The Spoke Word: Electra Ticino 20D Review

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Electra’s spirited exploration of the city/cruiser/commuter category continues with its new Ticino line of retro-styled city bikes. I spent the winter and spring commuting around Boulder, Colorado, on the top-of the line Ticino 20D and had a hard time giving it back. Though not always the most practical ride, the aluminum-framed Ticino is simply too much fun to be ignored.

My 20D tester was a gorgeous root beer color (Electra calls it “chestnut metallic”) and included design nods like hammered alloy fenders; comfortable, backswept handlebars; old-school downtube shifters; reverse-mount brake levers; front and rear racks; and leather-strapped toe clips. The Ticino line is built around big, 700c wheels (the same size as standard road bikes) for faster rolling, and the 20D has a 20-speed Shimano 105 drive train for commuters in hilly areas.

The bike was definitely a head-turner, as I was reminded every time I rode it. People would literally cross the street to ask me about it. It wasn't always quite as simple as it was striking, however. The geometry of the bike places the rider comfortably upright, as is the case with most Electra bikes. But this requires a fairly deep bend to reach the downtube shifters. I wound up using a backpack instead of a messenger bag with the Ticino, as the latter would swing sideways and pull me off balance whenever I reached down to shift gears. (A waist strap for the messenger bag would have been an easy fix, as well, but I tend to lose those pretty quickly.)

The pedals also took some getting used to. The surface teeth were very grippy, making it tough to quickly slip my feet into the toe clips. They were easy enough in the quiet of my driveway. But in the rush of stop-and-go city traffic, I often found myself pedaling away from intersections on the flat side of the pedals, scraping the toe clips on the asphalt until I could get back into them.

Those were my only two gripes, however. And both are easily remedied—the former by not riding with single-strap messenger bags, the latter by going with flat pedals or wearing hard-soled shoes. Otherwise, everything about the Ticino is either 100 percent practical or 100 percent fun—often at the same time, which is tough to pull off.

The long, hammered fenders kept the muck off my clothes, even in fresh snow and spring slush. They are also one of the most visually striking aspects of the bike. The swoopy bars are perfectly angled for upright comfort and easy handling, and the skinny 700C wheels get up to speed quickly. I had no problem racking up over 20 miles on this bike some days.

Prices for the Ticino line range from a reasonable $500 for a single-speed base model up to $2,000 for a fully accessorized 20-speed Ticino 20D. (Style doesn't come cheap.)

—John Bradley

Twitter: @johnwbradley

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