Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on March 16th, 2010 at 11:59 am
[Note: I’m going to try and start doing more product reviews. I’ll post quick “On Test” updates as I get interesting things to try out. Then, depending on your interest and the quality/relevance of the product itself, I’ll follow-up with a more thorough review. To keep this going, I’m looking for a product review intern. Get in touch if you’re interested.]
The Urbana, which debuted at the Interbike trade show last fall, is an interesting bike. With its design roots in downhill mountain biking, it aims to be a fun, versatile, one-size-fits-all urban commuter.
The bike’s creator, Jerome Roy of Balfa Bikes fame, puts it this way, “The Urbana was conceived the same way [as his full-suspension mtbs]; utilitarian and always ready for fun, it can go through potholes or jump over them!”
A rep from the company, Haniya Hussain, recently took a swing through the Pacific Northwest and gave me an Urbana to check out. The things I noticed first were; the pothole-eating, 2.6-inch tires, beefy, step-through frame, BMX-style handlebars, and sturdy rear rack. It’s definitely ready for urban assault.
The bike, which retails for around $1,200 (depending on drivetrain), was designed to fit a range of sizes from 5 to 6 1/2 feet tall. “That way,” Haniya says, “If you have two people living in an apartment, you only need one bike between then.” (I like the versatile size idea for fitting a variety of house guests). It’s also built with interchangeable dropouts to accept a range of gearing options (most common being 3 or 8-speed internals). (Full specs here)
The primary goal of the Urbana is fun. “We noticed there were many a-to-b bikes, but none of them were actually fun.” In addition to making a bike that is fun to ride, Urbana is trying to build community. On their website, you can register your bike and then check a Google map to see if anyone else in your neighborhood has one. Another nifty feature is the unique, laser-cut serial number on each frame. If the bike is stolen, Urbana wants to hear from you. They’ll send out an email to all their dealers to look out for it.
My initial impressions: Given its comfortable angles, upright riding position and big tires, it seems like a great bike for people just starting out (rental companies should be all over this thing), or for someone who needs a sturdy grocery-getter/neighborhood errand runner. It’s also perfect for keeping around as an extra bike that will work for anyone. It’s a bit too relaxed and slow for my tastes, but the big tires are awesome. I have been tearing up my yard and riding over all sorts of stuff without issue.
Because the sizing of this bike is so versatile, I’m considering it for an idea I’ve been stewing on for a while now — a community test ride. I’m thinking about hanging out on a busy bikeway and letting folks stop to give it a spin.
Given what you’ve seen and heard, what do you think? Is this the kind of bike that can get people excited to ride? Will it do well in Portland (Haniya says at least one local shop is very interested in it)?