Marc Abbott discovers this bike built for speed is best suited for those of us in it for the long run.
The joy of some bikes isn’t in their super-light weight, nor is it in their array of exotic components such as electronic gearing. Sometimes it isn’t even about clever engineering or design solutions. Some bikes, like this Fuji Norcom Straight 2.1 are just eminently comfortable over serious distance. And in the Norcom’s case, that makes it a serious contender if you’re looking for a long-distance triathlon or time trial bike.
For starters, the long-distance comfort that defines the Norcom is easy to achieve. There’s plenty of room on the steerer to juggle spacers for correct handlebar height, and plenty of adjustability in both the saddle position and handlebar extensions. Deeply-padded arm rests and a super-sumptuous Oval Concepts T900 perch ensure that two of your three contact points are spot-on. You could sit on the point of that saddle all day long.
On the down-side; crosswinds, and Oval carbon clinchers make uneasy bedfellows. Things get a bit dicey when the deep-profile rims catch a gust.
However, the wheels come into their own on flat roads when you’ve a chance to get them up to speed. Once your speed nudges past the 23mph mark, you’re on to a banker, as the bike whips with serious speed that you feel you could hold for as long as the road is level. Or until you encounter more crosswinds. A shrouded rear wheel and brakes hidden out of the airflow (behind the bottom bracket and behind the forks) show that some serious thought has been given to aerodynamic performance.
It’s a surprisingly adept bike when the going gets lumpy too, helped by a substantially stiff carbon frame that allows you to get the power to the ground, either seated or standing, depending on the length or gradient of the hill. Once you’re over the top of the climb, the standard 53/39 double chainset gives that little extra push to get up to speed on the descent, and doesn’t seem to noticeably handicap progress on the climbs.
Truth be told, a midcompact, 52/36 chainset would improve its climbing ability without affecting top speed too much on the downhills, but if you’re buying this bike mainly for straight-line, flat-out speed, you’re probably better off with the gearing it comes with as standard.
So, although this isn’t the lightest bike we’ve ever tested – or even the lightest TT bike – it will find its place in any event that requires comfort as well as endurance. Stepping up from club 10s to 25- or 50-mile time trials, or going further than a sprint tri? This bike should be on your shopping list.