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  1. #1
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    Norco vs. Kona; need opinions on a new commuter.

    Hey guys, first post as I need a bit of help selecting a commuter bike. I've been commuting to work for a few months now and quite like it; my commute is pretty easy, about 10k each way entirely on city streets (all paved, no paths, etc.,). I've been using an old 12-speed road bike (probably circa 1980) which has been doing the trick but I'm at the point where I need to upgrade for two reasons.

    The first reason is that I live in Vancouver where it's *very* hilly and my bike just isn't geared properly for the terrain. I've looked at adding a chainring or more gears on the back but it's cost prohibitive considering the age of the bike. Secondly my bike is at an age where it's breaking down under daily use and needs regular repairs to get it road worthy. For example I blew out a spoke last week and the guy at my local bike store said that both of the wheels are going to need to be replaced fairly soon (I trust his opinion, he wasn't just trying to up-sell me). Again, this seems cost prohibitive considering the bike's age.

    Ok, that was a bit long winded. Anyway, I'm looking to spend between $400-$500 CAD on a decent commuter. I know I can get much better bikes for more money but I really can't afford more than that right now. Plus I wouldn't feel comfortable locking a thousand dollar bike up on the street in some of the neighbourhoods near me. My local bike shop has recommended two bikes.

    The Kona Dew at $450 CAD
    http://www.konaworld.com/bike.cfm?content=dew

    The Norco Indie 3 at $500 CAD (the webpage says $525 but the LBS told me they could do it for $500 flat)
    http://www.norco.com/bikes/urban/per...urban/indie-3/

    The bike guy tells me that they're essentially the same bike except the norco has disc brakes, which would be a plus in rainy Vancouver. The tires are also slightly fatter on the norco but he tells me the difference is barely noticeable.

    I know that kona has an excellent reputation but haven't heard too much about norco so I thought I'd get some opinions. I'm sort of leaning towards the norco as disc breaks are a plus, but if the kona is generally known to be higher quality I'd go with the kona and upgrade to disc breaks down the road when I've got some extra cash.

    Thanks for any help.

  2. #2
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    They do look like pretty similar bikes. I'm sure either one of them would be tough enough. I expect that the disc brakes will make the Norco heavier, and I'm not a fan of low-end mechanical disc brakes. I'd say ride both bikes and get whichever feels better.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    The Kona should climb better, the Norco should stop better going down the other side....

    The bike that you currently own- is it possible to take it to a co-op in your area? They might be able to help you breathe new life into that old roadie.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
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    @no1mad

    I'm definitely going to keep the old roadie as a backup bike for occasional use or for when I have guests, but it just doesn't make financial sense to put any money into it right now. Both tires are pretty bald and the spokes are going on the front and back wheels, they're not going to last much longer under the pressures of a daily commute with a reasonable amount of weight. Even if I do replace the wheels and tires, that still doesn't address the fact that it's not geared properly for the terrain (Vancouver is very hilly) so now we're looking at replacing the front crankset; who knows how much that will cost?

    It might be worth it if the frame was something special, but it's not. It's an old "freespirit" which used to be the Sears store brand. If it was a classic bianchi or something it might be worth it, but for a freespirit? Forget it.

    I might see if I can get the norco with some skinnier wheels as I want the disc brakes but feel the transition from 1 1/4 wheels to 700 x 38c might be a bit much; I'm definitely more focused on road than trails.

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Yea pretty much a which brakes do you want, maybe a good deal can be made at point of sale
    to swap the budget Tektro disc Calipers for Avid BB7 , a brake which many people seem to like.

    add a sturdy rear rack and some good mudguards to make it practical ..

  6. #6
    Old, but not really wise CptjohnC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mizike View Post
    The Kona Dew at $450 CAD
    The Norco Indie 3 at $500 CAD

    The bike guy tells me that they're essentially the same bike except the norco has disc brakes, which would be a plus in rainy Vancouver. The tires are also slightly fatter on the norco but he tells me the difference is barely noticeable.
    I am definitely a fan of disc brakes, esp. in bad weather. I also like my Kona. Is there any possibility of finding a left over or demonstrator 2010 Dew Plus? it would have the disc brakes, with all the other advantages of the Dew. Unfortunately, the price difference for 2011 is absurd, so unless you can find a leftover, it won't work.

    I had a Dew Plus before it was stolen, and it made a great commuter, as far as I was concerned. I replaced my stolen ride with a leftover Dew Drop which makes me very happy, and I got it for about 25% off of MSRP as a closeout earlier this fall. I also have an old road bike (12 speed, but higher end than your free spirit) and an old rigid mountain bike.

