First Impressions: Breezer Uptown Infinity

Breezer Uptown Infinity
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The Uptown Infinity is Breezer’s flagship commuter and Bicycling’s 2011 Commuter Bike of the Year. It builds upon the Uptown 8 (which took the same honors in ’09 and ’10) with the addition of the NuVinci N360 continuously variable transmission. The Infinity is commute-ready with fenders, rack, robust wheels, dynamo lighting system, kickstand, wheel lock, bell, full chaincase, and of course, the bullet-proof NuVinci hub. Michael dubbed the Uptown the “Honda Civic Bike”, which I think is an appropriate moniker; Breezer worked the bugs out of the Uptown series a long time ago.

Breezer Uptown Infinity
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Breezer Uptown Infinity
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This new bike rides a lot like the Uptown 8. We’ve had a couple of Uptown 8’s here on extended loan over the past few years, and everyone who rode them commented on how comfortable and easy they are. They may lack the panache of some of the fancier bikes we sometimes ride, but they’re solid workhorses that make excellent car replacements, particularly for those who don’t like tinkering with aftermarket upgrades.

Breezer Uptown Infinity
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Breezer Uptown Infinity
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The N360 drivetrain is a major upgrade from the original NuVinci CVP. I tested the original and found it heavy and somewhat difficult to use due to the extremely long throw on the shifter. This new design solves both of those problems. Like the original, the infinitely variable gear ratios on the N360 are a revelation. For those who are unfamiliar with the NuVinci, it doesn’t shift from one gear to another in the conventional manner. Instead, the twist shifter changes the drive ratios in a seamless arc from low to high, not unlike turning the volume knob on an old analog radio. It’s a different experience that I think will be a boon, especially to beginners. An added plus is that from all reports, this hub is 100% bomb-proof.

Breezer Uptown Infinity
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Breezer Uptown Infinity
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Breezer Uptown Infinity
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Breezer Uptown Infinity
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We’ve only had the Infinity a short while so far, but we plan to ride it a bunch over the next couple of months. Look for an in-depth, long-term review later this fall.

Breezer
NuVinci N360

[Disclosure: Breezer is a sponsor of this website and provided the loaner for this article.]

Quick Look: Pashley Moulton TSR 2

TSR2
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TSR2
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TSR2
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TSR2
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TSR2
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TSR2
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TSR2

Alex Moulton saw drawbacks in the traditional diamond frame bicycle and decided he could improve upon it. He started experimenting with new designs in the 1950s and after a number of years of development the first Moulton was released in 1962. It incorporated a number of radical innovations for its time including the use of small wheels, front and rear suspension, and a low step-over “unisex” frame layout. The original Moulton design was quite successful, but for various reasons (related mostly to poor business decisions and plain bad luck) the company has gone through a number of ups-and-downs over the years.

From 1992 to 2005, through a licensing deal with Moulton, Pashey manufactured an economical version of the prohibitively expensive Alex Moulton AM called the Pashley-Moulton APB (for all-purpose bicycle). The APB was a success, but in 2005, after a 14-year run, it was redesigned and updated to be lighter and more performance oriented, the result being the Pashley-Moulton TSR.

The Pashley-Moulton TSR 2 is the belt-drive, two-speed version of the separable (not to be confused with foldable) TSR that features the Sturmey Archer S2C, 2-speed kick-shift hub with coaster brake. The overall ride is much like the other TSR models (quick and smooth with their small wheels and front and rear suspension), though the S2C hub does change the character of the bike while limiting its versatility. Advantages of the hub include simplicity (no cables to the rear of the bike), low maintenance, and light weight. Disadvantages include those you’d expect from a 2-speed drivetrain with a coaster brake.

The TSR 2 is a fun ride that will appeal to those who are interested in a classic Moulton “mini velo” but don’t have a need for the wide range gearing featured on the other TSR models.

Pashley-Moulton TSR 2

Civia Commuter Remix

Civia Bryant
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Earlier this year, I made the decision to sell my Surly Long Haul Trucker and purchase a replacement primary commuting bike. Besides wanting to go to a low maintenance drivetrain with an internal gear hub and belt drive, I figured building (or rebuilding in this case) a new commuter would be a fun project for both me and our readers. I ended up purchasing a Civia Bryant Belt Alfine back in March and this article outlines some of the changes I’ve made to the bike since then.

