- A front box cargo bike with a low center of gravity, made especially friendly for families with easy side loading, safety features, and an ecosystem of practical accessories
- Upgraded this year with a Bosch Performance Line Cruise mid-drive and a Enviolo by NuVinci CVT, riding is both smooth and technologically advanced
- Attention to detail is abundant with features like reflective tube ends, fenders with mud-flaps to keep you clean, sturdy double legged kickstand placed perfectly for stable loading, thicker spoke wheels coupled with comfortable tires, and the soft EPP lined box perfect for kids
- Some drag, friction, and inefficiency due to the nature of the CVT, can take a while to get used to riding if you are new to it, also the battery pack could benefit from a larger Amp Hour rating since they opted for the PowerPack 400 instead of the PowerPack 500
To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This review was sponsored by Urban Arrow. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased, this video and written review are not meant to be an endorsement of Urban Arrow products.
Urban Arrow has updated their Family line of electric cargo bikes for 2019. As with any cargo bike, there is a lot to cover, so lets jump right in. As soon as the Urban Arrow Family was available, it made waves because the engineering put the cargo in the front as opposed to the back. The bike keeps this aspect along with a few changes in its current offering. What was once $4,500 is now $5,995 and boasts the new upgraded Bosch Performance Line Cruise mid-drive motor as well as an Enviolo transmission. The overall look and feel is similar to the one I covered back in 2014. It is a low step aluminum alloy frame that has two different wheel sizes in the back and front. 26” in the rear with a 20” in the front which is actually nice since it makes for not only a lower center of gravity, but allows you to see up and over any cargo you may be carrying. The tires are Schwalbe Big Ben Plus ballon tires that are 2.15” in diameter, equipped with a reflective sidewall and puncture protection. Tires like these are great for safety and balance, especially under a load and are made a little fatter for comfort and stability. Assisting that strength are these silver 14 gauge spokes in the front and 13 gauge spokes in the rear, both 36 hole, making it kind of overbuilt but a lot thicker and sturdier than other bikes. The geometry is great too, the upright riding position keeps you out of the way of the cargo and you’re not kicking the box when you pedal either. With the adjustable angle stem that comes up a bit and a rising seat post, you can dial it in even more to your liking. Its also got a 25.4” handlebar, a little narrower, but has a nice rise and back sweep to them with ergonomic grips. You can really tell Urban Arrow put a lot of thought into the cargo box itself. The Family version here has an EPP (expanded poly propelene) coated box which kind of looks like styrofoam, but is actually much better. If you squeeze it you’ll see it’s sort of rubberized and unlike bike helmet material will not chip or crack. In fact it’s the material inside much more expensive and durable motorcycle helmets! The material is soft and comfortable and is great for both people and pets. A box bike like this keeps center of gravity a little lower on the load and its also easier to keep an eye on the children as opposed to them sitting in the back. You could fit up to 4 small children in the front, and if you had 5, you could even try to get a seat on the back. I love that the cargo box has a rust resistant drainage floor so if it rains or you have spilled liquid, it will flow out the bottom making it easy to clean or keep dry for your more precious cargo. As is, it comes well equipped and even has a 3 point harness seatbelt, but since this is modular, there are even more accessories which I will cover in its own section below. Under the box is a steering arm that goes all the way back and this custom double leg kickstand with rubber stoppers which I love because it keeps loading sturdy and steady. Also at the head of the bike, you have a steering tube and a integrated headlight fork mounted all the way up in the front, which stays out of the way and allows for pointing where you steer. In the middle we have a battery and mid-drive motor that are placed low to continue to keep that weight centered. Also in the center is the very comfortable gel saddle with a handle, a great addition when pulling the bike around and navigating while parking. Its a 31.6mm rigid seat post, and I might recommend you swap it out if you find the higher attack angle of the front tire makes you feel the bumps more. In the back we see the rear integrated LED light and this awesome cafe lock that puts a rod through the rear spokes. This one uses the same key as battery which is super convent. It also has a function where if you forget the cafe lock is on, it has some rubber on the lock arms to prevent from braking the spokes if you walk the bike forward or backward out of the stall. Throughout the bike is thick tubing that even has reflectors on some ends… its all very efficient, you can tell they used the space available to them well. As a cargo bike, it is a bit heavy, but that is to be expected; the Urban Arrow Family weighs 104lbs. Other features include bottle cage bosses, reflectors, an integrated bell, and some extra wide fenders with mud-flaps which really help keep you clean. The Bosch Performance Line mid-drive and the Enviolo CVT makes for a very smooth experience so lets go over that below.
