Yuba Electric Supermarche e-cargo bike review: The smile machine

by James Huang


At nearly 50kg all in, the Yuba Electric Supermarche is undoubtedly the heaviest rig ever tested on CyclingTips. However, it’s also the most useful bike we’ve ever tested, and despite its obvious lack of “performance features”, it’s arguably the type of bike that can have the biggest effect on how much time you spend in the saddle on a day-to-day basis.

It’s also flawed, but its positives arguably outweigh its negatives.


Story Highlights

  • What it is: A Dutch-style cargo bike with tremendous cargo capacity and enough electric mid-drive power to get you and your gear there with ease.
  • Frame features: Oversized aluminum construction, 20″ front and rear wheels, low standover, generous capacity.
  • Weight: Enough to give you a hernia if you’re not careful.
  • Price: US$5,500 / AU$8,500 / £TBC / €4,750
  • Highs: Insanely useful, comfortable ride, lots of available accessories, a genuine car replacement.
  • Lows: Clunky cargo box, clunky steering, clunky design, probably too big and cumbersome for urban dwellers.

Spreading the bakfiets love

Yuba has historically focused on more traditional cargo bike types: longtails like the Spicy Curry; and mid-tails like the Boda Boda, often with some type of electric assist. The new Electric Supermarche is Yuba’s first take on the classic Dutch-style cargo bike, where the rider sits toward the rear of the bike and the front half is dominated by a large cargo area that sits behind the front wheel, close to the ground.

Yuba offers a number of different options for configuring that cargo area to your particular needs, including a soft-sided cargo “bucket” or basic bamboo floor (both of which are included) or a hard-sided bamboo box. There’s available seating for up to two youth-sized passengers, and there’s even an available rain canopy for keeping little ones dry and warm in inclement weather.

The Yuba Electric Supermarche isn’t a beautiful bike in the traditional sense, but its utility is undeniably appealing.

The frame itself is made of oversized aluminum, and features a step-through layout for easier mounting and dismounting, especially when heavily loaded. Twenty-inch wheels are used at both ends, which not only help minimize the overall length of the Electric Supermarche somewhat — it is still about 2.6m (8.5ft) long, after all — but also make for a conveniently low load deck for the built-in rear rack.

That rack is designed to accept the popular Yepp Maxi Easy Fit kid seat, which would bring the total passenger capacity to three. Mounting conventional panniers would be a little trickier given the large-diameter tubing, but not entirely impossible depending on which bags you choose. Total maximum payload capacity is 136kg (300lb), in addition to the rider.

Helping to get all of that mass moving along is a Bosch Performance Line CX mid-drive electric motor assist system, with a nominal output of 250W (600W peak output), four levels of assistance, and a 500W-h rechargeable Li-ion battery pack that that should last most users for a solid week of errands.

The Bosch Performance Line CX mid-drive motor provides sufficient power in most situations, but it could still use a bit more power when the bike is heavily loaded.

Yuba outfits the Electric Supermarche with an eclectic build kit that emphasizes practicality. Out back is an Enviolo stepless internally geared rear hub that offers 380% of total range, while stopping duties are handled by Magura MT5 four-piston hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm-diameter rotors at both ends. The wheels are built with double-wall 32-hole aluminum rims from Taiwanese company Shining, laced to that Enviolo hub out back and a Chosen quick-release hub up front, all wrapped with 20×2.15″ Schwalbe Big Apple Plus tires. Pretty much everything else is essentially no-name generic stuff, including the adjustable-angle stem, the 1.5″ headset, aluminum riser bar and single-bolt seatpost, and ergonomic grips.

Yuba includes several key accessories, including front and rear fenders, a wide-footprint two-legged kickstand, integrated front and rear lights, and a bell.

Not surprisingly, this sucker is awfully heavy, even before anyone gets on the thing, and without a single bit of cargo. Yuba says the Electric Supermarche weighs about 35kg (78lb), but that’s without accessories. The sample I tested was equipped with the bamboo cargo box and kid seating for two, which brought the actual weight to almost 50kg (108lb).

Yuba offers this hard-sided bamboo box as an option for the Electric Supermarche; a soft-sided nylon box comes standard.

