Home » I Rode The Electric 2023 Ubco 2×2 Motorcycle And Oh My God It Does Front-Wheel Burnouts

I Rode The Electric 2023 Ubco 2×2 Motorcycle And Oh My God It Does Front-Wheel Burnouts

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Two-wheel-drive is a somewhat rare configuration in the motorcycling world. Many people can point out the existence of the rugged Ural and some others might recall the Christini AWD dual sport, but the list of 2×2 and 3×2 motorcycles isn’t long. Part of the problem is just getting power to the front wheel. Electrification has made this easier as a result, the concept of the 2×2 motorcycle has gotten a bit of a revival. At Overland Expo West, I got the chance to ride a 2023 Ubco 2×2 Special Edition and the little motorbike-like thing provided an experience unlike anything I’ve ever ridden before. I did a front wheel burnout on two wheels!

Ubco, which stands for Utility Bike Company, has origins dating back to early 2014. Daryl Neal and Anthony Clyde spent 10 years in the electric bicycle industry and eventually saw a hole in the market for a unique product. The pair wanted to create a two-wheel-drive lightweight electric utility vehicle. They created a prototype, which won an award at Fieldays in New Zealand, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest agricultural event.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

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A year later, the pair joined forces with Timothy Allan to create Ubco and from there, the company created another prototype before getting its utility bikes into the hands of riders. Since then, the concept has grown from a simple agricultural bike to include one that is street-legal and can be found all over the world, including here in America. Ubco’s electric motorcbike has gone through five generations of updates and I got to ride the best the company has to offer.

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Powering The Front Wheel Of A Motorcycle Can Get Tricky

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Before I continue, I should note that historically, getting power to the front wheel of a motorcycle has been tricky. Ural has been offering two-wheel-drive since 1995. Dnepr had a two-wheel-drive design that didn’t reach production in 1944. Ural’s current iteration of two-wheel drive sends power to the sidecar wheel using a solid driveshaft. The front wheel is not powered.

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Charles Fehn invented what would become the Rokon Trail-Breaker two-wheel-drive minibike in 1958. A Trail-Breaker uses a shaft from the engine which connects to a clutched transfer box up at the handlebars. There’s a sprocket in there, which drives the front wheel’s chain.

Rokon Chain

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Rokon’s motorcycles, which look like beefy minibikes, are closer in design to the Ubco I rode. However, they’re marketed differently. Ubco targets farmers, city riders, and off-roaders while Rokon seeks out preppers and hunters.

For an example of how complex motorcycle 2×2 systems really get, look no further than Christini’s AWD system. I mean, there’s so much going on that Christini has a graphic to explain it:

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Christini
Screenshot (292)
Christini

Then there’s the Yamaha 2-Trac, which used an Ohlins-designed hydraulic system to drive its front wheel. Fluid was forced into a hub-mounted hydraulic motor, which propelled it forward.

Yamaha 2trac
eBay Seller via Adventure Rider

 

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This is all to say that two-wheel-drive motorcycles have been around for many decades, but their construction gets pretty complicated. That’s where electric motors come in. They don’t need a transfer case, chains, sprockets, or hydraulic systems. Instead, a hub motor can spin a wheel right where it sits, no complicated connections needed. There have been a number of electric two-wheel-drive ebikes and motorcycles because of this and Ubco is perhaps the most popular of the bunch.

The Ubco 2×2

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What is the Ubco 2×2? Well, the company calls its machine an electric motorcycle, but its tires would be at home on an ebike and its frame reminds me of the utility scooters of the past. Its top speed, 30 mph, is also close to that of a moped or scooter. So, it’s really sort of in its own niche of not really an ebike but not a true motorbike either. The Ubco 2×2 isn’t quite a full-on motorcycle; it’s more substantial than an ebike and even more utilitarian than a scooter.

The heart of the Ubco 2×2 is its two brushless Flux motors. These hub motors, which make a claimed 4 HP combined and 76.7 lb-ft torque, give the Ubco 2×2 a ton of character. I got to take a 2023 Ubco 2×2 Special Edition for a short spin on a road and a trail around the Overland Expo West grounds.

