Monday, March 18, 2013

Our Box Bike Search Begins: Testing the Urban Arrow @ Rolling Orange


I now own the 2015 Urban Arrow; initial review found here 

At 35 weeks pregnant a road trip this past Sunday to Brooklyn was planned to test out some box bikes. We planned an early visit to Rolling Orange around opening at 10am. This was genius, the store was empty the street adjacent had parking and was fairly open to test out bikes and ultimately our toddler wasn't rowdy. When we walked back to our car later in the day the store was packed. So we felt grateful for the early morning visit.

Rolling Orange currently carries four types of box bikes priced from as low as $1975 to $4000+. In price order they carry the Milano (Bakfiets), Gazelle Cabby, (in both factory added e assist and none) & the new to the scene Urban Arrow. With a small store front and a lot of bikes they can only build up and have on the floor only one of each type of box bike at a time and they just sold the Milano and so they could only show me pictures/quote prices/answer questions. So call ahead to make sure they have what you want to try.

Although the Milano (built in EU) is priced as an accessible options to families seriously under 2k!! I have little interest in a non-assisted bike. But I was a bit bummed they didn't have a e-assist available to try.

John, the very nice associate/manager who helped us at RO was excited that we wanted to try out the Urban Arrow as they literally just got them in that week. RO is currently the only stateside dealer of them, but we know Bill Clinton also has one! They do come fully assembled from overseas.

The bike itself is beautiful, white frame with a black box. The box is made if some type of foam (almost like the interior of a helmet?!) I assume to make it lighter then a wood box. The walls are very thick. It is a waterproof material. But my husband was a bit worried if someone could easily damage to it with a sharp object (aaah city living). The floor of the box is metal and perforated so great for drainage. The box is smaller then a Bakfiets but bigger then a Bullitt, I think two kids could fit maybe three. It does come standard with one bench and two seatbelts for kids.

The frame appeared very sturdy and thick. It comes standard with light of course and back rack. The brakes were disk (hand brakes only) great for us who climb hills and want to get safely back down!

The pedal assist was very easy to use and could be shut off entirely. Unlike most bikes where the battery is under the back rack or frame mounted, the UA's is integrated in the pedal area. It was silent when turned on. The gears were also silent when they changed so that was very odd to get use to since our current bikes have exposed chains and loud gear changes.

The frame is step through. Which honestly is a godsend when you are 5'3" at no point did I feel like it was too tall for me, a feeling I get on many bikes. The kickstand unlike the photos on UA's site is actually a 4point kickstand and felt incredibly sturdy.

I did find the plastic fender on the rear a bit cheap. The seat was squishy and just felt okay to me, nothing to write home about. Maybe I would feel differently on a long ride.

I sent my husband to test out the bike first since I was nervous about linkage steering. When he came back he said I should be fine because our Halsted although it does not have linkage steering rides similar, you cannot see the front wheel and the basket rack doesn't move so you just trust in your ability to turn a bike.

I hopped on next at a billion weeks pregnant and what do you know I found it super easy to handle. The center of gravity was so low I never felt like I was going to dump it, a feeling I get all the time with the Halsted (a feeling that has grown worst since we mounted a back seat). I now understand how parents can pile kids in a box bike and never worry about dumping, unlike bikes with seats mounting the kids in higher positions.

There was a slight incline back to the bike shop. I turned the bike around mid incline while riding (helpful to understanding if this is the right bike for us since we live mid incline) at first I was a bit worried about getting the bike to go, but the second I pedaled the e-assist kicked in perfectly and I felt as light as I would be a tiny road bike. Just enough effort to be fun, and enough help to feel like I am beast!

Finally, little guy was melting down that we were riding a bike without him. So my husband took him for a spin. And yes he has no helmet on I forgot to bring them! (Don't worry we didn't leave the quiet street with him so just pretend we are in Amsterdam and keep the you are killing your kid judgment to yourself). He had a big meltdown after we took him out so pretty sure he gave the bike a thumbs up! I will also say even though he is tall for his age his feet didn't hit the floor of the box yet.

In summary, the Urban Arrow is a car. It felt like a pure luxury sedan and the price of course matches. If you want a car replacement like us you need to check out this bike. We have some more testing to do, probably back once more to Brooklyn to test out the but honestly it is going to hard to beat the Urban Arrow, not sure we should have tested this one first! We have not stopped talking about the bike yet.

Also shout out to Rolling Orange, if you are in Brooklyn drop by! They have a great selection of bikes and accessories. They had superior knowledge and so helpful. Also they do rentals of batvaus personal messenger bikes and bike tours!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Pregnant Biking & Kidical Mass Philly Musings

Firstly, at 34 weeks pregnant I think I biked my last "long" bike ride until number two arrives. After 16 miles and a mere 3 miles from home I tossed up the white flag and had my husband ride ahead of me to come back and get me in the car. I could have finished the ride but my gears don't shift well on my pink bike and it was taking a toll on my body. So white flag it was I do have to take care of M the following week no point in pushing it.

The route out to the kidical mass ride is the bulk of our ride (and back home) the actual KM route was just 3.5 miles. The ride there I was nervous about getting there on time (volunteering my time and energy to get these rides going is no joke luckily I have roped others into helping. They are awesome! ) and my own 34 week slowness didn't help that. The ride to Fitler Square took us just shy of an hour usually we can do it under 40 minutes.

We arrived and were greeted by some families waiting. M was anxious to get out and play on the sculptures. Who doesn't want to sit on turtles.

Bikes began rolling in and boy did we have a display of cargo bikes. I think there were more cargo bikes then regular bikes several Bakfiets, trikes, big dummy, bullitt, & a kona ute off the top of my head. I don't even remember one kid trailer now I think about it. Rough count was about 45 people, kids included. That almost doubles the fall ride.

Rolling out and keeping together went really well considering the size and length of the group. The ride took under an hour with all the stops and goes. We ended at Rittenhouse where the group talked bikes and ate. Luckily the weather was perfect for March!! And the park was busy so we became advocates to passerby folks who were interested in our crazy lot of bikes. Next time we will have to print flyers of some sort to help understand kidical mass and cargo biking.

One person asked if we build a community by doing these rides. Totally and by far the best parts.

Looking forward to the next ride the second Saturday in June! Until then I will have to work on having another baby and figuring out how to bike with said kiddo.