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Fuji Norcom Straight 2.1 – review

April 9th, 2014 Comments off

 

In 2013 Fuji started with a new line of triathlon bikes to replace a very successful D6. A line of bikes called Norcom Straight was presented, and that was greeted with a mixed comments – from very good to quite critical. Later another line was presented, Aloha, but i’ll focus on Norcom Straight. It is offered in 5 different frame sizes and two basic versions, which differ especially in the quality of carbon. Version 1.* has carbon C10 , while version 2.* is C5. Key differences is in weight and rigidity of the material.

I have a model Norcom Straight 2.1, therefore i’ll focus my description on this bike. Others may differ, also due to the fact that different price ranges of the equipment are used. 2.1 is the “high end” version with the C5 carbon.

Design – frame – handling

With its focus on fit, Fuji set off on the quest for maximum adjustability, so thateveryone would be able to find their perfect position. Fuji claims “We’ve created a bike that fits to the rider, rather than forcing the rider to fit to the bike.”. It also claims that the Norcom boasts an 18 per cent improvement in aerodynamics over the D6. Model 2.1 is blue and it really looks great. The cable routing is quite clean and done inside the frame. As expected, bike works great on straights, is solid uphill, there is also no twisting or something similar. Fuji also said it made this bike stiffer comparing to predecessor, they have introduced BB86 bottom brackets to improve the BB stiffness. Cornering and responsiveness of the bike is also good enough, though it cannot match dedicated road bikes on twisting roads. The only problem i had was with the strong side wind, where it was really uncomfortable (and shaky) to ride on aerobars. But i guess that could be a problem with most tri bikes. The stem can be slammed within the pocket for an ultra-aggressive position or mounted on stacked, custom-designed spacers that fit directly within the pocket for a more upright position. On the latter, even longer rides on aerobars were comfortable, and the bike is certainly well suited for ironman. The weight is OK (i’m not a weight weenie), with ultegra gear weighs 8.74kg.

Equipment

With Norcom Straight 2.1 equipment is Shimano Ultegra, with 11 gears. The extra equipment is mostly from Oval (aerobars, saddle, chainset), brakes are TRP. What i miss is better suited frame for extra storage of drinks. For example, frame holds only one bottle (there are no other holes). There are also holes in a seat post, but, as they are planned for electronic shifting battery, not really usable and distanced to close, to hold or to be able to fix a bottle holder (even if you don’t use electric).

Drivetrain One cannot argue much against Shimano Ultegra group. It’s light, the shifts are crisp and quick (though shifting levers on aerobars is so so), it basically has great features. It is a true workhorse for those who don’t want to pay premium, but still want durability, low weight and more. Front has 53/39 teeth, while cassette on the back 11-28. This enables even tri bike to have a very low gear for going uphill. Of course, it doesn’t do wonders and sometimes (for example Ironman 70.3 in Austria) i had wished I had some more “teeth” in the back or less in the front.

Brakes are aerodynamic, hidden behind the fork. They look great, but they are not so great when it comes to setting them properly as they are more difficult to set up as ordinary brakes. They are OK in action, but not really good. I trust them much less than normal road bike brakes.

Steering Handlebar is Oval 750 (aluminium) with aluminium bars… (S-bend). In principle is highly customizable and Oval and Fuji have gone a long way. However, problems start when using it. First of all, from the front, due to its thickness, it doesn’t look very aero. But i will not argue that. Problem is in it core construction. The aerobars (or basically elbow pads) would come loose and shift while riding. Really annoying when you, after 90km, end up in different position that you started. And when this pads start rubbing the handlebar. I tried overtighting (far above what Fuji and Oval suggest), but it still comes loose after so many kilometers or hours. The handlebar is adjustable, but it is not sturdy enough to be usable – this is probably the worst point of this bike. I don’t have any complaints with braking levers.

Saddle was the first thing I changed. Its a very personal thing, and I just didn’t like the feel of original saddle (Oval R500T Triathlon). No way that my soft spot liked it. I replaced it with Specialized Sitero Expert, which is perfect for me. On the other hand, seat post is excellent and customizable.

Wheels are carbon wheels, with aluminium braking pads. Adjustability is a bit difficult, but ok. Clincher. Height is 45 mm, and that is already an entrance to the aero teritory. 20 spokes in front, 24 in the back, both wheels weigh 1757 grams, so they are not the lightest on the market.

