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  1. #1
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    2011 Novara Buzz One

    I have not see a lot about the 2011 Novara Buzz One, so I thought I would post a review for those who might have seen this in their local REI store or on their website as well as those who might enjoy a comfy, upright SS/FG townie. I've put around 50 miles on mine, so I wanted to post an initial review of the bike.

    This model is part of Novara's Mainline series of bikes which focuses on the commuter/urban rider. They have everything from this single speed to 24/27 speed derailleur bikes all the way to 7 and 8 speed internal hub bikes. The Buzz One is the least expensive of all the models at a retail price of $399 and seems to be well equipped for this price when compared against other bikes on the market.

    I was looking for a fun, simple bike to "buzz" around town or maybe ride to work every once in a while. At first, I wanted something with a 1x7 or 1x8 drivetrain and was looking at some of the inexpensive hybrid bikes sold at Performance as well as the Giant Via 2 which is pretty cool with its twin top tube frame. Because I already have a Marin Muirwoods 29, it seemed a little pointless to buy another bike that was so similar. I then started recalling how much fun I had on an old SS MTB I had back in college that saw exclusive duty on the street. I decided I needed a single speed.

    Because I tend to visit my local REI pretty often, I had seen the Buzz One and so it was in the back of my mind in my evoked set of possible new bikes. At first, I was considering the Giant Via 3 which is probably the closest in overall form and function to the Buzz, but just don't like the cheap spiderless crankset and single-wall rims. It wasn't checked off my list at the time, but after I started comparing prices, it was the first to leave my short list. The other bike I was really interested in was the Trek Earl. It had a similar twin top tube frame as the Giant, but had a bit more attitude. I knew I wasn't going to like the narrow bars, but that is easy enough to switch out. The $460 price tag wasn't out of my range, but it eventually disqualified the bike from my selection given that I knew I was going to have to plunk down another $30 for handlebars and who knows what else I ended up not liking (saddle, grips, pedals). The last bike that I really liked was the Masi Soulville SS, but at $700, it was simply too much for not a lot more bike.

    So, that brings me to my selection of the Buzz One. The $399 price tag was on the bottom end of all the bikes I had considered and that is before the 20% off coupon that REI currently has which is good on Novara bikes. So, for $337 including tax and less my $8 dividend I earned, the Buzz came home to my garage. It was my intention to leave this as stock as possible and I think this may be one of the few bikes I've bought that is going to stay mostly true to that. Here it is off the showroom floor:


    What do you get for under $400? The frame and fork are plain gauge cromoly steel. The frame looks like it is made from drawn tubing rather than seamed tubing. Since it is a clear powder coated finish, you can see the actual steel tubes and there are no seams.


    The fork is painted, so I have no idea on that, but it is a nice straight blade fork. Both frame and fork are made to accept fenders or a rack. The chain guard is a really nice touch both because it is very low-profile, but it it can be removed without leaving any welded tabs on the frame.


    The components do seem to defy the bike's price tag. Everything is aluminum from the classy high-flange hubs to the oversized handlebar/stem. I also give props to the two-bolt seatpost which is much nicer than the single-bolt seatposts you see on a lot of bikes and far and away greater than the two-piece steel posts on yet other bikes. The polished SR Suntour crankset isn't quite up to spec when compared to a Sugino unit, but still looks very nice. The deep section Weinmann rims aren't as nice as DP18s, but still look substantial enough to hold up to some abuse. They are significantly wider than your typical deep-v rim. The saddle is also really cool looking in while with sharp graphics. Time will tell if this thing will keep from looking too dirty (if my hind side decides it likes riding on it).


    There are a few nitpicks I have about this bike. The first thing I changed were the pedals. What comes stock are your typical BMX style platform pedals. They have an aluminum body with cast traction pins. For my size 14s, not enough room and not enough grip. I bought a set of inexpensive Wellgo caged pedals that look like the old Suntour XCII pedals from the early days of mountain bikes. The size of the cage is much bigger and provides better traction, though my shins are keeping a constant look-out for these guys. I think those buying the smaller size bikes or those with smaller feet may find the stock pedals fine for just cruising around town, expecially if you pair them with some velcro foot straps.

    Also, the stock brake levers are a funny shape, but I don't mean the lever. The have a bump in them that would typically interface with a grip-shifter. When you put these on a bike without shifters, that bump intrudes a bit on the hands. I usually move my brake levers in-board a half and inch, so that helps, but I still feel that bump occassionally. With gloves, it isn't so bothersome and I doubt I will spend the money on different levers. Otherwise, they have decent feel to them.


