Review: Ubco 2X2 electric bike

By: William McKnight , Photography by: Oliver Shergold

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Farm Trader NZ’s William McKnight managed to get a Ubco 2x2 (version 4.5) electric bike delivered to a hilly 200-hectare farm on the outskirts of Cambridge for a prolonged test ride

The UBCO 2x2 electric bike
The bike works well on flat dairy pasture

Having ridden farm bikes for the better part of 30 years, I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit straddling two- and four-wheeled farm bikes. As a former competitive mountain biker, in any rare spare time, farm bikes are swapped out for pure pedal power.

While the days of national racing titles are behind me now, I’m still an avid fan of cross-country bike adventures, particularly with the impressive Te Miro mountain bike park virtually on our doorstep.

Having recently bought an e-bike for my wife so she could better enjoy day-long outings with the kids and myself, surprisingly, I’ve become something of a fan of the e-bike myself, so the opportunity to test-ride an electric farm bike was one I was definitely keen to try.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

From my research, I had a good idea of what to expect, and this latest version (4.5) is strongly built with all the features promised. For those who have never come across an electric farm bike before, or are used to riding quad bikes, it takes a minute to get used to the smaller size, which is really no different to standard two-wheel farm bikes. However, the Ubco easily stood up to my post-lockdown farm build with no problems and my teenage son found it equally adaptable.

UP AND GO

Having never ridden an electric farm bike before, I’d been looking forward to a bit of a pre-ride briefing, but lockdown conditions made this impossible. However, turns out this wouldn’t have been necessary; ease of use is a definite plus here with nothing overly complex to contend with.

This makes the bike an ideal asset for properties where a couple of staff may be using the bike. No special instructions needed; just turn the key and away you go.

Another advantage is that the Ubco 4.5 version is fully road legal and can be ridden on a car license, making it a versatile addition to most properties, particularly for an easy commute to a nearby runoff. 

The 17kg battery can be easily charged or removed
The 17kg battery can be easily charged or removed

DRIVE TIME

With a motor in both wheels, traction is evenly spread and there’s no startling start-up noise; neither is there a clutch or drivetrain. The fewer complexities a farm bike has, the less maintenance and problems tend to arise, so a thumbs up for simplicity.

The hand throttle makes the unit easily responsive, and on the flat terrain we started off on, there was more than enough power from the dual electric drive brushless motors. Each motor has a 1.2kW output, combining for an overall 2.4kW of total power and 184Nm torque.

The first test drive was a simple run around on the flatter areas of the farm, chasing cows down races, etc. The Ubco easily carried my 90kg frame at the top speed of 50km/h and was smooth and stable to ride.

I decided to up the ante a bit and loaded up the weight (thanks to two handy farm kids taking a break from online schooling). With one son (safely) positioned on the front carrier, me driving, and the other on the back, we packed the combined weight up to 160kg and it still performed really well.

Having deposited the kids home, I decided to push the limitations and set off to some of our steepest most challenging terrain. This is where, like most bikes, I found its limitations kicked in and it struggled to compete against a fuel-injected model. Once the bike reached a certain pressure point on the upright hills, it would just slowly stop driving, which to be honest, was what I expected.

Even though limited climbing hills, it could zig-zag up them, and with the low centre of gravity and strong brakes, the 2x2 drive descended down hills smoothly and with good control.

It’s also worth mentioning that the demo bike was kitted out with turf tyres (17x2.75), which weren’t a great help on the slippery slopes, but a knobblier, gruntier tyre option is available for farm off-road use. Once the front wheel and motor starts slipping, it does limit your traction a bit.

Fortunately, the well-placed mudguards proved their worth and were highly effective in stopping any mud flicking up.

The Ubco 2x2 screen display
The screen displays all the info you might need, including battery indicator and trip recorder

PRACTICAL MEASURES

Like all farm machinery, it’s crucial to get the right machine for the right job. Obviously, this bike wouldn’t be your pick if you’re on rugged or demanding hill terrain, but as an all-round farm bike on a dairy farm, it’s ideal for getting cows in with minimum fuss, thanks to its near-silent operation.

Plus, with no chain or oils to maintain, it’s an asset to the farm fleet for its undemanding servicing requirements. Comfort factor is high, which isn’t always the case with two-wheel farm bikes, with a well-designed seat placed at a useable height of 800mm. Clearly, careful thought and planning has gone into the deceptively simple design.

It’s the little touches that stand out, such as the well-placed and correctly sized kickstand, nice wide footpegs, and a definite tick for the fact there are no gas emissions.

The quiet performance comes into its own for evening rounds or when moving around ewes and lambs.

