They say you never forget your first time. So true… I still remember the first time I bought a brand-new adult bicycle. The year was 1981 and the bike was a Nishiki Royale 15—a fine lugged steel touring bike, made in Japan. With a triple crank and five speed freewheel, I was ready for the daily commuting grind, weekend group rides, and the occasional loaded tour. Heck, all I had to do was remove the rack and switch to a lighter wheelset with skinnier tires, and I was ready to toe the line in citizens’ class road races and local triathlons. Yep, I did all that, and more, on that “touring” bike.
My current test bike, the Novara Randonee, brings back memories of that first bike. At $1049, including rear rack, the Randonee is designed as an affordable bike that can handle the rigors of loaded touring, and serve as a comfortable commuting rig. With a butted Reynolds 520 tubeset, 4130 chromoly fork, 27 speeds and aforementioned rear rack this puppy is ready to romp. Well, perhaps you’ll want to add fenders before your romp, if you live in the rain country like I do (there are separate eyelets for fenders, in addition to rack eyelets). And if you’re really serious about touring, the fork has eyelets for mounting a front rack.
I had the Randonee for exactly one week before I added a front low-rider rack and the fenders from my personal commuter, and loaded her up to the gills for a 267 mile self-supported tour along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal trails from Southwestern Pennsylvania to Washington, DC (see photos below). I had a blast, and the Randonee carried me and my gear comfortably and with confidence. The worst thing that happened over the five days was one punctured tube, due to a very sharp flint-like shard that found its way into my tire.
It’s early in the testing process, so I’ll keep this report brief—an introduction to my new steed. By the time I write my review for Bicycle Times, I hope to rack up plenty of commuting miles, countless grocery trips, and perhaps another tour or two atop the Randonee. I’ll leave you with the detailed specifications, a selection of photos of the Randonee, and some action shots from the aforementioned tour.
Model year: 2009
Country of origin: Taiwan
Wheel size: 700c
Frame material: Reynolds 520 chromoly steel
Fork: Rigid 4130 chromoly steel with lugged crown
Handlebar: Ritchey BioMax
Headset: FSA Orbit X
Bottom bracket: Shimano Deore Octalink
Crank: Shimano Deore 48/36/26
Pedals: Platform with toe clips
Chain: Shimano HG53
Saddle: Fizik Nisene
Seatpost : Kalloy
Front hub: Shimano Tiagra
Rear hub: Shimano Tiagra
Front derailleur: Shimano Tiagra
Rear derailleur: Shimano 105, long cage
Shifters: Shimano Tiagra STI
Cassette: SRAM PG-950 11-28, 9-speed
Brakes: Tektro cantilevers
Rims: Mavic A319S
Tires: Vittoria Randonneur 700×32
Sizes: 47, 52, 55, 57, 59
Colors: Moss green w/ grey decals
Company website: www.rei.com or click here for Randonee info.