    The other thing I did was switch out the stock brake pads. They worked fine, but I felt like the braking could be better and I knew that Avid brake pads had a thinner profile that would allow the brake arms to swing further out of the way for wheel removal. The stock tires are 700x40c monsters and clearance was a bit tight on both ends. I am running Continental Townrides which came stock on my Marin and they are the same size as the stock tires. The stock Kendas are nice looking tires, but my Contis were still brand new and weighed a bit less, so I switched them.


    I also changed the freewheel out to gain a little lower gear ratio. Stock gearing is 42/16 which would work fine for most, but I wanted to have a little snappier bottom end and be able to cope with the breezy conditions I often encounter. I bought a Shimano 18 tooth freewheel and now it is perfect. I do spin out a bit on the flats when I am not fighting the wind, but I am satisfied with my top speed and the low-end I gain is much more desireable.

    The only problem I have found with the bike was with the stock headset. I was getting a little knock from it when I would apply the front brake. I tried to adjust the bearing preload to no avail. I suspected that the stem top cap might be bottoming out on the fork steerer tube. I pulled the cap and sure enough, the steerer was right at the top of the stem and the top cap was bottoming out. I would imagine if I had taken the bike back to REI, they would have taken care of it, but I just pulled a headset spacer from my parts bin and took care of the issue myself.

    My last nitpick is on the stock chain ring. I am surprised that both it and the chain guard (the one on the crank) are aluminum, but the chain ring is not single speed specific. The teeth profile varies in height, so this is obviously one intended for derailleur equipped bikes. Even if they had to spec a steel ring instead of alloy, I'd rather have a SS specific ring for longer life.

    All in all it is a great bike for the money, especially when paired with the current 20% promotion. Here is how it looks with some of the minor changes made. Not shown is the 2nd white bottle cage and Ergon grips I just installed. For those looking for a comfy, upright bike, this is worth a look, especially if you like something with a little bit of flash.

  2. #2
    M_S
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    Quite the deal and looks like a really fun ride.

  3. #3
    Senior Member docboyd's Avatar
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    why not get a kilo? and those dropouts are horizontal? why? i mean they'll work but it looks like a conversion when its new...just saying

  4. #4
    Veteran Mother****er Scrodzilla's Avatar
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    sniping pigz streetdude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by docboyd View Post
    why not get a kilo? and those dropouts are horizontal? why? i mean they'll work but it looks like a conversion when its new...just saying
    So you can "drop out" the rear wheel without removing the chain, duh. I imagine because this is marketed as more of a townie/cruiser type deal, people pulling the rear wheel is a lesser concern.

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    Senior Member hamish5178's Avatar
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    I hate to say it, but. . . . schill?
    Quote Originally Posted by hairnet View Post
    It's a fixie, reasonablility was never a factor.
    My poser bike

    my non-poser bike?

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    Quote Originally Posted by hamish5178 View Post
    I hate to say it, but. . . . schill?
    The spelling is actually "shill" and no, I don't have any affiliation with REI or Novara. I am just really impressed with this bike and for the price. This past weekend, I brought the bike with me to a local bicycle swap meet (frankenbike.net) and a lot of people were asking me about the bike and really liked it. I talked to one guy who used to work at REI who was really impressed with it.

    By the way, I was planning to write more on how the bike rides when I have a bit more time. It was getting late last night when I posted that initial review.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by docboyd View Post
    why not get a kilo? and those dropouts are horizontal? why? i mean they'll work but it looks like a conversion when its new...just saying
    As another posted said, this is more of a townie/cruiser type bike. I like the look of a track style fork end, but I imagine finding those that also have rack/fender eyelets isn't as easy and inexpensive as plain old horizontal drops. I'd say this bike has a little bit of an identity crisis. The overall profile is that of a classic looking townie, but the straight blade fork, blue deep section rims, and white saddle make me think of a fixie. The linear pull brakes seem a little out of place either way you slice it. Some long-reach dual pivots would be nice looking, but the linear pulls probably help the bike meet its price point and certainly do a better job than a set of cheaper dual pivots would.

  9. #9
    Veteran Mother****er Scrodzilla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flippin_bikes View Post
    The spelling is actually "shill" and no, I don't have any affiliation with REI or Novara. I am just really impressed with this bike and for the price.

  10. #10
    Ths Hipstr Kills Masheenz cc700's Avatar
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    says the leader shill.

    yukyuk

    i dig the bike, not my style but i can dig it.

  11. #11
    Pants are for suckaz HandsomeRyan's Avatar
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    Fixed gear compatible or single speed only?

    Edit: Reading comprehension fail. When I re-read the description i see that it is indeed a flip-flop fixed/free hub.

