First Look: 2011 Norco Ceres

Norco Ceres
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I’ve been riding the new 2011 Norco Ceres for a couple of weeks now. I’m very much enjoying this solid, refined commuter from Canada’s largest bike company.

Norco Ceres
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The Ceres sports the Shimano Alfine group including the 8-speed internal gear hub, RapidFire shifter, and front and rear hydraulic disc brakes.

Norco Ceres
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Nice details everywhere you look.

Norco Ceres
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Shimano Alfine + Gates Carbon. Sweet.

Norco Ceres
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Norco is proud of their belt drive (as they should be).

Norco Ceres
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Love this hub. I’m anxious to try the new 11-speed, but the Alfine 8 is anything but obsolete.

Norco Ceres
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Stout frame, stout fork. The Ceres is solid; built more like an MTB than a roadie. The tubing is Reynolds 525 and the bike weighs in at around 27 lbs.

Norco Ceres Sliding Dropout
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Setting belt tension and wheel alignment are a breeze with this sliding dropout. Flat repairs can be made by simply loosening the axle nuts and dropping the wheel; no readjustment is required.

Norco Ceres
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Norco owns Axiom. They have some interesting racks, fenders, and other accessories. This particular rack (the “Journey Disc”) is designed to clear disc brakes.

Norco Ceres
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A solid bike featuring a belt drive and the best commuting-specific component group on the market. More to come on the Ceres…

Norco

23 Responses to “First Look: 2011 Norco Ceres”

  • dominic furfaro says:

    Questions about the handlebars. How do you compare the static position with your moustache and national road bars bikes. Any physical discomfort from road vibrations at the handlebar, specifically with your wrist in a rigid position facing the ground?
    Do you feel the bars have a limit for roundtrip mileage and if so what are your limits? What is your mileage for your commute one way and is the commute fast or stop and go? I think you said that the bike could be a test platform for the future. Keep us posted if and when you change out these bars.

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Dominic,

    I’m not a fan of straight handlebars like these for road riding. My preference is for bars with at least 40-50 degrees of sweep. And for longer rides, I prefer handlebars that provide multiple hand positions.

    The Ceres is on loan from Norco. I think you may be confusing it with the Civia Bryant I have on order. It’s the Civia that will be my primary commuter and test bed for parts and accessories.

    Alan

  • “The best commuting-specific component group on the market”: Ecovelo reviews the Norco Ceres says:

    [...] just posted this first-look review of the 2011 Norco Ceres, along with some beautiful photography. Alfine 8-speed hub + Gates carbon drive + hydraulic disc [...]

  • erik pieh says:

    That looks like a great winter/rain bike. It comes with a belt, IGH, hydraulic discs, fenders, and a rack. That rack looks really high, is that really necessary for disc use? Add an Alfine 11 or Rohloff, (and a kickstand) and this would be perfect.

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Erik,

    I didn’t mention it here (it will be covered in the actual review), but the fenders and rack aren’t included as original equipment on this bike. The bike can be ordered as shown, but there’s an extra charge for the optional fenders and rack.

    Adding an Alfine 11 or Rohloff would be nice, but we’d be talking about a $400-$1000 jump in price, putting this bike into a different price bracket. This price discrepancy is something to consider when comparing the Alfine 8 (~$250) to the Alfine 11 (~$650) and Rohloff (~$1200-$1400).

    Alan

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    @erik

    You forgot adding a front dynohub, and ditching the straight blade fork. Then it would be closer to the perfect OOTB commuter. As it is it’s not a bad start though. I hope Norco keeps iterating on this one.

  • Terry Scott says:

    I couldn’t tell from your photos, Alan, or from Norco’s website if there’s kickstand plate. Is that a “Clickstand” you’re using to hold the Ceres up in the photos?

