If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. It's a lesson we all learn eventually, usually via some unfortunate and/or expensive series of events.
For the bike industry, the lesson came via the SpeedX Leopard - the crowdfunded bike that promised the world, yet delivered, as CyclingTips so aptly put it, "800,000 bikes abandoned in fields and construction sites around China."
Now, the Urtopia Carbon Electric Bike, which heralds the "new urban Utopia" might turn out to be genuinely all that it's cracked up to be: 30lbs/13-14kg, Gates Carbon Belt Drive, 250w/h/35~40Nm torque battery, thumb touch locking, GPS tracking, all for £2,505/$3,000.
However, in taking its name from a noun that means "an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect," and placing that imagining into the current supply and demand starved industry of 2022, the newcomer to the market seems to be begging us to look for the loopholes.
The closest competitor in weight/price ratio we've tested is the Ribble Endurance SL e, at £3,299 and 12kg. However, this was a paired down road bike from a direct-only brand. The likes of the commuter-ready Specialized Como SL comes in at 21.5kg at £4,250.
Having raised £2,562,469, via 1,353 backers (at time of writing), the brand contacted Cycling Weekly, suggesting "it’s reckoned as THE most popular campaign on Indiegogo now!"
Urtopia Carbon Electric bike: what do we know so far?
The Urtopia is available in a US build, at $3,000, for a UK/Euro build for £2,505.
The bike features a carbon fiber frame, fork, seatpost and handlebar. It weighs 30 pounds, which translates to 13.6kg.
The brand does follow this up with "(14kg minimum)" in its FAQ, which is a little bit of a head scratcher. But, at that weight, they are right in saying "an average girl can carry it upstairs without much effort!", assuming that by 'girl', the writer means 'adult woman' - which seems a reasonable assumption since there are only two frame sizes, to suit riders from 5"5 to 6"5 (165 to 195cm - I'm on the cusp at 166cm).
The max rider weight is 110kg and Urtopia says the frame "has passed some of the requirements of BS EN 14766 standard designed for mountain bikes on rough terrains."
The Urtopia uses a 250w centrally positioned e-bike motor providing 35~40Nm torque. There's five modes: Pedal, Eco, Comfort, Sport and Turbo, and the Samsung battery will last a reported 80miles/130km in Eco mode.
Modes can be swapped via "AI voice control", and the brand says "Urtopia’s proprietary clutch technology enables a riding experience exactly like when you ride a regular bike without any drag. With integrated gyroscope and torque sensor, Urtopia knows when you're riding on inclined or rough roads and may adjust power output accordingly to ease your effort."
The singlespeed design uses a Gates Carbon Drive belt - a clean and fuss free transmission that we've tested before to great success.
Of the brakes, Urtopia says the bike "is equipped with a front and rear hydraulic disc brake system, which are more reliable than rim brakes, or v-brakes, providing a safer riding experience." Our tech heads are a bit beyond the #savetherimbrake movement, and don't really need convincing - but we'd like to know more about the stopping power, such as which brand they come from and at what spec level.
The tyres, reassuringly, are Kenda's Kwest rubber, in 35mm.
There are some other features that piqued our interest, including the "fingerprint unlock, eSIM card, dot-matrix display, built in Bluetooth, WiFi, and 4G modules... Anti-theft tracking system... [and] Millimeter wave radar," the latter providing warnings of approaching vehicles, similar to the Garmin Varia.
These are the kind of features that experts at Car Design Research told us the cycling industry needed to incorporate, in order to encourage a new breed of bike rider onto two wheels. However, traditional bike riders are harder to convince - just look at the furore that met Cannondale's attempts to embed lights and a Varia radar into its latest Synapse.
Urtopia's Indiegogo page includes several third party reviews based on prototypes, but we're keen to assess the bike for ourselves, so have requested a press sample to bring you a full review.
How is deliverability looking?
One area where the SpeedX Leopard came unstuck was in meeting the high demand created by its crowdfunding success.
Urtopia is operating during a time when even well-established brands are battling with supply chains and competition for containers.
Urtopia has updated its backers around its current projected delivery capacity, noting "given the unpredictability of the current global logistics as we enter the third year of the pandemic, there are things beyond our control despite our best efforts."
However, the brand does appear to be having much more luck than some of the more mainstream outfits in terms of its projected delivery dates.
Posting an update on February 16, it stated: "the first batch was produced by the end of January and 30 of them have been shipped to the US already," before adding: "The second batch production will be divided into two parts. Those to the US will be in containers by March 15 and arrive in the US around April 10. Delivery can be expected after mid of April. Those to Europe will be in containers by March 25 and arrive in Europe by April 25. Delivery can be expected by late April and early May."
Urtopia has been pretty up front with its backers about their role in the product development process.
"These first delivered Urtopia e-bikes will shoulder the responsibility of first test-runs with real customers," the brand said, adding "we believe that our customers are better served when we try harder to ensure the quality of such a technologically advanced and complicated piece of equipment, instead of rushing to deliver a half-baked prototype." We'll be interested to hear their feedback, and can hopefully provide our own when a protoype arrives.
The bikes are being manufactured in China, and "batch-shipped to local warehouses across North America and Europe." Urtopia says it has warehouses in the USA, Germany, Netherland, France, UK and Canada, and that customer orders will be placed at the nearest warehouse to your location and delivered from there.
Experts operating in the more commercially successful automotive market tell us that e-bikes need to be smarter, and more convenient, in order to stand up to the demands of the masses and attract new riders. The traditional cycling industy isn't ticking those boxes yet, likely because its target audience is somewhat resistant to change - and it certainly isn't able to meet the price point offered by this new creation.
Is the Urtopia the beginning of a smart new world for commuting cyclists? Or is it the beginning of somebody's nightmare? The proof will be in the riding - and we're looking forward to it.
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