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Norco Section Carbon Ultegra SL review

Cruise along any road you can find

In the spring, I had spent weeks examining the route map, unable to decide what bike I would bring to Ride of the Damned in the Outaouais area, north of the nation’s capital on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. About 110 of the 180 km would be on roads, but if the weather turned and the gravel roads turned into 70 km of hummus-like muck, I’d feel rather under-served by my regular road bike. But was my cyclocross bike the right choice? This is the debate the Norco Section is attempting to put an end to. Squarely in the emerging all-road category, the Section bridges many of the gaps between a traditional road bike, a dedicated gravel grinder and a cyclocross rig.

With an impressively light build (8.4 kg with my pedals and two bottle cages), the Norco Section Carbon Ultegra SL will never leave you wanting on fast group rides. You get a fast rolling set of 38-mm-deep clinchers from Novatec that are aero enough in most circumstances and won’t have you sailing across the road in a crosswind. Shimano’s Ultegra drivetrain takes care of the shifting and braking giving you all the performance you’ll ever need. The RD-R8000-GS rear derailleur will let you run an 11–34 tooth cassette so there should be no hill, paved or otherwise, that will be insurmountable.

Components Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc brakes and drivetrain (11–32 tooth cassette) with 50/34-tooth Praxis Zayante Carbon DM crankset
Wheels Novatec R3 Carbon Disc
Sizes (cm) 48, 50.5, 53, 55.5, 58, 60.5
Price $5,199

The Norco builds in room for wider tires than with a traditional road bike. You have space to run some plush 35-mm-wide tires to really kick the comfort levels up a notch.

At the touch points, you get a very comfortable Easton EC70 carbon handlebar that has just enough flare to keep you feeling in control when things get a bit rowdy. A 27.2-mm-diameter seatpost, which is becoming rarer and rarer these days, sits in the seat tube. The thinner, exposed seatpost offers a bit of flex and comfort. Road riding in Canada means you’re often darting between potholes and crumbly pavement.

The geometry of the Section really helped to keep things in control over these character-building roads. With the bike’s wheelbase stretching longer than 1 m, it’s very stable and inspires confidence to take on rough and unknown terrain. While the Section might not be great for a Tuesday night office-park crit, it is great for long group rides or all-day gravel adventures away from our gas-powered, four-wheel friends.

On the Ride of the Damned, as I pedalled through the rolling terrain around Gatineau, I really came to appreciate the comfort and stability built into this frame. I was fresher than I expected after 160 km. I still had some legs to propel myself up Kingsmere Road, and then down the Gatineau Parkway on the home stretch. I credit a lot of that to the adaptability of the Section. Not many bikes have the sprightly feel of a climbing bike but the clearance and tolerance of a gravel or cyclocross bike.

The Section reflects how more and more of us are riding these days. We don’t need to lock ourselves into one category of riding. If you’re looking to do more and see more on your rides, this is a bike that certainly won’t hold you back.