- An electric assist box bike with 350 lb carrying capacity (200 lbs in the front basket), plenty of room for cargo or child bench seat with safety belts
- Powerful 500 watt geared hub motor in the front benefits from smaller sturdy wheels (20" front and rear for easier maintenance)
- Electric assist only, no throttle mode here, one frame size ~18" with a mid-step design and extra long seat post to fit a range of riders
- Newer company working with charitable organizations, designed and built locally in Santa Cruz California, year long warranty
The Box Bike Collective is a community minded LLC based in Santa Cruz California designing electric cargo bikes. Their Standard Box Bike is the first model to be sold with free pickup or delivery in the Bay Area and so far the company has sold a hand full of these models and has launched a Kickstarter to build interest. The plan is to continue selling direct and growing organically regardless of the outcome there. I was impressed with the unique mid-step frame design, which can accommodate short or tall riders thanks to an extra long seat post with angled seat tube, and the comfortable saddle and grips.
The bike is decidedly utilitarian with a generic battery pack, basic display panel and limited five sensor pedelec disc (many new bikes have 12 sensors for faster response) but it gets the job done and these trade-offs help to keep the price down. For $3,900 you get the custom steel frame, reinforced fork, upgraded Schwalbe tires with puncture protection and reflective sidewalls, beautiful chrome plated fenders, the basket with child seat insert, upgraded ergonomic grips and a comfy saddle. You also get to feel good knowing that you’ve supported the creation of a hand-built frame, local powder coating and canvas work. The founder Alex and his wife Kelly use their bikes to deliver their two children to school each day and get to work. It’s pretty awesome to see and even though it may not be possible to do year round in every locale (especially if you live where it snows a lot) it can work at least some of the time.
The big hurdle with this and any box style bicycle is that the steering mechanism and front wheel are positioned way out front. It takes some getting used and definitely more balance to start out. The smaller 20″ wheels used on the Standard Box Bike keep weight low and stable and allow the 500 watt motor to operate efficiently. As the rider, you’re turing a 20″ rear wheel, benefitting from the same mechanical advantage, and the nine speed drivetrain is plenty for climbing or hitting 20+ mph even though the motor cuts out at ~17 due to the smaller diameter and built-in limiter. Because the saddle is oversized, the tires are extra wide at 2.15″ and the steel frame is forgiving and vibration dampening this ebike actually rides very comfortably but it is flexy. Especially when starting out I found that it jiggled and my turning motions weren’t immediately transmitted to the balance of the bike… this is what I mean about getting used to it. With a bit of speed (usually under pedal power only) the whole bike calms down and you’re off.
The Box Bike Collective is many things to many people but the bike itself is more of a niche offering. Having tested other similar products like the Urban Arrow Family with similar motor, battery and weight specs I missed the rigid frame for starting and balance but enjoyed the comfort gained. The bright blue frame, yellow basket and orange flag reminded me of my own childhood riding in a burly trailer and I loved the additional tube slots along the side for use with surf board racks or long pieces of hardware. This is a useful bike, like a fun little pickup truck that rarely brakes down and comes in handy in different ways for each member of the family. I love that Alex can offer a bit of customization and that he’s already working on an upgraded model to compliment the standard.
- Community mindset: powder coating, canvas work (kids seat, basket sides) and laser cut steel all done locally, Bike Box Collective also offers discounted units to charitable organizations including Cabrillo Veterans Association and Bike Santa Cruz County
- Emphasis on safety with reflective tires, bright yellow basket and included flag (you can add aftermarket lights to the frame for night riding)
- Both wheels are 20″ in diameter and use the same tubes and tires keeping replacement parts more affordable and accessible, the smaller wheels lower the center of gravity and improve leverage for the hub motor
- Powerful 500 watt motor was useful when riding with a large load (shouldn’t overheat) and having it mounted in the front wheel felt great, it didn’t spin out due to the weight of the basket
- Accessible mid-step frame design, highly adjustable seat and bars, extra long 400 mm seat post can fit riders from 5′ to 6’6″ and the bar stem can be flipped to bring it closer to petite riders
- Included oversized fenders keep the cargo basket dry and reduce splash from the rear, they were solid and didn’t rattle during my test rides
- I like the threaded eyelets on the rear for adding a rack and this could be useful with a trunk bag given the lack of bottle cage bosses
- Nine speed drivetrain offered excellent range for low or higher speeds (motor top speed is ~17 mph) the derailleur and shifters are mid-level and durable
- Additional side mounting points (hollow tubes) for use with surf board racks, lumber and other long skinny cargo
- Comfortable upgraded Cloud-9 Saddle (important given the smaller wheel diameter and lack of suspension) and wide Ergon GP1 ergonomic grips
- Heavier than an inline cargo bike at ~96 pounds, the large basket at the front and reinforced frame adds weight
- Priced at $3,900 this is a more expensive electric bike it’s hand made and less than other box bikes like the Urban Arrow
- The steel frame is comfortable because it flexes but not as rigid or responsive at low speeds, I felt some bending side to side that was destabilizing when starting so I preferred to start with assist off
- This is a pedal assist only bike and I like the addition of walk mode but there’s no throttle which could be useful when starting from zero with a heavy load, the cadence sensor is a bit more basic with five magnets vs. 12 on some other ebikes I’ve tested
- Relatively new company (officially founded in 2015) with evolving designs and business structure, mostly sold locally so it could be difficult to test ride unless you live in Santa Cruz
- Shipping ranges from $250 to $500 given the large size and heavier weight, this isn’t a bad thing but worth considering as the bike itself is starting near $4k and they don’t have any shops at this time (local pickup is free and they offer free delivery in the San Francisco Bay Area of California)