We tried it: Yuba Boda Boda

Hey, Boda Boda!

There are some new entries in the land of midtail cargo bikes. For the last year we’ve been riding the Kona MinUte, the first of these, and until pretty recently, the only bike in its class. Then it was stolen. That totally sucked. But given that we had to replace it anyway, we took a hard look at the two other midtails on the market now, the Yuba Boda Boda and the Kinn Cascade Flyer. Happily for us, Yuba, which is here in the Bay Area, let us ride one of their Boda Bodas for a while last month. Thanks, Yuba!

For background, midtail bikes are a new-as-of-2011 variation on longtail cargo bikes. As the name implies, they’re shorter. Instead of a long deck that can hold 2-3 kids, they offer a short deck that can hold 1-2 kids (as always, the number of kids you can successfully pile on the back of a cargo bike depends on their mood). The disadvantage of a midtail bike is obvious: it can carry less stuff and fewer kids. But there are payoffs for the reduced payload. Midtails look and feel like normal bikes; people who are nervous about handling a big bike will be more comfortable on a midtail than on a longtail. I have never dropped either the MinUte or the Boda Boda with the kids on board and I doubt I ever will. Midtail bikes can also be put on a bus bike rack and on Amtrak for longer trips. And it is a kind of bike that transitions easily from dropping off kids to riding into the office, which is how Matt used it.

Yuba moved into making a midtail bike with some major innovations. Although we liked our Kona MinUte, Kona is not a company that’s made much of a commitment to the family biking market, and that can be annoying. Yuba, on the other hand, cares very much about families. They created the Boda Boda explicitly to carry both kids and cargo, and it shows. The other big innovation is that they developed the Boda Boda with an electric-assist option integrated into the design. The only other cargo bike I know that was developed this way was Xtracycle’s EdgeRunner, a longtail. If you’re riding a cargo bike over a lot of hills or long distances, both these bikes should be on the short list.

The Boda Boda looks wildly different than the MinUte, even though they were both apparently designed by the same person. Putting them side by side in our garage made it very obvious that the MinUte was meant to look like a mountain bike, while the Boda Boda was meant to look like a cruiser. The Boda Boda looks friendlier and has a step-through frame option. Weirdly, the Boda Boda also looks bigger, although it is not in fact bigger. It was a strange and entertaining optical illusion.

Advantages of the Boda Boda:

  • This is an extremely easy bike to ride, both with and without kids aboard. The Boda Boda looks and feels like a beach cruiser, with wide handlebars and a relaxed and upright ride, but has massively increased carrying capacity. We had some friends who were only occasional riders try it, and even when it was loaded they took off without a wobble. This is common to some extent with all midtails, but our loaner Boda Boda had an advantage over the MinUte: a step-through frame. Even shorter riders could get on and off with contorting over the top tube or round-housing a kid sitting on the back deck.
  • The Boda Boda is a slender bike that can move easily through traffic. It has the same kind of rear supports as the Mundo, which are handy because they can hold up the bags or be used as footrests for older riders, but they are much narrower than the ones on the Mundo (as are the bags themselves). A Mundo with the Go Getter bags packed is three feet across, wider than many bike trailers, and it can be nerve-wracking to ride one in San Francisco’s narrow bike lanes and heavy traffic—as a result, I sometimes see Mundos riding on the sidewalk, even though this is illegal in San Francisco. The Boda Boda’s Baguettes, even fully packed, still lie pretty flat and make it possible to weave the bike through pinch points without a second thought (Baguettes can apparently be used on a Mundo as well, by the way).
  • It is very difficult to dump the kids on the Boda Boda (this is true for all midtail bikes). I never managed it, which is more than I can say for the longtails. The weight on the back is so close to the rider that it isn’t hard to handle.
  • The Boda Boda can easily carry one kid, or two kids if they’re in a good mood. The best application for this size of bike is to either carry one kid and a friend (siblings are more likely to fight) or for parents who have two kids and two bikes and are riding with them separately most of the time (that’s how we used our MinUte).
  • Happily, this bike is lightweight for a cargo bike. That means that although it’s not easy to carry, it’s possible. After seven straight years of lifting my kids overhead I have pretty decent arm strength, so needing to carry this bike up a few stairs wouldn’t intimidate me (unless I needed to carry a young child at the same time). However, the much heavier assisted bike: out of the question.
  • It is not appalling to ride this bike up hills. I have been riding a lot with an electric assist lately, because I don’t enjoy walking into meetings covered in sweat (both the campuses where I work are on the top of steep hills). As a result I was slightly depressed by the prospect of riding the unassisted Boda Boda around the city. Although the Boda Boda was, from my perspective, under-geared (see below), it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I was able to follow a friend who was riding my assisted mamachari and who had my daughter on board up a moderate hill without major effort. Frankly I think riding with the assist has made me stronger. But still, credit to the Boda Boda.
  • It took less than 30 seconds to load the Boda Boda on this rack. No wobbling on the ride either (which involved going up and down steep hills at speeds I’d prefer to forget).

