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The Urtopia Carbon E-Bike is a work of art that you can ride

Review: The Urtopia Carbon e-bike stands out from a crowded market with its extremely light design, futuristic appearance, and smart riding features.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer on
Pros
  • Lightweight and modern design
  • Additional features via smartphone app
  • Four-speed levels for riding
  • Integrated cell service for location tracking
Cons
  • Voice command isn't always reliable
  • Default seat is uncomfortable
  • Kickstand is not included

Part of my morning commute includes carrying my e-bike up and down through a train station and an office building. It's a heavy task, with most e-bikes I've tested weighing around 55 pounds. They're even harder to move around when the battery dies and all that weight is left for you to carry. Naturally, I've accepted the fact that in order to reap the benefits of a fast-moving e-bike, a bit of sweat is necessary.

For the past three weeks I have been riding an electric bike that weighs about half what other e-bikes do while also fully incorporating an iPhone-esque elegant high-tech design system. 

The Urtopia Carbon E-Bike is a work of art that you can ride -- my coworkers stopped by to check the bike out and were impressed with its modern design and sleek appearance. The lightweight carbon frame, sleek integrated battery, embedded display and controls in the Smartbar, single-speed belt drive, and smartphone connectivity make this a bike of the future.

The motor does well at propelling you along even with a single gear. I was able to ride at up to 20 mph on fairly flat roads, from 10 mph to 14 mph up hills, and only had to walk up one steep hill after cranking along at 7 mph for half of the hill. The Urtopia definitely has me considering whether or not having multiple gears on an electric bike is worth the maintenance and complexity for infrequent riding scenarios.  

Electric bikes at the lower end of the price spectrum, $1,500 or less, tend to have less aesthetic appeal, with visible bulky wires, lower-quality tires, and other cost-cutting features. E-bikes can be found in the $2,000-to-$4,000 range with additional features and better aesthetics. High-end models often don't even look like e-bikes, with hidden batteries and advanced materials. The Urtopia Carbon E-Bike is clearly a high-end model, but it is priced in the midrange at $2,799.

Specifications

Frame Carbon fiber
Motor size 250-watt rear hub
Pedal assist 4 levels plus walk
Range 25-62 miles
Top speed 20 mph
Battery capacity 360-Wh Samsung Li-Ion
Display LED dot-matrix
Lights Front and rear
Payload capacity 240 pounds
Brakes Dual-piston hydraulic disc
Drivetrain Gates Carbon Drive
Tires Kenda Kwest 700x35C
Bike weight 33 pounds

Assembly

The folks at Urtopia reached out to me a few months ago about testing the bike, but with my business travel I was not initially available to give it the time it deserved. Thankfully, a period of time opened up in my calendar and, soon, a large, but relatively flat, cardboard box arrived. I was immediately impressed by the fact that I was able to easily pick up the large box by myself and move it into an empty space in the garage.

After removing the plastic shipping straps, I lifted the lid on the box to reveal the Urtopia Carbon E-Bike. It was mostly assembled, with the rear tire attached, the Smartbar and front forks put together, and even the accessory bag mounted on the frame. The first step was to remove everything from the box and then use the rear tire storage cardboard pocket to hold the bike up so that the front wheel and tire could be secured to the front forks. The Allen wrenches and 15mm wrench needed for assembly are included with the bike. Urtopia even included an air pump to help you get the tires properly inflated.

Urtopia Carbon closeup

The tool bag and striping on the Sirius model.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

After you mount the front wheel, you can attach the pedals and insert the seat post into the frame. The protective plug over the nut for the seat post did not go back into the post and stay secure, so there is one element that can be improved, although it is very minor and has nothing to do with the functionality of the bike. 

You also have to connect the two cables when inserting the seat post since the rear light and turn signal indicator lights are mounted on the seat post.

With the unique frame design, there is a limit to how far down the seat post can be inserted, so when you order an Urtopia bike you select either a medium or large size. The medium bike is designed for riders who are from 5 feet, 5 inches tall to 5 feet, 11 inches tall, and the large size is designed for riders who are from 5 feet, 9 inches tall to 6 feet, 5 inches tall. 

I am 6 feet, 1 inch, and the large bike is just about a perfect fit at the lower end of the seat range. 

Urtopia logo on bike

The battery is tightly packed in the beam of the bike.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The last part of the assembly is to remove the battery from the packaging and mount it on the front frame of the bike. It easily slides into the bottom and then snaps into place. You need to use one of the two provided keys to remove the battery. You can charge the battery while mounted on the bike or with the battery removed from the bike.

See also: The $800 Lectric XP Lite e-bike is a sheer joy to ride

Hardware

After my shock at the lightweight nature of the box and the bike, the next thing that struck me about the Urtopia was the Smartbar, the company's name for the handlebar assembly. All wires connecting the controls and display are hidden inside the handlebar unit. A four-way directional control pad is positioned on the left side with the fingerprint button on the right side. In the center sits the LED dot-matrix display.

