Saturday, September 17, 2016

Yuba Boda Boda - An Easy to Love Cargo Bike

The Yuba Boda Boda is a dashingly handsome cargo bike.

Full disclosure: this was my first experience aboard a cargo bike. The Yuba Boda Boda, affectionately named "Kermit" was loaned to me by Local Motion for a two-week period. There were no restrictions on use, and I was given a quick demonstration on how to use the two-legged kick stand. I used my own lock and helmet. Kevin, who knows I regularly ride a bike, sent me out Local Motion's door, wishing me good fun. I would just have to get the hang of riding Kermit all by myself!

As was explained, the Boda Boda is classified as a mid-tail cargo bike or as Kevin liked to put it "cargo light", which means the bicycle is a shorter version of the long-tail style, yet still capable of hauling children and heavy bags. With an impressive 50 lb. carrying capacity up front, and 150 lbs. in the rear, the Boda Boda is very much a two-wheeled work horse!

I immediately felt at home aboard the Boda Boda. The bicycle sports large platform pedals, the exact same ones as on my Clementine, though in a nice shade of brown. Cream tires, cream bell, brown seat, and generally, a lack of black accessories altogether lightens the visual presence of this utilitarian bicycle. In fact, when I hefted the Boda Boda it weighed less than I would have expected. The bike has a very low step-over height, which attracted me from the get go. That and wonderfully curvy handle bars, easy click shifting, and good stopping power.

On the downside, I could tell immediately that 7 (or was it 8?) gears would not work well in hilly Burlington. Another oddity also: why would a frame maker put water bottle bosses on an inside curve? (See above photo) There is barely enough space to place a bottle rack, not to mention trying to use it! Because of the upright stance it would have been also incredibly awkward - and possibly dangerous - to reach that low.

Instead, I made do with a water bottle wedged inside the basket. Without other items supporting it though, the bottle tended to tip over, once spilling water. If I owned the bicycle, an easy remedy would be to attach a rack to the handle bars or on the outside of the sturdy basket frame.

Once I stopped staring at the basket, which moves with the frame and not with the handle bar (see above photo), and concentrated on the trail ahead, it became an intuitive and delightful ride. Kermit floats over bumps and I felt like a queen perched upright and high, tooling down the trail, ringing the ding-dong bell. The bell had a tendency to softly ding on it's own, but it wasn't so much annoyance as part of Kermit's personality, which made me chuckle. 

I had wondered if I should attach a mirror, but once I'd ridden Kermit a few days I realized that while a mirror might aid rear site line a tad more, sitting upright inherently caused me to be aware of my surroundings, especially peripherally, so I never felt like an automobile or bicycle might sneak up behind me without me noticing.

I rode the bike a few times after dark, easily attaching my super bright light on the handlebar and red light on a rear pannier.

The longer wheelbase, only a mere 10" more than my commuter bike, was enough to smooth out bumpy roads, paths, and sidewalks. In fact, I discovered the Boda Boda rode similar to my Clementine (and eerily both bikes are exactly 72" in length!). As stated in my first Clementine blog post, getting to know both bikes in tandem made me appreciate sitting upright while experiencing two different handlebar styles.

I loved the well-designed rear framework. Maybe this is not unique to the Boda Boda, and possibly all cargo bikes are decked out in this manner, but I felt there was versatility with whatever baggage I might strap on. There is thin horizontal tubing just below the rear seat that accommodates my Blackburn Shoppers Pannier, a bottom loop (not visible in above photo) that held a traditional hook and bungee pannier, and the lowest portion is where I presume a child's feet might cling, but in my case (see below photo) I attached cloth grocery sacks that were similarly supported. And of course, everything you might consider attaching was all protected from the spokes by the black plastic, and highly effective, "skirt guard".

While Kermit was in my possession, I had numerous compliments. He's a looker, that's for sure!

On my first trip to buy groceries, I felt liberated to shop without accounting for every item and where and whether each would fit on my bicycle for the return trip home. It helped to have brought my own grocery sacks and and some sort of attachment device to secure each bag to the frame. Had I owned the Boda Boda I would create open-top panniers so one could stow full grocery bags inside, and when not in use the panniers could be removed.

A note about parking a bike with double-kickstand: account for 12" of set back, something to be aware of when parking at bike racks. And if multiple trips are in order, accumulating goods and increasing the load, be extra careful, otherwise you may need to lift up the heavy bike, to adjust the bike closer to a rack. Using a cargo bike requires a slightly different mind set (think slightly wider turning radius and storage) but the benefits of having additional cargo space, the bike securely positioned and propped on "double feet" while loading heavy items, or the ability to carry children or even an adult, is certainly worth consideration.

The Boda Boda effortlessly handles weight.