Retail price for the Electric Supermarche is US$5,500 / AU$8,500 / £TBC / €4,750, including the aforementioned bamboo base board and soft-sided box, and it’s available in a single size that supposedly works for riders ranging from 1.45m to 1.96m (4’ 9″ to 6’ 5″) in height. Other accessories are purchased a la carte based on your particular wants and needs.

There’s also a non-motorized version of the Supermarche, but unless you live somewhere that’s totally flat, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Incredibly useful

I’m no stranger to electric cargo bikes, having owned (and liberally used) a first-generation Yuba Spicy Curry longtail almost daily for the past four years. Despite the fact that I work from home, it’s seen over 11,000km (7,000mi) of use, mostly in short trips around town. My wife and I haul our kid around on it for grocery store runs, we shuttle her back and forth to school, I use it to drop off boxes of all sorts of crazy shapes and sizes at the post office, UPS, and FedEx.

It’s basically our two-wheeled pickup truck, without the hassle of regular oil changes, and without the expense of insurance or registration fees. Over that duration, the only maintenance costs have been replacement brake pads, a rear tire, and a cassette.

To say I’m a big fan of e-cargo bikes would be quite the understatement.

One day, I needed to get me and my daughter to a friend’s house for a barbecue, but we also needed to bring his kid’s bike back with us, too. This was quite the train, but it worked, and we didn’t have to get in the car. Someone was clearly happy about that.

And so it was with great anticipation that I took delivery of my Electric Supermarche loaner. As compared to longtails, cargo bikes like the Supermarche offer even more everyday utility given the huge bucket up front. Instead of figuring out how to secure stuff on a load deck, or tuck stuff into oversized panniers, you just toss your stuff (and passengers) into the cargo box.

I spent six precious weeks with the Electric Supermarche, during which I only logged a modest 250km (155 miles) in distance, but scores of short trips both around town and further off. I found the cargo box to provide comfy seating for two toddlers (and an ample supply of giggles), enough room for a week’s worth of groceries, and, yes, even enough leg room to ferry adult-sized passengers from time to time. On the rare occasions when the box wasn’t filled with something, the Bosch motor easily kept me from being (extra) late to various meetings downtown with visiting bike brands.

Throughout it all, the Electric Supermarche also provided quite a reasonably smooth ride, small wheels and all, likely due to the extremely long wheelbase. Having all that cargo situated so far down meant there was almost no perceptible impact on overall handling, either, regardless of how much junk I tossed into the box.

The frame boasts an extremely low standover height.

Naturally, I took the Electric Supermarche to my local Costco wholesale store, which most people who live here in Boulder, Colorado wouldn’t really consider to be “local” if traveling by bike. From my end of town, it’s 16km (10mi) door to door, with a stiff 150m (500ft) climb heading out, and a more manageable 90m (300ft) of climbing on the way home.

And on the day I decided to go, the skies were threatening rain.

Whether by intent or convenient accident, though, that stylish bamboo cargo box is perfectly sized for a large plastic tote box that I thankfully had in the garage, so I tossed that into the Supermarche’s cavernous hold, packed my rain gear, and headed off. Mother Nature thankfully spared me on the way out, but it turned out she was just saving her powder for my return journey. However, that plastic tote kept all of my purchases clean and dry, while a generous wardrobe of Gore-Tex did the same for me. It was wet and cold, yes, but I still got a decent bike ride in while seemingly everyone else was stuck in their cars.

The included kickstand has a very wide footprint, and keeps the bike suitably stable when loading things up.

Impressively, given the distance, the heavy load, and the elevation change, I barely used half the battery capacity. When the battery was topped off, the Bosch display estimated 100, 64, 56, and 51km (65, 40, 35, and 32 miles) of range at the four different assist settings, and each seemed surprisingly accurate during my testing.

That trip to Costco pretty much typified the theme for those six weeks: me riding, others driving, almost wholly due to the fact that I didn’t have a good reason not to. I could almost always carry everything I needed, the electric assist offered ample assistance (most of the time, at least), and as long as I made sure I was prepared, inclement weather was never an issue.

During that period, I got in my car barely half a dozen times.

