Urtopia Carbon E-Bike
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The Urtopia is a $4000 carbon fiber e-bike loaded with fancy tech. It is currently on its final days of its Indiegogo campaign for 50% off at "just" $1999. For its specs and features, that's a pretty steep discount while it lasts.
- Front Light (20-25 lux)
- mmWave radar alerting riders of incoming vehicles
- Smartbar to see bike's speed, modes and notifications
- Internally routed cabling
- Hydraulic brakes
- No-drag, pedal mode
- Removable battery
- Voice control
- Find your bike via GPS and 4G
- Brand: Urtopia
- Battery: 360Wh, LG li-ion removable
- Weight: 30lb (13kg)
- Maximum Speed: 20mph/32km (US), 16mph (25km)
- Brake Style: Front & Rear Dual-Piston Hydraulic
- Frame Material: Carbon Fiber (Frame, Fork, Handlebar, Seatpost)
- Wheel Size: 700c 35mm
- Motor (W): 250W Rear Hub
- Range: 30-80 miles (50-130km)
- Electronic Power Assist: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Turbo
- Charging: 2.5 hr Quick Charge @ 36V 4A
- Connectivity: GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, 4G
- Excellent value for the specs and features
- Safety features
- Anti-theft features
- OTA updates brings new features
- Battery is flush with frame
- Extremely lightweight
- Modern design
- Turn indicators aren't visible in bright light
- Bell is clunky
Urtopia, whose name is a combination of Utopia+Urban, is looking to shake up the e-bike market with innovative smart features that are either completely new to consumer bikes, or previously only found on higher-priced models. The core specs include a 250W hub motor with a Gates Carbon Drive that offers with four levels of pedal assist and 30-80 miles of range.
When you factor in all of the built-in tech like a smart voice activated handlebar display that controls your settings and offers GPS navigation, a fingerprint reader and gyroscope activated alarm to prevent theft, 4G (via eSIM) to monitor the bike remotely, mmWave sensors to detect vehicles, and more, this e-bike is already in a class of its own. Whether you're looking for a sleek, fast and reliable bike for easy commuting or you're considering your first e-bike, the Urtopia has something for everyone. It's currently available for preorder until the 6th January 2022 through its Indiegogo campaign with a 50% discount at $1999.
Indiegogo Campaign & Prototype Model
While e-bikes date back all the way to the 1880s, the past few years have seen a big rise in popularity and options to choose from depending on your riding style and budget. During the pandemic, the e-bike market saw a 145% increase in sales from 2019 to 2020, with estimates of about a half a million sold, more than double that of electric car sales that year. As their prices continue to drop and their performance and range improve, e-bikes are more practical and economical than ever.
The ultra-lightweight Urtopia has incredible range, features and style that will turn heads and make jaws drop. At "just" $1999, Urtopia is arguably the best value e-bike with a claimed total value of $5375 according to their Indiegogo page, not only leaving everything at its price point in the dust, but also besting the most premium carbon fiber options out there.
I have been testing the prototype Urtopia model for the past month using it for a mix of commuting, joy riding and even a bit of trail riding. Even in its prototype state, with many of its smart features still in development and unavailable for testing, the Urtopia still feels like something five years ahead of its time. I have been following their campaign closely and will share some key improvements being made from the prototype to the final model. In its current state, the prototype does have some weird quirks including requiring you to physically take out the battery to turn it off, a slow responding bell, and an inaccurate battery indicator even when fully charged.
I shared and discussed a detailed list of issues I encountered with the Urtopia team and was told that they were aware of all of them in the prototype model and that they have all been fixed in the final version. Following their campaign update email for the past few months, I could see their progress and dedication to keeping their backers and potential customers in the loop with their production advancements.
Design & Carbon Fiber Build
Much of Urtopia's marketing touts their award winning frame designer, Mathis Heller, who is most known for his work with the BMW I series and Siemens ICE 3 high-speed train. In many ways, the Urtopia feels like a crossover between a luxury car and high speed train. With its almost all black design, the bike's stealthy design doesn't necessarily scream "look at me", but when it catches your eye, you can tell this is no ordinary bike, which I like. The battery integrates with the frame, concealing it completely with the exception of a small release latch knob.
