Immensely useful, heaps of thoughtful details, and plenty of Smart accessories make this my favorite bike I’ve ever owned.
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[ct_story_highlights]What it is:A pickup truck on two wheels.||Frame features:Massive TIG-welded aluminum construction, front expanded polypropylene cargo box, step-through one-size-fits-all format.||Weight:Heavy.||Price: US7,000 / AUTBC / £TBC / €6,690 (standard configuration, without accessories).||Highs:Unreal capacity and capability for both cargo and people, powerful Bosch motor, surprisingly pleasant to ride, a genuine car replacement, lots of well-considered details.||Lows:Expensive, questionable steering system design, quirky handling, far too many questions from passersby.[/ct_story_highlights]
Those were the words cheerily directed my way as I dropped my kiddo off at school one morning.
I’ve ridden a lot of incredible high-end bikes over the years, and here in Boulder, Colorado, not a lot of fancy hardware goes unnoticed. But that was the first time I’d heard someone say something to me like that, and it’s noteworthy that it came from someone who didn’t appear to be a “cyclist” in the traditional sense of the word.
I’ve now spent more than two years with the Urban Arrow Family, and I agree wholeheartedly that it is mega cool. But it’s also a legitimate game-changer in terms of what it allows you to do by bike, and without question, it’s the best bike I’ve ever owned in terms of how it’s affected my day-to-day life.
A strange beast
As unusual as the Urban Arrow might look, it’s actually not that uncommon at all. In fact, these sorts of bikes are practically standard-issue for two-wheeled transportation in the company’s home base of the Netherlands. They fall into a class of cargo bikes called “bakfiets”, or “box bike” in Dutch. Basically, this just means the cargo portion of the bike is situated in front of the rider instead of behind.
“[They’re] incredibly common [here],” Ray Maker (of DC Rainmaker fame) told me. “Most streets in Amsterdam will have at least 2-4 parked outside at night, with many more tucked away inside in gardens or sheds. I’d have to count our street, but I’m guessing there’s 6-8.”
There are countless variations of front-loaders out there, but what helps set the Urban Arrow apart is its trademark expanded polypropylene cargo box. Whereas most bakfiets use boxes made of various hard-sided materials — wood is particularly common — or less structured arrangements like woven nylon over an internal frame, this one is sort of like a giant psuedo-rectangular bike helmet, which not only saves weight, but also makes for a softer environment for passengers. At the rear of the box is a small bench with two sets of three-point seatbelts.
That box is mounted inside a curvaceous aluminum step-through frame with an instantly recognizable silhouette. The rider position is very upright — and notably laid-back — and the bike is offered in a single one-size-fits-most format. The 20″-diameter front wheel is placed way out in front of the cargo box, and there’s a long linkage connecting the steering column to the fork. Without question, it’s a dramatically lopsided setup and what I imagine it’d be like to drive a Top Fuel drag car.
Just as you’d guess, this sucker is not only extremely long at about 2.5 m (about 8’ 2″) from tip to tail, but also very heavy at about 50 kg (110 lb). Helping move this unwieldy monster is a Bosch Performance CX mid-drive motor with four assist levels and up to 75 Nm of torque. There’s 250 W of sustained power driving the 26″ rear wheel (current Urban Arrow models now get updated Bosch motor units), all fed by a single 500 W-h lithium-ion Bosch PowerPack 500 battery. Need more juice? There’s an optional dual-battery kit, too.
Component-wise, the utility-minded spec sheet is certainly very different from what you might be accustomed to seeing on a high-end road, gravel, or mountain bike. Urban Arrow offers several options, but my sample is outfitted with an Enviolo stepless internal rear hub transmission, Shimano Deore single-piston hydraulic front and rear disc brakes, and sturdy tube-type aluminum clincher wheels built with 40-hole Ryde Andra rims, a Shimano M525 front hub (with adjustable cup-and-cone bearings), and burly 13-gauge stainless steel spokes, all wrapped with 55 mm-wide Schwalbe Big Ben Plus tires.
Going along with the function-over-form theme is a basic aluminum handlebar with lots of backsweep, an adjustable stem, and a big, puffy Velo saddle mounted to a basic aluminum seatpost. Standard issue is a monstrous two-legged kickstand, front and rear fenders, and front and rear LED lights powered by the Bosch battery.
Current retail price for the Urban Arrow is a substantial US7,000 / €6,690 already, and the company offers a long list of available (and very useful) accessories that further hike up the final total. To further supplement the bike’s inherent utility, I added a cargo box cover, a rain cover, a rear rack to mount panniers, a front bench (for even more passengers!), and a padded floor mat, which inflated the grand total by nearly another US1,000 (Australian and UK pricing is to be confirmed).
In other words, it’s not cheap. But when you consider that the Urban Arrow can potentially replace an automobile for many buyers, those figures become a touch easier to swallow.
A glorious beast of burden
I brought this bike in for review way back in late November 2019, and I wasted little time putting it through its paces. One of the very first rides I did on it was in a support capacity for former CyclingTips editor-in-chief Neal Rogers’ “MAMIL battle” with Jonathan Vaughters. I rode from home to the start of the climb at the base of Flagstaff Mountain here in Boulder, and escorted the crew all the way up to the top (the real top, mind you, not the halfway point that many locals consider to be the “top”). I then rode the bike back down and then clear across town to pick up my kid from school.
By the time we got home, I’d covered more than 34 km (21 miles) and 850 m (2,800 ft) of elevation gain, and still had about 10% of battery life remaining.
Life hasn’t gotten much easier for the Urban Arrow in the 2 years since then. Aided in no small part by the comparatively excellent cycling infrastructure here, the Urban Arrow quickly became my daily driver for any and all trips in town.
I regularly shuttle my kid back and forth to school in it (and never have to deal with the chaotic melee of other parents in cars in the pick-up/drop-off lane). I’ve comfortably packed four kids in the box for play dates at parks. I use it for grocery store runs (six shopping bags, easy!). I’ve hauled huge bags of dirt for our garden beds. I’ve used it to carry other bikes. I’ve gone on ice cream runs with my kiddo — and then we used the box as our personal seating area.
I served as a taxi driver for associate editor Abby Mickey one day when she needed to get somewhere downtown, and for Beta contributor Kristin Butcher, who’d broken her ankle and needed to get home from a physical therapy appointment. I’ve lugged full-size bike boxes to UPS and FedEx. I’ve done multiple-family Costco runs covering 32 km (20 miles) and 240 m (800 ft) of climbing round-trip, with the cargo box and my Ortlieb panniers filled to the brim.
So far, I’ve come close — but not exceeded, I think — the official maximum box capacity of 125 kg (276 lb).
Despite the wide range of cargo sizes and weights, the Urban Arrow has taken it all in stride. By pushing that front wheel so far out front, the load floor of the cargo box can be situated just barely above the ground to keep the center of gravity nice and low. As a result, a heavy load doesn’t swing side to side as much as if it were mounted up high (like on a longtail cargo bike).
In fact, once you’re moving, it isn’t even always obvious that you’ve got a lot of weight in the box. If anything, that weight helps the Urban Arrow feel a little more planted than when it’s empty, but this also highlights one of the bike’s handling quirks.
I’ve learned to think of the Urban Arrow as being akin to a two-wheeled pickup truck in terms of its capabilities and usefulness. However, that also applies to how its lopsided weight distribution affects the laden-vs.-unladen handling.
Without anything in the box, the front end is light and chattery, bouncing over road imperfections and skittering through bumpy corners. It’s not bad in dry conditions, but it can be very sketchy when it’s slippery. Current CyclingTips editor-in-chief Caley Fretz (who bought his own Urban Arrow this past September) has resorted to leaving a 9 kg (20 lb) sandbag in the front of his.
Regardless, the Urban Arrow has become my everyday mode of transportation in town. It may not be as efficient as a conventional e-bike or my regular townie, but I’ve also never worried that I wouldn’t be able to get something home if I decided to spontaneously drop into a store for something. Again, just like a pickup truck, you’re lugging around a bunch of empty space much of the time, but there’s no substitute when you need it.
Despite the comical dimensions, the Urban Arrow has proven to be fun to ride, too.
At about two full meters, the wheelbase is twice as long as a regular bike, which makes the Urban Arrow unflappably stable (with one exception, which I’ll get to in a bit). Steering inputs almost seem to happen in slow motion — which is usually a good thing for a bike like this — and because the whole thing is so long, if one wheel slides out a little, rarely does it result in an actual change in direction. Caley has installed studded tires for his Urban Arrow, but says it’s “less about really bad conditions and more about not worrying about little ice patches in the morning.” It’s less consistently snowy here in Boulder as compared to Caley’s new digs in Durango, Colorado, so I’ve never bothered with studs since it’s so easy to manage those little slides as is.
