I received the UBCO 2x2 SE just after Portland was hit by a snowstorm, so I did get a chance to ride ... [+] it in the snow a fair bit. Two wheel drive was a big advantage.
New Zealand-based UBCO, which has a U.S. headquarters in Oregon, recently released a new Special Edition ("SE") version of their long-running "2X2" electric motorcycle, which features a unique propulsion system for motorbikes: two-wheel drive via an electric motor in each wheel hub.
I first saw the 2X2 years ago while looking into an electric off-road motocross-style bicycle they had in development (story below), and for the last several weeks, I’ve been tooling around Portland on the new 2X2 SE, which is street and DOT legal and has a top speed of 30 mph. The 2X2 SE is not an e-bike as it has no pedals, and in most jurisdictions it would be classified as a moped or grouped with sub-50cc motor scooters, even though it uses electricity.
Years ago, when I first saw the 2X2, e-bikes were still a novelty - in the U.S. at least - and the UBCO machine distinguished itself with its unique two-wheel drive capability. There's still nothing on the market quite like it.
Compact in-hub motors deliver plenty of power and a unique 2-Wheel Drive experience.
Motorcycle maker Christini offers several two-wheel drive gas-powered motorcycles, but they are much more specialized, much more expensive and made in small numbers for very experienced recreational motorcycle riders, so they’re more of a distant cousin than a nuclear family member to the UBCO machines.
I talked with UBCO staff about the SE, and they said that while the 2X2 remains a unique vehicle, the sudden popularity of e-bikes was a consideration during the light revamp to the SE model, and will also influence the future of the 2X2.
2x2 SE Tech
The UBCO 2x2 SE Electric motorcycle is ready for the rough stuff with motorcycle-style forks and ... [+] twin rear shocks.
The UBCO 2X2 has its roots in more utilitarian duties including farm work, and the new, more urban-focused SE model borrows a bit from that application by adding an innovative rear pannier that unfolds to carry wide, thin items like a laptop or a pizza box. An open center storage area and a large front rack above the fender with some stout (and very orange) Pronghorn tie-downs from Oregon adventure motorcycle outfitter Giant Loop add to the cargo capabilities. The rear pannier and center storage basket were custom designed for the 2x2. The SE also features larger brake rotors (but no ABS) and uprated calipers, a solo seat with toolkit underneath, and the distinctive green paint scheme.
Electric motors power each wheel at the hub so there's no gearbox and the motors are sealed from the weather (and likely brief submersion). Finning on the hubs helps shed heat. An LCD display in the LED headlight housing keeps tabs on speed and motor temperature.
The 2x2SE LED headlight has bright low and high beams plus a halo light. It's all DOT spec street ... [+] legal
The headlight features numerous LED elements as well as DOT-spec high and low beams. Controls for the turn signals, horn and so on are in the places riders of most motorcycles will expect. A steel-tube space frame bears the loads and its shape has become the company logo.
The very large removable battery is carried low (and protected) in the frame and has a toughened exterior since it's likely the 2X2 will live a life of duty and recreation. UBCO says the SE will go 75 miles on a charge, which seems optimistic but I never ran it to zero to find out.
The 2x2 SE is twist-and-go simple and tops out at 30mph, and relative light weight makes it easy to ... [+] ride.
UBCO originally tried to deliver the SE to me just as a monster snowstorm began to pelt the area (and the nation), so we had to delay delivery for a while. When it finally arrived, I was able to sneak out to a local nearby park and put the 2WD system to the test in what remained of our near-record snowfall, and the SE acquitted itself quite well, the two hub motors clawing their way through several inches of snow that would stymie pretty much any e-bike, and maybe most small off-road motorcycles. The front suspension fork and adjustable rear shocks do a decent job of soaking up the bumps, while falling short of a more purpose-built full-suspension mountain bike. But again, this isn't an e-bike, or a mountain bike or dirt motorcycle. It's its own animal.
Think of the UBCO 2x2 SE as something of a pack horse (or mule). Load it up, and point it where you ... [+] want to go.
Once the snow melted, I pointed the SE back onto the pavement and rode around Portland's wet streets as storm system after storm system washed down the city. With its sure-footed traction and stronger brakes, the SE is a solid commuter in the wet, but street riding also revealed a caveat I discussed with UBCO - the need for (more) speed.
I started my riding career on a 30 mph 50cc Honda scooter back in the 198os, and mixing with real-deal traffic where the speed limit is 35 or better was an issue then as it is now. I commuted to college on that Honda, and while I traced most of the way on side streets under 30mph, there were stretches here I had to take roads with speed limits of 35 to 40 mph. I duplicated that trip on the SE, and I must be getting older since it felt like people were driving a lot faster today even though the speed limits have not changed.
Technically the SE is a motorcycle or scooter, but it feels like some larger e-bikes I've ridden as ... [+] well.
While I would not describe those passages as "terrifying" by any means, I did feel outmatched on the SE against the faster car and truck traffic - and I got a few horn honks as well as drivers got pinned behind me on some two-lane sections of road with speed limits above 30 mph. But, as it was decades ago, those roads are still the only way to get to the community college on the outskirts of Portland. I slipped the SE into the bike lane when possible to let vehicles pass, but suffice to say it's not a trip I’d take every day again as I did decades ago.
If the UBCO 2x2 SE reminds you of trail bikes from eras gone by, that's not an accident.
And really, thats about the only fault I could find with the SE: It's just needs some more speed to compliment its otherwise wide range of capabilities. That would represent a major design undertaking for UBCO as well a regulatory headache. But UBCO told Forbes.com that just such an upgrade is under consideration by the team at UBCO, especially in light of the many ebikes that can hit 28mph with no drivers license required, as well as the unexpected rise in popularity of 125cc street machines like the Honda Grom and its siblings, especially the popular and similarly capable - and less expensive - Honda Trail 125. Things can change quickly in the moto industry.
Still, the UBCO 2X2 SE retains its individuality and unique capabilities in light of the changing times. Both my newly licensed teenage son and I - we are about the same size - had the most fun on the SE while piloting it off-road, through mud, dirt, sand, snow and down narrow passages through towering fir trees. Along with its capability as a work vehicle, the street legal aspect and uprated components of the SE give it an expanded envelope of things it can do and places it can go. With a touch more juice, it could leave e-bikes behind on the street as easily as it does now out in the rough stuff.2x2 SE Tech Riding Impression Conclusions