  7. #7
    Descends like a rock pallen's Avatar
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    I'm commuting on a Dew Drop right now. It has disk brakes like the Dew Plus (which you might consider if its not too much $$). Anyway, I cant speak for the Norcos, but I have been very happy with my Kona. Its not the lightest bike, but I've put some miles on it in the 9mo or so that I've had it. I have hit thousands of potholes and railroad crossings and I'm not a light rider.

  8. #8
    Pro Paper Plane Pilot wunderkind's Avatar
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    You can get year end bikes are deep discounts. Kona and Norco are but 2 of a gazillion bike brands. I own a Norco. So you know I am not biased. I am satisfied with it. But if I have to get a new commuter and the choice comes down to Kona or Norco, I'd pick Kona.

    Saw a 2010 0r 09 Kona Dew for CDN$3xx at my LBS.
    The base Dew is my favourite of all the Dew line. The rest of them gets heavier with so-so parts. Unless you get the Dew PhD. Now that is a sweet bike.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member QuakerProf's Avatar
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    +1 for Kona, I love my Dr. Fine, which is the only one in that lineup that has an Alfine internal hub. That's a big plus for stop and go commuting since you can change gears any time without grinding. My sense is that the whole Dew line has consistently gotten very strong reviews and long-term satisfaction from owners (we all know that the new review bike performs differently than a bike owned for a couple of years, even when perfectly maintained).

  10. #10
    Life is a fun ride safariofthemind's Avatar
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    This segment of the market is very competitive so you'll have plenty of choices. A word to the wise - check the gearing and make sure it is suitable to where you live.
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears.html
    Then read this excellent article:
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tires.html

  11. #11
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    There are far fewer Norco owners than Kona owners on these forums due to the prevalence of American members; Kona is a joint American-Canadian company while Norco is strictly Canadian (although both are built in Taiwan). While there are some Norco dealers in the States, Kona bikes are much easier to find. It is therefore likely that you will hear many opinions on Kona bikes, and few on Norco.

    I am a Norco owner. I have the belt-drive/IGH Ceres. Other than a few belt drive-related hiccups (due to the newness of the technology on bicycles) it has been a great bike so far. The components on the bike are of high quality and it rides beautifully.

    The Indie 3 that you linked to has Shimano's entry-level MTB drivetrain, as does the Kona. I can't speak to the quality of the Indie's disc brakes, but I can tell you that I was blown away by the difference in braking ability when I first tried discs. This is especially true in the wet. All things being equal (and these bikes are very similar, IMHO) I would choose the Norco... not because I own one, but because of the disc brakes and stealthy blacked-out frame. That being said, if I test rode both of them and liked the Dew better, then Kona would get my money.
    Gettin' my Fred on.

  12. #12
    rain-forest commuter
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    I'm a Kona Dr. Dew owner (in Vancouver as well) and I agree with irclean's comment. The disc brakes would be the deciding factor for me between the 2.

    That said, if I were you, I would ride a few different bikes and see which one feels better. If you are spending that much time on a bike, it should be comfortable. When I'm bike shopping, I usually have a good idea what range of bike I'm looking for, but I like to try out bikes that are cheaper and more expensive, just to see what the difference is. For instance, although I own (have owned) a lot of Konas, I tried both the Dr Dew and the VFR and the Kona felt much better. I've got long arms and felt cramped on the Norco and I tried different sizes to see if that was the problem. Moral of the story, ride a few bikes before making a decision.

    Take a look at Jubilee Cycles (Imperial and Nelson in Burnaby) as they usually have good prices on last years models and carry both Kona and Norco. They're also the best bike shop I've dealt with in the lower mainland.
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  13. #13
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    Hey guys, thanks for all the helpful suggestions. So I ended up getting a Brodie Voltage as a second bike shop i dropped in at was able to give me a really good deal on a 2010 model. It seems to fit my needs really well, it has mechanical disc brakes and comes with 700x32c's which is a plus as I'm accustomed to skinnier tires and he fatties on the Norco were giving me a bit of pause. Here's a link to the bike for those interested:
    http://www.brodiebikes.com/2010/bikes/voltage.php

    They had some really good deals on konas as well, but nothing in my size unfortunately.

    Thanks again for all the help.

  14. #14
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    Congrats on the purchase, mizike! I think Brodies are even rarer in the Commuting forum than Norcos. Make sure to post a pic in the "Commuter Bicycle Pics" thread.
    Gettin' my Fred on.

  15. #15
    THE NEW EVOLUTION gulfcoast's Avatar
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    Congrats ! Great choice ........... Beautiful & Functional Bike..........Enjoy.

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