I’m always looking for an unusual twist on ebike design. Recently, I came across the New Urban Urtopia (”Urban Utopia”) ebike, a limited-production bike which promised light weight, innovative features and a very interesting frame design. A few weeks ago, the company was kind enough to send a unit my way for review.
Right out of the box, their first claim – light weight – was easily verifiable. With largely carbon fiber construction, the $2,799 Urtopia ebike weighs in at a scant 30 pounds/14kg – a true flyweight when it comes to ebikes. It’s even lighter than my non-electric mountain bike. But the Urtopia is a street and city bike to be sure, with a single gear, carbon belt drive and a 250-watt hub motor with 35nm of torque. Those aren’t hot-rod ebike numbers, but again, the lack of weight is the thing here. Power from the removeable 360 Watt-hour battery is channeled according to pedal assist level, and the Urtopia also includes a torque sensor to better match motor assist to pedal input. Hydraulic disc brakes assure confident stopping power. Top speed for assist on the Urtopia is 20mph and the bike has no thumb throttle, so it’s a Class I ebike in the U.S.
There’s a lot of tech at play on the Urtopia. The bike features a “smart bar” section on the carbon-fiber steering stem, with a cool/funky white LED dot-matrix display and bright built-in LED headlight. There’s a single button on the right bar that reads your thumbprint and gets the bike fired up. Once underway, it works as the bike bell button – and you have several sound options. On the left bar is a 4-way D-pad controller for toggling the display, changing assist level (choose from no-assist Pedal mode, Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Turbo), and operating the turn signals. Yes, turn signals. More on those in a bit. There is also a bright red LED V-shaped tail light.
Push and hold the right button and the Urtopia will respond to numerous voice commands to change ride modes and other bits, although it seemed to have a little trouble understanding me while riding quickly, as wind noise may be a factor. When it did work, it was great to be able to change settings without having to get out my phone, poke at a button or tap on a handlebar display. Keeping your eyes on the road ahead on an ebike (or any vehicle) is the key to safe travels, and the voice control feature really helps facilitate safe riding.
The Urtopia is 4G connected via an eSIM ($29/year) and the app for the bike is polished and robust. It also uses wifi and Bluetooth to chat with your phone and the internet. The Urtopia can also receive OTA software updates, just like a Tesla car. Once connected, owners can track their bike’s location if you decide to let a friend borrow it – or heaven forbid it gets stolen. Owners can recieve notifications if the bike is moved even slightly, and can lock out the pedal assist and electronics remotely, but the wheels and crank remain free to turn, and with a bike this light, it can be ridden or carried away very easily. I suggest a very robust bike lock whenever you’re not riding the Urtopia.
The rear tail light assembly is much more complex than it seems. It incorporates an “ARES” system, a small millimeter wave radar system that activates the tail light when anything gets close to the back of the bike. Additionally, there are two small projection lenses that cast a bright techie pattern onto the pavement while riding; hit the blinker button and the patterns blink. It looks very cool at night – as long as it’s dry out. In the rain, not so much, and the patterns on also on the ground, making them hard for drivers to see. I’d like to see Urtopia redesign the rear module and add some sort of “standard” style LED turn signal that is more apparent to vehicles behind the bike. Cool stuff as is to be sure, but if you’re shooting for ultimate safety with a radar system and so on, might as well cover all the bases.
Everyone who sees the Urtopia drawn to the unique frame design, which has no center post. It’s similar in some ways to the even more minimalist Gogoro Eeyo 1s I reviewed last year, but the fancy chicane in the Urtopia’s top tube serves two practical purposes: it allows a height-adjustable seat post (also made from carbon fiber) and it’s designed to “fit” your shoulder should you have to carry it, as in to portage the bike up some stairs. Plus, it looks unique and I got a lot of compliments on my review bike, which arrive in a matte black and lightly striped “Sirius” color scheme. Two other color options are available, but only 2,000 bikes are getting built.
New Urban also included a custom-fit bike bag that neatly sits next to the frame’s dogleg, but it’s too small for a water bottle. You can get a water bottle cage, fenders, a kickstand and a more-comfortable seat from New Urban, but my bike included none of those things as they obviously wanted to show off the light weight of the bike. Personally, I’d add the optional fenders at a minimum; this is Oregon after all.
Riding the Urtopia is great fun. While it isn’t hugely powerful, it still provides a solid boost to the pedals, especially in top Turbo mode. But even in Eco, I could feel a bit of a push, and Eco was the best mode for just leisurely tooling around the neighborhood. When it came time to knock out some distance, I usually put it in Tour or Sport.
Rolling over to my hill test, which is typically not kind to single-speed ebikes, I put it in Turbo and started up the incline. Because the Urtopia is so light, getting to the summit was no problem. Sure, it was a bit of a workout, but I got there a lot faster than if I were just trying to crank up the hill in the one gear.
Heading down the hill, the Urtopia easily crested 35 miles an hour and felt planted and confident, despite having no suspension – a good measure of road manners. The hydraulic disc brakes are excellent with solid power and great feel, and almost no evidence of brake lines. Fit and finish is excellent front to back.
The best rides I had on the New Urban Urtopia was when I had time to just pedal around Portland as winter moved into wpring and the temperatures rose out of near-freezing, where they seemed to be stuck for weeks at a time. With the sun shining, it was great fun to roll around the neighborhood and nearby parks and bikeways. Even at night, the Urtopia is a solid choice as the headlight puts out a broad pool of light and the high-tech tail light is highly visible.
For a bike so light (and I’m a heavy, large rider), I had my fears the New Urban Urtopia would be a delicate, too-small finicky ebike that would be hard to ride or uncomfortable. I give credit to New Urban as the bike feels roomy, solid at any speed and is a joy to ride. The tech features worked great with the exception of the voice controls, but I found I could change most settings quickly enough on the left bar pad as needed. However, when voice control was working, it’s a game changer in terms of safety. Hopefully more bikes use this technology in the future. For now, I think the New Urban Urtopia is the only bike out there with this unique tech attribute.
This is a great ebike for hardcore or old-school cyclists who want a lightweight single-speed machine with a unique design and up-to-date tech – and maybe secretly want a little boost as well on the hills or long rides.
I don’t have many complaints about the Urtopia. The rear signals may need a slight redesign to be more visible to distracted drivers, especially in the rain, but otherwise I liked the projection system. I never had a problem with the bike and despite my earlier misgivings about it being delicate or too small, I fit on it just right and after I got some miles on it, I was very confident in the strength of the design and impressed with the ride quality. It’s a truly innovative, stylish and outstanding new entry in the ebike marketplace – I urge the company to make more than just 2,000 of these impressive ebikes! For everything you get with the New Urban Urtopia, the $2,799 price is actually quite a bargain. A $49 deposit holds your place in line and bikes should start shipping in June.