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On pavement, the little Ubco performs exactly as you’d expect an electric bike to. The torque comes on nearly instantly and acceleration is strong up to about 25 mph. I didn’t measure the time it took to reach 25 mph, but it was enough to keep up with city traffic. You won’t be winning any races with one of these unless you’re racing a kid in their Power Wheels or someone on a Bird scooter.

Here’s an exploded view of Ubco’s motors. These are air-cooled brushless DC motors with sealed bearings and splined gears.:

Screenshot (293)
Ubco

The unit I tested topped out at 32 mph going slightly downhill. There are riding modes ranging from a juice-sipping Eco mode to Boost, which gets you to the 30 mph top speed as fast as possible. You’ll want to be in Boost if you’re navigating city traffic.

The tires are nearly as thin as bicycle tires and have a similar road feel as a bicycle. That means very light steering and cornering feel similar to that of a bicycle. Despite that, the tires didn’t lose grip. Even better, the suspension soaked up bumps more like a scooter or motorcycle than a bicycle.

A Point-And-Click Adventure

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It is off-pavement where the Ubco really shines. The tiny knobby tires, combined with the high-torque electric motors, turns a trail ride into a point-and-click adventure. Just point the bars where you want to go, crank the throttle, and the Ubco will go there. Crank the throttle all of the way and the front tire will happily skip through the dirt, kicking up dust as it does the most adorable burnout. The rear tire sadly does not join in on the spinning action, but watching that front tire just rip in the dirt made me giggle all of the way through the trail.

I wasn’t able to get a video of the front wheel doing its thing, but this reviewer did and it’s so adorable:

Like that reviewer experienced, the rear wheel stayed put on my unit.

There’s another great thing about the little Ubco bikes. They’re not just fantastic in the dirt, but they’re super lightweight. The basic off-road-only Work Bike version weighs just 111.6 pounds without the battery and 151.2 pounds with the largest 3.1 kWh battery. The road-legal versions weigh 116 pounds without a battery and 155.6 pounds with the biggest battery. That makes the Ubco 2x2s light enough to deploy from a camper, a pickup truck, or your overlanding rig. It’s also light enough that you might be able to put it into your apartment.

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I also love the 7027 alloy frame. It’s designed to carry a 330-pound payload and has 19 drop forged attachment points for whatever you’ll want to drag along for the ride. Go ahead and stick your tent, fishing gear, and provisions on this little bike. Also smart is the fact that the batteries, either a 2.1 kWh or a 3.1 kWh unit, are easily removable. Ubco says you’ll get around 43 to 75 miles. That range isn’t divided up between the two batteries. The way I see it, with the utility racks, you could also carry more batteries for extra range. Ubco’s 2x2s come with a 10 amp charger and top up in 4 to 6 hours.

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Helping to extend your range is brake activated active regeneration and off-throttle passive regeneration. There are modes for regeneration, too, from regen so low that you’ll coast to regen that can drag the bike close to a stop. I found regeneration to be strong, but if you need more stopping power, a pair of 240 mm rotors get the ride to a stop quickly. Weirdly, to change any of the above modes, you have to put the Ubco 2×2 into Neutral and put the stand down. Unfortunately, that means no changing between Eco and Boost while on the move.

So Many Possibilities

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I was impressed with my short time on the Ubco. This is the kind of motorcycle type of thing that I’d love to have with me on a Gambler 500. It’s light enough that I can lift it into a vehicle on my own and it has just enough performance to put a smile on your face. I’d like to think of it as a Honda Ruckus on steroids. It’s not fast, but it is ridiculously fun.

However, I do have some potentially bad news. The cheapest Ubco 2×2 is the off-road-only Work Bike model, which starts at $4,999. That one doesn’t have mirrors, reflectors, or turn signals. For the same price, you can get the Ubco 2×2 Adventure Bike model, which is the same, but with the road-legal bits to make it registerable. Finally, we have the Ubco 2×2 Special Edition, which is the one I rode. This one is the same as the Adventure Bike, but comes in green with orange straps and some matching green storage bags. This one is $6,999, but I’m told to expect the price to drop to $6,000 sometime soon.