    The Boda Boda fits on a bus bike rack, even a small rack like the one on the university shuttles. One evening when my son forgot his helmet at pickup we rode the shuttle home instead of riding. One of the reasons I really like the midtail size is the ability to do stuff like this instead of being stranded. I wrote once about flipping the front wheel to put the Kona Minute on a bus bike rack; we did the same thing with the Boda Boda. The bike is light enough that lifting it to the rack wasn’t a problem (note that this was the unassisted bike, which is ~15 pounds lighter than the assisted bike). And it definitely impressed the other shuttle riders. “What a great design!” The Boda Boda fits on the rack slightly better than the MinUte, actually, because it has smaller 26” wheels.

  • Yuba has designed some nice accessories for this bike. Unlike a lot of cargo bikes, it has a chain guard. Most of the other accessories are not included in the base price of the bike, but they are probably worth the money. The Baguette bags in particular impressed me; they hold a lot more than they look like they would, and still lie flat against the bike itself. The deck and running boards are bamboo, and they look classy. Some of the standard Mundo accessories, like the front basket and the seat cushion for the deck, also work on the Boda Boda.
  • Many cargo bikes are one-size-fits-all, but the Boda Boda (like all three midtails now on the market) comes in two different frame sizes. This is very nice for shorter and taller riders who report that some bikes are really one-size-fits-most rather than one-size-fits-all. The smaller size has a step through option.
  • Although I rode the unassisted version of the bike, Yuba designed the Boda Boda with the expectation that many people would want an electric assist. The assist system they chose, which is made by BionX, is excellent (the same one we have on our Bullitt). The deck is designed to hold the BionX rack-mounted battery underneath and it’s unobtrusive. For people in hilly cities like ours, this feature, in combination with the excellent accessories and light weight, makes the Boda Boda unbeatable for the family with one child.
  • I often call Yuba the Ikea of bike manufacturers because they make cargo bikes at very approachable price points, and the Boda Boda is no exception. The unassisted Boda Boda is $1000, and the assisted version is $2700. By cargo bike standards, these are excellent prices (the assisted version seems like a particularly good deal). The Kona MinUte has the same base price (and the bags are included, but unfortunately the MinUte bags kind of suck) and is also a good deal, but as noted above Kona is not a family-focused company and there is no integrated electric assist system. That might not be a problem if you have a family-oriented local bike shop, but could be frustrating if you don’t.

Disadvantages of the Boda Boda:

