E-bikes are now firmly part of the bicycle zeitgeist, no matter whatever any hardcore cyclist holdouts think about the electrically enhanced two-wheelers. Though the road to acceptance was rocky, e-bikes now command a solid place in almost every category of the cycling pantheon, and have even carved out a few niches of their own (e-bikes for hunting, anyone?) But the one style constant that the flood of e-bikes have all nearly shared is a bulky and downright un-svetle form factor, which is where the new Urtopia Carbon One e-bike instantly shines—among many other attributes revealed later.
Early attempts at e-bikes were pretty much universally ugly affairs that were basically existing production bikes, featuring a big, unsightly battery semi-integrated into the downtube. Or they were ungainly kits you could add to your current human-powered bicycle for an electrical kick. These slapdash and decidedly non-stylish e-bikes worked decently enough to prove the concept, but were so godawful looking that their initial target audience was clearly folks who didn’t care about form. That’s probably the main reason hardcore cyclists (known for their aesthetic leanings) eschewed them.
Thankfully, those integrated frames and overall looks have improved over the years. But the Urtopia Carbon One has taken the old and evolving e-bike form and totally changed it into a compelling and sexy e-machine design that screams cool (i.e. not cobbled together). The frame—made from carbon fiber along with the handlebar, seat post, and forks—has swoops, turns, and ripples that make it look svelte and muscular. The right angle elbow, where the seat tube would normally exist, instead turns rearward to create the seat stays and provide far more visual appeal.
The concept creator, award-winning German auto and product designer Mathis Heller, said that the idea for the plunging, turning frame silhouette came to him from thinking about the idea of a Möbius strip, which helped him balance the tech with the human side of the basic bicycle frame design. He likened it to the infinity symbol, completing the connection between cycling, humanity, and the environment.
Making the bike from mostly carbon fiber allowed for the sinewy frame shape while also banishing the other e-bike bugaboo—weight. Most e-bikes to this day are monsters that can easily push beyond 80 pounds. The Urtopia weighs about a third of a typical e-bike, coming in at a relatively svelte 33 pounds.
The Features Are Now
But the Urtopia is not just all about looking good. It’s also packed full of futuristic features that you won’t find on run-of-the-mill e-bikes sitting down at your local big box store. First up is the drivetrain, which uses a 36-volt, 250-watt hub motor (and magnetic torque sensor in the bottom bracket) that gives the light bike a range of up to 62 miles with a top speed of 20 mph. That power is put down using a Gates synthetic belt (good for 18,600 miles) instead of a messy and noisy chain. You get five speed modes with the pedal-assist e-bike—pedal (assist is off), eco, comfort, sport, turbo. The Samsung lithium-ion battery is removable for portability and mobility for your charging options, and can fully charge in 2.5 hours. Brakes are dual piston hydraulic discs, front and rear, for superior stopping in wet weather.
The highlight of the bike, besides the swooping carbon fiber frame, is what they call the Smartbar. That’s the name for the handlebars and the display, integrated in one clean and simple design. But the real beauty is the functions the Smartbar gives you. First off, to unlock the bike, there’s a fingerprint sensor on the right hand side of the handlebar by the grip. Once you set it up through the Urtopia app (Android or Apple), all you have to do is tap it like a smartphone or laptop sensor to turn it on. You can also unlock the bike with the app.
The display, which uses large dot matrix patterns for its output, offers up a friendly hello with an animation and also includes a hidden speaker that will issue beeps, boops, and swishes along with a whole host of animated sounds as you navigate through the menu with the left hand side gamepad-like control that lets you activate other options—most notably your various speed modes.
The right hand fingerprint button also accesses the digital “bell”—which you can change in the app (to, say, a neighing horse) if you’re not into classic bell sounds. The app is the main hub that allows you to access other functions, like the headlight, alarm, integrated Bluetooth speaker (yep, you can play your own tunes), and volume. Other options allow you to track your fitness, your location on a map, and where you’ve been.
There’s also voice control with the Urtopia—allowing you to access speed modes, lock the bike, control lights, adjust volume, go into standby mode, and more, all with commands. Another interesting feature is ARES (advanced rear early indication system). Though it sounds like something out of this world, it’s just a rear red taillight that has two turn indicator projection lights which illuminate the ground with the Urtopia logo to better alert people of your turning plans.
Yet another futuristic feature: the bike holds it’s own eSIM card with 4G support and GPS, so it can monitor location (shown in the app) while you ride or help find your e-bike in the event of theft recovery—if you subscribe to the service and pay the annual fee ($30).
A few quibbles with the bike all stemmed from the futuristic tech. That’s to be expected, and can mostly be addressed by future software updates, which the Urtopia supports through the app. The Smartbar’s occasional non-responsiveness to commands, for example, may be caused by interfering environmental noise and/or user error. An earlier battery issue with the Urtopia has since been resolved with the latest models.
In all, the Urtopia Carbon One is a fantastic look at what the future of e-biking can be—namely light, fast, powerful, and stylish. Riding the Urtopia was a smooth and pleasant experience, made even better by the Gates belt, mid-range hub motor, grippy disc brakes, and the trump card of all bikes—it’s weight (or lack thereof). Forget the design of the frame, the busyness of the Smartbar, and loads of features on the app, just riding an e-bike this light, powerful, and nimble is a joy all in itself.