Those stable manners and the optional rain cover even make the Urban Arrow quite the all-weather workhorse. Colorado has quite an arid climate, and while the rain cover isn’t insulated, it still blocks cold air and windchill, and as Caley puts it, acts “like a little greenhouse in the winter.” Combined with the little down blanket we keep in the box, my kid has never been chilly on the way back and forth to school. It’s even become a running joke.
“Are you nice and warm in there?” I always ask.
“Yes, are you nice and cold out there?” she replies with a naughty grin.
Throughout it all, the Bosch motor provides more than enough oomph to get this thing up to its 32 km/h (19.8 mph) maximum assisted speed. The Urban Arrow is no rocket ship, but the e-assist motor is impressively torquey and responds instantly to pedaling inputs to help mask the substantial mass. And while I didn’t think I’d use it much initially, the walk mode has proven surprisingly useful. When activated, walk mode uses the motor to slowly drive the bike forward as you walk next to it. In other words, it basically pushes itself so you don’t have to. Perfectfor maneuvering this thing fully loaded up my modestly sloped driveway …
The range on e-bikes is notoriously variable, but Urban Arrow’s claim of 50 km of “average range” feels about right. Twice-daily school trips and regular in-town errands typically add up to about 50 km, so the typical schedule is to just plug the thing in on weekends. Charge time from nearly zero is about 4 1/2 hours. I’ve never worried much about range for everyday tasks, and only once did I run out of juice for real (and yes, it was a major bummer).
All told, this amazing machine has covered over 3,700 km (2,300 miles) so far, which is all the more impressive considering there’s been a pandemic tossed in there with a full year when my kid was out of school and I wasn’t going many places at all. Best of all, many of those kilometers were ones I otherwise would have traveled in some sort of automobile. Since September, Caley has tallied more than 930 km (580 miles) on his.
And can I remind you how much attention this thing draws? I’m not talking about from “serious” cyclists, either, but rather from everyday folks like the construction worker I mentioned at the beginning of this review. I’ve lost count of how many conversations I’ve had with other parents at school during drop-off/pick-up, other customers at the grocery store, when dropping off boxes, and so on. Almost without fail, the usual reaction is that they couldn’t believe the things I’m doing by bike — but now they’ve seen it being done, and heard face-to-face how feasible it is.
Nearly everywhere you look on the Urban Arrow, there are small touches indicating the brand’s long history in the category.
Often overlooked, the kickstand design is superb. The wide-legged stance is so stable that I no longer worry about kids when they climb into the box, and the rectangular footprint even works well on modest slopes. And when the box is heavily loaded, you can stand on the end of the L-shaped leg and use your own body weight to set the kickstand into place.
The built-in frame lock is brilliant. Granted, this is an Abus thing and not something exclusive to Urban Arrow, but it’s a Smart design nonetheless and I’m glad to see it featured as standard equipment here. Built into the seatstays, it’s a cinch to just lock the rear wheel to keep someone from rolling the Urban Arrow if you’re in a low-risk area or you’re just popping in for a very quick errand. Otherwise, you can also plug in a heavy-duty chain for more security. A single key handles the whole lot — including the Bosch battery cradle.
The cutouts at the front corners of the box are a nice touch as they provide a handy foothold that make it easier for smaller passengers to get in and out.
There’s a standard handlebar-mounted bell that’s both loud and friendly so pedestrians know you’re approaching from behind.
The front and rear fenders have flap extensions to minimize spray.
The lights? The ones on newer Urban Arrows are thankfully brighter, but I appreciate they’re there, and it’s nice that they’re hardwired into the main Bosch battery (again, not something exclusive to Urban Arrow, but good to see regardless).
Operating costs have been very low, too. I replaced the rear brake pads after about 18 months, and the rear tire made it about the same amount of time. But the full-length chain cover has kept drivetrain wear at an impressive minimum since it’s always shielded from dirt and debris (and the belt-drive kit I have at the ready now comes standard). Aside from that, it’s been pennies in recharge costs, and of course, no other fees typically associated with automobiles like registration and insurance.
On that note, it also helped me put off purchasing a car for more than two years, and by Caley’s estimates, it’ll save about 2,400 km (1,500 miles) of fuel and wear-and-tear on his truck.
A few misses, both big and small
As much as I’ve come to rely on this bike, the Urban Arrow Family is not without fault.
On bikes like this, there are two commonly accepted solutions for connecting the steering column to the front fork: a set of cables and housings (like what Yuba uses on its Electric Supermarché), or a rigid linkage. Urban Arrow has opted for the latter, and it’s generally well done with smooth operation and minimal slop thanks in part to the beefy industrial-strength ball-ends. However, the linkage rod itself is more prone to flex than I’d prefer, especially when the bike is loaded.
It’s not a big deal in most riding situations, but mid-corner bumps tend to flex — and then unload — that rod. When that happens on milder corners, there’s just a bit of steering correction required. But when in slower and tighter turns, it can be downright unnerving (especially if you’re carrying precious human cargo) as you struggle to keep the thing upright.
By my estimation, it’s that roughly 120° kink in the rod that’s the source of the issue here, since the rest of the rod sections are straight and there are no other obvious flex points elsewhere in the system (notably, German cargo bike brand Riese Müller adds a welded gusset to the steering linkage on its front-loader models). Urban Arrow makes a heavier-duty version of this bike that’s designed more for commercial use, and I’ve been curious if that model’s thicker and stiffer steering linkage rod might be a better solution (assuming it’s compatible, of course).
Perhaps related to that linkage flex is the bike’s well documented speed wobble issue. Urban Arrow incorporates a small plastic pad that presses directly on to the front of the fork steerer tube to damp oscillations. It’s absolutely as goofy as it sounds, but it’s far sketchier to run without it. There are no issues at lower speeds, but let me tell you, if you don’t have the steerer damper adjusted properly and this beast of a bike starts violently shaking side to side at 30 km/h (with your kid in the box, no less), it sure wakes you up in a hurry. I installed a Cane Creek Viscoset headset damper a few months into this test, and while it has helped, it hasn’t gotten rid of the problem entirely.
As good as this bike is in so many respects, it’s absolutely unforgivable that this problem is allowed to exist.
The lack of redundancy in the steering system gives me some pause, too. In my head, flex in a structural system goes hand in hand with fatigue, and while I’m accustomed to periodically inspecting all of my bikes from head to toe, that won’t be the case for most Urban Arrow owners. Heaven forbid something fails in that linkage rod — or the bell crank arm on the underside of the steerer tube, or the little tab that’s welded to the fork blade — as it’d undoubtedly result in a nasty crash. A second linkage rod on the other side of the bike would obviously add some cost, but it’d also provide some peace of mind.
As tricky as those cable-operated steering systems can be on some other box bikes, one major advantage they have over linkage designs is steering angle, which is so poor on the Urban Arrow that even many American residential streets aren’t wide enough for a U-turn (and let me tell you, we Americans like really wide streets). It’s a good thing this step-through frame has such a low standover height, because I guarantee any Urban Arrow owner spends a decent amount of time straddling this thing as they slowly roll it back and forth in a multi-point turn.
Another feature on the commercial version of the Urban Arrow that’s missing here is front suspension. I’m finishing up my review of Tern’s second-generation GSD cargo bike, and one of the most dramatic improvements over the first version is the newly added suspension, not just in terms of rider (and passenger) comfort, but also how it makes the bike so much easier to manage on the road. Granted, such a thing would be tricky for Urban Arrow to tune given the huge variation in loads and wacky weight distribution, but I’d like to see the company figure something out here.
I eventually installed a Cane Creek Thudbuster suspension seatpost, and it’s been a godsend, particularly given how the laid-back seat tube angle and short chainstays practically put you directly over the rear wheel.
I have some spec complaints, too.
The Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes don’t have enough power to rein this thing in, especially when heavily loaded (something Urban Arrow has thankfully since rectified with a switch to more powerful four-piston brakes). I love that I can shift the Enviolo continuously variable rear hub transmission at a standstill since it’s not always practical to downshift before coming to a stop. However, the twist shifter’s dual cable arrangement feels vague, and if you’re running the Bosch motor at one of the higher assist settings, it’s very difficult to shift gears while pedaling unless you really back off the power.
The stock Schwalbe tires have been great: they’re smooth-rolling, they’ve got good grip, and they’re remarkably puncture-resistant. It’s only very recently that I finally had to replace the rear, which is impressive given how hard it has to work on this bike. But while the heavy-duty wheels haven’t given me any problems at all, I wish there was at least the option to run this tubeless. Few cycling disciplines are better suited to the self-repairing nature of tubeless than utility bikes, and the one flat I’ve gotten on this bike was a small puncture that would have sealed itself with the benefit of some liquid latex sloshing around inside. I’m now running extra-thick butyl tubes.
Other complaints are more minor.
I love how you can stand on the end of the kickstand leg to get it to engage, but Urban Arrow doesn’t plug the tube before installing the rubber feet, and it doesn’t take long before it punches through the end (I’ve since replaced one foot with a new one, but installed a handlebar plug first).
