On a sunny Spring morning around half way through our pedal around Europe with two dogs, we rolled into Montpellier hungry and ready for second breakfast. By the natural process of cheese-mosis we gravitated towards the market lanes, filled with delicious aromas, rows of fromage, and sickeningly stylish French people speaking their sickeningly seductive language.
But something on the fringe of the marketplace caught our eye. A bike. A big, long bike. In an acknowledgement of big bike solidarity in the land of the petite, the rider coasted over to say “bonjour”. He was a friendly fellow, built like an ATM with a barrel chest that bulked out his ‘Rock the Bike’ t-shirt.
It turned out that the rider was Benjamin Sarrazin, the founder of the bike company Yuba, who was seeking French distribution for his Mundo cargo bike. It’s a small world.
At around the start of the millennium Ben was in California helping to start Xtracycle, whose revolutionary frame extension effectively lengthens the wheelbase of a an average bike, transforming it into a longtail cargo hauling beast, reminiscent of an old Dutch twin bike. After working at Xtracycle for several years Ben felt that the add-on design was not sturdy or durable enough for the long haul, so he left and founded Yuba, enlisting the help of top frame builders and designers to create the ‘Mundo’, perhaps the sturdiest longtail cargo bike on the market.
The first thing I noticed about the Mundo was that it was so fat it was bordering on phat! The solid, oversized radioactive green steel tubing was fitted out with a fat padded seat, Schwalbe Fat Frank balloon tires, a reinforced 48-spoke back wheel with a huge 14mm axle, and a fat fire-engine red courier bag. Next to my Surly Big Dummy it didn’t look particularly elegant, but it certainly looked rock solid and full of good cheer.
The bike was partly inspired by Ben’s travels in the developing world where he noticed that bicycles were an important part of lives and livelihoods, but were made using poor quality parts, too weak for consistently hauling heavy loads. Consequently the Yuba Mundo is designed to promote affordable, scaleable transportation for cargo and people – whether it be replacing a mini-van in an Australian city or lugging coffee beans in Africa.
So just how much can the Mundo haul? When Ben took part in the 4th Annual Supermarket Street Sweep (a bike race that benefits the San Francisco Food Bank by collecting food from local supermarkets) he crossed the finish line with 150 kg/330 lbs of rice plus a passenger. The total cargo weight of the food, passenger, and rider was 315 kg/695 lbs – considerably more than the 200 kg/440 lbs cargo capacity stated on their website.*
When I asked Ben how it felt to ride with so much weight, he said it felt “easy, except for the hills, and totally stable”. Other Yuba riders have also reported a lack of frame flex under heavy loads, an unnerving feeling which I have often experienced when pushing the Big Dummy to the top of its weight capacity.
On its third model now, Yuba has listened to feedback to advance and refine its design. The frame can now be purchased separately for full customisation or purchased complete with a 21-speed drivetrain for hillier terrain. Disc brake tabs are now provided on both for anyone wanting to upgrade from the standard v-brakes.
My ride of choice, the Surly ‘Big Dummy’ is another longtail cargo bike from California with its roots in Xtracycle. Abbreviated backstory: when Xtracycle contacted Surly about whether they were interested in making a solid one-piece longtail bike that was compatible with the Xtracycle accessories, Surly jumped at the chance. The result was a sleek, army green frame, with curves that had bike geeks drooling over their keyboards.
The Big Dummy frame lived up to the hype. Despite being made up entirely of steel (4130 chromoly) and being able to carry up to around 180 kg/400 lbs of combined cargo and rider, the bike is nimble, fast, has a well balanced frame geometry, clearance for 26 x 2.5″ tyres and mudguards, performs well off road, can be geared down low enough to tackle steep grades, has no chain-ring clearance limitations, the 425mm axle-to-crown cromoly fork can be swapped for an 80mm-travel suspension fork without radically altering the steering geometry, it works well as a touring bike, and the frame supports disc brakes, Rohloff hubs, multiple water-bottle cages and has a kickstand mount. All in all, there is little that the Big Dummy can’t conquer. The only drawback being that the quality is matched with a befitting price-tag.
