Quick Question for the Blogosphere


REI's Novara Carema Pro

My friend L. is looking for a road bike. L. sees this as a longterm purchase and wants something well-made and durable, but still reasonably priced—she’s hoping to pay around $1,000. Right now the top contender is the Novara Carema from REI, which has all the features she wants: extremely light, with an aluminum/carbon fiber frame, lots of gears (30!) and higher-end Shimano components.

L. plans on participating (for fun) in sprint triathalons eventually, and wants a bike that will be competitive. She also wants to go on distance rides. Since she doesn’t know a lot about bike maintenance, she has concerns about going vintage. I know we have several road-bike-riding readers who know a lot more about this sort of thing than I do — so please, bring on the recommendations in the comments!

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15 thoughts on “Quick Question for the Blogosphere

  1. baldsue says:

    I’ve put 1500 miles on my Carema, not the Pro since March, and I love it. It’s been trouble free for all those miles. I’d say, go for it. If it goes on sale at a low enough price, I might even buy the Pro and make my Carema a commuter.

  2. John says:

    It seems representative of the bikes in the price range. Personally, I don’t find much differentiation around the $1000 mark. It seems like a fine road bike to start with, although, if your friend gets the bug, it is likely to NOT be her last bike (no such thing, if you ask me).

    The one thing I might watch out for is the FSA crankset. They are usable, but I’ve found the finish and durability on my previous FSA crankset to be somewhat suspect. In particular, I had problems with rust forming on the exposed part of the axle.

    As far as being competitive, any road bike should be fine. IMHO, the most important thing is to have something L can rely on so that she can train her heart out. Along the same lines, it has to be a bike that makes her want to ride. My favorite bit of advice to first time road bike buyers is “paint matters.” :-)

  3. Kaitlin says:

    I can’t speak to that bike, but I personally had great luck with buying a few-years-old road bike. One can get a lot of bike for $1000 if it is a few years old. Or, she can get virtually the same bike for a lot less than $1000. I found an excellent road bike for 1/2 off MSRP by patiently stalking Craigslist.

  4. Cyclin Missy says:

    I agree with the above. Any decent road bike will be fine for competing in races and going the long miles. After the frame, which it sounds like will be light and fun to ride, the component set is probably the most important thing. An upper end Shimano group will have great quality.

    I also agree that you can get a lot of used bike for $1000. In March, I got a 2005 full carbon Giant TCR C3 with Shimano 105 components for $550 (retail new was $1700). Bikes depreciate as badly as cars. So I think you could get a one to three year old full carbon bike with upper end Shimano components for around $1000.

    Whatever L. chooses, she will find a bike that she is very happy with in that price range! Welcome to road biking!

  5. Dean Peddle says:

    Another vote here for the used option. Bikes….especially road bikes are very hard to sell. I have a $7000 old racing bike right now with top of the line everything that if I was going to sell could not get $2000 for it and it still rides like it’s brand new. Racers are always dumping their bikes at the end of the season. Check eBay as I’ve personally sold 2 old racing bikes with top of the line componetry….Trek 5500 with Campy Record and Colnago with Dura Ace for less than $1500 each.

  6. E A says:

    Test ride multiple bikes (multiple brands) definitely before taking the plunge. I agree with John that this will likely not be L’s last bike, but since she wants it to last a while, do take the time to test ride. Before I bought any new bike, I had researched online and priced the bike I thought I wanted out. I even sought out shops that sold that brand and model… only to test it against several other options and discovered that it wasn’t the one for me. L – have you considered the Jamis brand?

  7. Johnny says:

    I second Jamis!

    Novara makes some nice-looking bikes. The problem I’ve encountered is the less than stellar service at some REI bike shops. But, in their defense, Baltimore’s REI is one of the smaller stores.

  8. JenF says:

    I think that Raleigh makes the best value bikes, ie best bike for the money. You can get a pretty nice road bike from Raleigh for $1000.

  9. Ghost Rider says:

    Tell L. to skip the aluminum/carbon mix and look for a full aluminum frame. It’s much more durable for a beginning racer, and I’ve heard way too many horror stories about a cracked seatstay or delamination between the aluminum and carbon sections for my taste.

    +1 on EA’s recommendation — don’t let price be the deciding factor, but make overall comfort and enjoyability the priority. The more models and brands L. can try out, the better she can decide.

  10. I agree with Ghost Rider about the aluminum/carbon mix. I think it’s OK to have a carbon fork, but the frame is a lot more expensive to replace. I wouldn’t get a carbon frame unless it came with a warranty or I had money to burn.

    You might check out BikesDirect as their prices are cheap, but if you want to support local business, going to local shops and checking out bikes in person might be a better idea.

  11. antisociology says:

    John here, again.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve heard delamination stories. For the most part, modern alu/carbon mixes are fine. I doubt there will be any problems in that area. You do still need to be a little careful and watch out for scratches that go past the clearcoat, but I suspect the clearcoat is going to be pretty thick.

    Also, +1 on E A’s suggestion to test ride multiple bikes.

  12. […] (Budget) Bicycles: REI Novara Transfer and Fusion The other day while at REI with my friend L., I spotted a couple of intriguing Novara commuter bikes in the clearance section, but didn’t […]

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