Review: Co-Motion’s All-Rounder Roadie, the Nor’ Wester

Co-Motion Nor' Wester Full Bike

Here at Bikerumor we often showcase highend carbon race machines.  These $10,000 plus rides from the likes of Trek, Bianchi, and Cervelo are always eye catching as well as lust worthy.  But for many of us, myself included, they are not only out of control spendy, but very impractical for daily use (unless you are a pro racer).  That is not to say they aren’t amazing bikes to ride, but for most, a bicycle that that can be used on a daily basis for commuting, running errands, as well as fitness rides, light touring, and even on a rainy day is a better option.  That type of swiss army bike is exactly what Co-Motion produce in their Nor’ Wester.

I have had the pleasure of  riding a Nor’ Wester for the past few months.  Beyond the break you’ll find the full review of this do-it-all steel ride.

Co-Motion Nor' Wester Headtube

For the past 24 years Co-Motion has been cranking out the metal in one form or another.  Their line up covers everything from a 24 pound aluminum racing tandem, to an off road touring bike.  They are fans of belt drives and Rohloff hubs.  And you will find that they make everything in house whenever possible, induing doing all of their own paint work.  This is a company staffed by hard workers, who turn out a high quality product made here in the USA.

When it comes to the Nor’ Wester, it uses a semi-compact geometry frame designed to put the rider in a bit more upright position, yet still managing a fast ride.  You get fender and rear rack mounts, long reach brakes, and it utilizes the Co-Motion InterChange dropouts for either single speed or geared builds.  The tubeset is oversized Reynolds 853 air hardened steel, with Co-Motion’s own carbon fork up front (a steel fork can be had for an additional $100).

Co-Motion Nor' Wester Front End

If you opt for Co-Motion’s complete build, you will end up with a Shimano Ultegra drive train using a compact crank, Shimano R600 long reach brakes, Thompson Post topped with a Selle Italia Nekkar Flow saddle, Chris King headset, FSA stem and bars, and Rolf Prima Aspin wheels wrapped with Continental Grand Prix 4000 700 x 25 rubber.  A very solid build that will rob your bank account of $4095.  Have your own ideas on what parts to use?   $1745 and you can have just the frameset.

That all being said, it should be noted that Co-Motion is a custom shop, and builds all bikes to order.  Need custom frame geometry?  Want S & S couplers?  Or a fancy paint job?  If you don’t mind the up charge, they don’t mind doing the work.  Also, as they do build bikes to order, Co-Motion doesn’t typically have inventory laying around to hand out for a review.  Therefore, it should be noted that the Nor’ Wester I have currently is a show bike from a couple of years ago.  Since then, the frame has been switched to a semi-sloping top tube for better fit options, and the rear dropouts have been replaced with their house made InterChange convertible dropouts.  I was assured that the differences between the bike I have versus the current model are minimal however, when it comes to handling and ride quality.  The test bike I have is built up with an Ultegra 6600 triple drive train.  Oh, and as for weight, my Nor’ Wester with pedals, two bottle cages, fenders, and a computer comes in at just over 22 pounds.  Strip off everything but the pedals and it comes in at 19 pounds and 13 ounces.

Co-Motion InterChange Dropout 1

Co-Motions New InterChange Dropouts with Fender Mounts

With that background covered, lets get to the meat.  Is the Nor’ Wester really a do-it-all bike, or does it try too hard to be everything to everyone?  In short, yes…the Nor’ Wester does it all and it does it well.  But you didn’t come here to read the short version right?

My personal riding experience has found me atop high end carbon, low end steel, mixed material frames, and aluminum race bikes.  This however, is the first time I have experience a true high end steel frame.  And while I hate hearing (or reading) the phrase, “Steel is real,” I can defiantly say I understand that view more now.  The ride quality of this Reynolds 853 frame is superb.  It has enough give to be comfortable on all day rides, but is still stiff enough to feel fast.  At nearly 22 lbs built up, I am not setting any personal bests on the bike, but it never feels slow or clunky like other lower end steel frames I have been on.

Co-Motion Nor' Wester Logo and Paint Sparkle

The first thing you notice on this bike, and pretty much every other Co-Motion I have seen, is the quality of the paint work.  Their in house painters know how to get the job done.  They make good use of their two in house down daft paint booths, with a mixing station nestled in between, and they even have a sandblasting table.  Not to mention, these guys are the masters of the fade!  The only down side to the paint is that it’s covering beautiful welds.

Co-Motion Nor' Wester Weld

The bike’s handling is very predictable, and not once has it ever felt unstable or twitchy.  On descents, line corrections are done with ease, and when just cruising, holding a straight line is done without thought.  The carbon fork holding that front wheel is designed by Co-Motion, and manufactured over seas.  It’s plenty stiff, and tracks well.  The vibration damping is welcome.  That said, if this were my personal bike I would go for the in house manufactured steel fork.  If for no other reason than to maintain a more classic look.

Co-Motion Nor' Wester Front End

When pointing the bike up hill, it felt lighter than 22 lbs, in part due to the triple cranks.  I never had a problem staying seated and spinning up steep inclines.

Co-Motion Nor' Wester Front End-2

Overall comfort has always been high when riding the Nor’ Wester.  The riding position (with the stem a bit more upright and using a few spacers) never left my neck stiff or my back sore.  The slightly more relaxed geometry and fairly stiff steel frame allow for good power transfer.  It’s not a race bike, and not one for a sprint finish.  But for everyday use,  it is more than adequate.