Kudos to Urban Arrow for upgrading the front light on this bike relative to what I got. But while I understand this is a limitation of some European regulations, neither the front nor rear lights can operate in flashing mode to enhance daytime safety, so I still run with a supplemental Bontrager Flare R out back.
I love good cup-and-cone hubs, and the old mechanic in me appreciates the Shimano front hub specified here. But a quick-release axle on a bike like this? Seriously?
And in some serious nitpicking, those little cutouts in the front of the box are great, but why aren’t there cutouts in the rear of the box, too? After all, that’s where the main bench is located, and if the rain cover is installed, those front cutouts are useless since the cover opens at the rear.
Last, but not least, the sheer size of the Urban Arrow presents some interesting challenges in terms of storage (it’s 2.74 m / 9 ft long!). A proper garage — or some other form of truly secure ground-level storage — is strongly suggested since you’re not getting this up even a handful of stairs, and it can’t perform the neat trick of standing up on end like the Tern GSD. Sorry, apartment dwellers, but this probably isn’t the cargo bike for you.
There’s also the issue of service. Although most of the components are standard items that can be repaired by many shops, anything specific to Urban Arrow will require a certified dealer, and unless you have an actual pickup truck (with a full-sized bed, no less) and a reliable friend with a strong back to help you load the thing into it, it’s not very easy to get this somewhere.
It’s a keeper
I should mention that it didn’t take long for me to decide that this bike wasn’t just going to be a long-term loaner. Blown away by its immense utility, I bought this Urban Arrow a few months after bringing it on board. And yes, I maybe had some help with the decision. Many other parents can attest to how difficult it can sometimes be to get your kids into the car, but my kid never objects to getting into the “bucket bike.”
Just like human family members, this Urban Arrow Family has its pros, cons, quirks, and things that drive me crazy. But just like those people, I can’t imagine my life without it, either.
The Best Cargo E-Bike for Commutes with Kids
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One of the things we are often asked by our friends and neighbors is what is the best e-bike to commute with kids. Maybe we’re asked about this so often because of the phase of life we’re in, since we have two small children, and our oldest is 2 years old as of the time I’m writing this. He started riding on our e-bikes with us when he was 9 months old and he absolutely loves it. He much prefers to be dropped off at daycare on the e-bike rather than our car. I also enjoy it because it’s fun bonding time with him that feels like an activity, rather than a commuting chore. We talk about the difference between turning left and right, we point out garbage trucks, we stop to look at construction sites, etc.
One thing to quickly note servicing any cargo e-bike is a bit of a chore. Make sure you have a dealer or bike shop close by that will service your cargo e-bike and take it in at least once a year for a general inspection and tune-up.
So, without further ado, here are our recommendations for the best family e-bikes for your commute with kids. Hope you can find the same joy I feel when riding my kiddo around on our e-bike!
Urban Arrow Family
Base price: 6,999
Est. price of additional accessories needed to carry two kids their stuff: 0
Price of a rain cover: 400
What we like about it
The Urban Arrow is our top pick because it has great handling and is easy to maneuver while also having a ton of capacity to carry multiple kids and even groceries with no problem. The cargo box at the front of the bike can fit two kids, and there’s space to add a third Thule kid seat to the back. Having the kids in the cargo seat in front is super fun because they can see a whole lot more than if they’re sitting behind you. You can also keep an eye on them easily.
It has excellent high-quality accessories for the cargo box, like a rain cover, padded seats, seatbelts, etc. It comes with child restrain harnesses are lap and over the shoulder, which is much better at keeping the kids in one place. Since we’re writing to you from the Pacific Northwest, we’re all about the rain cover that provides complete coverage of the cargo area, unlike some others which only partially cover the kids.
Finally, we’re fans of the high-quality Bosch Cargo Line motor, which provides smooth power and a smooth ride so you aren’t jerking the kids around every time you accelerate.
Where it falls short
It’s not great for someone with a long commute since the average range is 30 miles. That said, that range should be reasonable for most people.
It is one of the longest bikes on this list at 107 inches, which takes a little getting used to. They do offer a shorter version, called Shorty, but it has a smaller cargo capacity.
It’s very heavy at 110 pounds, which means if you live in a walk-up apartment for example, it’s not your pick!
The saddle is not very comfortable, recommend that you switch it out for a Brooks saddle to save your butt.
What we’ve heard around town
- “The saddle is uncomfortable, I switched mine out”
- “Rain cover is amazing and easy to install/remove”
- “Expanded foam box feels safer for kids in the city”
- “Such a blast taking the whole family out together”
Yuba Spicy Curry
Base price: 5,199
Est. price of additional accessories needed to carry two kids their stuff: 570
Price of a rain cover: 250
What we like about it
We like the Yuba Spicy Curry because Yuba has been designing and manufacturing cargo bikes since 2007, which means the bike has high-quality parts and quality frame construction. This is going to be one of the most reliable bikes.
Your kids can sit on the back bench, or you can also buy a Thule kids seat to add to the back. There are also lots of accessories to ensure the kids are comfortable on the back bench seat.
It has the same high-quality Bosch Cargo Line motor as the Urban Arrow, which provides smooth power and avoids a jerky acceleration for your kiddos. The Spicy Curry also includes a PowerPack 500 Battery which can handle up to 60 miles on a single charge. An impressive range for a cargo e-bike.
Finally, it has a very sturdy double kick stand to ensure the bike is stable when the kids are getting on and off.
Where it falls short
In general, we prefer the larger cargo box style bikes for commuting with kids due to the increased cargo capacity. For example, in the Urban Arrow you can carry three kids plus groceries, versus the Yuba Spicy Curry, which can handle two kids with limited carry capacity on a front rack for maybe a small kids backpack, etc. With this style of bike you can add rear wheel panniers and a front rack, but then the rear wheel panniers get in the way of the kids’ feet.
The rain cover for the rear bench seat doesn’t completely cover the kids, so if you live in a rainy climate this is probably not your pick. The rain cover leaves kids’ knees, shins, and feet exposed to the elements.
It’s also just less fun to have the kids on the back of the bike versus the front. You are sitting in front of them, which means you can’t see them and you’re blocking much of their view.
What we’ve heard around town
- “Two kids on the bench seat consumes most of the cargo area of the bike”
- “I like that it handles so much like a regular bike”
- “Tackles the big hill on our commute no problem”
- “The seat cushion is pretty hard and firm”
- “The larger front wheel provides a smooth and stable ride”
All of the Rest
RadPower RadWagon 4
Base price: 1,999
Est. price of additional accessories needed to carry two kids their stuff: 456
Price of a rain cover: 119
What we like about it
It’s hard to beat Rad’s affordability. This is a solid choice for commuting with kids on a much smaller budget than our top picks above. It would be a great first e-bike for a family with the entry level pricing. We like that it comes with built-in lights, a bell, and rain guards for the wheels. The kids can sit on the back by adding a bench or Thule seats.
It’s a versatile e-bike because it can carry a lot of weight (350 lb. payload capacity) and handles the weight well. It feels natural to ride and is easy to maneuver, very similar to riding their other bikes, such as the Rad City.
It’s frame is the low step-thru style, which makes it easy for people of all sizes to ride, which is especially handy if you’re trading off which parent commutes with the kids to and from school.
Where it falls short
They’ve had a recall due to safety issues with their tires on the RadWagon. Some customers have been able to get them swapped out, others have reported having issues returning the bikes. Granted, managing a recall is a complicated task and Rad seems to be doing their best and is communicating with their customers.
Similar to the Yuba Spicy Curry, the rain cover for the rear bench seat doesn’t completely cover the kids. Their knees, shins, and feet are exposed to the elements.
Also similar to the Yuba Spicy Curry, with rear bench seats, kids are on the back which means you block a lot of their view and you can’t see them while you’re riding.
Finally, some of their components are lower quality meaning that you’ll need to get it tune-up more often than others.
What we’ve heard around town
- “Good range and great price!”
- “Handles the bumps really well and feels like a tank in a good way”
- “Their service department has been super friendly and responsive”
- “The kids love riding it and waving to people”
- “A bit worried about quality due to the recent recall they had for their tires”
Riese and Müller Packster 70 Family
Base price: 9,279
Est. price of additional accessories needed to carry two kids their stuff: 281
Price of a rain cover: 324
What we like about it
This is the Mercedes Benz of cargo e-bikes. Super high quality but the price tag that comes with it. Similar to the Urban Arrow, the front cargo box can easily fit two kids plus a few bags of groceries. You can also add a Thule seat to the back rack meaning you can easily take 3 kids. The kids seats in the cargo box are more padded than other cargo bikes and include comfortable 5-point harnesses for the kids.
We love that the rain cover protects the entire front cargo area giving you year round riding. Its Bosch Cargo Line Cruise motor and dual battery give you great power and exceptional range, however they don’t publish the average range, so it will be highly dependent on what you are hauling in the cargo bin.
You also get smooth and silent pedaling with this bike, because there’s a belt drive instead of a traditional chain.
