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 have time for a test ride. The Transfer has won Bicycling Magazine‘s editor choice award for the past two years, so I was eager to give it a shot. After our slightly disappointing Electra test ride Dottie and I decided it was a good time to head to Brentwood and check them out. The models we tried were the Novara Fusion and the Novara Transfer. Overall we found the REI Novara Transfer to be a good value for money, especially when on clearance. (What can I say, I love a good sale!) The higher-priced Fusion with upgraded components is nice, but not as budget-conscious.
Though we both found the sportier riding position a bit different from what we were used to, the Novara models performed admirably on our short ride. The frames are aluminum. They come in a wide range of sizes, from XS to XL, and the models we rode were complete with fenders, racks, internal hubs and generator lights, which is very unusual in this price range–cheap bikes aren’t always cheap once you add in the costs of purchasing these amenities separately! The Transfer, at just over $400 on clearance, was especially affordable. It had 7 gears in the internal hub, Vittoria tires and Nexus brakes. The XS frame felt about right for me, especially with the high top tube–it’s about the only diamond-frame bike that I haven’t had to heave my leg over. Still prefer a step-through, though . . .
The much pricier Fusion, which was about $900 (not on clearance), had more upscale components: an 8-speed Alfine hub with thumb shifters, disc brakes, and a brown-and-green color scheme that included custom seat and bar grips, along with the same tires and frame. Dottie felt the medium frame was too small for her.
Overall, we agreed that while the extras on the Fusion were nice, they didn’t quite justify the $400-odd price gap between the two models–but the Fusion does have a step-through option.
We didn’t take a picture of this, unfortunately, but the most unique feature on these bicycles were the bells. They were placed between the handlebars and the brakes, so they didn’t take up any room on the bars themselves. (Luckily another blogger has captured this.) Neat idea. It’s hard to tell during a brief test ride how a bike will hold up to everyday use, but these models are definitely worth a look if you want something sporty, yet practical.
Oh, and for anyone wondering how the service was at REI after our experience with the Electras — it was excellent. Nary a word about our dresses and (in my case) heels; the guys just gave us the bikes and a brief explanation of the features that respected our intelligence and let us ride. Refreshing.
Anyone out there had experience with the Transfer or Fusion?