fork features internal routing for generator hubs, and the horizontal dropouts can accommodate singlespeed or geared setups. The frame comes in sizes 38-58 cm. As the company is starting to do with most of its bikes, Surly designed the Pack Rat frames with size-specific geometry, meaning that smaller bikes are not just scaled-down versions of larger bikes and they are designed around two different wheel sizes depending on size. Frame sizes 38-50 cm are designed around 26 inch while 52-58 cm are designed for 650b wheels. Surly states that “smaller diameter wheels keep the weight of the load lower than a 700c wheel would, thereby improving handling and ride feel.”
The Pack Rat will retail for $1349 and will be available at the end of this month. For more information about the design of the Pack Rat directly from Surly, check out their blog post.
Full Specs and geometry:
Co-Motion Cycles is well-known for its tandems, but it also has an impressive range of single-rider bikes, all made right in its own factory in Oregon. Co-Motion also makes all it own steel forks, and the majority of the dropouts, brake mounts and other small frame building bits.
The new Ochoco touring bike is built for shorter-than-average people. While it could easily be called a women’s bike, it is available from sizes 42 to 58, all with 650b wheels. This means people of many heights that are in need of a shorter top tube and an upright position might be in luck here.
The stock tires are 650bx35, but the frameset can fit up to a 40 mm tire. The drivetrain uses a Tanpan pully to allow for proper cable pull between the Shimano STI road shifter and SLX mountain rear derailleur. Combined with the FSA 46/36 crankset, the 11-40 cassette offers at least as much range as the average triple crank setup. You also get Rever’s high-quality, easily serviceable mechanical disc brakes.
Moving from a taller 700c tire to the 650b size helps to keep the geometry sorted, but Co-Motion takes it a step further. To improve steering geometry, Co-Motion makes its own 60 mm offset fork for this bike. Combining that with a 70 degree head angle should make for stable handling with and without a touring load.
The Ochoco is like most of Co-Motion bikes: there are both stock and custom options for paint and sizing. Frame price is yet to be determined, but complete bikes start at $3,595 and go up to $4,295.
There is also a new entry-level touring bike coming out–the Deschutes. This one comes in at $2,495. It has a single color, no custom geometry and less expensive frame tubing, but the same great touring geometry that Co-Motion is famous for. The parts kit is still quite nice, including Shimano 105 shifters, SLX derailleur, a 44 mm headtube and Alex/Formula wheels.
The stock color is called “lusty red” but, in person, it is more wine-colored. Size range is 46-60 cm, and these should be ready for sale soon.
Bike Friday recently announced the launch of the pakiT, a folding bike that weighs between 15 and 22 pounds and fits in a backpack for easy transport and travel. The pakiT debuted on Kickstarter and surpassed its fundraising goal within seven hours.
When folded, the pakiT measures 38 x 24 x 10 inches, giving users the ability to store the bike in a closet, under a desk, in a car trunk, in the overhead bin on a train or in a storage locker. It also allows the rider to take their bike inside instead of leaving it vulnerable to theft or the outside elements. Bike Friday claims it only takes three minutes to break the bike down into a standard suitcase for airline travel.
The pakiT comes in three frame sizes and uses standard bike components, with gearing options from 1-11 speeds, including a Gates belt drive option to eliminate the potential for chain grease stains on clothing and skin. Retail pricing is estimated to be between $1,500 (singlespeed belt drive) and $2,300 (11-speed belt drive).
Salsa’s all-road/touring line received minor tweaks and updates for 2017. The most recent big news in this cycling realm was the previous launch of the Marrakesh flat/drop bar steel road touring bike, which became available this year. So while Salsa had no new drop-bar bikes to show the Bicycle Times audience at this year’s Saddle Drive, three staple models of the line have notable updates (and color changes).
The Cutthroat is Salsa’s top-of-the-line, drop-bar mountain touring bike that has been under the butt of many a Tour Divide racer and the like. When the bike was launched, it utilized an existing carbon fork in Salsa’s lineup and looked a bit funky. For 2017, it gets its own fork that mates better to the beefy headtube, plus internal dynamo front hub wiring.
