The best gear marries design and functionality into a seamless package, and the exemplars of any class do this in an iconic way. It has to look good, make you look good, and do a lot of work to meet the challenges of daily life. This applies equally to personal computers, tennis racquets, and toaster ovens.
At the risk of falling into romantic opining, great gear is also increasingly hard to find. How many things have you purchased recently that you expect to be giving you good service in a decade? Two decades?
That high-handed preface is leading to an equally high-handed thesis: I found a cargo bike that solves a major conveyance problem for me and my family. It is from an OG brand, technically refined, completely rugged, and absurdly tailored to our particular use case. It is also designed and built with an old-school ethos: Make good stuff that will work well for a long time.
Importantly, this review will be from the perspective of that use case, from my particular body type and riding style, and you should pay close attention to those particulars, which I elucidate below and which may differ in important ways from yours. This bike is perfect … for me. And while it is a Swiss Army knife of a machine, it most definitely is not one-size-fits all.
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Read on to find out why, and if you’re considering a cargo bike, this review should help you dial in on the relevant considerations, opportunities, and pitfalls.
|Rider Height Min/max||5’0″/6’6″|
|Frame||Mundo V6 Electric Cr-Mo Thru Axle w/Disc Tab|
|Brake||Magura MT32 Hydraulic or RideRever Attack-XU Hydraulic|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano RD-M2000 Altus 9-Speed or S-Ride RD-M310 9-Speed|
|Cassette||Shimano 11-36T 9-Speed or S-Ride 9-Speed Nickle 11-32T CS-M300|
|Rims||WTB SX23 (36H Front | 36H Rear)|
|Tires||Schwalbe Big Ben Plus 26″ x 2.15″|
My family lives outdoors. I mean that almost literally … we call a big old sailboat home and live dockside in a marina in Southern California.
Living on a boat is great, but living on a boat with two kids requires some planning. Kids need to move, and even though our WWII-era sailboat is a beast designed to carry troops, cargo, and tons of fish, the reality is we need to get off the boat early and often to keep our sanity. That means frequent outings to parks, the beach, farmer’s markets, school, and every variety of sports practice, errand, and appointment imaginable.
In Los Angeles, that means lots of time in cars. Cars are convenient but when riding in them becomes a lifestyle something feels off. That’s where a bike with a useful cargo capacity comes in. Is it possible to offload a significant portion of your car-bound life to sustainable, lifestyle-boosting bike commuting?
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Given the above constraints (two kiddos, gear, urban environment) the bike needs to be rugged, have a massive cargo capacity, and be flexibly set up to accommodate things as varied as groceries, wiggly children, and random boat parts. It needs to have good visibility and preferably some kind of cool factor (after all, Los Angeles).
Add to the mix my personal rider profile. I’m 6’4″, so I need a big bike. I enjoy a road bike stance over a more vertically aligned beach cruiser or casual commuter. Having ridden motorcycles for years, I’m also more tolerant of a heavy bike when it comes to maneuverability in tight spaces.
The Yuba Mundo Lux is billed as the SUV of bikes, and with good reason. It’s robust (yet has a stylish look), performs equally well on the street or on a fire road, and can carry gobs of gear and goofball kids.
Yuba is one of the original cargo bike companies and it has perfected the art of the full-sized cargo bike in the Mundo Lux, which it’s been producing in various versions for over a decade. The bike I tested was the sixth version, a longtail that can carry up to 550 pounds and three kids.
It’s immediately apparent that this bike is engineered to last. It has a chromoly frame (short for chromium-molybdenum) that makes it super strong and resistant to corrosion, which is especially important in the marine environment where we live.
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The bike is heavy at 57.9 pounds stock. The frame is undeniably beefy and so are the 26″ wheels, which make this a very tall ride. Countering the weight are hydraulic disc breaks and thru-axles, as well as a spring-dampened steering system for ease of control.
Cargo capacity on this thing is really wild — I genuinely didn’t know a bike could carry this much stuff. With 160 liters of rear cargo capacity and a generous optional front basket, the bike can haul a week’s worth of groceries easily. By adding additional accessories, such as the Go-Getter bag, you can increase the carrying capacity by as much as 80 liters.
A bike that at any given time may or may not be carrying hundreds of pounds of gear needs something more solid than a kickstand. Motorcyclists will recognize the swing-arm-style kickstand, which smoothly levers the bike backward, even with a heavy load, lifting one wheel off the ground to provide a tripod support that feels stable enough to load and unload kids.
My bike also came with a pedal-powered front and rear light, which are nice touches, magnificently comfortable grips and saddle, a bell, and fenders that are snazzy and functional for keeping off road spray.
The philosophy behind cargo bikes is that they’re a platform, a foundation, the perfect blank canvas on which to build your ultimate biking experience.
As such, the add-ons are a big deal. Yuba is top of the heap when it comes to add-on offerings, and getting the recipe right is the secret sauce to making your bike an absolutely perfect marriage of design, performance, and functionality for you.
My add-ons reflect my primary cargo: groceries and kids. Here’s what I’m rocking:
Monkey Bars: Lik guard rails for kiddos, the monkey bars create a framework around the cargo tail to provide hand holds and to keep the kids in position. They also provide a useful scaffolding for keeping bags of groceries on the tail, although caution is needed (and so are some bungees) otherwise the floppy bags are liable to slip through the gap below the bars.
Bamboo Boards: These are the primary foot platforms for long-limbed passengers. My seven-year-old is nearly tall enough to reach them.
Soft Spot: This is a nice seat that goes over the cargo tail. It’s cushy for the tushy of any passengers.
Leg up: These are foot pegs for the tiny passenger that sits forward most on the cargo tail (in my case a four-year-old).