Where it falls short
The main thing is that it’s very expensive.The Urban Arrow has many of the same features but is a few hundred dollars cheaper. If you buy this bike, you’ll probably feel the need to lock it up everywhere you go. At our daycare dropoff zone you see lots of e-bikes and cargo e-bikes, and the only person to lock their e-bike when they go inside is the guy with the Riese Müller.
What we’ve heard around town
- “The mid-drive motor and 75 Nm of torque means it will perform well on the hills”
- “The full suspension belt drive is makes it so smooth to pedal”
- “Looks like a really cool bike in a lot of ways”
- “Great handling, good rain cover and seating options, not too wide”
- “Feels very large which can make it seem awkward to maneuver”
Tern GSD 10
Base price: 6,799
Est. price of additional accessories needed to carry two kids their stuff: 415
Price of a rain cover: 230
What we like about it
This is a solid e-bike for a family where several people will be trading off commuting with the kids. The small step-thru frame enables different sized people to ride it easily, which is perfect as a shared bike. Tern’s website says the bike will fit people from 4’ 6” to 6’ 5”. One of the largest spreads of any bike we’ve tested.
The kids sit on the back on a rear bench and you can add Thule seats for kids age 4 and under.
This e-bike is also great if storage is going to be an issue for you because it has a ”Vertical Parking” feature. Tern built the bike so that it could be parked vertically with it’s handlebars folded flat, meaning it takes up much less room. This is ideal for tight garages or apartments.
We also like it for its rain coverage. The rear bench rain cover provides coverage all the way down to the kids feet, unlike other rear bench rain covers that stop at the waist (or seat).
Tern touts that they make the toughest e-bikes out there and that one of Europe’s leading bicycle testing labs has tested the GSD frame and fork to 200 kg using “brutally demanding testing standards that meet and exceed the new German cargo bike standard.” We do like its Bosch Cargo Line motor, which gives it that smooth ride that the Yuba Spicy Curry and Urban Arrow also have, and its Bosch dual-battery gives it incredible range at 121 miles. It also has other high quality parts, such as disc brakes and a belt drive instead of a traditional chain. This means smooth and silent pedaling.
Where it falls short
The frame length is shorter than most longtail style cargo bikes. This means that for someone larger (6’2”) the front cockpit area can feel cramped with an upright posture rather than a more extended reach. In addition, as you extend your seat to a higher height it creeps back into the bench area, causing your butt and back to get close to the kiddos.
This comes with the rear-bench for the kids, which is not our preferred style (much prefer the cargo seats in front). You can’t haul as much gear when you have kids utilizing the back bench. If you are picking up groceries on your way home from school you can only really fit what would fit in a front cargo rack. The rear wheel cargo area that they tout are also where the kids feet will go, so they will stomp on all the groceries if they are back there.
What we’ve heard around town
- “You feel every cent that you paid in it’s build quality”
- “Great, high quality, accessories for it!”
- “ fun to ride than other cargo e-bikes due to it’s shorter length”
- “The wide tires make it comfy and stable to ride”
- “It’s quickly become an integral part of our day-to-day routine”
Madsen Bucket Bike
Base price: 3,905
Est. price of additional accessories needed to carry two kids their stuff: 140
Price of a rain cover: 308
What we like about it
This is another cargo-box style e-bike and is considerably cheaper than the Urban Arrow. It has a pretty heavy-duty cargo box, tested to a max weight of 600lb. This can carry more weight than another cargo e-bike, and the box seems sturdy and indestructible. It’s great for carrying multiple kids and all their gear. Part of what helps keep the cost down on this one is that the cargo box comes with child seats so you don’t have to buy those as extra accessories.
We like that their pedal assist system offers 9 levels, much more than most e-bikes which vary from 3 to 6 levels. This means you have more flexibility with how much help you get from the pedal assist, depending on your mood, terrain, and how much you’re carrying.
This is also a great bike if you’re trading off which parent commutes with the kids to and from school, because it has a step-thru frame.
Finally, the rain cover for the cargo seats provide 100% rain coverage to the kids.
Where it falls short
Unlike the Urban Arrow, the cargo bin is on the back of the bike, so you can’t keep an eye on the kids while you’re riding. While the cargo bin is indestructible, it doesn’t have any padding (beyond the bench seat) so it can be a bit uncomfortable for kids on long bumpy rides. Also, the seat belt for kids is just a lap belt, not an over the shoulder harness to help keep them in place.
Madsen doesn’t publish the battery range or the total bike weight, which gives us pause especially when it has a single standard battery. It’s probably not the best choice for people with long (20 mile) commutes.
What we’ve heard around town
- “The bucket is really useful for storing all sorts of stuff you inevitably need to carry with you when you go around town with kid”
- “Even with a lot of rainy days we’ve already used — and enjoyed — our Madsen SO MUCH”
- “May be difficult to ride for shorter riders”
- “Steep hills can get dicey if I’m carrying a lot”
What are the different styles of cargo e-bikes?
The two most common styles of cargo e-bikes are “Longtail” and “Bakefiets” (sometimes referred to as “long-johns”).
Longtails are long e-bikes that have a smaller rear tire with a bench seat above them. The bench seat can be used to carry up to two kids or used as cargo storage. Oftentimes Longtails come with cargo bags that run along the sides of the bench seat (sort of like panniers). This means you can have kids on the bench seat and the feet dangling above the storage bags with their gear in it. You can also add a front cargo rack for additional storage. Longtails are typically lighter and easier to maneuver than Bakefiets. We prefer being able to see what the kids are looking at, it makes it easier to interact with them. One downside of Longtails is that the kids are behind you, rather than in front. Another downside is if you add storage bags, your kids’ feet will hit them while they sit on the bench.
Bakefiets is Dutch for “Cargo bike,” and this style is most common in Europe. Bakefiets are long e-bikes with a small front wheel and a cargo box in the front of the e-bike. These cargo bins range in size but most can fit two kids easily with extra space for your gear or groceries. Some cargo bins can even fit four kids. Most Bakefiets have 5-point child harnesses which are ore secure than the lap belts typically found on Longtail bench seats. Most Bakefiets have better rain covers that provide 100% coverage than the Longtail bench seats (but not all).
One downside of Bakefiets is that they can be on the heavier side, but because they have a low center of gravity due to the cargo bin, they aren’t that much different to handle. They both take some practice to get used to. We recommend doing some rides and getting comfortable before you add your kids into the mix.
Are cargo e-bikes safe for kids?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children between 12 months and 4 years ride in a child bike seat. In Europe, the recommended starting age for child bike seats is 9 months assuming the child can can sit well unsupported and their neck is strong enough to support a lightweight helmet.
Cargo e-bikes with a bin have a lower center of gravity and are more stable. Many of these style bikes also have 5 point harnesses for the kids, as opposed to the bench style seats which only have a lap belt, if that.
In our experience, we really like the Thule Yupp child bike seat, which we have used for our oldest (who is 2 years old as of the time I’m writing this). It provides him great stability while riding. With small kids on the back of our e-bike, we try to stay of busy arterials and stick to neighborhood streets where the speed of traffic is slow.
And remember, you and your kids should ALWAYS wear a helmet that fits properly. No big helmets pushed to the back of their head leaving their forehead exposed.
Can you put a child carrier on an e-bike?
Yes, in most cases, but you should double check with the e-bike manufacturer’s website before adding a child seat.
There are two types of child carriers. One that is a small saddle like seat that attaches to the frame in the front of the e-bike and one that is a seat that goes on the back of the e-bike. The back seat is most traditional and it’s wider acceptable weight range means it fits a wider age of kids.
We recommend the Thule Yupp seat. It’s made of very sturdy, but comfortable material, it’s easy to adjust the foot holsters and shoulder harness. It also comes in some great colors! We are partial to the blue.
Some e-bike brands, such as RadPower, have rear racks that are purposefully built for these bike seats, which make it a breeze to install and switch between e-bikes if needed. Other brands might require you make modifications to the rear e-bike rack.
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The Urban Arrow Family is ideal for hauling around the kids
Tom’s Guide Verdict
The Urban Arrow Family Cargo is one of the best e-cargo bikes for families who will spend most of the time hauling the kids around town.
- Great kickstand
- Easy to get going from a dead stop
- Bosch motor engages quickly and consistently
- Quiet operation
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Bike weight: 110 pounds Bike length: 108 inches Average range: 31 miles Max assist speed: 20mph Total maximum weight capacity: 551 pounds Max rider weight: 275 pounds Max number of passengers: 4 Battery: Bosch Powerpack 500 Motor: Bosch Cargo Line Transmission: Enviolo Heavy Duty Wheel size: 26-inch rear; 20-inch front
If you’re looking for an e-cargo bike to safely haul around your kids, you can’t do much better than the Urban Arrow Family Cargo. It offers a streamlined experience with a specific FOCUS on safety and functionality for small passengers in the cargo area.