From the start, this bike was intended to be a test bed for new parts. I started with a stock 2010 model-year build. It was a very nice bike straight out of the box, though I initially added a pair of Civia Market alloy fenders, a Pass & Stow porteur rack, a Tubus Logo rear rack, and a Pletscher double-legged kickstand. I also swapped the stock BB5 disc brake calipers for a set of BB7 calipers. The Civia could have easily kept me happy in this initial incarnation, but I already had other plans in the works.

Civia Bryant

The Drivetrain

Upgrading the drivetrain was the most significant and technically challenging portion of the remix. It involved two separate, but related, efforts: swapping the stock Alfine 8 internal gear hub (IGH) for a new Alfine 11 IGH; and, swapping the stock Gates CDX belt and pulleys for a new Gates CenterTrack (CT) belt and pulleys.

Civia Bryant
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Swapping the hubs presented a pair of challenges. The cassette joint (the part on the drive side of the hub to which the cable connects) on the Alfine 11 is significantly longer than on the Alfine 8. Because the cable stop on the Civia’s chainstay is designed for the shorter 8-speed cassette joint, the housing run between the cassette joint and the stop on the chainstay is very short with the 11-speed installed. This makes it a little more difficult to install the belt and rear wheel. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re planning a similar upgrade. On bikes with either Paragon-style sliding/vertical dropouts, full housing runs from shifter to hub, or cable stops further forward on the chainstay, this is a non-issue.

Civia Bryant
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The other challenge was that Shimano swapped the rotational direction of the cassette joint on the 11-speed. The result is that the Versa VRS-11 shifter designed for the Alfine 11 shifts in reverse. On the 8-speed, the large lever was used to shift to higher gears and the small lever was used to shift down. On the new hub with the new shifter, the small lever is used to shift to higher gears and the large lever is used to shift down. While this doesn’t bother me on a thumbshifter, I found it disconcerting enough on the Versa VRS-11 to switch to a different shifter (more on this later).

The most critical aspect of installing a belt drive is getting spot-on alignment between the front and rear pulleys. Belt drives are much less forgiving in this regard than conventional chain drives. That said, a perfect belt line is certainly achievable, and once the drive is set-up properly, it’s truly a set-it-and-forget-it system.

Civia Bryant
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In the case of my upgrade, I replaced both the front and rear pulleys as well as the crank and bottom bracket. My existing crank was a 4-bolt 104BCD Civia, but CenterTrack pulleys are not available in that size (for the time being), so I opted for a Shimano Alfine crank and matching Hollowtech II bottom bracket (the BB is included with the crank). This combination represented my best chance of achieving a good belt line with minimal fuss. The bottom bracket and crank were direct bolt-on parts, and I’m happy to report, getting a perfect belt line with this set-up was not difficult. I installed the bottom bracket in the Civia’s 68mm shell without spacers, and with the CT pulley installed on the inside of the spider with the logos facing toward the frame (the CT pulley is asymmetrical), the front and rear pulleys are aligned to within 1mm, with approximately 2-3mm of clearance at the chainstay.

Civia Bryant
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In the process, I ended up removing the Civia’s belt guard. The guard mounts under the drive side bottom bracket cup and installing it would put the belt out of alignment 1-2mm. In my opinion, a guard is unnecessary with a belt drive anyway. I’ve tried my best to catch my pants in every belt drive bike I’ve ridden, and I’ve never been able to do it. After two weeks on this bike in street clothes, I can safely say it’s a non-issue.

Civia Bryant
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So, how does it ride? It love it. The biggest improvements from my perspective are the closer and more evenly spaced gears, the smaller number of mis-shifts when compared to the Alfine 8 (essentially zero), and the generally smoother and quieter operation (I didn’t think a drivetrain could be quieter than the Alfine 8/Gates CDX, but this one is quieter and smoother to the point of qualifying as “silent”). Because I’m in Northern California, I won’t be able to report on the snow and ice clearing capabilities of the CT belt and pulleys, but I do like the fact that rear wheel alignment (not to be confused with pulley alignment) on the CT drivetrain appears to be less critical than with Gates’ older pulleys and belts.

This wasn’t an inexpensive upgrade, and as you can see, it wasn’t without its challenges. Most of the issues I ran into would be non-existent on a new production bike. There are a few Alfine 11/Gates CT bikes available this year, and it looks as if quite a few more are coming out in 2012. Whether a major aftermarket upgrade such as this is worth the cost and effort will depend upon the individual. Even though I don’t at all regret undertaking the project, for many, selling an existing bike and replacing it with a dialed-in Alfine 11/CT production bike may be a better option.

