Tested: Self-propelled alternatives to the minivan
By Susie Weber
When the opportunity to test cargo bikes arose, I was ecstatic. My husband and I had been searching for a bike to safely transport our toddler daughter, T, while running errands. We briefly considered a child seat for our bikes but ruled it out because we were concerned about stability and because the cargo carrying capacity of a traditional bike is very limited. Instead, we purchased a trailer. The trailer sheltered her from the elements but I felt uncomfortable taking her out by myself because I couldn’t see her or interact with her easily. I didn’t like the way the trailer tugged on my bike or the feeling that T was too far away from me.
Reviewing cargo bikes for Silent Sports gave me the chance to check out other options. Cargo bikes can be a lot of things to a lot of people but for the purposes here, I was looking for a quality built bike that I could use to carry T and six or more bags of groceries safely and easily.
For my review I chose four different bikes that fall into three broad categories:
1) The Yuba Mundo and Xtracycle Free Radical are long-tail bikes with extended wheelbases that put the load behind the driver.
2) The Larry vs. Harry Bullitt is a long-john or bakfiets-style bike with the load carried low and in front of the driver.
3) The JC Lind Triple Lindy is a traditional Danish-style trike with a large cargo box up front.
The Yuba Mundo
Yuba is a small California company that promotes the Mundo as an affordable, one-size-fits-all replacement for the minivan. Yuba loaned me a black, 21-speed Mundo with V brakes for an extended test. The Yuba frame is high tensile steel with a large integral rear rack. An adjustable stem and quick release on the seat post allow an advertised fit for riders from five feet tall to six foot five inches. The standard bike has fenders and a bell.
At my request, Yuba also included a child seat, passenger stoker bars, running boards, a deck and pad for the cargo rack, Go-Getter panniers and a double-legged center kickstand.
The Mundo is 81 inches long and retails for $1,199. As configured for me, the bike weighs 71 pounds and the price tag was $2,070.
My first impression of the Yuba was that it is a very attractive but huge bike. I had images of T’s head hitting the pavement if I couldn’t control the long frame. To alleviate my fears, I first took the bike for a ride by myself.
To my surprise, the Mundo handled like any upright comfort bike. I felt relaxed and in complete control. I was ready to ride with T. The beefy kick stand kept the bike completely stable while I loaded her. One day T scrambled up the bike and into the child seat before I could catch her. The bike was so steady it seemed bolted to the floor.
T was comfortable and secure in her seat, but at the tightest setting the straps were still loose. T was not in danger of getting out or falling but I would have preferred better adjustability.
T and I rode to the grocery store where I purchased six very full bags of bulky food including two gallons of milk, three pounds of chicken and piles of produce. The Mundo has a 440-pound capacity so my only concern was load distribution. After ensuring the bike was balanced, the ride home was easy. My refrigerator was stocked for the week.
As a family we were giddy about the social aspect of the bike. All three of us can ride comfortably on the long, strong frame. We got a lot of smiles from our neighbors as I pedaled through town with Paul sitting on the padded rack and T waving from the child seat.
I do have a couple of complaints about the Mundo, however. The components are only middling. Although this never created a problem, I did notice a certain lack of smoothness in shifting. And although the enormous waterproof panniers are well constructed, there is no way to attach them when a child seat is mounted to the frame. Because I almost always have T with me, I didn’t use the panniers. Instead I was able to attach four smaller panniers that worked fine for my purposes.