Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) has only just completed his first full calendar year under new bike sponsor Blue Competition Cycles but the short relationship has already begun to bear fruit in the form of an all-new full-carbon chassis designed around the American 'cross racer's specific needs and wants.
Unlike the CXc model that Page started out on last December, which used carbon tubes bonded into aluminum lugs, his new Norcross is a full-carbon chassis built with tube-to-tube construction. Of course, this makes the new model lighter – estimated frame weight is just 1,150g or so – but Page puts even more emphasis on the more aggressive tube shaping, saying the new bike is like a "night and day" difference in terms of pedaling and handling responsiveness.
As compared to that CXc, the Norcross features larger diameter main tubes, far taller and stouter chain stays, and a tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" front end with a correspondingly oversized all-carbon fork that Page says runs chatter-free even under hard braking. The previous wishbone-style seat stays give way to full-length twin stays, too, and the top tube is also wider and flatter than before for improved torsional rigidity and shouldering comfort.
Blue also incorporated Page's feedback into the new Norcross geometry. According to Page, "just the basic angle of the [CXc] was too far forward." As a result, the head tube was lengthened to better position his center of gravity and lend the new machine more balanced handling, while the front end continues to use his preferred quick-handling characteristics.
Page’s machines are identical to consumer versions in tube shapes, fiber lay-ups and materials but for one key difference: custom geometry afforded by the flexible tube-to-tube construction allows for a slightly shorter top tube than Blue’s standard medium size.
"He really liked the geometry of the MD size but wanted a shorter top tube of 53cm effective," said Blue product development manager Chris Pic. "So we named the frame size MDSTT (MD short top tube)."
The build kit is expectedly high-end and results in an impressive 7.22kg (15.92lb) total weight. Drivetrain and transmission components come courtesy of Shimano's new Dura-Ace 7900 group (but with a more 'cross-appropriate 48T ring from the older 7800 group), braking power is provided by ultralight TRP EuroX Magnesium wide-profile brakes, tires are from renowned maker Dugast, and pedals are Shimano's bombproof XTR model.
Utah-based Edge Composites infuses Page's build kit with even more carbon fiber, including the feathery seatpost with its clever one-bolt head, stout stem, and semi-anatomic bar with flattened tops and rounded ends. Bucking the trend of deep-section rims, Edge also supplied Page with special extra-strong versions of its shallow 25mm carbon tubulars just days before he took the start line at the recent US national championships in Bend, Oregon.
"I'd ridden the same type of wheel, the 25, but this is a stronger lay-up than their original," said Page. "I don’t particularly like deep-dish wheels; I can feel the ground better with a shallower rim. I can understand [using them] in snow or sand but for all the other ones it doesn't really matter. Of course, I think they're stiff, too, but if they're too stiff then you have other issues. You have to get your tire pressures exactly, exactly right."
Speaking of tires, avid 'cross readers will recall Page suffering a spat of rolled tires earlier this season but he said those were unfortunately the result of borrowed wheels since he didn't have his full complement of wheels with him at that time. He added that he wouldn't be making that mistake again, though, and he's far more meticulous about gluing his own tires.
Even so, he says he still prefers leaving mechanical work to someone else. The realities of his relatively small-scale European operation often dictate otherwise, though, but at least he's at ease with the potential consequences.
"I try not to [do my own work]!" he said. "Frankie, my mechanic and friend in Belgium, does the work at the races and if I have a bad race where I flat a couple of times maybe he'll be able to take care of a few things but I tend to end up doing a lot of things during the week on my bicycles which isn't bad. If I screw up, at least I know it's just me and no one else."