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Foffa's Urban is an elegant, practical city bike that'll get you from one side of town to the other without fuss. A few component changes would help to make it a better overall package, and the fork isn't the stiffest, but for general urban duties it's a good workhorse.
The Urban has been around a while; originally it was a 4130 chromoly steel-framed faux-fixie with a hub gear, a low front, narrow flat bar and deep-section alloys (John tested it in 2014, see here). This build is a more practical beast with big chamber tyres, mudguards, a kickstand and a more upright position. It's still not a sit-up-and-beg bike, though, the position is more akin to a hybrid than a full-on city bike.
The new model's 6061 alloy frame is nicely finished, while up front you still get a steel fork with a threaded headset. The bar is a narrow mini-riser with a touch of backward sweep and you get big padded faux leather grips (which I found slightly mushy) and a Foffa own-brand saddle in a matching brown that I had no issues with while the bike was on test.
Riding the Foffa was, for the most part, enjoyable. The position isn't especially aggressive and at 12.6kg it's not the kind of bike you're going to be setting any personal bests on, but for cruising round town it felt good. The bar is narrow enough to mix it in traffic without being too twitchy, and the geometry sits you up enough that you get a good view of your surroundings. Having the hub gear gives the bike nice clean lines and also allows you to change gear at a standstill, which is handy about town when you're caught out by the lights.
It's not the fastest-accelerating bike, but you wouldn't expect that, and you tend to ease the speed up rather than sprinting out of the blocks.
When it comes to slowing down the first issue with the bike comes to the fore, which is that the front brake causes the fork to judder under braking. It's probably mostly to do with the stiffness (or lack of) of the fork combined with the quality of the rims and brake pads; it's what happens with a grabby brake combined with a slightly flexy fork. Higher quality pads in the front V-brake, or maybe a better quality brake unit, would probably go some way to alleviating the issues. As it was, it was annoying rather than scary, and I just tended to favour the rear brake, which was fine.
Rolling along the flat, the steering is neutral and predictable. It's not the kind of bike you'd be pinning down a mountain descent but on the the fast downhills I did do on the Foffa (you can't ride round here without doing at least one) it felt okay; it doesn't have the poise of a road bike or even a lighter hybrid, but it holds its line pretty well. The Kenda tyres aren't the best I've ever used, but grip levels were decent and the big air chambers give a good level of comfort.
Up the other side, the second main issue with the bike hoves into view: it's overgeared. (Confused by bike gears? Read our feature about it here.)
During testing I never really got above gear five on the 7-speed hub, which is good for 18-20mph around town. The top gear is a chunky 96 inches which is the kind of gear I might choose for a nice flat 10-mile time trial. It's a racing gear, really.
Conversely, the bottom gear is 39 inches, which makes anything over a mild incline a bit of a struggle, given the bike's weight. For comparison, a compact double chainset and 11-28 cassette gives you a low of about 32in and an 11-32 goes down to 28in.
All Foffa needs to do is change the gear ratios. A 40t or 38t would give a much better range. My personal preference would be 38t at the front and 21t at the back (it's specced with a 20t) giving a 30-75in range, which should work for nearly everyone.
In other gearing news the Nexus 7 hub is a pretty solid unit and the twist shift is easy to use. It's not the best at shifting down under power, so it pays to back off slightly when you're shifting. It's something you get used to doing automatically after a while.
Foffa has gone for pretty dependable stuff, and it all works even if it's not fancy. The sealed square taper bottom bracket and threaded headset and quill stem aren't state of the art but they're simple and solid, and should last for ages.
The wheels are well built too, and the radially-spoked front with a wide-flange track hub looks pretty.
The mudguards are full plastic rather than chromoplastic (with a metal layer sandwiched inside) and we broke the rear one at the seatstay mount during testing. It was easily fixed with some judicious application of gorilla tape, but if you'd bought the bike you'd probably be phoning up and asking for a new one.
Utility-wise, the mudguards are a useful addition and so is the kickstand. A chain case would be another obvious thing to spec in a future version (although I'd sort the gearing out first); that would make it a little more casual-clothes-friendly.
For the most part, the Foffa Urban is a likeable bike. It's easy to ride and it looks good, and the simplicity of the hub gear and inclusion of mudguards make it an out-of-the-box city bike worth looking at.
At £499 it's not expensive either. You can get a much higher spec of sport hybrid for the same money but Foffa isn't really aiming at that market. To be honest there aren't many bikes that directly compete. The Gazelle Van Stael is one; that's £649 with a 7-speed hub (£549 with a 3-speed) but the Brooks Cambium finishing kit is a step up. And it has a chaincase.
The Foffa has its issues – the fork judder was a bit annoying and the gearing needs attention – but it's a decent and good-looking city bike for cruisy urban riding.
Elegant and practical city bike but a couple of build issues need addressing
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Foffa Urban Nexus
Size tested: L
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAMESET – Lightweight 6061 butted Alloy with steel forks WHEELSET – Foffa 19mm double wall CNC alloy rims laced to alloy open bearing hub (front) and Shimano 7-speed 20T Nexus (rear) GROUPSET – 7-speed SG-C3000-7R Shimano Nexus with SL-7S31 Revo Shifter TYRES – 700x32C Kenda K193 puncture protection CRANKSET – 46T 165mm alloy Lasco RCF1242GA5-C with guard BOTTOM BRACKET – Sealed unit VP-BC73 CHAIN – KMC 1/2''x1/8'' Z410 BARS – Alloy riser bars (width 560mm) STEM – Zoom MTS-215-2 alloy stem GRIPS – Ergonomic padded grips BRAKES – Tektro alloy 837AL alloy mini v-brakes with Tektro alloy RX1.0 levers SEATPOST – 27.2mm Zoom SP-C208 alloy post SADDLE – Foffa Track Classic saddle PEDALS – VP Steel caged pedals ACCESSORIES – full length matte black mudguards and steel kickstand included
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Foffa says: "The 'Urban' has been designed to be the ultimate multi-purpose bicycle, perfect for leisurely rides as well as fast and long commutes around the city."
FRAMESET – Lightweight 6061 butted Alloy with steel forks for extra flexibility and a fairly compact upright geometry for additional comfort and responsiveness.
It comes with full length mudguards, kick stand, and has eyelets to fit a rear rack as well as a set of bottle cage bosses, to make it fully functional.
GROUPSET – 7-speed Shimano Nexus hub to make it ideal for any hilly ride and Revo Gear Shifter for low effort rotational twist shifting and comfortable handling.
WHEELSET – 19mm double wall Foffa alloy CNC rims laced to open bearing hubs for a robust feel and 700x32c puncture protection tyres for smooth rides on most terrains.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
6061 alloy frame, steel fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It was fine.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Pretty comfy, the big tyres helped.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The fork lets it down a bit.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, although the Nexus isn't ever the most efficient drivetrain.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Grips were a bit mushy, tyres and saddle pretty good.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Fork was the weak point.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? For the most part, yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Probably not.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your score
It's a decent bike and the price is okay too. It doesn't give a standout performance and it isn't stellar value either.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.