What started life as a quirky award-winning attraction at the 2014 National Fieldays has become a fully fledged commercial motorcycle business tipping the conventional farm bike design on its head. Makers UBCO invited Richard Rennie to take the latest version of the bike, the 2018 Ubco 2×2, for a test ride.

In 2014, inventors Anthony Clyde and Daryl Neal revealed their prototype design for an electric farm bike which was compelling enough to encourage Tauranga development firm Locus Research to get involved and work to develop it to a commercial level.

Today known as the UBCO (UB short for Utility Bike), the company is recording strong sales to farmers around New Zealand, and is ramping up exports to Australia and the United States.

It is hard to know what is the most appealing about hopping on an UBCO electric motor bike for the first time.

There is the cool modular alloy frame work, the fact it’s electric, or that it offers “all-wheel drive” with power going to both wheels all the time, giving the impression most hills could be conquered with this robust machine.

After the UBCO 2×2 was launched in 2015 the developers have done much to incorporate the feedback and real world experiences of users who were keen enough to commit to a very new farm bike concept.

Sales manager Russell Lake says the company has worked hard to make a good design even better and more robust for the demanding conditions users threw at the first version. While the alloy frame remains the same, of the other 136 components more than half have been changed on the new model.

Power has been boosted in the latest model by 20% with a 52.2A/h lithium-ion battery enabling a rider to cover 120km between charges, depending upon load and conditions.

This has brought only a slight increase in weight, but its 63kg heft still makes it well under half that of a comparable 100cc farm bike. That same frame makes for an easy step-through mount-dismount. It should hold plenty of appeal to farmers tired of throwing aging or aching legs over the seat of a conventional two-wheeler at every stop.

The new model also reflects the refinement UBCO have invested in it, including an easily read ‘fuel’ gauge that gives battery power, along with the usual speed, time and light indications.

To get underway it’s simply a case of twisting the throttle and easing away, to a top speed of 50km/h in surprisingly short time.

The engineers at UBCO have worked on improving the travel in the front forks to 140mm from 90mm, while sticking with simple spring shocks on the rear.

Ride is firm but not uncomfortable, and the bikes can handle up to 150kg all up.

The curvy alloy frame has 17 lugs on it that allows anyone feeling handy enough to attach their own extras using M8 bolts, whether it’s a cradle for fence standards, a wide tray for the dog or a case for holding a hunting rifle.

With the launch of the new model, UBCO is promising to release a range of accessories including pannier bags, front and rear cargo decks and tailored attachments.

The test ride offered plenty of opportunity to push the bike over a rough block that had given up trying to soak up the Bay of Plenty’s annual rainfall.

Pushing up a decent 20degree grassy slope, the bike simply keeps delivering, with the motors in each wheel keeping it well planted and consistently climbing.

To get underway it’s simply a case of twisting the throttle and easing away, to a top speed of 50km/h in surprisingly short time.

The 16kg battery pack sits well down on the frame and helps keep centre of gravity low, compared to the usual weight of liquid fuel that rolls around between your legs on a conventional bike.

The UBCO is deceiving: it’s a 63kg lightweight, but it’s gutsy , compliant and versatile, made even more so by offering itself as an electric platform for recharging phones and tools via twin USB ports, a 12V socket or a 230V inverter.

It is easy to see the appeal beyond farming to the likes of local bodies, hunters, Conservation Department and tourism groups.

The latest model is also roadworthy, significantly opening up market opportunities but Lake says the NZ farm market is still one with vast potential as the company expands its dealer network nationwide.

“We have a farming company down in Southland who generate electricity from the methane released from their effluent ponds, in turn charging up their bikes – it’s a closed energy loop for them.”

The UBCO gives you a sense of being like the original Land Rover before it became a city cruiser.

Just as the original Landy has diehard followers who swear to its bullet-proof reliability and guts, it’s easy to imagine the UBCO winning a cult of aficionados who will happily do the same, while adjusting and tailoring them to their own farming needs.

UBCO Electric Bike

Power: 1x1kW brushless motor in each wheel

Max range: 120km (depending on load/power)

Load limit: 150kg

Time to charge: 6-8 hours

Top speed: 50km/h

Weight: 63kg

Typical recharge cost: Under $1.00 per charge.

RRP $6999 (GST included)