Eurobike rides: Bionicon Urban Road
In Bionicon's vision of the urban future we'll all be either cruising around on three-speed behemoths (see the Urban Cargo in the Eurobike Gallery) or kerb-hopping on Cromo utility machines such as this, the Urban road. Frame-wise, it's a sensible beast, not light (the stated weight is 2.1kg) but certainly well built. It's finished in a matt army green, with the Cromo fork painted black. So far so urban standard, but the running spec is a little more esoteric. Gone are flat bars, replaced by a super short stem and an upswept unit in the finest tradition of cutting off and flipping your drops. Cyclocross levers wired up to Shimano V-brakes do the stopping. Gone, too, is the front mech (though there is a cable stop for one), leaving just a SRAM Rival rear mech and a natty carbon bar-end shifter to give you your range. Wheels are solid Alex/Shimano units sporting fairly chunky Schwalbe Kojak 1.35 tyres, and there's full mudguards to protect you from the crud they throw up. Our test machine had a reasonably close ratio cassette, and in fact most of the transmission is different to the spec on the Bionicon UK website – they suggest it'll come with a less sexy SRAM 3.0 mech and a wider 11-34 cassette, and mudguards and the front rack are optional extras. We were assured that the bike as tested is the UK spec but we'll update this review later when we've had another chance to speak to the Bionicon boys. So what's it like to ride? Well, we laughed when we read on Bionicon's website that “our perfectly paved cities allow us to do without complex suspension systems”. If your city is as imperfectly paved as ours, you'll need a bit of help... Thankfully the Urban Road is up to the job, and most of the bump-soaking duties are handled by the tyres which are pretty much the perfect size and profile for a blast through town. Out on the open road they're a little pedestrian, and the longer-distance speed of the bike is hampered a bit by its overall weight (24.9lb as tested) and the hefty wheels, which make better sense about town. The bar and short stem combination works really well when you're on the ends. That's where all the controls are, so that's where you spend most of your time. The long reach of the bars compensates for the super short stem, and the bike feels nice and stable, though it's maybe not as flickable as we'd have liked. It's also a good position for out-of-the-saddle climbs, though it's difficult to change gear when you're standing up. There's another hand position on the flat section of the bars; this sits you up a bit but it's narrow and the stem is short, so it tends to amplify any rider input, making the bike a bit sketchy. Verdict Overall it's an idiosyncratic bike with a unique look and a likeable ride. It's not the lightest but it's certainly sturdy, and well built for town rides and shorter commutes.