Bikes for commuting need to be tough and tend to fall into well-recognised camps, whether tourer, hybrid or cyclocrosser. But this contender from direct-buy king Canyon is ploughing a very distinct Teutonic furrow.
Fresh urban approach
The German online retailer obviously gave its design team a clean slate – or whatever the electronic version is – when it told them to make its machine for the concrete jungle. The Canyon Urban is the result. It’s available in four permutations, and we tested the top-end belt-driven model.
There’s a more expensive Canyon ‘Commuter’, which also comes in belt and chain drive versions. When testing, the futuristic Canyon drew more than its fair share of comments – not all of them entirely positive, we might add.
It's neat and unobtrusive but the stem is one size only, limiting adjustability
The Canyon is impressively light and, though an urban machine, it’s in Canyon’s ‘Category 2’, which means it can be used on maintained gravel tracks and dirt roads. The super-slick Kojak tyres aren’t the best on loose gravel but are an absolute winner in its more traditional urban heartlands.
The downside of such a distinctive design is that you have to get the sizing bang on when you buy, and this is an internet-only purchase so trying before you buy isn’t an option. Our tester would have liked a longer stem than the 80mm one fitted, for instance, but that’s standard on the two smaller size Urbans, and as it’s a dedicated design swapping it is a non-starter.
Too much security?
Punctures might also be a bit of an issue to sort, as the bike comes with Ixow Wheelguard Gravity security axles. It’s a neat system to improve bike security, only allowing the axles to be unscrewed and the wheel removed when the bike’s upside down, but forget the dedicated key and you’ll have to repair the puncture in situ – with a puncture repair kit. Damage the tube totally and be prepared to walk!
The Urban's look is a conversation starter
The hydraulic disc brakes, however, are pretty much faultless, and the Gates Carbon belt drive smooth, clean and oil free.
The ride is lovely. A lot of Canyon’s own flexy seatpost is exposed, but you can still feel the efficiency and stiffness of the compact alloy frame. The Urban’s wheels are notably small, though they’re not the old 26in mountain bike standard we thought they were, but the newer (or rediscovered) 650b, also known as 27.5in.
Their size means they roll better than 26in wheels and they’re tougher than 700c wheels. In spite of being a 'new' size (if you're a roadie, anyway), there’s already a lot of choice, especially in rubber designed for gnarlier rides.
The Urban is a winner for zipping around rough city streets – just take care with the sizing
Its lack of adjustability is probably its main weakness, but the Urban is light, fast and comfortable, and ideal for shorter, sharper commutes, zinging through traffic, bouncing over potholes and dropping off kerbs with élan. It’s great fun, too.
We’d put more versatile bar-ends on for a greater variety of riding positions, but the Gates belt drive is a winner. It’s surprising given its lack of need for lubing that it hasn’t become more popular in urban machines. Our guess is that the extra expense has put companies and consumers off, though the trade-off is that the belt will outlast numerous chains, and there’s no oil to stain your clothes.