Hands-on: Urtopia’s 13 kg carbon fiber ebike promises big smarts

Napier Lopez is an American writer. He is interested in tech, science and photography and he likes to yo yo (show all). Napier Lopez is a New York City-based writer. He is interested in all things tech-related, including science and photography, and enjoys yo-yoing in his spare time. Follow him on Twitter
There are two types: ebike riders who want the most power and weight possible. Those who like a balanced ride that provides power and a natural experience.

The Urtopia Ebike, a futuristic carbon fibre ride, is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo.

The bike is currently available at an introductory price $2,000, and the company plans on shipping to early backers by February 2022. The bike has raised more than $1 million as of the publication date of this article. There are still 26 days to go on the campaign.

A prototype unit was available for me to ride for a few days. It weighs in at just under 13 kg (29 lbs) and is the lightest ebike that I have ever seen. This ebike offers a more 'acoustic' experience than any other ebikes I have tried.

Urtopia is more than just a product with a lot of smarts. Voice control, an alarm system, turn by turn navigation, turn signals, radar and many other features make Urtopia a truly 'tech' product. Although it aims to provide a motorized ride, there are potential pitfalls.

The bike is currently available at an introductory price $2,000, and the company plans on shipping to early backers by February 2022. The bike has raised more than $1 million as of the publication date of this article. There are still 26 days to go on the campaign.

Many smarts

Let's start with some specifications:

Frame, handlebars, and fork made of carbon fiber

13 kg (29 lb)

250W rear hub motor, 40 Nm torque

Torque sensor-based pedal assist

Hydraulic disk brakes

Tires puncture-resistant for 35mm 700C

360 Wh removable battery (36V/10Wh)

In the assist level 1, 130 km (80 mi), range was claimed

There are 5 levels of pedal assistance, from no help at all to throttle-like turbo mode'.

Speed limit for the EU and USA is 20/32 km/h (15.5/20mph).

There are two sizes of frames that can be used to cover people between 165 cm and 200 cm (5'5'' to 6’7'').

3 frame designs

Carbon belt drive single-speed gates (instead of a chain).

Large dot matrix display integrated into handlebars

Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 4G compatibility

Integral headlights, taillights, projector lights, and turn signals

iOS and Android apps to change some settings

Integrated bell sounds (customizable via App)

GPS Location

Motion alarm

Fingerprint sensor

Haptic feedback at the handlebar

You can be alerted by millimeter-wave radar of vehicles behind you

For fall detection and power adjustment, a gyroscope is used.

10-year warranty

All other components, including the battery, are covered by a 2-year warranty

It's quite a bit of smarts to pack into a bike. I was unable to use many of the smart features during my first ride because the app was still in development. Once the app is available, I'll update this post. Urtopia stressed that my review unit was still a prototype. This meant that some details weren't finalized.

There's still a lot to love even in prototype form. I also hope for improvements before launch.

Amazingly natural pedaling experience

For me, the most important thing is the pedal assistance. The Urtopia does a great job. It seems to have the same torque sensor that the Tenways ebike, which means it provides smooth pedaling, even when compared to higher-end brands such as Brompton and Specialized.

The Urtopia's gentle acceleration curve, almost-silent motor/belt drive and the 13kg weight make it feel more like a regular bike than any other ebike I have tested. The motor and belt drive are quiet enough that the Urtopia actually sounds quieter than many non-electric bikes. It is almost creepy, and the smoothness really makes you feel stronger than just being pulled by a powerful motor.

Gates' carbon belt drive is always appreciated.

Although this bike has 250W of power, it is not going to give motorcycles a run for the money. However, the torque sensor allows the bike to deliver power when needed. This is sufficient power for bikes that are intended to be pedaled. 250W is the EU limit before you need a license. This should help prolong the battery's life.

It is also worth noting that, though 360 Wh may not seem like a lot, it is the largest battery I have seen in an electric bike under 35 lbs. Most of the batteries are around 250 Wh and can't be easily removed if you need to expand your range.