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That price is affordable but puts it in some heavy competition. You can get faster electric dual sport motorcycles for the same price and if you go with internal combustion, you can get new bikes that will go highway speed. If speed isn’t a concern, a Honda Trail 125 is an attractive alternative for less money. Still, none of those bikes are all-wheel-drive and none of them have the utility of an Ubco.

If anything, Ubco shows that all-wheel-drive has a place in a future of electric bikes. After I got a taste of how weird and fun a two-wheel-drive motorcycle can be, sign me up for that kind of future.

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(All images: Author, unless otherwise noted.)

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Ben
Ben
12 days ago

I’ve done about 1,000miles of commuting on my 2022 Ubco Adventure 2×2 bike in Pennsylvania, USA. Owning the bike has had a very positive impact on my life, and has changed my whole perspective on internal combustion engine vehicles. I was able to finance the bike for $92/month, through my local dealership, after putting 50% down. I can attest that the bike has saved me far more than $92 /month in gasoline. Bike has been perfectly reliable, consistent, and 100% maintenance-free so far. Maintenance items for the future will be just tires and break pads. Cost per charge is about 51 cents, (per 75 miles). Amazingly cost effective! The battery is the real star of the show here; being capable of 80amps continuous draw and 120amps peak.
The bike is just heavy enough that it would be difficult to steal (has steering lock), but light enough I can get it into the back of my truck by myself. It is difficult, though, and I am young. Bike is great to take to the beach, or your local trail system. I was able to quickly get a license plate, and the police in PA/NJ have not given me any trouble. People are very curious about the bike. Heads turn when I zip past them at 30mph, silently through town. The bike is quiet enough that it doesn’t frighten most animals, and I’ve noticed I see much more wildlife along the road when I ride; versus my old pickup truck.
I have fallen in love with the bike over the last 1000 miles, as it has made every trip much more enjoyable. Driving is fun again. I don’t arrive at work angry from the commute so much anymore. If I could describe my experience in 2 words, they would be: “Savings”, and “Joy”. Thank you, UBCO. You New Zealanders did a great job with this one. Cheers!

Ronald Pottol
Ronald Pottol
10 months ago

Ural is the BMW factory that the USSR took as reparations after WWII, the military motorcycle with the permanent sidecar had the driven sidecar wheel from 1938 on, I don’t know what Ural did though.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
10 months ago

That is some very rough looking welds all over this bike. I suppose they’re serviceable but I sure as hell wouldn’t be proud of them.

Silent But Deadly
Silent But Deadly
10 months ago

Ive looked at the UBCO 2×2 frequently over the last five years. Unfortunately, it’s too expensive compared to other agricultural bikes. In Oz, the UBCO work bike is AU$7,250 while the Honda XR150 is AU$5,000 and the Suzuki Trojan DR200SE is AU$5,790 and both of the latter are actual motorbikes. And you can get basic 2 person 200cc powered buggies with a full cage and racks for around four grand..

Greg
Greg
10 months ago

ahhh, but they are all gassers. Early adopter tax is real! I agree those are all “better” solutions for a cheaper price. It really isn’t a “work” vehicle but more of a cruiser to get over to the barn or out to the field quickly to give someone a message. Has space to put some tools on, but it’s probably better suited to deliver a bunch of food for everyone rather than a trailer of stuff.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
10 months ago

Can it drive just 1 wheel to extend the range?

Jon Wilson
Jon Wilson
10 months ago

I have a Voro Motors RoadRunner which is 2wd. It’s a scooter though, not a motorcycle. Tiny wheels. Very affordable for what it is (good speed/range).

Greg
Greg
10 months ago

Really fun island cruiser instead of a moped. We also just got a cargo e-bike to carry the two young kids and all their associated gear around, while giving my wife and I an actual chance at getting in some riding. This could be fun to have and split them up. I could see this being a fun ride to have in almost any situation, especially around trails.