Then there’s the fact a small trailer could be hooked up to the Ubco – ideal for a heading dog on the back or for a useful and versatile hunting vehicle in the bush with enough trailer load for taking home the literal bacon. The unit can pull up to 40kg of load.

STOP AND GO

One thing you need with any bike on farm is good brakes, and the hydraulic disc brakes are effective at bringing the Ubco to a stop quickly.

Much like a bicycle, the front wheel brakes are operated from the right-hand side lever, while the back-wheel brake lever is found on the left side where the clutch would normally be controlled from.

Suspension is also good, with a fully adjustable 130mm of travel in the front and 120mm of travel in the back

The Ubco 2x2 bike from behind features no clutch
No clutch or drivetrain, no emissions, and no noise

BATTERY POWER

Placement of the 48A/h 50-volt lithium-ion battery down low in the cross pattern alloy frame makes for a good, stable low centre of gravity while allowing the bike to be extremely moveable and still have the acceleration to head off stock in the paddock.

The 17kg battery can be easily removed for loading onto a ute or trailer, or charging, with just the flick of clip, followed by undoing the power lead bolt.

It could probably even be transported on your mountain bike towbar carrier with the battery removed to lighten the load a bit. Weighing in at a total of 65kg, this comes down to just 48kg once the battery has been removed. 

With speed of the essence when it comes to useability, the battery can be plugged in to charge overnight (while still attached to the bike) where it takes between six and eight hours to recharge fully from empty.

The range is stated to be between 100 and 120km, depending on the terrain, how hard it is being ridden, and the weight of the rider and load.

COST-EFFICIENCY

Comparable to a 100cc mainstream farm bike, I reckon the cost efficiencies are pretty impressive. Coming in at just under $1 per charge, there are some solid savings to be made, particularly when fuel prices start creeping back up again. I like the fact you can just plug it in overnight and in the morning, it’s ready to go.

Also being able to lay it down and pick it up again without flooding the motor is a definite plus for me – and yes, I speak from experience.

ALL LIT UP

The LED lighting package is surprisingly good, with a massive 2230 lumens for the front light on high beam and 1330 on dip. It was great for whipping around the paddocks in the dark, checking stock and being able to see the sometimes elusive water troughs and cattle ruts. A+ for night lights and additional lighting with rear, brake, number plate, and directional lights.

Ready for action on the Ubco 2x2
Ready for action on the Ubco 2x2

HIDDEN EXTRAS

While at first glance, this streamlined package looks to be nothing but a basic bike, there are, in fact, some nifty and useful extras included, such as an integrated ECU, which directly controls the lights, motor, display, and rider controls. On the LED display, there is a clock, battery level indicator, speed monitor, and trip recorder. If there are any errors with the bike, a warning light and code are also displayed here.

The app also allows for on and off-road options as well as a learner option.

A useful Bluetooth connection for the phone app allows riders to monitor battery and motor temperature as well as enabling GPS tracking.

There are also two USB charging ports and a 12-volt power port for tools.

VERDICT

Designed in New Zealand, the Ubco we tested was supplied by Hamilton Motorcycle Centre, the Waikato dealer for the brand. It’s a neat bit of kit, not just for the farm but for hunting, town commuting, or popping on the back of the campervan or caravan. Being environmentally friendly with no oil or fuel required has to be a major drawcard, and it’s ideal for farms and lifestyle blocks, as well as horticulture and viticulture businesses. With space to carry basic tools and equipment on up front and back, the design lends itself to many uses. A range of interchangeable accessories is available to customise for individual requirements.

While it’s priced at the top end of the two-wheeler market, it’s definitely worth considering, thanks to its ongoing cost efficiencies, low maintenance, and useability.

SPECIFICATIONS

Ubco 2X2

Height                              1,050mm

Length                              1,820mm

Width                               800mm

Wheelbase                       1,216mm

Seat height                      800mm

Curb weight                     65kg

Carrying capacity            150kg including rider

Typical cost to recharge under $1

Motor                              Two 1kW peak brushless DC, air cooled hub, Flux Drive motors

Power pack                      UBCO Lithium-Ion 52.2Ah (48Ah rated), 50V battery

Charger type                   100–240V 350W, wall or bench mount

Charge time                    6–8 hours

Brakes                              Tektro Dorado front and rear brakes, 203 x 2.3mm rotors, high power hydraulic calipers

Wheels                             17 x 1.85 aluminium rims

Tyres                                17 x 2.75 Kenda K667 tyres

Range                               120km, max range will vary depending on terrain and carry load

Power                              2.4kWh

Torque                             184Nm

Top speed                        50km/h

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