Why Urban Arrow?
Posted on 19 March 2018
Urban Arrow was started by the Smart Urban Mobility Group, a company that has injected some much-needed entrepreneurialism and innovation into the rather calcified Dutch bicycle market.
When we first started importing city bikes back in 2006 they were Dutch and they formed an archetype of sorts for what city biking could look like in a continent where the mountain bike was still king. However, what seemed strange to us is how unchanged the Dutch bike was as an archetype. For instance, steel tubing had gotten stronger and lighter, but they still used the heavier stuff. The quality, durability and longevity of these bikes were unquestionable, but it was almost as if these bikes were designed once and then left alone for a century. Meanwhile, the Danish bikes we were importing seemed to have an entrepreneurial zeal for design improvements. There was definitely a gap.
The same was true for Dutch cargo bikes. Even though brands like Babboe have revolutionized the Dutch cargo bike by making it flat-packable and ready for export, they still use the heavy steel frames and wooden boxes. While the quality to price ratio is remarkable on a Babboe - Dutch frugality and quality are one and the same thing - you couldn't but ask why no one had thought of making these bikes lighter.
Enter Smart Urban Mobility. As a company that set their agenda broadly to make transportation that moves people or cargo cleanly and efficiently, they began with a cargo bike. And for a two-wheeled cargo bike, it's best-in-class in terms of materials, parts, and performance.
Out of the wood(s)
First, the frame is aluminum alloy, not steel. These does three things. First, the frame is significantly lighter than steel cargo bikes, by nearly 30%. Second, aluminum can't rust, so you can store the Urban Arrow outside in a four-season, salty climate and not have to worry. Finally, aluminum is stiff, really stiff. Because a cargo bike has such a long wheelbase there's a lot of long tubes on the bike that can flex, and you can really feel this in the corners. The stiffer aluminum frame makes the Urban Arrow feel a lot sharper on the road, with a greater feel of control and confidence.
Second, the box is made of EPS foam, the same stuff your certified helmet is made of. This is really, really smart. Whereas most of the Dutch bike industry continues to use heavy wooden boxes, EPS foam is not only way more impact-resistant than wood but also super, super light. That makes the Urban Arrow a lighter feeling bike than most cargo bikes on the market, but through use of more intelligent materials, it's much safer too.
PART(S) OF A NEW MOVEMENT
Low, step-thru, mid-drive, high performance
Urban Arrow continues innovation with its parts. While other companies were using front drive or rear drive pedal-assist systems, Urban Arrow was the first Dutch cargo bike company to use mid-drive pedal-assist motors. It is highly unusual to see a derailleur used on a Dutch city or cargo bike since they tend to be high maintenance, so it's surprising to see Dutch cargo bikes with rear pedal-assist, since the motor replaces the hub and forces use of a derailleur. Urban Arrow builds the Bosch mid-drive pedal-assist into a clever looking frame configuration that optimizes stiffness while preserving the low-step through design. The pedal-assist gives the rider 32km/hr capability, up to 90km of range, and a high-torque push to get you moving.
As we said, there is no derailleur but instead an internal gear hub, and not just any internal gear hub but a wide range Nuvinci 380 system that has nearly the same range as a 21speed bike but much lower maintenance (another neat thing about Nuvinci is that it has no 'clicks' between gears, instead you 'roll' the shifter anywhere within the range and that's the gear you're in!). Brakes move away from drum brakes (which aren't always as powerful as you need with the extra pedal-assist boost) to high performance, low maintenance hydraulic disc brakes. From a parts point-of-view, this is a truly modern, 21st century cargo bike.
It's a cargo bike! It's a courier machine! It's a bike with trunk space.
The Urban Arrow can fit two kids and four with an optional extra bench. If you have a newborn child you can easily install a Maxi-Cosi adaptor (Maxi-Cosi is a brand of European child seat, preferred for its small size and high safety approval ratings), and a Yepp adaptor once the child is nine months or older. There's a canopy for cold or rainy days, a really clever poncho for the rider (finally!) that actually connects to the bike and several other options from box cover to storage tarp.
Want to know the neatest thing about an Urban Arrow? You can transform it into another bike in a pinch. Once the kids are grown up you can take the front cargo box off and turn the bike into a 'Shorty' model, basically a regular bike with a bit of front cargo space (the Shorty can also take a single child, and also fits the Yepp adaptor for a toddler over nine months old). Or, if you're starting a small business you can pop a longer flatbed on the front, with several cargo boxes to match.
TO TWO-WHEEL OR TO THREE
Low learning curve, maximum utility
For all of this, the Urban Arrow is clearly the most advanced two-wheeled cargo bike on the market. But, a lot of people get stuck on two wheels versus three. It takes a short test ride to demonstrate that a two-wheeled feels is remarkably stable but in the absence of this, let us provide some context.
Like most Dutch cargo bikes, the Urban Arrow is two-wheeled. This reflects its Dutch origins. While the two-wheeled cargo bike was originally a Danish invention made for speedy courier deliveries, the Dutch modified it into a stable kid-carrying device, and two-wheeled cargo bikes remain the best sellers in Holland today. This, is very different from Denmark where the Danes took the Dutch three-wheeled cargo bike and improved it with lighter weight and independent steering. Why the difference? In Holland there is simply more infrastructure where bikes share space with other bikes rather than with cars. And, while that's true today in Copenhagen, it wasn't always this way. The bike had to feel as stable on the bike lane as it did on the road.
To many this marks a crucial difference. A two-wheeled bike does require a learning curve, but this learning curve can sometimes be overplayed. When the Dutch first modified the speedy Danish two-wheeled cargo bikes they lengthened the wheelbase so that the cargo weight was displaced over a greater footprint, they positioned the rider bolt-upright, and they replaced high-speed handling with a highly manageable, balanced feel. This is true for the Urban Arrow as well. The only time a two-wheeled cargo bike ever feels unstable is when its going under 5km/hr. But this is highly manageable, it just requires a touch more pressure on the bar to keep the bike pointing straight. That's the learning curve, it's not much. The advantage of a two-wheeled cargo bike is manifold, one less wheel on the ground means you can do longer distances with far less effort and of course, it feels more like a regular bike.
WHY URBAN ARROW?
Because it's the most advanced two-wheeled cargo bike today
So, why Urban Arrow? Because you have a longer commute and want the efficiency and feel of two wheels over three. Because you may be carrying heavy cargo loads or going up heels and need a high-quality power-assist. Because you want something that represents a thoughtful approach in terms of materials and performance, something that rides lighter, is stiffer and more confident in corners, and uses modern brakes that are more powerful and gears that are wider in range. It's nothing short of phenomenal.