Going out in the morning and just taking it in and not dealing with a motor sure would be nice, the atv scares everything away by the time I stop to take it all in.

I think this is a moped until it goes more around 45ish. I like it though and want to see more stuff like this, so hopefully its a hit.

Last edited 10 months ago by Greg
...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
10 months ago

fun fact: My stepdad went over to Russia and advised URAL on how to run as a private company around the time it was disentangled from the government. I have no idea whether that is a good or bad thing, but the business model that they ran off of post-2000 was based on the GM formula.

Jdesigner
Jdesigner
10 months ago

Since when do jeeps have 3 wipers?

JDE
JDE
10 months ago

Kawasaki is talking about a hybrid Cycle. but they are doing it all wrong. I can buy a hub motor on Amazon that will take a bicycle to around town speeds pretty easily. Certainly they can do the same on a motorcycle, replacing the front hub and brakes with a regen motor.

Then you could use electricity until the bike senses the gas motor is started, then it just become a regen source until the battery is full. Make it plug in capable and that would be something for a daily commuter and weekend back country rider.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
10 months ago

Until prices come down on these things they can all fuck right off. There isn’t a timeline where I would pay $5000 for an e-bike. As far as I can tell the “utility” portion of the bike is literally just some tubular steel and a fancy bag. You can get all of the utility of this thing out of a Coleman style minibike for 80% less.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

With high volume production of both bike and parts, I think the price would begin to approach that of the Coleman style minibike. Much of what you are paying for with this overpriced thing is all of the man-hours of hand labor that goes into building it.

A. Barth
A. Barth
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

That’s a good point, but the Coleman minibike engine as a concept (basically a horizontal-shaft lawn mower engine) has been around for 40+ years and has not changed much during that time, so they’re very inexpensive.

Heck, the Harbor Freight 6.5hp Predator engine – a clone of the Honda GX200 – sells for $159 normally, and recently I think it was $129 or $139 with a coupon. [Insert HF coupon joke here]

It’s going to be a while before any electrification design dominates the segment in a way that Briggs & Stratton did, if indeed it ever happens at all. I hope something does, though, if only to support the hobbyist market: people put Predators in everything.

JDE
JDE
10 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

the funny part about this is that I have yet to see a Coleman or Mossimo Chinese pile with it’s original engine functioning after a single season. All seem to have shaken apart on the nearly suspensionless things. and then they are either parked waiting on a cable or up for sale with a predator in the original’s place hoping to sell it to someone else so they can destroy the predator in one season.

Also none of these are street legal, so not good for much other than running out to the field to check on a fence….at least as long as they still run.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
10 months ago
Reply to  JDE

my friend has one of the coleman minibikes. It’s been beat on continually on desert trips and has been fine. Original engine oil too.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
10 months ago
Reply to  JDE

A lot of people disable the governor then grenade rods and flywheels. You can beat on them, but if you start over revving them you’re gonna have a bad time. My 2019 with a torque converter starts on the first pull. It’s a hoot, it does about 40 and it cost me $375. I think a lot of people replace the stock engine with a predator because “you can’t replace displacement”. The stock engine is stout enough and people replace a working stocker with a predator to say they did.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
10 months ago

I really enjoy the look of these and the price is nice for a 2×2. The frame looks sorta smallish, but I still think it’d make a bitchin’ dual sport.

Last edited 10 months ago by Man With A Reliable Jeep
Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago

You keep calling it a motorcycle. While technically true that its a cycle with a motor…this is very much just an e-bike

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

I agree. It can’t go above 30 mph? It’s not a dang motorcycle

Gubbin
Gubbin
10 months ago
Reply to  TheHairyNug

A Rokon tops out at 35.

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
10 months ago
Reply to  Gubbin

A Rokon is an AWD ATV that got passed through a band saw

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

It’s not a e-bike either. At least not by the conventional definition, because it has no pedals that can power it. So I lives in that new grey market of in-between that has been created. Perhaps calling it a scooter is better? Many small scooters are restricted to sub-40 speeds.