The Cockpit

The Civia Bryant is one of the few production bikes on the market that comes spec’d with both drop bars and an internal gear hub. This was one of the reasons I was initially attracted to this bike. I’ve enjoyed drop bars in the past and I was looking forward to trying them again on the Civia in combination with the IGH and belt drive. It was a fun experiment, but after commuting with drops on a daily basis for the past few months, I’ve switched back to a set of 50 degree Civia Aldrich flat bars (these are the same bars I had on my Surly LHT before I sold it).

Civia Bryant
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There were a few issues that led to the change, the most troublesome being that, as outfitted with a tall stem and Versa levers, the bike wouldn’t fit into our City bike lockers without a wrestling match. I’ve also been carrying more weight on the front rack and I found myself wishing for less reach and more leverage than was provided by the drops bars. And finally, I wasn’t happy with the new Versa VRS-11 shifter in combination with the “reverse” shifting Alfine 11 hub. This may be a non-issue for most people, but I could not get used to using the small lever for upshifts and the large lever for downshifts. This ended up being the straw that precipitated the cockpit revamp.

Civia Bryant
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The cockpit upgrade included swapping the stem, handlebars, shifter, and levers. The stock stem had a 26.0 clamp diameter designed for drop bars, so I replaced it with an equivalent Civia stem with a 25.4mm clamp designed for flat/city bars. As mentioned above, the handlebar is Civia’s 50-degree Aldrich which is one of my favorite flat bars (the 50-degree sweep falls naturally under my hands). The shifter is the Shimano Alfine 11-speed designed for use with the Alfine 11 hub. And finally, the brake levers are Paul’s “Canti Levers” designed for use with road brakes. These levers are a particularly good match for Avid BB7 “road” disc calipers. They seem to have just the right pull ratio to take best advantage of the BB7, providing plenty of mechanical advantage while locking the brake well before the lever reaches the bar.

The Lighting System

No year-round commuter bike is complete without lights, and no commuter bike is more of a car replacement than one outfitted with an always-available dynamo-powered lighting system. In the past, I’ve owned bikes with dynamo systems, but in recent years I’ve relied mostly on battery-powered LED lights and rechargeable batteries. This is mostly due to the fact that we have so many bikes coming and going that it makes sense to use removable lights, but it’s also because I’ve been waiting for LED’s to fully make their way into the dynamo world.

Civia Bryant
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Civia Bryant
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With this bike I decided the time was right, so I installed an Alfine dynamo hub and Supernova E3 Pro headlight and E3 tail light. I’m going to save the full light review for another time, but I can say that it’s an awesome set-up that’s making me anxious for the dark-thirty commutes of fall and winter.

Civia Bryant
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Civia Bryant
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Conclusion

I’d say these upgrades were a great success. Most notable for me in my circumstances are the better gear ratios, the simplified oil bath hub maintenance, the more appropriate cockpit for multi-modal commuting and cargo hauling, and the always-available lighting. The upgrades weren’t cheap, and the technical hurdles certainly weren’t for the faint of heart, but at least for me, the results justify the effort.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the Civia in its current incarnation. With its fenders, internal gear hub, belt drive, and disc brakes, the bike is all-weather friendly and should require very minimal ongoing maintenance. Plus, it can haul significant loads with its heavy duty front and rear chromoly racks and double-legged centerstand. With the addition of the dynamo lighting system, it may be the most commute-ready car-replacement I’ve owned to date.

Specifications

Disclosure: Civia and Gates are sponsors of this website and provided assistance with the drivetrain upgrade.

Note: For those who were wondering, all of the original parts taken off of the Civia will either be donated, sold, or re-purposed in some way. Very little goes to waste here… :-)

Soma Mini-Velo

Soma Mini-Velo
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Mini velos are otherwise full-sized bicycles with 20″ wheels and road-ish components and ergonomics. They look a bit like folders, but they don’t fold. They’re light and responsive with a ride that falls somewhere between a “normal” bike and a folder (think Moulton or Bike Friday, but without the linkage).

Measured outside to outside, a mini velo is approximately 12″-15″ shorter than a standard bike. They’re great for situations where a standard bike is too big but a full-on folding bike is not required. That’s an admittedly narrow niche, but nonetheless, over the past few years they’ve become quite popular in Japan and they’re gaining in popularity in other parts of Asia and Europe. Whether they’ll catch on here in the U.S. is yet to be seen.

