Review: Fuji Norcom Straight
article & images by Nick Salazar
Sep 17, 2013  hits 134,934

Fuji brought a small demo fleet of their newest triathlon rig to Outdoor Demo at Interbike, and I snagged one to inspect. Here is my full, raw, uncensored review of the Fuji Norcom Straight.

Fuji and Kestrel (which are sister brands) have recently had a pretty big presence at Interbike's Outdoor Demo days. This year, there were several examples of Fuji's new flagshi tri bike, the Norcom Straight, available for demo. To be clear, I did NOT take the bike out for a ride, but instead took some time to inspect it in detail, take this gallery of photographs, and report my findings here, as a review. So this isn't a riding review, but rather a purely technical analysis of the bike.

And because I didn't come away with a glowingly-positive impression of the bike (read: I'll have quite a few criticisms of the bike), I want to give a little bit more background to rhe review, to my biases, and the reasons I had for coming up with the conclusions I did.

As many of you know, I'm pretty passionate about minimalism and elegance in design, but never when it comes at the cost of function. I'm a passionate designer, and have made quite a few revolutionary products of my own. These products make me biased in certain areas. That is, when I see a bike with a non-aero braking solution (or even an aero one that I consider sub-par), I'm quick to call it out. And sometimes, my recommendation is that the bike have its brake replaced with something like my Omega brake. But I do NOT mean to suggest that the Omega is the only brake I like. There are plenty of really good brakes in the triathlon world. For example, the Trek Speed Concept and the Felt IA both have integrated brakes that integrate perfectly into the shape of their respective bikes, and work very well. Moreover, Felt recently updated its DA model with a new integrated brake that means the bike is no longer Omega-compatible and ONLY compatible with the integrated brake. And I think their integrated solution is fantastic. I think I can be fair even while recognizing my biases.

Similarly, I now have a bias in the aerobar category, because I make the Alpha. But that doesn't mean I can't recognize a great bar when I see one. Need some examples? Well, here ... you... go. Two of those articles were written while Alpha was already in development. Again, I'm quick to recognize where I have a bias, but I still think I can be fair. Both of the examples above will be pertinent to today's article, because I have some bones to pick with Fuji's choice of brake AND aerobar for the Norcom Straight.

So that's all I really have to say in terms of prep. Let's dive right into the details of this rig, and my uncensored opinions of everything. There's a lot of detail in the gallery captions as well, so don't forget to check those out. For now, just hit the jump, and brace yourself for my raw feelings about this bike.

Tags » frames,  fuji
  • The Fuji Norcom Straight, baking in the Vegas heat.
  • A closer look at the Fuji Norcom Straight.
  • Fuji brought a small complement to Outdoor Demo, allowing industry folks to get a firsthand experience on their new speed machine.
  • The front end situation is far too underwhelming for a modern top-tier bike.
  • This closeup shows a few things. First, the top tube cable guide bolts on, allowing you to replace it depending on whether you're running mechanical or electronic components. That's a good thing! Second, it shows just how tightly the stem fits with the cutout in the top tube/head tube junction. That's pretty slick, but it means you'll have a very hard time using any stem other than the one included with the bike (or possibly one or two other stems like the PRO Missile EVO that don't have any hardware in the back). And finally, you can see in this image that there's nowhere for the Di2 front junction to hide; it just gets strapped to the stem. That's a pretty sad solution, considering there are PLENTY of other things to do here. Trek, Felt, and Cervelo have all found ways to completely conceal the junction box inside the front of the frame, keeping the bike very clean.
  • The front end of the Fuji Norcom Straight. For an integrated stem, this one doesn't look nearly as sleek as others on the market.
  • It's kinda sad that the only way to add stack on the Norcom Straight is to add spacers under the bar. This is a pretty primitive adjustment method, and even if the top tube fairs them to a reasonable degree, this just doesn't make the grade where the rest of the market is concerned.
  • The industry has moved away from TRP's 726R platform in favor of the new TTV brakes, which in my opinion are even worse. They look neat from some angles, because they allow the manufacturer to integrate the fork and brake without breaking a sweat. But their adjustability, performance, and cable routing are usually a pretty sad story. With the Norcom Straight, Fuji has at least done the best they could with the TTV, finding a centerpull routing solution that far exceeds the standard sidepull path that most manufacturers use. Still, I think there are far better integrated braking solutions to be had, and I don't just say that from my biased perspective as a brake manufacturer. For example, Felt's new Bayonet 4 fork, with its integrated brake, is worlds better than a TTV brake. And even though I don't really like hydraulic brakes, I'd far sooner mount up a Magura than the TTV. Gripes aside, Fuji's solution is at least a workable one, and not a total deal-breaker.
  • Even though the TTV promises to be a slick braking solution, it still sticks out of the fork, and the end of the cable inevitably hits the wind.
  • One very good detail about the bike is how the cable enters the frame within the head tube. If only they had a good brake to match. The 'good' version of this is exemplified by the Felt Bayonet 4 fork, which has similar cable path, but routes into a very good custom centerpull brake.
  • Another really nice detail on the Norcom Straight is how the rear dropout works. It's a vertical dropout (which is easier to use than the horizontal variety), but has an adjutable distance from the BB, to help you tuck the rear wheel in as close as possible to the seat tube cutout.
  • Rear brake - same TTV model as the front brake.
  • Rear brake - several bikes are using this exact TTV model as a 'lazy' way of integrating it into the shape of the frame. But most people I've encountered who actually have a chance to USE this brake agree that it's quite a mess.
  • The Norcom Straigt uses the same four-position side-address Ritchey post used by the Cervelo P5 and others. It's a very good post, and very easy to adjust. Fuji's version also includes a slick little Di2 battery mount!
  • The frontal profile of the Fuji Norcom Straight is a big disappointment. You're looking here at a bike that costs more than EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS, and this is the best they can do! For about three thousand dollars, you can get the Felt B-series bike, a TriRig front end     (    <a href='store.php?c=omega' >Omega </a > +     <a href='store.php?c=alpha' >Alpha </a > +     <a href='store.php?c=sigma' >Sigma </a >    ), and wind up with     <a href='b2front' > this frontal profile </a >.     Oh, and you'll save yourself FIVE GRAND in the process. I know I'm biased to love my own products, but use your own judgment; which bike looks better to you?

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