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  1. #1
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    Commuting on a twitchy bike- Novara Buzz

    In my continuing quest for the perfect urban commuting bike I a tested a Buzz at REI last night. Great price currently about $500 with member discount. Aluminum frame, alloy fork. Hayes Disc brakes. 26 x 1.75 tires. Shimano M475 hubs and SRAM X7 drivetrain, 27 lb. It was (to quote an old friend) something completely different. It was like stradeling a Lipizzaner stalion. the thing just about hopped out from under me. Serious FUN. Curbs, poholes, gravel, mud, rocks, grassy knoll- all no problem. It rolled remarkably well on the pavement too. I did not get to come down a hill at speed. The sprightly handling seems to come from a very short wheelbase (104 cm). It also had a very short top tube and a long stem. I suspect that the 'trail' is short as well. These are characteristics that are associated with low speed maneuverability but according to many web gurus also cause 'high speed instability". Is this something I need to be worried about if I ride at <30 mph? Will I crash or spin out? Anyone have opinions or experience with a 'twitchy' bike?

    Thanks in advance: JimF

  2. #2
    RacingBear UmneyDurak's Avatar
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    If you have good handling skills it really shouldn't be a problem. I ride Cannodale CAAD8, which some people think is "twitchy". Never had any problems <30mph or >30mph.
    I see hills.... Bring them on!!!
    Stay calm and bring a towel.

  3. #3
    Senior Member thdave's Avatar
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    My Breezer has incredible handling that one could call "twitchy." But I love it. It just goes where you want it to and you always feel in control. It's a joy to ride and sounds similar to what you have.

    But, I don't go 30mph on it.

    In 7th gear (my highest gear) and peddling at 80 rpm I'm going a slightly over 20 mph--typically I go a little less than that. I go 25 mph down my steepest hill.

    At these speeds I don't notice any problem with handling.
    Cleveland, OH
    Breezer fan

  4. #4
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlfunder
    ...It also had a very short top tube and a long stem. I suspect that the 'trail' is short as well. These are characteristics that are associated with low speed maneuverability but according to many web gurus also cause 'high speed instability". Is this something I need to be worried about if I ride at <30 mph? Will I crash or spin out? Anyone have opinions or experience with a 'twitchy' bike?

    Thanks in advance: JimF
    First, with the very short top tube combined with a long stem, the bike might be a bit small for you. You should try out a size or two larger to see if the handling situation calms down.

    Second, what are these "characteristics that are associated with low speed maneuverability..." that you refer to?

    My SO was on a Trek hybrid bike which was designed to have low speed maneuverability, and she ended up going out of control on a downhill at ~20mph. I've seen this happen with a highschool friend as well when he was riding a hybrid bike. What happened in both cases was that the bike was moving fairly quickly (20-25mph) and something happened to cause the rider to turn the handlebars sharply. In the case of my SO, it was the presence of a car which passed a bit fast. In the case of my highschool friend, his foot slipped off the pedal and hit the ground. In both cases, the initial perturbation of the handlebars caused the rider to overcorrect the steering, and started an ever widening oscillation of the handlebars which ended in both riders flipping over the handlebars and hitting the ground hard. My SO described it as if the bike was doing this by itself and she could not control the oscillation - i.e. the bike was unstable and out of control.

    A properly stable bike, if the handlebars are perturbed in the fashion described above (which is much harder to do because of the built in stability), will simply steer off the road. My road bikes, even the one with the twitchy steering that is hard to ride no-handed does this. I'd be wary of bikes that have extreme low speed maneuverability, as there is a tradeoff between maneuverability and high speed handling.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  5. #5
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    My 2003 Big Buzz (with 700c wheels) is very stable at speed - very predictable and maneuverable going down hills. The Avid disc brakes are great, too. Not sure how the geometry compares to this year's Buzz.

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    I commute much of the summer on a road racing bike with very quick handling.

    I gotta say it never occured to me that this could ever create a problem.

  7. #7
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    I like steep angles. I'm riding pretty large frames though, so maybe that balances it out some.

    Brian R... I'm not sure I'm following you. "the initial perturbation of the handlebars caused the rider to overcorrect the steering" - I'm not sure how you can attribute a rider error to the bicycle.

  8. #8
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    I ride one of the older Buzz bikes (V brakes/9 speeds) but similar frame geometry. I am a tall rider who likes as compact and tight a frame as possible because for a bike to fit me it will naturally have a longer seat and top tube. I used to race and still love the feel of short chain stays and not much rake to the fork. The Buzz does not feel too "twitchy" to me and I often get it up to speed in traffic and am quite comfortable with the handling. I'll add that I use a milkcrate on my back rack, which I load with sometimes as much as 35 lbs of groceries and it still feels good but it is definitely a little sloppy with a full load back there- but that is certainly not a design flaw.

    It sounds like you actually liked the feel and handling of the bike. If the fit is good you'll get used to it. Just give yourself some time to get used to it's responsive handling before you do something out of control in your initial enthusiasm.