Gubbin
Gubbin
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

Two wheels + no pedals + goes on its own = motorcycle. Just like a Rokon, a PW50 or a Trail 70 is. I appreciate that electrification means a capable motorcycle can be a lot lighter and slimmer.

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
10 months ago
Reply to  Gubbin

Using your definitions places scooters and mopeds as motorcyles, which is an argument that no one would believe outside of purely semantic (and pedantic) arguments. It’s basically a tube-framed moped

Stephen Bierce
Stephen Bierce
10 months ago

I want the rental bike and ATV buggie companies here in the Smokies to get Ubcos for their fleets. I think they’d pay off.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

I wish I could find more information on those hub motors used. I’m curious as to their weight. 2 horsepower each is not much, but the mass of each motor will tell the story regarding their capabilities.

A cheap $300 17 lb Leafbike 1500W 3T wind PMDC ebike motor with added ferrofluid and a hubsink in each wheel with an ASI BAC2000 controller running each, and a 74V 42AH pack of Molicel P42A batteries replacing the current pack, would allow for this bike to perform like a 250cc motorcycle to 60 mph, top out at over 100 mph, and maybe only add $1,000 or so to the parts cost of the bike vs. what is currently used. This setup would be good for at least 20 kW peak and about 5-6 kW continuous. With some aero work on the front with a well designed fairing to cut drag in half, that 5-6 kW continuous power in turn could end up good for a 60-65 mph continuous operating speed without overheating, although maybe more considering the limited run time of the battery.

A. Barth
A. Barth
10 months ago

The heart of the Ubco 2×2 is its two brushless Flux motors.

I think each one should have a capacitor.

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
10 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Great Scott!

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
10 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Heavy.

Dsa Lkjh
Dsa Lkjh
10 months ago

So, I’ve done a tiny bit of trials riding on a motorcycle and quite a lot of MTBing. Given how easy it is to transfer all of your weight to the rear tyre/tire how often are you really going to genuinely need or be able to use front traction? Maybe just really deep mud?

I think they need to make a demo course that a RWD-only bike gets stuck on to show how drive to the front would help, because I’m struggling.

How did it feel when the front was spinning? Was it that “going to crash” feeling when you lock the front wheel or was it fun like doing a burnout?

A. Barth
A. Barth
10 months ago
Reply to  Dsa Lkjh

Transferring your weight to the rear by definition takes weight off the front, which can cause understeer, or having the front end “wash out”.

If you’re going up a steep incline on a traditional motorcycle, you generally need to move some weight over the front to lessen the tendency to do a wheelie and have the bike run out from under you. But having weight at the front reduces rear-wheel traction, so you might spin the tire and lose forward momentum.

2WD will allow you to keep your weight in the center on a flat, slippery surface (like the mud you mentioned) and also allow weight transfer to the front to climb hills without causing [additional] traction or steering issues.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago
Reply to  Dsa Lkjh

I’ve often wondered that, but the people that have been using the Christini system swear by it.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
10 months ago
Reply to  Dsa Lkjh

You can ride differently with a 2×2 setup. If you rely on loading your rear tire you essentially have to ride in a straight line while doing it as you unload the front and eliminate ability to steer to any reliable degree. So, you pick your lines and limit your options based on that. If you ride enough, you’re doing it subconsciously. When you can get adequate traction without shifting your weight you don’t have to limit yourself as much. You can also rely a lot less on momentum to get you through situations which means more control and safer riding.

It’s some of same differences in riding 2wd and 4wd quads.

CSRoad
CSRoad
10 months ago

Back in the day this would have made a killer pit bike.
I can definitely see it would have a strong niche with the camper crowd.
I don’t think I’d want it to go much faster because of motorcycle cornering physics, I think it is in its happy spot.

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
10 months ago

I like the concept, but as an off road “bike” it doesn’t have any way for me to get back if it dies. For my usage, I would prefer an off road ebike, so I can at least pedal my way back if I want to do a long trip.

But for utility, this thing looks great. I can imagine that for around a farm or ranch this would be great for most usage.

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