Seeing this for the first time, most people wouldn't even realize this was an E-Bike. From its side profile, the frame looks like a thunderbolt. There are currently 3 styles to choose from; Sirus, Lyra and Midnight in Paris. They have sight variations in side decals which complement the overall sleek and mimimilast look of the bike. Having ridden this around several parks and cities, it was a conversation starter for sure as I had a lot of people eying the bike come up and ask me about it. Most bike enthusiasts, especially those who owned or were familiar with other e-bikes were beyond belief when I told them the specs and price.
Aside from its smart features, the other big selling feature is ofcourse its carbon fiber build including its frame, fork, seatpost and handlebar. The Urtopia is super lightweight at just 30-pound (13 kg) making it one of the lightest e-bikes in the category. This weight saving was instantly noticeable and appreciated when it came to loading the bike in the back of my SUV or when carrying this up stairs. The bike is light enough to throw over a shoulder and carry around for a bit. Especially for those looking for a daily commuter, a carbon fiber design is the "weight" to go.
Power Modes & Ride
There are five power modes (Pedal, Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Turbo) that can be switched between using the handlebar or voice control. Pedal mode provides a regular bike experience if you don't need or want any battery assistance, while Turbo will be the quickest and require the least pedaling. As the bike has no gears, the Urtopia uses a proprietary motor and clutch system which is designed to "imitate the pedaling efficiency achievable by the change of mechanical gearing".
The included Velo seat is a little firm for my taste, but is still a huge upgrade over the traditional stock seats bikes usually ship with.
I rode on a variety of roads, terrains and elevations and the bike didn't miss a beat. On extremely steep hills you will probably need to put the bike in turbo and and stand on your pedals if you want to make it up the hill, but its still a night and day difference compared to not having any assistance. Although this is designed primarily for road use, I took this on a few easy offroad trails, and even with its skinny tires and lack of shocks, it handled it well.
Turbo mode feels a little too punchy and quick for most of my riding and so I usually kept the bike in comfort mode, which I felt was plenty of power and speed. I could comfortably reach the max speed of the bike very quickly (European version 25 km/h, US version 32 km/h). When riding on busier roads with cars, it did leave me craving more, because I knew I and the bike could keep up, but that the speed governor was holding us back. Of course these are government regulations and no fault of the bike, but all that to say the bike, even with its relatively smaller 250W motor, will be more than enough for most.
Smart Screen & AI Voice Control
The LED dot-matrix display uses large bright white dotted characters to display key information including speed, power mode, battery life and your turn signal indicators. Even under direct sunlight, I was able to see everything, although it wasn't as clear as I would have liked, but that's apparently been resolved with their latest update. Compared to the display on my prototype model, the final version is is actually going to be bigger, brighter, and clearer. Per their update, Urtopia is now positioning the display panel closer underneath an improved cover material than the prototype model. This fixes the faded halo effect and makes each dot more crisp. Additionally, they've also added optional DIY unique patterns for a number of the interfaces on the display via the companion app.
The final version will also have a 3w speaker that can share notifications from your paired phone. My prototype model only supported audible sounds for the turn signal, ringing the bell, and changing power modes. Housed inside, there will be two noise-canceling mics for recognizing voice commands, but again, I was unable to try any of these. Once I have the final version in hand, I'd be curious to see how well the voice recognition works at higher speeds or windier days. Likewise, I'd also imagine that its considerably harder to hear the speakers.
The left side has a four-way D-pad. Up and down change your power mode and left and right are your turn signals. From my tests, the turn signal lights which are projected on each side of the bike were not bright enough to be seen during the day and so wasn't very useful.
