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Electra Ticino 16D review

Submitted by on January 17, 2011 – 10:09 am53 Comments

I’m a sucker for shiny bits and when it comes to aesthetics I prefer a classic/vintage look versus a modern, space-aged one.  So naturally the Electra Bike Ticino (pronounced tuh-chino) line represents pure crack for someone like me.  When my neighborhood bike shop got a Ticino in stock I started riding it every time I visited.  Finally I couldn’t take it any more so last December I ordered the 16D and couple of hundred miles later I’m still happy.

Details
The Ticino comes in two sizes, regular and large (a “ladies” mixte version is also available).  I bought the large size which has a 32″ stand-over height (yeah that doesn’t seem large to me either).  The bike looks beefy yet the 6061 T-6 aluminum frame makes it surprisingly light.  A CroMo fork ensures a smooth ride.  The sitting position is upright yet slightly forward, so it has a very subtle sporty feel to it.  All your weight rests in the saddle though, and not your hands or arms.  The handlebars are somewhat wide yet not as swept back as the Electra Amsterdam.  Well balanced would be a good description for the ride.  The longest ride I have taken so far was about 30 miles.  I could have ridden much longer as this is a very comfortable bike for me.

The city bike style saddle is wider than a Brooks B17 but narrower than a Brooks B68.  It offers a little bit of cushion, more so than a leather one, but it’s a dense saddle to be sure.  I have a Brooks B68 and I find the Electra saddle to be more comfortable.  I have really enjoyed how the Ticino bar-end brake levers feel in my hands, coupled with the wide Tektro cantilever brakes the stopping is firm and deliberate.

The bike is powered by a Shimano 2300 16-Speed Drivetrain, Rapidfire Plus shifters and a Ticino forged alloy compact double crankset. I have never been a fan of “rapid fire” thumb shifters and I’ve recently realized why – most of the ones I’ve used in the past were of very low quality and were difficult to engage.  These are easy and comfortable to use.

The frame design is relaxed and therefore more comfortable for extended rides.  Precisely the sort of thing Electra is known for.

Sometimes it’s the small details that stand out and one that I noticed, and really appreciate, is the dual fender strut mounts.  Electra did not have to use two fender mounting points, they could have used one and no one would have complained;  but they used two and the end result is a much sturdier bond between the fenders and the struts.  Nice. The hammered fenders look nice too.

Two is better than one

The constructeurs rack is an elegant addition yet Electra warns that it has a 2lb limit, so this is not a rack that will handle 40lbs of commuter gear.  If you carry a lot of stuff you’ll want to use a shoulder bag.  They also sell a small front rack that I plan to add later.

Frame Geometry
The Ticino line does not incorporate Electra’s patented “flat foot” technology, yet “slack” is the term that comes to mind when you look at the frame geometry.  You feel very in control, confident and upright when riding it.  If you want to compete with your racing friends then you’ll be much happier riding a bike designed for sport and not for leisure. Unless of course you can time travel back to the 1920s…In that case you might try competing in the Tour de France with it.


In their article, “Unraveling the Mystery of 1920s Geometries” (Summer 2010

Comparing the Ticino geometry to a 1920s era racing bike. Bicycle Quarterly, Vol 8, No. 4 Summer 2010

p58-60) Bicycle Quarterly noted that Ticino’s shallow head angle (67°) and fork offset (80mm) is very similar to a 1926 Automoto Tour de France racing bike.  They mounted drop handlebars and made a few other minor adjustments to convert the Ticino into a road bike that would replicate a racing bike from that era.  Then they then hit some trails that would have been similar to the paths taken in a 1920s Tour de France.  The authors concluded:

“A 1920s racer would have encountered sharp turns only during gravel descents, where his hard and narrow tires would have limited the speed so much that the reluctance to turn would not have posed a problem.  So these geometries probably felt like a natural fit to the racers, and the bikes worked well on the gravel roads of the time.”

I would not encourage anyone to race a Ticino but it’s an interesting observation about the geometry and simulation by our friends at Bicycle Quarterly.  And I really like the idea of a Ticino road bike now…

Nitpicking
There is not much to complain about though a few minor things are worth mentioning. Neither the rack nor rear fender was made with any means of adding a reflector or blinker.  Electra makes a very nice fender mounted blinker for the Amsterdam and I bet it would fit the Ticino fender, but there are no holes to accommodate it.  Bummer.  Also, there is a very cool accessory “port” built into the saddle yet they are not currently making any accessories for it.  What a tease – that’s like selling bottled beer without the beer!  I bet that will change sooner than later – Electra is big on selling accessories.

The mystery saddle accessory port

The tires (700c)  are billed as 32mm but they looked (and felt) way skinnier than that, so I had the store replace them with a set of Bontrager Nebulas (which are indeed 32mm, I measured).  I bet I am not the only one who replaced the tires right after purchasing the bike.  Finally, and to be really nitpicky…the cantilever cable hangers look like they were procured from Johnson’s Fixture and Surplus Plumbing Supply.  They are the only components on the bike that look out of place. All in all my “complaints” are pretty minor stuff.


Speaking of Electra Bike
Electra Bike was founded in 1993 by Benno Bänziger and Jeano Erforth. They set out to promote the “having a bike in your life” aspect of cycling.  Cruisers were their original focus and at first they were laughed at by many bike dealers.  Who would want to ride a single speed cruiser with a wild paint job?  Well apparently a lot of people did and still do.  A decade or so later and everyone wants to be their friend. Cycling just because it’s fun seems to have worked well for them.

Electra Bike ad

The company is known for making stylish and solid bicycles and also for their whimsical ads and catalogs.  Bänziger has a back ground in graphic design and the artistic influence is apparent when you thumb through their catalogs and look at some of their bicycle offerings.

Summary
The Ticino line represents another step in the evolution of the Electra Bike company.  The 16D carries a MSRP of $1,100 and would be a good choice for someone who’s looking for a relaxed and comfortable ride at a moderate pace, and they don’t require their bike to haul a lot of heavy stuff for them.  I’m very satisfied with mine and I’m looking forward to seeing what Electra does for an encore.

For more Ticino eye candy go here.

-Chris

edit – kickstand photo for James:

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Chris started riding a bike again when he noticed the Preston Ridge Trail being constructed across the street from his house. Since then he co-founded Biking in Dallas, has gone through countless Craigslist bike projects (some better than others) and can be found pedaling around town on a Electra Ticino with a camera in tow.

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