At its most basic, cycling is simple and fun, something that the Nolobi Singlespeed soon reminded me. After blasting around the local town centre on the 'Yellow Peril' for a few weeks I was grinning like an idiot and embracing my hipster apprenticeship . You can too for just £270, though there are a few compromises.
Who are they?
Not heard of Nolobi before? You're not alone. They're from Hackney and the bikes were previously branded as No Logo. They pitch the Singlespeed as an urban bike. The lack of gears makes it perfect for commuting in the capital and so that's where you'll find Nolobi's biggest customer base.
How does it ride?
It's a hoot. The Singlespeed is very easy to ride thanks to a relaxed head tube angle giving a stable front end helped by the 52cm flat bar. It's very balanced and there shouldn't be any surprises, ideal for the beginner market Nolobi have in mind.
Although not really a bike for taking out into the hills the frame is plenty stiff enough on the way up or down for the modest speeds you're likely to be achieving. When out of the saddle climbing there was some flex at the bottom bracket especially on the steeper sections as you push the 42x18 ratio round dragging 10.9kg of bike upwards.
Once you've finally reached the peak its time to be rewarded with a bit of descending and with the weighty wheels and deep rims you can pick up a fairish old bit of speed. Handling wise it ain't too bad with the stable steering keeping the bike going where you want it. Just pray you don't have to stop: the combination of cheap no brand calipers and flexi levers isn't going to stop you in a hurry from anything north of 30mph.
Back on the flat though, where the Nolobi is supposed to spend most of its life, the Singlespeed is much better mannered with changes in direction being quick and precise. I managed to get through some much smaller gaps in traffic than I was expecting to.
Acceleration takes its toll if you've got a lot of stop/start for traffic lights and the like. Most of this is down to the wheels which while they look the part weigh a massive 4.8kg for the pair with most of that heft coming from the rims. That does include the tubes and Kenda tyres just in case you were worrying. They roll well enough once moving and stayed true after plenty of kerb hopping and pothole crashing. The tyres offer reasonable amounts of grip too considering the hard compound and thanks to the width and a bit of a tread pattern means they are perfectly at home on the canal path.
Impressive frame with cheap & cheerful parts
Made from 6061 aluminium alloy the overall quality of the Nolobi frame is pretty decent. It's manufactured in China and while there is nothing flash about it like butting or hydroforming the welds are tidy and all finished off with a hardwearing coat of paint.
An aluminium fork with a 1 1/8in steerer completes the front end which feels stiff when cornering or braking. Security washers are used to prevent the wheel dropping out should the track nuts work themselves loose and the forks are drilled to accept the tabs.
Being predominately intended as a single speed (the bikes do come with a fixed cog as well) the Nolobi has eyelets for the rear brake cable running along the top tube, something you don't see very often on non-geared bikes. It allows for a full outer cable to travel the length of tube to making it ideal for wet weather.
The components that make up the rest of the bike are all basic but do the job. The alloy bars, stem and seatpost are smart looking and I've seen components of this type on bikes costing double the price. The saddle was comfortable for the short style of rides the Nolobi is likely to be used for with minimal padding for the more upright position.
As with the majority of track chainsets the unbranded one on the Nolobi uses a square taper bottom bracket. These give plenty of options for getting the spot on chainline required for smooth running with the added bonus of being easy to replace and refit with just the minimal amount of tools. Our chainset fitted smoothly onto the tapers and ran pretty true, not something that happens that often with budget track components. It's stiff too: I couldn't feel any flex under acceleration from a standing start.
The rest of it goes a little bit downhill now though. We'll start with the brakes. Both the calipers and levers are very flexible which severely limits their modulation and emergency braking. At 10-12mph it's acceptable but any quicker than that you have to really be on the ball. The hard compound brake blocks and painted rims are also a factor.
The free wheel mechanism is quite sloppy on pick up too. Hard acceleration is met with an initial delay before engaging. It's not massive, you're only talking a fraction of a second but it's unnerving especially since a lack of chain-tugs means the rear wheel is constantly making its way up the dropouts, you never quite know if it's the freewheel or if your chain has gone slack as you make a dart for a gap in the traffic.
