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Family Biking: First impressions of the Surly Big Easy electric cargo bike

Pretty sure this is the first time I’ve smiled at the thought of carrying two kids and an extra bike up a hill.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

I’m borrowing a Surly Big Easy, the brand new e-assist version of my beloved Surly Big Dummy longtail cargo bike. It’s been with me for a week now and we’ve been having a lot of fun with it. I’ll keep it another week or two before giving it back to Surly and writing a full review.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Before my full review, I’d like to offer some quick first impressions. Even more importantly, do you have any Portland-specific tests I should make a point of running? I’m thinking of things like:

➤ Biking up to the Zoo carrying a kid?
➤ Time 100 laps around Ladd Circle in Turbo mode?
➤ Carry 200 doughnuts from VooDoo to VooDoo 2 and see if they’re still warm upon arrival?

What are your ideas?

E-assist
The Big Easy intro page and video are full of information on the bike so you can see it’s much more than just an off-white (or “tan cargo shorts”) version of my pink bike with a motor added. However, that motor — a Bosch Performance CX — with a PowerPack 500 battery is certainly one of the biggest differences. It’s amazingly powerful and I love that it kicks in immediately, not at half-a-mile-per-hour as do some older e-assists. I’ve been easing into using it and kept it on “Eco” mode (the lowest) the first couple days, which made the big, heavy bike feel like a regular bike. I thought this was sufficient for pedaling alongside my kids, but they pointed out I’ve always been the slowest of our trio (I had no idea!) and even Eco mode doesn’t make me fast enough. So now I’m in “Tour” mode, which feels like it’s pulling me along! Note: this is all pedal-assist, so I’m still pedaling and working. Beyond Tour mode is a fascinating mode called “eMTB” which I will play with at Powell Butte soon. And finally “Turbo” mode which allows me to propel the bike with two kids and a dog up big hills without stopping and while maintaining a calm conversation.

Kid accessories
As fun as the e-assist is, it’s not the most exciting part of this bike. The new Kid Corral (not in stores yet, but will be soon) consists of two comfy Deck Pads, a front Deck Bar for the front passenger, and sturdy back and side rails that can be attached in different positions. At 11 and nine years old it’s a little hard to accommodate both my kids in the Kid Corral, so this is something we’ll give extra attention to in the week ahead. I want to treat this bike like a real car-replacement for our family and go places far and hilly that we’d otherwise use the bus for, but I’m going to have to find a way to make my nine-year old feel more comfortable in the Kid Corral. And if you’re curious, the Kid Corral will fit all the Surly cargo bike decks: Big Easy, Big Dummy, and Big Fat Dummy.

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My add-ons
The bike came with stock accessories. The tires, 26” x 2.5” ExtraTerrestrials, are the widest I’ve ever had and I really like them! They feel grippy yet fast, even if I forget to put the assist on. I quickly added my Big Dummy’s Brooks B68s saddle, a basket so Pixie can ride along, two drink cages, two bells, and my after-market two-bike tow hitch. Surly makes a Big Dummy/Big Easy hitch for Surly trailers and while I don’t like pulling a trailer of stuff with my Big Dummy as I feel it’s long and heavy enough as it is, I can picture turning a Big Easy into a truck replacement by hauling around a Surly Bill Trailer.

Just for fun I hauled my Big Dummy around with the Big Easy:

And of course then I hauled the Big Easy around with the Big Dummy…which wasn’t as easy. I have a lot of stuff added to my Big Dummy (dynamo hub, fenders, basket, centerstand, etc etc) so it weighs more than the Big Easy, but the Big Easy carries its weight so differently that it’s taking some getting used to for me to lift it up curbs and tow it by bike.

Stay tuned for my full review and a photo gallery (from Jonathan!) of this bike.

Have you got a fun e-cargo bike test for me to run? Or do you have an e-bike and have any tips for me?

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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