The last few years have seen something of a resurgence in commuter-friendly, fun, comfortable, stylish bicycles. In that vein, we've been anticipating the release of the Ticino line from Electra, and I venture to say that new ground has been broken. Electra has been successfully serving the niche for a while now, namely with its very popular Amsterdam. But for those wanting to stay healthy, enjoy themselves, and save money and emissions with a more refined aesthetic, the Ticino family delivers elegantly.
The full Ticino line includes seven models ranging from an economical single speed to a lavish 20-speed. At the top of the line sits the exquisite 20D, an aluminum hand-built frame decked out in a full tuxedo of brilliant custom components and accessories. The bike so embraces the old school that its 20-speed transmission is controlled with downtube shifters (the now-antiquated sort fastened to the lower tube of the frame).
For the lover of the single speed, Electra includes the upscale Ticino Lux, a single speed/fixie (flip-flop hub), with a triple butted chromoly frame and custom leather saddle.
I tested the Ticino 8D (MSRP $800), a middle of the road eight-speed with a surprisingly light aluminum frame and a sampling of the gorgeous components that Electra has custom designed for this line of cycles, like hammered front and rear fenders and unique reverse-style brake levers.
The posture of the bike was a welcome change from my typical head-down roadbike stance. Not only did my spine thank me, but I felt more visually engaged, aware of traffic and scenery in the upright position.
As someone who reveres bikes as much for their physical beauty as their utility, the Ticino is beyond satisfactory. The fenders, pedals, crankset, hubs, rims, and brake levers are elegant and authentic. The chainring is designed such that it keeps the chain from grabbing at one's pant leg without the need for a gangly chain guard.
The Shimano 2300 8-speed drivetrain and Rapidfire shifters do their job smoothly and soon become habitual to use with thumb and forefinger.
Nothing on the bike seems cheap or slapped on--everything just feels solid and enduring. Electra's investment in a full line of custom parts has paid off handsomely in both style and usability.
Finding fault with the 8D is hard, but a few things don't sit right with me. The handlebars are quite wide for my taste, and feel all the more so with the addition of the reverse brake levers. Such a light bike handles very responsively and doesn't need such broad bars. And while I'm a fan of the look and feel of the reverse brake levers, their hard plastic end caps are destined to be scratched to kingdom come when the bike is propped against a wall.
While the Shimano shifters are simple and smooth to operate, they stand out as distinctly unstylish in the context of such a handsome bike. As does Electra's own headbadge, which retains the Jack-Johnson-taking-his-surfboard-to-the-beach aesthetic.
All told this is one of the best contributions to the bike market in a long while. Bikes are beautiful things, and Electra celebrates that with a convincing homage to the hand-built bike of Europe.