I probably didn't lug more than 60 lbs. on any one trip, however, I made several trips within the designated two week time period of Boda Boda ownership. One adventure, as I like to call it, consisted of setting out from home with two sacks of groceries, work clothes, and enough belongings for the Labor Day weekend, hauling it all to work on Friday, then later setting off across town, arriving at our family camp. The toughest part was struggling with full armloads of gear across a parking lot, up the elevator and down a long hallway to my office. And of course the return trip to reload Kermit was equally strenuous.

Wide load!
Though I had slowed, considerably on the route to camp, it was satisfying to carry a weekend's worth of items without being concerned about what it all weighed. And fortunately, that journey was on flat terrain. I used only the 4 lowest gears during the time I borrowed the bike.

Makeshift attachments.

 I love the clean lines of this bike: simple chain guard, metallic green paint, flat crank exterior,

My usual method of watering flowers at the cemetery is a bit precarious. I hang one full gallon of water on each handle bar end in a semblance of balance, however, this renders both brakes useless. Then I glide down a slight downhill, steering into the grass to slow down, with an awkward running dismount, sometimes backtracking because I overshot where I meant to stop. But with Kermit, the basket easily accommodates extra water without batting an eye.  Kermit makes the whole process so easy.

My son used Kermit to haul a few belongings for the 6 mile ride to camp.

If I owned Kermit, I would want lower gears. And in fact, I put off searching Yuba's website because I feared the Boda Boda wouldn't offer this option outside of adding electric assist and cost at least $2000 - what I'd expect from a bicycle of this caliber - effectively putting a cargo bicycle out of reach as a second transport option.

Surprisingly, the V2 model I test rode, starts at $1000 plus $180 for a Bread Basket. The V3 model comes with triple chain ring for $1600 (is the price difference worth it?). The bamboo deck is included but padded seat adds $40. As mentioned, I would eventually put on a front fender, a water bottle rack, and detachable rear bags. And for comparison, I could outfit a V2 model for the same cost as my Clementine.

And yet, even without any modifications, I wouldn't hesitate to borrow Kermit again in the future. Indeed,  I was reluctant to return the cargo bike as I enjoyed having it as an option in our garage. And in reality, the Boda Boda is a stylish, approachable and versatile cargo bike, capable of hauling everything I'd ever use it for.


  1. Nice post, I was car free for about 4 months in 2012 and thought about going the cargo bike route looking into Yuba, Kona (Ute), Surly (Big Dummy) etc. In the end I wasn't sure how feasible it would be in my hilly neighborhood without an e-assist which as you pointed out greatly increases the cost. Still cool bikes and great haulers.

    1. Ryan, I suspect prices on cargo bikes have come down in recent years, thus my preconceived notion that the bike cost more than I had thought. Plus there are many more options out there to choose from, including the mid-tail variety.

      Seattle streets are nearly as steep as San Francisco's so I'm afraid e-assist makes the most sense, yet unfortunately doubles the cost of cargo bikes.

    2. RoadieRyan! If you would like to learn more about lower-cost e-bike options, check out VBikes. They do free consultations about cargo and e-bike solutions:

  2. Lowering the gearing is pretty easy. A smaller chain ring in front will do it or try a different cog set in back. Hopefully Yuba gave you a crank with some flexibility on going to a smaller chain ring, as that is the easiest solution. Both approaches to lowering the gearing can be done yourself by watching a YouTube video or two, or a bike shop can do it. You will lose some top end to your gearing if you lower it, but that should not be an issue with a cargo bike, as you re not racing and trying to pedal super fast anyway.

    1. Thank you for your suggestions. As I stated, this is not my bicycle, so I cannot make adjustments to Kermit. It will be up to our local advocacy group to figure out what they wish to do to make the cargo bike more hill friendly and hopefully they will read comments like yours and take all options under consideration.

    2. Thanks! I just sent this to Kevin, who oversees Kermit's maintenance and adjustments!

  3. Great review. I think you need this bike in your life, Annie! ;)

    1. Rebecca - Funny you should say that. I was thinking that ideally, I'd trade 3 of my bikes to have this one functional machine in our garage so our whole family could use it. Of course, easier said than done!

  4. Those down tube bosses are indeed a strange decision. Otherwise, what a fun bike!

  5. So interesting! I have a fascination with cargo bikes. I've been able to test ride a longtail and a bakfiets. I was shocked at how completely normal the longtail felt. Even the bakfiets was surprisingly easy to ride after I adjusted to the turning radius. I seriously want one. My problem (if you can call it that) is that I don't actually need one!

    1. I think that a lot of us - until we ride one - believe that cargo bikes are heavy and are difficult to ride. I was shocked to discover that my 52cm Clementine and the Boda Boda are equal in length! I'm so glad I had the opportunity to test one. It puts a smile on my face.


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