On the other side of this retaining wall, countless cars passed by as I rode blissfully along the protected bike path. I was going slower, yes, but on this thing, errands were fun, not chores.

Component-wise, it was a mixed bag. The Enviolo rear hub was generally a hit, and the ability to downshift at a standstill never grew old. The neat display on the shifter is very beginner-friendly, too. But the two-cable shifting system had ridiculous amounts of drag, and generally felt crummy to operate. A suggestion to Yuba: please spend a bit more on higher-quality cables and housing.

I had a better experience on the Magura MT5 disc brakes, which generally had no issues bringing things to a halt, even when fully loaded (although a 200mm rotor up front would have been nice over the standard 180mm one). The enormous two-legged kickstand is ultra-stable and easy to use, too, and previous experience has proven to me that the stock Schwalbe 20×2.4″ Super Moto tires are impressively tough and reliable.

The details matter

You’ve probably gathered by now that I’m quite a big fan of this format of e-cargo bike (and in all honesty, had I had more experience with different types of cargo bikes back in the day, I likely would have gone with something like this instead of my longtail).

But while the Electric Supermarche nails a lot of things, it needs work in a lot of other areas.

First and foremost, it’s a little tricky to ride.

The cable network connecting the front and rear steering columns is fine in theory, but problematic in execution.

Cargo bikes like this have to have some way of connecting the two steering columns together. Some companies, such as category stalwart Urban Arrow, use a rigid linkage. Others, including Yuba, opt for a network of cables and housing. The former provides a more direct connection, while the latter generally offers a smaller turning radius.

Yuba has unfortunately hamstrung its system by using disappointingly cheap components. The cables themselves appear to be made of galvanized, instead of stainless, steel, and the spiral-wound housing is prone to axial compression under load. As a result, the whole setup feels vague and laden with drag. Worse yet, it’s a custom setup that can’t be easily upgraded.

Realigning the cable pulleys at either end of the assembly and injecting some lube helped quite a lot, but even under the absolute best conditions, piloting the Electric Supermarche felt like riding a bike with a headset that was overly tight; it was harder to hold a straight line than it should have been, and required constant steering corrections to counteract the bike’s incessant desire to wander.

The cables are riddled with drag even when clean and properly aligned, and it doesn’t take a lot of grime to greatly degrade their performance.

That was sadly only a temporary fix, since Yuba makes no effort to seal up the ends of the assembly. After just that one wet ride home from Costco, there was a noticeable degradation in that already-mediocre steering performance, and no amount of work afterward could fully bring the steering performance back to where I had it before.

The joints of the bamboo cargo box were also infuriatingly creaky, with every tiny imperfection and undulation in the road producing a cacophony of complaints. And while that optional passenger seat is reasonably padded, the rest of the box is anything but — and as any parent of young children can attest, keeping the little ones cozy and happy is always of the utmost importance when you’re trying to get something done.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that the holes at the front corners of that bamboo cargo box are curiously large, big enough in fact that my giant Kryptonite chain lock nearly fell through it as I was riding one day. And if I want to nitpick, I found myself wishing more than once that the passenger seat could flip up and out of the way when it wasn’t needed, kind of like many pickup trucks, or what Honda does in the back of its Fit subcompact hatchback. As it is, the only way to remove the passenger seat on the Supermarche is to take the whole box apart.

The joints of the bamboo box are ridiculously creaky.

There were a few other annoying oversights, too.

For example, the cargo box and control area overlap enough that passengers’ heads can occasionally get bumped by the stem, the protruding forward steerer tube extends over the top of the cargo box and arguably presents a bit of a safety hazard, and I’m utterly perplexed why Yuba would go with a quick-release front skewer on a bike like this instead of a vastly more secure thru-axle.

And as much as I hate to admit it, there were times I found myself wishing that Yuba offered one of Bosch’s even-higher-powered models when going up steeper hills with a big load on board.

Yuba Electric Supermarche vs. Urban Arrow

I was curious how the Yuba Electric Supermarche would compare to the Urban Arrow, arguably the benchmark for the category. And conveniently, a local cargo bike shop — Front Range Cargo Bikes — had a demo sample on hand that I could borrow.

To be perfectly blunt, the Electric Supermarche is clearly outclassed here.

