Fit Comes First On Fuji’s All-New Norcom Straight Speed Machine
Three years ago, when Fuji set out to replace their much loved D6 tri bike they knew it had to be fast, but more importantly it had to fit. In Fuji’s 114 year history, the making of the Norcom Straight marks their most ambitious project yet. Fuji doesn’t just look at the Norcom Straight as their latest and greatest Tri bike, but on a larger scale as the current pinnacle of their design and engineering efforts.
With a billing like that, the Norcom Straight has a lot to live up to. Read on to see if it delivers.
Fit, above all was the big emphasis with the Norcom – after all, you can have the fastest bike in the world, but if you can’t fit it comfortably it’s pointless. Fuji tried to design the bike to fit riders of all shapes and sizes from 6’5″ pro triathlete Matty Reed, to the age grouper just trying to stay fit. Everything had to be easy to adjust, and offer a wide range of fit right out of the box.
At the front of the fit story is the head tube pocket that allows for 135mm of vertical adjustment of the stem position between a negative 17° stem in the lowest position, to a positive 17° stem in the highest position. On top of that, there is further vertical adjustment with aerobar pad height. The stem is most aero when inline with the top tube in the lower positions, but as mentioned fit comes first.
Fuji will be offering the Norcom Straight in five sizes from 49 to a 57cm all with 700c wheels. After hearing that the largest size was only a 57cm, everyone’s immediate question was “but what about the tall guys?” As it turns out, Fuji really did think about the tall guys (or girls) with the 57cm frame fitting 6’5″ Matty Reed, and Lennard Zinn for that matter. Matty said the new bike is one of the best fits he’s had, and Zinn was equally happy (riding Matty’s bike) saying he didn’t expect it to fit so well.
Personally, I was on a 51cm frame that, with minimal adjustments, felt surprisingly good. My fit was certainly not perfect, but in the rush of getting bikes together, fighting for allen wrenches to make quick adjustments, I was impressed how quickly and easily I was able to substantially change the set up. Any tri bike fitters out there will love this bike for that reason alone.
Between the Oval Concepts 760 Aero stem, and the different base bars, the Norcom Straight has a dizzying array of options with 24 total positions. Much of the cockpit revolves around the custom stem which is 3D forged from 7050 aluminum. Designed for specific integration into this bike, the stem is the same width as the top tube and features a contoured compression cap to smooth airflow over the steerer/frame junction. The good news here is that it is built with a standard 31.8 bar clamp diameter allowing riders to run whatever base bar they choose. At the front of the stem sits an aerodynamic cover that snaps over the faceplate and bolts furthering aerodynamics, but allowing easy access to stem bolts. The 760 is offered in 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, and 130mm lengths in 8 and 17° rises that can all be installed in positive or negative position.
The stem will mount to a number of base bars, but for the high end it will be the Oval Concepts 960 or 970 carbon bars. The biggest difference between the two is the 970 is not UCI legal, making it the only part on the bike that would not qualify. The reason is that it uses Jet Stream dual wing technology that was developed by a Formula 1 team in the wind tunnel, and is banned by the UCI. Otherwise both bars offer a full UD carbon construction with a 420mm width, 4 riser heights (5, 10, 15, 20mm), and 5 arm rest positions. Again, there is a total of 60 different positions available for total tuneability.
Instead of a collet system that some aerobars use, the Oval bars both use an alloy clamp that surrounds a nylon core with a longitudinal split. Combined with Oval extensions that include 165mm of sanded clear grip, the bars grab the extensions tenaciously with a lighter design. Extensions will be offered in S Bend, Ski Bend, and straight, and are 376mm long.
At the other end of the bike, the Norcom Straight offers a seat post that offers nearly the same level of adjustment. Shipped with 400mm seat posts, each size has around 180mm of vertical adjustment without having to cut the post. Thanks to the 70mm of fore/aft saddle adjustment, effective seat tube angle spans between 74 and 81°. Holding the saddle in place is what appears to be an excellent single bolt post head that kept the saddle from budging with minimal torque on the bolt.
Holding the post in place is a knurled wedge that locks in place with a single 5mm bolt. Fuji paid particular attention to this area as one of the biggest complaints of integrated seatposts in the industry is having them slip. Finding the right balance between clamping force and friction is key, which Fuji approaches with a sand grip finish on the front of the post where the wedge and post interface. This is the same design as what is on Fuji’s proven Track Elite.
