Friday, 7 October 2011

Yuba Mundo - first thoughts

The latest addition to our cycling-with-kids fleet is a Yuba Mundo v4. We've had it for a little more than a week. Here are my thoughts so far:


The specification is well-thought out. The drivetrain is 7-speed, which I don't mind at all. It has SRAM shifters and derailleurs, which work pretty well. Indexed front derailleurs aren't my cup of tea, and this one is no exception. Shifting onto the big chainring can be unreliable. OTOH I haven't had any trouble getting onto the small ring, which is arguably more important; not getting a bigger gear just slows you down, while not getting a smaller gear can mean coming to a grinding halt.

The gearing is good too - I believe the bottom gear is around 20" (22x28), which is touring-low. There are some hills where I live, so the low gearing comes in handy. I like low gears - I know a lot of people don't go in for that sort of thing, but better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them. The fact that it doesn't have a coaster brake, like some cargo bikes of my acquaintance, is a good thing because it means you can set the pedals when starting on hills.

The V-brakes are interesting - they have longer-than-standard arms. I'm not sure why that is - perhaps to clear the big tyres and mudguards? The brakes pull the bike up well and modulation is okay, maybe a little bit grabby. No big deal with such a long, heavy bike. It's not like you're going to endo or anything. I upgraded to Kool Stop brake pads and I'm glad I did. The standard brake pads already had little shards of aluminium in them after less than a week. To be fair, this is not the first bike I've owned that comes with underwhelming brake pads - this seems to be a fairly popular thing to economise on. They're easy to replace, and fairly cheap, so this is more of an observation than a criticism.

The adjustable stem is a nice touch on a one-size-fits-all bike, as is the quill stem, which allows for more adjustment than the modern threadless variety. The swept-back bars work well on the bike - they have all the leverage I need. The grips and saddle are okay. I'll probably end up tweaking  this stuff, but Yuba have provided sane defaults, which is fine with me.

Fit and Layout and Stuff

The riding position is pretty upright - no bad thing. The only wrinkle I've found is that the relatively short top tube doesn't play well with a WeeRide. I need it to be further forward. Shorter people may have better luck, but I think we'll be going with a handlebar-mounted seat for kid number 3. She's a bit little for that sort of thing (7mo), so that'll keep for now. The claimed 5' - 6'3" range of adjustment is plausible. I'm a touch under 6" and have about 60mm of seatpost left to play with. Well, I would if I hadn't sawed 60m off it to get it low enough for Tanya. BTW, she likes the paint job. We went for what I would describe as the electric baby blue. I like it too.

The Rack

It's proper big. Yuba claim it'll carry about 200kg. That's more than I have any intention of carrying; I suspect I'll be the limiting factor, not the bike. Two kid seats fit on with zero drama and there's room for some backpacks and whatnot with a bit of judicious occy-strapping. I haven't noticed any flexing or anything like that.

Wheels and Tyres

Thought has gone into this. The tyres are nice and big, which means you can run reasonably low pressures even with a loaded bike. This makes for a nice smooth ride. Some thought has gone into the rear wheel. It has a thicker-than-standard axle (14mm) and plenty of spokes (48). I've bent axles and broken spokes enough to be well and truly over it, so I appreciate the thought that's gone into configuring it. As for the front wheel, I took the rim off it and laced it onto a dynamo hub, so I can't say too much about it. Oh, both the front and rear hubs are disc-capable. It's nice to have an easy upgrade path available.


It's delivered 85% assembled. They recommend getting a bike shop to finish the build, but there's nothing too hectic involved - you don't need any special tools or anything. It's easy enough to do yourself if you're into that sort of thing. I had a bit of a struggle getting one bolt in but meh, it all came good.