Break it Down Now: Surly Big Dummy vs Yuba Mundo
|Surly Big Dummy||Yuba Mundo|
|Price ($US)||$2450 (complete bike)$1050 (frame only)||$1099 (21-speed v3)$849 (6-speed v2)$575 (frame only)|
|Maximum cargo including rider (recommended)||180 kg / 400 lbs||200 kg / 440lbs*|
|Bike Weight (complete)||20 kg / 45 lbs||25 kg / 55 lbs|
|Frame Size||16”, 18”, 20”, 22”||One size fits all|
|Frame||4130 CroMoly steel. TIG-welded.||Hi-Ten steel|
|More Info, components, etc.||Specs & GeometrySurly Big Dummy Spew||Yuba WebsiteYuba Flickr PhotosMomentum review|
And the Heavyweight Champion is…
There are no clear winners here – both bikes are excellent in their own way, and between them they should cover most people’s cargo hauling needs. Where the Surly Big Dummy went for versatility and the deluxe, the Yuba Mundo went for extra strength, affordability and scalability.
Would I have chosen the Yuba over the Surly had I known about it at the time? Probably not. My customised Surly Big Dummy has performed admirably on tour, allowing me to tackle climbs up to 18% grades under heavy loads and difficult off-road sections with doggy luggage on board. But for those that are just after a rock solid cargo bike without the bells and whistles, at around half the price the Yuba Mundo is a mighty tempting option.
Thanks for this review. Although I have my eyes on the Yuba Mundo, I still like to read comparisons with the Surly Big Dummy.
No problem, glad you enjoyed it.
You know if I knew the Mundo existed I probably would have bought one if I could have imported one to Australia. I’ve easily spent $1,000 on my longtail and it still has teething problems!
Check out this modified Yuba being used in central Victoria: http://www.mechanarchy.com.au/Watt-Bot.html They have added an electric assist push trailer, that they call the ‘Watt-Bot’.
that looks pretty awesome!
This mob in Collingwood, Victoria have started importing the Yuba Mundo V4:
I’ve met them, they seem pretty nice. Seriously considering getting one myself!
Just read this from Xtracycle: “I witnessed the Yuba at Supermarket Street Sweep as it rolled in, being buttressed by handlers and pushed up the minimal incline. While you can carry 600lbs+, the practicality of that feat is, um, a bit impractical. If you’re constantly carting 400+ plus, I worship the ground you walk on and think that a tricycle is your best bet. :)”
Just came across your blog from my web stats, thanks for the link! How are things going, where are you and how long before you get to Oz?
We are looking at heading over to Europe to do what you guys are doing, just don’t know when, only difference is that instead of dogs, Kris my partner will have a cello and other muso gear on the back of her Mundo and I’ll be roadie for the rest!
When you get to Oz, make sure you look us up, we have bicycle friendly woofing style accommodation at:
And Kris’s muso site is at:
I really enjoyed checking out your webpage – so many cool projects you’ve got going on in the garden and workshop, very similar to our aspirations if we can ever settle in one place long enough.
I love the idea of the cello tour. We started off with a guitar on board but our waterproofing efforts were unfortunately not waterproof at all. I can see that your waterproofing will much more likely be waterproof.
How are you finding the Mundos? You seem to be putting them to good use anyway. Have you picked up many people from the train station with them?
We will look you up if we make it back to Oz, which we should because my Dad is in Tassie. If you are heading for Canada anytime soon drop us a line too…
Yuba’s are going great after the modifications, we had to shed some frame weight to make them lighter than the original 34 Kg, they are still heavy and not the ideal touring bike, but then again, they are built to last which is what we were looking for and once you get them moving, they’re pretty cruisy. With all that weight, headwinds don’t seem to worry them much either.
I had misplaced your websit uRL so I’m glad I found it again. Where are you guys going on your upcoing tour?
Hi Tiff, nice to hear from you. We are still unsure of the where, when and how long. It will probably be a shorter trip in Canada or possibly the US around the release of our children’s book in August/September.
Oh, and I forgot to ask, how long will you be out this time?
I have a Yuba but for touring and if just me – i would have mated it with a Rohloff for the best tourer ever ….. nice bike.
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The bottom rack that you have on the back is that bought from some where or is it custom. i really like it. and i was wondering how does it attach?? and do you have some pics of it without cargo. thanks alot.