I've mentioned the weight of the wheels/tyres combo already but I'll reiterate just so you can get your head round it – 4.8kg. They might look the part but they certainly limit your route options if you live somewhere undulating. They are bombproof though as I said above and I suppose you have to decide what your priorities are.
Size wise you get three options: 53cm, 56cm or 59cm. Nolobi offers suggestions of rider height for each one though it's not an exact science especially for the beginner market they're after.
One thing there is plenty of choice of though is colour. Frame, wheelsets, components and tyres are all changeable. There is an off the peg range for the £270 base price but should want something a little more bespoke you can use the 'build a bike' page to spec it how you want. You can even select your background to see what it would look on your local street corner.
Overall the Noboli is a pretty decent bike. It has a good frameset and while the components are a bit of a mixed bag, value for money is pretty high. With the arrival of road bikes to the market with gears and carbon forks for just thirty quid more things are getting a very competitive though.
The Noboli is a fun bike to ride and is certainly engaging round town. Cutting through traffic or whizzing along cycle paths it handles steadily and apart from the brakes shouldn't give you any nasty surprises.
The components are perfectly up to the job of short commuting use or nipping to the shops I think if you were doing much more than that you're soon going to want to upgrade the brakes and treat yourself to lighter wheels and tyres.
Fun ride thanks to decent frame; heavy wheels and poor brakes take the edge off
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Nolobi Singlespeed
Size tested: 56
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
6061 aluminium alloy frame & fork
1 1/8" external headset
alloy bars, stem & seatpost
Unbranded dual pivot brake calipers
Deep section alloy rims with flip flop hub (fixed/free)
Unbranded single chainset
Square taper BB
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
The bikes were originally designed and priced for new cyclists as an alternative to BSO's from supermarkets and the like. The plan was to offer an affordable, lightweight fun bike to ride and I think Nolobi have achieved that goal for the new or occasional cyclist.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The welding looks neat and it's not too bad on the weight front either. The paint finish is thick and hardwearing which is ideal for the urban style of riding its intended for.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
6061 aluminium alloy is used for both the frame and fork
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Nolobi don't have a geometry table but for the 3 sizes available they do offer a fit guide here:
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
A reasonably short top tube (in relation to the seat tube) gives an upright ride position which is ideal for riding in traffic.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfort was pretty good helped a lot by the large volume Kenda tyres.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The frame felt stiff at the contact points and did show any sign of flex during hard efforts.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Pretty good, the heavy wheels take a lot of effort to get moving though.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Really easy to ride in traffic and on the open road thanks to stable handling, ideal for beginners.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle was comfortable as were the handlebars providing a good position for distributing your weight.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The chainset showed good levels of stiffness as did the bar and stem combo.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wheel weight took its toll after constant start/stop riding through town. Apart from looks they don't really provide any advantages so maybe an option of standard depth 32 spoke wheels would make sense.
to be fair though its not the Nolobi's intended terrain
Very good considering the budget pricing
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The components were fine, the chainset running true and stiffness levels were good. As I mentioned there was some slop in the freehub before engaging but its not a deal breaker.
The brakes though were pretty scary.
Wheels and tyres
They were pretty bulletproof over the test period.
available for £120 separately (inc tyres, tubes, cogs)
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
I can understand the deep section for aethetics but I personally think the bike would be more fun and engaing to ride with a more standard lighter wheelset.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
There isn't much to get excited about but its bang on for the money. Most of components performed well and look good to.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? It had its good points & bad points.
Would you consider buying the bike? No
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
The Nolobi is a bit of a mixed bag for me. The price is key for the customer base they're after and for that they've provided a decent quality frame paired with budget components. There is a lot to like about the ride to with plenty of engagement for the rider with stable handling for negotiating traffic. As I've mentioned though if I was commuting in the city with constant stop/start traffic and lights I wouldn't want to be spinning up those wheels over and over again. It gets 3.5 stars as the good points come out on top.
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Kinesis T2 My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.