I purchased a Townie 8 "Balloon" yesterday, and had a chance to ride it home, and then for a 5 or 6 mile trip on some bike trails around town.
I like the Nexus hub. So far, so good. One drawback is that with any internal hub, you have no external tensioner, and thus your chain length is permanent. I thought of this after my ride because I pondered if I could somehow install a 3-speed chain ring instead of it's 1 single chain ring. Besides the lack of a tensioner to give & take slack for the different sizes of rings, it would also need a stub shaft on the bottom bracket. All this to say that any internal hub, such as the Nexus on the back, will always remain whatever it is. In my case, an 8 speed.
I would venture a bit further to say that the salepeople's claims of "the 8-speed has the same bottom end and top end as a 21 speed MTB" to be a bit far fetched. In 8th gear, I went at a good clip, but not as fast as my Gary Fisher MTB, and in 1st gear, I could get up parking lots and sidewalks with a slight incline. There is NO WAY that this bike has the same low end as a 21 speed anything. If you see more hills in your future, and if you can sacrifice some top end speed, a person could always swap the chainring for a smaller diameter, and thus give you an easier time on steep hills.
Now for the good part. This bike is a compromise. You get 80% of the overall speeds (12-15% off bottom, maybe 8-10% off top) with what seems like an awesome internal hub. You get the "Flat-Foot Technology," however, know that I'm 6'0" and I like to have my seat adjusted higher up so I get good full leg extension when I ride. This means with the seat so high up, there goes being able to sit on it with my feet flat on the ground. I still have to stand on 1 foot when I stop. However, if you don't need full leg extension, lower the seat until your feet touch, and you will still have a fairly comfortable ride. The "beach cruiser" look, I guess.
The seat and grips are appointed in a high-end simulated leather. (I felt bad leaving it parked outside last night and covered the bike up.)
By the way, if you are looking for a bike you can customize to your own tastes, this is it. Electra/Townie had a catalog with the owner's literature, and they have all kinds of deluxe accessories. (Even a surfboard rack!)
My overall impression was one of great comfort, a fun ride, and I would definitely recommend the bike to a friend. Great on pavement and dirt. Balloon tires a little slick, so stay out of mud, etc., or you may have some wheel spin. If I were to rate it, it would be 4 out of 5 stars.
Price wise, I paid $750 at a bike store in Anchorage Alaska, which isn't bad considering freight costs to get things here. The $750 is on the high side due to the Nexus internal hub and the Internal Roller Brakes. Not too sure about roller brakes yet to give a good opinion one way or another.
I have heard (from REI Tech) that the Shimano Nexus hubs are great for consumers because they are low maintenance; however, they are VERY complex to disassemble & reassemble. I heard stories of 1 or 2 that they just replaced the whole bike on instead. The folks at the bike store I bought from told me they haven't had any problems so far with the hubs.
I say all this in case you experience a problem. A new hub goes for ~ $400. Hence, that's why this bike sells for $750, whereas a Townie 21 with a freewheel & external cog sells for ~ $430. It appears you get what you pay for.
I purchased the Townie because I was looking for a more upright riding position. Riding my Gary Fisher MTB causes my wrists to hurt, and sometimes my fingers/hands to go numb a little. No worries about ergonomics with a Townie, other than you will not be able to stand up and pedal. The handle bar would hit you in the knees. Stay seated and enjoy the ride. After I got home, I hoped for a quick 100 foot jaunt on the Gary Fisher, and that forward stance gave me the sensation I was going to go over the handle bars. Townies are just that upright.
I'll amend or re-post later as I gain more experience with it. Definitely a beautiful looking ride.