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)
Mike Minnick, 38, and his 5-year-old border collie mix, Bixby, have visited more than 50 animal shelters during their yearlong adventure, pedaling 8,000 miles and counting. The Texas man is riding his bike across the United States with his dog in a grassroots campaign to support nonprofit animal shelters and urge pet seekers to avoid puppy mills.
“There are so many beautiful dogs desperately in need of a home and friendship,” says Minnick, who adopted Bixby from a shelter in his former hometown of Austin, Texas. “If you love animals, donate to your local shelter. Puppies should not be a for-profit commodity.”
Minnick’s journey across America on two wheels with Bixby has a secondary goal: to inspire Americans to bicycle for fun and fitness. The former smoker took up cycling as a way to lose weight and kick his cigarette habit. “I used to get in my car to drive two blocks to buy cigarettes,” he says. “Now I’m in the best shape of my life and happier than ever.”
Minnick, Bixby and their cargo bike loaded with more than 100 pounds of camping gear, dog food and a dog bed mounted to the rear rack attract crowds wherever they stop. Most long-distance bicyclists choose lightweight bicycles and carry minimal gear. That wasn’t an option for Minnick, who chose a cargo bike. “I won’t set any speed records. We go slow and steady and enjoy the views.”
Editor’s note: This originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.
Minnick’s journey began in September 2013 in Lubec, Maine. From there they pedaled the East Coast to Key West, Florida, before heading to New Orleans and Texas. From Texas they headed northward through Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana to Washington before spending the winter in California. Minnick has no plans to stop pedaling.
“When I walked away from my life in Austin, I had a nice home and great friends but I was in a rut. My life was flashing before my eyes. Now I wake up every day excited. This is the most fun, challenging, rewarding and adventurous thing I’ve ever done. We live in one of the most geographically amazing and scenically beautiful countries in the world. Bixby and I get to see it, meet its people and pedal it under my power, using no gasoline and living like kings for next to nothing.”
Follow Minnick and his cause at wheresbixby.com.
“We’re pedaling a Yuba Mundo cargo bike. After 8,000 miles carrying nearly 150 pounds of gear, a 50-pound adorable rescue dog, plus a human, our bike is as strong as the day we bought it. With a steel frame and sturdy components, this machine has never let us down. The motorcycle-inspired center stand is one of our favorite features. No need to find something to lean your bike on, and plenty sturdy for loading groceries or pets or children without the bike falling over. When riding with friends, we use our bike as a bike rack and everyone can lock their bikes to ours.
We also really enjoy the frame-mounted front basket that doesn’t move when you turn the handlebars, thus throwing off your balance. This is a smartly engineered machine. The panniers made for the bike are huge, durable and waterproof. Ours took more of a beating than most people will put theirs through, yet remained functional and waterproof.”