The steering linkage on the Urban Arrow makes for vastly more natural-feeling handling than the cable setup on the Yuba, its expanded foam cargo box is supremely quiet, and its taller sides not only make for more comfortable seating, but a greater sense of security (according to my six-year-old, who offered up the feedback unsolicited). The Urban Arrow’s drivetrain is also more fully enclosed to better cope with rain and slush, the integrated lights seem more powerful, and Urban Arrow offers a wider range of accessories to customize your cargo needs.

So how’s the Yuba Elecric Supermarche (right) compare to the Urban Arrow (left)? Unfortunately for Yuba, it’s not much of a contest.

In fairness to Yuba, the Urban Arrow is a more expensive machine, especially in some of the more premium configurations. But once you’re at this pointy end of the market, what’s another few hundred dollars to get exactly what you want, especially given how much many buyers are likely to use these things, and how long they’re likely to hold on to them?

If I were in the market today, there’s no debate in my mind which one I’d choose. In fact, the Urban Arrow is one of very few test bikes that have passed through my hands that I would unquestionably add to my personal fleet.

Granted, the usefulness of the Yuba Electric Supermarche – or any utility bike like this – will depend heavily on your local area. I’m fortunate to be in a place where bike paths and lanes are plentiful (both in-town and between towns), and I have a garage I can use for secure storage. But if I were in a densely populated urban area where the cycling infrastructure isn’t as well-developed, or didn’t have secure ground-level storage for something this big, the Electric Supermarche probably wouldn’t fit the bill. In that case, the Tern GSD would be a much better choice.

The big picture

It’s important to keep in mind that it’s my job to find flaws in products, and I clearly found plenty in the Yuba Electric Supermarche. But that doesn’t mean I’d be all that upset if I had one in my garage.

My daughter doesn’t fixate on that stuff, and after spending six weeks of her life in this thing, she was pretty bummed that we had to give it back. The two of us enjoyed countless little conversations in the thing as we rode around town, she had laughs with friends while sitting inside of it, she saw the world with an unimpeded panoramic view that simply isn’t possible while riding inside a car. When given the choice, never did she not want to ride the “new big bike.”

Curled up inside the cargo box is my daughter, fast asleep on the way to the bakery. Life is good.

The day before I had to return the Electric Supermarche, I decided we’d take a family bike trip to Moxie Bread Company, a delectable bakery located a couple of towns over, and one of my daughter’s favorite places to have a snack. My wife and I picked her up from summer camp (my wife rode a non-motorized bike), and we made our way to the protected bike path that runs alongside the main highway.

The clouds darkened, the wind picked up, and rain started to gently fall when we were about halfway there, but my daughter was none the wiser; she had curled up in a little ball and fallen fast asleep in the Yuba’s cargo box. I tossed my rain jacket over her to keep her dry so she could get some rest.

She woke up right as we pulled into the city of Louisville, and her eyes lit up when she realized where she was. She yammered on a bit about what pastry she was going to get (she’s a big fan of their chocolate-and-tahini Kouign Amann). She chuckled every time we hit a bump on the dirt part of the path that bounced her slightly up and out of her seat.

Definitely riding in style. Can’t beat it.

We had hot chocolates, coffees, and pastries, and eventually wandered across the street for a proper dinner at a barbecue place we’d never eaten at before. The sun was going to start setting soon, so we wrapped up, got back on our bikes, and flipped around for the return trip.

That cargo box was invariably creaking during that trip. The shifter was certainly hard to turn. The steering definitely felt a little goofy. And the whole bike was clunkier than something this expensive should be.

But when I look back on that day, all I remember are the smiles on everyone’s faces as we raced the sunset home, bellies and hearts full from the evening’s two-wheeled adventure.

Yes, the Electric Supermarche is flawed. And yes, I’d still rather have an Urban Arrow.

But I still smiled when I rode the thing, my daughter smiled when she rode in it, and, perhaps most amazingly, other people smiled at us when we rode by almost every time we used this bike during that six weeks. The Yuba Electric Supermarche might be a creaky mess, but when that sound is drowned out by buoyant non-stop giggling, those sorts of things are easier to overlook.

www.yubabikes.com

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