I don’t love the name. It’s painted a goofy colour. It has a certain Portland, Oregon, quality I don’t love.
But the Spicy Curry — an electric pedal-assist cargo bike and the creation of a small Californian company called Yuba — is an excellent thing with excellent potential.
What’s a cargo bike? Basically, it’s the bicycle equivalent of a pickup truck. It’s a surprisingly utilitarian creation that provides an alternative, though not a replacement, for a car.
An aluminium frame behind the seat allows for a variety of attachments: a wide bed for groceries or equipment, two child seats, saddlebags, or anything else you can tie to it.
The Spicy Curry is also an e-bike. A battery and generous pedal-assist motor provide extra boost to whatever power the rider is already producing. There are four torque settings to dial in your preferred level of, well, spiciness.
The battery will recharge fully in 4-6 hours, and it provides a range of up to 45 miles, depending on load, road conditions, and the torque setting.
Benjamin Sarrazin, Yuba’s CEO and founder, told Business Insider the name is a play on the company’s partnership with motor manufacturer Currie Technologies.
Yuba makes a variety of cargo bikes, some with electric motors and some without. The Spicy Curry is its top-of-the-range model and costs $4,200.
That may sound like a lot for a bicycle, but if the Spicy Curry is used to its full potential — as a daily errand runner — there’s an argument for springing that much dough for something that’s well built, comfortable, and very, very versatile.
And the Yuba Spicy Curry is all of those things.
The big tires and long frame make for a comfy ride when things get bumpy. In fact, it's kind of like pedalling an inflatable pool float. That would be bad for mountain stages in the Tour de France, but good if you have five oranges, three onions, a block of cheese, and some eggs tied to the back.
The near-7-foot length does make the bike a handful when getting things moving, especially if you've got a heavy load.
When we applied Business Insider's own test-vehicle weight simulation module (our graphic-design intern sitting on the back), starting from a standstill usually involved a few seconds of hair-raising wobbles and some strong pedalling.
With any significant load on the back, you are very aware of the bike's sudden top-heaviness at low speeds, but when cruising along it is very stable and easy to control, despite its heft.
The smaller rear wheel helps lower the center of gravity a good bit, but the feeling still takes some getting used to.
Our intern described his back-seat ride through Manhattan's traffic-heavy Flatiron District as 'uneasy but enjoyable.'
A screen displays speed, battery range, and distance travelled. The screen and torque settings are controlled by buttons near the left grip.
The brakes are hydraulic disks and are really, really good. In city traffic, they stopped the 55-pound bike and 350 pounds of rider and cargo quickly.
One thing the bike lacks is a double stand-alone kickstand, which would keep the bike flat and allow for more stable loading and unloading. Yuba will sell you one separately for a pretty ridiculous $89. That should really be standard equipment.
The rear cargo frame is really versatile, with lots of mounting points to attach or tie things to. Add in $119 sideboards, $219 saddlebags, or $100 passenger-handlebar-and-seat-cushion combo, and you can carry just about anything.
It's the motor that makes the bike a potential car alternative.
While it does not replace pedalling, it means riders can carry cargo or passengers on the back and not arrive at their destination a sweaty mess. It's pretty nice to move at 20 mph -- the bike's top speed and where I spent a good deal of time -- without much effort, even with 180 pounds on the back.
The motor greatly extends the range of places worth taking the bike. And that's why the Spicy Curry is near the pinnacle of the burgeoning cargo-bike trend: It is immensely utilitarian and perfectly usable for many of the trips for which most people would otherwise have no choice but to use a car.
Unfortunately, in this country of ours, we are slaves to our vehicles. In fact, in many places in America, it's actually impossible to walk anywhere. (Ever been to a Houston suburb?)
A bike -- especially a cargo bike -- could really be the only possible alternative.
Once you have one, it's easy to start scheming about just how many things for which it can be used instead of a car. It's probably a lot.
But a word of advice: if you do buy a cargo bike like the very loveable Spicy Curry, please, be careful. Not just on the bike, but off it too. That's where the potential for danger is greatest.
Don't actually sell your car, or endlessly tell people at parties how you do everything on a bike now, or open up a cargo-bicycle moving company, or behave like this.
Trust me, your friends and family will thank you.
But do take a moment to ask yourself: what's the shortest distance I've driven myself in a car lately? And then, when the answer is inevitably wince-inducing, consider the funny-looking cargo bike, and how it is an excellent thing.
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