2020 Field Test: Norco Optic - Short on Travel, Not on Capability

Nov 12, 2019
by Mike Levy  


PINKBIKE FIELD TEST

2020 NORCO OPTIC C2

Short on travel, not on capability



Words by Mike Levy, Photography by Trevor Lyden



People have been riding under-gunned, short-travel bikes long before they became capable enough to challenge longer-legged machines. That's a more recent development that came about thanks to evolved geometry, larger diameter wheels, and ever-improving suspension systems, all of which you'll find on the all-new 2020 Norco Optic trail bike.

While it has just 125mm of rear-wheel-travel, other numbers offer a clue as to its abilities; a relatively relaxed 65-degree head angle, a roomy 480mm of reach on our large-sized test bike, and its 140mm Pike up front. Oh, and four-piston brakes across the range.

Yeah, something tells me that this thing ain't your warmed-over cross-country rig that's been over-forked to under-deliver.
Norco Optic C2 Details

Intended use: Trail
Travel: 125mm
Wheel size: 29''
Frame construction: Carbon fiber, alloy rear
Head angle: 65-degrees (geometry)
Chainstay length: 435mm
Reach: 480mm (lrg)
Sizes: Sm, med, lrg (tested), xl
Weight: 30.9 lbs / 14.0 kg (as pictured)
Price: $4,500 USD
More info: www.norco.com

Our test rig isn't the no-expenses-spared AXS ($7,500 USD) or XTR-spec'd ($6,600) models, but rather the $4,500 C2 version that sits, a bit confusingly, three down from the top. There's a matching C2 Women's model, and both get the same SRAM X1/GX drivetrain, BT520 four-piston brakes from Shimano, and a Pike Select Plus fork. Every single Optic model, as well as the frame-only option, all come with a RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH shock that, as you might have guessed, is more likely to be seen on a downhill sled.

Since we're talking about suspension, you'll find a compact Horst Link layout on the back of the new Optic that looks a lot like, well, the Horst Link layout on the back of the old Optic. Don't be fooled, though, because the pivot locations and design have changed enough that it's nothing like its predecessor. Compared to the old Optic, the leverage ratio is said to be higher at the start to make it relatively supple for a short-travel bike that’s meant to smash into things. It’s far more progressive, too, and the shock gets a custom high-speed compression tune. When you've only got 125mm of travel, I guess it better be good.




Norco Optic C2 review Photo by Trevor Lyden


Climbing

With a 65-degree head angle and relatively long reach and wheelbase, the Optic's geometry numbers are a departure from what you'd traditionally expect to find on a bike in this travel bracket. But while it's not exactly the ideal machine for those awkward, slow speed chess matches that have most of us only dreaming of going dab-less, it does just fine on singletrack that the average rider would still consider enjoyable. It deals with tight, tricky sections in the same way as most modern trail bikes, which is to say that the handling probably won't be the make-it-or-break-it factor for most of us - that'll still come down to skill and desire.

So yes, the Optic doesn't climb like a cross-country bike, 125mm or not. A little extra planning may be required to get through those too tight, 200-degree switchbacks with your feet still clipped in and your dignity still intact, but the steep seat angle helps create a very comfortable climbing position. It was ballsy of Norco to spec a shock without some sort of on-the-fly pedal-assist; doesn't tradition tell us that riders looking for short travel rigs care more about efficiency than anything else, firstborn and that aforementioned dignity included? Sure, but as I've already said a half dozen times, the Optic ain't really for them. Regardless, it doesn't feel like an Ibis Ripley when on the gas, but neither Kazimer nor I ever wished for a lockout on it.

If you're still equating suspension travel with climbing abilities, the new Optic might not be the rapid ascender that you're expecting. But, consider it as a trail bike bent on making you laugh while snatching a few KOMs on the way back down, and the picture that Norco's painted makes much more sense.


Norco Optic C2 review Photo by Trevor Lyden

Norco Optic C2 review Photo by Trevor Lyden


Descending

Agile. Playful. Nimble. More fun than a barrel of monkeys, and on and on. My plan is to not use any of those tired old adjectives when talking about the Optic's descending abilities, but I can't promise you anything given how often this oddly-green-colored bike had Kaz and I laughing. And aren't those most often the moments when you're getting a bit loose but not so much that you think you're gonna get plastered all over some tree? With its long front-end, 435mm chainstays (on our large), and a 65-degree head angle that all make you feel as if you're down low and between the wheels, there are plenty of those in control but also just a lil' bit out of control times when on the Optic.

But don't mistake that for it being nervous, because that's the last thing the Optic is guilty of being. The Orbea Occam and Intense Primer both have more travel, sure, but it's the Norco that felt less skittish and on-edge during our timed testing. As luck would have it, the Freelap system was powered up just as the skies opened up, making for a tricky afternoon with plenty of close calls, regardless of the bikes we were on.

The Optic wasn't slow in the slippery conditions, despite the relative lack of travel, but that's only because we trusted its impressive, sure-fire handling.

Geometry rules all, and Norco nailed it with the Optic by using numbers that let you ride not just above its (impressive) 125mm of travel, but also like your only goal is to have as much fun as possible out there. After all, that's not a terrible plan.

Timed Testing

Our timed lap for the trail bikes was around 1:30 long and started with Afternoon Delight, a rooty, twisty singletrack that feeds you into the rocky lines of Lower Whistler Downhill. After that, we crossed the piste before entering Heart of Darkness where the lower Freelap cone was hidden next to a tree.

Don't forget that timing is just one of many ways to judge a bike, and fast doesn't always mean best.


Levy: ''I had my second-fastest time on the Optic, which was 1.2-percent faster than when I was on both the Orbea and Intense. However, it was 5-percent behind the fastest time that I had on the Pole Stamina.''

Kazimer: ''I had my fastest time on the Optic, which was 2.5-percent ahead of the next fastest bike, the Pole Stamina 140.''

Something else that rules: the Optic's rear suspension. It's efficient, but that's expected and boring. Less expected is how slippery and active it is for just 125mm of travel, especially at the top of the stroke. There's support, too, and neither Kazimer or I had any end-of-travel, end-of-life incidents when we clanged into the bottom unnecessarily. All of that is expected from a bike with more cushion, but it's not all that common from one with this little.

In case you can't tell, the new Optic impressed everyone who rode it during our two-week-long Field Test session. It's also yet more proof that when your geometry is on-point, short on travel doesn't have to mean short on capabilities.


Norco Optic C2 review Photo by Trevor Lyden


Pros

+ It might be the most fun bike in this category
+ Suspension tune and spec is dialed
+ Excellent geometry

Cons

- Geometry can let you go fast, but don't forget that you only have 125mm...
- Four-piston brakes, but with resin pads and resin-only rotors





The 2020 Pinkbike Field Test was made possible by support from
Race Face apparel & pads, Giro helmets, & Sierra Nevada beer.



290 Comments

  • 203 0
 "The last time i was this impressed with a rear end...."

Gotta get out more mike
  • 359 6
 Pinkbike bike post date discussion:

Kazimer: Hey @mikelevy, how'd your date you?

Levy: Man, it was going great. We really connected, talked, laughed, decided to go for a ride.