Go Getter Bag: This is an easy-on, easy-off side bag that takes advantage of the Mundo Lux’s height to increase storage substantially. The coolest part is how easily it clips and unclips from the bike, for taking it with you when leaving the bike unattended.
Bread Basket: A front basket that’s rated for 50 pounds and two cases of beer. Nice!
The above system is perfect for city travel. Yuba has other add-ons that make its various bikes suitable for everything from camping to hauling full-sized kegs (no, really!). You can check out the full add-ons line here.
Electric assist vs. manual transmission
The stock Mundo Lux is pedal power only, but Yuba makes an e-bike version called the EP8. With the brackets already installed, the Mundo Lux can easily be converted to an e-bike or e-assist using a variety of aftermarket setups, and Yuba estimates that 70% of Mundo Lux’s end up with motors at some point.
It’s easy to see why. The bike’s height and weight conspire to make it tricky to get going from a dead stop, especially when carrying tiny passengers. The center of gravity is high, and while the bike is effortless to keep up with two feet planted firmly on the ground, the transition from a full stop to a comfortable pedal can be nerve-wracking with two kids on back. If you don’t get a good push with that first pedal, or if your foot slips off, you’re stuck trying to awkwardly straighten and catch your bike before your precious cargo crashes to the road.
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In spite of the above, however, I’m holding off on electric assist. While I get the practicality, the Mundo Lux feels like a bike should feel. It’s a piece of equipment that’s meant to be used hard and put away wet, that I don’t mind wrenching on myself, and that I feel competent enough to fix should something break (nothing has yet, by the way, in spite of months of hard use).
When you add a motor and a battery to the equation, things get more complicated. It’s a new system to maintain and fuss over, and it’s one I’m not particularly familiar with. There’s also a sense of self-reliance that’s easy to eye-roll at but makes me enjoy the bike that much more. I haven’t taken my bike on any long multi-day journeys yet, but I like the idea that I can do that with the system I have now, without worry about charging equipment or removing it for special use cases. That may sound romantic, but it makes me feel connected to the bike, and that makes me want to use it even more.
Adjusting to the new ride
My typical commute has me navigating busy Los Angeles traffic to and from school drop off. Riding in traffic with two kiddos on the back takes some getting used to. I’m transitioning from pulling a bike trailer and it took me a few rides to start to feel comfortable with the new weight dynamics.
Consider this: The wheels of the Yuba Mundo Lux are a solid 26″. Add the tail height and cushion and you’ve got a pretty high center of gravity for your cargo. This has a couple different effects. First, it means you can’t throw the bike side to side, which I’m accustomed to doing during take off when standing up to pedal. The first time I tried that with the new configuration I felt on the verge of losing control of the bike.
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When coming to a stop, I also feel the need to drop a foot more quickly and solidly than before, knowing that if there’s any lean to the bike at rest I’ll need to keep that weight up. On my normal road bike I like the seat post adjusted high enough to give me near full extension of my legs during pedaling. This means I have to come well off the seat to put my foot on the road. At first I tried a similar seat height on the Mundo Lux. The pedaling felt great, but coming to a stop with kids on the back was a different story. I felt like I had too much distance to make up between my seated posture and my resting stance. With my kids on the line, I opted to lower the seat a good 3-5 inches, which took a little getting used to while riding but makes me much more comfortable in start/stop situations.
However, along with the challenging dynamics comes a lot of confidence. Towing a trailer in heavy traffic, even one with an absurdly tall brightly colored flag, feels pretty sketchy. But on the Mundo Lux I know my kids are right in line with me, which means I can make safety and maneuvering decisions much more naturally.
After about a week experimenting with and dialing in the bike, the fit, and my riding style, the whole thing feels totally natural. The kiddos love their perch behind dad. They also love the passenger bell on the Monkey Bars, which they delight in ringing whenever they want my attention.
Daily riding experiences
The incredible thing about the Mundo Lux, which has supplanted my truck for a lot of day-to-day Los Angeles driving, is its versatility. I’ve hauled groceries and lumber on the same day. I’ve ferried kiddos to school before going to meetings or peeling off on urban adventures.
In a lot of ways the bike has opened up a a new side of Los Angeles to me. I’ve been taking my kiddos to school on a bike for a long time, but towing a trailer has usually required a quick return home — those things are just too difficult to deal with on day-long outings.
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With the Yuba I can take the kids to school and then tackle errands or go for a hike. The utility is built into the rock solid frame and is expansible with kick butt peripherals and add-ons. The Go Getter Bag is frequently on my shoulder and doubles as my shopping bag and briefcase when I’m out and about. I’ve got bungees and tie downs all over the bike, and the ride is burly enough that I don’t mind filling up propane tanks or the dinghy gas can and strapping them to the tail.
Oh yeah, and it’s a head turner. Utility is the aim here, but it’s pretty cool to get the “nice bike” nod from fellow commuters, including the hardcore fixie crowd. I do my best to give a cool nod back. My kids usually blow it for me.
There are a lot of cargo bike options out there. If you’re a tall rider and are looking for a bike that’ll last well past your kids’ childhood, I have seen no better option than the Yuba Mundo Lux. If you’re shorter or are looking for something more compact and lightweight, you might want to check out Yuba’s Kombi or Spicy Curry models. The brand has something for every rider type and style, and it makes the best gear in the game. If you don’t want to take my word for it, ask your local bike shop pro. That’s how I ended up with a Yuba.
Alternatives to consider
A pocketbook-friendly compact cargo bike from Yuba.
Costs as much as a motorcycle, but it’s a beast wherever your adventures take you.
A stylish front loader that makes for a practical alternative to a car in suburban and urban settings.