01
Mar 2012
by mark

Big Dummy vs Yuba Mundo vs Bakfiets

Cargo bikes are increasingly viable as car-replacement vehicles, but there are some significant differences between the options to choose from. The Surly Big Dummy is lighter, while Workcycle’s bakfiets puts kids front and center with a large box for cargo up front. Yuba’s elMundo is one way to add electric assist to the equation.

I have not had my own car for a decade. Instead my family replaces a second car with a number of bikes and other gear. Our bikes include WorkCycles bakfiets, an electric Yuba Mundo and a Surly Big Dummy. Here’s how they compare with each other based on our experiece riding each as part of our regular routines.

The basic details about each are readily available online, and won’t be repeated here, although the photos below will give you a sense of each.

Bakfiets

100 mile radius potluck at the park

Electric Yuba Mundo

Electric Yuba Mundo with Bikes-at-Work trailer

Big Dummy

First ride with my new custom Big Dummy. More to come...

For babies The bakfiets has the unique ability to easily fasten in a rear-facing car seat into the large box, placing the child in front of you where you can see her. While there are possibilities for getting wee-ones on the other bikes at a very early age, I would not feel nearly as comfortable with an infant riding behind me. So, up until about a year, the bakfiets is the clear choice here.

For kids 1 year old+ At about a year old, the kids can go on any of the bikes. My three year old prefers the bakfiets for the front-seat view, but a BoBike Mini could provide the front-seat experience for smaller children on the other bikes. For all the bikes I recommend the stability of a center-stand for loading and unloading children. The bakfiets comes with a super-stable 4-point kickstand, while XtraCycle and Yuba both have centerstands that are designed particularly for their bikes.

For rain The bakfiets has a unique weather canopy made out the same kind of clear, thick plastic that roll-up Jeep windows are made of. When I can, I take my children in the bakfiets to keep them completely out of the rain. The weather canopy also blocks the wind and has a greenhouse effect, keeping children comfortable in colder temperatures. Keeping kids dry on the other bikes is possible, but involves more work to change them in and out of rain clothes. The bakfiets also comes with a fully-enclosed chainguard to keep the rain out. A fully enclosed chain solution is not even available as an after-market product for longtail bikes currently. This is another reason I reach for the bakfiets when it is raining. There is one odd design flaw with the weather canopy that I’m surprised has not been fixed yet. The interior supports are flexible fiberglass pieces that are at least four feet long. If tent-pole style of connectors were used, the support beams could easily fold up and whole thing could fit under the bench seat if the sun came out. As it is, there is no reasonable way to dis-assemble and stow the weather canopy mid-trip.

For snow and cold The properties that make the bakfiets good for rain also make it good for snow and cold weather. Weighing in at 100 lbs, it handles like a pick-up truck. There’s no derailleur to get gunked up with snow, and the drivetrain continues to stay clean. The “greenhouse” property of the weather canopy is really impressive in cold temperatures. We had a successful cross-town trip at 15F where my daughter stayed plenty warm under the weather canopy. I put my hand under canopy and could tell it was significantly warmer under there. She was more comfortable than I was! However, it’s not a slam-dunk for the bakfiets in the snow. The electric assist of the Yuba Mundo is great benefit in the winter simply because getting their faster means less time in the cold. I also added Schwable Marathon Winter studded tires to the Yuba Mundo and Bar Mitts to make an excellent winter vehicle out of it. Because of the speed and snow tires, the electric Yuba was my first choice bike last winter. To keep my 3 year old warm on the Yuba, we used a snowboarding helmet with ear flaps, ski goggles, a balaclava , and other warm winter clothing including snow overalls which could easily be taken on and off. The Mundo chain did get hampered snow and ice in the drivetrain sometimes, but in those cases the electric assist allowed me to keep going on the secondary power source. While the bakfiets may keep kids warmer on average, the ability to get out of the cold quickly with the electric motor is also a significant boost to safety and comfort.

For maintenance The bakfiets has been incredibly low maintenance over the past four years. I think I’ve oiled the chain twice, and had a couple of flats, The Shimano Nexus hub has needed very little adjustment and the drum brakes have not needed anything replaced. Both our Dummy and Mundo are also set up with an internal hub to decrease maintenance– they are both outfitted with the NuVinci N360 hub. I would describe neither the Big Dummy or the Mundo has “high maintenance”. The default build of the Mundo is perhaps more likely to have problems because of less expensive component choices.