Kazimer: Aw man, that sounds great. But why do you look so down?

Levy: Well, we decided to go for a ride and we were grinding up that fireroad on our second lap, just laughing and having a really good time. So I fell in behind to get a look at - you know - "the propulsion unit." And that's when she did it.

Kazimer: Oh no. You don't mean...

Levy: Yep. She flipped the lock lever. Like it didn't mean anything. Like she was fine just compensating for bad suspension design with an easy and innocuous solution.

Kazimer: I'm so sorry.

Levy: It's ok. I pulled over. Had a little cry. Then a big cry. But thankfully i was able to rehydrate with my 8 frame mounted water bottles and make it home.

Kazimer: It'll be alright buddy. Maybe next time try a woman on an Optic.
  • 17 10
 CON - no picture of the huck to flat...
  • 6 2
 0:55 secs in the vid
  • 13 5
 @bertbc: yes obviously. But I want to see a pic at bottom out.
  • 16 0
 @MikeyMT: But a video says a thousand pictures!
  • 14 1
 @MikeyMT: Pause button
  • 1 0
 deleted
  • 5 1
 @MarcusBrody: POST OF THE YEAR!!! cheers buddy!!
  • 3 0
 @dro-cfr: My thoughts exactly. Would love to hear how it compares as the following romps.
  • 124 8
 I don’t really understand the downside of a climbswitch. Riders who don’t want it can just ignore it, but on those long ascents i just want to save power as much as possible. So if I spend the next hour or so climbing, flipping that switch once is a no-brainer. Norco might say that this bike is „not for that type of rider“, but why get rid of a whole target group for something that has no real downside?
  • 40 6
 Agreed. Keep the climb switch. Use it or don't use. I use mine regularly. Every bit of uphill help I can get, I'll take. We don't all ride bikes for a living, and have the collateral benefit of being in great shape all of time as a result of all of that professional on-bike time. Think of the majority of the riders out here. Stop the climb switch hate.
  • 16 15
 Agreed on longer travel bikes, but on a 125mm bike, I can see why they wouldn't put one on.
  • 30 11
 I have been climbing steep hills on horst link bikes that pedal good for years. I honestly have never felt like the pedal switch helped me at all. The 1-3mm of pedalling induced bob is worth it for bump compliance, even on a nice gravel road. Climb switch wins on asphalt.
  • 47 7
 nothing comes for free. climb switches/lockouts generally force some ugly compression damping design choices. most of the time, that climb switch-less shock is going to preform considerably better than the one with the switch.
  • 31 1
 From what I've been told by the engineers (who undoubtedly will weigh in shortly), shocks with lockout actually have different circuitry and thus handle differently compared to shocks without lockout. Norco chose maximum performance over the ability to lock in the very rare situations where you might want it.
  • 10 2
 I think they are implying that the bike doesn't need a switch to climb well. It doesn't rely on it as a crutch.
  • 3 5
 I have a Jekyll and it has a climb switch. It is supposed to limit the amount of travel rather than a lockout. It doesnt work anymore, but I still use it anyways. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It has never bothered me. Makes me feel like I dont have to spend a lump of cash on a new shock.
  • 5 3
 @skerby: Same, I'll trade bump compliance and comfort over uphill speed every time. I hear you on the asphalt thing though.
  • 3 1
 @Upduro: fully agree.

Even on a Ripley V4 I use the switch regularly for the middle setting. (never on the "firm" setting though)
  • 2 0
 @groghunter @dkidd actually didn’t know that, thanks. So I guess it makes sense? I still like my switch though.
  • 5 1
 @groghunter: So you're saying, a Fox X2 or CC DB Air CS would work better if they hadn't have the switches?

(which, afaik simply close the LSC drastically)
  • 16 3
 You lost me at "...spend the next hour climbing."
  • 8 4
 @FloImSchnee: closing the entire lsc usually means a large piece of hardware, like a sleeve that encloses the entire compression circuit, blocking off flow when rotated. this means all the compression circuit components are smaller, and can mean they aren't able to keep up with high flow events.
  • 4 11
flag lkubica (Nov 12, 2019 at 9:38) (Below Threshold)
 @groghunter: on the contrary, no cs means that there is an extra compression in the tune, exactly for guys like Levy, so they do not moan about pedal bob... This however produces harsher ride down.
  • 1 5
flag Mac1987 (Nov 12, 2019 at 9:40) (Below Threshold)
 There is an important difference between a climb switch that just increases LSC and a full lock-out. The latter is far more common, but also a horrible design. The criticism on climb switches mainly focusses on the lock-out variant.
  • 1 1
 @FloImSchnee: I have to as well on my Ripley. It's such an active rear end that I had to put the largest volume spacer in and for technical climbing I always have it in the middle setting.
  • 9 7
 If you're going up gravel roads, it's easy to adopt a pedalling technique that doesn't cause real bob. Just be steady and smooth. As soon as you're on actual terrain, having the suspension able to move and conform to the trail adds more grip, which helps in climbing. In both cases, there really isn't a point to having a lockout. I don't see the point in climb switches on the current generation of bike. They seem mostly included for the rhetoric, not the actual substance. Most suspension these days does well enough on anti-squat that it just doesn't do much, and as others are saying, can even be a downgrade to how well the shock preforms. Fucking right on Norco for ditching it.
  • 9 1
 I generally agree with you.... but if there is no climb switch you can't forget to turn it off. Or worse, when you're half way down the trail and realize you left the CS on.
  • 2 0
 @zarban: yours is V4 ripley as well? I'm thinking about one, how much do you weigh?
  • 6 4
 @groghunter: Do you have any proof for this bit about climb switch being a compromise for valving? Or R are you Waki-ing? Smile
  • 1 0
 @zarban: I only use the middle setting on gravel and tarmac roads.
Technical climbing: open damping, for grip and comfort.
  • 7 5
 @FloImSchnee: Optimally you want open for tech climbs. But I haven’t ridden a single bike with a good shock where climb switch wouldn’t limit the rocking of the suspension. I take “not turning it on” as one of ultimate forms of pretentiousness and example of virtue signaling in bike world.
  • 5 3
 @WAKIdesigns: Don't take it on faith from me, ask anybody who works on suspension or designs it that you like. this isn't super secret knowledge. as for an easily find-able example, there's a pretty significant amount of info available out there about how this, along with a less than wonderful mid-valve tune, caused several of the issues with RS fork dampers not dealing with high speed compression well, up to and including charger 1.
  • 9 3
 @groghunter: fork is a different story. And HSC of Charger 1 was simply messed up with or without CS. Inever lock out the fork as I so little sag on it.