You will sacrifice some cargo space to the EPP foam that comprises the cargo box, and that same EPP foam can get damaged easily from hard objects and sharp corners you might be toting. If you’re in the market for a pure cargo bike instead of a kid hauler, you might look elsewhere. But if you’ll spend most of your time with your kids in the cargo area, the Family Cargo is tough to beat. It’s stable, comfortable, and packed with some key safety features for your kids. Read the rest of our Urban Arrow Family review to see if it’s one of the best electric bikes for you — and your children.
Urban Arrow Family Cargo review: Price and availability
At 7,000 as tested, the Urban Arrow Family Cargo bike is priced on a par with other bikes of similar build quality and function. The base model costs 6,000 before you start adding accessories.
It’s not cheap by any means, but it’s less expensive than some high-zoot competitors like Riese and Muller’s Load 75, which starts at more than 9,000. And it costs the same as one of its closest competitors in size and function, the Yuba SuperCargo, which also starts at 6,000.
You can buy the Urban Arrow Family Cargo at select bike shops. You can also configure your cargo bike on the Urban Arrow website. Once it’s all configured, Urban Arrow provides a dealer locator button so you can find the dealer nearest you.
Urban Arrow Family Cargo review: Design
A stout aluminum frame allows lots of carrying capacity — up to 551 total pounds, passengers included. You can stow up to 275 pounds in the cargo area.
The Family Cargo features all the adjustability you’d expect at the seatpost and cockpit; the former can be adjusted using a quick-release lever, and the latter adjusts by loosening some bolts.
The Family Cargo is obviously aimed at accommodating families, and as such, the cargo area is tailored toward hauling the kiddos. You can of course haul groceries and other items in there, but the expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam sides — meant to add protection for the kids — does cut down on cargo space a bit.
The cargo box interior dimensions measure 28 inches at bottom front to back. At the top, the box measures approximately 37 inches front to back. At the front, the box measures approximately 17 inches wide and 21 inches wide at the rear.
According to Urban Arrow, the seat within the cargo area positions your kiddos lower, which serves two purposes. First, it means more protection from the higher sides. And second, it lowers the center of gravity, which translates into more stability and better handling.
The EPP foam is susceptible to slight damage from dings and scratches. I contacted Urban Arrow to ask if there is a replacement in case the foam does get severely damaged. There is no retail option for this, but replacement units do exist. The one-piece EPP shell can be replaced and would most likely be a warranty issue. It isn’t a common occurrence, according to Urban Arrow representatives. The foam is quite thick and would therefore take a large impact to truly damage the foam to the point that replacement would be necessary.
The Bosch Cargo Line motor provides ample power with up to 85Nm of torque, even when the bike is loaded down with kids or cargo. Its assist tops out at 20 mph; after that, you’re on your own. This is more than enough assist for most riders.
Enviolo’s Heavy Duty transmission offers some seriously quiet operation. The shifter turns smoothly too, offering a quick resistance adjustment on the fly. It’s not an indexed shifter, so there are no clicks or set positions to contend with. Just turn the shifter until you find the right resistance for you.
When you park the Family Cargo bike, be sure to use the integrated wheel lock. It’s mounted underneath the seat stays. When it’s not in use, the key locks into place so you don’t lose it. When you want to park, just press the lever down, turn the key, pull it out, and stow it in your It’s a handy feature that makes it easy to leave the house without wrangling other external accessories.
If you’ll regularly be hauling cargo rather than kids, consider some of Urban Arrow’s other offerings, like the Cargo or Shorty Business. For massive loads, the three-wheeled Tender would do the trick.
Urban Arrow Family Cargo review: Performance
Two things became immediately clear as I started riding. First, the Family Cargo bike is easy to get started from a dead stop. The Bosch Cargo Line motor has a lot to do with that; it engages almost immediately upon pedaling input. Short, sharp inclines were easy to tackle too. And the bike itself is one of the more stable e-cargo bikes I’ve tested, bested perhaps only by the Yuba SuperCargo.
Second, the handlebars sweep far too dramatically back toward the rider. They put your wrists in an awkward position, and consequently your upper body. This of course comes down to personal preference; if it were my bike, I would swap out the bars. For you, these bars might be just the thing. Give them a test ride before buying if you can.
That said, everything else about the Family Cargo feels well-refined. Riding it is a pleasure, and despite its nearly 9-foot length and stout 100-pound weight, it feels fairly lithe for a cargo bike. Even with my 7-year-old daughter riding up front, the ride quality and ease of use didn’t seem to change much from an unloaded configuration.
The Family Cargo bike tends to offer a lot more compliance in the rear than other cargo bikes I’ve tested. When you hit larger bumps, the rear of the bike feels almost spring-loaded. While at times it felt too bouncy, I prefer this over an overly jarring ride quality.
The center stand is excellent and is rivaled in stability and usability only by the stand on Yuba’s SuperCargo.
It’s easy to engage with your foot, though you’ll need to take some care when disengaging it before riding to make sure it’s tucked entirely up near the cargo area. Otherwise, the stand can drag when you ride around sharp corners.
Urban Arrow Family Cargo review: Battery life
The Bosch Performance 500 battery mounts in front of the rider. It is removable. Just use the same key that’s used for the rear wheel lock to disengage the battery. You can of course also charge the battery while it’s mounted on the bike.
My first ride from Good Turn Cycles in Denver to my home in Arvada was 9 miles long and I used the second-to-highest assist setting the entire way. After 9 miles I had used one bar of battery life out of five.
After approximately 15 miles of riding on this setting, I lost another bar. So it seems reasonable that Urban Arrow’s claim of approximately 31 miles per charge makes sense. Yuba’s SuperCargo, by comparison, advertises up to 60 miles on a single charge. At a lower setting, it seems entirely plausible to get far more miles out of a single charge.
Urban Arrow Family Cargo review: Accessories
The Family Cargo can be configured on Urban Arrow’s website, which offers a host of accessories. Most of them are, unsurprisingly, oriented toward family riding. There are rain covers, baby seat adapters, extra benches to accommodate more kid passengers, a rear rack, and more. for accessories range from around 10 up to 470, with most key accessories falling into the 230 range.
You can use the online configurator to choose the accessories best suited for your use. If you’re hauling kids frequently, consider the rain and sun covers, or the very cool Urban Arrow Poncho (170) that covers both the rider and the passengers during inclement weather.
Urban Arrow Family Cargo review: The competition
The Urban Arrow Family Cargo bike fits into a category that includes the Yuba SuperCargo, Riese and Müller Load 75, Triobike Mono, and Triobike Cargo.
The Urban Arrow rises to the top of this list when it comes to handling and stability. The Yuba SuperCargo is also stable and handles well, and both of these bikes are similarly priced.
The Load 75 from Riese and Muller offers suspension for a comfortable ride, but it costs significantly more than the Urban Arrow.
Both Triobike options are less adept at stability and handling than the Urban Arrow and the Yuba SuperCargo.
The Family Cargo bike’s price is also competitive, starting at 6,000. This puts it most closely in competition with the also-excellent Yuba SuperCargo.
Urban Arrow Family Cargo review: Verdict
The Urban Arrow Family Cargo bike rises to the top of the crop in the e-cargo bike category. It’s easy to use, and the motor offers plenty of assist to get you going from a dead stop, even when loaded heavy. It’s generally easy to handle and fun to ride.
It’s clear that the Family Cargo is designed specifically for hauling kids rather than cargo. That’s not to say you can’t carry just cargo in here, but if you’ll routinely be hauling cargo rather than kids, consider a different option. The EPP foam can get dinged up easily from hard or odd-shaped cargo, and the EPP foam shell also does cut down on usable space within the cargo box.
That said, the Family Cargo offers a comfortable, safe cargo space for hauling your kids, and the bike is stable and fun to ride. It’s a top choice for parents in need of a transportation solution for the kids.
Dan Cavallari is the former technical editor for VeloNews Magazine, who currently reviews electric bikes, bike lights, and other bike accessories for Tom’s Guide. In addition to VeloNews, his work has appeared in Triathlete Magazine, Rouleur Magazine, CyclingTips.com, Road Bike Action, Mountain Bike Action, CycleVolta.com, Tomsguide.com, and much more. Dan also hosts two podcasts on his site, Slow Guy on the Fast Ride: One is about cycling and other outdoor activities, while the other looks at mental health issues. Most recently, Dan also covered the 2022 Tour de France. Dan lives outside of Denver, Colorado with his family.
We tried it: Urban Arrow
Check it out: Redwood City has Urban Arrows and sunshine, too.
I have had a couple of recent conversations with cool bike people recently that brought up something that has been in the back of my mind for a while. My feeling is that the family biking market is still pretty nascent and as a result there are mostly two kinds of bikes out there.