On the right hand side there is a single fingerprint reader/touch button which in its current state, I don't really like. First, it lacks a press or click, like the buttons on the left, and secondly, it isn't very responsive. In addition to unlocking your bike with your registered fingerprint, it is also rings the bell while riding. There is a noticeable delay between when you hit the bell and it actually ringing. Even more annoying, you currently can't ring quickly in succession as you can with a mechanical bell. Even if this gets fixed in the final version, this is one area where I would still opt to use a mechanical bell to be safer in case there were any electronic issues, such as not registering a click or being inaudible because of a muffled speaker.
The Urtopia will support Bluetooth, WiFi and 4G connectivity. This will pair the bike with your phone and also support OTA software updates. The mmWave sensors, will alert you when cars are detected, but the current software on the prototype model doesn't support it. Likewise, the GPS and eSIM which enable navigation and tracking features rely on pairing with your phone and the companion app which also was not available to test. Urtopia has announced special 4G data plans for $30 a year which will keep you connected to the bike remotely. I'm interested in which service providers are used and how reliable this service will be.
The Urtopia Aproach
Innovative Value & Indiegogo Discount
Even the most expensive and advanced e-bike options largely follow the same formula and feel. Where they tend to differ is with their range, motors, weight and design. Urtopia, however, is one of the first to place a strong emphasis on integrated smart features and a safety systems that no only make for a more exciting ride, but also more accessible and practical too.
Urtopia actually reminds me a lot of when OnePlus first came to market, being one of the first phone brands to offer high end specs at a fraction of the cost of the competition. It was one of the first times consumers were given a cheaper high end phone without much compromise. Apart from its frame design and smart features, similar to how phones are built, many of the Urtopia's parts including its 360Wh LG battery, 250W torque-based brushless hub motors, and Gates carbon belt, are off the shelf parts that other competing E-Bikes offer. The big difference, however, is Urtopia has found a way to undercut the competition.
Currently, ordering a bike is limited to backing their campaign on Indiegogo, which has surpassed 6522% of $40,016 Flexible Goal raising $2,609,989 with 1,039 backers. Their base tier sells the Urtopia at $1999 with taxes and shipping included. At the time of this article, the campaign is set to end in a few days with estimated delivery starting in Febuary 2022. Costing less than many traditional non-carbon fiber e-bikes and having far more features than other carbon fiber models, this Indiegogo pricing is very appealing.
Setup & Suport
Especially for those new to the e-bike scene or even novice to bikes altogether, a system this sophisticated may seem intimidating at first. Not knowing what to expect, I was prepared to spend a lot of time with assembly. Surprisngly, however, setup was extremely simple and easy. Something I appreciated that really helps set Urtopia stand out from other new contenders is the amount of guides and troubleshooting they provide through their official site and YouTube page.
After your bike arrives and you open the box, you'll notice that the entire bike is preassembled with the exception of its front wheel and battery. Despite being a relatively simple process for getting the bike setup, Urtopia has a very easy to follow two-minute video that will show you how to attach the front wheel, insert the battery and turn the bike on for the first time. Altogether, including with pumping air in the tires, you can get the bike road ready in under 15 minutes.
For peace of mind, Urtopia includes a transferrable two year all-inclusive warranty against all manufacturing defects covering most of the core components of the bike (excluding the brake pads, spokes and tires), a two-year prorated warranty for the battery, and a 10 year warranty for the carbon fiber frame. There are some important caveats to note though:
- Some of the free accessories are not covered by warranty service
- Labor charges to changeover parts to replacement frames are not included
- When all the spare parts for warranty are sent to the customer, the customer covers freight
Although my review unit was a prototype with many features still unavailable, I'm already hooked on the Urtopia experience. Even in their absent state, this is a far more tech-rich experience than bikes twice its price offer. In addition to its great styling, the bike is fast, powerful and fun. Knowing what's still to come and the continuous updates and tweaks the development team is making, has me excited to try the final production model.
$2000 is a big investment, but the Urtopia crushes everything else at this 50% discount price point, and is competitive when it goes full price after its pre-order Indiegogo campaign ends.