The Norco Shore series of freeride bikes are built to handle the punishing terrain of Vancouver's infamously technical North Shore, including meaty rock hucks, mind-puzzling stunts, and big boy jumps. These bikes are designed with abuse in mind and after several months of heavy usage, the hearty component spec shows little sign of fatigue. The Shore's compact size feels comfortable and balanced in the air and handles pretty well when the going gets fast. Although it's not claimed to be a great pedaller, some adjustment could get this bike up to being somewhat of a contender for the "one bike", depending largely on the needs of the Shore-style rider.
Complete review and pics inside:
The beginning of 2009 has shown prosperity for the cycling community here in Washington. Generally warm temperatures and overall lack of normal precipitation has put a damper on the local ski industry, but it's worked out well for early season riding and especially for me to be able to put in some hard testing aboard the 2009 Norco Shore Two. Although the North Shore, for which this bike is designed, has been largely covered by a blanket of the fluffy white stuff since December, I've been able to find plenty of riding suitable to the aggressive nature of this steed and let's just say we've gotten to be pretty good friends. Here's the low down
Spec & Ergonomics
2009 Norco Shore Two pedalled to the top & ready for some early-season DH trails
For technical specs and general product information, see my 2009 Norco Shore 2 Preview
or visit Norco.com
Being a completely bone-stock, off-the-shelf, bike-in-a-box, I wanted to give Norco a chance to really prove themselves with their choice of component spec by leaving everything on the bike stock. Having worked as a bike mechanic the majority of my life, I've become pretty picky, so I was very interested to see how the slightly-above-mid-grade-level spec on the Shore Two would perform. Being the big-dog bike company of Canada leaves some room for Norco to get lost in what real riders really want, but with a sponsor list including some of the most profound athletes of our time like Ben Boyko, Jay Hoots, and Ryan Leech, you can rest assured Norco has done their homework.
Shore Two in it's element
Ergonomics are crucial on today's high-tech bikes as the technical trail maneuvers are getting more and more precise and the human interface parts of the bike (pedals, grips, brake levers, saddle) have to be intuitive for split-second interaction. That being said, I could not bring myself to install the cheap, molded, painted-over-the-pins pedals that just don't match up with the rest of the Shore's spec and hold back it's true capabilities. I consider these to be showroom test-ride pedals and there's nothing wrong with that since pedals are a largely personal choice anyways. But at a retail price of over 3 grand for this bike, Norco should have included their house brand Axiom Road Gap flat pedals, which just so happen to be the fantastic pedals that ended up on my test bike. I was also tempted to remove the thick, rubbery, non-locking grips as well but I figured I'd give them a chance.
I weigh in at 200 lbs and am 6'2" tall, so I'm obviously testing a size Large bike. For initial setup, I gave the Shore Two the parking lot test and decided to unwind preload from the rear 500# spring and add a few clicks of rebound damping to get a plush ride slow enough to control big hits. The 66 fork needed some rebound slowness as well and I quickly noticed the rebound adjustment dial on the underside of the left lower leg had no detent to stop it from spinning, so I added some tape to it and it's held in place ever since, requiring no further adjustment to the rebound damping.
Sitting on the bike felt a bit cramped initially. The geometry is definitely designed to get rider weight over the back wheel for negotiating tight, quick moves like skinny stuntwork and slow speed drops. A 2" rise handlebar adds to the effect bringing body position up and back. From the get-go it's noticeable how extremely easy it is to get the front end up on the Shore Two.
Small fit and feel for quick, agile handling
The first ride on the Shore was surprising in more ways than one. To be completely fair, I'm a bit old school and actually enjoy climbing for miles on end to reach any sustained downhill, and this bike certainly isn't designed for climbing. Without as many shuttle opportunities south of the border here, I've spent most of my time aboard this bike climbing it to the top. Norco's interrupted seat tube frame design means there isn't a whole lot of room for adjustability of the seatpost, and I am very far away from getting any kind of efficient leg extension for climbing. Again, that's not what this bike is made for, but the 2007 model Shore's were spec'ed with a telescopic seatpost and the entire Shore series of bikes are spec'ed with a front derailleur, so I feel like a fully-adjustable telescopic seatpost should be included. Oh well, I just stand up more often on the climbs.
Climbing the Shore Two to the top of Blackrock, Oregon has it's rewards
Standing for the climb will take some getting used to, but it's no issue for typical North Shore style riding where shuttles are common-place and most climbs are too short and technical for being seated anyways. The FSR-link rear suspension digs into the ground with tension on the chain, so climbing traction is no problem. It's a pretty efficient pedaller as well, especially for standing most of the time.
Leaning into it at Blackrock
Once the descent began, I was instantly and pleasantly surprised by the plushness of the 7" travel Horst-link suspension. Small bumps just plain disappear and bigger hits feel bottomless. The compact geometry is quick to handle tight singletrack in the trees. Body position on the Shore Two is very relaxed with more emphasis on the backseat, which makes it really fun in berms since the bike manuals effortlessly out of corners. I arrived back home after ride #1 a bit more tired than usual, but with a smile on my face nonetheless.