The Ride

Well, it's like riding a bike. It's very much a sit-and-spin kind of bike. I didn't find getting out of the saddle to work too well for me. It's easy enough to get a lower gear and stay seated, so I just do that instead. As you'd expect from something built to carry 200kg, 35kg or so of kids doesn't bother it in the least. Sure, hills slow me down, but that's okay. I just spin and take my time and I'm fine. I feel it when the kids move around on the back and that's unnerving at first, but it doesn't push the bike off-line or anything scary/dangerous like that. It's nice and stable on the move, and stable when stationary too. The front wheel hasn't looked like coming off the ground, which can be a drama when you have a heavy load on the back of a regular single bike.

Parking is fine too; much easier than bike+trailer. Just bear in mind that tight turns aren't its strong point. If your local council thinks hairpin bends on narrow footpaths are a bright idea, you may have a little trouble. Mine does, and I did. It's no picnic on a single bike either, mind you. It got through way way better than our two-seat trailer ever did, so I'd say it does pretty well at this sort of thing as 2-3-kid-carrying devices go. The double leg stand is excellent for lifting children out and whatnot. It handles fine unloaded too - I commuted to work with it and it was fine. It fit into a standard bike rack too, it just stuck out a bit further. Way way easier than a trailer in the same situation.

Tanya had a go too and is pretty positive.

Bike + Trailer - comparison

Bike+trailer is inherently more stable, no two ways about it. It wins at low speed, and when powering out of the saddle. OTOH, it's pretty terrible in confined spaces, as I mentioned above. The Mundo wins out there. The trailer has more luggage-carrying options and more weather protection (shade, waterproofing, whatever). Parking the Mundo is way easier. There's probably more growth in it too - I can't see the trailer being an option for our eldest for too much longer. Both have their place, but I think the Mundo is much more convenient day-to-day for us. Dropping kid(s) off and going on to work always seemed too hard with the trailer. I've tried it with the Mundo and it's just fine.


We got two rear-mounted child seats (the "Peanut Shells"). So far so good - our 18-odd kg kids fit into them fine. No compaints so far.
Double-leg stand. This is just great. I'm not a bike stand guy, but this works superbly. I wouldn't care to have to look for something to lean this sucker against, then getting kids out.
We got the "Deflopilator". As advertised, it stops the front wheel flopping around. This is handy because when the bike's on the stand, the front wheel is on the ground. It's made no difference to the handling AFAICT.
Running boards - good for clambering, good for occy-strapping luggage to. Nice and easy to fit.
Coroplast things. I got my foot chawed in a bike wheel when I was a kid, so these are a Really Good Idea to my way of thinking. Easy to fit on (they use some of the numerous bolts on the rear rack and some cable ties).


I've mentioned some of these above, but here's a list of the things I've changed so far:

- fitted three child seats (two Peanut shells, which work well, and a WeeRide we already had, which is a no-go. No biggy, it can go on a single bike instead.). Update: we got a BoBike mini, which goes on the front. More room for knees - yay. We'll report when the young 'un's a bit bigger and stronger...
- sawed off the seatpost.
- fitted Kool Stop brake pads.
- fitted an adjustable rigid brake noodle to the rear brake. The original one was some flexible thing, which is a new one on me. I'm casting about for one to go on the front too.
- built an dynamo hub into the front wheel.
- fitted front and rear lights. There is a wrinkle here: none of the three dynamo rear lights I have will fit onto the Mundo's rear light mount. The tubing is too thick and the bolts aren't long enough. I'm planning on a workaround, probably involving a piece of metal. No drama, I've just thrown a battery light on for now.

We didn't get the bags because they don't work with two child seats.

We got both the bike and most of the accessories from, who were helpful and friendly to deal with. Delivery was pretty quick too.

In summary, so far so good. 40kg of kids and luggage is nothing to this bike. No flexing, no twitchiness, just a bit heavy going uphill, and there's appropriate gearing to help with that. It's fun for the kids (and the adults too). I don't know that it'll replace the car entirely, but for local kid transport I think it'll work really well.

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