Otherwise, the only notable changes are the colors. The bike will now be offered in silver/blue and dark red. Cutthroat with SRAM Force and hydraulic brakes retails for $4,000. The SRAM Rival 22 model with hydraulic brakes goes for $3,000. The new colors with the new fork should hit bike shops in October/November.
The other significant update to a Salsa bike is the ability of the Fargo touring bike to now run 27plus, 29er or 29plus tires.
The bike got Salsa’s new Cobra Kai tubing which is made stronger to meet newer, more stringent testing standards. A slightly tweaked headtube angle accommodates a 51 mm offset fork and will still happily accept a suspension fork.
The rear end gets Salsa’s splitting Alternator Dropout so you can run this bike with a belt drive. New 2017 colors are matte warm gray (which has a unique, color-changing shine to it) and the currently super-trendy Forest Service green. Look for the updated Fargo models in bike shops by November. You can get a 27plus SRAM Rival build for $2,300 or a 29er SRAM GX build for $1,700.
Only two things will change for the 2017 Warbird: its color options and your ability to now run fenders on the bike via hidden eyelets. New colors include purple, white, teal, raw carbon (black) and red orange.
The new colors should arrive in bike shops August/September (depending on build kit). Model pricing is as follows:
- Warbird Carbon Ultegra – $4,000
- Warbird Carbon Rival 22 Hydro – $3,000
- Warbird Aluminum 105 – $2,300
We’re at Saddle Drive near Lake Tahoe this week checking out new bikes from Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), the parent company of Surly, All-City, Foundry, Heller and Salsa. Because of the proliferation of cycling events across the country, these companies aren’t launching all of their new stuff right away, but we did get a look at two updates from Surly: the flat-bar Cross-Check and the re-designed Troll.
The Troll was once a mountain bike with a few extras for touring. It has evolved significantly into a dedicated workhorse and has gone through a complete frame re-design for 2017.
The fork is no longer suspension corrected, which lengthened the head tube a bit, providing more room for a frame bag even on smaller frames. The frame is now Boost compatible, but you can use any mountain bike hub that strikes your fancy. New chainstays allow the frame to accept up to a 26×3-inch tire. Still available are post mounts for old-school brakes, which Surly says remains popular with overseas tourers.
The dropouts still allow you to run disc brakes, fenders, a Rohloff hub and racks simultaneously. It also comes with more braze-ons, including four triple bottle mounts on the fork and two more triple bottle mounts on the down tube. The complete bike will come shipped with a Jones bar, thumb shifters and Surly’s improved 26×2.5 Extraterrestrial touring tires.
When compared to Surly’s other bikes, such as the Karate Monkey, the Troll stands out as the tool for someone living on their bike doing off-road touring rather than just a handful of bikepacking trips. The new Troll will retail for $1,650 and be available in November/December. Load it up and get out there!
The Cross-Check frame and fork remain unchanged, but for 2017 Surly will offer a lower-cost, flat-bar model stocked with a MSW Pork Chop rear rack. The SRAM X5 1×9 drivetrain gets the price down to $875. This new Cross-Check build will be available in December.
The steel Space Horse has long been All-City’s most popular and versatile model, ridden by commuters, tourers and gravel grinders alike. It features the geometry of a road-meets-touring bike, room for wider tires, a bottom bracket that’s lower than a standard road bike and stability when loaded down. Now it features disc brakes, a new parts spec and a wider size range.
The Space Horse Disc will be offered in seven sizes: 43, 46, 49, 52, 55, 58 and 61 cm. The 49-61 cm fit a 700c x 42 tire while the 43 and 46 cm bikes will take a 650b x 45. The 43 cm bike has a 495 mm top tube length to fit riders in the five-foot range and the 46 cm has a top tube length of 515 mm, which is a half centimeter shorter than the cantilever Space Horse version.
