I’ve been asked a few times already why I never seem to carry slip joints. Although I do have a few, they don’t make up a large part of my collection, not because I have anything against slip joints, but because the knives I happen to like coincidentally happen to have locking mechanisms. I am aware that the Spyderco Urban, one of the very few slipjoints I do own, is possibly the least traditional slipjoint ever to be conceived, but since I don’t own any traditional patterns from Case or Great Eastern Cutlery yet, this will have to do as my first slipjoint review. With that said, I find that the Spyderco Urban, being such a modern take on a traditional style, is a fascinating addition to the Spyderco line up.
Spyderco Urban Slip Joint Folding Knife – Amazon / Blade HQ
The first thing to note besides its lack of a lock is its teensy size. At 89 mm (3.5 inches) long when closed, this is most definitely one of Spyderco’s little big knives: a lot like the Balance or the Dragonfly 2 in that regard.
Originally, Elise purchased the Urban with the intention of EDC-ing it herself, but for reasons I’ll get into later, she handed it over to me shortly after unpacking it. Even though this knife is far from perfect, I’m glad to have tested it out, as it’s a well designed slipjoint, which helped me to get over my fear of losing my digits with non-locking knives.
The Spyderco Urban has a really gorgeous 65 mm (2.6 inch) full flat grind Warncliff blade. I have always loved Warncliffs for smaller EDCs, as I find the blade particularly well suited for everyday tasks like cutting up boxes.
The scales on the Spyderco Urban are quite obviously blaze orange G-10. This really is a love or hate colour (which Elise and I both happen to really love), so I won’t comment much on it except to say that such a loud colour does come in handy when you can’t remember where you’ve placed your knife. It’s especially helpful if you’re on a picnic or hiking, as if you drop your knife in the grass, it likely won’t stay missing for long.
The wire clip is identical to the one on the Sage 2, and as noted in that review, the clip functions perfectly. The wire clip hugs your pocket nicely without drawing attention to the knife, although with those 3 mm of bright orange G-10 poking out of the pocket, I wouldn’t recommend carrying the knife this way if you’re actually trying to be discreet.
This knife is linerless and very, very pocketable. It literally disappears in your pocket if you aren’t using the clip.
For those unfamiliar with slipjoints, basically think of a lock back (like the Buck 110), but instead of there being a notch for the lock to drop into, the slip joint simply rests against the tang of blade, exerting enough pressure to keep it open.
The Spyderco Urban is a pretty standard slip joint in terms of “lock” design; however, the tension on the knife is extremely strong. Yes, it’s true that the blade doesn’t lock open, but the knife will in no way close spontaneously by itself, I promise you that.
I’ve always maintained that in terms of fit and finish, Taiwanese Spydercos have the highest fit and finish, followed by USA Spydercos, and finally Chinese/Japanese made Spydercos.
Now what I’m saying here is not that USA and Chinese/Japanese knives in general have lower fit and finish than Taiwanese knives: not in the least. All I’m saying is that, after owning over 100 Spydercos, I’ve found that there’s some consistency between high fit and finish and which manufacturer Spyderco chooses for a knife. There are of course exceptions to these rules. Some Japanese Spydercos, like the Spyderco Balance, for instance, have perfect fit and finish, but others, like this Urban have quite a few glaring imperfections.
I feel this is important to note, as like many of you I purchased this knife online without seeing it in person. If I had seen the Urban in person first, I may not have bought it. I would go as far as saying that both my Spyderco Tenacious and my Spyderco Resilience blow this knife out of the water in terms of finish. And I really shouldn’t bring the recently reviewed Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K into the picture, as that knife is well above the norm in terms of quality, but by comparison to the CQC-6K, it’s like the Urban was finished by a drunk plumber.
The steel slip joint/backspacer is embarrassingly rough on the inside. I’m not joking: I’ve seen gas stations knives with fewer grind marks. You can spot them at the bottom near the tip. In our photographs its not as evident as in the flesh, but I guarantee, it’s impossible to imagine just how bad it really is.
Of course, you may really not care what the inside of the knife looks like, but for me, with the $100+ price tag on this knife, I just don’t see how this kind of fit and finish is okay.
The balance is not truly neutral but it matters not, as the Spyderco Urban only weighs 57 grams (2 oz) in total, and has an overall length of 154 mm (6 inches). In real world use, therefore, I’ve never noticed any fatigue as a result of the balance being off neutral.
The 3 mm (.125 inch) thick VG-10 blade is very nicely ground with a great tapered tip. The Urban is 100% not recommended for hard use, but as a slicer? Excellent. Prying with this tip is really not advised either, as it would take very little lateral pressure for the blade to snap. That’s not a bad thing, however, as this knife was never intended to be used as a pry bar.
The Spyderco Urban also has the perfect amount of jimping on the choil of the blade and on the thumb ramp. I find that Spyderco quite often hits the mark when it comes to jimping, they usually get it to be perfectly functional without it being excessive. Good job here.