Testing of the bike and impressions Bicycle looks great, though i would prefer less visible and standing out Fuji and Oval fonts. The equipment is Ultegra and very reliable. However, after months of riding the bike I always hade some noise from the transmission and even servicing the bike wasn’t able to fully get rid of it. I would prefer to have an electronic shifting, however that would markedly raise the price. All in all, bike is aerodynamic, adjustable and great for fast and long straights. What I didn’t like? Handlebars are just awful. You can adjust them, but they move in time. I’m not sure about the quality of TRP brakes. They are in very aerodynamic positions, but they also don’t give confidence for braking. Cornering could be better, but hey, this bike is made for straights. And very good value for money.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5
Value: 4.5 out 5

More info on the bike… http://www.fujibikes.com/bike/details/norcom-straight-21#bk_desc_tab

Specs:

SIZES S (49cm), M (51cm), M/L (53cm), L (55cm), XL (57cm)
COLOR(S) Blue
MAIN FRAME C5 high-modulus aero carbon tubing, integrated seat clamp, integrated head tube, water bottle mount
REAR TRIANGLE C5 high-modulus carbon aero stays w/ chainstays-mounted brake, vertical dropout w/ adjustment for wheel position
FORK FC-440 carbon aero monocoque w/ 1 1/8″ carbon steerer, integrated airfoil brakes
CRANKSET Oval 720 hollow forged alloy, 53/39T
BOTTOM BRACKET Press-fit BB86 sealed bearing
PEDALS N/A
FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano Ultegra, braze-on mount
REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed
SHIFTERS Shimano SL-BSR1 Bar End TT shifters, 22-speed
CASSETTE Shimano Ultegra, 11-28T, 11-speed
CHAIN KMC X11L, 11-speed
WHEELSET Oval 945 carbon/alloy clincher, 45mm rim – 700c
TIRES Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick, 60 tpi, 700c x 23mm
BRAKE SET TRP aero TTV
BRAKE LEVERS Oval 701 forged alloy
HEADSET FSA press-fit top/integrated bottom bearing, 1 1/8″
HANDLEBAR Oval 750 alloy base bar w/ 750 S bend alloy extensions
STEM Oval 760 aero, 31.8mm, 8 degrees
TAPE/GRIP Oval 300 suede-padded tape
SADDLE Oval R500T Triathlon w/ CrMo hollow rails
SEAT POST Oval aero carbon multi-position
WEIGHT, LB./KG. 19.23 lbs / 8.74 kg
Categories: Mtb / cycling, review, sport, Equipment test Tags:

Hotel Leonardo, Berlin

October 1st, 2012 Comments off

Hotel is located in a Charlottenburg district, with great connections to Tegel airport and directly to other interesting locations in Berlin. Bus from the airport (109) stops nearby, or alternatively you can take 109 or x09 to the first u-bahn station and then use the u-bahn directly to Bismarkstrasse. Nearby there are two lines of u-bahn and thats very handy when going downtown. Zoo station is just a three u-bahn stops away, while line U2 goes to Alexanderplatz and Prenzaluer Berg in the east Berlin.

We stayed in room 650 during the Berlin Marathon. Room was located on the 6th floor and OK sized (just right). Its a non smoking floor, in that case also our room was non-smoking. As it was located on the 6th floor, view was unobstructed to the north. It was also very quiet, i couldn’t hear any noise from the street (also note, that our room was located on a quiet street). Room was cleaned every day, though i didn’t have the best sleep, as the bed was a bit soft to my liking. Bathroom was well-sized, but don’t expect a big bathroom.

Regarding services… staff was helpful (when we spoke german or english), check-in and -out were fast and efficient. Breakfast was good, with great selection. We didn’t have it included in the price, so the price is 10 EUR if you order an evening before, or 15 EUR same day. It is not the cheapest 3-star hotel, we payed quite a lot of money, also due to the fact that we stayed there during the Berlin marathon. Hotel also caters to groups, that usually means that they get hefty discounts. I was also disappointed with the fact that there is no free wifi (even at the lobby) and you have to pay 10+ EUR to have it. However, wired internet (and internet on computers in the lobby, which were constantly full or even out of order) was free.

We enjoyed the stay, i would stay again if i got a good price (during the marathon we really overpayed it). For anything above 100 EUR (without breakfast) i suggest other options in Berlin. This is a reasonable 3-star hotel, “could be a good price deal” hotel, that is efficient, clean, with good location and everything that a traveller needs (except affordable wifi). It also doesn’t pretend to be more than it really is. I would also recommend it to my friends. Unfortunately, with the opening of the new Berlin international airport it will lose a lot of its appeal.

