The Novara Big Buzz, which is made by REI, has been my short commute go-to bike for a while now. While it excels in being manueverable and quick stopping in heavy traffic on my commutes to school, it was not till I started to venture out on longer rides that I discovered some serious downfalls.
This bike fits me well. As a matter of fact this bike fits me better than any bike I have previously owned. As mentioned before it can turn on a dime without making you feel like you are losing control and the ability this bike has to stop will literally lift you out of your seat. It was very comfortable on the short rides to school (a little over 5 miles round trip) where I am travelling on main roads. It has seriously solid construction and even though I am a bigger guy I have had no problems taking this bike off the occational curb or two.
The Big Buzz seemed to fail in almost every regard when it came to travelling longer distances. For what REI advertises the bike to be used for, I don't think I could recommend this bike to anyone travelling longer distances during their commute (over 5 miles each way?). One thing consumers will notice after a few miles in the saddle on this bike is that every vibration on the road gets transferred directly to the hands, arms, body and teeth of the rider. While the carbon fork of my road bike helped absorb the shock on the same bike trail used to test the Big Buzz, the aluminum fork of Big Buzz made sure the rider felt every little pebble over, and over, and over again.
One thing I really noticed about the Big Buzz after about mile 10 is how much the bike really weighs. It isn't even as light as a really cheap/heavy road bike and only slightly cheaper than my mountain bike. By the end of the ride I was feeling like I as pulling a trailer or a parachute behind me with the added weight. Perhaps REI thought it would be nessesary for a bike to be as strong as a tank to be as heavy as one, but I don't agree. It is also hard to find I rear rack that will mount to this bike. Although Axiom sells a rack that is made for bikes with disc brakes, it is hard to make clearence over the caliper of the brake to attach the lower left arm of the rack. I felt that the wheels and tires were a little overdone for what most commuter need, but the least of the bikes problems. After all, the wheel/tire setup would be great for light trail riding if you didn't get your teeth rattled out of your mouth first.
Overall, this bike is great for short jaunts around town or across campus, but look elsewhere if you want a comfortable bike for any real commutes.