Spyderco’s Urban features a two-stop detent (closed and 90 degree). It’s a great feature for me, but poor Elise simply couldn’t make it work out for her, which is why the Urban joined my collection instead of hers. Although she’s extremely fond of the look and feel of this one, she insisted that it’s just too hard for her to close, even with practice.
I feel that the knife opens relatively smoothly, but it’s hard to gauge, as the slip joint tension is really quite formidable. Personally, I like it, but your tastes may differ. I’d suggest testing it out, if at all possible, prior to purchasing it.
On my Spyderco Urban, the back end of the slipjoint/backspace was so poorly ground that there is a clearly visible angle. Definitely disappointing. Besides this specific part, however, everything else is very nicely put together, from the blade to the scales.
Centering is slightly off center, not a big deal but I would have expected better for a knife in this price range.
Of course, there is no lock to speak of, but I dare say that it’s highly unlikely the Urban will ever fold on you accidentally (not when my wife can barely get it open in the first place). That being said, it does have a generous choil – just in case.
Saber grip necessitates your fingers being on the choil due to the relatively short handle. It is however pretty comfortable for a light EDC knife. Be advised that it does not have a lanyard hole, so if you want to extend the grip, you’re out of luck.
Choking up fully on the blade would be great if the knife had a lock. Seeing as this is a slip joint I would advise against it, as your thumb will probably add too much pressure, risking an accidental disengagement of the slipjoint.
Reverse grip in theory is comfortable, but again this is a non-locking light EDC knife. I would advise against stabbing anything with it.
Pinch grip is pretty comfy. I’ve used this grip quite a lot on this knife, perfect for trimming the fat off of tenderloins. No issues with the slipjoint disengaging in this grip.
Interestingly, before using this knife, I thought my main issue with the Spyderco Urban would be with its lack of a lock. When I finally had it, I found out that I really didn’t miss the lock in everyday use. What really disappointed me about this knife was the piss poor finish on the slipjoint and the backspacer. I know I’ve already harped on about it, but it really does urk me because this is not a cheap knife. I’m aware that nothing is perfect, but I own many knives that cost less than $40, many which Spyderco has made (the Tenacious and the Ambitious for example), that would never leave the factory like this. The Urban is two slabs of G-10, a small VG-10 blade and a steel slipjoint. Its not rocket science. At $100+, I am damn well entitled to expect a level of finish above a $40 Spyderco’s range.
Much like the Spyderco Balance, the Urban is, in my opinion, very expensive for what you get. But unlike the Balance, the Urban doesn’t have any truly unique/eccentric design, nor does it have perfect fit and finish. In my opinion, even though Spyderco’s Urban functions well, I would save my money for something else. This definitely isn’t worth the price, not for me.
&& *Note: As I hope you know by now, I make it a point never to shill. I’m not here to sell knives on behalf of knife companies, I’m simply here to share my impressions of a knife with my readers. That means that even though I do hand pick my knives themselves (and I never look forward to disliking a knife I own), still sometimes I end up disappointed, meaning my reviews may sound overly critical when I fixate on the issues I see with a knife. This happens when I feel the knife has “failed” its intended purpose, or failed to be good value at its price point.
The Spyderco Urban is just one of those knives for me. Its low quality finish just doesn’t scream value in the $100+ price range.
Thank you for the excellent review of this knife with which I was previously not familiar.
I take in on, “it really does urk me,” you meant to say, “it really does irk me.”
And yes, I too would be irked by poor fit and finish on a knife at this price point.
I will look at some of their other products instead of this one; thanks again. =>
Thomas Xavier says
It most likely was a typo, yes. As for fit and finish- in this day and age, its inexcusable. Especially for that kind of money.
One of my constant EDCs is the UKPK; very similar to the Urban, but with a leaf-blade and hollow-ground or flat-ground in CTS-BD1, and US-made (I have both versions). I found the fit and finish on mine (bought a good few years back) to be excellent. Maybe times have changed?
Thomas Xavier says
I haven’t handled the US made slippies- with that said its quite possible that I got a lemon. At the end of the day, my issue is that for a knife that costs this much its basically inexcusable to have such poor finish out of the box.
I am a humongous Spyderco fanatic and this experience hasn’t put me off but when I encounter issues I voice them- this is not to say that Spyderco (as a whole) is a bad brand. Even good brands can make mistakes.
Dan Schwemin says
I had the same problem with my Spyderco Endura4…. The lockbar was not seating flush with the tang of the blade… Just very poor fit and finish…
Second to that, I’ve had MAJOR issues with Spyderco’s customer service… Or should I say, “Lack thereof”? Nevertheless, I would never purchase Spyderco products anymore. I think they are horrible as a company.
Thomas Xavier says
Could you elaborate on your experiences with Spyderco? I have never had to contact their customer service and so I can’t offer much advise!