BSNYC Product Review: Electra Ticino 8D

As many of you are probably aware by now, former President of the United States and avid mountain bike enthusiast George W. Bush has recently gone "29er:"

If only Bush had adopted larger wheels back when he was in office, he totally would have cleared that gnarly second term, and he might even have successfully made it through that highly technical "Iraq" section. (As Gary Fisher will tell you, it's all about the "angle of attack.") Incidentally, the bicycle Bush is about to drape those baggy shorts over is a Niner, and you may remember Chris Sugai of Niner (the guy who isn't George Bush or the other guy in the helmet) as the star of my favorite product-testing video of all time:

Few people know that Sugai was actually a member of Bush's cabinet, and in that capacity was responsible for much of our government's policy during his tenure. Trouble with other countries? Hit them with a hammer! Economy is sluggish? Hit it with a hammer! Hammer-wielding maniac on the loose? Hit him with a hammer! He also engaged Dick Cheney to help test some of those early Niner crabon fork prototypes, though the infamous "shotgun test" was not only unsuccessful but also fatal and Niner quickly removed it from YouTube. (A bit of advice: when Cheney asks, "Hey, can you hold this fork for a second?," don't agree.)

Still, you've got to admire a company willing to literally pound the crap out of its products, and I only wish Gerard Vroomen of Cervelo would do the same instead of producing fashion shows:

Amazingly, despite this display, the full pro team kit has yet to take off as casual wear.

Speaking of getting new bikes and testing things, I recently received a new "test-cycle" in the form of an Electra Ticino 8D:

Since it comes from a "collection" and is represented by a picture of a guy wearing a wool jersey and the sort of hat worn by people who are way too into "craft ales," I knew the Ticino was going to be something special (and by "special" I mean "pretentious"). Incidentally, Electra are well-known for their "Townie" bicycles, which feature that insanely relaxed "flat foot technology" geometry and are ideal for canine "portaging" (or, if you're not from Portland, "schlepping"):

(Woman on Townie schleps dog in Prospect Park, Brooklyn)

Electra also sells those Amsterdam quasi-Dutch bikes, one of which I actually reviewed last year:

(Wasn't I pretty back then?)

The Ticino, however, is something different. Here's how Electra's copy explains it:

Whether you ride every day or go for long journeys on the weekend, the Ticino will handle it in comfort and style. Named for an Italian-influenced area of Switzerland, Ticino's design aesthetic, craftsmanship and frame integrity are inspired by the vintage Randonneur-type bikes once ridden throughout the region. Stylistically, Ticino picks up where bike builders of the '40s and '50s left off with its retro-inspired hubs*, cranksets, chainrings, tourist handlebars, forks, pedals and rims. But this thing is far from a relic. When it coms to performance, the Ticino is decked out with the latest custom Electra components and will hold its own against other sporty rides with fast-rolling 700c wheels, a lightweight frame and a host of drivetrains from single-to 20-speed. All in all, the Ticino is a fine-tuned, smooth-gliding machine that offers a comfort level no longer found in today's twitchy frames. Take your time to study the unique details of each model.

*on Ticino 18D, 20D and LUX models

In other words, it's a mass market version of all those North American Handmade Bicycle Show "Artisan Porteurs" that people who wear wool cycling caps love to ogle, but for people who think "lug" is a synonym for "schlep," Rivendell is where Archie and the gang lived, and who don't know Velo Orange from a Jaffa orange.

Anyway, I got the 8D, which doesn't have the "retro-inspired hubs" and which was fine with me because I couldn't care less what my hubs look like. Here's the way the bike looked when I pulled it out of the box:

And here's how it looked after I assembled it, removed the reflectors, and performed my customary and elaborate pie plate-burning ceremony:

Here's the view other cyclists will have when you're "salmoning" towards them. ("Salmon" love Electras like "Freds" love Treks):

Here's the view other riders will have when you're dropping them--which, let's be honest, isn't going to happen:

And here's the way the Electra Ticino looks when it's waiting to go to the bathroom:

It needs to go so bad its spokes went from 3-cross to 4-cross.