Categories: Accomodation, review Tags: , ,

Travelodge London Waterloo Hotel

May 21st, 2012 Comments off

We stayed here for 2 nights in May. Room 405 was basic with not much furniture, but surprisingly large and clean (though bed was quite soft). It looks toward the south, on quite busy waterloo road. Its quiet during the night, but traffic starts (and noise) in the morning. I was not bothered, but if you want to be in silence, either try to get a room away from waterloo road or in higher floor.

Check-in was fast, we didn’t have any problems or wait. Check-out is even faster as you just leave the key at the reception. Amenities in the room were basic (just the kettle), hair dryer is available upon the request. Although the hotel advertises internet for a fee (not a small fee), free internet was available at the reception, and also in the room. Just forget to use VPN or something similar.

Location is excellent. Three underground stations are relatively nearby, with Waterloo being the closest. Very near is Old Vic theatre (between the hotel and underground station), there are plenty of restaurants on the same road as Old Vic (road called The Cut) – try very popular pub Anchor&Hope, or just across the street Tas. There you also have plenty of opportunity to take a breakfast. We had one morning a brekafast in the hotel, though i didn’t really like it (and yes, quantities were “filling”) and my girlfriend complained by very bad coffee. We both didn’t think it was good value for money (unless you are a huge fan of english breakfast), as we had for the same price on The Cut much better breakfast. In a better environment that didn’t look like boring chain hotel.

All in all. A satisfying stay. It is a surprisingly large hotel, but it really lacks in personality. However, price was relatively good and the location is excellent. I would almost certainly come back next time!

My review rating would be 3,5 point out of 5.

Categories: Europe, Accomodation, review, UK Tags:

Les Carmes – B&B in Provence

May 6th, 2012 Comments off

I was looking to stay somewhere in Provence in late April 2012. Tried booking.com, tripadvisor… everything either full or expensive. And after several emails I finally got a positive reply. From Les Carmes. Near Thor. No clue where that is, but it looks quite central for some places in Provence. http://www.lescarmes.com/

From Paris its a 6h30 drive. With a car. I trusted my good ol’ garmin, and yes, it found the road. But… there is no B&B there. After driving up and down the road in the middle of fields, we found it. Easy. Just the navigator was wrong. Accessiblity without the car is bad, as it is located quite far from nearest town or even village. But nevertheles (giving that you have a car), location is perfect! Its right in the middle of Provence, and very good for discovering Luberon and Vaucluse regions, Avignon, Mount Ventoux, even Aix and Arles aren’t so far away.

Les Carmes is located in an old farmhouse of the nearby abbey. A decade ago it was beautifully restored and converted into a pleasant B&B. Ann and Mike are excellent hosts. Owners are friendly and helpful, and give good advice on sightseeing and places to eat. They even have maps copied for the region east of the B&B. Lounge area (with english satellite TV and free wifi) is usually shared with a cat. And as owners agree, the renovation is still ongoing. But as a guest, you cannot see this. There are 6 suites and a room available, with tariffs from 80 to 175 EUR per suite/room, of course depending on a season.

We spent then 4 nights in its Top Terrace Suite. And it was an interesting, and at the same time brilliant suite. Lots of space, large bed, separate room with table, couch, enough storage places… There is no TV or wifi available in the room, but that was not a problem – in a way, even better! Windows were a bit on a small side, but again, we were located in an attic, and that was also something special – with large wooden beams on the ceiling. The walls are thick, and probably rooms (at least our Top Terrace due to its small windows) stay quite cold even during hot summer months. Bathroom was large, with big walk-in shower. We also got a bottled water, though i believe tap water was as good as the bottled water. Staircase to the room is filled with history and with photos of the family that used to live in this house. But Estate as such (former farm of nearby abbey) is large, with some great outdoor facilities (they even have a swimming pool). Unfortunately it was quite cold, so we spent most of our time inside B&B or on different trips. Lots of parking is available, albeit drivers need to be aware of huge trees…

Breakfast is complimentary and also tasty (fruits, crossants, pain au chocolat, eggs on demand,…), though, if i had stayed more than a week, it would already be a bit repetitive. But the dinner Ann cooked for us was really good, fresh and tasty. Highly recommend

All in all. Highly recommended. Not cheap, but good value for the price. Property is for people who want to enjoy the Provence in old countryhouse, far away from cities.