Nestled among the motorcycle tents of Triumph, Royal Enfield, and Ural at Overland Expo, I spotted something different: Ubco. Their product is something between an e-bike, which you pedal, and a full-on electric motorcycle. But the most unique feature that jumped out at me was an electric motor in the hub of both the rear and front wheels. That’s right, this bike is two-wheel drive. I was intrigued and got in line for a brief test ride.
Ubco has two models, the 2X2ADV and 2X2WRK. They both use an identical platform. The main difference is that the 2X2ADV has the extra lights, gauges, etc. that enable it to be registered as a motorcycle for street use. The 2X2WRK doesn’t have all that, making it a more durable option if you only intend to use it off-road. But both are equally capable.
Here are some stats I grabbed off the Ubco website:
- Top speed: 30 mph
- Max range: 75 miles
- Charge time: 4-6 hours
- Weight: 155 lbs (2X2ADV), 150 lbs (2X2WRK)
- Cargo capacity: 330 lbs
Stats don’t tell the whole story, though. What matters is where the rubber meets the road, and how it rides.
How It Rides
One of the Ubco representatives led me on a brief test ride. We proceeded at a walking pace out of the main exhibition area, so as not to scare pedestrians. This gave me a good chance to familiarize myself with the controls. It does not have pedals, so it’s strictly electric-powered. The batteries sit as low in the frame as possible, which makes it feel a lot lighter than it actually is. While it has a twist throttle just like a motorcycle, the brake levers are like a bicycle, with the front on the left and rear on the right. This is a bit of a confusing mix coming from the land of motorcycles, though I could see it being easier for a bicyclist stepping up to this. For them, the only change would be the addition of the throttle.
Once outside the show, we picked up speed. Accelerating to its 30 mph top speed was effortless. I’m sure it has more to give if ungoverned. We took a few paved roads, then turned around in a large gravel area, specifically to demonstrate the two-wheel drive. I went against all of my motorcycle instincts and abruptly whacked open full throttle in the gravel. My KLR would’ve spun its back wheel madly if I did that, but the Ubco simply surged forward — no wheelspin, no drama at all. It reminded me of my old Subaru WRX, both the feeling of power going to all of the wheels, as well as the torquey surge of acceleration. It felt familiar, but I’ve never experienced this on two wheels before. What’s even more impressive is that electric motors can generate maximum torque from a full stop. If anything, wheelspin would’ve been even more likely on a one-wheel drive version of this than on my KLR. But there was none.
We tooled around a few more roads, then bombed around a grassy field a bit. My guide led me on some faster sweeping turns in the grass. Once again, the Ubco was firmly planted to the ground. I didn’t slide around at all, yet I can’t help but think that my AWD car racing techniques might work here. I imagine the Ubco is electronically limited in both its top speed and its power delivery to prevent such shenanigans. At no point did I break traction, despite trying once or twice. Before long, we slowed to a walking pace, went back into the show, and returned to the Ubco booth.
What Do I Think?
This bike is so easy to ride, anyone can do it. I tried to make it break traction, and failed, which shows just how stable it is. There are many great use cases for the Ubco 2X2, some of which are listed on their website (agriculture, recreation, emergency services, professionals, etc.)
While I genuinely like the bike, I don’t think it fits my particular use case.
I’m coming from a motorcycle. While the KLR650 isn’t good at anything, it can do just about everything. The Ubco 2X2 is similar, but more limited in its capabilities. Its 30 mph top speed makes it dangerous to ride on a back road with a 55 mph or higher speed limit, which is common in less populated parts of the country. Even a Honda Grom would barely keep up.
The other issue is the price. The 2X2WRK model starts at $5,999, while the street-legal 2X2ADV starts at $6,999. That’s the same price as a brand new KLR650. It could buy two Honda Groms. There’s no arguing about the Ubco’s superior traction, but unless it can do everything a traditional motorcycle can do, I can’t afford to pay traditional motorcycle prices for it.
It may well be worth it for the affluent RVer who wants to step up from a bicycle, or an e-bike with pedals, to something they won’t have to pedal themselves. If you’re just cruising around the RV park, exploring downtown, or checking out some local trails, it’s great. I do wonder whether you have to have a motorcycle license to ride it on the street. The Ubco website says “Dependent on state laws,” so do your research before you buy. If you don’t intend to ride on the street, then a license is no problem, and you can save $1,000 with the 2X2WRK.
I also haven’t touched on the charging issue. For me, that’s another showstopper. The only way I could recharge it would be from my generator, which defeats the purpose of having an electric bike. Again, a serious RVer plugged into shore power at the park wouldn’t have this problem.
I think, just like electric cars, the technology to make them practical has finally arrived, but it’s so new that it’s still quite expensive. Prices will come down over time, and the technology will continue to improve as well. There’s nothing wrong with the Ubco 2X2 electric bikes. They may not work for my needs, but keep an eye on bikes like this. I can already foresee them performing better on the trails than dedicated dirtbikes, with two-wheel drive, instant torque, and lighter weight. Just as soon as prices come down, we might just start seeing that.