Other updates include a new vertical dropout with a replaceable derailleur hanger and a 2×11 Shimano 105 parts spec. You still get an E.D. coated frame (protects against rust), internal cable routing, a lugged crown fork and hidden fender mounts. The Space Horse Disc will be priced at $1800 and will hit dealers in mid-August.
Photos from All-City don’t accurately reflect the stock build that will be offered. See the Space Horse Disc page for complete information.
Advocate Cycles is attending the Montana Bicycle Celebration this week previewing two, brand-new and custom-painted models that will be auctioned at a later date to support the Adventure Cycling Association.
The Sand County is a pavement-based touring bike, ready to take a full load of racks and panniers. The triple crankset assuages one of our minor complaints about the Advocate Lorax: its 2×10 road gearing is too steep for most loaded touring. Decent wheels and fork mounts also make this an appealing ride.
The Seldom Seen is a bikepacking and off-road touring specific model that departs from the Hayduke by having an integrated frame bag, load-bearing specific geometries, full rack and fender mounts and proprietary tubing that Advocate designed specifically for this model.
The two, touring-specific bikes will slot into the lineup alongside the all-road Lorax (which we will have a review of in our next print issue) and the Hayduke, a 27plus hardtail. Naturally, people have been using both of those bikes for on- and off-road touring, so it makes sense to see Advocate step up and offer bikes specifically for that purpose.
Tern Bicycles, in honor of its fifth birthday, teased an upcoming project to be released at Eurobike at the end of August: a Bosch-powered electric folding bicycle.
“Riders around the world are increasingly turning to bicycles as their full-service solution to transportation. And that means cargo bikes, dependable daily riders, and electric bikes that can easily tackle 25 km commutes are needed,” said Josh Hon, Tern Bicycles’ founder. “With our expertise in urban cycling, we’re excited to bring fresh design and inspiration to the market.”
Stay tuned for more next month!
We just returned from a week at Press Camp in Park City, Utah, where several companies announced new stuff for model year 2017. Cannondale, GT, Blue, Ridley and component maker 3T all trotted out fresh bikes at the event for industry journalists to check out.
Full disclosure, Press Camp is not a standard bike industry event, which often involves camping or at least staying in a sub-par hotel with questionable sheets and discolored bath water. Press Camp is held at a swanky ski resort with very crisp white sheets and fabulous meals. But that won’t stop me from saying I think some of these bikes are more technical exercise and designer fantasy than anything else. Some are very practical while others are just plain neat-o.
Stay tuned for coverage of new soft goods, gear and gadgets that we also saw at Press Camp.
3T Exploro Aero Gravel
The 3T Exploro Aero Gravel bike was one of the most talked-about bikes at Press Camp, partly because it’s 3T’s first foray into frame design and partly because it looks wild with square carbon tubes and mountain tires. In a nutshell, it’s a bike with road-ish geometry and clearance for 27.5 knobbies. Or, as I kept thinking, a hardcore roadie’s gravel grinder. Or a serious gravel racer for contenders. Or an n+1 for people with equal (significant) amounts of money and curiosity.
3T emphasized that the geometry of this bike means it will ride almost the same with 700 x 28 mm tires as it will with 27.5 x 2.1-inch tires. It has a 415 mm chainstay, 50 mm rake, 70 mm bottom bracket drop, 72.5 mm seatube angle and, depending on size (small through extra-large) a headtube angle of 69.5 mm to 72.5 mm and a headtube length of 100.6 mm to 180 mm.
The company actually put this thing in a wind tunnel with two water bottles and a coating of fake, 3D-printed mud. The fan was set to 20 mph for more realistic conditions (rather than the standard 30 mph), and what resulted was a frame claimed to go faster with 40 mm knobby tires than will a round-tubed frame with 28 mm road slicks. And that’s why it’s called an “aero gravel bike.”
The Exploro will be sold at two levels as a frameset, only. The Limited (pictured) frame weighs 950 grams and retails for a whopping $4,200, while a white and red “Team” frame will sell for $3,000. Does this bike solve a non-existent problem, or is it the natural evolution of frame technology and the ever-expansion of bicycle versatility? That’s up to you, consumer.