  • This is not specific to the Boda Boda but to its class: like many parents, I prefer to ride with my kids in front of me rather than behind me.  You can see them and talk to them and it’s altogether a better experience (it also feels safer to me, probably because experience suggests I’m less likely to dump a front-loading bike). Realistically, however, the kids in front option is expensive. If you have the money, by all means get a bike that puts the kids in front, because it is fabulous. But most people don’t walk into family biking yelling, “Money is no object!” Also you could never get a front box bike onto a bus.
  • The Boda Boda is really a bike suited for carrying one kid regularly and no more than that. Yes, it is possible to put two kids on the back of a midtail, maybe even three for a short ride. Yes, there are probably siblings in this world who could ride that way regularly without trying to kill each other. However such kids would be exceptional.  I’ve been able to ride a MinUte for almost an hour without my kids fighting on occasion, but more often the ride gets cut short when they start smashing helmets. So the Boda Boda is really a bike for a one-kid family or for a family where both parents ride and split up the kids, or where only the youngest needs to be hauled.
  • The Boda Boda is under-geared for San Francisco. It has eight speeds and they were not enough for riding around our neighborhood loaded and unassisted. Yes, I could climb moderate hills, but trying to get up the steep hill to the main campus on this bike left me dripping with sweat. However, this wouldn’t be an issue with the electric assist version.
  • More expensive cargo bikes come with better parts, and cheaper bikes come with parts that are less good. The Boda Boda comes with many of the same parts that are on the Yuba Mundo, which where we ride would mean making several upgrades, either all at once or over time as various parts on the bike broke. In defense of the Boda Boda, it is a much lighter bike than the Mundo, so the riding experience with those components was much better than on the Mundo (in particular, using rim brakes felt less like flirting with death). Also in defense of the Boda Boda, we had to do the exact same thing with our MinUte, which is also built with cheaper parts. The components may not be an issue for an occasional rider or for someone riding in less demanding conditions.  However I had the chain drop off the front ring twice while riding the bike, and it was a huge pain to rethread given the chainguard.
  • I suspect that Yuba had a price point in mind building this bike, and that was: less than the Mundo. As a result, the standard Boda Boda is pretty stripped down if you want to haul a kid on it. The stock kickstand is totally inappropriate for loading kids, the bike lacks fenders, there aren’t stoker bars or footpegs for a kid riding in the back, and the bags are not included. There is an optional center stand appropriate for loading kids, plus bags, and so forth, but the costs of these upgrades add up and should be kept in mind. The bike I rode, incidentally, came with Baguette bags, which have a neat center outside pocket where my seven-year-old son could tuck his feet, and I definitely think they’re worth the money.  However I suspect that many parents would appreciate a “family package” where the obvious upgrades were bundled together.
  • The Boda Boda is still somewhat in development, and the accessories designed to carry kids are not yet perfected. The Boda Boda deck is much higher than the Mundo deck, so the Mundo stoker bars are too low for kids to hold. When my daughter (three years old) tried using them she was frustrated that she had to stick her face into my butt. My son, who can stay on by himself (although he prefers having stoker bars) simply ignored them.  If Yuba doesn’t come up with stoker bars for the Boda Boda, it would be better to have a bike shop rig up something.  Similarly, foot pegs for smaller kids like my daughter, who couldn’t put her feet into the bag pockets, are apparently not available.
  • I learned recently that some accessories are not compatible with putting the bike on a bus rack. Many San Francisco transit services, for example, don’t allow you to load bikes with front baskets on the bus racks. Normally I would suggest putting Yuba’s Bread Basket on to increase the Boda Boda’s carrying capacity, especially given that it can be tough to use the rear bags if you’re carrying a younger kid in a child seat on the back (Yuba’s Peanut Shell is compatible with the Boda Boda). But for anyone planning to put this bike on the bus, definitely check with the local transit agency first, because the Bread Basket cannot be removed without tools.
  • As with all of the longtail/midtail bikes, there isn’t really good technology yet for covering up kids in bad weather on the Boda Boda. People have jury-rigged rain covers and bundled up kids, but this is one area where front-loading bikes really shine: most of these bikes come with covers.
  • I found the deck on the Boda Boda really high for carrying kids (this is also a problem on the MinUte, which has bigger wheels). On a longtail, this can make the load less stable, meaning you’re more likely to dump the bike and scrape up the kids. On a midtail like the Boda Boda dumping the bike is extremely unlikely; that’s an advantage of the short deck. But there’s still a cost to putting weight up so high. Where I feel the most unstable on midtails and longtails with kids on board is turning at speed (especially at the bottom of a hill), when these bikes will pitch away from the turn like they’re going to roll over. This feeling is very unpleasant, and is much less likely to happen with the load lower down. Yuba built a high deck so there would be space to hold the BionX rear-rack mounted battery. However the Boda Boda would feel much more stable if both the deck and the battery were lower.

