Philadelphia based Junto is not new to the ebike world. Their first foray, the Junto One, is a standard looking ebike with the aesthetics, and function, familiar to those in the ebike marketplace. But their new bike, the MetroMule is anything but typical. The “utility” bike, as they call it, has the pedal assist many commuters want, but adds a slew of built in racks to add hauling convenience to a vehicle that is often anything but convenient when it comes to carrying anything more than a backpack.
To get the inside scoop on the new bike, and what consumers can expect when it comes out later this year, we spoke with JUNTO COO Alec Powell and Chief Marketing Officer Mark Albini
JUNTO is making a lot of interesting urban ebikes. What can you tell us about the MetroMule?
Alec Powell: The MetroMule itself is obviously a very unique looking bike. It is a mashup of two ideas: a commuter bike, and having utility without having to add racking systems to a bike that is not designed to be carrying things.
We call it a utility bike. It’s like cars. It’s not quite an SUV, a minivan, or sedan. It’s something new, a lot more versatile, and a lot more useful; it’s a crossover. You see other cargo bikes and ebikes, they’re huge, cumbersome and not exactly fun to ride. They don’t look all that great, and they are difficult for people who live in a row home or apartment to have. We really want to make this the perfect bike for urban riders.
The idea has been around for a while in the ebike industry; ditch your car and have a bike. But no one has really introduced a smaller footprint cargo bike useful to a large group of people. This operates on a similar wheelbase to a normal bike, but it has the racking so you can carry stuff, move around. It’s great for grabbing groceries. Most trips in the United States are less than 5 miles. This gives you 30-40 miles of range plus all the racking. It really is a viable alternative to a car.
We are going for volume here. We want to get people to use them and say, even if they do need a car, they don’t need a second car. Or they don’t have to get in it as much, they can use it for the longer trips. You’re not spending money driving; you’re not spending money on tolls; you’re not spending money on parking tickets; you’re not spending money on gas. You’re saving money all around. It’s just taking those smaller to medium length trips and making them doable on a bike. It really is the perfect bike for it and a lot of people are really liking it. We are really happy about it.
A bike like this maybe 5-10 years ago wouldn’t have been nearly as useful because it wouldn’t have had the battery. How does the pedal assist and your torque sensing make this a more useful bike?
Mark Albini: It allows you to actually replace your car. Previously it was going to be this cumbersome task. Yeah, you want to do something for the environment, maybe you don’t want to be in this metal box all the time. But you’d have to be in your 20s and have quads of steel to lug around groceries for your entire family. There were these cargo bikes with giant barrels in front to hold a keg or something, but you’d need a garage just to use that thing in the city. The MetroMule really just closes that accessibility gap for a lot of people and makes it a much less intimidating purchase. You’re not getting something that is going to make your life harder; it’s going to make it exponentially easier.
I also think it instills a lot of confidence in people. I’ve talked with a number of customers who feel more comfortable riding in the city because they know they can keep up with traffic. They know that they can maneuver in a way that is just going to be a lot safer than if you are on a regular bike and all you can rely on is yourself.
Powell: On your torque sensor question, you get more immediate pickup with the torque sensor which is why we really like it. You feel more connected to the riding experience, especially when you have cargo onboard. You want to get up and moving. You don’t want to be lumbering, starting to move and not quite going. The torque sensor allows you to get up and move and go in a straight line. It stabilizes itself a lot more quickly.
We have the hydraulic brakes on it too, which we believe are key especially if you are carrying something or your kids. That is just a major safety aspect. We don’t want you flying into the middle of an intersection. Those are the sort of things that we really try to think about in all our bikes and make it as affordable and accessible as possible.
Folks familiar with urban biking know the experience of having a grocery bag on the bars, or having a gym bag slide off of you. It’s often uncomfortable and top heavy. What does having weight close to frame do for riding experience?
Powell: The fact that this bike is pretty low and that everything is closer together allows you to have more control over it. It creates one mass that is situated over the bike in a way that makes it super stable and comfortable. It’s super easy to move stuff.
Instead of having a longer tail, we said why not use the space between your legs? It’s empty room. We mapped it out. It’s wide enough that most people, even with large thighs, are not going to hit it. It’s just a little extra bit of functional space. We wanted to cram as much useful cargo space as possible in a bike. It’s a great place to drop a bag. It’s nice and centered so you’re not putting too much on the tail or on the front; you’re able to distribute things pretty nicely. We see people put mostly bags in there, like a grocery bag or a woman’s handbag. It fits kinda nicely in there and if you put some cargo netting on there you have a perfectly useful center compartment there.
Riding a cargo bike normally is very cumbersome. But when you aren’t carrying anything, the MetroMule turns into a commuter bike. And when you are carrying things it turns into a cargo bike. It depends on the situation you are using it in. It performs perfectly in both scenarios.
It’s super comfortable, the smaller front wheel makes it easier to maneuver which is appealing to some people. We see it a lot when people test ride it, they just immediately see the utility in it and it’s a very attractive thing to them. We’ve seen old ladies get on this thing with it full of stuff and it’s fine. They’re enjoying it, having a great time. It definitely makes it much more functional.
It has a 40-60 mile range, and a payload of 450 pounds. What are some of the biggest things you’ve seen carried?
Albini: 40-60 miles is our range because we want to be conservative. It could go further, or less far, it all depends on the amount of assist you’re using and the amount of payload you have to carry.
But we’ve seen people move other people, large loads of groceries. We’ve seen people add trailer hitches to move large amounts, I saw one guy moving from one apartment to another, he had to get a truck for the mattress but was able to get the clothing and boxes in fewer trips. To even think about moving with a bike even a year ago people would laugh in your face.
Powell: Something cool for me, when we first launched the bike on Indiegogo we made a film for it. Immediately after, all the people who helped us film immediately got on the bikes and figured out how to use them to move all the film equipment. They were so excited about the prospect of using them that they were like, let’s figure it out, strap it this way, I’ll carry this over my shoulder you sit on the back. It was really cool to see. Two carloads of equipment with the bikes.
If people want to learn more, or buy a bike, where should they look?
Powell: We are pre-ordering right now, $200 down reserves you a bike. We are hoping to ship ship spring or summer, maybe May or so. Like much of the cycling industry, we are butting up against a lot of supply chain restraints.
Albini: We are moving as quickly as we can, but that’s why we wanted to offer 15 percent off for pre-orders. For believing in us, and getting in early, and since you will have to wait.