It is easy to categorize the Yuba Mundo as a cargo/utility bike, but what founder Benjamin Sarrazin and others involved in the production of the Mundo remind us is that this is, in fact, an expression of the elemental functionality of a bicycle. In a purely practical sense this may be the form from which other lines should be derived. I believe this idea reveals itself to anyone who tries to live life by the bicycle, complete with overloaded add-on racks, child seats, and overstuffed panniers. The vast majority of us do not make our living from crits or singletrack and the cycles we use for those purposes. Some of us forget that most people around the world do not have the luxury of motorized transportation. Yuba’s vision includes not just the machine itself, but also a goal to “advance economic and social development, to promote self-reliance, and to emphasize better environmental awareness and lifestyle choices—all through the use of bicycles.” (Quote from Yuba’s website.) Donating 10% of their proceeds to help provide bicycles for people in developing countries is one way they are reaching that goal. Building a bike that rivals my car in load capacity is another way.
Trying to get this bike in my car and home from Dirt Rag HQ raised my eyebrows and had me shrugging my shoulders as to how well anything this long and heavy could ever handle. It comes with a huge puffy seat and pull-back bars. Not my preference, and the headset and seatpost were not the spec I was used to. When I asked the folks at Yuba about their decision to outfit the bike this way, I was reminded that this bike is designed to be as affordable as possible and to fit riders of all ability levels. My neighbor apparently agrees with Yuba and thinks I am a masochist with my normal bike setup.
I resisted the urge to change everything out and went for my maiden voyage in the stock getup along a riverfront trail with some visiting family. I laughed as I strapped coolers onto the racks that never seemed to fill up, but the biggest surprise was how maneuverable the bike was and how I kept forgetting how long it was. I had to look back repeatedly to reassure myself it was all still there. Standing up and pedaling took some getting used to, however, and when I finally changed to Easton low-rise bars I was able to develop my technique to stand and pedal without rocking back and forth excessively. This is especially important when you have a large load higher up on the rack. I had no trouble navigating through all of the other traffic on the trail and the initial feel was very solid.
With a different seat and bars I started to load things up a bit heavier and noticed right away that the gearing was too high for a hilly place like Pittsburgh. Yuba had some recommendations for me for different cranks or freewheels to solve this problem. Really, just a few teeth smaller in the chainring would do the trick. Also, note that there is no provision for a front derailleur, so start searching for the clamp-on style cable stops if you really want to go that route. I was made aware by the people who built the bike at Dirt Rag that the 14mm axle requires cone wrenches that most home mechanics don’t own, so a trip to a well-equipped shop may be necessary for any adjustments (such as the ones they needed to do when the test bike arrived with loose bearings). Once again consider the price point.
The handling was just as precise with a heavy load as it was with a light one, and my confidence in taking turns faster to keep up momentum quickly increased. I had expected the steering effort to vary with the load, but the response to turning input remained predictable and consistent with different loads.
Don’t think about bunny hopping curbs or wheelies because the front end doesn’t want to come up, which, really, is a good thing when you are cranking up a hill with a full load. The load recommendation for the rack behind the axle is 110lbs. This leaves 150lbs. to fit on the rack in front of the axle once my own weight has been subtracted from the gross capacity of 440lbs. It has been my experience with bicycles and motorcycles that an unbalanced load behind the axle has a terrible effect on handling. With the Mundo’s well-proportioned rack in relation to the axle it is easy to properly distribute the load for optimal handling. On the same note, you may notice that the back end will jump around a bit on bumpy roads and you should pack knowing your cargo will fly up and out of an open container. (I thought it was a good idea to put the eggs on top—they didn’t make it.)
The final test was putting my 220lb. friend on the back. His 6’3″ frame fit fine and once he stopped squirming around we were flying around the turns. I was really impressed at how stable this bike was; no wallow or flexy feeling whatsoever. Although the rear wheel is a 48-spoke design, the rims are single-walled. I didn’t feel any flex from the wheel that affected the handling, but it could be a durability concern. If the money has to go somewhere on the bike, it seems to have gone into the frame design and build. Putting that much weight on a regular commuter bike is sketchy at best. The linear-pull brakes, although nothing fancy, stopped very well and gave me no problems. Even the platform pedals, which I didn’t think much of initially, worked well in the wet.
As my time with the bike progressed I started thinking less about how to outdo the last load and more about how this bike is great as a daily commuter, because I was always prepared for whatever came up. I could run all of my errands without shuttling the load home in phases. I didn’t need to make a special trip with a car or a trailer, and the ride didn’t feel different enough from my commuter bike that I missed anything.
Unless you are trying to pick the bike up you don’t notice how much it really weighs, and compared to the amount of stuff you can easily load onto it, the bike’s own weight is not what keeps it from flying up the hill. Climbing may be the time when you notice the one-size-fits-all factor the most because you are limited on fit to changing the seat post/saddle offset and the bar/stem. If you are going to use this bike like a work truck every day, I would make sure you can get it to fit you before you buy one. I was able to leave everything in the middle range of fore/aft to fit my size well.
Don’t expect to pop the rack on and off all the time because the six mounting points do not line up without a little encouragement and about ten minutes of patience. I kept a set of motorcycle saddle bags on the bike for my regular storage of lights, locks, tie down straps, and water bottle. There are no mounts for a water bottle cage, which is inconvenient. A 23-gallon plastic bin on the top rack still left room for a case of beer and then some.
Unfortunately, Yuba’s new bags and lash panels were not available in time for the test, but from the Yuba website you’ll see that you can put just about anything on the bike. The Mundo is also available in a singlespeed version and in red.