The Bionicon Urban is a fun, agile, energetic city bike that is also super-versatile. The rugged look, set off perfectly by a matt green paintjob and understated graphics will certainly draw a crowd.
On the first ride to the office I had nice things shouted at me by drivers “nice bike mate” being the most common, not something I’m used to and the popularity continued in work with emails coming my way asking about the bike that was leant up in the corridor of my office.
On to the spec of the Urban, it’s a bit of an odd one… is that a Sram Red, carbon aero gear shifter? Why yes it is, industry rumour has it that lever actually costs Bionicon more than the frame. So sublime over-kill on the shifting front then. The rest of the 10 speed drivetrain on the current model is also SRAM and it delivers outstanding performance, never missing a beat, handling sudden burst of acceleration to get out of trouble on Bristol's Gloucester Road or a bit of a sprint up Park Street with ease. I think, however, that an 8 or 9 speed Tiagra set up would be just as much fun, as reliable but with less of a bling factor…it’s a shame but the related cost change would make the Urban far more appealing to a whole host of potential suitors.
The current craze of graphic designer types with flat caps and satchels riding fixie’s and singlespeed has, in part, inspired the simplicity of the Urban. It looks clean, effortless and sharp but it has the flexibility of a geared bike meaning that many, non fixie riders, can have the look while riding a bike that can be enjoyed.
The gearing side of things isn’t obtrusive, the gear shifter is as subtle as they come and being perched on the end of a simple set of time trial style base bars means that its is nigh on hidden when riding past, it does bring in the comments when stationary though. A simple set of Shimano V- brakes offers impressive stopping power with the 700c Alex rims, nothing snazzy about them but they do the job well. It’s a bit like that throughout this bike (SRAM shifter apart), nothing showy but all very cool. Lots of eyelets, you can fit front mech, it'll take up to 40mm tyres, mudguards, rack.
The spec on the Bionicon Road is about to change upcoming models will still be getting 10 speed SRAM Force cassette and chain, matched up to a Rival rear mech but the current 11-28 block will be replaced with wider ratio 11-32 block making it even more hill capable without the necessity to add a front mech – although there is a hanger on the frame should you want to. That snazzy shifter is going to, it'll be replaced by a Microshift TT lever. So, if you want that shifter you'd better hurry while stocks last. Oh,and the price stays the same though.
The riding position is akin to that of a flat barred giant tcr of the mid-late 1990s, the relatively compact nature of the frame makes for an energetic and exciting ride. The stance I had when on the bike was naturally very upright, I did my best to minimise my frontal area on my 20km each way commute but with the exceptionally short stem getting comfortable AND low was difficult. If I owned this bike Id perhaps stick a set of stubby tri bars on for longer commutes but that isn’t what the bike is designed for, it is perfectly at home on relaxed, nippy, fun roads and urban areas. The handling is superb, reliable and honest.
The Bionicon Urban would be easy to live with day to day, there is clearance and mounting bolts for mudguards and a rear rack, it'll also take up to a 40mm tyre and, as mentioned a front mech, there's also plenty of room for playing with the position by fitting a longer stem - you cold tour on this. All that said I like it the way it is so I probably wouldn't do anything that mighty spoil the Bionicon’s tricky personality, I wouldn’t want to relax it too much!
Good fun and well built, a great bike. Probably most at home on short rides around built up areas, looks pretty good leant up outside a pub on a sunny afternoon too.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Bionicon Urban Road
Size tested: 56cm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bionicon say this bike gives a great 'racing' feel due to the time trial ispired bars and compact frame. I agree, it does feel fast, even if it isnt in reality. What I found most apparant was how agile the Urban felt in traffic, and how comfortable I felt on it negotiating the rush hour.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
There isnt much to tell in truth, it is a simple bike. A steel frame and cromo forks combine to give a reliable ride while the sram drivetrain (including an extremely snazzy carbon shifter) delivers faultless performance.
Manuf claimed weight (frame) 10,9 (2,1) kg
Fork Bionicon rigid CroMo fork 100mm
Headset 1 1/8" semi-integrated
Stem Bionicon 60mm 15° AL
Handlebar Bionicon Triathlon 25,4mm 440mm
Brakes Shimano V-Brake with bar end lever
Shifter SRAM TT carbon bar end shifter
Rear derailleur SRAM Rival
Crankset SR Suntour
Saddle Selle Italia XO
Seatpost Bionicon 27,2mm 350mm
Sprocket SRAM OG 1070 11-28
Chain SRAM PC 1050
Hub Shimano Alivio
Rims Alexrims RL450
Spokes DT Swiss Champion 2.0 DT Swiss
Tyres Schwalbe Kojak 28x1,35 (wire)
No problems here, the simplicity of the frame and fork was very appealing both in terms of the ride and the look of the bike.
Again, the Urban delivered exactly what it needed to. It was a fast shifting, strong braking, lively run about for the city.
Having ridden it for probably 200km on urban roads and a further 100km on more rural stuff I can say that it dealt with potholes, cobbles, mud, water etc with ease and with no sign that anything was wearing down.
It isnt a lightweight bike, its designed to be thrown about but also give a planted feel so I suppose the weight helps in that respect. The frame geometry tricks the rider into thinking the bike is quicker than it is so the weight effect is negated to a degree.
Being a bike designed for urban riding the Bionicon gives you an upright position that works well. Trying to commute longer distances isnt ideal as you cant get low and comfortable at the same time. It does what it is intended to do very well but dont take it much further than that - you could of course fit a longer stem.
Compared to many city bikes such as the Gary Fisher Mendota, the Urban is good value, compared to some of the 'fashion' fixies you can buy at the moment then it is great value. It offers a great combination of rough and ready looks with the flexibility of gears and a comfy riding position.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, it was resiliant and fun. I pointed it at gaps in traffic and it went there, no toe overlap (there might be if you fit mudguards though), a strong set of brakes and a good set of slick-ish schwalbe tyres completed the package.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I liked the frame a lot, the feeling of confidence that I get with a compact frame works well in a built up area. Knowing that you can get quick acceleration and sharp handling at lower speeds is exactly what is required.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Okay, I'm not going to complain about having a Sram Red shifter, but if I was making this bike I would do without the bling, get a more basic tiagra version, drop the price a bit and this bike will fly off the shelves.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes - especially a cheaper less bling version
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, I have.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
A good little bike, lots of fun and eye catching too.
About the tester
I usually ride: felt ar4 My best bike is: i like my felt and my orbea ora tt bike equally
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, triathlon