First look at the Vello Bike Urbano
We are finally getting Vello Bikes coming through for both customers and for demo machines. This is our first Urbano demo machine and our first opportunity to test the non power assisted version inreal life conditions.
The Urbano is one of the cheaper machines but comes with a good level of basic equipment including a quality 8 speed Shimano derailleur gear system and Tektro V-brakes, so it qualifies as a good all-round machine with the potential for longer journeys and quite hilly terrain.
The obvious comparisons are with the Brompton, which still sets the standard for folding, both speed of folding and the compactness of the folded package. The Vello bike is a little slower as there is a security pin in the front forks that needs to be removed before you can start the fold proper, but there are a similar number of steps to the process. Once folded it is bulkier, and lacks the uniform dimensions that makes the Brompton so convenient. It also lacks the stability on the ground of the Brompton (which has three little rollers to rest on when folded) so would certainly not fit in such small spaces. It is quite easy to fold though; once you have learned the proceedure the only tricky element is aligning the little magnet clip which fixes the forks to the rear triangle. The main advantages over the Brompton are the larger wheels, which roll more smoothly, the longer wheelbase, which gives a little more stability and makes a better fit for taller people, and the ability to use more universal components for the wheels tyres and transmission.
The riding position is quite long, so it comes as standard with a very short stem, which I quite like, and it means that it is easy to adapt to taller people with a longer stem.
The ride quality is just what we had hoped. It feels responsive and sporty but stable and predictable both at low speed and at higher speeds. The 20" wheels are easy to accelerate but have enough rolling mass to keep the bike rolling smoothly and the steel frame gives enough rigidity to make the bike handle very confidently. I have been using it on my commute home through east London and it feels faster and more lively than my (admittedly very chunky) regular machine, and I already feel that its a bike that I would be happy to use long term. I am particularly looking forward to some longer rides in the hills to see how it feels.
There are a couple of things I would change if it was my own bike. The handlebars are absolutely straight across, which I don't find the most comfortable for my wrists. Comfort could be improved with some Ergon anatomic grips or it would also be possible to replace the folding handlebars with some slightly swept back conventional handlebars. The standard bars have a two stage fold; they both swivel around and fold inwards; with any other handlebars you would lose the the fold but the swivel might be enough to make it compact enough, it depends on you pattern of use. I would also put some fatter tyres on it to increase the comfort on some of the lesss-than-smooth roads I like to use. There is plenty of clearance so this would be no problem.
It always takes a while to learn about a new bike, and it will be some time before there are enough Vello Bikes on the street to get some feedback about real life use, but it does seem like a good alternative for people that don't need the compact fold of a Brompton and would prefer something that they can ride a little further in comfort.