Soma Mini-Velo
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The Soma Mini-Velo pictured here was introduced earlier this year. It fits the mold of other mini velos with 20″ (406mm) wheels, a near-normal riding positon, road/touring components, and no fold. Like other Soma frames, the Mini-Velo is constructed of Tange chromoly. The components are a mix of Shimano Tiagra, Sugino, IRD, and others, cherry-picked from Soma’s product line (see the full build specs below).

Soma Mini-Velo
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The Soma Mini-Velo is only available in three sizes up to 55cm. Even the largest size is too small for me, so Michael has been riding our loaner over the past few months. Her regular rides are a Rivendell Betty Foy and a Brompton M3L, so I was interested to get her impressions of this unusual bike that sort of splits the difference between the two.

Soma Mini-Velo
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Michael was initially skeptical when I built up the Mini-Velo. She had reservations regarding fit, comfort, and pedal clearance. Fortunately, after the first ride her concerns were pretty much allayed. She was pleasantly surprised that it fits and rides almost like a full-sized bike. And even though the Mini-Velo has slightly less pedal clearance than her other bikes, pedal strike never materialized as an issue. The one thing she would change is the handlebar height; she’s accustomed to upright bars with a grip position at least a few centimeters above the saddle. If this was her bike, she’d swap out the stock stem for a Nitto DirtDrop.

Soma Mini-Velo
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Michael really enjoyed the Mini-Velo’s responsiveness. She used words like “zippy”, “quick”, “light”, and “nimble” to describe its ride qualities. She feels it pretty much splits the difference between her two usual rides, being slightly smoother and more forgiving than her Brompton, while being more responsive, but less comfortable than her Rivendell.

Soma Mini-Velo
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At 23.5 lbs. the stock Mini-Velo is significantly lighter than our full-sized bikes outfitted with racks, fenders, etc. Numerous times, Michael commented on how easy it was to throw the little bike over her shoulder or toss into the back of our car. It’s not as compact as a folder, but it’s nearly as easy to throw around. Of course, adding fenders, racks, and a kickstand—all items we feel are necessary for the bikes we use for daily transportation—would add 5+ lbs., making it nearly as heavy as our full-sized bikes and heavier than our Bromptons.

Soma Mini-Velo
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The mini velo platform is not going to be for everyone. At least on paper, its occupies an extremely narrow niche: “Compact bike with 20″ wheels that isn’t a folder.” Taken strictly at face value that seems like a non-starter for most people. What surprised me though, was how much Michael enjoyed the little Soma. Time and again she mentioned how much fun it is and how easy it is to park and carry in tight quarters. Something she said probably sums it up best: “People need to give the Mini-Velo a try before making a judgement based upon how it looks – it’s a lot of fun while being surprisingly easy to live with.”

Soma Mini-Velo
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Specifications

  • Frame: Tange CrMo steel
  • Crank: Sugino RD 53-39t
  • Shifters: Micro-Shift bar end
  • Derailleurs: Shimano Tiagra
  • Hubs: Shimano Taigra (32H)
  • Cassette: Shimano Tiagra HG-50 11-25 9-spd
  • Tires: Kenda Kwest 20 x 1-1/8″
  • Headset: Tange-Seiki RDC 1″ threaded
  • Brakes: IRD Cafam Cantilever
  • Saddle: Cardiff Cornwall (the Selle An-Atomica saddle shown in the photos is Michael’s personal saddle)
  • Stem: Kalloy quill
  • Sizes: 48cm, 53cm, 55cm
  • Weight: 23.5 lbs.
  • Price: $1,195

Soma Fabrications

Disclosure: Soma is a sponsor of this website and provided the Mini-Velo for this article.

Soma Mini-Velo
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Soma Mini-Velo
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Road Test: Norco Ceres

Norco Ceres
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Background

Prior to being contacted by Norco about reviewing the Ceres, I’d only occasionally heard about the company and I’d never seen one of their bikes in person. It turns out Norco is the largest bike company in Canada, they’ve been in business for over 40 years, and they offer 140+ bike models, with 52 in their “urban” line-up alone. The Ceres is their top-of-the-line commuter.

Construction

The Ceres is built with Reynolds 525 tubing. 525 is the modern equivalent of Reynold’s classic 531 chromoly, updated to be TIG-weldable. It’s considered an upgrade from the more common Taiwanese-made Reynolds 520 used in many mid-level transpo bike frames.

