If you are committed to parking the car more and living on the bike more, a cargo bike like the elBoda Boda makes a great deal of sense. It is designed to be ridden in street clothes, and with the electric assist, it will deliver you to destinations without sweating through your clothes. At the same time, you do get some exercise, and like any e-bike, the more you are willing to pedal, the farther the battery will help before needing to be charged. With the wide tires and stable chassis, the elBoda Boda deals well with pavement irregularities that challenge skinny tires. Let’s put it this way: if MacGyver rode a bicycle, it would likely be this one.
WHAT EXACTLY IS IT?
The elBoda Boda is a cargo bike with a built-in rack and floorboards on each side to support saddlebags or to strap boxes to. There are also options for front baskets, including a heavy-duty frame-mount model (it doesn’t turn with the front wheel like a conventional front basket, so the steering never feels heavy from the cargo).
Any bicycle can carry some cargo with the addition of racks or baskets, but a cargo bike comes from the drawing board designed to carry large loads. Our test bike came fitted with the standard rear floorboards, plus a frame-mounted front basket Yuba cleverly names Bread Basket. The floorboards allow you to place surprisingly large boxes on each side and secure them with a cargo strap. Naturally, Yuba has a large range of options to help you carry specific items.
We liked that all of the Yuba accessories have clever names. For example, the hard-shell child carrier is called a Peanut Shell. Other accessories are Monkey Bars (safety bars for carrying children too large for a Peanut Shell), the Soft Spot (a pad for the bamboo deck on the rack for passenger comfort), Go Getter bag (for carrying stuff), another bag called the Baguette, and the Deflopilator, which is spring mounted between the frame and fork to prevent the fork from flopping to the side while you load the kids and groceries.
Rated for carrying an adult rider and 220 pounds on the rack in addition to what you have in the basket, the Yuba is definitely intended to be a workhorse bike. And since by definition a cargo bike is designed to move that cargo some distance, that’s where electric assist comes to the rescue.
The elBoda Boda comes equipped with the most powerful BionX propulsion system sold in the U.S. This is a 355-watt, rear, direct-drive hub motor designed for torque running a 48-volt lithium-ion battery. BionX chooses the direct-drive hub for reasons of reliability and because it provides a regeneration mode. When we first saw that the elBoda Boda was fitted with V-brakes, we were worried that they might not be able to slow, or even stop, a full load. But that’s where the regeneration kicks in to help. As soon as you pull the brake levers, the hub switches to regenerative braking, and it starts up before the pads really touch the rim. The effect is fairly unobtrusive, yet offers powerful braking.
If you are fully loaded and have a long descent, you can use the mode switch near the grip to ratchet up the regen effect. At level 4, you could easily drop down one of San Francisco’s famous hills with the bike loaded to 400 pounds. You might not need to touch the brakes! We tried to pedal the bike on level 4, but could barely move it. The assist is mild at the lower levels, but powerful enough at the higher levels to move the bike along easily with a 200-pound rider. On flat or slightly downhill pavement, the BionX assist will drive the bike to 20 mph (flat) or even a bit more in throttle mode. That is 5 mph faster than you can comfortably pedal.
The 1×8 drivetrain isn’t big on speed, and your pedaling cadence gets too fast for extended riding at about 15 mph. But top speed isn’t the issue here. The low gearing and assist work fine for climbing and carrying a load. We even loaded the backseat with a 100-pound teenager and tackled a monster hill with no problem getting to the top.
With the basket and saddlebags capable of hauling four bags of groceries, the Yuba easily proved capable of performing a majority of errands. Our bike had a handlebar mounted to the seatpost for a passenger to hold on to, and that made it a little tricky getting a leg over. Otherwise, the riding position is comfortable for going the distance, the pedaling position is efficient, and the battery will take you where you want to go. The cork grips were fine and completely unfazed by hot or cold weather.
LIVING WITH IT
The center stand is an option, but we consider it a necessity on this bike. We also like the addition of the fenders and rear-wheel skirts. Our bike had the Soft Spot rack pad, and it was great for passengers and wasn’t in the way when tying things to the rack. The lights were great as well. With the BionX drive, the V-brakes work just fine, but no doubt discs would be nice, and they could still trigger the regen function. We like that there are three different frame colors to choose from, an option that has all but disappeared among most bicycles today.
Motor: BionX 355-watt DC direct-drive motor
Battery: Lithium manganese 48-volt, 8.8 amp-hours
Battery life: Up to 5 years
Charge time: 4–6 hours
Controller: BionX (built in), pedal torque sensor and POD (Power On Demand throttle) selector
Top speed: 20 mph (rider weight, rider input and terrain contingent)
Range: 25–35 miles with normal pedaling
Drive: SRAM X3, eight-speed drivetrain
Brakes: Promax V-brake with power cut-off switch
Wheels: Yuba 26-inch double-wall alloy rims
Controls: Illuminated LCD display with power switch, battery state of charge, power and regen mode/level selector, bicycle computer functions (distance, time, speed, average speed)
Fork: Chromoly rigid
Frame: Aluminum with built-in rack and floorboards, fender and bottle mounts
Weight: 52 pounds (medium)
Sizes: Step-through fits riders 4 foot 9 to 5 foot 10; step-over fits riders 5 foot 5 to 6 foot 6