The Urtopia doesn't have suspension, as many carbon-fiber bikes do, but it has enough vibration absorption to feel much better on rough roads than other ebikes that I've tried with narrow tires. Although the proof is in the pudding when it comes to durability, Urtopia offers a 10-year warranty on its frame. This is very encouraging. This depends on the company's willingness to honor their warranty and whether Urtopia remains around in 10 years.

Both the taillight and headlights are bright and both have projection lights. To make you visible at night, the bike will project the Urtopia logo onto the ground to your left or right. These lights can also be used as turn signals but are not visible during the day.

Although I haven’t had the bike for long enough to do a range assessment, I believe the 80-mile claim is probably optimistic even with Eco mode. Based on my experience with similar bikes I think 40-50 miles would be possible, even though the battery is heavier than normal for this weight.

The bike is extremely pedal-able without any assist. Although the motor isn't noticeable, it doesn't cause any drag. I found that the bike was comfortable for pedaling at 35 km/h (22 MPH) and not flying up hills. You're left with a standard-weight single-speed bike if you run out of battery.

It may be a bit futuristic for its own sake.

The Urtopia does the basics right and is my top priority. It can compete with bikes that are much more expensive by focusing on the basics. Although I find many of the futuristic details very appealing, there are some things potential buyers need to be aware of.

Although the carbon fiber frame is light, it has some limitations. For example, there are no mounting points to mount racks. This limits its utility beyond getting from A to B. Some universal racks may work, but they are not recommended for carbon frames. It's an electric bike; I should be capable of carrying things.

The use of a non-cylindrical aero seatpost restricts the ability to add accessories such as a suspension seatpost, or cargo trailers. Additionally, the integrated display makes it impossible to replace the handlebars. The Tenways C-GO 600, which is a bit lighter and more customizable than a regular bike, is much smaller and not removable.

These issues are not unique to the Urtopia carbon fiber bike, but are worth mentioning.

Urtopia claims that the final display will be brighter under direct sunlight. However, I found it large enough to be legible on my prototype.

The'smart side' of things was actually quite pleasant. I found the voice controls reliable and quick, and worked to lock the bike, change the assist levels, and toggle the lights on/off effectively. Although I did not test the voice commands at high speeds, I found it rare to have to repeat myself twice.

In all honesty, I was expecting a disaster in this area of the voice control. I am glad that this was not the case. The built-in alarm has been very useful in quick stops and will serve as a deterrent to tampering (along with a lock).

However, on my pre-production unit at least, the headlights and taillights can't be activated without voice control. What if it rains or is windy?

You can also list other annoying issues that could be fixed by an update or the app.

It is impossible to make the alarm or bell louder without also making other system sounds louder.

The delay between the digital bell making a sound and actually making a sound is about 0.5-1 seconds. This is too long to avoid an emergency.

Only the turn signals activated will make the radar function work.

When the bike is in Turbo mode, voice functions won't work (the throttle button becomes a control pad).

The alarm can be activated to turn the bike off. This can be annoying if your intention is to leave your bike in a secure location, such as a basement or shared space. I currently disconnect the battery.

It is difficult to adjust the seatpost height because you need to insert an Allen key into the hole below the top tube. This limits the amount of leverage that you can use to tighten the screw.

It is important to remember that this bike is still in pre-production and that I was not able to access the app or some of its features. When I have a better understanding of the additional settings that the app offers, I will update this post.

Urtopia does the basics right and has a lot of extras.

Although Urtopia needs to improve some aspects of the bike's intelligence, it does a lot better than I expected.

They are minor issues in the grand scheme. Even though it doesn't have any smart features, I think the Urtopia is worth the price. Its ride quality and weight alone make it worth the money. It's rare to find an ebike that you can carry over your shoulder and up a flight stairs like a regular bike. The smoothness of the pedaling is unmatched, even though it's not as powerful as a regular bike.

You should always be aware of the risks involved in crowdfunding projects. It is not unusual for delays to product changes and other issues to occur. Urtopia, however, was willing to send me a functional prototype, which performed well, contrary to other crowdfunding campaigns. The Urtopia ebike could be a compelling choice for anyone who wants a futuristic bike. If the company is honest about its delivery and warranties, it will be a great option.