On the other end of the spectrum we have the far-less-expensive Cannondale Quick, a line of practical commuter bikes that will be updated for 2017. With its Quick, the company is seeking to target a younger demographic of riders that is mostly focused on fitness and outings such as weekend bike path rides.
The new Quick bikes will each feature a 55 mm fork offset, more upright position and a slacker head angle than previous models for a more stable ride. Quicks will come with rack and fender mounts, reflective graphics, the same road vibration-absorbing rear triangle design as Cannondale’s high-end road bikes, puncture-resistant tires and the option for an integrated kickstand ($30).
Eight Quick models for women and eight for men will be available, including three in each line with disc brakes. Prices will range from $400-$1,300.
Cannondale is adding a new Slate to its lineup of quirky 650b gravel bikes: two models with rigid forks and Apex one-by build kits (one for men and one for women; women’s model is pictured). The Solo Rigid fork allows the price of this Slate to drop below $2,000 while keeping the same geometry and road-chatter-absorbing rear triangle design.
The rigid Lefty-like fork makes this much more of a traditional gravel bike, just one that is designed around 650b x 42 mm tires. This women’s version is no different other than a brown-and-pink paint job and different “touch points” more specific to some women—saddle, bar width and the like. It will come in two sizes (small and medium).
To answer the question some have asked: this bike does not have front fender/rack mounts.
Blue Prosecco PRO EX and AL
Blue Bicycles, formerly based in Georgia and now in California, struggled for a few years despite the success of its triathlon and cyclocross bikes. Now, the company is spooling up again and significantly expanding its line, adding mountain bikes and gravel bikes for 2017.
At the top of its new gravel line sits the Prosecco PRO EX, a $2,700 carbon bike with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and room for up to 700 x 42 mm tires. Yes, that sub-$3,000 MSRP is accurate.
The frame is Blue’s own design. The company was striving for comfort with an adventure/trekking perspective. The bike has seastays designed for damping, a tall headtube, bento box mounts, thru axles front and rear, house-built wheels and internal cable routing.
The Prosecco AL aluminum version (pictured above) with a slightly less fancy frame design, Shimano 105 components and mechanical disc brakes will retail for $1,090. A carbon model with non-electronic Ultegra will be available between the two price points.
Ridley Helium SLA
Ridley bikes is better known as a performance brand and, true to style, did not have a new gravel grinder or touring bike on display at Press Camp. I almost didn’t go check them out but was drawn in by its new road bike, the Helium SLA, the company’s first new aluminum frame in five years.
The Helium SLA comes with a carbon fork and Shimano Ultegra for $1,900. The bike pictured is an extra-extra small and weighs about 17 pounds. A Shimano 105 model will weigh one pound more and retail for $1,500. All frames feature smoother, double-pass welding and internal cable routing. Sizes will range from XXS to XL.
This bike has nothing to do with anything other than it’s rad. The GT Performer is a complete replica of a 1986 BMX bike, but with a long-enough seatpost and 26-inch wheels to facilitate cruising about town. It’s the bike you rode as a kid (or lusted after) now in an adult-friendly size. For $560, GT might just have your new bar bike.
We have been impressed with the Marin Four Corners we’ve been riding (see our review in the next issue) and the new Nicasio model slides in between the Four Corners and the more road-going Gestalt. Designed for commuting or light touring, it has 700×30 tires, a 2×8 Shimano Claris drivetrain and mechanical disc brakes. Best of all it’s a great value at just $770. You don’t need to spend thousands to get a fun, good looking bike.
While the basic Brompton design hasn’t changed in years (decades?), we spied this lovely limited-edition nickel finish bike in the booth, one of only 115 that will be brought to the United States.
Our online editor also took the plunge and participated in the Brompton World Championship race. Read all about it here.