Driving the Urban Arrow Family is a Bosch Performance Line Cruise mid-motor rated from 250 to 570 watts with peak torque output of 63 Newton meters. The torque rating is important because it allows you to start quickly, climb effectively, and transport heavier loads in combination with the Enviolo CVT. The bike feels zippy and allows you to shift smoothly with motor controller shift detection, so you won’t put as much pressure on the drivetrain. The motor weighs roughly 8.8lbs vs. 6.3lbs to 7.1lbs on Bosch Active Line motors (the lower powered, more compact offering from Bosch). In my own experience, the Bosch Performance Line motors are able to start and stop extremely quickly, making them intuitive, confidence-inspiring, and satisfying to ride. I love that this particular motor series can assist up to 120 pedal strokes per minute because I tend to enjoy spinning and revving to reach high speeds vs. shifting down and lumbering along. Frankly, you can ride however you’d like with this electric bicycle and the motor will be there to support you in a reliable way. It may be overkill for some neighborhood environments, with limited hills and fairly smooth terrain, but it’s definitely fun and capable for moving kids and cargo. The Bosch motor controller measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque over 1,000 times per second and that translates to near-instant starts and stops. The bike feels smooth and fast, the components are attached well and don’t make a lot of noise (aside from the fenders, cafe lock, and kickstand bouncing a bit) but the motor does produce a noticeable whine at the higher RPMs when riding in the upper levels of assist. On some ebikes, mostly mountain models, the whine is masked by knobby tires and the sounds of gravel and organic material along the trail, but you really hear it on smooth pavement and that might annoy some people. It’s one of the trade-offs when moving from the Active Line series to the Performance Line. Another trade-off to consider is a slight increase in pedal drag when riding unassisted. If the motor is off or if you’re pedaling beyond the maximum supported speed of 20mph (35km/h), the reduction gearing adds some friction. The CVR stands for “continuously variable transmission” and is from Enviolo, powered by NuVinci. This internally geared hub allows for shifting at standstill and a non-indexed range of 380-degrees of gearing. This option adds several pounds of weight and ups the price. I’ve also noticed that there can be a break-in period where the CVT feels a little sluggish compared to a derailleur, but it’s a really great option for people who aren’t as familiar with shifting gears. For example, if you’re pedaling along at a good pace and have to stop unexpectedly without having time to downshift… getting started again could be very difficult with a traditional 11-speed cassette. By comparison, the Enviolo can be shifted before you even start pedaling again, and that will empower you as a rider and the motor as your support. Both Bosch Performance Line motors weigh about 8.8lbs and both are integrated through a custom bottom bracket design with an oval plastic casing surround. They utilize a smaller proprietary chainring that spins 2.5x for each crank revolution, and that allows them to be fast, grip the chain well, and empower the reduction gearing inside the motor… but the design does introduce a touch of drag when pedaling unpowered or above the supported motor speed. In my experience, if you hop onto an ebike with this motor and an Enviolo drivetrain and just start pedaling without power, they can feel sluggish. But again, that changes over time with use and the reliability and responsive feedback of both systems could be well worth it. Also in the setup is a 20 tooth in the back and 18 tooth in the front chainring. The front chainring is a proprietary smaller size chainring that spins 2 and 1/2 revolutions for every crank revolution that provides a mechanical advantage. Stopping a box bike, especially with precious cargo, is important so I really appreciate the Shimano Deore 180mm rotor hydraulic disc brakes. Finally, Urban Arrow has added a fully-enclosed chain cover to keep your pant legs and dress ends clean.
