Urtopia’s tech-heavy ebike finally nails the software

On the tail finish of final yr, a curious new entry into the ebike market emerged: Urtopia. The corporate’s mission appeared fairly clear, to take advantage of feature-rich, linked bike the world has ever seen. And with a built-in 4G SIM, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, a fingerprint reader and mmWave sensors for collision detection, it was doubtless completed. Besides, the mannequin we examined was a prototype leaving us unable to judge a number of the extra fascinating options. Till now.

The retail model of the bike is nearly similar to the pre-production model we examined on the finish of final yr bar a number of minor beauty particulars. The D-pad on the left deal with has been barely redesigned and the fingerprint reader on the suitable can be now a button. The one different seen change is the dot-matrix show, which is now flat and simpler to learn.

Maybe one of many essential options we couldn’t check wasn’t obtainable in any respect – the app. With a lot occurring within the bike, it’s extra necessary to have a companion instrument in your cellphone to verify settings and to extract extra use out of a number of the sensors (journey monitoring, for instance).

A front view of the Urtopia ebike.

James Trew / Engadget

All I’ll say is, the bike is perhaps the ultimate {hardware}, however the software program facet of issues began out a bit… much less full. However within the area of some weeks, the app has been redesigned and there have been a few firmware updates for the bike itself and the expertise feels a lot much less like a piece in progress.

However first a bit reminder. The Urtopia bike is a fixed-gear (Gates carbon belt), single hub-motor ebike with three ranges of velocity help (20MPH within the US, 15MPH in Europe). The 30lbs/15Kg metropolis bike gives roughly 60 miles of help out of the 360Wh battery. That’s a reasonably frequent spec for an ebike, however one have a look at the Urtopia will let you know this isn’t actually a standard bike.

Final time round I used to be in a position to check Urtopia’s cred as a basic street bike, and regardless of a barely stiff journey (there’s no suspension) it carried out nicely, with clean pickup from the torque-based motor. The voice management for altering velocity, locking the bike and extra was additionally enjoyable however maybe not the smoothest expertise (and even when it have been, I’m undecided we’re collectively able to be chatting with our bikes in public but).

The very first thing I wished to strive right here was the 4G connectivity. Utopia isn’t distinctive in having a mobile connection (newer VanMoofs, for instance, additionally provide connectivity), however the 4G right here is behind a number of fascinating options. For as soon as, you’ll (theoretically) get a log of your journey within the app each single time you exit. I say theoretically because it usually didn’t work for me. Then typically it did. I couldn’t fairly pin down what triggered it to work typically and never others, however I believe it’s to do with whether or not you allow the bike in standby whereas at dwelling, or should you energy it down (thus totally resetting the sensors).

After one of many firmware updates this characteristic grew to become extra dependable. Which is sweet, as a result of it was irritating to place in double-digit miles solely to come back dwelling and discover your journey wasn’t logged. Proper now, there’s not quite a bit you are able to do with the info apart from see the place you went and how briskly in a slick animation. It, after all, logs all of your miles and… as I went to examine the app for what different information it information there was an app replace (length, energy, common velocity and even CO2 saved is the reply). Proper now, you possibly can solely share the rides with the in-app “neighborhood” however the choice to share to providers like Strava can be an actual optimistic.

Screenshots of the Urtopia ebike app

James Trew / Engadget

In an identical manner, the app also can let you know precisely the place your bike is at any time, so long as the battery is linked and has sufficient energy to ping the community. It can cease working as soon as the battery completely dies, after all, but when somebody steals your journey, you must have loads of time to ping it and find it earlier than they understand it’s the world’s most linked bike and what a idiot’s errand stealing it was. 

One other safety characteristic is the fingerprint sensor. This was bodily current on the prototype, however with out the app, there was no method to set it up. It really works surprisingly nicely and means that you can flip the bike on or to disable the alarm rapidly. You may nonetheless journey the bike with out help with out unlocking the bike along with your finger, however it’s successfully a cumbersome fixie at this level. Except you flip the alarm on, then it’ll begin sounding an alert on the slightest, and I imply slightest motion which may solely be disabled with a registered digit.

One of many extra intriguing additions to the Urtopia’s spec sheet are the mmWave sensors. These are designed to detect automobiles approaching from behind on both facet. If one thing is detected, you’ll be alerted by a visible sign and vibrating handlebars. In observe, it’s a bit onerous to check with out intentionally endangering your self, however it does appear to work. Though, I’m not positive whether or not, if confronted with a truck developing behind, you is perhaps extra distracted by the alerts than the visitors itself. That’s to say, that is clearly a worthwhile characteristic, however the end result of it’s onerous to quantify right now.

Urtopia ebike's built-in navigation.

James Trew / Engadget

One thing a lot simpler to judge is the onboard navigation. Or fairly, the power to punch a vacation spot into the app, after which have visible and audio flip directions by way of the speaker and show on the handlebars. There are, after all, different methods to do that – both with a cellphone in a mount or possibly simply in your pocket with audio directions by way of headphones. However having it right here proper within the handlebars feels much more futuristic and means you don’t have to reveal your cellphone to the weather/thieves.

The dot-matrix display does have a little bit of a retro vibe to it, and makes it really feel a bit extra like KITT (particularly when it speaks to you). For the navigation, this works nicely sufficient because the arrows/instructions are proven clearly sufficient that you would be able to look at them with out being distracted.

Urtopia calls this display and speaker combo the “sensible bar” and it has different plans for it past serving up information and different visible suggestions. One instance is utilizing the bike’s speaker as a Bluetooth speaker for music. This will have by accident been my thought. I advised it to them the primary time we examined it, and now it’s a part of the app. It’s kinda enjoyable, although I’ve by no means felt fairly so self aware as I did driving by a busy park with phonecall-quality Drum & Bass taking part in from my bike. Podcasts is perhaps a bit extra its velocity, however comfortable to see the characteristic right here nonetheless.

A game of the Nokia-classic, Snake, is shown on the Urtopia ebike's built-in display.

James Trew / Engadget

There may be… extra. One other addition that was conceived after our preliminary testing is “recreation” mode. It’s not fairly what you’re doubtless imagining. Or at the least, what I used to be imagining. I assumed it is perhaps some type of digital race the place you need to “catch” up with a ghost rider like in a Mario Kart time trial. Or possibly some type of manner of constructing coaching/intervals enjoyable? However no, it’s truly a recreation of Snake you possibly can play on the show utilizing the management buttons which, to be honest, are mainly a D-pad. Clearly, to not be performed whereas shifting.

Maybe the most important probability since we final appeared on the bike is the value. Now that the crowd-funding marketing campaign is full and the bikes are made and able to ship, the $2,000 early-bird worth has given method to the common $2,799 retail worth. That places it in an identical class to one thing just like the Cowboy C4 which has fewer high-tech options, however does have the necessary theft detection and finding capabilities.

All to say that, the Urtopia undoubtedly has loads of tech attraction, however it nonetheless feels just like the software program and options are settling into themselves. If they will proceed to make that facet of the expertise as snug and as thrilling as it’s to journey, this will likely be a strong alternative for those who desire a capital-E e-bike.

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