Introducing: Urbana Bikes

Something fun showed up at the half-snowy Bike Commuters midwest proving grounds. Once I pried the shipping box open, I could tell this would be good. Sturdy rack, big fenders, massive balloon tires. What on EARTH is this thing?

We first covered Urbana at Interbike 2009 and it looks like their concept made it to market as-is. Sometimes, you get a watered down product once it hits mass production. I’m happy to say I have the real deal in my hot little hands. I haven’t tried putting the entirety of my clydesdale weight on the rear rack, but I’m pretty sure it would support it.

The highlight reel for my demo unit includes a Nexus Inter-8 hub with ventilated drum brake (not a coaster), Avid disc brake in the front, a chain guard and SKS fenders.

Between grocery-getting and a little bit of recreational roaming, I put about 15 miles on it yesterday. The hefty weight of the bike is evident, but the herculean tires actually roll smoothly and with surprisingly little effort.

Urbana pitches the bike as a dutch-inspired utility bike that’s built to withstand the thrashing of North Shore huckers. While I’m not certain I’d feel alright lobbing this thing off of a ladder bridge, it’s certainly over-engineered in every single way imaginable. This beefy urban bike appears to have no fear for all the elements that a modern metroplex can throw at it, and I intend to put it to the test.

16 Comments

  1. RL March 2, 2010 10:32 pm 

    oooh, I want to see you ride down some stairs with that thing.

  2. Graham March 3, 2010 5:57 am 

    It looks like a lot of your weight rests on the rear wheel. I’m curious to know if the balloon tires create enough suspension to smooth out the ride.

  3. Doug Jesseph March 3, 2010 11:25 am 

    One thing the missed in their Dutch inspiration for the bike is the fully enclosed chainguard. Nearly every Dutch city/commuter/utility bike has one, and it’s downright essential if Urbana wants its bike to stand up to the elements in an urban environment.

  4. Ghost Rider March 3, 2010 1:19 pm 

    I haven’t tried these tires, but I can attest that with the creme-colored Schwalbe “Fat Frank” tires on my wife’s Electra, they feel like riding on clouds made of baby sealskin. Pure cush…

    I am so hot for this Urbana — great colors, good component spec…the half chainguard works fine for me and I simply love the rest of the “look” (and practicality) of this machine. Santa, are you listening?

  5. Raiyn March 3, 2010 1:46 pm 

    Not exactly my cup of tea, but very a respectable bit of hardware there.

  6. Graham March 4, 2010 5:25 am 

    GhostRider and Co- I’m looking at some fattie tires for my 20 mile round trip commute to even out the fairly chewed up pavement in my town. Do you think they’d slow me down appreciably and are they likely to fit on my jamis coda sport?

  7. Ghost Rider March 4, 2010 6:13 am 

    @Graham…it’s possible but unlikely that such fatties would fit in your frame. The Fat Franks I mentioned above are 2.35″ wide, and the tires on the Urbana are 2.6″ wide! You could measure the clearance at your fork to see if room is available, I suppose.

    Rolling resistance WILL increase — fat tires like this seem to be geared toward around-town comfort, not long-haul applications.

  8. Graham March 4, 2010 6:37 am 

    As I feared; thanks for taking the time to help me figure it out… I guess I’ll simply have to get another bike for those days when speed isn’t an issue and I want a more comfortable ride. O the trials of bike commuting that absolutely force us to increase our stable! Woe is us!

    Perhaps an Urbana? To me they look like the ubiquitous beach cruisers we see all over around here without the stupidly big saddle and handlebars. I think it might be a winner, but I’m waiting on the “official” review!

  9. Elizabeth March 4, 2010 12:06 pm 

    Looks like a fun ride! How heavy is this urban warrior?

  10. Noah March 4, 2010 2:23 pm 

    Graham: Dutch utility bikes and American beach cruisers are different breeds. My wife has a step-through townie, and at a glance, the two look very similar. Urbana is a utility vehicle, capable of things I wouldn’t dare put my wife’s townie through.

    The Tires aren’t just balloon tires: They’re flat-protected tires designed for the lowest rolling resistance possible. The high-volume tires are wide and provide a lot of cushion. Topped off to 40 PSI, they actually feel pretty hard.

    I wouldn’t use this thing on a daily commute for a long distance. This is one of those bikes for people who might ride 5-10 miles per day over harsh terrain. The tires (specially made for Urbana) are named “Pot hole” in French, and I’ve tried a lot of things to see if I can get these to pinch flat, and it just goes “bonk” and bounces right off of pot holes, over curbs and down staircases. Snow, sand and light mud don’t seem to be much of a problem, either.

    This is not a beach cruiser.

  11. Marc March 6, 2010 7:32 pm 

    How much does one of these go for? Very interesting bicycle.

  12. Noah March 6, 2010 7:49 pm 

    When I asked, Haniya (one of the reps for Urbana) said that they start at a little over $1100 and go up to about $1400 depending on gearing. Accessories are also extra. From what I can tell, the one I got is about as loaded as you can get, complete with chainguard, rack, kickstand and fenders.

    Yes, I understand that sounds like a lot of money. This isn’t a “Girl’s bike” nor is it a “beach cruiser”. This is a utility bike: a city workhorse. I’ve already abused the hell out of it this week, and I’ve put about 60 miles on it so far. It’s held up to everything I’ve thrown at it.

    They sell through bike shops only, for the time being. As their distribution channels grow, they’ll probably be easier to find.

  13. Richard Masoner March 16, 2010 10:53 am 

    I have an Urbana for test as well. To answer some of the questions in this comment:

    * The tire rolling resistance is surprisingly low. I don’t feel like I’m pushing against sand, even when I’m actually riding on sand.

    * Beware that 2.6″ tires don’t fit in many bus bike racks.

    * Yes, you can ride down stairs, go mountain biking, and take impressively high jumps on this monster. The ultra high rise bars = lots of leverage, so make absolutely certain the stem bolts are torqued down tight or your bars will flop forward and you’ll crash. It’s a good thing this bike doesn’t have a top tube, or I’d be singing soprano.

    * This bike does not ride or feel like a beach cruiser, but like a good, well built utility bike. It’s comfortable and reasonably fast. A design goal of this bike is that it’s “fun” and I think KMI achieved that goal while retaining good utility.

    * The build that Noah and I have (8 speed, racks, fenders — the works) weighs in at 42 lbs or so. It’s a beefy bike, but when you’re actually riding the bike it doesn’t “ride” like a heavy clunker. “Solid” is a better description of the feel of this bike.

  14. Noah March 16, 2010 11:06 am 

    So you almost ate it, too? I had to break out a torque wrench to tighten the stem.

  15. Ghost Rider March 16, 2010 11:17 am 

    Wow, Richard…that was a tense few seconds. Nice recovery!

    Good thing it’s a stepthrough…

  16. Richard Masoner March 16, 2010 2:56 pm 

    @Noah – Oops, I guess I should’ve told you about that earlier :-) Figured out yet if KC buses will take your fat tires yet?

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