REVIEW: UBCO 2X2 SE

Photo By: UBCO

Quick Take: The UBCO 2X2 SE offers a unique riding experience that’s plenty capable for off-road exploration and urban use. The bike stakes its claim in the middle ground between electric bicycles and small displacement trail bikes of decades past.

I first came across UBCO’s curious “2X2” electric motorbike in 2019. UBCO is based out of New Zealand, but its U.S. presence is based in bucolic Eugene, Oregon, a quick two-hour drive from my home in Portland.

Photo by UBCO

In 2019, I went to their small facility to test-ride an electric bicycle they were developing, but I also got to take a spin on the 2X2, a peculiar blend of an e-bike, electric motorcycle, and, to some degree, an ATV. Now, UBCO has released its fifth generation of the 2X2, a “Special Edition” called the 2X2 SE. It’s an uprated and updated model of which they will only make 1,000 units in SE livery at $6,999 each. UBCO was kind enough to bring an SE to me for this review shortly after Portland was pelted by a late-season snowstorm that delayed delivery, but offered some interesting conditions in which to test the bike. 

2X2 Tech Overview

As noted, the UBCO 2X2 SE is a blend of ideas. It’s not an electric bike, as it has no pedals, but it sort of looks and rides like one. It’s technically a fully street-legal electric motorcycle, but it can only go 30 mph tops, making it a moped or scooter in most places. It has a VIN, so if you buy one and want to ride it on public roads, you’ll need to register it, get a license plate, insurance, and so on, but you do not need a motorcycle endorsement to ride it. It has a full complement of DOT-spec bits like turn signals, mirrors, a horn, and so on. 

The standout feature of the 155-pound UBCO 2X2, is a novel 2-wheel drive system. UBCO has placed a 1,000 Watt electric motor with internal gear reduction in each wheel hub, which is fed power from a stout 3.1 kWh removable battery pack that sits in the bottom of the W-style tubular metal frame that also makes up the company logo. 

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

The 2X2 features full suspension, with preload-adjustable rear shock absorbers that give 120mm of travel and a non-adjustable front fork with 130mm of bounce. The 2X2 SE features regenerative braking for putting a bit of zap back in the battery while slowing down, and it charges from a standard wall outlet, with a full charge from flat taking four to six hours, according to UBCO. With a decent solar array or a small generator, it should be possible to charge up the UBCO 2X2 SE in the field. UBCO claims the SE (and all 2X2s) have between 43 and 75 miles of range depending on load, terrain, and speed. I rode mine approximately 50 miles before getting a low battery warning.

A backlit LCD panel in the LED headlight nacelle informs you of speed, charge level, motor temperature, time, and a few other info bits. Braking comes from 240mm disc brakes front and rear, which are upsized from the previous UBCO 2X2 models. There is no ABS on the 2X2 SE. The 2X2 SE uses a wireless key fob that can turn the vehicle on remotely, and a physical key is used to lock the steering for security.

READ MORE: Gear Showcase: June, 2023

Racks front and rear with over a dozen lug points and a 330-pound total cargo capacity hint at the 2X2’s popularity as an off-road work vehicle (UBCO sells a non-street legal version as well). The SE version adds on a 12-liter center basket and a nifty 31-liter rear zip-up pannier that features fold-down “wings” for carrying large, flat items like a laptop or a pizza box (attention college students!). There’s also a Peak Design phone mount below the handlebar (you’ll need to buy a PD case for your specific phone). UBCO told Overland Expo that the rear carryall was designed specifically for the 2X2. On the front rack, UBCO has added two Pronghorn tie-down straps from off-road adventure riding outfitter Giant Loop, which is also based in Oregon. UBCO offers a range of racks, baskets, and panniers for the 2X2. 

The camo-green paint and saddle color scheme are also only available on the SE, which has a production number on the rear swingarm showing its spot in the line of 1,000 units.

2X2 SE Riding Experience

Years ago, when I was attending junior college at nearby Mt. Hood Community College, I got to school on a buzzy little 50cc Honda scooter, which, like the 2X2 SE, could only muster 30 mph in the flat. Getting underway on the UBCO on city streets brought back memories of that reliable old Honda, and like that small scooter, the 2X2 SE is simple to ride. Just twist and go. There are no gears or a clutch to mess with.

The 2X2 SE gets up to full speed quickly, its twin electric motors emitting a stereophonic whine as I sped down the road. The ergonomics for this 6-foot-1 rider were pretty spacious, and the seat is comfortable and good-sized. Controls and pegs are in the expected spots, and I pushed the handlebars a tick forward using a simple hex key for adjustment. 