Norco Ceres

The TIG-welds on the Ceres look good and the general construction is clean. I had no issues with the assembly (this is not the case with a surprising number of bikes we review). The frame has a full complement of braze-ons and the star reinforcers are a nice touch.

Norco Ceres Sliding Dropout
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One of the key features that sets the Ceres apart from its competitors is Norco’s sliding vertical dropout design. This type of dropout makes setting up and servicing the belt drive much easier than on bikes with slotted, horizontal dropouts. With a sliding vertical dropout, belt tension and wheel alignment are adjusted independently of axle nut tension. Once the proper dropout position is locked in place using the micro-adjust set screws and locking allen bolts, the wheel can be removed and replaced without altering the belt tension or alignment, a real advantage for roadside flat repairs or any service that requires removing the rear wheel.

Norco Ceres

The frame has clearance for up to approximately 40mm tires, though the area around the bottom bracket is fairly crowded and there’s no kickstand plate. If, like me, you insist upon a kickstand on your commuting bikes, you’ll want to check carefully to make sure your kickstand of choice will work on the Ceres.

Components

Like most mainstream 2011 Alfine-equipped production bikes, the Ceres is spec’d with the 8-speed internal gear hub. The new 11-speed oil-bath Alfine is now available, but a majority of manufacturers are holding off until 2012 to spec the new, wide range hub.

Norco Ceres
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Even though the 11-speed is generating a lot of buzz, the 8-speed Alfine hub is still a gem. It’s also a great deal at nearly $300 less than the 11-speed. I’ve ridden this hub on 5 bikes now (including my current commuter), and I’ve yet to have an issue. It’s smooth, quiet, and trouble-free. I’m looking forward to the 11-speed, but this hub is no slouch and comes highly recommended.

Norco Ceres
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From the standpoint of pure performance, hydraulic disc brakes are hard to beat. The Deore hydraulic discs supplied on the Ceres are light in the hand and powerful. The rear brake is particularly nice due to the elimination of the long cable run. The down side is that hydraulic discs are more difficult to set-up and service than cable actuated discs.

Norco Ceres
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By now it’s probably apparent that I’m a fan of the Gates Carbon Drive System. The Ceres comes outfitted with a 24T rear pulley, 50T front pulley, and 118T carbon belt. This is the same set-up I’m running on my personal bike (Civia Bryant). I find the gear range perfect for city riding and up to moderate hills with medium loads. For full-blown cargo hauling or hilly terrain, a conventional triple drivetrain provides a more appropriate range of gears.

The smooth, quiet, and clean ride provided by the Gates drive needs to be experienced first hand to be fully appreciated. Once the belt alignment is dialed in, the drivetrain is almost disconcertingly smooth and quiet. I’ve become so spoiled that switching back to my chain driven bikes is now a bit of a shock. The belt drive’s lack of grease and zero maintenance is a real plus for year-round commuters. I don’t see belt drives replacing chains outright, but I do believe they’ll be spec’d on a growing number of mid- to upper-level commuting bikes in the future.

My experience has been that drivetrain guards are not really necessary with belt drives. I’ve spent a number of weeks on bikes equipped with Gates Carbon Drives sans guards and I’ve never had a pant leg get caught in the belt. That said, it would have been nice if Norco supplied a small guard along the upper belt run.

Norco Ceres

My test bike came outfitted with 32 hole Alex rims and Panaracer Mach SS tires (essentially cyclocross tires). The factory spec calls for 36 hole rims and 37mm Continental TownRide tires. Though I had no issues with the 32 hole rims or Panaracer tires, I’d prefer the 36 hole wheels and Continental tires for city riding. Check with your dealer on this.

Ride Quality

The Ceres is stiff and responsive. The over-sized tubing and straight blade fork contribute to a general feeling of rigidity and sure-footedness. The steering is light in the hand and feels even better with a medium commute load on the rear rack. The responsive steering and stiff frame make the Ceres well-suited to aggressive riding in urban environments.

Norco Ceres

The frame displays zero flex when carrying a commute-level load on the back (the rack is the limiting factor – more on that below). I didn’t have a front cargo rack available, but the stout fork and stiff frame will undoubtedly handle a heavier, balanced load with no issue.

The Panaracer tires do a good job of mitigating for the stiff fork by absorbing a fair amount of road shock – I wouldn’t recommend high pressure, low flotation tires on this bike.