  12. #12
    Paste Taster Retem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flippin_bikes View Post
    As another posted said, this is more of a townie/cruiser type bike. I like the look of a track style fork end, but I imagine finding those that also have rack/fender eyelets isn't as easy and inexpensive as plain old horizontal drops.
    +1

    they also make it easier to remove the wheel when you have full fenders on
    I am dyslexic so bear with my posts.... [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  13. #13
    Senior Member telebianchi's Avatar
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    Nice looking ride and sounds like good value, especially with the 20% off coupon.

    One comment: the brake cables/housing are way too long both esthetically and functionally. I would ask REI to shorten them and set it up correctly (I still kick myself for not doing this on a road bike I bought 2 1/2 years ago -- I have to look at those too-long badly routed cables hanging off of the handlebars on every ride [new housing going on this spring...finally!]).

    Do you have any idea on the weight?
    May your tires or beer never be flat.

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    The name sounds more like a new cell phone than a bike.

  15. #15
    M_S
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    Why would he write about the problems he had with the bike (brake pads, maladjusted headset) if he was being paid by REI? Seriously?

  16. #16
    Senior Member docboyd's Avatar
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    To make it look more real...it seems very advert-ish

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    Quote Originally Posted by docboyd View Post
    To make it look more real...it seems very advert-ish
    LOL.
    Yeah, I think the "buzz" (in quotation marks, no less) in the opening line of the third paragraph pretty much told the story. I didn't finish; I had to stop right there.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by docboyd View Post
    To make it look more real...it seems very advert-ish
    I do have a marketing degree and have been flipping bikes on craigslist for several years. It must just come out without me trying to make it sound like an ad.

    Quote Originally Posted by M_S View Post
    Why would he write about the problems he had with the bike (brake pads, maladjusted headset) if he was being paid by REI? Seriously?
    To be fair, I had the same problem with the rear brakes on my old Jamis Aurora which has very narrow seat stays. I saw this issue on quite a few bikes when I wrenched in a bike shop back in college. This does remind me of a funny story about REI which happened when I was buying the Buzz. The shop tech had to check my bike out before it could go out the door and there was another customer there buying a Marin Muirwoods 29 which also had to be checked out. Some lady was helping out with showing the guy his new bike and you could tell she didn't know much about bikes. She didn't even know what bolt-on wheel skewers were (these come as an extra in addition to the standard QR skewers). She showed him how to remove the front wheel and reinstall. I cringed when she was showing him how to tighten the QR. At first, she had the lever pointing straight forward and I could tell she didn't have it tight enough. I tried to interject and explain that the lever wasn't tight enough, particularly since a handful of front disc brake can easily pull the disc rotor side of the hub down towards the bottom of the drop out. So, she moves the lever so that it bottoms out on the side of the fork leg which doesn't even let the QR cam bottom out. I cringed again, but didn't want to jump into the middle of things. That is when I noticed my bike was just about ready to go too and knew I'd be walking out right behind the guy who bought the Marin. I went over to him while he was starting to load it in his van. I advised him that I didn't think they had properly tightened his QR and checked it for him. It was way too lose and I showed him how to properly tighten his skewer. I might have saved REI from an eventual law suit or at least an unhappy customer.

    Quote Originally Posted by telebianchi View Post
    Nice looking ride and sounds like good value, especially with the 20% off coupon.

    One comment: the brake cables/housing are way too long both esthetically and functionally. I would ask REI to shorten them and set it up correctly (I still kick myself for not doing this on a road bike I bought 2 1/2 years ago -- I have to look at those too-long badly routed cables hanging off of the handlebars on every ride [new housing going on this spring...finally!]).

    Do you have any idea on the weight?
    Yeah, I was thinking I needed to trim the housing, but it was pushing midnight when I was installing my new brake pads which would have been the ideal time to do it. It is easier for me to do this myself than take it back to REI and you can read my story above. I worked in a shop, so I generally do my own repairs and maintenance. I went ahead and trimmed the rear cable housing because I was able to take about an inch out of the small piece that goes from the frame to the rear brake noodle and then about 4 inches from the larger section. That allowed me to cut the cable off nice and clean without have the funky smashed section from where it was clamped in the brake arm. The front cable isn't as ridiculously long, so I left it along for now (re-routed it inside of the arc of the rear cable housing). I couldn't trim as much off it to be able to cut the cable off nice and clean like the rear cable, so I decided to leave it along until I can grab a fresh cable at a shop. It doesn't look so bad, though:



    If I had to guess the weight, 25 lbs.

    Edit: and I forgot, one more picture after trimming the cable housing, new grips, and adding a second white bottle cage:

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    Ride Review

    After taking a ride on the Buzz this evening, I thought I would post the second part of my review centering on how the bike performs. I've put probably 60-70 miles on the bike and have a good idea of what it will do.