But I assure you that Cane Creeks DB CS works just as well as regular one in open mode. I would argue the other way around: lack of climb switch on 130+ bikes makes suspension worse because it requires designing more antisquat into kinematics which makes it worse for descending capability of the bike.
  • 5 1
 @sherbet: Eh, I grind enough gravel road climbs on my bike, and for me it's a huge difference between open, pedal and closed. When I do 1500m+ of climbing I want that rear end stiff, with no bob (or at least the minimum possible) at all.
  • 3 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Have you done rigorous back-to-back testing with and without a CS on the exact same model of shock to validate that assertion? How can you be sure without shock dyno or real world evidence?
  • 4 3
 @WAKIdesigns: 1st, damping is damping. a mono-tube damper in a fork has more in common with a mono-tube damper in a shock, than it does a twin-tube damper in a fork. which brings us to the 2nd point: not only is a DB CS a twin-tube damper, but it's climb switch effects both compression and rebound stroke. Only one I know of that works that way, so of course it's not going to work the same, or feel anywhere the same as a climb switch in a RS shock. 3rd, "seat of the pants" anecdotes do not empirical evidence make. show me a dyno graph.
  • 2 0
 @groghunter: My DHX2 feels like it's fully functional on the descents, with the climb switch off. I'd be surprised to find out the non-climb switch version of the DHX2 performs better.
  • 6 0
 @groghunter: First of all RS without climb switch exists ONLY bacause it is cheaper. All lower priced models get them.
Secondly there are many high level shocks witch climb switch including e.g. Storia, Foxes etc. What is more, any shock with compression knob also should be compromised.
Thesis that this bike come with a shock without cs to improve performance is simply ridiculous.
  • 1 0
 @groghunter: there might be compromises, but ohlins, Dvo (now for the coil shock as well), ext and others beside the big guys do offer that climb switch, in different flavors (2 or 3 pos)
  • 4 0
 @jimeg: came here to post this. Is the damper in a CS model DHX2 physically any different? I can’t find an exploded diagram but I doubt it. The CS is just closing off a bunch of LSC in one motion.

Shock feels identical to the non CS version I had in another bike.
  • 6 3
 @groghunter: As to graphs, just check out Nomad Vs V10. Commencal riders were playing with location of the idler on the Supreme DH to change antisquat. Why would they not run more antisquat all the time if there is no compromise to bump eating?

I asked Öhlins mechanic which shock to take before I bought mine and the answer was: CS does virtually nothing to how the whole system performs compared to a regular shock.

So no, no dyno. You can send a quick mail to Vorsprung to have an “independent “ opinion.

Idea that lockouts are - compromise is tempting but saying that climbing with or without one makes no difference is absolutely ridiculous. It’s flat Earth of MTB
  • 1 0
 @lkubica: Yesss, cost reduction is the only reason.

My bike came without a lock lever (Deluxe-R) I than found a second hand unused deluxe-RT and installed it, noticed no difference at all without the lock engaged, and in fact there's not big differencies inside the shock. When the lever is on bobbing is near to zero, but main reason to use the switch is to keep BB as high as possible so pedal strikes are less likely to happen even if I hit lots and lots of rocks, I just cann't immagine going uphill with the BB dropped at least 20mm more.
Last but not least climbing out of the saddle, which I do frequently, is waaay much better.

F
  • 2 0
 @groghunter:
So a Cane Creek D(Coil, air, inline, whatever) or a Fox X2 does not perform?
  • 1 0
 Apparently, with the negative feedback, everyone here loves full lock-outs Smile
  • 38 12
 Honestly, if it doesnt climb like a short travel bike, why on earth would you not just buy an enduro bike to have even more fun on the descents. They said themselves that "even though the geometry makes it fast, it still only has 125mm of travel". I just see no need for this category of short travel, ridiculously slack geometry, trail bikes.
  • 28 4
 Because enduro bikes don’t climb as well, note that it was the fastest or second fastest climber if ALL bikes tested.

Believe it or not, sone of us like to climb and want a good climber that also descends well.
  • 20 0
 We could maybe have been more clear in the video. The pedalling efficiency on the climbs is good. It doesn’t climb like a short wheelbase bike. If you don’t struggle with tight technical climbs, it’s an excellent climber.
  • 16 0
 Short travel with slack geometry is more capable on steep stuff and still let's you enjoy a trails features rather than plowing / straight lining everything. They also make for perfect bikes in races like Nimby50 or Spakwus.
  • 4 0
 @nurseben: My enduro bike climbs very good. Better than my 140mm trail bike even!
  • 5 0
 @nurseben: No, its faster that the other bikes in its category, not ALL the bikes tested.
  • 5 1
 @nurseben: don't know where you got second fastest climber at?

It's a 30lb bike I doubt it climbs faster then any of the downcountry bikes.
  • 4 0
 @nurseben: So we see who doesn't ride Pivot bikes....
  • 6 5
 There is a difference between effort being put into climbing by stomping on pedals and bike handling during the climb. Climbing effort is mostly determined by the rotating mass. Handling helps to save energy as it allows you to spin through a rock garden at the pace you want to spin, not pace necessary to keep the front wheel planted or rear wheel not spinning out as it happens with most XC bikes. Additional squish also helps to make technical climbs. It takes extra care to climb steep ass sht on roots and rocks on a hardtail. Some knobs on the rear tyre don’t hurt either. Amateur XC Marathon racers can’t climb single track for sht.
  • 11 0
 I don't necessarily find more travel to automatically be "even more fun on the descents". I guess I don't understand the push to make trails tamer and tamer by adding more and more travel to your bike.
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: "Amateur XC Marathon racers can’t climb single track for sht." Some don't but that is a very broad generalization which is untrue.

That said I am not sure I understand the point of that kind of bike. 14kg for short travel and carbon ? Let's add some travel then. If I am ready to be limited by travel but look for grip I think I'd rather add 500gr by mounting trail tires on a lightweight Orbea OIZ TR. Otherwise I'd just forget about climbing speed ride a proper trail bike than that thing that doesn't really do anything well.
  • 1 0
 @markinator: exactly. Recently I broke my frame and while waiting for a new one a friend of mine gave me his old (and I mean 200something old) xc bike and guess what? After swapping the old cockpit with a "rideable one" (it had like 580 mm bars) it was a blast to ride on easy blue trails. Sketchy as hell sure, but a lot of fun. And riding that bike made me consider buying something like this Optic as on some (many) trails my 165mm Tracer is probably an overkill, but I still need it to work as a guide.
  • 2 3
 @opignonlibre: I didn’t finish my sentence. I meant to say that they can kill most folks on fireroad climb but they suck at technical stuff. I rode folks older than me who do triathlons, marathons, go around Europe to compete and they kicked the crap out of me on short rides on gravel or on gravel sections, but as soon as it gets steep and even a bit techy they have no clue what to do with it, they just try to force everything while spinning from the saddle. But yes I agree - generalization... and they are wrong, always.

I don’t understand short travel bikes with geometries capable of tackling world cup tracks either. Not even for big jump lines in bike parks since as long as everything goes well it works. But things don’t go well for more than 70% of the time, at least not as long as you are pushing it, especially that not bike parks in the world have as great shaping as Whistler. When learning to style things up you will have some awkward leans on the lip when your technique is not dialed and then it is good to have some squish for margins. Then they all run knobby, heavy tyres on those bikes encouraging braking late and coming into corners faster. This rear will have a hard time railing through rough turns at those speeds. Bryn Atkinson is a wizard at cornering and other things, lad can draw shapes - not me. And short travel bike won’t make it much easier to learn that.