Ok, fit is important, but the goal is still to build a fast bike which meant a lot of hours in the A2 wind tunnel. Starting with rapid prototype models, RPT #1 was a modular frame with 24 different combinations of tubes. Using wind tunnel data and tests like the yarn test above which highlights turbulent air, eventually the rough design was chosen. This gave rise to RPT#2 which was a single piece design that was substantially better at extreme yaw angles and featured a narrower heat tube. Finally, carbon bikes were made allowing for wind tunnel testing with Fuji’s own triathletes.
Eventually they ended up with a frame design that saved an average of 10 watts over the D6 with measured improvements across the yaw spectrum. To figure the watts savings, Fuji used a mathematical formula where 11g of drag were equal to 1 watt of power at 30mph. In all of their testing of both their bikes and competitors, Fuji replicated each wheel and bar set up and used an older baseline set of wheels with an 81mm deep tubular rim.
In addition to wanting to make the bike more aerodynamic, a major design goal was to increase the overall stiffness of the bike as well. The Norcom Straight utilizes Fuji’s patented ribbed technology which places a carbon rib in the middle of the down tube and fork legs increasing stiffness dramatically – 20% stiffer in the head tube and 26% stiffer in the bottom bracket to be precise.
Complete bikes will be offered with two different frames, the 1 and 2 series. The 1 series offering is built with a higher modulus, stiffer carbon that will be offered on the higher end bikes. Frames are constructed with a monocoque fork and front triangle with separate pieces for the seat stays, chain stays, and dropouts. Compared to the D6, the frame, fork, stem, and seat post weigh about 200g less with a roughly 1400g frame, 200g post, and 150g stem. Expect to see about a 100g difference between 1 and 2 series frames.
As for the visual design of the frame, Fuji didn’t want to get too far away from the looks of the D6 as it’s a bike that a lot of people love. Graphics are a bit loud, but in a way that isn’t bad. Like the Altamira SL we’re testing, it will probably get a lot of compliments in the looks department.
The frame keeps the close profile around the rear wheel, with spacing adjustable via the rear dropouts.
When asked if a non-UCI approved design would have improved the bike’s aerodynamics, Steve Fairchild who was the driving force behind the Norcom, said he really didn’t think it would. In their testing of non sanctioned bikes from competitors, he claims the Norcom Straight tested better.
Keeping cables as tidy as possible, the new bike has cable routing options for both mechanical and hydraulic included with each frame. Cabling through the frame features full housing for easy installation and protection against the elements, and Gatorade.
The front brake cable routing is particularly interesting as it enters the top of the head tube and is all internal from there. After entering the head tube, the brake cable moves through a channel into the fork, with internal stops that will keep the fork from rotating far enough to cause damage.
From there the flexible noodle enters a custom forged cable hanger which keeps everything away from the tire.
Both front and rear brakes utilize TRP’s TTV aero brake built into the trailing edge of the fork, and the bottom of the chain stays.
Another seemingly brilliant feature of the Norcom Straight is the horizontally adjustable, vertical dropouts. Anyone who has ever changed a flat on a tri bike knows the hassle horizontal dropouts with a derailleur can be. This way, the wheel can still be adjusted back and forth, but the vertical drops keep the wheel changes nice and easy. Fuji mentioned they have tested the frame with just about every major wheel on the market for issues with chainstay or brake clearance so you shouldn’t have any issues running other wheels if you choose.
Offered in various trim levels, Norcom Straights will retail from $2,229 to $7,499 for the top of the line 1.1 with Dura Ace 9000 Di2 and Oval’s 981 full carbon clincher. For complete specs on each model, check out fitcomesfirst.com.
Smooth. That was honestly the first thing that popped in my head while riding a mostly stock Norcom Straight 1.1. Of course it was the highest end bike they will offer so it should be good, and it was. I found it very easy to adjust to find your comfortable spot on the seat, put your head down, and push. Even while in aero position the ride felt very stable and inspired confidence on the crowded streets of downtown Boulder. I honestly can’t say much about the aerodynamics other than seat of the pants – it felt faster than any road bike, that’s for sure. The important thing to take away is that with minimal effort, a few allen wrenches, and probably not enough time I was able to dial in a Tri bike I had never seen or ridden before and feel comfortable.
Fit really does come first.