Urban Arrows – A three month update

Three months ago we took delivery of three new Urban Arrows to replace the ageing Bakfiets and to expand our capacity. After a fairly detailed assessment of the alternative electric-assisted cargo bikes, we went for the UA due to it’s lighter weight, good component spec and powerful brakes. As one of the first cargo bikes designed from the start with e-assist, the Bosch crank-drive motor combined with the Nuvinci 360 CVT rear hub has worked very well so far and offers smooth power assistance, good gearing ratios and excellent braking power.

With nearly 1000 miles on one of the bikes we can start to see some areas where UA could improve things – firstly, the stock Shimano resin brake pads are much too soft and wear out every 4-5 weeks on the steep hills of Brighton. A higher spec rotor that works with metallic pads may be needed. Secondly, the steerer tube and stem assembly had much too much flex when the UA bikes arrived, the steerer stack was too high and this introduced flex and creaking. Fitting a different stem flush on top of the top headset bearing remedied this issue. Thirdly, the parking stand isn’t the strongest and needs to be looked after which is hard when you’re in a hurry. Fourthly, the steering linkage bar can work loose which generally introduces shimmy at speeds above 15 MPH which is disconcerting when it happens.

The final issue is also the one which is of most concern – the UA comes as standard as a family bike with a foam lined hold and bench for carrying children and shopping. This is framed by a tubular alloy rim which bolts into the UA mainframe and thus adds rigidity to the bike. However, when converted to a cargo freight bike, the foam AND the top alloy frame need to be removed in order to accommodate an alloy box for carrying freight. This results in a loss of frame rigidity and we have concerns that repeated riding as a freight bike may result in eventual frame failure due to greater flex and stress on the fewer remaining attachment points that join the front and rear portions of the mainframe (the UA is modular with front and rear sections that are separable). We’ll need to keep a close eye on this but for now we are pretty happy with the performance of these striking new bikes.

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    Update – after 10,000kms the Urban Arrows have proven to be supremely reliable. The only weak point has been the Nuvinci rear internal gear hubs which typically fail after around 5000km of riding with e-assist. They simply can’t cope with the extra torque of the motors. It’s time for manufacturers to step up and release a robust gear hub designed to cope with the extra torque of electric assist. Please!

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