As I mentioned, my Ticino didn't come with the "retro-inspired hubs," but it did come with other "custom Electra components," such as the TA-like (or T-Ain't) cranks:

Rims with a vintage-like Mavic-esque pre-exploding wheel era-inspired sticker:

A quill stem with a little threaded cap to cover the stem bolt:

And faux-leather grips with bar-end brake levers:

Together with the vaguely Brooks-like saddle, skinwall tires, and "hammered" (or hammered look) fenders, the bike will do doubt infuriate Randonnerds, retrogrouches, and the sorts of people who bedeck their bicycles with an airport carousel's worth of canvas luggage, but will simply look really nice to people who don't know what any of that means or who don't really care. By the way, here's the OBBS (or Obligatory Bottom Bracket Shot):

While not "beefy" by James Huangian standards, you may note that the bike uses a single chainring sandwiched by a couple of chainring guards, and that it also includes vibration dampeners on the fenders. Also, the frame is aluminum, which will doubtless have rendered any remaining retrogrouches who have not long since defected to Classic Rendezvous apoplectic.

I, however, am not troubled by the facsimile aspect of the bicycle, and while the aesthetic is a little "precious" for me my first impression was that it's a very nice-looking bike. I also found it very comfortable, thought it handled well, was sensibly geared, and was even light enough for the average "wuss" to carry up and down a few flights of stairs.

But to really test it properly I had to take it "out on the town" in the manner of a typical non-bike dork simply looking to ride a comfortable bicycle from one place to another. Fortunately, fatherhood has already rid me of the extraneous portions of my dignity, and I no longer give much thought to my attire or equipment when mounting a bicycle. So, clad in a pair of homemade "shants," flip-flops, and (my only concession to foppery) a canvas bag from Rivendell, I grabbed the Ticino and set out looking like the miserable aftermath of a collision between "cycle chic" and Mugatu's "Derelicte."

My first thought was that this was a kinder and gentler sort of bicycle than I typically ride, and that it was well-suited for the kinder and gentler urban cycling offered by New York City's new lime green protected bike lanes, onto which I soon steered the Ticino:

Incidentally, you may notice that, way in the distance, there is a woman riding a mountain bike on the sidewalk. Apparently, she was too afraid to ride in the street, yet moments before I took this picture she had ridden right through that intersection against the light and was nearly hit by a car. She had a look of terror on her face the entire time, and it was as if some otherwordly force was compelling her towards death and she was powerless to resist. "Must stop at light...can't stop at light." Here she is about to do it again:

This time she actually manages to cross the intersection diagonally, maximizing her exposure time to oncoming traffic:

Anyway, soon I was in Prospect Park, where I joined my upright-riding brethren:

Note the "epic" quill stem on this Klein:

He has more headset spacers than most people have steer tube.

Shortly afterwards, I passed an excited gentleman who regarded me wide-eyed and shouted, "Is that a Schwinn?" At first I was frightened, thinking it was an enraged Grant Petersen come to tackle me from the Ticino and give it the "hammer test." I soon realized it wasn't, though, and as I passed I answered "No." Crestfallen, he reacted as though I had just called his mother a Schwinn. "Not a Schwinn!?!," he exclaimed. However, I did not have time to explain to him that it was not a Schwinn and was in fact a mass-produced facsimile of the "artisanal" retro-inspired bicycles so popular with the "bike culture" right now, and continued on.

Of course, navigating Prospect Park is one thing; hanging with the "hipsters" of Williamsburg on its eponymous bridge is quite another, and it was with trepidation that I approached its purple girders:

Desperately, I clawed my way up to the trio of "hipsters" ahead of me:

Amazingly, I caught them without breaking my flip-flops:

Arriving in Manhattan, I decided I liked the bike. It was as comfortable as a bike needs to be, but it was in no way sluggish. I did, however, ride cautiously, and when I encountered a Mercedes with a vanity plate reading "Cupper" I kept a safe distance:

I did not relish a run-in with the "cupper," having no idea what it was intended to cup.

By the way, so bike friendly has New York City become that in addition to bike lanes we now have designated folding bike unfurling areas:

However, stoplight match sprints continue unabated:

As does shoaling, and on my way back to Brooklyn I was shoaled repeatedly and violently by a "Beautiful Godzilla" in the 2nd Avenue bike lane:

In any case, as everyday transportation the Ticino performs very well, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't thoroughly enjoyed my time on it--though I'd also be lying if I said I didn't find it a little "precious." (Then again, I am a considerable and dedicated schlub.) It's very comfortable, it has fenders, it's stable yet reasonably quick, and you can carry it up steps. It is not exactly cheap, however, and it retails for about $800--though some dupes actually pay close to that for Flying Pigeons, so I suppose price is relative. Plus, it comes with most of what you'd need apart from a rack. To some extent I suppose it is an affront to the more rarefied corners of cycling, but at the same time it's also a coup for accessibility, and it's nothing if not enticing. And it makes way more sense than a Klein with a flagpole for a quill stem.

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