    -Terry S

  • Steve Grimmer says:

    Looks like a real winner, and a pretty bike as well. I was going to mention that the Norco website doesn’t show the rack and fenders, but you’ve answered that one. It might be nice with a ring to keep pants legs and shoe laces out of the belt and a kickstand, but otherwise it looks complete.
    Looking forward to the full report!
    steve in the ‘peg.

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Dolan,

    I’m becoming less convinced that curved forks are across the board “better” than straight blade. I believe there are too many variables to make a blanket statement about it. Easton claims there is zero difference between their curved and straight forks, all other things being equal. I’ve ridden straight blade forks that were plenty compliant (on my IF for example), and I’ve ridden curved forks that were nearly rigid. Now if we’re talking aesthetics alone, I’m with you… :-)

    Alan

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    @Alan

    I actually agree with you on premise. There are great straight blades and horrible curved blade forks. Personally I think straight blade forks look cool, and I agree that in the hands of a good builder they can be awesome.

    That said, my experience is if that often enough ride quality is sacrificed in the name of looks and cost with cheaper straight blade forks, and that the lower down the cost spectrum you go the more of an issue this becomes.

    You’ve ridden the Norco, I haven’t. How is that fork for soaking up road shock?

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Terry,

    Unfortunately, no, the Ceres does not have a kickstand plate. And you’re right, that’s a Clickstand.

    Alan

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Steve,

    I’ve put about 4 weeks on a belt drive Civia and this Norco, both without guards, and I’ve never caught a pant leg or shoe lace. It may be possible, but it’s been a total non-issue for me so far.

    Alan

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Dolan,

    The Norco frame and fork are stiff. The question is whether swapping for a fork with curved blades would significantly improve the ride quality. My Civia Loring, with its straight blade fork and high volume tires, rides quite smoothly; the tires are doing most of the work. I think it’s the same with the Ceres. On any bike with relatively high volume tires, I’m not convinced a fork swap would provide much benefit. Perhaps on a bike with high pressure, low volume tires, a more compliant fork would provide more benefit.

    Alan

  • Jim Borowczyk says:

    Alan, we were ready to look at, and probably order, two Raleigh Alley Ways tomorrow. The Ceres, however, really caught our eye. Please tell us all you can about the benefits of owning a Ceres vs. the Alley Way. Is it considered a unisex frame? Are the tires commuter friendly? They look wide, knobby, and rough riding with a lot of rolling resistance. Are the hydraulic brakes that much better than mechanical?

    Sincerely, Jim

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Jim,

    The Alley Way is a nice bike. It has a much more steeply sloping top tube than the Ceres which is an advantage for standover height (though it may not visually be to everyone’s liking). It comes from the factory with fenders and a belt guard which are pluses. The integrated bars/stem look great, but they could potentially be an issue if they’re not a good fit. The Brooks saddle and dynamo hub are both very nice touches.

    The Ceres uses upgraded tubing (525 versus the Alley Way’s 520 – there may be little to no difference in actual functionality between these tubesets). It’s plenty stiff but comes in a few pounds lighter. The hydraulic brakes are a definite step up in regards to performance, though they’re tougher to set-up if you ever need to work on them. The Alley Way uses an eccentric bottom bracket to tension the belt, whereas the Ceres uses sliding dropouts. Both serve the purpose, but I personally prefer sliding dropouts because I find them a little easier to work on.

    As far as being unisex, modern women’s bikes are basically no different than men’s other than that they sometimes have shorter top tubes, the thinking being women generally have proportionally shorter torsos and longer legs compared to men. Of course, this is only a generalization; the way a particular bike fits a particular person is unique, regardless of gender. Test ride if you can!

    My loaner Ceres came outfitted with Panaracer Mach SS tires which are essentially cross/xc mtb tires. They’re cool tires, but only if you do some off-road/gravel trail riding. The Norco spec calls for Continental TownRide tires, so if you look into a Ceres, you’ll want to inquire about that. All that said, I pretty much immediately pull the stock tires off of my new bikes and either throw on some Riv Jack Browns or Schwalbe Marathon Supremes. In other words, I wouldn’t let tires, which are a consumable, have any bearing on your decision.

