Friday, December 17, 2010

Novara Fusion

Novara Fusion - 2011


The Novara Fusion, designed and sold by REI exclusively, has been significantly updated for 2011. It is the high-end commuting and utility model, above the more moderately-priced Novara Transfer. When it was last reviewed in 2008, the Fusion had an 8-speed Nexus hub, roller brakes, and a dynamo-powered halogen headlight, on a diamond-shaped aluminum frame. Now the Fusion has a steeply angled frame, almost a step-thru design, made of 4130 chromoly steel, the hubs have been upgraded to a Shimano Alfine 8-speed rear and Alfine dynamo front, powering Basta Pilot LED lights, and the brakes have changed to mechanical disks. 

Oddly, a chain tensioner is included, which gives the bike an appearance of a derailer set-up, but the gears are internal. The steeply sloping top tube and the short accessory tube in front of the seat are unusual, but have the practical effect of allowing a low stand-over height and easy boarding, without appearing too much like a "ladies bike". 

This bike is still the complete package, with fenders, a chainguard, kickstand, and a well-designed rear rack, and at $949 it has a very reasonable price, considering the Alfine-group components, and the usual 10% discount available to REI members. A cheaper option is the Novara Transfer. In practice, after including a $20 membership, the bike costs $879.


Specifications:

Frame:  Chromoly 4130, TIG-welded, steeply sloped top tube with low-standover
Fork:  Chromoly pinpoint,  uni-crown, curved
Rims:  700C - Weinmann SEC-16 Alloy double wall
Tires:  700x35 Vittoria Randonneur, with reflective sidewalls and puncture guard
Front hub:  Shimano Alfine Dynamo, 36h
Rear hub:  Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal gear hub, 36h
Shifter:  Shimano Alfine RapidFire trigger shifter
Handlebar:  "Lee Chi" alloy, all-rounder bar
Stem:  Kalloy quill
Headset:  FPD threaded
Grips: cork-style
Crankset:   SR, 42t
Bottom bracket:  SR square taper
Rear Cog:  Shimano, 20t
Chain:  KMC Z99
Pedals:  FPD alloy platform
Front & rear Brake:  Shimano BR-M416-L, mechanical disc
Brake levers:  Tektro
Saddle:  Velo plush (foam paddled)
Seat post:  Kalloy
Chainguard:  Alloy, plus chainring
Kickstand:  Single, center-mount
Fenders:  Novara (Alloy)
Rack:  Alloy rear rack
Lights:  Basta Sprint dynamo-powered LED headlight with standlight capacitor, and Basta battery-powered LED taillight with sensor
Extras: Integrated bell
Colors:  "Coastal Gray" (blue-gray)
Sizes:  xs/s, s/m, l/xl


Frame Geometry


Frame SizeSmallMediumLarge
Height range5'3" - 5'7"5'7"-5'11"5'11-6'3"
Seat Tube Center-Center15.71820.5
Effective Top Tube21.522.423.6
Standover272828.5
Rear Center17.517.517.5
Wheelbase42.242.844
Fork Offset1.71.71.7
Head Tube Angle (degree)707070
Seat Tube Angle (degree)737272

The Fusion is a little more "relaxed" than standard North American "hybrid" bike geometry, probably with a 73 degree seat tube angle, 70 degree headtube angle, large fork rake, and medium-long chainstays. I would expect this bike to have stable handling, and it should be appropriate for a partially-leaned-forward riding position, but not a fully-upright position (without changing the stem and handlebars).  The design of the rear rack and the long chainstays should position panniers (saddlebags) far enough back to prevent heel strike. 

Sizing: Based on REI's usual sizing standards, the smallest frame should fit riders as short as 5' 3" and perhaps even shorter (if an upright riding position is desired), while the largest size should fit riders up to 6' 3" tall.

Reviews

There are few reviews of the Fusion for 2011, but many reviews of the previous model are available.
Wired Magazine has reviewed the 2011 Fusion
Let's Go Ride A Bike also had a test-ride in 2009
Commuting Cyclist bought a 2009 Fusion
The 6-Miler compared the Fusion with the Breezer in 2005; out of date but interesting

Has anyone tried out the new 2011 model? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

11 comments:

Tom said...

The frame reminds me of a Workcycles Kruisframe. It's a sort of step-through-like bike with a criss-cross of top tubes.

kfg said...

"Oddly, a chain tensioner is included"

That's what happens when you do a conversion of an off the rack frame.

On the plus side it means you can replace the ring guard with another chainring and have a dual range bike out of the deal.

Joseph E said...

"That's what happens when you do a conversion of an off the rack frame."

I don't think this an "off-the rack" frame? I have not seen it elsewhere. And the Novara Transfer has an almost identical frame, but with horizontal dropouts: http://www.rei.com/product/808786

"On the plus side it means you can replace the ring guard with another chainring and have a dual range bike out of the deal."

Right; I find it strange that REI decided to use vertical drop-outs and a chain tensioner, but then went with a single chainring.

A chain tensioner and vertical dropouts can also make it easier to remove and replace the rear wheel, but the disk brakes make that operation more complicated anyway.

MarylandBill said...

I think Joseph hit the nail on the head with the notion of using the chain tensioner and the vertical dropouts to make using disk brakes easier.

They are not the only ones to do it though with alfine equipped bikes. Bianchi also does it with their Milano (and I seem to remember some others who do it as well).

As for the single chainring, I think you guys are missing the point of this bike. This bike is designed to be a no fuss commuter. The the chain guards are there so you can ride the bike in street clothes without getting any grease on your pants.

Personally, I wish they would continue to offer both of these bikes in a conventional diamond frame. The new frame is certainly practical, but there is something elegant about the diamond frame.

Anonymous said...

I am very turned off by the frame. I was ready to buy a Transfer this year, hoping they would just change last year's color and leave everything else as is. This year's frame is a deal-killer for sure. Oh well...

danielmurolamere said...

This thing is super weird looking.

Velouria said...

Wow, that is wacky - would love to see it in person! Beautiful colour though.

Matthew said...

basically a mixte frame with a little triangle off the seat post, very strange and the way they tension the chain does not help in the looks department.

Michael said...

I am thinking about buying this bike v. a Breezer Uptown 8 for my daughter who is heading to college. I have researched the internal hubs and the Alfine line of components is about the best on the market. One of the hassles about most internal hubs is that it is a bit of a pain to take off the rear wheel and/or to adjust the chain tension. So I look at having a chain tensioner as a good thing that makes these tasks easier. I do wish that Novara had decided to make the rear light powered by the internal dynamo instead of battery-powered and that there was not a problem with the fenders being very easy to bend and dent. I still haven't decided which bike to buy.

Bikes said...

Michael - bike thefts are rampant on campuses. Have you considered used, steel 3-spd mixtes?

Wahoo Fitness UK said...

Scanning through the internet, I found out that this bike is similar to the Brezer Uptown. At almost the same price as the latter, this bike is worth the second look.