The vertical riding position (especially for yours truly, whose small frame had me positioning the seat post only a tiny bit out of the seat tube) doesn’t help in the speed department. You catch wind like a spinnaker. But the weight of the frame and the mass of the wheels affords one very pleasant consequence: lots of momentum.
Another feature that’s positively surprising for this bike is the silence of its ride. Nothing rattles or crunches. The addition of the carbon belt drive in lieu of a chain contributes to the machine’s stealthiness. Our tester didn’t have the newer Gates CenterTrack system, but Urbana offers that as an option.
Something to note about the drivetrain: The rear dropout system is removable and different modules can be swapped in, so you can fit it with a single-speed freewheel, a cassette and derailleur, other internal gear hubs (even a NuVinci), or other belt drives without altering the frame. If your dropout of choice gets chewed up, you can plop in a new one without altering the frame.
I rode the bike to work every day for about two and a half weeks, and I was very pleased with the sturdiness and comfort. But I had to pull it up a short flight of stairs every day, and given the bulk and weight, that was something I definitely didn’t look forward to.
Sure, it took a bit of swearing to get the Urbana moving when the light turned green at intersections, but once I reached cruising speed, “fuel consumption” felt comparatively lessened. The disc brakes were super-responsive, and the 8-speed hub made the infamously hilly San Francisco if not pleasant, at least negotiable.
According to the company’s website, to build an Urbana, you “take a little bit of Amsterdam and add some North Shore.” That’s pretty accurate. It’s a great utility bike and it’s laid back. But considering the look of the thing, I’d add a pinch of “Los Angeles soccer mom” to the mix.