Urban Arrow Family review intro: With a kid, can it replace a car in winter?

by James Huang


I’d been hell-bent on bringing in a long-term Urban Arrow Family e-cargo bike sample ever since briefly rode one for comparison against the Yuba Electric Supermarche. My first ride on it was a bit tricky — up our local Flagstaff Mountain with a torn left calf muscle for the epic MAMIL battle — but it’s honestly been pretty clear sailing since then.

Overall, I have to say this is quite the machine: it’s smooth and comfortable to ride, easy to pilot, offers a truly insane cargo capacity in an easy-to-use bakfiets front-loader format, and it’s remarkably stable even with 100kg of passengers in the soft expanded polypropylene box. Despite weighing in at nearly 50kg fully outfitted, the Bosch Performance CX mid-drive motor system doesn’t have much trouble pushing the thing around, either, even when heading uphill or with a full load. And quite surprisingly — given the ocean liner-like wheelbase — it’s actually pretty reasonably nimble.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B7zWQnAFzAu

I expected all of this, though.

I should point out that although my test started at the end of November, early winters in Boulder, Colorado are generally pretty mild. Sure, we get occasional snowstorms, but they’re quickly replaced by blazing sunshine and warm, dry air. Up until a few weeks ago, I was riding dry trails on my mountain bike in shorts, and the odometer on the Urban Arrow had been steadily ticking along.

Leaving the car at home is easy to do when the weather is good and you’ve got a dedicated bike path network that’s as comprehensive and well-maintained as we have here in Boulder, though. But now it’s mid-February, and we’ve been inundated with a series of rapid-fire snowstorms over the past few weeks that have sequestered the Urban Arrow into the garage for days on end.

Bosch recently announced a fleet of new motor systems that run more efficiently and quieter than the one used here. But you know what? This one more than gets the job done, and the fully enclosed chain drive requires extremely little maintenance, especially when combined with the Enviolo internally geared rear hub.

When I originally requested this Urban Arrow, though, my goal was to see if it could truly serve as a car replacement even in inclement weather. Colder temperatures haven’t been an issue — the optional rain cover helps immensely — but even though I’ve now already had this thing for more than a couple of months now, it’s time to get serious and see how this thing can handle the snow. More importantly, I not only need to see if it can not only handle some of the white fluffy stuff, but in a manner that feels sufficient confident such that I can still shuttle my six-year-old daughter around without putting her at risk.

As a result, I now have a set of Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires inbound, complete with a more open tread design for snow and an ample array of carbide-tipped studs for ice. Right after that, the mediocre dual-piston Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes will get replaced with a proper four-pot setup and bigger rotors (because even on flat ground, a fully loaded e-cargo bike like the Urban Arrow Family needs to scrub off a lot of energy before coming to a stop), and at some point, I’d like to cover the cargo area floor with something that provides a bit more warmth. Oh, and some better pedals are an absolute must, especially with winter boots.

I’ll certainly have more questions as I continue down this path: the best way to keep my kid warm and comfortable (and safe), how well the Urban Arrow deals with road chemicals, the long-term toughness of the foam box, how to haul kid and cargo in harsh weather? When are the conditions too bad to warrant two-wheeled transportation with kiddo in tow? And how the hell am I going to pay for this thing when I come to the inevitable conclusion that I can’t bear to send it back?

The more distinctive feature of the Urban Arrow Family is the huge expanded polypropylene foam cargo box up front, which not only makes for an impressively quiet ride (wooden boxes can be creaky), but an environment that feels safe and cozy for passengers.

So. Many. Questions.

And hopefully, some answers to go with them, which I plan to share with you as I move forward here.

I’ve had a lot of less-than-brilliant ideas over the years (three days eating nothing but energy bars comes to mind), and committing to commuting by e-cargo bike through a snowy Colorado winter seems like one with a decidedly greater-than-zero chance of failing in spectacular fashion.

But hey, I also like riding bikes a lot more than I like driving around town, and I’m pretty stubborn. Stay tuned for more.

www.urbanarrow.com

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