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Disc brakes have opened up the floodgates of bicycle design. With the ability to easily accommodate tires of any size, it seems like manufacturers create a new category every day—gravel, adventure and, more recently, do-it-all. While we feel that a true do-it-all bike is a crazy pipedream, no more achievable than a perpetual-motion machine, we’re starting to come around. It might not be such an outlandish idea after all.
The caveat here is that “do-it-all” is a relative term. If you’re an elite racer, then you won’t be jumping ship from a dedicated road bike any time soon. Likewise, if your “all” involves endless prairies of deep gravel roads, you’ll want to stick with a purpose-built machine with 40-plus-millimeter tires. If, however, your “all” is riding for fun a couple times a week with some off-road riding mixed in, then read on.
For less than $4,000, the Norco Section Carbon Rival offers a seriously fun and capable ride. With an oversized bottom bracket and head tube, it is basically a road bike with clearance for up to 35mm tires. That road-tuned lineage shines through in the ride.
Even with the stock 35mm Hutchinson Overide tires, the Section plugs along nicely on the flats and keeps up on climbs. The wide tires are definitely doing the heavy lifting in terms of making the ride plush. If you want to stick mainly to the road, then throw on some 28mm or 30mm tires and let the power transfer of the frame shine through.
The Section is no slouch, but during peak efforts and descents we could tell that the ride had been dialed back ever so slightly in the interest of comfort. Don’t expect the razorprecise handling of an ultra-stiff, dedicated road bike—especially one at this price point.
While discerning riders will notice its wider jumps between gears, the 1x Rival drivetrain, with 42 × 10–42 gearing, keeps your possibilities wide open. The broad gearing is great for exploring new roads where you might encounter gnarly potholes or a bit of dirt. Additionally, the option to switch to a 1-to-1 gear ratio opens up the steepest pitches; almost nowhere is out of reach. You’ll be well equipped to confidently try out new roads.
The Norco Section Carbon has us rethinking everything about do-it-all bikes. It’s not a perfect replacement for every type of bike, but for many riders it might just be the last—or only—bike they need. $3,700; 18.1lb (8.22kg), 53cm; norco.com
This review originally appeared in issue 85.