DC bikes are excellent as “more capable” XC bikes, but there is no going around the fact that one just can’t take a Enduro racing bike and decrease travel on it, while this is what is effectively happening here. The builds on Optic and Range are near identical.
  • 3 0
 @WAKIdesigns: well many marathons racers do race MTB because they fear riding on the road really. So some of them are quite clueless technically once you get out of fireroad and are not comfortable enough to go fast once it gets rough or really fast. But in the middle of that there are a few ones like me who really love the tech sections and make up a lot of time in those parts, down or uphill.

Regarding the short travel bikes, I think you focus a bit too much on bike parks. Those kinds of bikes are either made to go fast in those specific races or are being use by people who tend to favor rides outside of bike parks. When I was living in Switzerland, 95% or our rides were on local hicking trails really that we could connect from the city by climbing a few mild roads/paths first before connecting to some single tracks that were part of the country's hicking network. So we climbed a lot and enjoyed the descents. While most of them could be done on an hardtail we were also riding rowdier and rowdiers paths, some of which weren't really "official one", following tracks from trial motorbikes. A more capable bike that would still be lightweight enough to be a major PITA when climbing for 2 to 3 hours is nice to have.

Most of people are now switching to e-bikes for that kind of usage but there are still some people who wants the simplicity and lightness of an XC bike.
  • 3 2
 @opignonlibre: I see no reason why not to take an XC racing fully like Spark, slacken the head angle by 2 degrees, a bit more reach, steepen the seat angle by the same, switch fork to 120-130, 30mm carbon rims and tyres like Ikons or XR2. Maybe XR3 fromt, XR2 rear. Ardent race/ ikon alternatively. You add no more than 1kg to the whole affair and can ride down Val Di sole. Not fast, not confidently but you can do it, better than XC racer. And... enjoy all the climbing.
  • 29 4
 I guess I just don’t get the point. Same geo, same weight, less travel... Suspension I can’t fully adjust. If “downcountry” loses all the advantages of XC and most of the advantages of AM, why wouldn’t I just get a trail/AM bike? Only answer I can come up with is that underbiking is fun, but if that’s the case, giving yourself 75% of the features of an enduro bike seems to defeat the purpose.
  • 17 0
 We put this one in the trail bike category, not downcountry. Despite being 125mm in the back, it’s got a 65 degree hta and a 140mm fork, so for us we wanted to put it up against the Pole, Intense, and Orbea.
  • 6 1
 @brianpark: Where would you put it against Forbidden Druid or Where would you put Forbidden Druid, against Optic or Sight? And how would it fare?
  • 21 1
 I think it's mostly because of Mike's 1st 3 words in the review "Agile. Playful. Nimble.". While also still being able to handle fast steep, crazy terrain without feeling like you're going to die. A lot of bigger travel bikes just don't feel this way, usually weigh a bit more and don't climb/accelerate quite as well. It's always a give & take, but I'm willing to feel a little underbiked on really rough chunder, in order to have that playful, poppy feeling on everything else...
  • 6 1
 @brianpark: How does it compare to the new process 134 or the smuggler? Both of those seem similar to it as well.
  • 9 0
 @mikekazimer @mikelevy Would like to hear a comparison between this and the new Tallboy. Thinking of building up a TB with a pretty much Optic-ish spec (140mm Pike, 4 piston xts etc). The Optic definitely seems to have the edge in regards to the shock (and 5mm more travel), but how would you otherwise compare the two of them?
  • 6 0
 You really have to look at it as a complete package rather than just numbers.. I tried one in September as part of the bike shop demo tour and honestly, when I got there I really wanted to try the sight; walked right on by this bike... We had time left after the first run so we took a pair of these out.. I honestly have to say that it was way way more fun to ride than the sight (probably because I ride an EVO and the sight was very much like it, only more business; so I just kind of went for a ride) Especially for locations like the east coast where there are some great enduro trails but a lot of Cross country and flatter trails. this bike will appeal to A-LOT of people for that... I don't even bother riding my evo on the local XC loops... it sucks so bad but with this bike.. I could ride that at lunch hour and head to the enduro park on weekends. and have 90% of the fun at the enduro park and all of the fun the rest of the week... that is what this bike is all about. IMHO
  • 1 0
 @Rusettipasta: @mikelevy @mikekazimer I too am very interested in this comparison. Living in the mid west our trails are not long but they still have all the chunk and chunder of western states. Im looking for a bike that can make quick work of the ups and the downs.
  • 2 0
 @jollyXroger: The Druid is on my short list for next bike and this review definitely hit on a lot of the points that have attracted me to the Druid. My initial impression is that they'd appeal to a very similar set of riders.
  • 2 0
 @Rusettipasta: @Rusettipasta: The Tallboy and the Juliana are the exact same bike. Just a lighter tune on the suspension, a different paint job, and with a few women's specific touchpoints.
I'm also trying to decide which of these two bikes to purchase.
  • 1 0
 @big-red: I'm intrigued by this and the druid too. I haven't ridden a druid yet, but from what I've read, I get the impression that the druid is less poppy and more of a short travel plow bike. I wonder how the growing chainstays feel too as it gets deeper in its travel. Definitely a bike that I'm intrigued by. I would expect the norco to be poppier than the druid and want to get airborne off small roots and bumps, but I could be totally wrong.
  • 2 6
flag WAKIdesigns (Nov 12, 2019 at 14:42) (Below Threshold)
 @railin: I believe that is the most sensible thing anybody ever wrote about down country bikes... although the feedback and poppiness are available on Enduro bikes at a reach of a hand... just remove one or two clicks of rebound... will probably make you faster too Smile
  • 3 0
 @JohnyVV: I'm with you. The impression from the review seems to be that it doesn't climb that much better pointed uphill than a good trail bike. Seems like a good weekend warrior bike for someone who thinks they ride faster than they do. As soon as you loose that climbing ability you might as well step up to something with 140mm+ travel and send it Wink
  • 5 0
 Does it climb better than a 140mm trail bike with similar geo? It certainly doesn't weigh less. If you took a 140mm rear, 150mm front trail bike (or even a 150mm front and back like the Scott Genius) with the same tires and similar geo, would this bike pedal better?

