Saturday, February 25, 2012

Urbana Bike sans NASCAR

Most of the bikes in the US have some sort of racing heritage, born from downhill dirt races or circular tracks or high-speed races through the countryside. We have a NASCAR culture where it's not how we get from x to y, but how fast we get there. We want to make our bikes faster and lighter, creating compromises to eek out performance.

Here's where the Urbana comes in to the equation. This probably isn't the first time you're reading about the Urbana. If you've been reading Cyclelicious, Commute By Bike, or Lovely Bicycle you know it's a tough, fun alternative to your run-of-the-mill hybrid or mountain bike. So you want to know if it's heavy or fast, right? 



The Urbana is the first bike from the company of the same name out of Montreal, Canada. The key to the bike is the tough as nails frame that allows tires 2.6" wide to fit on the bike --with fenders. It's a step-through design out of aluminum with a love-it-or-hate-it look. The dropouts are modular for future upgrades to belt drive. The headset is threadless and the steerer is mated to a BMX-style 4-bolt stem. The handlebar is, again love it or hate it, a BMX type. Need to raise your handlebars? Just swap out the bars for ones with higher rise. If your 6 ft and like the bars a little higher than the saddle you'll likely need an 8" riser bar.


The components of the Urbana vary by model. My test bike had a Shimano red-band 8-speed Alfine IGH, a roller brake on the rear wheel and a cable-actuated disk on the front wheel. It's also equipped with an SKS Chainguard, and SKS thermoplastic fenders (would Bikes For The Rest Of Us ride it any other way?). The Urbana also had a tough rear rack with integrated grocery-bag hooks to make any disposable bag into a pannier.

How does it ride? Smooth. My regular commuter has 2” wide tires and a sprung saddle and the Urbana blows it away. The Nid de Poule (apparently a French term for pothole) Sidewalk tires soak up the bumps as you glide off of curbs or traverse gravel. Interestingly the tires don’t seem to sap my pedalling energy like I expected. The bike has some momentum to it but never feels slow.

What can you do with the Urbana? Take it grocery shopping, give a friend a ride (the rack can take it), commute to work or just cruise along your favorite gravel path or bumpy sidewalk. When equipped with fenders, chain guard and hub brakes there’s really no excuse to hop on a have some fun, regardless of the weather. I think one of the best uses would be bike camping along the C&O Canal towpath here in the DC area. The Urbana would just float over the gravel trail and let you enjoy the scenery. Besides, are you really in that much of a hurry?

Photos: Tom Wyland


Freewheel said...

It looks like a Capital Bikeshare bike - but even more indestructible.

Shoot Film, Ride Steel said...

I'm not overly fond of step-through frames, but that's a good looking bike. I'd like a front fender to keep from eating grit, but I can't see anything else I'd change. Now I have to convince myself I really don't have room for another bike . . .

Tom said...

@ShootFilm - I should note that your Urbana will come with a front fender, too. Mine was damaged during testing before it arrived and I elected not to replace it.

My other bike is a step through and I love being able to hop on or off quickly. It's also handy when you have a child or cargo on the rear rack. The Urbana's design is plenty rigid and designed from the ground up as a step through.