    If you look past the loud appearance of some of the components, this is a pretty conservative-looking bike. It has an upright riding position, classy polished alloy bits all over, and sweepy commuter handlebars which would lead you to believe it isn't much fun to ride. This is not the case.

    Everybody has a different idea of what is fun and what feels nice. Everything I write is completely subjective. I want all my bikes to be comfortable more than anything which requires the handlebars to be at or above the level of the saddle. Previous photos posted show that is definitely the case. I also have to have a nice, wide handlebar with a lot of back sweep. My favorite handlebar of all time is the Origin 8 Space Bar (or the On One Mary Bar of which the Space Bar is as copy). These are very similar to the Space Bar. Both are 25.5" wide at the tips and around 22" measured from the center of the grips. The Buzz bars have what looks to be around 45 degrees of sweep compared to what is supposed to be 40 degrees on the Space Bar I have on my Marin. I think this is a love it or hate it type of handlebar. I find the position very natural for my wrists which allows me to ride a long time without discomfort. The downside to this type of bar is that some headlight brackets may be a little tough to mount. The center section of the bar is very bulgy since it is an over-sized bar and the rest of the bike is all curves. A set silicon Knog light works pretty well and there are some lights out there that will mount to a stem.

    My XL size frame has a fairly lengthy wheelbase of 44.2" which would be expected to handle fairly slow. While the bike is very stable and easy to ride no hands, it steers quickly. The head tube angle is 71 degrees, so not track bike steel, but it lends itself to fairly quick steering input (though slowed some by the wide handlebars). I'd describe the bike as quick steering, but not twitchy.

    The frame is also fairly stiff to pedal input. I think this can be attributed to the frame construction being plain gauge cromoly. The price you pay is weight and a firm ride. The later is also influenced by the straight blade fork. I wouldn't describe the ride as harsh or unpleasant, but you feel the road beneath you. It reminds me of a sporty compact car compared to the ride of a sports car. The bike is also not terribly light. The REI website lists the weight at 29.2 lbs. I swear it feels lighter, but couldn't be that much lighter. Someone asked me how much it weighs and I had guessed 25 lbs, but I was way off. 29 lbs seems about right. Too bad my work stand doesn't have a built-in scale for me to provide an actual weight.

    The stock gearing is 42/16 which should be good for many people. I changed the freewheel and now my gearing is 42/18. I live in an area with gently rolling hills, but we get a lot of wind which really made me struggle with the stock gearing. I also frequent hike and bike paths which are pretty windy and often littered with pedestrians. The stock gearing would be too fast for these area. The 18 tooth freewheel is perfect for these area. I also have a long, gradual climb along my route to and from work which wouldn't be terribly fun for me on the stock gearing. The horizontal drop-outs are long enough such that you don't have to add any links to the chain to go up 2 teeth on the rear wheel and you could easily downsize 2 teeth without having to remove a link.

    So far, I am pretty please with how well the bike handles all that I throw at it including commuting to work, riding around town, and on hard pack dirt paths. I never would have expected I could do so much on a simple single speed. My multi-speed bike has been sitting a whole lot lately because I enjoy the SS so much.

    Here is a shot from my ride this evening:


  20. #20
    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by docboyd View Post
    why not get a kilo? and those dropouts are horizontal? why? i mean they'll work but it looks like a conversion when its new...just saying

    GTFO w/ the Hipster track bikes only conversion no sloping tt hate....thats not the point of this bike.
    Franklin

  21. #21
    Pants are for suckaz HandsomeRyan's Avatar
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    Thanks for the full review. Looks like a pretty cool bike that could certainly fill a niche in the market.

  22. #22
    rue the whirl motobeCarnage's Avatar
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    looks cozy. I like it but it's not my thang Saddle looks really out of place though with the flashy graphics that no one will see through your ass.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mumonkan View Post
    i prefer anal beads

  23. #23
    Ths Hipstr Kills Masheenz cc700's Avatar
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    that sounds terrible but if it was a mom and pop's shop you a) wouldn't hold mom and pop responsible unless they had pockets as deep as rei and b) you'd being totally happy having rei direct litigation to the manufacturer

  24. #24
    Senior Member soyboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flippin_bikes View Post
    So, for $337 including tax and less my $8 dividend I earned,
    what do you mean dividend you earned? does rei have some sort of profit sharing with customers or are you an employee/stock holder??

  25. #25
    Senior Member neilfein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soyboy View Post
    what do you mean dividend you earned? does rei have some sort of profit sharing with customers or are you an employee/stock holder??
    Customers can join REI -- It's a co-op -- and then get a dividend at the end of the year. It's a cheap one-time fee. There's no profit-sharing involved.
    Tour Journals, Blog, ride pix

    I'm in the celtic folk fusion band Baroque and Hungry. "Mended", our new full-length studio album, is now available for download.

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