Because if it doesn't, whats the point?
  • 1 0
 @big-red: i had been looking at 120 - 130 mm bikes and hadn't considered the Druid. after reading your comment i realized how similar the geometry is to the 2020 tallboy.
  • 20 0
 Norco seemed to really have nailed it with their new optic and sight for 2020! The sight 2020 is, according to a friend, a really fun bike too!
  • 9 0
 Yeah, And the Torrent looks rad!
  • 7 0
 Just wait until the new *high-pivot range comes out... (pure speculation... but based on a big ol rumour cloud floating around.
  • 3 0
 @islandforlife: yeah I heard the same rumour. It's supposed to be built around the same suspension design as the HSP. can't wait to see what they'll do with it!
  • 20 0
 This bike looks like an absolute blast. It's the bike I'm most interested in, out of all the others.
  • 10 0
 I'm with you on this. Seems perfect for my region and style of riding.
  • 5 0
 I was lucky enough to get a ride in on a demo recently, and I can attest it's definitely a blast! & the climbing actually felt really comfortable & efficient and like I could scamper up anything the trail threw at me.
  • 4 0
 Same here. No mountains here so it's all XC trails with lots of small rocky downhill sections. But I occasionally ride proper downhill two or three times a year out of town. So this bike would be perfect.
  • 4 0
 @railin: I've never ridden a horst link bike with climbing manners that I loved, but I'm hoping this bike will have the secret sauce and change my opinion of horst links on the climbs.
  • 3 0
 @Ryan2949: It really does look like an ideal Ontario bike.
  • 1 1
 @hardtailparty: ever tried a Rocky Mtn? I haven't bought a new bike lately, but I love climbing as much as anyone, and 2011-2015's are incredible.
  • 1 0
 @WoodenCrow: Yes, rocky mtns are probably my favorite horst link bikes for climbs, but they still didn't quite have the snappiness that a DW, VPP, or Living Link have.
  • 2 0
 @hardtailparty: interesting, I guess shock tuning plays a big role, and also what we mean by snappiness. I've ridden several VPP and DW, and the latter feels more efficient in general but for me doesn't have the same steep-hill-scrambling fire of Rocky's Element and Thunderbolts. Intense Sniper was crazy quick but only demo'ed on very different trails than home (fast hardpack desert vs. sandy-loam here). I'd love to try a Living Link too.
  • 1 0
 @WoodenCrow: living link is the real deal. I haven't found anything I like more than that yet. But I prefer higher anti-squat than most people, as I ride my full suspension bikes as if they were hardtails.
  • 1 0
 @hardtailparty: good to know, I'll have to seek one out to try next year!
  • 17 0
 How long until Waki shows up to tell everyone how stupid aggressive short travel bikes are? Personally the Optic looks just about perfect to me.
  • 17 1
 I guess I shouldn't ever mention my 170mm hardtail or I'll get roasted
  • 22 0
 @overforked: Username checks out!
  • 6 0
 @overforked: it’s ok, my 160mm hardtail is a singlespeed 29er...
  • 10 1
 i demo'd one of these a few months ago while they were still embargoed. it was phenomenal. glad i can finally say this in public. the mikes' impressions mirrored mine exactly except they were able to confirm it also shined on steeper/faster/more rugged trails than i got to try it out on. stupid fun. rear end is supple off the top, supportive in the middle and progressive at the end. pedaling efficiency and feel were excellent. the shock doesn't have an assist switch of any kind because the bike doesn't need one; it would only add unnecessary weight and complexity. 10/10 would ride again
  • 6 5
 CS unnecessary weight and complexity?? A 25g on/off switch is neither of those things.

I don’t understand CS negativity in general, if you don’t want it just don’t use it. People want all the knobs for descending tune but when it comes to climbing, nobody should be able to tweak one lever?
  • 3 4
 @g123: there is a reason for the negativity, CS on most shocks cause a whole host of huge downsides on the damper tune so it's not free at all. A well tuned shock that actually supports you is more than welcomed.
  • 2 2
 @unusual-bread: this is something I’d like to see objectively assessed, maybe somebody already has ie Fox, RS, Vorsprung, Push etc. I find it hard to believe that you would find a host of huge downsides on a properly tuned X2 where all of the circuits have a large adjustment range and is highly tuneable. Haven’t seen a flood of riders complaining about X2 lacking support. The 2-pos CS is simply on or off, where’s the downside when it’s off?
  • 9 0
 Looks like an awesome bike. But I was let down by no alloy less expensive model. Would love to get an optic, but sorry Norco, looks like Marin gets my money with the Rift Zone.
  • 5 4
 The Optic is the carbonium version of the Fluid, which starts under $2k USD.
  • 5 0
 @dkidd: not the same unfortunately
  • 1 1
 @arrowheadrush: not exact, but pretty close in terms of geo (obviously builds are different).
  • 1 3
 @arrowheadrush: Correct, not the same. Fluid FS has better spec.
  • 4 0
 @dkidd: fluid builds are pretty low end and it's only a 130mm fork.

There is definitely a hole in Norco's lineup where the old (2019) sight alloy existed. An alloy150/130mm bike is goldilocks for me.

I guess the 2020 fs1 build of the fluid is ok, but it needs better brakes and hubs. The forekaster rear tire is a weird choice too (usually they'd pair a DHR with the dhf). You could build one up nicely (and people have) but Norco doesn't offer it as a frame only so good luck sourcing one.

I wish Norco would do all their bikes a la carte. Pick your frame, suspension kit and drivetrain then it gets shipped to your closest dealer for assembly.
  • 2 0
 @eh-steve: I can tell you from my own experience that the 2020 optic descends much(!) better than the 2019 29" sight!
yeah custom everything would be nice, this is why you get the option to buy frames separately.
  • 2 0
 @r0bb: option to buy a frame seperate as long as it's one of the models they determine you are allowed to buy a frame for (e.g. no fluid FS frame option).

While I'm sure the new optic is great, some people don't want to pay a premium for carbon and would rather put that money towards components.
  • 13 6
 I don't give a shit how efficient you think your platform is. When i'm climbing 1000hm in one go on smooth euro fire roads with pitches up to 20%, you better believe i'm using that climb switch. Arrogance has probably cost them a lot of sales over here.

Also, it's not only that you're limited to resin pads by those rotors, it's that the actual surface sucks. The same resin pad on a SLX/XT (machined?) rotor performs amazingly vs this (cast? forged?)
  • 3 0
 I'd just sell the shock and put on a Mcleod with bar mounted lsc adjuster then tune it how I wanted.
  • 7 0
 I don't get why the product managers spec resin pad only rotors. I would prefer the $10 price increase for a proper rotor.
  • 3 3
 They might gain a lot of sales because of it if the shock is tuned well though. Climb switch on most shocks cause a whole host of huge downsides on the damper tune so it's a terrible compromise, especially when you can argue that lockout doesn't make the climb much more efficient anyways. A well tuned shock that actually supports you when things get hairy is more than welcomed.
  • 2 0
 @davidrobinsonphoto I dunno on my last bike with a 140 mm supposedly inefficient (it probably actually was but I didn't care much) horst linkage I never used the switch, and my uphills are most of the time fire roads. Not that smooth, so probably that's the reason why, but even on tarmac I never felt the need to. I'm considering buying this bike and the shock would be one of the major selling points
  • 1 0
 I'm also noticing the pedal bob in the review video, good job on that btw, rarely we see a camera pointed at the shock when the reviewer is climbing.
  • 8 1
 I am not convinced that the timed laps mean anything. If you squeeze out a fart your time changes. If the weather or temp changes or wind direction??? So many variables it makes no sense after all the second test ride might be the fastest and the final day's test might be a write off due to exhaustion.
  • 7 0
 You’re right - we included them in order to provide a little more information about the bikes’s performance, but they obviously shouldn’t be the only metric someone uses when deciding what bike to buy.
  • 1 1
 @mikekazimer: so what bike for people who do decide to buy a bike based on how fast it is?
What would be the ultimate kom hunting trail bike?
  • 1 0
 @reverend27: Suspect a lot (all?) of that will come down to the rider and whether you're targeting uphill or downhill KOMs.
  • 3 0
 maybe if pink bike could get a pro rider to be a stig they could be quite interesting
  • 2 1
 @kingtut87: that's the thing. They are testing these in a bike park right?

