December 02, 2019
My, perhaps too candid, review of the Surly Big Easy ELECTRIC Cargo Bike. This is coming from riding it for over 200 miles, owning a cargo bike focused shop, and servicing them for the last few months since they were released.
Earlier this year I brought in a Surly Big Easy as a demo bike, tried it in various conditions for 60 days, and then sold it to a wonderful friend and customer. I recently had the bike in for routine service and to add lights and do a general check over and I thought it would be a good time to do my full review. If video is your thing, scroll down to watch this review in video fashion! Also, back in February, I did a video on my initial thoughts on this bike and why I think Surly could really help the cargo bike movement can be found here. Watch/Read it here.
$5,000Longtail cargo bike for 2-3 kid haulingBosch Performance CX Electric Assist MotorClass 1 - you must pedal and it assists you to 20mph500Wh frame mount battery26x2.5" tires1x11 drivetrainAvailable in Small, Medium, LargeFull spec here
Size-specific frames - This could be a big deal if you are taller! Surly makes the only size-specific cargo bike in the US market that I know of. Xtracycle used to make SM/MD and MD/LG but they now also make one size fits most.
Adventure-Ready Cargo Bike - If I was looking for an off-roading electric touring bike, this would probably be it. 26" wheels and tires are readily available internationally, steel frame and fork with bosses everywhere and 4 piston brakes. If I was truly touring internationally I would switch to a more standard tire size than the 26" x 2.5.
Photo credit: G&O Family Cyclery
Dedicated Surly Trailer Hitch for Surly Cargo Bikes - What a cool thing Surly did where a cargo specific hitch for the Surly Ted and Surly Bill trailers slides into the lower side where lu-tubes normally mount. This makes the bike handle so much better and less jerky than the typical mounting style on the rear drop-outs.
Availability - Any bike shop in the United States that has a Quality Bicycle Products account (the parent brand of Surly and the largest bicycle parts supplier in the country) can get you this bike. If a shop or an employee or a friend of the shop wants a cargo bike, they can now order it pretty quickly from one of the 4 warehouses across the country. The bike shop doesn't have to become a dealer of a large cargo bike brand. They don't have to pay crazy shipping to get one bike to them. Once Surly (or other QBP brands) really dial in their cargo and electric bikes their availability could be game-changing for the movement!
High-Quality Build - This bike has a great build kit on it (see cons below on what I believe they left off). They gave you some of the best options available which has made the bike expensive but they are going the Tesla model, proof of concept with an exceptional product.
Surly Lovers Unite - If you love Surly, the ethos of the brand, and you want to leave your car at home more often, carry kids, carry a sofa, and want to go further, faster, with less sweat - there is a bike for you, my friend.
$5,000 Price Tag - When Surly was a young brand, I remember that shop employees purchased their frames because it was affordable to build up a city fixie. This bike is the extreme opposite of those initial memories and brand building heroics of local bike shop employees across the world. I hope that they make an option with a Performance motor, 400Wh battery, and without bags. That could be close to $1,000 less.
Where are the Lights?! - Every single electric cargo bike I sell comes with lights. You turn on the bike and you have lights that run off your battery. You can even make it so the lights turn on when the bike turns on. The most affordable Bosch compatible lights are the Light & Motion Nip Tuck lights. $100 for the lights, extra for front and rear Bosch light plugs, labor for splicing and routing, extra if you want different mounting, and PLEASE NOTE - you must have a Bosch dealer turn on the light function in the motor hardware for the lights to work.
Dangerous 2nd Battery Mounting - I should mention that Surly includes a 2nd battery harness and y-cable with this bike. Typically it is $200+ extra from other brands (other than tern who includes it and installs it!) BUT I can't because the placement of the 2nd battery is just simply dangerous. Mounting a $600-800 Li-ion battery under a bike isn't new, Riese & Muller does it but that is on their city cargo bikes (which I'm not a fan of either). The Surly Big Easy is designed to be an off-road cargo bike. Even for daily city use, I wouldn't ride a battery under my bike at the lowest point of the frame possible.
