Of all the bikes we've tested at BikeRadar's satellite office in Boulder, Colorado – be it an incredibly light road racer, slick cyclo-cross machine or über-carbon mountain tamer – none has garnered as many unsolicited compliments from strangers as our latest townie, the Electra Ticino 18D.
One woman even screamed across two lanes of traffic to ask where we'd bought the thing. The reason? Style – and there's lots of it here. Given the premium US$1,500 price tag, there's thankfully heaps of substance underneath the fetching green skin, too.
Ride & handling:Comfortable, relaxed and reasonably quick; watch out for slippery braking
While the 'take in the scenery' riding position fosters a relaxed pace, the Ticino 18D is still reasonably quick if you're running late for something across town (as we frequently are). Total weight with pedals is a reasonable 12.49kg (27.54lb).
The high-volume 700x32c Panaracer Pasela gumwall tyres offer up a relatively fast roll, and the 2x9 gearing provides a suitably useful range – augmented by Shimano's proven Tiagra bits plus modern shift gates and ramps on the old school-looking chainrings.
Still, don't expect any lightning-fast starts from traffic lights. While the Ticino feels eager enough at lower to medium speeds, you definitely hit a wall if you try to go much harder – the frame's not exactly blisteringly efficient, and the upright position is hardly aerodynamic.
Handling is very much orientated towards the 'relaxed' end of the spectrum, with the very slack angles yielding a nearly wholly unweighted front wheel and bars that place your hands behind the steering axis. In all fairness, the Ticino isn't designed to aggressively slice through traffic and its languid personality makes it hard to stress out about it – just shut up, roll along and be happy, damn it!
It's perhaps a good thing you won't find yourself racing for stoplights as braking is only so-so, at least at first. The polished rim surfaces look nice when new but they're quite slippery even with the high-leverage reverse-style brake levers clamping hard on the wide-profile Tektro cantilevers. Stopping distances – especially in the wet – improved dramatically once that shiny surface wore down a bit but the wheels no longer looked as good.
Frame & equipment: Expensive for a townie but dripping with style and substance
The Ticino's overall layout mimics that of traditional Dutch commuter rigs, with a wide, swept back bar, relaxed angles on the TIG-welded aluminium frame and matching brazed Reynolds chromoly fork, and casually upright positioning courtesy of the very tall head tube and generously proportioned stem. What's bolted on only adds to the overall aesthetic and the attention to detail is very impressive.
The Electra brand name graces a number of traditionally styled and highly polished bits, including the five-point high-flange aluminium hubs (with cartridge bearings throughout), double-wall alloy rims, six-arm TA-style aluminium square taper cranks, cartridge bearing alloy and chromed steel pedals, and the chromed and beautifully fillet brazed steel stem – complete with threaded top cap to neatly seal off the otherwise unsightly expander wedge bolt.
Other details include subtly laser etched logos (even on the custom Electra chromed quick-release skewers), classic hammered mudguards (US: fenders) front and rear, tidy brazed stainless steel racks at both ends, stainless steel cable housing throughout, matching faux leather grips and wide saddle, and even real leather toe straps and toe protectors on the chromed clips plus toe strap buttons – toe strap buttons!
Stylish or not, we still came across a few functional oversights. While nice to look at, the racks have very small shelves and are only minimally useful without the addition of panniers and bags (from Brooks, of course). We're also surprised at the lack of a chainguard of some sort or a bell considering the bike's obvious commuter bent, and if by chance you like to run your saddle slightly nose-down, you're out of out with the stock setup here – the standard seatpost can only barely accommodate the slack seat tube angle.
Last but certainly not least is the woeful omission of a kickstand – or even a dedicated mount for one. We're generally not too opposed to the idea of leaning a beaten-down townie bike up against a pole when it comes to time to run inside somewhere but the Ticino 18D is simply too nice for that and just begs for a kickstand – preferably of the two-legged type. Sure, you can still clamp one on, either to the chainstays or back by the rear dropout, but either would mar the paint. Bummer.
Otherwise, though, the Ticino 18D has been everything you could want out of a high-end townie: stylish, efficient, comfortable and useful. Just be sure to bring your chequebook. And be prepared to answer questions from total strangers.