Urbana – $1,149 (as tested)
Take one part freeride bike and add one part European commuter and you end up with the Urbana, a Montreal-designed lineup of seriously-strong city.
Urbana bikes were designed by Jerome Roy, who helped build big-hit rigs for Balfa. The philosophy was simple, but with a difficult combination: Create a bike that captures the usefulness and simplicity of a commuter bike found on the streets of Amsterdam, where people can live without cars, and combine that with the strength and fun of a freeride bike.
The result is what the company calls an SUV – a sport utility velo. It may sound corny, but that’s exactly what the Urbana feels like when you ride it. It feels bombproof. Sort of like the Hummer of commuter bikes.
Where most fender-clad commuter bikes rattle like pennies in a tin cup at the hint of a pothole, the Urbana is surprisingly silent as you roll down the road. Suddenly, broken pavement, manhole covers and curbs become obstacles to play on rather than to avoid as the massive 2.6″ tires that the company calls “pothole-proof” soaks them all up with ease.
The frame itself is a step-through design and, while that may have the look of a “girl’s bike”, it makes perfect sense for something you might be riding wearing anything from dress pants to swim trunks. Step-through frames are usually horribly flexible and weak, but the Urbana is massively over-built with big tubes and welded re-enforcements. That design also allows this to be one-size fits most. The Urbana is meant for anyone from five feet to six and a half feet tall.
There are dozens of build combinations based on the type of riding you do and the type of terrain you live in. This determines whether you need multiple gears through the optional Shimano Nexus hub and what add-ons you should go with, such as fenders or racks.
All of the builds come with a Cane Creek headset, steel fork, Avid mechanical front disc brake and a rear drum brake. The stem is straight off a BMX bike and the handlebars sweep up for a comfortable seated position. There’s no suspension on the frame, but the well-padded seat has coil springs built in and the balloon tires absorb more than you would expect. The Urbana bikes are available in 12 colour options.
It’s the little details that make this bike stand out. The U-shaped downtube, which sweeps down and back up to meet the seattube, can be grasped easily for carrying the bike upstairs. The rear rack, with a carrying capacity of more than 100 pounds, has cutouts and small posts on the underside that allow you to easily attach reusable grocery store bags.
Pricing on the Urbana bikes starts at $699 for a singlespeed version and goes up to the $1,149 model we tested with eight speeds, fenders and racks. This puts the company in the higher-end price bracket, but considering the build quality and versatility, it’s not asking too much.