The Babboe Slim Mountain is specifically designed to ferry kids about, and it does a grand job of that. If that’s all you want to do with a cargo bike then it’s definitely one for the shortlist, although the design makes it less useful as an all-round workhorse.
The bike has a 'Long John' design, with the cargo bay in front of the pilot. That means that the small front wheel is controlled by a linkage system. The first time you hop on the bike you need to adjust your filter to take account of where the front wheel is, and how the bike steers, but it’s not a difficult machine to ride once you’ve put a few miles under your belt.
At the front, where you’d normally have an open bucket or a flatbed, there’s a padded bench seat running the length of the bike with two lap belts for children. A cage made out of the same tubular steel as the frame runs around the outside, and at the bottom of the cargo area there’s a wooden deck. The design accommodates two primary-school-age children easily, and you can fit backrests, or adaptors to run either one or two Yepp child seats if your kids aren’t quite up to the job of sitting on the bench unaided. The bike is quite slim for a cargo bike – it’s not just a clever name – which makes it easier to manoeuvre and store. I could get it into the shed, for example, which has been a non-starter with some of the other cargo bikes I’ve tried. Some wouldn’t even go down the side path to the back of the house!
The motor system is Yamaha’s PW mid drive, and the battery is located underneath the bench seat in the front of the bike. There’s a simple but easy-to-use remote on the swept handlebar which gives you access to four different assistance levels and gives you speed and battery information. It also controls the built-in lighting.
Loading up the bike with kids and riding around is simplicity itself. The bike has a very stable full-width kickstand, so you can get your passengers on board without the bike keeling over, and once you’re ready to go you can just roll the bike forward to release the stand and you’re on your way. Once you’re rolling the bike feels quite stable, although riding it slowly – up a hill for example – is a bit of an acquired skill. The riding position is comfortable, and the saddle is good for the shorter journeys that the bike is likely to encounter.
It’s not a light bike by any means, and so the motor has some work to do if you’ve filled the front with children and you’re heading for any kind of hill. The Yamaha PW motor is good – in terms of power it feels about the same as a Bosch Active Line Plus – and on rolling terrain and shallower climbs it’s fine, even with a full load. Once you start hitting steeper slopes – it was over about 8% for me with two kids in the front – then you start having to do a significant amount of work yourself in order to keep the bike going. On the way down the hills the Tektro Auriga hydraulic brakes are nice and powerful, although they did have a tendency to squeal a bit from time to time. The Enviolo hub is one I’ve used on a number of bikes and always liked it: it’s easy to use, the continuously variable drive ratio means there’s no indexing to go wrong, and it’s basically maintenance-free. The hub on this particular bike had a really stiff shifter though which meant I wasn’t able to twist it all the way to lowest ratio at a standstill. If it had been my bike I’d have sent it back to get the system looked at.
Range isn’t really an issue for a bike like this for most people; you’re likely to be ferrying kids a maximum of a few miles, and there’s plenty of juice in the 400Wh battery for that. Babboe claims a range of 24-37 miles on a single charge; which depends, of course, on what you’re carrying and where you’re riding. I found that the battery would last for three runs of my hilly 9km round trip commute when I was on my own, and adding extra people takes a lot out of the battery on the hills. But my particular use case is an extreme one, and even if I could only go two days between charges, it wouldn’t really be an issue. The battery is easy to charge in situ, and you can remove it to charge indoors too.
If you want to carry stuff other than kids about, then the Babboe isn’t as useful. You can’t remove the bench seat because the battery sits underneath it, and because the battery is there it’s also difficult to shove stuff under the seat too. You can stick stuff on top of the seat – in a crate works okay – but it needs to be secured as it’s sitting quite high. Realistically if you’re wanting to use the bike for a weekly shop or something, adding a rear rack (you can have one fitted when you buy for £45) and some big panniers will give the bike a lot more useful capacity.
Realistically you’ll only be looking at this bike if moving kids about is your primary concern, as it’s quite specifically designed for that; but one of the great things about a cargo bike is the versatility to do a whole bunch of different stuff without having to get in the car, and a little bit of that is lost with this design. There are other bikes – the Tern GSD is still top of the pile – which can carry two kids in comfort but also be put to work transporting really quite astonishing amounts of other stuff when the need arises.
I enjoyed riding the Babboe Slim Mountain, and all the kids that I ferried about (ages 6-14) enjoyed being chauffeured around in it too. If your day-in-day-out requirement of a cargo bike is to do just that, then it’s well worth seeking one out. If you think you might end up using the bike for more than just taxi duties, then other designs are more versatile.