Fuji stepped up its fat bike game by adding a carbon model to its 2017 Wendigo line. The bike features a 197×12 mm rear dropout, which an accept up to a 5-inch tire. The carbon fork has 150×15 mm hub spacing. Build kit is SRAM XO1 (1×11), DT Swiss BR 2250 wheels, Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tubeless-ready tires at 26×4.8 and SRAM Guide RS brakes. The frame also has internal cable routing, plus rear rack mounts and ample bottle cage mounts for all of your bikepacking adventures.
Trek had plans in place to develop a less-expensive fat bike, but sales trends showed huge sell-through in its higher-end carbon models, hence the 9.9. Even with 27×4.7 tires, the Farley 9.9 is claimed to weigh 22 pounds. Twenty-two pounds! With real tires. Pretty amazing.
A host of lightweight Bontrager bits accompany the OCLV carbon frame, but the real star of the show are the HED Big Deal carbon rims, which are one of the lightest, if not the lightest, fat bike rims on the market.
With fat bike races now selling out in most parts of the country, this looks like a serious contender for raciest fat bike ever, even directly out of the box.
A far cry from the road-racing Masi bikes of the past, the latest models are all about exploring far outside the peloton. The Giramondo is a modern touring bike, built to explore roads that aren’t always smooth sailing. It has five sets of bottle cage mounts and 700×40 tires, though we’re told it can fit a 27.5 mountain bike wheel and tire as well. It is currently available for $1,089 but will climb to $1,199 for the 2017 spec version seen here.
The Speciale Randonneur is a variation on the previous model, with a steel frame and beautiful painted-to-match fenders, though Masi says they haven’t decided on a color yet. While the previous version was a 700c bike, the next-generation version uses WTB’s new Horizon 27plus road tires. While they measure in at 47 mm wide, they have the same outside circumference that a 700x30c tire has and can likely be retrofitted to many bikes.
Schwinn is a name that everyone recognizes as a bicycle, but only holds a fraction of the prestige that it used to. While it still sells bikes through big box stores, it is moving slowly up-market and selling through select bike shops. Looking good is a new road bike with some interesting features.
The Schwinn Vantage RX1 has the “Smooth Ride Tech” design that Schwinn debuted last year. Essentially a rubberized elastomer goes between the seat tube and the seatstay junction, providing a small amount of vibration absorption.
Even the stem has an elastomer to absorb harsh road vibrations. You can’t really feel it move while riding, though there will be two durometers that customers can pick from. It is also the most expensive bike in the Schwinn lineup at $1,599 with SRAM Rival 1. There is a also a Shimano Sora version that will sell for $999.
Looking like more fun than an espresso-fueled puppy is the new Stuntman, with massive 29-inch mountain bike wheels for crushing the nastiest roads you can throw at it, especially when you activate the included dropper seatpost. Designed specifically for a single chainring, it will come equipped a SRAM wide-range drivetrain when it goes on sale this fall. While it is pictured here with a current model, the production version will also feature an all-new Clement tire spec. Let’s hope they are gumwalls! Raleigh says it will follow up with a whole series of bikes based on the Stuntman including sub-$1,000 versions with steel forks.
Joe Breeze may get a lot of (deserved) credit for his contribution to mountain bikes, but before he built his first clunker he was building custom road bikes. The new Inversion model is a thoroughly modern road bike with thru-axles, room for bigger tires and flat-mount disc brakes. It uses a special steel tubeset that is heat-treated after it has been welded together for better finish quality. The Shimano Ultegra version pictured here will sell for about $2,000 when it goes on sale this fall and a Shimano 105 version should be around $1,500.
Finally, if you know anything about mountain bikes you know the name Fat Chance. But what isn’t as widely known is that Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Chris Chance also built road bikes under the Slim Chance moniker. Now they’re back with a high-end steel frame that’s made in America and offers tons of custom options. Each is made-to-order and built to spec, starting at $2,295. And yes, there is a segmented steel fork option coming soon.
Brooklyn Bicycle Co. just announced two, new hybrid bikes made from Chromoly steel: the Roebling and Lorimer. The company makes bicycles prepared for any city adventure, inspired by the streets of Brooklyn.
