Contenders: Xtracycle EdgeRunner Electric and Yuba Spicy Curry

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We now have two kinds of mid-drive longtail cargo bikes for you to try back to back: Xtracycle's EdgeRunner 9 and 10E, and Yuba's Spicy Curry. Heck, you could even buy either or both, yesterday.

These represent a convergence of thinking in the upper echelon of the world's longtail cargo bike makers: all two of them. Xtracycle and Yuba are fierce competitors, so there's a certain tension discussing them side by side. So many toes in such a tight shoe. But the competition is fertile, the one company driving the other to ship better, first, or cheaper bikes and accessories. There's a whole lot of copying going on, too.

Xtracycle pioneered the longtail cargo concept with the FreeRadical hitchless trailer. The FreeRad was a breakthrough product that proved hard to sell as great base bikes became hard to find, with too many conversions exhibiting too much flex to make ideal urban family car replacements. Yuba's founder left Xtracycle to make a complete heavy duty bike version, the Mundo. Xtracycle answered the challenge with a one-piece version of its own, the lighter weight EdgeRunner, lowering the center of gravity of the cargo area with a smaller rear wheel. Unsurprisingly, Yuba has followed with a smaller rear wheel and lighter weight on the new Spicy Curry.

What's new to both companies' flagship models is the best kind of electric assist for cargo: mid-drive. This means that the motor doesn't power a wheel directly, but instead takes advantage of the same variable gearing on the bike that you do. It's a mechanically more complicated approach than hub motors, but decisively better when you need lots of low-speed torque as well as a decent top end.

We've been personally involved using, breaking, inventing, patenting, manufacturing, refining, selling and promoting mid drives for longtail cargo bikes for almost 15 years in the form of our Stokemonkey product. There remain cases where Stokemonkey is the best approach, but suddenly now with both Xtracycle and Yuba offering mid drives as a factory option, those cases are much less common.

So how do these two contenders compare? Here are our first impressions:

Yuba Spicy Curry

It's the bang-for-buck winner, or is at least poised to assume that position if its assist proves reliable. The drive unit, by volume leader Currie Technologies, is more powerful than that of the Bosch assist on Xtracycle's offering. It is lighter than an unassisted Mundo. It has a lower step-over than EdgeRunner, and an even lower rear deck. It is better fabricated and specced than earlier Yuba products, with more sensible features like lights and fenders included in the base price than EdgeRunner, even at nearly $1500 less (though EdgeRunner comes with bags and the popular center stand). The ride is very stiff and confidence inspiring: massive aluminum tubing braced every which way. The jury is out on the various modular accessories forthcoming, but Yepp seats pop right into the deck with zero fuss. The assist, while potent, is less refined in feel than that of the EdgeRunner, tending to be balky at low speeds and exhibiting a comparatively on-off quality at higher. Still, it's super fun, with almost universal rave reviews from early test riders.

Xtracycle EdgeRunner 9E, 10E

Sophistication. Xtracycle's products have long shown greater attention to detail, and a certain aesthetic cohesion lacking in Yuba's. This is no different. Everything about Spicy Curry is new to Yuba, while this is Xtracycle's third generation of EdgeRunner, and it shows. Are these differences -- each small but adding up -- worth the price difference? Depends on what's important to the rider. If you've been ambivalent about electric assist because you take pleasure and pride in your skill and strength on a bike, fearing that a motor would diminish this experience, then the Bosch assist on these EdgeRunners may win you over. It is by far the most refined electric assist we've yet experienced, nearly transparent, never making your skill and strength feel redundant, nor training you insidiously to pedal or shift differently just to coax more or less help out of the motor. Where the Spicy Curry's assist seems to come on full tilt whenever you're moving the pedals, simply sensing cadence, EdgeRunner's clearly is doing something more nuanced, apparently reckoning power from torque and cadence together, and complementing your moves like a good dance partner. It feels great.