Co-Motion Nor' Wester Rear Tire Clearance

The only real nit I have to pick with the Nor’ Wester is the use of long reach brakes.  It’s lovely that the frame can accommodate fenders (especially here in the Pacific Northwest) over a 25c tire, but the long reach calipers feel spongy.  Personally, I would consider an upgrade to Paul Components Racer Mediums for a bit more stopping power.  The stock saddle is rather uncomfortable as well.  But saddle preference is such a personal thing, and I don’t remember the last time I didn’t change out the saddle on a review bike.

Co-Motion has designed and executed a fantastic all-rounder ride in the Nor’ Wester.  This is a bike that can be used for daily commuting thanks to the rack and fender mounts.  It’s an excellent choice for a supported tour, or even credit card touring.  Centuries?  No sweat if your legs are up to it.  And opting for a S & S coupler upgrade nets you one of the best travel bikes you will find.

In my position here at Bikerumor I am often afforded the opportunity to ride quality gear and bikes on a regular basis.  When new bikes come in, and old ones go out the door, I usually don’t mind so much.  It’s a fun cycle.  With the Nor’ Wester however, I have formed a bond with the bike. I could see myself ending up with one in my personal collection and growing with the bike over the years.  This is the type of bike you get and hold on to.  Like a family heirloom.

Co-Motion Nor' Wester Rear Stays

Comments

Champs - 07/19/12 - 8:19pm

I get the point, but the distracting misspellings make it hard to give this author a brake. Spelling errors in this article sore above the line of acceptability.

Dave - 07/19/12 - 8:22pm

Too bad the breaks aren’t up to snuff, and good that your back didn’t get soar. Good brakes always help from getting sore.

seriously? - 07/19/12 - 9:11pm

Serious review of a several year old bike….?
And ‘breaks’ on a bike site? Attention to detail? Credibility count for much?

anon - 07/19/12 - 10:18pm

@Champs: It’s break, not brake and soar, not sore. Spelling errors in your comment soar above the line of acceptability. #fail

anon - 07/19/12 - 10:20pm

oops, I figured out that you were making fun of the article. It has been edited…

Nick Burklow - 07/19/12 - 10:26pm

Corrections made. It would help to not copy the text from a rough draft. Thanks for the notes guys.

fred zroen - 07/19/12 - 10:29pm

Um, I hope that first comment was a joke…Break…Soar…

I think the article is well written regardless of a few typos. However, the welds are not any prettier than on a 2006 (US made) Lemond, I’m sure Co-Motion’s welds are perfectly sound structurally but they just don’t have that drool factor. For 4 grand you are almost in Seven territory and their welds are PERFECT.

It is sad that 4-6 years ago you could buy a US made True Temper Gary Fisher or Lemond for half the price of the Co-motion, but now if you want something made out of True Temper or Reynolds 853/631 you have to go custom or go Taiwanese (Jamis, Bianchi, Raleigh). Steel is definitely becoming a niche thing, because carbon and aluminum have become so much better. All my bikes are steel, but I know that a Taiwanese CAAD10 (for example) rides just as well and weighs 2-3lbs less for the same price. Nonetheless, I am stuck on steel….no idea why.

Warp - 07/20/12 - 2:03am

Same feelings as Fred… Cool bike, but you’d expect better welds on a 1700USD frame. Just like he said, looks don’t tell if a weld is structurally sound or not, though.

Condor - 07/20/12 - 4:23am

@fred zroen you forget Gunnar- a fantastic riding US made steel frame that just happens to be quite affordable. I’ve had expensive carbon bikes prior and feel no need to “upgrade.”

RockT - 07/20/12 - 9:56am

drool factor on steel tig beads? give me a breighk.

Roger - 07/20/12 - 12:30pm

I have bikes with both long reach brakes and shorter varieties and I have no idea what you are talking about when you say the long reach are spongy. They are the most practical option if you want to run a bike with fenders and also for wider tires. This is an all arounder so you need the flexibility.

Beaters Rule - 07/20/12 - 2:53pm

Wow. It’s “a bicycle that that can be used on a daily basis for commuting, running errands, as well as fitness rides, light touring, and even on a rainy day” and it costs 5 grand. Jus sayin

GrantB - 07/21/12 - 6:39am

Will they hang some Tiagra and Cane Creek on it instead?

quickgeezer - 07/21/12 - 5:21pm

Waterford, a town not too far from me in Wisconsin, is home to a company called Waterford, where they make excellent custom steel frames; their “budget brand,” Gunnar, offers a LOT of bike for the money, but not custom. These frames are made in Wisconsin, and as a former Gunnar owner (gave it to my brother when I got a Seven), I’ve got to say you should check it out. $1700+ for an 853 frameset without custom geometry is a bit much.

Neil Wechsler - 07/23/12 - 9:02pm

Quickgeezer states that Gunnar offers a lot of bike for the money, but not a custom bike. Actually Gunnar does offer the option of full custom frames.

Kalulu - 07/25/12 - 7:47pm

I toured for months in Asia on a co-motion steel bike. Thousands of miles later, fully loaded, hitting any pothole, I still have a bike left, more than can be said for many others.

Nick - 06/12/14 - 11:28pm

I bought the bike in this review. As in this exact one with the scratch that can be seen in the last picture. This bike has been amazing! In the past year I have put over 3k miles on her. I’m a heavy rider at 225lbs and ride fairly aggressively. Other then a broken chain and wearing out tires it’s still in perfect condition.

Like the article said this bike will be a family heirloom and I think it has the durability to be one.

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