Accessories

The Axiom rack and fenders pictured in the review are not included on the production version of the Ceres. Axiom is a subsidiary of Norco so they included the rack and fenders for the review.

Norco Ceres

The rear rack is the Axiom Journey Disc. It’s an interesting design with a conventional strut on the right-hand side and an adjustable strut on the left-hand side for clearing a disc brake caliper mounted outboard of the seat stay. It’s a clever design, though I did detect some flex in the rack. Axiom lists very high maximum weight limits on their racks (for example, this rack is rated for 110 lbs. max), but I didn’t find it as stiff as some of the racks I use that are rated for only 55 lbs. (these ratings may have more to do with liability than actual capacity). In any case, I found the Journey Disc sufficient for commute loads, but I could feel it flex under a full grocery load.

Norco Ceres

The Ceres came outfitted with Axiom’s Rainrunner Trekk Reflex + Disc fenders (that’s a mouthful). Their main selling point is the highly reflective 3M Reflex stripe running down the center of both fenders. They also include a clever adapter for reaching around a disc brake caliper (see photo). I’m hoping Axiom eventually sells this as a separate part for those who want to adapt their favorite fenders to a disc fork. Like many of the fender sets on the market, the front fender is a little short, otherwise these are a nice set of fenders with a couple of unique features.

Conclusion

The Norco Ceres is a solid contender in the belt drive commuter market. The frame is cleanly built using better than average materials for this price point. The crowded area behind the bottom bracket limits the kickstand options, and the outboard rear disc caliper limits rear rack options, but depending upon your priorities and how you’ll use the bike, these may or may not be major issues. The mostly Shimano Alfine/Deore component mix is well proven and the individual parts work well together as a package. With its sliding vertical dropouts, the belt drive implementation on the Ceres is excellent; this in itself sets this bike apart from many of its competitors.

Norco Ceres
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Specs

  • Frame: Reynolds 525 Chromoly
  • Fork: Chromoly Straight Blade
  • Drive: Gates Carbon Drive Belt – 118T
  • Crank: Single Speeder with 50T Gates Pulley
  • Rear Hub: Shimano Alfine with Gates 24T Pulley
  • Front Hub: Shimano Deore 36h
  • Rims: Alex XD-Lite 36h
  • Tires: Continental TownRide 37c
  • Stem: Norco Lite – Black
  • Handlebar: Norco Lite Riser
  • Grips: Norco Wrap Lock-On
  • Shifter: Shimano Alfine RapidFire
  • Front Brake: Shimano Deore BL-M575 disc w/160mm
  • Rear Brake: Shimano Deore BL-M575 disc w/160mm
  • Brake Levers: Shimano Deore BL-M575
  • Saddle: Norco Urban Stealth
  • Seat Post: Norco Lite
  • Headset: FSA TH-848 Semi-Cartridge
  • Bottom Bracket: FSA BB-7420AL Square Taper Cartridge
  • Sizes: 16”, 18”, 20”, 22”
  • Weight: 27 lbs. (without accessories)
  • Price: $1375

Norco

Disclosure: Norco provided the loaner bike used for this review.

Big Bike, Little Wheels

Soma Mini Velo
What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Nope, I’m not messing around with Photoshop again—you’re looking at a real bike with funny proportions and tiny wheels called a “Mini Velo”.

Mini Velos are otherwise full-sized bicycles with 20″ wheels and road-ish components and ergonomics. They look a bit like folders, but they don’t fold. They’re light and responsive with a ride that falls somewhere between a “normal” bike and a folder (think Moulton or Bike Friday, but without the linkage).

Measured outside to outside, a Mini Velo is nearly 15″ shorter than a standard bike. This has made them wildly popular in urban Japan where storage space is at a premium (they’re gaining in popularity in other parts of Asia and Europe too). They’re great for any situation where a standard bike is just too big.

That’s a Soma Mini Velo pictured above. Even though it looks so small, the 53cm frame fits Michael surprisingly well (she’s 5’8″). The illusion is striking. She’s only ridden it a short time, but her initial impression is that it’s fun, comfortable, and quick. She thinks it would be ideal for anyone who lives in a small apartment but isn’t interested in a folding bike.

We’ll have more on the Soma Mini Velo over the next couple of months.

More at Soma

Disclosure: Soma is a sponsor of this website and provided the Mini Velo for evaluation.

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


 
© 2011 EcoVelo™