Single Arm Kickstand - Kickstands are a big deal in the world of cargo bikes. You want something that makes your bike rock solid as you load up bulky cargo or wiggly children. The stock kickstand honestly sucks and made me rather terrified when I was trying it with my 2 & 5-year-old. Unfortunately, we are very limited on options with this bike as the lower tube (the same that your 2nd battery would mount on) is oval and a bit more flat/wide than the Big Dummy so the Xtracycle Kickback won't work and the Rolling Jackass (an uber-expensive kickstand) also won't work. We have since installed a PDW Power Stance center mount kickstand (order here) with lock tight and it is working for my customer with his 8-year-old but this is still a huge fail for making this bike one I would readily recommend for my kid-hauling customers.
Say No to Two Yepp Seats - Surly did not design the rear deck for mounting 2 Yepp seats, only one.
Say Yes to the Kid Corral - A great kid (or container) holding device. I like how it is modular but I wish it was modular without requiring unbolting on the deck.
Bags Scratch the Kids - I LOVE the Surly bags (full review on these later) but the velcro strips run inside of the bag if you have them folded on themselves as many people use them with kids. The velcro is the scratchy side of the velcro and I've heard from many kids about how it hurt them during test rides. I would personally just put some fabric on the velcro on the inside.
No Longer Xtracycle Compatible - The original Xtracycle Big Dummy non-electric bike was designed around the Xtracycle platform and accessories. The Big Easy is a big step away from that as you can see with their cargo deck and accessories. I don’t think it is necessarily bad as long as Surly keeps their accessories in stock. Some things will certainly work like bags, and pads.
They Forgot the Pedals - yep, this bike doesn’t come with pedals so budget $16-45 ($45 gets you my favorites!)
Obviously anyone interested in a cargo bike should give this a chance but I've narrowed down who I think the ideal Surly Big Easy customer could be.
You want an electric, cargo, adventure making machine.
You are tall. The size large surly fits some of my 6'2-6'6 customers well (Depending on your leg to torso)
You want to use the Surly Trailer systems with a cargo bike.
You are a Surly diehard.
Surly, get a center-mounted dual kickstand that adjusts for the tire range people are going to use with this bike (make it an add on accessory for a reasonable price), design for 2 YEPP seats, move the 2nd battery mount, and add lights but keep the $5,000 price tag and you will have ringer!
This is a good first electric intro for the Surly brand. It's not my recommendation for hauling 2-3 kids around for anyone under 5'8 (it sits up tall off the ground), if your kids can't sit still (kickstand) or if you need a step-thru bike but if you are in the cargo bike market I would certainly give this one a try!
December 04, 2019
Greg – Tim here from The Cargo Bike Shop over in Madison, WI. If you are up for making the trip over our way we can get you on a Big Easy (our demo is a medium though, but we can talk geometry pretty well as I am taller-ish) as well as an Xtracycle and many other cargo bikes. I’ve also ridden extensively in WI winters and would be happy to share my experiences with what has worked for me and our other customers that are winter cyclists.
Have fun on your cargo bike search and let us know if we can be of any assistance!
Thanks for the comment. Yes, this would do wonders in snow and ice, especially if you put on a set of studded tires. If you are mostly commuting I like the Schwalbe Marathon Winter Plus HS, for more off-road capable 45Nrth make some too.
How tall is tall? If you are over 6’2 this would be the bike I would recommend to try first. If you are 6-6’2 I would say try this and then maybe the Xtracycle. I really love the Xtracycle Swoop, especially with kids as it’s easier to get on and off with a kid on the back by stepping through the frame and the kickstand is supreme.
(I’m also emailing you this response)
December 03, 2019
Hey there! Do you think this bike would be better or worse in places with harsher winters? I live in Milwaukee and am in the cargo bike market looking specifically at bikes that would do well on the persistent ice and snow we see from December through March. Seems like a good option but a big investment, even for a tall who loves his Long Haul Trucker like me.
Also, is one Yepp seat safe on this bike?
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January 11, 2020
January 07, 2020
I talk about pedals a lot at the bike shop and while building up a customer's new cargo bike I was reminded about how much a good pedal can change the ride of a bike completely. Here are my musings for pedals on electric and cargo bikes but can probably be applied to any everyday style bike.
January 07, 2020
Welcome to "Bike Tip Tuesdays"! A lot of the articles I publish are bike tips but this series is to force my hand in creating one piece of content for every single Tuesday.
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