for power, with at least 200 pounds of cargo, I would be lucky
to average 13 mph. That would be in bike-racer condition, and
I wouldn’t want to do it every day. Adding electric assist was
the only way I could accomplish all of my goals on this project.
I chose the BionX SL 350 HT DT XL. That’s a lot of acronyms
that basically means a 350-watt rear-hub motor powered by a
48-volt 8. 8 amp-hour battery. Overall weight for the kit is 16.1
pounds. Assist levels are 35, 75, 150 and 300 percent. I chose
the battery option that mounts on the downtube of the frame.
THE PARTS PICK
For rims, I chose aluminum Velocity Cliffhangers with
reflective coating. I’ve found Velocity rims to be among the
absolute toughest available. I once rode one, without a tire
on it, for an entire lap of a World Cup mountain bike race.
There were large boulders on the course, and my lap time was
comparable to my previous laps with a tire. And even though
the rim was no longer usable, it was still true and round!
When I saw that Velocity had essentially this same rim with a
reflective coating to be more visible at night, I got a pair and
laced them up with DT Swiss spokes.
When it came to choosing brakes, I didn’t hesitate a
moment; I needed discs. As the guy who always said,
“V-brakes are all you need,” this was definitely out of
character for me. The thing is, when you’ve got kids as cargo
(often more than one), why mess around with old-school side-pull binders? I opted for a pair of mechanical Avid BB7s. There
are less-expensive discs on the market that stop great (and
some that are more expensive and stop even better), but I’ve
found that few are as easy on the fingers as the Avids, and
they are nowhere near as expensive as hydraulic brakes.
So with all this stop-and-go power, what was I going to
A NEW CHAPTER
trust the all-important contact patch to? I wanted a tire that
was wide, had low-rolling resistance, was made with electric
assist as part of the design process, was quiet, and also
looked cool. I found all of those with the Michelin Pilot Sport
folding tire in 26×2.3. The tread pattern on these Michelins
is derived from Moto GP motorcycle
tires. They look more like motorcycle
tires than bicycle tires.
As I built the Yuba Mundo with the
BionX motor, spec’d out the way I
wanted, my excitement steadily grew
with each passing hour in the garage.
Standing on its extremely solid center
stand (the Yuba kickstand is the
burliest and best I’ve ever used on a
bicycle, and that is very important on
a bike like this), the bike began to ride
in my imagination. What was this new
chapter in cycling going to be like?
Strangely, when I spoke of this
project to some of my performance-
minded cycling friends, I could sense an immediate aversion
on their part. I realized many of them didn’t understand what
bikes like the Yuba are for, or what they mean for the future.
These are riders who have not yet grasped the concept
of what relying on a bike versus a car or motorcycle really
means. They may ride carbon racing bikes for a hundred miles
over hill and dale, but outside of that, they don’t identify the
bike as the true utility vehicle option that it is. Bicycles—they
aren’t just for recreation!
That’s when I knew this project was more than just valid.
I will admit that my new e-bike has truly brought me back to
the sport of cycling. It has opened my mind to so many new
possibilities of how to use a bicycle beyond purely recreational
use. I haven’t been this thrilled about cycling in nearly 20
BRINGING THE KIDS INTO IT
Like me, I’m guessing that in some way, you, too, are
fascinated by bicycles; isn’t that one reason why you’re
reading this story? Attending the “Cyclepedia” exhibit at
the Portland Art Museum in August was eye-opening for
me. After 40 years of riding, racing and studying everything
bicycle-related, I thought I had seen it all. I hadn’t. I realized
that most of the “inventions” to make bicycles more efficient,
comfortable, and practical forms of transportation were
actually built and put into use in some form or fashion
decades before I was born.
Suspension, vibration dampening, and ways to carry kids
and gear have been worked on since humans first started
pushing pedals. Few things perplex the minds of engineers
and move the imagination of children like bicycles. When I
explained to my kids what an electric-assist bike is, I could
see their 10-year-old engineering minds trying to absorb the
concept. “So, you pedal and it goes?” they asked.
“When you pedal harder, it gives you more power, yes.” I
replied. They weren’t sold. I asked them, “Do you want to go
get some ice cream?” Jumping and screaming, they bounced
“I will admit that my new e-bike has truly brought me back to the
sport of cycling. […] I
haven’t been this thrilled
about cycling in nearly