Including a chainstay wrap is mutually beneficial- you prevent chainslap and Norco hides the patent decal
Where It Shines
Big air on the Shore Two
The Shore Two is right at home in the most technical of terrain, as long as it doesn't get going too fast. Calling it a downhill bike is kinda like comparing a Subaru WRX to a Lamborghini- while top speed isn't it's forte, it does really well in both the agility and versatility departments. The word "tight" first comes to mind. It's tight in the cockpit, handles tight trees quickly, feels tight to the body when airborn, and negotiates steep, tight rock lines with ease. If you've ever tried to ride the North Shore blind (without looking at a move before hitting it), you're all too familiar with hitting the brakes last-second. With the Shore Two, adjusting your approach quickly before leaving the point of no return is a little easier. Slow wheelie drops are no problem with the easy-to-pull front end of this bike.
Shore Two above the dirt
I was able to get in a few shuttles on some downhill trails and got myself into the backseat of the bike a few times. The relatively short, compact feeling cockpit with tall front end isn't the best setup for high-speed downhill runs. There's a fine line between being comfortably rear-weighted and hanging on for dear life. Once the suspension approaches the end of it's travel, the rear end sinks a lot and if rider weight is too far back, you're just along for the ride. The relaxed body positioning on this bike makes an aggressive downhill stance somewhat difficult. Once I got used to the bike after several rides though, the handling became more intuitive. The good thing is, this is a freeride bike that can be downhilled, whereas most downhill bikes aren't designed to accomplish dirt jumping or stunt riding.
In the Long Run
Nimble for the balancing act
I've been impressed by the overall functionality of the parts package on the Shore Two. The entire component spec greatly benefits from years of the 'trickle down' effect, where this year's budget base model becomes what was last year's top-shelf premium model. Although all bikes and parts have increased in cost this year, value has also increased.
Keeping the Shore Two balanced has been an easy task for the Marzocchi 66 RVC fork and rear Fox DHX 3.0. The 66 ate most every type of terrain I was able to find, although not quite as softly as the mated DHX 3.0. A little more tuning may have improved balance a bit, but overall the fork handles big hits extremely well, inspiring confidence with the rigidity of the 1.5" steer tube and suppleness of 7" travel. Small bump sensitivity for the big single crown is nearly up to par with longer travel full-on downhill forks. The Fox DHX 3.0 rear shock has proven itself to be a simple, reliable damper for the rear end of the Norco. While lacking the adjustability of the class-leading DHX 5.0, the 3.0 damper performs at the same level. For as well as the suspension on the Shore Two performs, both fork and rear shock have noticeable gushy noise characteristics that are decidedly budget.
My predictions regarding the 'quick-release' axles proved correct. Marzocchi's q/r axle needed tightening about every 4 rides, and the rear Maxle q/r axle came loose after about 20 rides to the point of providing a deafening creak. Fortunately both of these are easily adjustable, but I still have not come up with a great benefit of using q/r axles on big-hit bikes.
Shore Two's suspension getting a workout
Sun's Equalizer rims have held up well to cased landings and repeated downhill abuse, despite their relatively narrow profile. Kenda's Stick-E rubber Nevegals still have plenty of tread remaining, as do Avid's Juicy 5 brake pads. The Juicy Five's have held up to rigorous sustained steeps without pump or fade. The power, modulation, and feel of the Five's are identical to their more popular Juicy Seven brethren. The only difference between the two models is the presence of a pad contact adjustment in the Seven's, which I've been able to live without but it sure is a nice feature to have custom ergonomics.
With the stock main chainring being an extremely versatile 32-tooth, I have not needed to use the front derailleur one single time in several months of thrash-testing the bike. The E-13 DRS guide works great in conjunction with the front derailleur to keep the chain in place, proving no need for any drivetrain modification on the bike. The SRAM X.7 group performed well for the majority of my time aboard the Shore Two. The rear derailleur has taken a beating through bike shuttles and rock scrapage, and has lost it's precision crispness, but I can't say that it's any worse than a comparable test of higher-grade componentry. Reaching for a shifter around the big, rubbery see-thru grips proved to be a task on several occasions. When one of the grips fell off after about 20 rides on the bike, I switched to some Ruffian lock-on grips that not only improved handlebar grip strength but also shift lever reachability. Lock-on grip technology has been around for long enough that I would suggest it to be common spec equipment on pretty much all bikes of this caliber and above.
Overall I've been very enthusiastic about riding the Shore Two. I haven't had any major issues whatsoever, and haven't had to do much of anything other than lube the chain and air up the tires occasionally. It sounds cliche to say it, but Norco did a great job of creating a bike for a specific area, as this bike really may be the perfect "Shore" setup. 7" travel front and rear with a solid component spec offers durability and low-maintenance performance for those looking to spend more time on the bike and less in the shop. While the aesthetics of Norco's design may not appeal to everyone, the frame geometry follows the practical needs of the North Shore style rider. The Shore Two is a bike that can be climbed, with some effort, to the top and hammered hard on the descent. There's no excuse to bypass any stunts or jumps either on this rig; it's one do-all downhiller made to take it.
Shore Two soaking up some rays
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