Strengths: This bike is an absolutely amazing beginners bike. Its frame is strong and durable, I have taken it off 4+ drops to flat and it hasn't given me any trouble. The stock brakes were well above my expectations and have saved my life on steep places many times. The tires are great for most riding, although I did eventually upgrade my rear tire because it was slipping. The rims are great, they have only needed to be trued once, in over two years of continual riding and jumping. The seat post and seat are very comfortable for long rides, and the geometry is great for all styles of riding.
Weaknesses: The RST Gila is not the best quality out there. I eventually upgraded my fork because I was getting scarred taking it off bigger jumps. The stock pedals slip fairly easily, but that is to be expected. Upgrading to nicer pedals is a cheap option, and might save you a few falls. The big gear shifter was a bit jumpy, but a trip to REI to get it tuned would fix that. The grips are a bit slippery, but that should be expected after 3000 miles, and replacements are cheap.
This is a great bike overall. The quality for the price is hard to find anywhere else in a new bike. I have put this through much abuse and it still has taken everything I throw at it. I would recommend this to any beginning biker. The bike is great for starting out in biking, and is easily upgradeable if you get more into MTB even more.
a Weekend Warrior
Date Reviewed: June 8, 2009
Weaknesses: This bike is GREAT!!!! The only thing I would change is the weight...it's on the heavy side
This bike has served me very well the past year...I've gotten a lot of bang for my buck. REI even did a free warrantly tune up when I abused it. All in all...it is one of the best entry level mountain bikes around.
a Weekend Warrior
from Farmington, MI, USA
Date Reviewed: December 23, 2007
Strengths: Very good bike for the price. I was looking for a decent mountain bike for the wife so she could join me on the single tracks. This is about as inexpensive as they get if you want disc brakes, which are very nice by the way. Bike fits her geometry very well, and we put over 200 (very hard) miles on it in about 3 months, all trail riding. It has taken all the abuse and never complained.
Also, REI customer service is tough to beat. I don't think you could go wrong with this bike unless you're trying to make a living by racing.
Weaknesses: I'm sure some very good riders could expose weaknesses on this bike, but we haven't found many yet. The previous reviewer mentioned the pedals were cheap. That is true, they are plastic platform pedals. However, knowing that pedals are commonly switched out, and very cheap/easy to change, it's hard to see this as a fault.
You won't find a better value in bikes than this. Good components at a great price, with more than adequate performance.
a Weekend Warrior
from Tampa, FL, USA
Date Reviewed: December 14, 2007
Strengths: The bike looks as good if not better in person as far as design goes as some of the major bike manufacturer's options for women. Not too girly, which is a big plus for my wife. It has better components than any bike I've seen at this price point. Shimano Alivio rear derailleur, Alivio front derailleur, Alivio shifters, Alivio crank set, Tektro IO disc brakes and brake levers, nice grips, decent WTB rims and tires and very smooth wheel hubs. The bike rides very nice, much better than my Diamondback Response Sport. The brakes are very responsive and have not needed too many adjustments so far. The disc rotors were nice and straight and made of thicker gauge steel than my Hayes MX4's.
Weaknesses: Novara makes some pretty expensive bikes, but their frame warranty is not really in print online or in the store. At least it doesn't seem to be readily available and advertised; it's more of a verbal one, a little sketchy in my opinion. They should do something about this, maybe put warranty statement online that is up to par with their self proclaimed quality. Also the emblem on the front is a little cheesy, it's barely hanging on, they should have just not put one on or maybe painted it on. It's really a minor flaw, but it's in your face once you notice it. Also the plastic pedals are really cheap. I think all the flaws are very minor except for the ambiguous frame warranty. Also, the fork is pretty average for this price point.
The bike is a great bike for the price. You really can't get all of the quality components on this bike on any other major brand unless you spend around $500-$700. The only other manufacturer that comes close is Giant. This bike is great for anyone who lives close to an REI and does not care about prestige, and just wants a quality bike at a relatively low price. I'd be a little scared of spending too much on a Novara (i.e. $500+) simply because of the frame warranty issue and the resale value. But for the average weekend trail rider, the bike is definitely worth considering.