Monday, July 29, 2013

Bike #66 Intro: REI Novara Buzz One

Update: you can see some changes to my Buzz here.

July has been an especially busy bike month for me. Just this month, I've sold three frames (Soma Doublecross, Soma Juice, and the Globe Vienna), and have bought one (the Singular Gryphon). Er, make that two: late last week, someone on the Rivendell Bike email list mentioned that REI was blowing out single speed bikes for "nearly free!". Well, it wasn't quite free, but I've bought wheelsets that cost more. My willpower, never strong to begin with, erodes rapidly when I see that "half off!" signal. Amusingly, when I went to the REI website, I already had this bike in my cart from the last time I looked at it, during REI's 20% off sale. Glad I waited.

The bike is the REI Novara Buzz One, their attempt at a hipster fixie single speed whip (ugh):

I'm about as far from a hipster as can be, but I do enjoy riding a fixed gear, and I saw a lot in this frame that I was looking for:

- clearance for fat 700c tires, so I could use my existing wheel and tire collection (especially my dyno hub)

- lots of braze ons for racks and fenders

- sloping top tube for good standover clearance, nice when I'm balancing the train behind me.

- steel

Basically, I was looking for a hybrid, but in steel. Those are actually very hard to find. My plan for this bike is to ride it as is for a short spell to get a feel for it, then transfer most of the goodies over from my Cross Check so the Buzz can become my utility rig, and the CC can go back to fixed gear duty.

Let's take a look and see what "almost free" bought me:

The drivetrain is a 42x16 freewheel. I can't see what sense a white chain makes, but someone at REI must have thought it looked good for a catalogue shoot:

The front crank is also uselessly white. It's unfortunately 130BCD (most of my rings are 110 BCD). It could be set up for a double, but they didn't drill out the holes on the backside to allow for a triple.

The rear hub is 120mm spaced, threaded for a fixed gear on the flip side, and they even give you a lockring:

Since the rear end is too narrow for my 8 speed wheel, I'll have to spread it. With my previous experience, I'm not worried about attempting this. I also need a bolt on derailer hanger, but I picked up one of those this weekend.

The front hub is a theft-proof bolt on as well. Note the low rider mounts inside the fork leg--not sure if these would work with my low rider rack.

The tires, based on my quick spin up and down the block and squeezing them with my fingers, have all the suppleness and flexibility of a House Republican:

30 tpi, they measure about 38mm vs. their claimed 40mm. Pretty close. Tire clearance is good up front:

and in the back:

Note the tapped chainstay bridge--that's more than my Soma Doublcross had. Plenty of room for fenders, even with these fat tires, though you can see the limiting factor is the chainstays--no dimpling for extra clearance.

The brakes are generic Tektro calipers, but even on my initial ride, I felt they had more power than the road calipers on my Rawland Nordavinden.

The cockpit turned out better than I'd hoped. The stem is a 90mm OS unit, and the riser bar is a nice 650mm wide. The brake levers have a nice hinged clamp:

The saddle has a big "76" on the top, perhaps referring to the last year this color combo was in style:

The top tube measured out to about 620mm, usefully longer than a typical 'cross bike which are intended for drop bars. It felt pretty natural on my spin up the street.

Fans of low Q can look elsewhere:

I'm not sure if this was by design or accident, but in the bottom of my bike box, I found a Park MT-1 wrench. That's worth about 5% of the cost of my bike right there! However, I really need to learn to carry around a 15mm wrench in case I get a flat:

When I first hefted the bike, I guessed it weighed about 27 pounds. Perhaps I can get rid of my scale: it came in at 26.9 pounds. Certainly not light, but I don't particularly care about this--once I load it up with 175 pounds of kids and trailers, a pound or two of bike weight doesn't really matter. I think the tubing is unbutted, so I'll have to see how it rides and feels under power. For now, I'm satisfied with my purchase.

Edit: see some updates here.


  1. This isn't helping me to resist this purchase!

  2. I hope you're not looking for me to give you reasons not to buy another bike!

  3. LOL! I had the local REI set it to the side a few days before it went 50% off....glad I waited also..

    Seems I'm on the other end of the spectrum in that I haven't ridden a single since childhood. This bike has been quite fun for me!

    1. It's been a fun bike for me so far, I'm very satisfied with my purchase. I'll be posting an update soon: I've replaced the wheels and drivetrain with an 8 speed setup, perfect for pulling the kids around.

  4. I bought one of them as well, couldn't resist the good price, my first single speed bike too! I was wondering, do you really think this bike would be useful pulling trailers with kids in them? Wouldn't you want some gears for that? Maybe if you were living in a flat area but I live in a hilly small town. So far, I love the bike though!

    1. Yeah, I think even here in flat Dublin, a single speed isn't adequate for a trailer (caveat: I'm pulling twins). That's why I've converted my Buzz to an 8 speed. Details coming soon.


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