There’s been a lot of mugging for the camera lately. My son liked riding the bike. Hence the scary face, I am told.

Overall, I was impressed with the Boda Boda. It looks cute and easy to ride, and it is. That might sound trivial to people who already ride regularly who are considering a cargo bike, but for people who aren’t already riding bikes, it’s really important. The Boda Boda is very accessible.

I liked this bike so much that the electric assist Boda Boda is now what I recommend when San Francisco families with one child who are new to riding bikes ask me what bike they should get. So far two of them have gone for it (knowing that they’re probably going to have to upgrade some of the parts along the way).  Overall, for parents looking to start bike commuting with a kid, the Boda Boda is an excellent choice.

17 Comments

Filed under electric assist, family biking, reviews, San Francisco, Yuba

17 responses to “We tried it: Yuba Boda Boda

  1. Jim

    Nice review as usual.

    Yeah…this high rear rack phenomenon on midtails necessitated by 700c wheels or possible e-assist is kind of funny and you can tell, if true, the same designer penned the Kona and BB. There is so much room behind the seat tube for a battery if the swoopy stays were less swoopified but hey, what do I know.

    The brake thing you’ve mentioned a few times…I’m pretty sure it’s a
    pad issue, not leverage. Been running Salmons for years, no problems in the dry, though in the wet I’d prefer hydros.

    Pretty sure the “no front rack” policy is related to the fork-mounted ones, the bus guys never having seen one frame-mounted. The latter just requires tedious individual bus driver education/wheedling.

  2. Sandy

    Great review, very detailed. The small cargo bike concept makes total sense. Have a look at the ODK from Juiced Riders. http://www.juicedriders.com
    It is a new midtail cargo bike built on a 20” wheel platform, so the rack is much lower. The large battery fits under the rack on the electric version. Kids can even jump on without help. It is like the SUV of mamacharis.

  3. Great review! This is maybe a silly question, but if you attach the Yuba Bread Basket, can you still turn the front wheel around? I’d hate to lose that ability. I haven’t seen one in person and can’t quite tell from the photos. Maddeningly, Seattle’s policy is to leave the front basket question up to the bus driver’s discretion. The general rule seems to be that it’s ok if the driver can see through it, which rules out the big wicker style.

    • Thanks! I didn’t have a Bread Basket on the Boda Boda, but based on my experience with the Mundo I believe that the front wheel would still flip around (it’s a frame-mounted basket and the mounting points are above the fork and below the handlebars, and they didn’t move when I flipped the wheel).

      I once had an argument with a shuttle bus driver about a wicker front basket and just barely won. However the word from people who ride Golden Gate Transit is that the drivers don’t dicker; either the basket/rack comes off or you don’t get on. Seattle’s policy sounds infuriating, although it opens the possibility of waiting for the next bus, at least.

  4. Josette

    Great review! I own the Boda Boda and agree with you on all your points. :)

  5. Yay Boda Boda! Very happy to read this review and your endorsement for the Boda Boda! I rode one just once (granted, just for a few blocks) and it didn’t feel right. I was so disappointed, but hoped it was just a case of this particular one being poorly put together; it just didn’t feel very solid. I will rest assured that was the case! A beach cruiser was my daily transport for years (and I still ride it on occasion) so I don’t think it was an issue of my being unfamiliar with the funky styling.

    • The Boda Boda I rode wasn’t the best-assembled bike ever (e.g. front brake loose, broken bell) but most of it was pretty solid. However given your experience, and to a lesser extent mine, it sounds as though having these bikes built by a reliable shop would be a really good idea.

  6. Hello, do you know if MinUte would fit in a typ bike locker like those at Bart, Caltrain, college campuses? The Boda^2 would have been a slam dunk if it did. I have the dimensions/specs and it looks like it would just make it by turning the handlebar. Hoping for 1sthand knowledge. Thx!

    • I have no personal experience but my guess would be yes. Which locker is most important to you? Matt’s office is not too far from the Caltrain station and he might be able to try it out one of these days.