  9. #9
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    I've got an '05 Buzz. Not twitchy at all. It does turn quick,kinda like a track bike with fat tires,but the only quibble I've got is the stock tires' tread feels squirmy at speed. A proper set of street slicks would fix this.

    Alloy fork? I thought they were cromo('05 and '06 were). That would actually put me off. My only complaint about my Big Buzz is the alloy fork. Swapping it for a carbon. That alum was killing my carpel tunnel with DC's rough roads.

    C'dale BBU('05 and '09)/Super Six/Hooligan8and 3,Kona Dew Deluxe,Novara Buzz/Safari,Surly Big Dummy,Marin Pt Reyes,Giant Defy 1,Schwinn DBX SuperSport/Qualifier,Brompton S6L,Dahon Speed Pro TT

  10. #10
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Sorry, I was being too verbose. The point is that it is too easy to turn the wheel of the bike at speed. Once the rider initiates this, then the bike can become unstable and wheel oscillates out of control.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff

    You should try out a size or two larger to see if the handling situation calms down.

    A properly stable bike, if the handlebars are perturbed in the fashion described above (which is much harder to do because of the built in stability), will simply steer off the road. My road bikes, even the one with the twitchy steering that is hard to ride no-handed does this. I'd be wary of bikes that have extreme low speed maneuverability, as there is a tradeoff between maneuverability and high speed handling.
    Unfortunately, it's the largest frame they make.

    Is there a test for this kind of instability that can be carried out without risk to life and limb?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by buzzman
    I ride one of the older Buzz bikes (V brakes/9 speeds) but similar frame geometry. I am a tall rider who likes as compact and tight a frame as possible because for a bike to fit me it will naturally have a longer seat and top tube. I used to race and still love the feel of short chain stays and not much rake to the fork. The Buzz does not feel too "twitchy" to me and I often get it up to speed in traffic and am quite comfortable with the handling. I'll add that I use a milkcrate on my back rack, which I load with sometimes as much as 35 lbs of groceries and it still feels good but it is definitely a little sloppy with a full load back there- but that is certainly not a design flaw.

    It sounds like you actually liked the feel and handling of the bike. If the fit is good you'll get used to it. Just give yourself some time to get used to it's responsive handling before you do something out of control in your initial enthusiasm.


    I LOVE the way it feels, I just dont want it to toss me over the bars unexpectedly some sunny day when I got going a little too fast like Brian's SO !

  13. #13
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    You'll probably be fine. If you are a confident rider, it shouldn't be a problem. My SO was not a confident rider and she didn't make the proper adjustments. My only point with the above post is that the bike design didn't do anything to help her, and that there is a tradeoff between high speed stability and low speed maneuverability. (further edit I'm certainly not trying to scare you unnecessarily.

    If you want a test, the nearest I can think of is to find a place where you can ride the bike at speed (20 mph or so) with no hands. If it is squirrilly with no hands, you might want to look at other bike. But take buzzman's advice. I have one bike which is a little squirrily, but I just found ways to deal with it. If you like the way the bike handles, then go for it. Life's full of tradeoffs.

    EDIT: If you want the most mileage out of the no hands test, I'd suggest riding no hands while sitting up with little weight on the front wheel. If you want a further test, and REI will let you, get going down a hill at 30 or so mph and do the no hands test and see if the wheel oscillates. On my squirrily bike (which is a road bike, BTW) I get the shimmys (wheel oscillates slightly) when I am riding no-hands above 25 or 30 mph. I just lean a knee against the top tube, and that stablizes the bike.
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 03-02-07 at 03:16 PM.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  14. #14
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    Good suggestion. I had an old specialized mtn bike that shimmied at about 35 mph. Never tried it without hands tho. JF

  15. #15
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynaryder
    Alloy fork? I thought they were cromo('05 and '06 were). That would actually put me off. My only complaint about my Big Buzz is the alloy fork. Swapping it for a carbon. That alum was killing my carpel tunnel with DC's rough roads.
    I put CF bars on my Big Buzz which smoothed things out just a little bit.

  16. #16
    DNPAIMFB pinkrobe's Avatar
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    I think a lot of it has to do with the rider as opposed to the bike. The only bike I've ever been able to ride no-hands is my Cervelo, and I can barely do that. Almost any of my friends can jump on my bikes and ride away while talking on a cell, peeling a banana and shuffling a deck of cards with no issues. That said, I can ride any of my bikes at 50+ km/h without even a hint of wobble. The only one that gives me any trouble is an old Bianchi Axis. Until it gets to 20+ km/h, it has a mind of its own. Past that, it carves like a knife with little effort.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member rule's Avatar
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    I have an 02 or 03 Buzz and have put a ton of miles on it, a lot of which were on 30+mph descents. No issues of any kind in terms of stability. In fact, I now use it as my rain commuter because it is so forgiving and bullet-proof in terms of handling and steadiness. You could do a lot worse for the money. Mine has held up very well.

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