Cleary there is a lot of debate around e-bikes, but if there was one category that should be fairly easy to agree on, it would have to be cargo bikes destined for the road. Trying to get hundreds of pounds worth of payload moving requires either the absolute lowest gearing possible with a ton of shifting, or the aid of a pedal assist motor.
Rolling with the increasing trend of eCargo bikes, two electric Yuba (Yubas?) were available for test at this Press Camp. Both were Class 1 e-bikes. Both had batteries and motors of similar capacity and power. Both designed and purposed for similar ultra-utility within their intended purposes. So I took the opportunity to test both to compare their drive systems. Meet the new Spicy Curry, powered by Currie Technologies, and the elMundo, powered by BionX and enter the Yubadrome after the jump…
Spicy Curry Feat. Currie Technologies Centerdrive
The Spicy Curry is a collaboration between Yuba and Currie Technologies and is available now. It is a Class 1 e-bike, featuring pedal assist with a top speed of 20mph. It’s outfitted with a powerful 350W Currie Technologies Centerdrive motor and a geometry designed around a 26in front wheel and a 20in rear, giving a ton of standover and lowering the rear deck.
The 48V, 8.7Ah battery is tucked between the chain stays right behind the bottom bracket, so the weight is low and central. And because of the low deck, additional loads (cargo, wiggling kids) on the bike remain low as well. It has a range of 25-45 miles depending on road conditions and a charge time of only 4-6 hours to a full battery. It also features front and rear dynamo powered LED front and rear lights. The drive train is 1×8 Shimano Acera and the brakes are hydraulic Tektro T290 – extremely necessary for moving and stopping the 55lb machine. It is outfitted with Schwalbe Big Apple plus tires 26×2.15in front, 20×2.15in rear.
Impressions: This bike was a station wagon- in the most positive sense. Super stable due to the low and central battery and motor. It was begging to be loaded up and ridden the crap out of (something I didn’t get to try). The powerful motor made the big climb no issue at all. The descent, however, with all that weight was a little harrowing. And the only other issue I had was that the mid-drive motor had a really wide Q-Factor, something that my track racing knees did not particularly appreciate during and after the test rides (they were a little achy after pedaling hard up the climb). Though, if you’re a fat bike rider, I doubt you’d notice. Overall, though, it was attractive, fun, and extremely practical. I liked the low step-thru, critical in a cargo situation.
elMundo Feat. BionX
The elMundo features a rear hub BionX 350DL (350W) motor, rather than a mid-drive. The accompanying 48V, 8.8Ah Li-Mn (Lithium Manganese) battery boasts a 25-50 mile range, but rather than being tucked low and pro like Currie battery, the BionX battery lives in the front triangle, giving this model a higher stand-over. Front and rear wheels of this model are both 26in, meaning the rear deck is a bit higher than on the Spicy Curry, so it also has a substantial guard to protect little legs. The drivetrain is a 3×7 SRAM X4, and the whole bike comes in at 65lb total.
There are a few interesting things about the BionX system. For one, it doesn’t just have an assist mode, it also has a “recharge” mode, which adds resistance to the rear wheel while you pedal or coast. So, if you want your e-bike to give you a heavy workout rather than just assist you, BionX is the kit for you. The other interesting aspect of the system is that BionX has a sophisticated diagnostic and tuning system in place for all of these systems, meaning that the system and its torque curve can be serviced and fine-tuned to your riding after the fact. This would come into play later.
Impressions: I tested the stability of this model right off the bat by co-test riding this machine with a media colleague. We took turns riding on the padded deck and pedaling the bike down a straight-away. In both cases, the bike was stable (and totally fun) and took very little acclimation. I definitely appreciated the normal, narrow q-factor on my knees due to the rear drive motor. Unloaded, I took this system up my e-bike test climb. Unlike other systems, I was definitely aware that I was assisted on my climb as the BionX system seemed to nudge me up the climb. On a hard climb, this more active active-assist was certainly appreciated.
The BionX motor over-heated with about 70ft to go to my stopping point, something I’m told is more common to electric rear motors, bringing my speed from a zippy 20mph to 3mph in a matter of seconds… so I was pretty thankful for the 3×7 drive train at the end. It was the only motor I managed to overheat during my test experience. While that was kind of a bummer, the descent, was awesome. I kicked the assist into the highest “recharge” setting and the motor acted as a brake down the steep parts of the descent. Considering the weight of the bike, and the potential for added cargo weight, this was a huge asset. It kept the bike speed and handling completely under control all the way down.
When I shared my motor stall with BionX after the test ride, they said that it would be possible to tune the system further to accommodate a rider with a particular type of commute. This means that they could squeeze more distance out of the motor in a given climb by remotely adjusting the system (I’ll be checking out this aspect of the system further during an extended test ride, stay tuned).