Xtracycle vs. Kona Ute vs. Yuba Mundo
Before we moved to Colorado, one of the main things I wanted us to change in our life was to make the jump back to having one vehicle and trade up to a cargo bike. For those of you who haven’t heard me go on ad infinitum about cargo bikes (or long-tail bikes), in short, they are the mini-vans (or pick up trucks) of bikes. Either with a retro-fitted add-on frame like the Xtracycle Free Radical system or a one-piece build like the Yuba Mundo or Kona Ute, these things are built for hauling, be it cargo, kids or groceries.
Yuba: Mundo & Boda Boda
Trying to find one of these bikes, which have not gained a great deal in popularity, is difficult at best. We live in Fort Collins, one of three great biking cities/towns within 60 miles of the other two great biking cities/towns of Colorado. There is nearly 1 bike store for every individual family. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not too much of one. I was lucky enough to find Small Planet Bikes in Longmont, CO which is the local distributor of Yuba bikes. They specialize in electric bikes, so all they had on hand was an electric version of the Yuba Mundo and Boda Boda.
The Yuba Boda Boda, being an amazing bike and excellent ride, was deemed two small to carry two children, one requiring a child seat. If our youngest was a bit older and didn’t fall asleep every time she got on one of our bikes, we wouldn’t have worried about the child seat requirement, but at this point, that wasn’t negotiable. Therefore, the Boda Boda, unfortunately, was out. (Back in March, they had deals on REI.com as part of their annual sale…not sure if those are still available.)
Based on looks alone, I liked the bright colors of the Yuba Mundo. The frame is sturdy as all get out and with the giant double kick-stand, you can’t knock this thing over, even with it fully loaded with jam-packed panniers and two kids loaded on the back. They come in a “one-sized fits all” frame, which fit me just fine.
The main set back on this model was the price. Starting at $1250 for the Mundo (and $1000 for the Boda Boda) without any extras like panniers and such, the cost for what we wanted in our cargo bike was going to put the price of this bike at about $1800, well beyond our budget of $1000. Finding a used one was fruitless, even in a nation-wide search, so we put this one on the back burner.
Kona: Ute & Minute
The main reason I hadn’t thoroughly considered the Kona Ute or Minute was the size of the tires. Unlike the other two brands (Yuba & Xtracycle), Kona’s rode on 700c tires, which equates to about a 27.5″ tire (give or take the specific tires size/width, etc.). Like the other bikes, there were local dealers, but no one had one in stock so test-riding was out. One key point that these had over the others were panniers (nice, huge “leather” panniers, at that) were included along with the double-kickstand. I had already determined that the MinUte was out for the same reason as the Boda Boda, it would fit two older kids, but not a child seat and another child.
While perusing Craigslist one day back in February, I spotted a used Kona Ute, with the panniers and kickstand…and for a good price. New, these bikes run $1350 and this one was listed at $950 OBO, so I knew we could get it for a good price. After a test ride and a night to think it over, I called him back the next day and picked it up. I was stoked.
That stoked-ness faded in the coming weeks. Aside from the frame being a bit too big for my 5′ 8″ frame (the Utes come in 18″ and 20″ models) – which after adjusting the fit, it was good, but not great – which made mounting a bit difficult, the larger tires and higher back meant the kids (the main weight) rode quite a bit higher than the Mundo. Once I was moving, it wasn’t much of an issue, but the kickstand was rendered nearly useless with the top weight of the kids, making loading and unloading a very precarious operation.
In short, I had determined that the Ute was not the bike. For a larger person who wanted to carry around loads (and not children), this bike would be great. And that’s exactly who we ended up selling it to, for the exact same price we paid for it.
The Holy Grail of the long tail/cargo bike movement, Xtracycle is the Linux to the Kona’s PC and the Yuba’s Mac. You can buy a complete bike, you can buy the Free Radical frame extension and add it to nearly any other steel/aluminum bike frame or you can do some combination. There are extra bolt holes and such for creating any sort of cargo bike that fits your needs. In short, this was the bike I always wanted, but couldn’t find.
I had checked shops and websites. Xtracycle.com was sold out until April (or later). eBay and Craigslist had nothing. I couldn’t find one. One day, I happened to check my local Full Cycle’s sales list and – lo and behold – they had a 2012 model, priced to sell. I called them up, they had it brought up from their Boulder shop and I test rode it 3 days later. I posted the Kona Ute on Craigslist, sold it and went up the next morning to buy the Xtracycle Radish. I had it outfit with a new deck, Peanut Shell kid’s seat (that we had on the Kona Ute) and re-mounted the panniers before the sun and set that day.
In short, this bike is the best of the three, in my honest opinion. It is a bit lighter than the Mundo but heavier than the Ute which makes it a nice happy medium as far as pedaling and stability are concerned. It rides on 26″ wheels which makes a bit of difference. It comes with panniers, although they aren’t traditional panniers in the sense of having flaps that buckle down and all that. They are more like side packs that can hold other bags…or lumber…or another bike…or two…you get the idea. This things is built to haul a lot of stuff, and it can do it in spades, even with two kids on the back of it.
If you already own a bike, then this is the smart solution, because with a few retro-fits that either you or your local mechanic can do, you can go from regular bike to cargo bike in an afternoon. If you don’t own a bike and need a new one, then this is a great option, too. Starting at $1000 for the base model Xtracycle Radish (no kids seat or frame in the back), you can build it up to exactly what you need. Have two kids needing seats? Get the p-frames, panniers and a couple of Yepp Maxi seats (with included bases that allow you to move the seats from bike to bike, as long as there’s a base on the other bike…available for $30) and go.
The one thing that Xtracycle has mastered as far as the fine art of cargo bikes is the double kickstand. It won’t fit on the Kona Ute and Yuba working on their own (which I think they’ve nailed, but I haven’t tested it), but as far as loading kids/cargo, this kickstand is the sh*t. I can load the kids, walk away and never need to worry if they’re going to tip over. Granted, I don’t walk away from them once they’re loaded. I am a responsible parent.
If you’re reading this wondering about what kind of cargo bike to get to haul a kid (or more) around, go with the Xtracycle, either the pre-made Radish or kit and fix up your existing bike. If you’re not hauling kids, the Kona Ute might work, especially if you are taller than 5′ 10″ or weigh more than 150 Lbs. (my weight). If money isn’t an issue and you’re hauling two (or more kids) the Yuba is awesome and an electric assist plug-in model is available that is pretty sweet (but pricey, at $2500).
I am in the process of building out my own kid’s seats (my kids are 2.5yo and 4.75 years old, so the seats aren’t as important from a safety/infant stand point). I have picked up some ideas from a Xtracycle Flickr account, in particular this one Xtracycle Dad, Rob Hanson of Round About, who makes some pretty stellar all wood, Xtracycle compatible seats that allow for the Xtracycle panniers to be used (the Yepp Maxi works with the panniers, the Peanut Shell and others, with their drop-legs obscure the middle or front of the panniers, making them useless…which is why I made my own for the Ute, that work with the Xtracycle, too). This, as they say, is another story…and another blog post.