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

Just for kicks, I replicated my junior college commute, and it was an instructive ride. The road is four lanes now instead of two, the speed limit is 45 instead of 35, and traffic is much heavier. Like anyone who’s got some years under their belt, it seems like half the people behind the wheel of cars today are reckless idiots, a problem exacerbated by a clear pandemic of smartphone addiction. I stuck to the right lane so everyone could pass.

Riding my old route on the 2X2 SE seemed more fraught than it did decades ago on my little Honda, and heading home, I avoided the main thoroughfares and instead traced through neighborhoods and along side streets. It was here that the 2X2 SE was in its urban element, quietly threading through 20 and 25 mph speed zones where people were walking dogs, cutting lawns, and kids who were shooting hoops in the street stopped to give the 2X2 SE a puzzled look or a friendly wave. Not needing the throttle pinned to the stop, the SE feels more sprightly and is highly maneuverable. The suspension better absorbs potholes and rough pavement than when flat out, and the larger disc brakes enable quick stops without much pressure on the levers. 

Photo by William Roberson

Photo by William Roberson

But riding the 2X2 SE off the pavement truly reveals its strong suit. Clawing its way through the remnants of a snowstorm, gliding down a bumpy trail, and ascending a muddy incline clearly illustrates that the 2X2 is best enjoyed in the rough, where overlanders, campers, RV owners, and others will use it most. The two-wheel-drive system comes into its own on low-traction surfaces, making for some hoot-in-your helmet fun. Full fenders keep mud and water off the rider – for the most part, at least above waist level. 

The dual-drive system does not use any traction control, and while that may seem contrary to a “safer” approach to off-road travel, on this particular machine, it’s thankfully absent, allowing riders to spin and slide the heavily treaded tires over and through obstacles where traction control might intervene and stop progress. Gassing hard from a stop in slick conditions lets the front wheel spin a bit as weight shifts towards the back of the SE, but it’s temporary and a bit of fun anyway. Slow going is the 2X2 SE’s true forte; the dual motors’ grunt happily chewing through snow and up muddy hills. The SE is easier to control than a motorcycle because of the doubled-up traction coefficient, the relative light weight, and the lower seat height.

The suspension, while being short of the travel on many full-bounce mountain bikes, smooths out the biggest hits and keeps the seat height low enough that riders can deploy their feet as outriggers as needed. If you can recall traipsing around off-road on old Honda CT Trail bikes from decades past, the 2X2 experience is similar but better due to the dual-driven wheels, lack of noise, and copious torque. Plus, it hauls a lot of snacks and fishing gear as delivered, thanks to the two standard cargo capsules. After dark, the LED headlight is plenty bright, with high and low-beam options. 

Conclusions

The UBCO 2X2 SE is a unique machine in a literal category of one. Motorcycle maker Christini also produces a two-wheel drive bike, but it is expensive, gas-powered, and a “regular motorcycle” that requires experienced motorcycle riding skills. The UBCO 2X2 SE is much more approachable, easy to ride for beginners, and entertaining for experienced riders. It’s tailor-made for off-road adventures and should appeal to overlanders looking for a rig to bring along for both fun or work, such as hunting expeditions or exploring wild spaces a four-wheeled rig can’t access. 

The fact that it’s street legal just widens its capabilities as long as riders understand its limitations (stay off the freeways). I had fun riding the UBCO 2X2 SE, and I had no problems with it during my lengthy review period. 

Photo by UBCO

It’s not perfect; the turn signal and light operation switchgear feels cheap and numb compared to standard motorcycle bits, which it should have. And for street use, there is that moped-like speed cap of 30 mph. With many Class 3 e-bikes now hitting 28mph (and some outliers going quite a bit more for the same money), buyers now have many new options if they want an electric motorbike for urban and off-road use, but none have the UBCO’s AWD feature.

Off the pavement, even those fat-tire full-suspension e-bikes won’t be able to keep up with the 2X2. The “all-wheel drive,” big battery, standard racks, and easy operation make the UBCO 2X2 SE an easy choice for a companion vehicle on an overlanding adventure – or just a fun urban runabout that doesn’t require a drop of gas. 

It’s also nice that UBCO isn’t some new arrival and has a wide dealer network, so parts and repair services are available. If you’ve been thinking of getting a fully electric vehicle for fun, work, commuting, or a mix, the UBCO 2X2 SE may be a great fit at home and on the road.


What to know:

  • Maximum Speed: 30 mph
  • Weight: 156 lb
  • Weight Capacity: 343 lb.
  • Power Source: 3.1kWh Battery Pack
  • Charge Time: 4 – 6 hours
  • Range: 75 miles
  • Top Speed: 30 mph
  • MSRP: $6,999


Photo by Brett Willhelm

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