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The Electra Townie 7D will appeal if you're looking for something a bit different for flattish cruising around town. At £375 you don't need a second mortgage to own one and it's good fun around town, but compromised climbing position and a tendency to ship its long chain mark it down a bit.
Firstly: don't buy this if you'll have to store it in a studio apartment, because it's huge. It's a good foot longer than a standard town bike and bulky with it. The idea of the Townie is to get an upright position with an efficient pedalling stroke, whilst still being able to put your feet flat on the floor when you're at a standstill. Electra call it Flat Foot Technology, and basically it equates to a clockwise rotation of the ride position, by 23. So, pedals move forward and up a bit in relation to the saddle, which is lower in relation to the ground. You get full leg extension when you're pedalling, and you can put your feet down at the lights.
The frame is based around this premise and fashioned from 6061 alloy, with a steel unicrown fork. It's a big old beast but not super-heavy, at 28lb. Cables are routed internally for clean lines and you get a half chain case for the extra-long chain. Mudguard and rack mounts are provided.
It's not sexy, but Shimano's Tourney TX derailleur does the business at the rear, controlled by a Revo twist shifter. There's seven speeds, with a Megarange cassette with a massive 34T bailout sprocket next to the spokes, a big leap from 2nd but useful in a hilly crisis. You need to ease off on that shift! A galvanised KMC chain and 44T steel chainset make up the rest of the drivetrain. Stopping is handled by linear-pull brakes and you get a big elastomer-suspended saddle and wide risers with decent grips.
It's a bit odd at first, the Flat Foot position. It's somewhere in between normal city riding and recumbent. You're too far back to ever stand up on the pedals, so it's sitting down all the way which is fine for about five miles, when the big saddle starts to make its presence felt. But for ambling through town and lolloping along canal paths it's a lovely relaxed bike, slow on the turn but very comfortable and not over-heavy.
Point the bike uphill and it's not such good news. With standing up denied to you, the only option is to sit down and sweat it out. I found myself alternating between upright climbing (hunched over the front of the bike) and recumbent climbing (arms locked out leaning backwards), with the latter generally winning out as it felt a touch more efficient. Neither is that much fun though, and remember to get into the big sprocket early if you think you'll need it, because making that shift under load makes sounds you don't want to hear from your transmission.
Going back down the other side of a hill is fun though with the bike lovely and stable, although the steering is a bit vague when the scenery is rushing by. The V-style brakes were faultless throughout, stopping the considerable rotating weight of the double wall rims and 2" slick tyres without undue fuss.
This is a bike aimed at people who aren't going to do a huge amount of riding, and as such it's fairly low maintenance. But those same people are going to be cursing into their flat whites if they have to stop on nearly every cafe ride and put the chain back on, like I did. That long chain and single chainring means it's much too easy to drop the chain on bumpy surfaces. The bike needs a chain guide at the top of the chainring to keep things in place; since there's a chain case there already it shouldn't be hard to fit one.
Climbing position and chain-shipping niggles aside, this is a fun bike to cruise around on. If you live somewhere with flattish topography and good road surfaces, you shouldn't have any problems at all. Sadly at least one of those two is missing in most parts of the UK...
Fun cruiser for easy riding on good surfaces, but struggles with the hills
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Make and model: Electra Townie 7D
Size tested: Black
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame - 6061 alloy flat foot geometry
Fork - Uni-crown steel
Headset - 1.1/8' threaded steel.
Crankset - FSA alloy 170mm
Chainring - Steel 44T
BB - Sealed cartridge
Derailleur - Shimano Tourney TX
Shifter - Shimano Revo
Cassette/Cog - Shimano 7spd 14-34
Chain - KMC Z51
Front Hub - Alloy 32H
Rear Hub - Alloy 32H
Spoke - 14G stainless.
Rims - Double wall alloy.
Tyres - Semi-slick 26' X 2'
Brake Levers - Alloy
Pedals - Resin with non-slip tread.
Handlebars - Alloy custom bend.
Grips - Kraton rubber.
Stem - Alloy.
Seat Post - Alloy pillar.
Saddle - Ergonomic with elastomer bumpers.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Nothing special, but well put together
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?
Long and low with Electra's Flat Foot geometry
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It's not like most other bikes. but it was fine.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfy for short journeys
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Not really too much of a concern on a bike like this
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It felt fairly efficient
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Not a problem
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Slow
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very stable for cruising, slow on the turn, happy going downhill at speed
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, nice to try something different
Would you consider buying the bike? Probably not
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Possibly
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
It's a decent bike for the money and it fills a niche. The chain issue and climbing position don't ruin it by any means, but they will limit its appeal a bit.
Age: 38 Height: 190cm Weight: 98kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, 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.