My trails are nothing like this. As to up or down they are all both. I am pedaling at least 70% of my ride especially if you are going for kom.

Also nothing is really mention about how well a bike carries speed.
Like does it get bogged down rolling thru roots because unoptimized wheel path or wheelbase.
My old recluse was awful at carrying speed constantly had to pedal to keep it going. Didn't do well thru the small roots that litter my trails.

So I need a bike that accelerate fast stays fast thru chatter, rails flat corners and can still handle punchy downs that often times end in full compression and then climb right back up the other side of the gulley.

Keeping in mind gravity isn't doing alot for me 50-70% of the time.
  • 6 1
 @reverend27: Then this is not the bike for you or you need to do your own demos because you ride trails that don't reflect the tests. Either way, it's not the tester's problems.
  • 2 0
 @reverend27:

"They are testing these in a bike park right?" They did the downhill timed testing in the park yeah, but did you not see all the stuff they did in Pemberton? I'd also bet they rode all the bikes on the valley trails in Whistler too.

I think though, what I was getting at, is that for any given rider the same bike won't always be the fastest, depending on what time of trails are being ridden. A good rider will be able to get the most out of any bike, but average joes may be faster on a trail on enduro bike (downhill anyway) as they don't have either the skill or the confidence to ride a short travel bike with racier angles fast down anything technical.

Regardless of the rider it's also very trail dependent. A Scott Spark might be the fastest to the top of the hill but if the downhill section is rowdy the Genius will be a 'faster bike'.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: Mike 1st of all I love your work .
that said I still don't get the timing as a comparative base ....a minute of an hour and a half. I base my findings on what makes me happy like easy climbing, a bike that corrects my mistakes, playfulness or descending like a fireman on a rope? Then there's weight. Tire choice... So many variables. Even switching out wheels may make it a bad comparison. Final answer is the one that makes me secure and smile the most.
All that said your tests help us all a lot but we shouldn't take it to the bank. personal bike lust is the final answer.
  • 1 2
 @madmon: the problem is “the market” wants just that. Also if you ride a same trail 10 times, you better do a track walk and training to get a dialed line that you can nail 7/10 at least. If you are capable of following that order, you are capable of delivering consistent lap times. The higher the skill, the more consistency.

But well... it’s hard to measure things that way anyways. It is exactly what MTB marketing exploits all the time. Unmeasurable Promises of performance increase.
  • 1 1
 @nurseben:

If I have a complaint it's that the timed section is pretty much all downhill?

There should be more timed stuff over all the terrain they tested on.

This is more a opinion price then anything.

Flame on.
  • 1 1
 @madmon: some people enjoy competition and challenge.
Popping off rocks and bird watching I can do with my gf on a leisurely afternoon on a cheap entry level mtb.

If I'm spending 5k+ I want to know what it can really do.
  • 15 8
 Is it not possible to make a 160mm-ish bike that is progressive enough that it feels snappy and poppy like a 125mm downcountry bike? With the added benefit of more travel for when things are really hairy?
  • 22 3
 See: The Norco Sight
  • 26 1
 Honestly not really. If you put so much progression into a 160 travel bike, you'll never use full travel and you'll effectively have a 125mm bike. You can do a few things to help keep a 160mm travel bike more "snappy and poppy" such as keeping the geometry reasonable with head tube angles in the 65-66 range and reasonably short wheelbases and chainstays (see comment above about the Pole vs the Optic). Another thing that can help is shock tune, particularly compression damping. More damping will make it harder to blow through your travel and create a more "snappy and poppy" ride feel, but the downside is it will feel more harsh.

Basically because of physics all bike handling traits have pros and cons and as you increase or decrease a certain aspect of a bike's travel/geo/suspension tune, you'll improve one ride aspect while degrading another.
  • 35 1
 The better question is, is your 160mm bike not fun? My 160mm bike has sucked the fun right out of mountain biking.. Said no one ever (but a bunch of marketing hacks and magazine shills).
  • 20 1
 Honestly, if you want a snappy enduro bike, get a 27.5. I have a 27.5 Commencal Meta, and its more playful than my previous 140mm trail bike! (Giant Trance). And honestly, 27.5 aint so bad in the rough stuff either!
  • 7 0
 @Shafferd912: this is what I think. I feel like my 27.5 bikes always feel more playful. That’s why my everyday bike is a 27.5. I just tend to have more fun on it. I would like to get one these short travel aggressive bikes.

Right now my everyday bike is a ragley mmmbop and it handles every trail I take it in in Northern California. But, I wouldn’t mind a little rear squish. Seems like every bike company is coming out with a short travel aggressive design so I’m having trouble deciding which to go with. Probably stick with 27.5 so that will limit my choices. This looks awesome though.
  • 12 7
 Heavy bikes with no travel are coming back from 2001. This time they are 8k though?????? Quick pass.
  • 5 0
 @Shafferd912: so true. I rode both wheel sizes in the Kona 153. I sold my 27.5 to get the 29er and regretted it on every trail that wasn't super fast and or super gnar. 29ers are good for racing.
  • 4 4
 @SlodownU: you are 100% Correct!!!

Geometry numbers and travel are not responsible for making a bike "Poppy and Playful".