On the one hand you have the macho bikes. The view of family biking by companies that make these bikes ranges from, at best, detached bemusement (e.g. Larry v. Harry, which developed some basic kid accessories like a child seat and rain cover, but has never seen any need to mention them on its website or anything), to disinterest (Kona—“oh, you can carry kids on a bike?”—and Brompton, which as a company seems unaware of the aftermarket Pere child seat), to outright hostility (e.g. Surly and its new kid-unfriendly Big Dummy deck, Trek and its no-kids-allowed Transport). But to their credit, these companies put a lot of effort into (relative) nimbleness. In the universe of cargo bikes, these bikes are lighter, have better parts, are fitted with gears that can handle hills, and are safer and easier to ride in challenging conditions, by which I mean any conditions other than a flat street on a sunny day. (Okay, I exaggerate. But still.) And these bikes can go fast. Relatively speaking.
On the other hand you have the land yachts. These bikes are definitely family-friendly. They offer awesome kid-carrying capacity (even for large families), provide multiple ways to haul stuff/other bicycles as well as kids, and often have user-friendly accessories like integrated lights, step-over frames, upright seat positions, rear wheel locks and internal hubs. On the other hand, they typically weigh a ton and have a limited gear range and weak stock brakes, making them a challenge to ride on anything but the mildest of hills. And they are slow, even in the let’s-face-it-cargo-bikes-are-tanks class. I include in this category Madsens, Bakfietsen, Yuba Mundos, and every tricycle and unassisted mamachari I have ever seen or ridden.
The cargo bike market reminds me a bit of the car market in the 1960s. You could buy a station wagon (so practical! so massive! so slow!) or you could buy a “sporty” car, and hope for the best as you stuck your kids in a homespun “car seat” or harnessed them to long straps above the rear seat that offered a non-trivial strangulation risk. My mom hauled us around in a 1965 Chevrolet Corvair for years in those harnesses, because my parents believed in buying older used cars and keeping them until they literally fell to pieces decades later.
There are exceptions, and I have ridden some. On the longtail side, Xtracycle’s EdgeRunner is both family-friendly and nimble. On the box bike side, Metrofiets customizes almost all the bikes they make, so they can be tailored to weird cargo and/or families large and small, plus they start out as more-than-decent hill climbers and can be turned into awesome ones.
And there is the Urban Arrow. Thanks to an integrated electric assist, Urban Arrow turns a bike that is completely land yacht in character into something with many of the capabilities of a macho bike.
Two big kids on a very generously-sized bench seat
The Urban Arrow is a hard bike to find, let alone to test-ride, and the only people we know who have one bought sight unseen. Fortunately for us, Motostrano in Redwood City imports them, and will allow test rides whenever it gets orders in, if you get on the wait list. Motostrano is an interesting shop. From the outside it’s all posters of scantily-clad women draped over motor scooters, which definitely gave me pause. On the inside it offers a huge selection of assisted and unassisted commuter bikes (plus other kinds of bikes that I don’t care about, FYI). And they had boxes and boxes of bike stickers that they handed over to my kids. Pasting those stickers all over their clothes and helmets completely obsessed both kids while we learned about the Urban Arrow, and made them happier than anything else they did all weekend. We were glad that we made the trip down, which was, frankly, a not-inconsiderable hassle.
What I like about the Urban Arrow
- First, the Urban Arrow is a box bike. Not everyone loves a front-loading box bike, but I do. It’s easier to talk to the kids, it’s simple to protect them from bad weather, and the kid seating is elegant. It’s also much easier to walk front loaders than longtails because the weight is near the leverage of your arms. There is a reason that people think of—in the words of one family friend—“those bikes that look like wheelbarrows” when they think of family biking.
Foot cut-out visible on the upper right, deck with drain holes, padded seat
- This bike looks so classy. I felt like I should have dressed up to ride it. To me, a Bakfiets, with its wooden box, looks practical, but not exactly stylish, while our Bullitt looks fast and sleek. But the Urban Arrow looks… polished, to the extent you can say that about any cargo bike.
- Considering all the features packed into it, the Urban Arrow feels shockingly light. I expect big bikes to be heavy bikes, and realistically, it is in fact a heavy bike, tipping the scales at 99lbs/45kg. However people who ride Bakfietsen tell me their bikes as weigh about that much, and that’s without an electric assist. Both the aluminum frame and the styrofoam box are shaving a lot of heft from this bike, and with cargo bikes that’s all to the good, especially given that most people are going to throw at least twice the weight of the bike itself in the box, and then push it around.
The Bosch motor–note that while there’s an occasional visibly wire, most of the wiring is run through the frame.
- Not everyone loves this, but it has a super-upright posture, for a great view of traffic. And it’s virtually impossible to slouch. My mom would always hassle me when I was growing up to “sit up straight!” My mom wants you to ride this bike.
- At 5400, this is a competitively-priced assisted box bike, although I certainly would not call it cheap. An unassisted Bakfiets is now running about 3750. An assisted EdgeRunner longtail, comparably accessorized for hauling kids, would run 4700 in San Francisco. That price difference is not trivial, but it’s not outrageous either.
What I don’t like about the Urban Arrow
- The Urban Arrow is a really big bike. Matt and I both rode it, and we realized quickly that it would not be a practical commuting bike for us in San Francisco. Matt was vehement that he would never even consider riding it on Market Street, which has a semi-random bike lane layout and many, many people competing for space in it. It would be more of a ride-in-the-park bike for us. And it is big in both dimensions—width and length. Size was a deal-killer for us when we test-rode a Metrofiets as well, and it’s a large part of the reason we’ve been hauling 2 kids (and sometimes squeezing in more) by Bullitt for almost two years—the Bullitt is narrow. If we lived in a smaller city, or a place with wider streets, or rode different kinds of routes, we’d have no problem with an Urban Arrow.
I have no idea why that controller is sitting in the middle of the handlebars. Awkward.
This is Matt, grimacing at Dutch geometry.
- Caveat: San Francisco-specific concern. Motostrano told us that the assist would not be able to handle San Francisco’s steepest hills, even unloaded, but could not specify what kinds of grades it could climb. We had hoped to figure it out by simply riding up some hills ourselves, but unfortunately for us, Redwood City is as flat as Kansas. Furthermore, the Dutch geometry makes it impossible to bear down and crank up a hill on your own power. That’s because your chest will whack the handlebars—which is what happened when I tried to go uphill while test riding a Bakfiets. Hauling up hills on your own power is supposed to be a non-issue, because the bike has an assist, except that we were told that the assist might not be sufficient where we ride. And then it would be an issue.
- Speaking of hills, I found the brakes slow to respond. I assumed that it was just that particular bike and suggested to Motostrano that they tighten the brakes, but they said that they’d noticed it on all of the bikes they had built. They believed that it would settle after the bike had been ridden for a while. I would love to hear confirmation of that from someone who’s actually experienced it.
- The Urban Arrow would be almost impossible to get up to higher speeds. For quite a while this is something that I didn’t care about at all. However as time passed and we became more confident on cargo bikes, the appeal of one that can rocket along (relatively speaking) on occasion grew. It is useful when, say, the kids lock themselves in the bathroom and we end up leaving 10 minutes later than planned. The assist is not designed for speed either, but rather for steady help in the background. A BionX, in contrast, will match your effort, so you can use it to start fast and build up speed quickly. (This is fun, although BionX systems have their downsides.) Some bikes are just always going to be on the slower end—that’s just how they’re made—and the Urban Arrow is one of them. If you’re not compulsive about getting places early, this may not rank as high on your list of concerns as it does on mine.
- Last but not least, this bike is ridiculously elusive. There are only a few shops in the country importing them, and there is a lot of unmet demand, so getting an Urban Arrow almost always involves a deposit and a wait list. We have only seen two riding around San Francisco (which is one more than anyone I know in any other city has seen—except, I presume, Portland), and at least one of those was shipped from New York. Motostrano said they were able to get all the bikes they had ordered so far in a time period between 1-3 months, which is a big improvement over the waits I heard about last year, but is still non-trivial. And if you want to do a test-ride first, count on doubling that wait because whatever bike you test-ride will be a bike that’s already been sold.
See, a foothole–there are so many nice details like that on this bike.
So the Urban Arrow: not the right bike for us, but definitely a cool bike. It reminded both me and Matt of the Bakfiets, but upgraded. It was like a Bakfiets that had gone on a makeover show: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.
I find that people tend to have a sense of what they want in a bike, even if they can’t always articulate it. There are macho bike people and land yacht people. If you are the former, this isn’t the right bike for you (and you know that already). If you are the latter—assuming that you don’t live on Twin Peaks—it’s probably the most perfect cargo bike ever made.
32 responses to “We tried it: Urban Arrow”
The fact that Trek and Surly are hostile to people carrying kids on their cargo bikes is more evidence of just how tone-deaf the sport-oriented mainstream bike companies are. They just don’t get it.
I’ve become pretty touchy on that subject, if that’s not obvious. Although I have to admit that Surly isn’t exactly hiding their attitude, given their name.
