We were first introduced to Urbana at Interbike last year and added them to our “must-test” list. Urbana makes one simple city bike with a step-through frame. There aren’t models per se, just an à la carte list of options such as 3- or 7-speed, fenders, and a rear rack.
New for this year is a NuVinci hub option, something that is cropping up on quite a few bikes. Its simple operation goes right along with the Urbana’s hassle-free vibe. The dropouts are modular pieces that can accommodate internally geared hubs or external derailleurs, and the drive side dropout also splits to accommodate a Gates belt drive. So here we have possibly the ultimate urban set-up: belt drive for no chain grease mess and NuVinci hub for easy shifting.
Urbana also showed off a new rack, the RNR, with an interesting attachment method. Rather than the usual two metal strips, a single metal plate joins the top of the rack to the bike’s mounting points behind the seatpost. To attach to other bikes, the rack also comes with a different mounting "plate" consisting of two plates bolted together in a sort of scissors configuration. Both looked like they’d add a good bit of strength.
The rack’s frame is made of just two looped pieces of steel tubing for yet more strength. Besides the usual pannier compatibility, the rack has nifty attachment points for cloth shopping bags. Altogether it’s rated to carry 150lbs. and possibly more, although you’d certainly run into handling problems if you loaded that much on a rear rack.
Another drivetrain option that’s cropping up more is the Bionx electric system (reviewed in issue #9). Again, it’s a natural pairing for the Urbana. They use a custom version of the RNR rack to carry the battery and preserve shopping bag (and pannier) capability.
Our fearless leader Maurice is currently testing an Urbana for review. It’s the kind of bike he could call a “toaster bike,” the term he coined for the Breezer Uptown reviewed in issue #12. (A toaster is simple: push down the lever and your bread cooks. A toaster bike is similar: you push on the pedals and it goes.) He had some problems, though with the steering feel of the bike, and let the company know about it.
Turns out they’re already “on it” and have revamped their front end to fix the problem. The original head tube angle (66º) and rake (90mm) measurements resulted in a floppy front wheel that wasn’t always easy to control; the new Urbanas have a 71º head tube and 70mm of rake that gives more stable steering. Maurice tried one of the new ones at the show and remarked, “You guys fixed it.” He’ll be swapping his older ride for a new version to finish out the test. Keep an eye out for the full review in a future issue.
It doesn’t end here, we’ve got a lot more coverage of Interbike 2011.