What if cycling was like using a smartphone? That is the proposition behind the new Urtopia E-bike, which offers features more often associated with a product from Samsung or Apple rather than a bike manufacturer.
The Urtopia carbon fiber has a built-in 4G connection, voice control, fingerprint identifier and other technology. I spent time riding the bike and playing with the technique and came up with the impression that this bike is both fun to ride and the dream of a device lover.
Like your phone, the Urtopia has a built-in 4G data connection that will let you track your bike if it’s lost or stolen. The cellular connectivity also allows Urtopia to release automatic software updates to the bike.
There is a touch button that acts as a fingerprint reader on the right side of the steering wheel. The idea is that once you tune your bike, it will be customized to your finger, theoretically making it theft-resistant. The fingerprint reader was easy to install and worked well in my tests. However, the bike is light enough that a potential thief could simply ignore the key and take it.
The fingerprint button doubles as an electronic “bell” that makes warning sounds if pedestrians obstruct your path while riding. You can choose from a variety of sounds for the bell, which is fun. There are no other bikes I am aware of that come with a built-in fingerprint reader, so just this is enough to make the Urtopia unique. You can buy third party bike locks with fingerprint readers like the SL Elito.
The heart of the Urtopia is an integrated display that uses charming retro LED dot matrix display technology. The Smartbar, as the company calls it, allows you to see the speed, speeds and notifications of the bike. The screen is bright enough to be easily seen in bright sunlight, but glare made it difficult to photograph it.
Like every smartphone, the Urtopia comes with built-in Bluetooth. I paired the bike with mine iPhone 12 Pro Max using the Urtopia app that is available from the Apple App Store. Setup took just a few clicks and I was then able to unlock my bike via Bluetooth. The app also uses Bluetooth to show a map of your trips, and how much CO2 you’ve saved on a bike instead of using a car.
Like many smartphones – but unlike any bike I’ve ever come across – you can actually talk to the Smartbar. Voice recognition allows you to do things like turn off and on the lights and increase the power. I was skeptical that the voice recognition would work while I was riding, but I had no problem understanding myself even in heavy traffic or on a windy day.
It did seem a bit strange to talk to my bike. Other riders gave me strange looks when I told my Urtopia to turn on the integral headlights. I enjoyed using the voice control but I’m not sure how much value it adds compared to button controllers.
Perhaps the most practical part of Urtopia’s many technical features are the seemingly secular built-in turn signals. With the click of a button, you can turn on a pair of turn-signal projection lights that glow down on the road. During my daylight rides, the turn signals are useful but on the weak side so I completed them with hand signals to notify cars where I was heading. The true usefulness of the turn signals was evident after dark when they were projected on the road and it would be too dark for me to signal with my arms.
Things start to get weird, but in a good way, when you start playing with the Smartbar. First of all, the bike gives you audible notifications with a 3-watt speaker. The sounds are loud enough to be easily heard over traffic noises, but the beeps also caught my attention enough as I drove through New York City.
Another unusual feature of the Urtopia is the built-in mill-wave radar. The radar is on the back, and it is designed to help you keep an eye out for cars or other cyclists who might be sneaking up behind you. It wasn’t immediately clear how you should interact with the radar, so I was surprised when a quiet but stern voice called from my bike to “watch out from behind.” The radar automatically detected a taxi zipping along the road. This feature seems like it could be incredibly useful in the violent video game that rides a bike in New York.
Radar detection has become standard on cars, but is not yet common on bicycles. Electronics maker Garmin is making a bike-surprised radar called Variawhile bicycle manufacturer Cannondale recently introduced an integrated version of the Varia in some of its models.
The design of the Urtopia is unusual enough to signal that it is not an ordinary bicycle. The carbon frame has a lightning-shaped upper tube that bends into a section of the seat and then down to the seat. The frame neatly hides a 360-watt Samsung Lithium battery. Urtopia claims that you will receive a range of 30 to 80 miles depending on your weight and the power level you are using. I got about 50 miles of range in my tests with the power put in the middle.
It also looks a lot like your phone, making it feel very familiar
The carbon fiber frame is lightweight for an electronic bike at about 30 pounds. It’s also stiff enough to make riding a pleasure even when you’re exhausted. Keep in mind, however, that Urtopia is fast-paced, which makes it great for flying around the city but less suitable for hills.
I’ve been a long-time cyclist, but a poor mechanic, so I was a little nervous to find myself having to put together the Urtopia. Urtopia is a company directly to a consumer, which means the bike is shipped to your home in a cardboard box. You have to set up the bike yourself, but luckily, this is a simple process that took me less than 15 minutes. Mostly it’s about putting on the pedals and charging the battery.
For a tech lover who wants a futuristic bike, the Urtopia is in its own class. The single speed and limited battery capacity are not ideal for stubborn riders, but for $ 2,799, the Urtopia delivers many unique features and a lightweight carbon frame. It also looks a lot like your phone, making it feel very familiar, even if it’s over $ 1,000 Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.