For sharing with a different-height rider I’m 6’4″ and my wife is a 5’4″– a foot shorter. We quite readily share both the one-size-fits-all frames of the bakfiets and Yuba Mundo by simply adjusting the quick-release seat height. Either “fits” us both just fine, although my wife prefers the even-more-upright position of the bakfiets. By contrast, my Surly Big Dummy is not sharable with her due to its large frame with a high step-over height. I’ve heard that some couples have been able to share a Big Dummy by starting with a smaller frame size, but I did have the luxury of trying multiple frame sizes before buying. I’m personally a fan of universal fit cargo bikes. The frame length seems to be less of an issue with a more upright riding position.

On replacing car trips When it comes to the practical matter of replacing car trips, the electric Yuba Mundo is the clear winner in our family, and the electric assist is the clear reason for that. It allows my wife to commute to work quickly without sweating (but still pedal home for exercise). It’s easy when we’re lazy and need to get there fast. The electric assist extends the range, and makes hard things easy, including combining the weight of kids and cargo, going farther and getting up hills. While electric can be added to virtually any bike, it is especially well-paired with cargo bikes. Electric adds some extra oomph and the cargo capacity puts that oomph to use.

On Large and Heavy Loads Our largest and heaviest loads get assigned to the Yuba Mundo and the electric assist monitor. No surpise there. Some less obvious notes here: When you add more than about 200 lbs to the bakfiets, it gets hard to steer, as the weight is pressing down on the front wheel you that are trying to steer. The Yuba Mundo and Big Dummy can have the opposite problem: With a lot of weight on the rear, the front wheel can become unweighted and twitchy. With the longtails there are some options to add weight to the front wheel, but on the bakfiets there’s not much to be done about it. Also in the Yuba Mundo’s favor is its extra stiff and beefy steel frame, which give it rock-solid handling with the 200+ lb loads I’ve carried on it. By contrast, the Big Dummy frame has notably more flex in it. I noticed it was more challenging to control when I was carrying home “only” 160 lbs of concrete in two 80 lb bags. The Big Dummy has the benefit that the standard “Bikes at Work” trailer hitch works with it. With Yuba, you need a custom hitch for this trailer, which is what I use. However, it looks like a hitch especially for the Yuba Mundo is under development by the Bikes-at-Work folks. By combining the electric assist with the 8′ cargo table, the bike has been able to easily haul couches and love seats, a home entertainment center, a table and chair set, 4×8 siding, a full-size refrigerator and other loads.

On Casseroles and Cream Pies A special type of cargo are objects that needs to stay level– like a pie, casserole or potted plant. The longtails could handle such loads with an accessory, like a trailer, a box on the rear or a bread basket up front. Here the simple convenience of the big flat box on the front of the bakfiets is a win. It’s large, flat and has walls in case the load is loose and needs to be contained. Just recently we got a Bread Basket for our Yuba, which will also be great for casseroles. Note that Yuba’s basket is very generously sized. It’s actually better at large loads than small ones, which could fall through the slats. That issue could be solved by fashioning a floor for the Bread Basket.

On Touring Before I looked up how much the bakfiets weighed, I took my 1.5 year old daughter on a 4 day, 240-mile bike tour on it. She enjoyed the view up front when she managed to stay awake, and I could lean over of her shoulder to point out cows and birds. She weighed about 32 lbs, and I later noted that the bike weighs about 100 lbs. I worked hard to average about 10 mph, while my riding companions enjoyed a leisurely pace for themselves. Our electric Yuba Mundo also weighs about 100 lbs. With our particular components we get about 20 miles with heavy use of the assist, which could be stretched to 40 miles for touring. I’m unlikely to attempt multi-day touring with the electric Mundo unless we end up with a second battery for it. However, we’ve enjoyed electric cargo-bike camping closer to home with the kids as a simple overnight trip. Another alternative would be to remove electric gear for a tour, dropping about 30 lbs of weight. Personally, the Big Dummy will my choice for touring with myself and my children in the future, due to it’s significantly lighter weight– merely about 55 lbs of base weight in our setup. I’ve only had the Big Dummy for about six months, but have already had the chance to take it on a three day tour. It was an enjoyable and convenient rig for that, and did not feel particularly heavy or slow.