Powering the bike is a rechargeable ebike battery from Bosch. It’s called the PowerPack 400, which references the roughly 400 watt hour capacity. Inside are high quality lithium-ion cells arranged to provide 36 volts and 11 amp hours. Most current generation packs offer 36 volts and 13.4 or more amp hours, so this is one of the trade-offs, maybe a bit of a missed opportunity, but you could still get the PowerPack 500 and fit it in since they are interchangeable. The display panel does provide great feedback about range, so you can plan to make it home without running low. This battery pack can be charged on or off the bike frame, and has a built in 5-LED charge level indicator. It’s a handy feature if you haven’t been riding for a while… and I would recommend checking the charge level from time to time, aiming for 50% or three bars during times of prolonged disuse. Most lithium-ion batteries are temperature sensitive, so keep the pack in a cool dry location. The plastic casing is durable and well protected when mounted inside the rear rack on the bike. You’ll need to unlock it before sliding it out, and there’s a large handle molded into the back end, so it’s very comfortable to carry. Note that the locking core on the battery dock is keyed alike to the cafe lock. This is nice because it reduces clutter! The battery also powers the integrated lights here, both the front and the rear. I love the front light on this bike since it is fork mounted, it points where you steer and it is so far forward, it stays out of the way of most loads. The charger is a speedy 4amp charger that weighs 1.7lbs and is very easy to toss under the box seat or on the optional rear rack.
Operating this bike is very intuitive display panel and control pad. Once the battery or batteries are charged and connected to the frame, you simply press the power button on the Bosch Intuvia display panel, and it quickly loads some menus. The main dashboard shows bike speed, battery level (a five bar indicator), chosen level of assist (four levels) and a power meter to the right. Along the bottom, a rotating menu shows trip stats including max speed, average speed, clock, trip distance, clock, and dynamic range estimate (that changes as you select different assist levels). You can cycle through these menus using the i button on the display and also on the button pad mounted near the left grip. You really only need that i button and the up/down arrows on the control pad to use the bike once it’s switched on, and they produce a satisfying tactile click that helps you understand what’s happening, even if you can’t look down while riding. You slide through gear ratios (since technically there are no gears) using a half-grip twist shifter on the right. Given the potential power of the Bosch motor, I found shifting to be most efficient and comfortable when done as I eased off of the pedals a bit (which decreases motor output). I already mentioned the integrated Mini-USB port, great for maintaining smartphones for GPS or music on the go, and I want to call out the always-on white backlighting of the Intuvia LCD. It’s convenient in the dark, but can sometimes feel a bit bright and distracting. There’s also a walk mode, which is accessible if you are in one of the four assist levels and press the button on the top edge of the control pad and then hold +. This activates the motor very slowly, to help you push through grass or limp home if the tire goes flat. It’s very handy if the box does have cargo or a small child seated. In closing, the Intuvia display panel delivers almost everything I have grown to know and appreciate in the world of ebikes. It’s removable, easy to read, full of useful features but not too complicated… I just wish it showed battery percentage in addition to or in place of the basic five bar infographic.
I wanted to take a minute and list some of the accessories for the Urban Arrow Family. There are a lot of thoughtful options and in a way its almost like its own supported ecosystem. There is the optional rain cover ($299), which has a breathable mesh top to keep bugs out and a foldable plastic guard that rolls over to keep the kids dry. Its reflective and has zipper windows as well. Then you have an optional poncho ($199) that can go across the rain guard with a peekaboo window to see the display, hood, and Velcro sides to pull back or attach. I love that this doesn’t block rear light like most ponchos! Also there is the optional bike parka ($159) which covers the whole bike, great for outside storage. Other optional add-ons include a box cover ($119), rubber mesh floor mat ($59), rear carrier ($89), additional front bench ($199), and a Maxi Cozy adapter ($249).