A rider's ability (a blend of skill and physical strength) and bike weight are the two main factors that make "Playful, etc." possible.
-Some riders play, pop and throw a DH bike around on ANY trail like a short travel bike..
-Some riders can't..they "navigate" their short travel "trail rippers" like aircraft carriers..
-At slower speeds, lighter weight bikes make playing on a bike much easier..
  • 4 4
 @JockoJones: if you get a well designed bike (like this one) you'll be faster and have more fun on a 29er. I'd put money on it.
  • 11 0
 @Shafferd912: All my fun bikes are 27.5.
  • 4 0
 @dkidd: There is the issue that when you put durable tires on a 29, they are heavier and larger radius from the axle than comparable 27s. For this reason, no matter what you do, the 27 will always feel more nimble.
  • 2 0
 @SlodownU: As the owner of both a trail and an enduro bike, I can attest when I ride my enduro on more mellow trails, it is much less fun than the 130mm bike. Likewise, riding the enduro down DH trails is more fun than the DH sled, but ultimately slower and possibly less safe.
  • 5 0
 @SlodownU: I sort of disagree with you here. I bought a 160 so I wouldn't have to rent on downhill days but I'm definitely overbiked on most trail rides where I live. Not that I don't love my bike (I really love it) but I'm never even remotely close to reaching its capabilities on an average ride. It's like the Top Gear boys say - it's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. Riding close to the limit is where the real excitement happens. Now if I lived in BC or somewhere where the trails were incredibly technical you certainly wouldn't hear me complain about having too much bike.
  • 5 2
 I would point you at Scott bikes with their tuned shocks. I have a Ransom with 170mm of travel but with the flick of a switch (handlebar mount) it is 120mm and pedals really well for climbing and when the trail mellows.
You may be interested in their Genius line up.
  • 2 1
 @heffernw: I understand terrain constraints, but if your terrain is mellow, why do you even have a 160mm bike? And as far as downhill days go, that's biggest myth on the planet #2. Unless said downhill trails are purely flow trails, A downhill bike is the best tool for that job. I quickly learned that lesson on my first few visits to the bike park on my 160mm bike. I have my own helmet, pads, but I'd much rather beat the shit out of a rental bike vs. roast the brakes and bend the wheels of my own bike.
  • 7 0
 regret typing anything here
  • 1 0
 @tgent: rebound speed has a big effect on poppyness too. Which is somewhat independent of the travel amount
  • 1 0
 @SlodownU: I had a bunch of different 160 travel bikes and I was having plenty of "fun". Then I got on my current bike which is 125/150 and I sold the longer travel bikes. Felt like way more fun and it handled anything I was doing on the 160 bikes and I'm pretty big (6'4, 215). Of course this all depends on your riding conditions but I regularly take 5' drops and enjoy popping off of anything I can find on my local trails and travel fairly often. But, I haven't ridden any super new 160 bikes so I may be missing out on what has developed
  • 3 1
 @PtDiddy: I fell in love with my first gen Transition Scout and sold my 160 bike. It's 125/150, 27.5 and the most poppy, fun bike I've had, and handles the hits really well...I do enjoy using the trail and feeling the bike work. I also suggest buying a 2017 or prior model. I plan to buy another older frame and have it waiting in reserves Smile
This Norco looks a lot like them but with 29" wheels...no thanks!
  • 1 0
 @Agleck7: True, and same thing applies that if you crank up the rebound, it'll pop but it will be less "plush" and controllable.
  • 2 0
 @bikeblur: I can't agree. I've owned a LOT of bikes, and one particular Santa Cruz that I changed the fork and shock multiple times to try and get more "life" out of the bike. I sat on my Transition Scout and my world opened up....way different riding bike, so I sold my other bikes. I'd never ridden anything that suited me as well as that bike. So, I have to disagree and say a bikes setup, geo, even components can vastly change how a bike feels. If this weren't true there'd be no reason to test bikes or try different brands/models.
  • 2 0
 @skerby: I FEEL YOU.
  • 1 2
 @GlassGuy: With all things being equal-ish..correct suspension set up, tire pressure, fork rake, etc..any bike can be set up to feel lively. Bikes WILL have slight differences in feel due to suspension tunes, leverage curves, etc, making some bikes feel more lively, playful, etc..but not to a degree that I would choose one over the other. I'm saying that rider and bike weight (at slower speeds) are really what creates the lively, playful experience on a MTB. I too have owned many bikes Trail-DH and currently own a 49lbs YT Decoy Ebike and they ALL have proven to be lively and playful. I would argue that the reason we try different brands and bikes over time is because we simply desire difference and novelty and not because one brand or specific bike is really providing a vastly different/better riding experience..with one exception-the ebike.
  • 1 0
 @bikeblur: I'm 6'4, 215...with your theory my weight should dull the bike that I ride and even at "slower" speeds I can get it to pop way better than the VPP suspension bikes I was riding. After riding a bunch of VPP I do believe that suspension style to be less lively than the Horst, and therefore some bikes will have more of one thing over the others. This is the same debate I had with someone over fork offset and how it changes the steering on the bike. I swapped two forks on the same frame 37 and 44 offset to determine why the bike felt weird. I was being argued against that the fork offsets make "no difference", yet I felt it, as well....why would companies make different offsets if they didn't make any difference? Just like suspension styles and geo.
But ok...if that's how you feel Wink
  • 4 3
 Blames amount of suspension travel for bike being dull... reduces sag and rebound damping, saves 4000$ on buying a new bike...
  • 1 1
 @GlassGuy: To qualify a few things..Re: weight..It is the bike weight not your/rider weight that affects the poppy/playful nature of the bike. I did say/agree that different suspension platforms (your example VPP vs Horst) DO affect a bike's nature, just not enough to make a difference/or to convince ME that one bike is WAY more playful than another. An example to illustrate my (opinion)..I had a 2018 Commencal Supreme SX (HPP platform "Ground hugger") with DH tires, Fox Float X2, and Fox 40..If I put single ply tires on, an even lighter shock, and a 37mm offset single crown fork, the bike would feel more playful-especially at slower speeds because of reduced rotational and overall weight. I also owned a current generation Transition Carbon Patrol with the 37mm offset fork...That "Giddy up" platform Patrol would be considered more playful than the HPP SX..I just don't consider to be enough of a difference to call the Patrol playful and the SX not. I do agree that a shorter offset fork is a perceivable difference...but even after I installed a MRP Dual Crown Bartlett and a Topaz with all the spacers removed to make it less progressive, my Patrol didn't feel any less playful.
...Anyway..this is of course just opinion and based on what we perceive as one bike being different from another..I respect and appreciate your responses!
Cheers!
  • 2 1
 @bikeblur: I have similar experience to you. But when it comes to playfulness of DH tyres... one just has to hit stuff gnarly enough and go faster. More speed into a bump -> more pop from a bump. 1 plies may feel poppy but given aggressive geo, and harsh enough conditions they run out of steam rather quickly. People who wonder why they can’t zap berms fast may consider running DH tyres. It takes balls and skills to let go off the brakes on off camber steep to be able to pop some diagonal roots. It is much easier to ride crouched like a fetus over the bike and then pop from time to time feeling like Sam Hill. The difference being dh tyres allow for pops taking 6-10ft while folks on 1 plies ride slow and pop 3-6 at best. Sure-it all depends on bike and terrain, but good riders on modern aggro short travel bikes put DH tyres on rather quickly defying the whole purpose of the “playful” short travel bike. It is beyond me how can anybody who is descent oriented run DC bike in a place like Squamish... unless they got tired of riding up fireroads
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Agreed!...the same applies to heavier bikes. A 40lb bike requires more speed to play than a 30lb bike...A fusion of skill and strength reduce the amount of speed required.
  • 1 0
 You could make this, but you'd need a bar mounted suspension switch.
  • 2 0
 @SlodownU: Well I ride double black technical trails at the bike park on my 160. I'm not going to win any races but I guess it's a good thing I don't race. Riding a trail bike at the bike park isn't for everyone. It is not forgiving, but given proper experience and technique it is very much doable.
  • 1 0
 @heffernw: @SlowdownU - riding Enduro bikes in the park is perfectly doable, it depends on the setup, but with right tyres you can do it quite well. You can also ride bike park on a hardtail. Off course you can. Even black diamond trails are doable on a DJ bike with proper tyres. I'll do it for you baby, tell me the time and place and I will ride down fricking double diamond on a DJ. I will fricking ride down Garbanzo and Dirt MErchant on DJ HT. Question is... why... if there is any bullshit going on recently in MTB it is the "don't get overbiked" trend. Why the hell are people who claim they want more feedback buy a bike which is almost exactly a fricking Enduro bike, it just has less travel. Exactly same components, exactly same tyres, hell even fork is often set to 160 of travel. Who are you fooling baby? 120mm of travel and Minions? You are fooling yuorself and a few ignorants. If Enduro was not a racing format you'd be riding that 160 bike, but you just want to be different, you just want a new flavor. guess what baby, soon you will be in the middle of the mainstream, you already are, everybody talks this bullshit about feeback, squeezing more of your home trails, popiness and all that. I have been there talking same shit in 2012 with 120 bike, just like I've been there in 2008 with Enduro bike saying DH bikes are bigger than necessary. LAst year we had this hardtail for winter season stupidity going on where everyone who wanted a hardtail was rationalizing how good HT is for getting skills for big bike which is absolute lunacy, uninformed, uneducated bullshit by folks who can't ride for shit, they just want to spend money on stuff and need a reason. They need to reward themselves with rationale to reconcile with the fact that because they can't cope with spending lots of money on yet another thing. The shaaaame! Oooh the shaaaame!