On Modularity The place where the Big Dummy shines compared to the others is its modularity. The XtraCycle system is not only extensible, it’s often quite fast to add and remove pieces to reconfigure the bike for different purposes. Yuba pairs the Mundo with a “Peanut Shell” kid seat which can take 5 or 10 minutes to add or remove, so it nearly always left on. The XtraCycle is paired with a more expensive “Yepp Maxi” seat with a quick release that takes seconds to add or remove the ~ 10 lb kid seat. This quickly turns a dad-bike back into a dude-bike. Further, the 4 lb Xtracycle centerstand can be removed in a matter of seconds, and the rear rack, and side “V-racks” are easy to remove as well. In all, I can drop over 20 lbs of bike-weight if I want to take the Dummy on a “fast” ride. On a more minimalist tour, I could also take just one side V-rack and while leaving the top and other side at home.

On replacing an all-around bike While the bakfiets excels at hauling children, and the electric Mundo has great muscle, neither feels quite right on trips with simple needs. The Big Dummy is my choice when I want to get somewhere moderately quickly under my own power. The Big Dummy is light enough and enjoyable enough to also double as my all-around bike. It rides like a traditional bike, with added abilities to haul kids and cargo when called upon to do so.

On Go-Getter bags vs Freeloaders Yuba and XtraCycle have competing cargo bike styles. Yuba’s Go Getter bag is an absolutely huge water proof bag that could easily swallow 4 grocery bags. XtraCycle’s “Freeloaders” are a rather different critter. They hang as a “U” off the sides the bikes and are primarily an open design. Although they have a large waterproof pocket, the bulk of your cargo will be outside and has the potential to get wet. Both designs work well.

With Yuba’s latest update to their Go Getter bag, I feel tied between them. I enjoy the light, open design of the Freeloader bags. The lack of a top flap makes them easier to load, unload and inspect, and the open ends allow long objects to hang out more easily. That came in handy when carrying home a 4 foot light fixture from the lighting store.

The Go-Getter provides superior rain protection and hides the contents of what’s inside. They also come on an off easier and offer a shoulder strap, while the Freeloaders are made to live on the bike. When Freeloaders get wet, water can pool at the bottom. There is a drain hole, but it rarely seems to end up at the lowest point, so it’s not always effective.

The good news here is that you should be able to mix-and-match the bags with either bikes if you desire. (I haven’t actually tested this myself).

On price If you are replacing a car with one or more bikes, it’s very difficult not to come out of ahead financially. For my family, each of the three bikes ended up costing close to $3,000 once accessories and customizations were factored in. The bakfiets costs the most up front, but it includes fenders, a bell, a dynamo with front and rear lights, and a bench seat and seatbelts for two kids. Special bags are panniers are not needed with the bakfiets, since the box serves that purpose. The elMuedo includes fenders, but neither includes an internal hub, a centerstand, lights or a kid’s seat. In my view, they are all reasonably priced and positioned to save you money versus a car. Here are approximate retail prices for following the bikes with stock equipment:

  • Big Dummy:$2,000
  • elMundo: $2,600*
  • Bakfiets: $2,999

*Note we have a custom electric system on our Yuba Mundo. It’s similar to but not the same as Yuba elMundo’s offering.

On getting ridden The bottom line is that the best bike for you will be the one gets ridden. For us, sometimes all three of our cargo bikes get used in the same weekend. Sometimes one is selected for for it’s unique strengths, while other times my wife and I split up child hauling duties, with one child and parent on each bike.

father, daughter and sleep dog on first trip to Abington

oma, opa en de bakfiets

bakfiets as wheelbarrow

easter bike ride

sleep dog on duty: Boston Twp Line Road

box biking at 10F

garden harvest by bike

Hauling a couch and loveseat to the dump.

Out to eat on an electric Yuba Mundo

Grocery Trip

Hauling a large load of e-waste on the Yuba Mundo

Electric Yuba Mundo camping -- on the road

Unplanned Cargo: A load of Osage Orange

a new fridge for a new home

Christmas tree recycling 2010

honey, how does this sound for the evening: cold leftovers and a 20 mile ride to pick black raspberries?

If you have more questions about how these bikes compare, ask in the comments below!

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  • David F

    Nice Blog!  Awesome bikes! Plenty to inspire! I’m still not convinced on the electric assist. Most of my travel is within rage of the battery but I am concerned about the extra weight on longer hauls.