The bottom rack on my Big Dummy is made by Xtracycle. They call them ‘wideloaders’. Very handy if the side bags are not adequate or you have bulky items. They keep the weight down low and make a nice ‘kick-stand’ if you lean one side up against a wall/post/tree. They require holes in the frame where the bars clip in, so you need a bike that is either an Xtracycle or Xtracycle compatible like the Big Dummy.
You can see pics and read more here: http://www.xtracycle.com/cargo-bicycles/cargo-bike-accessories/wideloaders.html
That’s neat using the wideloaders as a ‘kick stand’. In the photo above the gorge in France it looks like you have a single stand, and is that a tent peg you have attached that chain?! Lol!! I have a Big Dummy and have been talking to Mechanarchy (Andrew in the post above) about him making me a centre stand and some wideloader type things. Or a trailer. My Surly is my mode of transport around town, and I agree with you about it being nimble and fast. It still feels enough like a ‘normal’ bike to ride in heavy traffic, be able to track stand a bit in the queue up to traffic lights and round-abouts, and take off fast with the traffic.
It’s advantage over a normal bike with panniers (which I used for 20 years, so is adequate), is that I can carry so much more. I can do one shopping trip and fit everything onto the bike. For the car-free in an urban area, I think the Big Dummy balance is excellent.
The heaviest cargo I have carried on my Surly is 60kg of wheat. It was surprisingly easy to ride, obviously heavy, and I could feel the frame starting to flex just a little.
The wideloaders work well if you lean them up against a tree/wall/post/curb and get the right angle. Using the wideloaders as a kickstand against the ground puts too much pressure on them when you have a heavy load. I broke one of my wideloaders this way, but it still works now that it is shorter. In fact it makes it easier to navigate doorways.
Yeah, in the France pic it is a Pletscher ESGE KS13 Multi Zoom Single Leg Kickstand. It’s a pretty good option if you don’t want to fork out big bucks. I tend to break kickstands when taking the dog in and out so I’m just leaning it these days. For normal urban use it would last longer. The tent peg idea makes me sound more creative than I am. It’s actually a leash for letting my dog run beside the bike 🙂
At first glance I thought you had a typo when you said you carried 60kg of ‘wheat’. I thought you meant to type weight instead. That’s alot of dinner rolls. Viva el Grande Dummy!
Any thoughts on Trek’s Transport compared to the Yuba? We are wanting a cargo bike to carry our son. The problem in deciding is that the shop near us has the Trek and offers a 3 year service plan but the Yuba dealer is very far from us and only gives 6 months service. My impression of the two bikes is that the Yuba is solid and heavy and Trek is more refined but a light weight. What do you think?
Hi Mike, I am not currently familiar with the Trek Transport. I wish you luck in your search for your cargo bike. Happy riding…
What did you buy? I am still doubting between a Yuba, a Trek and a Big Dummy.
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Thanks for the link Sam. I meet a retired lady in Bend, Oregon who was doing a transAmerica trip on her Bike Friday. Like Apple computers, Bike Friday has a famous degree of customer loyalty. I’ve never ridden one myself but I will have to give it a go sometime.
Both are great bikes. The yuba V4 is 2kg heavier than big dummy so perhaps not as well suited to world touring but does make a great urban station wagon – done 5000+km with nothing falling off so far. I’d be bit nervous of parking the big dummy at supermarkets, yuba is less likely to be stolen.
I guess we are lucky because the Big Dummy (fully loaded) has been parked in major cities across North America and Europe and has never been stolen. I love the Big Dummy but she is definitely a challenge to get onto trains, up stairs, into elevators, and in and out of buildings. It is next to impossible to hitch a ride with her. To get the Big Dummy on a plane we had to duct tape to bike boxes together. I suppose she is worth it though 🙂
I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog.
Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one today.
Thanks for your comments.
Our blog is a free WordPress blog. It is due for an update so keep posted.
Hello! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My web site looks weird when viewing from my iphone 4. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to resolve this problem.
If you have any suggestions, please share. Cheers!
Here is the link for wordpress for mobile devices. It is an app to download.
Hope this helps and sorry for the delay in responding.
To a happy June!