Surly doesn’t even want you putting a kickstand on their bikes, how dare you put a kid on one! As annoying the mainstream bike industry is as a customer, it’s even more disgusting if you look behind the curtain. Bro culture is just the start, they’re openly elitist about who dare consider themselves cyclists. No respect for any bike except the top end, little respect for anyone who isn’t a racer or former racer.
Part of the reason that the nicer, more powerful versions of mid-drive ebikes tend to be marketed toward offroaders rather than families with kids has to do with current ebike laws, both here and in Europe. In most European countries (which appear to comprise most of the market for these things) you’re not allowed to have more than 250W of electric power available to you or it becomes a moped instead of an ebike (and therefore subject to a lot more regulations, registration, taxes, and so on). That said, as far as I know this only applies to on-road use; banging a 3kW electric mountain bike up an offroad trail is completely legal and subject only to property owners’ restrictions. Thus, most ebikes that are built for speed and power (1kW electrical system, capable of tackling SF hills at respectable speeds) market themselves as “off-road” vehicles to dodge regulation and taxation. I’m an electrical engineering student, and I personally would have no qualms about building a mid-drive box bike with quality disc brakes and 3-6kW of power for use as a family/cargo bike. I’d wind up gearing it down to about 30-35mph tops, but (if built properly) should have enough torque to haul you, 150lbs of kids, and another 50-100lbs of crap up a 10-15% grade at 25mph or so. That’s especially feasible given that the size of the box leaves a ton of room for 30-40Ah of battery (which should translate into 30-50 miles of range on the flats). It’s a niche that nobody seems to want to operate in, and I’d love to do it, but first someone would wind up having to convince state and local governments to loosen or eliminate the power requirements for electric bikes.
Josette A Gonzales (@Vivakresh)
You were selling me on it…then I got to the part about the handlebars, the brakes, and the Dutch geometry, and I could no longer yearn for this bike.
Picayune corrections and a plug: 1. The box is not styrofoam (expanded polystyrene, EPS) but expanded polypropylene, EPP). EPP is resilient and tough, not like styrofoam at all: http://www.epp.com/expanded-polypropylene-properties/. See also Dena’s 1-year review in which she praises the toughness of the box: http://www.bikemamadelphia.com/2014/05/urban-arrow-one-year-later.html. I’m quick to point this out only because so many people look askance at the box, which does LOOK like styrofoam, and say “is that … just styrOFOAM?!” 2. Brake reach: the hydraulic disk brake levers installed on our 2014 UAs have adjustable reach. Could easily be dialed in. Similarly the Bosch assist display could easily be positioned to one side if a concern. Bikes with Dutch city ergonomics aren’t prone to lose control with one hand on the bars anyway. 3. Hills. Yes, I’m sure they were right that it couldn’t handle SF’s steepest even unloaded. But that’s probably only the 5 or so very steepest blocks. We took UA out to the steepest pitch on Portland’s east side, only about 30 feet on the Alameda ridge that approaches 30%. Passenger had to get out to get up it, but unloaded it was possible to grunt up it that short distance. So yeah it doesn’t climb trees, but short of that it’s competent given its impressive efficiency, assisted range (up to 110km estimated). 4. Elusivity (here comes the plug): We have 4 in stock right now here at Clever Cycles in Portland (all with rear racks and the larger 400Wh battery, hydraulic disks). We’ve designated one a tester: half hour is free, but you can take it out 24 hours for a fee we’ll refund if purchased. Yes it took us 3 years of begging to get them, but the bike has improved meanwhile.
As usual I have updated my post to reflect some of this. Perhaps I should hire you as a content editor. In re: hills, I would be interested in your take on the Bosch motor versus the first-generation Daum motor, because Dena mentioned that she broke the pawl on the original motor from extensive hill-climbing, and it’s breaking again on the replacement. So it appears to have had some long-term reliability issues. I would not be surprised to hear that that is part of the reason that UA is using a Bosch now, but both of us are interested to know whether it is possible to assess the risk of the Bosch having the same issue. In re: availability. You are of course correct about how many bikes you have in stock, but Clever Cycles pretty much defines the family bike supply chain. So I think it’s kind of cheating.
The change from Daum to Bosch is one of a few consolations that we couldn’t import the first Urban Arrows. We have uncovered no troubling reliability reports with this version of Bosch’s assist system. We are a little disappointed that Bosch USA seems less keen than their European counterparts to support this family-transport-oriented iteration of their product, however. (They are instead getting behind a system targeted at the same old macho recreation market, offroad mainly.) Regardless, we service what we sell, sourcing parts from Europe like the bikes themselves if necessary.
a) Surly’s image was carefully cultivated to be antithetical to sport riding, though now they offer some sporty bikes b/c everyone likes a fast bike. The characterization of Surly as a road race marque is preposterous. b) Motostrano started as an Italianate motorcycle shop. Sales of which, no doubt, have flat lined. Downsizing the motor, as it were. S’all I got.
I find Motostrano’s marketing approach totally contradictory too. It’s kind of a shame, because it has definitely made me not want to collaborate with them. Even though they have an amazing selection of assisted bikes. Like Ladyfleur, I am just so over bro culture. Also, if you’re looking for hills in Redwood City, you have to go about 3 miles west. But it’s worth it. Alameda de las Pulgas has some great rollers. Hence the road’s controversial popularity on Strava.
Love the review but missing the lovely “Babboe” Cargo Bikes in here! I’m from Babboe and i’m a frequent visitor of your website (keep up the great work). I noticed that you have written a small note in one of your Cargo Bike articles about Babboe. In here you say we are a cheap Knockoff of the bakfiets. I would like to convince you otherwise. In the Netherlands the “Fietsersbond” tested our and other 2-wheel Cargo Bikes and we landed on the second place. We sell cargobikes for an affordable price, to make cargobikes available for all young families and that is being appreciated. We have a broad range of different variants, 2-wheel and 3-wheel, regular and electric. Next to that your referring to a photo made by Henry. Yep, it’s a real Babboe, but a very old one (2008). We changed and improved the wood and that is no issue for a long time already. We are market leader in the Netherlands, Belgium, and expanding in the rest of Europe. And yes, we are selling in the US as well. Soon we will launch a new website (Sept 2014) for the US to expand our business. Hopefully you can find some free time to do such an deep review for our Cargo Bikes like you’ve spend for the Cargo Bike above. Thanks for your time and again keep up the great work! Yours sincerely, Bret van den Eshof, Babboe
If you could email me a picture of the new Babboe that I could use (something taken out in the world rather than a stock advertising photo–I don’t post those) I would be happy to update the photo, and add some of your Комментарии и мнения владельцев. At the time that I wrote that review I only knew what I had been told by others, having never seen a Babboe. I’m glad to hear that the bike is getting such good press. I typically review whatever family bikes I can find in the San Francisco Bay Area–my kids have only so much patience–so if there’s a shop here that carries them please let me know. Alternatively, if you know of someone who has written about their own Babboe, I could link to that, as I did to the Christiania review.
There are Babboes at Street Bike Named Desire in Palo Alto. It’s half a mile from the downtown Caltrain station
Your reviews are awesome! I was just singing your praises to some families while at camp Mather last week, and I arrive home to this great post. I have been curious about the urban arrow and the Italian motorcycle shop…. This review (and your others) are precious. I love biking with kudos but learning about family bikes is just daunting, thank heavens I found your site :-).
Thanks for another great review! Your cons confirmed the reasons we decided to go with the bullitt with bionix in our hilly spot in the world instead of the comfy UA. After a few months, it now feels odd to get back on my old bike. The kids and I love getting on the bullitt and go-go-going. I make it up our steep grades without a problem; I even found myself standing up and pedaling it the other day without it feeling squirrelly. Thanks so much again for all your time and effort to provide solid information and inspiration!
Dorie, I think this blog is great and have been absorbing huge amounts of it while I learn about cargo bikes. Regarding this review, I don’t understand your complaints about the Urban Arrow being “big in both dimensions—width and length. Size was a deal-killer for us.” You own a Bullitt and the specs I’ve been able to find say they are the same length: 8ft. As for width, you loved the Edgerunner, calling it the best long-tail ever, with its typically configured hooptie rack is almost as wide as the Urban Arrow (57.2 vs. 63cm) according to the hooptie dimensions I found at http://www.bikekidshop.com/xtracycle-hooptie-p-2846.html That’s about 1 inch of difference on each side, but you didn’t mention anything about it being too wide for you in your drooling review from just 2 months ago. I would think the advantage of seeing the width in front of you on the Urban Arrow vs. behind you is more important than 1in. of difference on each side. Note also that the Workcycles (Kr8) Bakfiets is exactly the same width as the Urban Arrow at 63cm. In other words, the Urban Arrow doesn’t seem to be unusually big for its category. The Gazelle Cabby seems to be the outlier in the big direction (length width) with the Bullitt the unusually narrow option (and maybe the Workcycles Short the unusually short option, but I haven’t found a spec for that yet).