Each bicycle features 24 speeds provided by a mix of Shimano components, plus Tektro linear-pull brakes and Brooklyn Bicycle Co.’s own Ergo Touring saddle and puncture-resistant 700×32 mm tires. Each bike is ready for front and rear racks and fenders and features quick-release hubs. The Roebling, named for the man who designed the Brooklyn Bridge, weighs 26.75 pounds and is available in black in the following sizes: 15”, 17”, 19”, 21” and 23”.
The Lorimer is the version of the Roebling designed for women. The only difference is the white color, available sizing and a slightly lighter reported weight of 25.5 pounds. Available sizes are 14″, 16″ and 18″.
Each bike retails for $499 and can be purchased direct from Brooklyn Bicycle Co.’s website. When you order, your bike is shipped to a local shop where the cost of professional assembly is covered by your purchase price.
Frostbike is one of the annual dealer gatherings hosted by Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), the parent brand behind All City, Foundry, Salsa, Surly and others. The event takes place at QBP headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in late February and allows shop owners and media types to gather and drink beer and talk shop.
With the Taipei International Cycle Show and Sea Otter looming, not to mention the countless company-specific product launch events now usurping big trade shows, there was not a glut of new product to be explored. Here are the few new and noteworthy bicycles we stumbled upon.
All City Pony Express – $1,149
All City’s new rigid singlespeed mountain bike—the Log Lady—soaked up the media attention prior to Frostbike, allowing another new offering to quietly sneak into the lineup. To create the Pony Express, All City started with its highly popular Space Horse frame, doused it in bright red paint, hung it with simple 1×10 road gearing and loaded it up with a straightforward parts kit including flat bars and V-brakes. The Pony Express is fender- and rack-friendly, can accept up to 700×42 tires (38 mm with fenders), features internal cable routing on the top tube and sports a bottom bracket lower than the usual road bike.
Since the Space Horse is All City’s light touring bike, the frame’s load capacity is a combined 50 pounds of gear and is designed to handle well under that load. On the Pony Express, All City maintains its use of beautiful lugged crown forks, signature dropouts and the company’s proprietary blend of smooth-riding steel tubing. This bike doesn’t so much answer “Why?” as it answers “Why not?”
More info: allcitycycles.com
All City Macho King Limited – $3,400
Behold the newest edition of All City’s short-run Macho King Limited. The cyclocross racer’s frame is made from Reynolds 853 steel and features a tapered, thru-axle Whisky carbon fork, SRAM 1×11 setup and extra-classy green fade paint job. If you want one, go talk to your local bike shop now before they’re available since few are produced and they sell out fast.
More info: allcitycycles.com
Civia Lowry – $399 (singlespeed), $469 (7-speed)
After going quiet for a few years to re-tool and conduct extensive body geometry studies, Civia is back with an all-new aluminum model (no more steel) designed to be carried by your local bike shop and to compete with direct-sale online dealers of sub-$500 neighborhood bikes.
To begin its rebirth, Civia launched the Lowry in two styles of top tubes and with either one or seven gears. The aluminum tubing was kept narrower to mimic the look of steel tubing but was used to lighten the weight of the bikes. The frames feature rack and fender mounts as well as integrated chain guards and kickstands.
Each Lowry is available in five sizes to accommodate riders from 5’0” to 6’4”. The smallest two sizes use 26-inch wheels (with 1.5-inch tires) for better fit and handling, while the rest get standard 700c road wheels with 38 mm tires. More models are slated to roll out in the future.
More info: civiacycles.com
Surly Big Dummy – $2,100
The venerable cargo hauler from Surly got a refresh for Frostbike. New this year is a bright green paint job with matching cargo deck, Surly’s Extra Terrestrial tires and a new SRAM drivetrain. The updated model will be available in July or August.
More info: surlybikes.com
Fuji Custom – Priceless
We saw this in the QBP parking lot—locked up, no less. We unfortunately couldn’t find the owner, and are therefore unable to bring you a test ride report.
Foundry Cycles also showcased its new titanium cyclocross racer and updated titanium gravel road bike, which we reported on earlier. See photos and details, here.