    I hope this helps bring a little clarity to your decision, though I’m afraid I may have raised even more questions than I answered. Feel free to drop me a note via email if you’d like to discuss further.

    Alan

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    @Alan

    Good point about tire pressure. No doubt it will often have much more effect.

    I guess I’m a bit colored by my personal experience. I run 700×32 Marathon Supremes in the range of 80psi (probably less) which I guess would be mid-volume, and was shocked when I switched that wheelset from a straight blade (Kona Sutra) to a raked, tapered fork (Rawland Drakkar) how much more smoothly the bike rode. I realize it’s not apples to apples, but same wheelset, same components, etc.

    It would be really interesting to see if some builder out there (Rivendell, perhaps) has built two identical bikes, one with straight blades, one with a raked fork, same tubeset, components, etc to test out how much of a difference it makes. If anyone has a handle to this kind of research I’d love to see the results.

    Anyways, thanks for reviewing the Ceres. I have more than a few friends who are very interested in this bike.

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Dolan,

    I agree, it would be interesting to do a true apples to apples comparison between a straight versus a curved blade fork. Along with identical bikes, you’d need forks with the same offset and identical blades trimmed in the same location on both forks to assure identical tapers.

    Alan

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hey Dolan,

    I thought I’d follow-up. I’ve been riding the Ceres, the LHT, and the Hillborne one after the other the past couple of days, watching the front axle to see how much it deflects. It’s amazing how much more the Rivendell fork flexes than the others (the Hillborne is also much more compliant throughout the frame than the other bikes). The front forks on the Ceres and the LHT deflect very little in comparison, with the Ceres fork being the most rigid of the bunch. It’s definitely the tire doing all of the work. This makes me want to try some plush tires on the Riv…

    Regards,
    Alan

  • Pete Pesce says:

    Alan-
    I’m glad you observed that on your Sam, because I find my 60cm single top-tube Sam (frame and fork) to be very flexy also. I’m a “bigger” guy than you so I didn’t know if that was the contributing factor. It surprised me a bit, given how many people ride it off-road, and it sure is comfortable, but I get a lot of ghost shifting when I stand on the pedals and other odd behaviors as a result.
    I just pulled the trigger on a LHT frame to upgrade my commuter, so I don’t expect to have any flex problems there!
    -Pete

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Pete,

    I’m guessing the flexiness of the larger Hillbornes probably had something to do with the twin top tubes they’re now using on larger sizes. At 157 lbs., and being a spinner, the amount of flex is perfect for me, though I can imagine that a larger, more powerful rider might find the flex excessive.

    You’re right – the LHT is a brute in comparison (at least when comparing to the 60cm single top tube Hillborne). It’s certainly up to the job of hauling lots of stuff!

    Alan

  • Sam says:

    Alan,

    New reader here and have really been enjoying your site.

    I am starting to narrow down my choices to the Ceres or building something using a Cross Check frame.

    What size tires came on your Ceres? How big do you think it can handle? Which soaks up the bumps better, your new Civia or the Ceres?

    Any new comments after riding it a few more weeks?

    Thanks!

    Sam

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Sam, if you’re thinking of “rolling your own” take a good look at the Rawland rSogn frameset. It’s not much more than than the Cross Check and a very cool platform.

  • Troy says:

    Hi there,
    Thanks for the pics and the information.
    I’m looking for a new commuter and plan on checking this bike out this week.
    Have you seen the Charge Mixer 8? it is very similar in specs to the Ceres.
    I’ve been seriously considering ( the only downside is that I live in Portland, OR and would have to custom order the bike from BTI)
    But the carbon belt drive is a nice addition over the chain that the Mixer has.
    It’d be great to get your (and others’) input

 
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