I was unsure whether to approve this, since the characterization of an earlier review as “drooling” seems a little hostile, as does your comment in general. Nonetheless, I’ll address it. After multiple test rides, I take all listed specs of cargo bikes–particularly weight, but length and width as well–as potentially suspect until I’ve observed them. Our neighbor’s Urban Arrow is longer than our Bullitt–we have positioned them side by side. I did not measure the exact difference. Length matters less than width to us, but my concern with length and front loaders is primarily the same concern I had with strollers, namely, how far in front of me I have to push the kids so that I can see. The longer the box–and the UA box is quite generous, which my kids appreciated–the more of it is in front of you rather than behind and the further I have to shove the kids in the box out into oncoming traffic to see where I’m going. As far as width, a key difference between the EdgeRunner and the Urban Arrow, aside from the listed 6cm (which may or may not be accurate) is that the fully U-tubed EdgeRunner is narrower than its handlebars. As a result, it is easy to see exactly how much space the bike needs when threading through traffic. Although you can see all of the width of any front-loader as you travel, it can be difficult to judge whether there is enough space because the further away the object you’re observing, the more difficult it is to make an assessment of actual width. I have found that the handlebars are a more helpful gauge than a box 3 feet away. I have not ridden a Cabby, although I find its folding box intriguing, nor have I ridden the new KR8. The Bakfiets short (which I have not ridden but have seen around our neighborhood) is indeed shorter than any other front loader I’ve seen, especially in the “how far do I have to push my kids out into the road” dimension.
Oh my! Not sure where you got a hostility tone from. No hostility intended at all I assure you! I completely approve of your drooling Edgerunner review. It matches my impressions (from internet and seeing but not yet riding in person) and barring hating it on a test ride, I expect I’ll buy one soon. In fact, it’s quite a relief to have a reasonably clear choice in at least 1 category. I’m just genuinely trying to understand an obscure niche market. I’m not sure whether I want a long-tail or front-loader yet, and the irony is that the choice (for my family’s needs) in the long-tail category is clear enough that I would probably order one sight-unseen if I had to, but it’s actually easy to find them to test-ride. In contrast, the front-loader choice seems less clear to me but it’s actually much harder to find them in person from SF, especially to find them in the same store to compare more directly. So I wish there was a drooling “best front-loader ever, no contest” too. [If only Vie was operational already—it’s model would be perfect for my uncertainty. Alas, I had a conflict and couldn’t make it to the event today at Koret playground. Will you do a post saying how that went?] Anyway, I’m so glad you responded. It’s interesting that you compared the Bullitt and Urban Arrow side-by-side and see something different than the specs. That’s great info to have. But disappointing that specs can’t be trusted (especially since it’s so hard for most people to get the chance to do in-person side-by-sides).
Okay, sorry for the misunderstanding there! I completely agree with you that it feels strange to have a category-killer like the EdgeRunner on the longtail side (in my opinion) and no clear choice for the front-loaders (which I think would get pretty broad agreement). I agree with you that VieBikes would be a great option, but you can only try what’s available. Our decision to get a front-loader largely revolved around the desire for weather protection, since we wanted it to be a year-round car-replacement bike, and front loaders come with covers. I have no regrets, although there are very good reasons to think about a longtail as kids get older–it’s easier to carry bigger kids on a longtail, and you can tow their bikes as well. Wrt test rides, if you are ever up in SF we are always game to have people try the Bullitt (feel free to email me). Blue Heron in Berkeley also carries Bullitts, but no other front loaders. In fact I’ve never seen more than one type of front-loader at any shop outside of Portland. In San Francisco proper this is actually not as big a deal because most people can rule out the entire Workcycles line just on the grounds of their brakes, but having a shop here that carried, say, Bullitt, Metrofiets, Cetma, and Urban Arrow would be fabulous. I suspect a big part of the problem is that aside from Bullitt and Workcycles, which are to some extent mass-produced, front-loaders in the US are still boutique, one-off, or custom bikes. Oh and I realize that another reason for the differences between our observation and current specs might be that we are riding a 2012 Bullitt and our neighbor is riding a 2013 UA, and I’m guessing whatever you find online refers to 2014 bikes. That said, I’ve always found specifications on cargo bikes a little slippery overall–again, I think this is the boutique bike problem.
I just noticed this article, but wanted to belatedly chime in. We’re one of the (presumably) two owners of the UA in SF, since Jan of 2014. (we’d really like to meet the other owner) In short, we love the bike but there are some hills on our daily commute that we’ve had a lot of difficulty climbing. For moderate hills (and on the flats) it’s fantastic. We haul our 2 kids (3.5y and 15m) everywhere in it. I can’t imagine any other way to go than the mid-drive motor. There’s no throttle to mess with, you just get slightly super-human amplification as you pedal. You can feel the motor helping you turn the cranks and it’s absolutely seamless and requires almost no thought. This is our second dutch style cargo bike and I find the turning to be very natural. We bought from motostrano; Joe and his guys have been very helpful and attentive post-sale, to the limits of what he can do based on UA’s lack of US support. Support has been via dropoff at their SF location. We’ve replaced the front drum brake with a disc brake (which is essential, the original drum brakes are absolutely unsafe on hills). There’s also a very dangerous speed-wobble If you’re going much above 15mph and hit any sort of bump, you can set up this terrible oscillation that feels like the bike will shake apart or you’ll lose control. Obviously we just don’t let it go that fast and there is apparently a dampener Band that Joe noticed we’re missing, but it is seriously bad and not something we’ve felt in our other dutch style front cargo bike (Joe Bike’s carrier pigeon). But here’s the serious drawback. It uses the excellent Bosch 2011 mid-drive motor but there’s no support for it in the US. Specifically, you can’t check the motor for controller reported error conditions, you can’t find out the cycle history or lifetime health of the battery, you can’t receive any firmware updates. You can’t even change it from km to miles on the display. I believe the newer shipped versions of this bike have the updated intuvia HMI/display which allows the newer Bosch diagnostic units (that motostrano and anybody else selling a bike using the 2013 Bosch engine) to interface with, diagnose and upgrade the motor controller. For the first 3 months we owned the bike, it was the most awesome thing in the world. Giant costco runs, tackling any hill and my wife was able to pedal all the way up our street. After the 3 month tuneup, coincidentally or not, we started receiving power cutouts and flashing error conditions about the speed sensor on the same hill. After we complained enough to Joe, UA and involved the kind folks at The New Wheel then UA offered to replace the entire back half of the bike as well as give us the upgraded HMI/display. Somehow they only thing they actually sent was a replacement sensor cable to see if that resolved it, but the issue remains. I’m sure we’ll get a satisfactory resolution of the issue, but please verify that if you sign up to purchase one of these that you’ll have some dealer able to use the Bosch Diagnostic Software on it. So I’m in a weird position here. I don’t want to give up the bike; I loved it during that first several month period and wish we could return to the original performance. Joe and company have been very helpful and the folks at The New Wheel were able to put us in touch with an ex-Bosch engineer. Once our issue is resolved I will whole-heartedly recommend this bike to anyone. And I’m optimistic that we’ll get a positive resolution on the issue.
Wow, thank you so much for this information, and for writing! Evidently there are THREE UA owners in SF, because I heard from The New Wheel that they are also servicing a black one purchased from another shop (not Motostrano). Everything you’ve mentioned is really useful to know, and thanks so much for taking the time. Hope to see you around sometime!
Actually, we’re the ones with the black bike the New Wheel helped service. So still just 2 UAs that I know of. The New Wheel put on our front disc brake and were very helpful in introducing us to an ex-Bosch engineer who had tips. I mean, maybe there is a third one out there, but it seems like a coincidence. I don’t even know where you’d buy one in california if not motostrano.
For others like me wondering about what grade hills an Urban Arrow can handle, the Комментарии и мнения владельцев below this video (https://youtu.be/BZIfg2XFmzE) say up to 12-14%. I presume that they had the 50Nm Bosch Classic, so expect more from the latest model, which is spec’d at 70Nm.
I have loved your blog while researching family bikes so I’d like to offer this small contribution, if that’s okay. We have had our Urban Arrow for two weeks now and ridden 225km (140 Mi) since then. My children are 6 and 10.5 with a combined weight of over 50kg (110 lb), and I’m an overweight Mum (95 kg = 210 lb) who’s not been exercising regularly (until now!). We have not yet found a hill that I couldn’t ride the kids up, although I did find a short section coming off of a valley bike track (very steep – must have been over 20%) that I couldn’t start on. My UA is a little different from the one in this review – it has a Bosch mid drive assist and the controller has buttons near my left thumb for increasing or decreasing assistance, changing modes (time/distance/range etc), and walk assist. We are in Adelaide, Australia, and I’m happy to be in contact with anyone who is interested to know any more. Thank you again for an excellent blog.
Thanks for the update. Based on more recent rides, I think the Bosch motor is a significant upgrade from the earlier assist on the bike I rode.