Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
You know when your pillow gets good and broken in, and after that you can’t sleep without it? Getting on the Norcross EX from Blue was a lot like that: I found its geometry comfortable and familiar, and the steering is decently quick that all but the sharpest tape-to-tape turns were easy to navigate. And the build is (mostly) excellent: Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 is hard to beat for its smooth shifting at an attainable price point.
Yet there something irked me about it, a nagging feeling that I was working harder than I had to be — that the pillow maybe wasn’t the best choice for a good night’s sleep after all. That something was revealed back in the workstand when I hung this nearly-19-pound bike from a scale. That’s pretty stout for a race bike.
As it turns out, much of the weight comes from the Aerus Quantum 40DA carbon wheels. The 44-millimeter rims are nice for mud-shedding and they are decently stiff hoops, but I’d certainly take a lighter set of wheels for race day. A set of Zipp 303s or Bontrager Aeoulus 5 wheels offer a deep rim profile for stiffness and mud-shedding, but with less of a weight penalty.
Perhaps it’s the extra weight that made the Norcross feel a bit slow off the line, likely combined with .76 millimeters of bottom bracket flex. From a dead stop, getting the Norcross going took some coaxing. That extra weight is more than physical: Every quick acceleration was a brief reminder that I was hoofing around more weight than I probably needed to.
Once up to speed, though, the nimble handling takes over and the Norcross becomes a worthy competitor on technical courses. I was particularly impressed on fast descents and any time I needed to change lines quickly. It’s an inherently flickable bike and it goes where you want it to go with minimal input.
There aren’t many geometry surprises here: a 72.5-degree head tube angle is about par for the CX course, so that may account for the familiar steering feel. The chainstays measure in at 425 millimeters, which is a fairly short number, contributing to the fun, whippy feel.
It’s not a remarkably comfortable ride, but it’s not unyielding, either. The thin seat stays flex enough to offer some compliance, and they’re balanced against thick chainstays so the back end doesn’t feel sloppy.
For those looking to save some coin, the Norcross EX is also available in an Ultegra mechanical build that will save you about $1,500.
Ultimately, the Norcoss EX is a dependable racer with an almost-excellent build (those wheels drag it down, but the Ultegra Di2 is unbeatable) that lives and dies by its peppy handling.