  7. Tammie

    Thanks for this great review! Very helpful info in my cargo bike research. I have never ridden a cargo bike of any sort and I am unsure what would suit our needs, but mostly my riding abilities. I was almost set on a Mundo, but I saw you had several things to say about longtails feeling unsafe and tipping easily with a lot of weight on the back. I have a 2 and 4 year old so there doesn’t seem to be too many options that can carry all three of us comfortably. We are about 2 hours out of DC and that seems to be the closest place to find any cargo bikes, much less “try them on”. Do you have any suggestions that I should look into or try before locking in on one? Thanks so much!

    • If you’re willing to pay for a box bike, it’s great for hauling kids. I’d suggest heading to my post “Cargo Bike Pocket Reviews” linked on the About page to get a sense for all the different bikes we have tried and their pros and cons (so many bikes). Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about DC shops, but if you find a good one please let me know!

  8. simpsoda@hotmail.com

    The only trouble I find with the boda boda is finding a shop that has it. Also the yuba website is less straight forward than I would prefer. As someone who has done heavy touring, carried a child on self fashioned hybrid with heavy rack for a number of years, this bike seems a perfect, the thoughtful design makes it versatile as well.

  9. Priscilla

    Do you know if the Baguette attachment system is compatible with use if at he Bobike Junior or Maxi? I have scoured the internet but cannot find information or a picture showing the Baguette’s attachment system.

    I enjoy your blog and really appreciate your reviews and info.

    • Having used both, although not together, I’d say that there’s no reason that they couldn’t be used together except that the rack on a normal bike would be too short to hold the rear hook of a Baguette. The Baguette attaches with two clip-on hooks that can be released by pulling on a string attached to each hook. If you’ve seen a Basil bag, the attachment points are similar but spaced much further apart width-wise.

      I’m not sure whether you can mount a Bobike Maxi/Junior to a Boda Boda, but if you can it would resolve the issue of the rack/deck being long enough to fit both hooks. I would refer that question to Yuba.

      One possible (unrelated) concern is that some people have complained about the durability of the Baguettes. Might be worse with a kid kicking them.

      • Priscilla

        I have an old Arkel Bug pannier that works on the Boda Boda, which my 5 and 3 year old ride on….but I also have an old Trek hybrid with a 15″ frame on which Biking in Heels over at Bicycle Belle installed a new rack and Yepp Maxi for the 1 year old (also the 3 year old because he likes having a seat belt). (Shout out to Bicycle Belle because I had failed utterly to get a Bobike onto my old Blackburn rack by myself. There is not a lot of space on a 15″ frame. Thanks, Carice!) I have the Yepp maxi seat on the Trek now, but the tubing is too thick for my Arkel pannier. There is space on the rack between the back of the foot rests and the end of the burly new rack, but I will need attachment clips that are placed close together…which sounded kind of like the challenge you solved with the Basil bag. I was thinking about the Baguette because I could maybe use it with both bikes/racks and also because they seem to carry a lot + I have a Yuba promo code I can use…but from your experience, it sounds like I need to instead save up for a Basil pannier like you have or an Ortlieb with adjustable attachment clips (as Carice suggested).

        This is what I get for having two bikes and for reading your blog + Lovely Bicycle + The Voice Within, + BIking in Heels + many others all of the time! On the other hand, it is wonderful to be able to look online, and find someone like you who has not only ridden the Boda, used the Baguette, dealt with limited rack space behind the Bobike, and willing to respond to my questions! Thanks again!

  10. D. K.

    At what age do most kids generally stop riding on cargo bikes? I’m contemplating the Boda Boda, but my son just turned 7 and I wonder how many years we’ll get out of it? We are currently using the Bobike Jr., which has been great for the past 1.5 years, but is easy to tip if you get off balance. I’ve never done it, but there have been a few close calls, especially as my son gets heavier. Thanks.

    • Totally depends on the kid. Our son at almost 9 still likes riding on the Bullitt some days, although he’s moving to riding his own bike most of the time. Other kids we know are off a cargo bike by 2nd grade, although the first transition at that age is usually to a tandem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s