WHAT THE HECK IS AN URWAHN PLATZHIRSCH?
Hipster cool or office pro
Urwahn is a German-based bike company that specializes in building steel-framed city and gravel bikes that have a significant element of them that is 3D printed. As far as we understand, they are very unique to the bike market, with only one or two other bike companies using such a process to aid frame construction, so naturally it was important for us to find out more about them. Like all bike companies, Urwahn (pronounced “Uhr-van”) stays true to their roots and has their own unique names for each product.
The innovative frame-build concept was created in collaboration with the Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg in Germany, with research into the construction partly funded by the EU. The aim of the project and product was to create a sustainable-build concept made close to the market, that some day could represent a practical norm.
In simple terms, Urwahn has come up with a process to take simple steel tubes and weld them to complex 3D junction points in a very precise way. From a design point of view, the effect is mesmerizing. The frame is made in Germany and is subject to a sustainable materials policy. The use of steel promotes material recycling and is much easier to repair or reprocess compared to other commonly used materials. The “fair frame” label means they are drastically able to reduce CO2 emissions during the production process.
“We would call it the ‘pro’ version of urban e-bikes.”
The first thing we noticed about the bike is that the build quality was exceptional. The paint finish on the frame is one of the best we have ever seen on an urban bike, and the overall product readiness for our specific tastes was perfect. It is rare that we can take a bike out of the box and closely examine it and find few things to question.
The geometry is interesting, as Urwahn has focused on maneuverability with a rear end that is quite short in reference to the rider’s seating position. The rider position is comfortable and not aggressive, although it is not a sit-upright, Dutch-city-style bike. This position gives the rider a dynamic ride-mode ability, meaning fun can be had at the rider’s discretion.
Overall, this is a modern-design urban bike, and the bike caught a lot of people’s attention when we were out riding it. We personally stepped back a few times and looked at the lines and felt it had an almost artistic quality to it.
Our single-speed model was driven by a Gates Carbon belt drive, which is ideal for flat or gentle hills and all-around city use. Apart from being silent, the Gates drive also runs completely clean, meaning no dirty, lubed chains dirtying your pants or sofa. As each bike is customizable, a traditional geared version with a derailleur is also available. The frame is then powder-coated with one of the highest-quality paints we have seen on a bike.
The 28-inch wheelset is robust enough for pavement, as well as other urban surfaces. We liked the inclusion of both the full-coverage mudguards and Shimano MT disc brakes, which are reliable and very low maintenance.
Other extras to note are the hex-lock components, which means the bars can’t be removed or stolen if it’s locked up. Also, the inclusion of a GPS tracker for further peace of mind. The internal lights were very efficient and increased visibility of the rider in the daytime significantly. The fact you don’t have to worry about removing them or remembering to charge them was also very useful.
Lastly and worth mentioning is the Mahle e-bike remote, which has taptic feedback, which lets the rider feel each shift into a different power mode. Within an urban environment this is a very clever accessory, because you no longer have to be distracted in traffic by looking at a display to get the same information. Everything about this bike is subtle, and it’s very well designed and extremely modern.
Mahle is probably the most well-known rear hub motor on the market, and they are known for their extremely high-quality build. The motor is basically silent and very well integrated. The controller on the bar is very well positioned and easy to operate. The 250Wh battery was sufficient for typical daily urban usage, and we never flattened it during our time on board. In the end, the range for bouncing around the city is more than enough for a few days, assuming you’re riding 10–15 miles a day. There is no display, but you can see charge levels and support levels according to the LED lights on the controller and the various flashing combinations.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
This is a bike for the bike purist who appreciates style and advanced technology and wants to ride every day. In fact, we would liken it to a “pro” version of urban bikes. It is directly comparable to the top-of-the-range e-bikes from the big brands but with more finesse. Nothing about the bike is compromised.
We spent time riding the Urwahn around the busy streets of Firenze, Italy, with a mix of cycling paths and bike lanes with plenty of traffic at rush hour. The mix of road conditions (from paved to pavé) was a good test to see how well the Platzhirsch handled urban abuse. We really appreciated the short back end, as it provided a very agile ride, which was especially good fun in the busy town environment.
The single-speed Gates drive system was very smooth, and obviously one can choose the ratio that suits their needs. However, in this spec, we think if you have steep hills, then it would be better to opt for the standard cassette and gear option. The Gates drive, though, is smoother, and power delivery feels more direct. The fact that it’s cleaner and quieter is also a nice touch. A single-speed is also actually surprisingly easy to use and maintain. Acceleration is slower with a single speed, but the assist power is so smooth and noticeable that any rider will be easily up to traffic speed at the right moment.
The steel frame feels very smooth to ride. It’s more flexible than aluminum, meaning it absorbs road vibrations and bumps very well, plus it’s very strong. Durability in this sense is one of Urwahn’s selling points, as the frame material is repairable. We didn’t feel we needed suspension in a mixed-surface environment, as the frame was compliant. The Urwahn proved its urban worth after riding around a busy town filled with so much sudden braking and traffic-lane changes. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. Our bike also came with a rack, which allowed us to easily carry some shopping bags.
Of note, there are also gravel versions available, which allows you to spec an off-road-ready variant for extended use outside the urban environment.
Urwahn has produced a range of bikes that are custom in style and in pricing. The 3D technology involved in the bike’s production has attained enough recognition for its level of innovation to have already picked up a range of design awards. Bike manufacturing should always try to be as sustainable as possible, and the Urwahn is an impressive step in that direction. Better still is that it ends up being a valuable component to anyone looking for a better way to get around the city without getting in a car.
Taking the smooth-ride feel into account, plus looking at all the specifications above, this is definitely a luxury-level product for a dedicated enthusiast or someone looking for a distinctive way to get around on their daily commute. It’s a sporty, fast ride around town and rewards the user with a top-brand product feel. The concept proved by this bike is the fact that close-to-home production works. On-demand production is also feasible.
Judging by reactions we received by passersby, the bike clearly has broad appeal, especially when you ride it! We think the Urwahn competes with the top brands and their e-bike urban offerings, yet it is actually taking a stab at being “better” for the world. Would we buy one, shortlist it or avoid it? Honestly, if we had the need for a city bike and the budget, we would go right ahead and buy it. It has just about every feature that we could want, plus it was really a lot of fun to ride, and we would expect a very long life out of this product, despite the initial high-end purchase price.
Price: $ 5,112.90 (our specific spec)
Frame: CT1 FR1 steel, internal routing 3D printed and welded.
Fork: Ct1-FS1 rigid
Motor: Mahle 250W, 40 N/m, 15-20 mph (market depending)
Battery: 250Wh (50-mile range) extender, 208 Wh
Controls: Mahle iWOC Trio with taptic feedback
Top speed: 15–20 mph (market depending)
Chain: Gates Carbon Drive
Brakes: Shimano MT disc 160mm
Lights: Lightskin handlebar with integrated light. Lightskin seatpost with integrated light.
Saddle: Ergon SFC30 EVO Gel Stealth Edition
Racks: HR Gepacktrager
Rims: Ryde Dutch 19–622mm with wheel mounted Mahle motor
Weight: 40 lb. (L size)
Color choice: Customer chooses upon ordering