The Urban Arrow Family always grabs attention, I remember first seeing it at Interbike and a line of people wanting to ride it. Even when I filmed this review, people were stopping us and asking us “What is that? That’s so cool!” As perfect as it may sound for some, there are a few tradeoffs to take into consideration. Steering is a bit different because the wheel base is longer and may take some getting used to, the same could be said in general because you are riding a more bulky and cumbersome bike. This bike also requires a little more balance, especially at lower speeds, also the extra need for balance means it is not a bike you can really ride with “no-hands”. There is a little bit of friction in the reduction process if you are riding unpowered or try to exceed the 20mph speed. Similarly, there is a little bit of drag and inefficiency produced when using a continuously variable transmission such as this. Another point worth noting is that some have experienced the kickstand having problems deploying upwards quickly. Sometimes its best to loosen the tension on the bolts attached to get this to behave correctly. A small point, but it has been seen before. Finally, the Bosch PowerPack 500 has become almost standard issue for 2019, so it is a curious choice that Urban Arrow went with the PowerPack 400. This was likely chosen to keep cost from skyrocketing and can always be switched out with other Bosch batteries which is nice. These tradeoffs can seem minor in comparison to the possibilities this bike may open up for you, especially if you have a family and are looking for a great way to get them outdoors or cut back on having to deal with car traffic. Its great to see it upgraded with the newer systems and I am glad that it is helping to elevate cargo bikes as a whole.
As always, I welcome questions and feedback in the comment section below. Whether you own a previous version of the bike, have taken a test ride, or are brand new to the space, my goal is to provide an objective and honest resource. You can also join the Urban Arrow Ebike forums and share your own photos, videos, and review updates to help others! Have fun out there, and ride safe :)
- A great upgrade with the Bosch Performance Line Cruise mid-drive motor as well as an Enviolo transmission
- The 20” wheel in the front is nice since it makes for not only a lower center of gravity, but allows you to see up and over any cargo you may be carrying
- Schwalbe Big Ben Plus ballon tires that are 2.15” in diameter, equipped with a reflective sidewall and puncture protection, these tires are great for safety and balance, especially under a load and are made a little fatter for comfort and stability
- 14 gauge spokes in the front and 13 gauge spokes in the rear, both 36 hole, making it kind of overbuilt but a lot thicker and sturdier than other bikes, helps give it that 606lb weight limit
- The box is coated with EPP (expanded poly propelene) which kind of looks like styrofoam, but is actually much better, if you squeeze it you’ll see it’s sort of rubberized and unlike bike helmet material will not chip or crack
- Having a low box in the front not only helps the center of gravity, but it is easier to keep an eye on the kids or a pet as opposed to a back seat setup
- The cargo box has a rust resistant drainage floor, which helps if it rains or you have spilled liquid, it will flow out the bottom making it easy to clean or help keep the kids dry
- The custom double leg kickstand with rubber stoppers is one of the better ones I have seen in the industry and it keeps loading sturdy and steady
- I love the integrated lights, especially the front headlight that is not only mounted on the fork so you can see where you steer, but is also placed far forward and out of the way
- It has a very comfortable gel saddle with a handle, which actually comes in very handy when pulling the bike around and navigating while parking
- A cafe lock is included which not only puts a rod through the rear spokes but is keyed to the battery and has a protective rubber section to protect your spokes if you attempt to leave while forgetting to undo the lock itself
- The Bosch Intuvia display is easy to read and still a favorite since it is removable and in-depth without being complicated to use or understand
- The Bosch motor controller measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque over 1,000 times per second and that translates to near-instant starts and stops
- Hydraulic brakes are a welcome addition here since they not only are 180mm, but are necessary when you have precious cargo onboard
- Safety is well thought out from the soft lining, integrated lights, reinforced frame, and 3 point harness seatbelts
- An entire lineup of accessories are available which are practical and can really open up possibilities to squeeze even more purpose out of this already well equipped setup
- Steering is a bit different because the wheel base is longer and may take some getting used to
- Because the bike is more bulky and cumbersome, it may take some time to learn to balance especially in tight turns
- Balance is also required at lower speeds, there is more side to side weight so it can’t really be ridden with no hands
- There is a little bit of friction in the reduction process if you are riding unpowered or try to exceed the 20mph speed
- there is a little bit of drag and inefficiency produced when using a continuously variable transmission as well
- Some have experienced the kickstand having problems deploying upwards quickly, this can be fixed by lessening the tension bolts attached to it
- For a family cargo bike, it would be nice to see the Bosch PowerPack 500, but Urban Arrow went with the 400, likely to help keep costs from skyrocketing, since the batteries are interchangeable, you could always get one later
- Official Site: https://www.urbanarrow.com