    It’s so cool to see bikes loaded up as these are!
    All the best with the collaborative blogging. 

  • http://www.fullhandsx3.blogspot.com/ Full Hands

    This is a great primer for folks trying to figure out which cargo bike to purchase.  Plus, it makes me feel SO glad to know that we are not the only nutty family with a bakfiets, an Xtracycle, and a Yuba Mundo!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phil-Nuttall/100002431610258 Phil Nuttall

    A fantastic & informative write-up – great job!  I’d like to recommend the Yuba specific kickstand, it is absolutely brilliant. I never worry about loading or unloading balance issues (as I do with a single leg kickstand on my Xtracycle). And finally, I zip-tied my Xytracycle Freeloaders to the Yuba and it’s held-up for six months of hard abuse. Cargo bikes are amazing fun and super practical!

    • markstos

      I have the Yuba centerstand, I agree it is excellent. Solid and functional. Also, thanks for the feedback about Freeloaders on the Yuba. That’s a combination I intend to try at some point, but have not yet. 

  • http://dingdingletsride.com Ms. Ding

    Awesome post with great info and comparisons between the different types of cargo bikes! We have a Yuba Mundo and since we live in the flatlands of Chicago the e-assist isn’t really needed here. We compared some of the same bikes as you and think they are all great bikes that have different pro/cons depending on your family and your needs.

    * We ruled out a bakfiets immediately due to storage considerations – it would have had to sit outside year round as we don’t have a garage, and even good outdoor storage would have been hard to find.  We are lucky to have an indoor spot for both the Yuba and my Dutch bike, but they have to negotiate around a corner and up/down a 1/2 flight of stairs that a bakfiets could not manage nor fit in.

    * One big difference between the Surly Big Dummy and the Yuba Mundo is the ‘mountain bike’ -like geometry of the Big Dummy vs the upright position on the Yuba Mundo.  That was a huge plus for us re: the Yuba Mundo, but we know plenty of other families who prefer the Big Dummy for the geometry.

    * The running boards (and panniers that easily come off) on the Yuba were another huge plus for us as they help our 7 yr-old with Cerebral Palsy climb aboard un-assisted.  And, we built out a clamp we can add on when desired that allows us to tow his bike & him for longer rides ( it has also towed my mountain bike to the bike shop).

    Great photos too with a nice array of what you can do with a cargo bike!

    • markstos

      Thanks for the input Ms. Ding! I’m familiar with your inspiring blog: http://dingdingletsride.com/

  • jeff bertolet

    I strap the bakfiets raincover and stroller to the side of the box: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/NnuOP-EFUq4T-IvtCYVX7dMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=directlink

    The longest rib goes under the box and is secured by toe straps, you can see the end poking out by the front light.

  • Sandor Lengyel

    Thanks for the great and informative post!! We have a Mundo (which is about to be electrified) and are looking at getting a bakfiets very soon. Cargo bikes rock, and we are sometimes in competition for who gets to use the Mundo.

    Being a lifelong bike geek, bike racer type, I was totally against the electric assist. Then I began to realize that hauling groceries on hilly terrain would be a lot easier with an electric assist and my effective “range” would be extended. Really looking forward to getting the electric assist for help in starting uphill with loads and getting up to speed.

    Thanks again. Great post.

  • Lisa

    Lovely and good written blog! I’m a Proud Babboe City owner and just want to share it with ya. Been using it for 4 years now and the kids still love it! They rather go with the cargobike then by car (and for me its a great daily exersice!

    They are cheap and the quality is awesome! check out their webbie :) http://www.bakfietsen.com.

  • http://twitter.com/SimplyBike Simply Bike

    This is such a great and informative post! I’ve been thinking a lot about our child carrying options as our family grows and have been looking for posts like these in which a parent with experience handling different type of cargo bikes can give a straight-forward review.

    I would love to cross-post this on Simply Bike, if you’d be interested!

  • Paul Taylor

    I have uploaded a photo of a post office delivery girl in Berlin, Germany. It seems that all mail was delivered via these bikes. Note the little wheel near the front of the bike. It is one of a pair that served as a sturdy kickstand, yet easily folded up so the delivery rider wasted no time mounting and dismounting.

  • sarah

    fantastic post for newbies like me and my husband (and kid on the way), thank you. I was searching for info on cargo/family bikes that accomodate height differences but learned a lot more!