The fingerprint button is interesting and helps provide a bit of security for the bike. It functions as the unlock button, horn, and voice control activation button. A fingerprint is needed to enable the alarm feature. After I set up my fingerprint in the Urtopia smartphone app, it reliably unlocked the bike every time.

Urtopia fingerprint button

The cool integrated fingerprint sensor and horn.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The left side control pad is used for many functions, including speed control, turn signal, and lights. Pressing down for 2 seconds also puts the bike into standby mode.

A bright white LED headlight is located on the front of the Smartbar display. The display is big and bright; instead of a modern, color, crisp-font look, the dot-matrix design harkens back to the '80s. Several easily identifiable status icons appear on the display, including your speed and assist level.

The front wheel with hydraulic disc brakes is positioned below the handlebars with the sleek battery integrated into the frame just behind the Smartbar. The saddle is not very comfortable for extended rides, but Urtopia also offers an optional comfort saddle if you need it. The saddle can be removed from the seat post, which has integrated taillight and turns signal indicators. This seat post assembly, called the ARES, is discussed more below.

Urtopia Carbon thumb control

Easy thumb controls.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The pedals are fairly basic and attached to the torque sensor. There is no chain on the bike as the rear wheel is controlled by a Gates Carbon Drive belt that should last you for years. This is the first time I've ridden a bike with a belt system and I found it to be a good experience. The rear 250W motor is positioned at the center of the rear wheel.

See also: Here are the top electric bikes whether you're off-roading or commuting

Voice commands, ARES, and eSIM

Pressing and holding the right fingerprint sensor button enables voice commands. These work well when you're stationary or riding slowly, but when riding faster or in inclement weather, in my experience, the command system didn't perform reliably. Commands are available for speed modes, turning, locking the bike, controlling lights, volume control, and standby mode. The only way to completely turn off the bike is to use the voice command or else simply remove the battery. With the preceding caveat, all voice commands, except for locking the bike, worked well. For some reason I had a heck of a time getting consistent responses while trying to lock the bike.

ARES (advanced rear early indication system) sounds like a modern, advanced function and, given the name, I thought it would include something like a Garmin bike radar that would warn me of approaching vehicles with notifications that might appear on the display. However, it is simply a bright rear red taillight and two ineffective turn indicator projection lights. These two side lights show a logo down on the ground just to the right and left of the bike. The only way anyone could see these dim lights would be if they were in a very dark environment and standing adjacent to the bike.

Urtopia Carbon with no chain

No chains to worry about on the Urtopia.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

I see little utility in the current ARES system and stopped using the turn indicators entirely. Having the split rear taillight flash for the right or left side would seem to make more sense, as it could be helpful to inform drivers or riders behind you where you plan to turn. 

The bike contains an eSIM card with 4G support and GPS so the position of the bike is tracked when you ride. The eSIM can also be used as part of the bike recovery process if the alarm horn does not deter a thief. Having an active eSIM on the bike costs $29.99 per year.

Smartphone app

The smartphone app is essential to the full Urtopia Carbon E-Bike experience and it is available for iOS and Android. There are three main tabs in the app: Home, Navigation, and Mine. The Home screen shows you tiles with your recent ride, CO2 saved estimate, news, user guide, and stories that include the Urtopia.

The Navigation part of the app lets you search for a destination and then plot a course to that destination. The map view gives you the distance and estimated duration, assuming you are riding the bike. Tap the Go button to start navigating to the destination, and if your bike is on and connected to your phone then the navigation prompts will appear on the center display of the Smartbar. This is a very cool feature of the bike that makes it so you do not need a separate bike computer.

Urtopia Carbon route map

A truly connected bike experience

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

On the last tab, Mine, you can connect to the bike via Bluetooth, view weekly ride reports, check your previous routes (data collected via GPS and uploaded via eSIM), and your CO2 saved. The routes that you rode show the start time, duration, distance, average speed, and a map of your route. Tap the play button to view your route in a replay animation. Diving into your bike connection you can view the battery status, adjust sound/volume/vibration levels, set up the fingerprint, check the health of your bike, and view a few advanced settings. There are also buttons to turn on the lights, lock the bike, or sound the alarm.

Bottom line

The Urtopia Carbon e-Bike showed me that not all e-bikes have to be heavy, or have basic displays and visible cables. The Carbon is a good-looking bike, both an elegant piece of art and a modern road bike with the advanced technology we expect in 2022. The light weight, cool design, and solid riding experience have me considering this as a future bike option. I would outfit it with a more comfortable seat and fenders for commuting in inclement weather.

If you want an electric bike that doesn't look like a typical electric bike and is lightweight, then you should consider the Urtopia Carbon E-Bike. The price of $2,799 sounds better when you consider that other high-end bikes like this are $3,000 to $5,000.

Alternatives to consider

Here are some other lightweight and portable e-bikes that may interest you.

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