Rental? rappy brakes, crappy dampers, crappy tyres, oh well but geometry is soooo spot on.

If you have never experienced the sine wave that DH bikes allow you to ride through roughest crap you, how differently you read terrain, how much you can focus on looking ahead, planning and reacting, instead of shitty chatter of a DC bike taken to a park, then you have no clue. Mike Levy rode with Gee Atherton who laughed that there is no line choice going on - off course there isn't! There can't be

RANT OVER
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: This. absolutely this.
  • 1 0
 @Shafferd912: you can now take Norco Range, make a yoke that will allow you to mount a shock with 20% shorter stroke and tadaaaa - Optic! Waiting for kinematics experts to arrive...
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I'm not sure if you were shitting on my opinion or backing me up there
  • 2 0
 @heffernw: I love your opinion!
  • 8 1
 Can you guys elaborate on the BR520s? With proper pads and rotors how do you think they'd perform? They seem like a great bargain and an upgrade from my Guide Rs (most brakes are) but I am not sure.
  • 4 0
 They worked really well for us during testing. I think once you swapped rotors they’d be a good, affordable upgrade from those Guide Rs.
  • 3 1
 i believe shimano is coming out with an SLX level 4-piston brakeset as well.
  • 1 0
 The early sets came with sintered metallic pads. I bought a new take off set that was originally from an Ibis. Very happy with them. Very similar if not same power and feel as Zees for me
  • 1 1
 Had basically the same brakes, just a couple gens older on my 2017 Norco Sight, once I switched out the pads and rotors, which was pretty cheap (also took the opportunity to up-size the front rotor)... they were great brakes! These brakes have a reputation of being some of the best value available.
  • 3 0
 Realistically this would be my next bike if I could afford it, seems like the perfect Midwest trail bike, still fun enough for my Chicagoland trails, but for my Brown County, UP of MI, and east coast trips it should have plenty of travel for doing the type of trails I have the balls tor ride. My current bike is a 27.5 130mm rear 150mm fork bike. I find it hard to believe taking 5mm away from the back and 10mm from the front is gonna change any of the features I try to do especially being this is a 29er.
  • 7 3
 This is one meaty bike for such small travel with RS Pike, CF cranks and CF frame.. I would expect it to be at least 1kg lighter.
  • 10 1
 ...like one of the two bikes that broke in this test, perhaps?
  • 5 0
 You could easily drop some weight with a lighter handlebar, wheels, and cassette, depending on how much you wanted to spend. Honestly, the weight never felt like an issue, probably because so many bikes these days end up weighing around 29-32 pounds (13-14.5 kg) no matter the travel.
  • 7 0
 31 pounds meaty? With Minions on tough rims, a downhill shock and a frame built to handle riding the North Shore with-out crumpling in a year? I guess I would call it meaty, but not heavy...
  • 3 0
 It's also not the top spec model
  • 1 1
 Especially compared to the intense sniper is 25lb and 120mm back end
  • 2 0
 @CM999: let’s hold our breath on that one cowboy.
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: I get what you are saying, money buys more lightweight. I just expected it to be lighter with the lighter components like the Pike and CF cranks. My full fat 29er enduro has 160mm travel, CC Helm Coil, 1200g tires front+rear and is 14.2Kg.

@dkidd Another example, just look at the Tallboy, similar type of bike and price/spec and that bike is almost 600g lighter with ALU cranks. And I would not consider that frame fragile. Santa Cruz frames can take a beating.
  • 4 0
 Added the C1 and C2 builds to Bikedigger.com for comparison purposes. Let me know if there are other bikes you want added to compare.
  • 7 2
 weird spec on the crank / brakes, Norco. Give me an alloy crank and better brakes any day.
  • 2 2
 whats wrong with the brakes? they're basically dual piston XT's
  • 3 3
 @arrowheadrush: I ride 2 pot xt and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Ad in the shite pads & rotors and they’ll honk like a goose while the bite point changes.
  • 1 1
 Btw, I don’t say that lightly. I love xr group, and have been riding it for a LONG time. I have always defended and recommended xt. However, these model year ‘17’s are crap. See above reasons.
  • 3 4
 Yes, their times would have been much better with powerless SRAM brakes to not slow them down. I have my first SRAM brakes in 6 years right now and can't believe how gutless they are.
  • 4 0
 Bang on the money for me and most riders I ride with, geometry, price and aesthetics look fantastic. Norco really are knocking it out of the park with this one
  • 2 0
 Looks a lot like my first generation Transition Scout, but with 29" instead of 27.5" wheels, and before Transition ruined the Scout with a steeper seat tube angle, so now I'm riding only the older bike since it's way more comfortable hence more fun. The Optic looks like a bike I'd like except i have it and with preferred wheel size
  • 6 0
 NORCO breathing a sigh of relief It wasn't our frame that broke
  • 3 1
 Pole getting out ahead of the story: polebicycles.com/we-are-not-perfect-after-all
  • 5 0
 Is RS going to pin another description word to their shock?
  • 13 1
 Just wait until the Rockshox Super Duper Ultimate Deluxe Highest Plus Plus Trail Enduro DH RSC Shock comes out, it'll blow your friggin mind!
  • 10 0
 @tgent: You thought you went far, yet you still missed some of the actual names: debonair and megneg.
  • 3 0
 What about super ultra duper megneg extra turbo kurwa debonair plus ultra R2C3A2C^2/5 xxx ultimate royal deluxe?
  • 2 0
 Damn I forgot “premium with extra cheese”..
  • 8 0
 @tgent: maybe Levy should go work for RS:

“Agile. Playful. Nimble. More fun than a barrel of monkeys, and on and on. My plan is to not use any of those tired old nouns when talking about the Optic's descending abilities”

They’re adjectives, Levy, adjectives
  • 5 0
 Thank you so much for giving the weight in kgs as well !
  • 7 2
 A word I hope dies before we enter 2020, CAPABLE.
  • 15 14
 Pedantic grammar police alert:

"In a lot of ways the bike climbs very good" "Yeah, I thought the bike pedaled really good.. 125mm it should pedaled good".

Come on PB, write a script and proof it for grammar. It doesn't climb very good, it climbs very well. It should pedal well not pedal good.

"Agile. Playful. Nimble. More fun than a barrel of monkeys, and on and on. My plan is to not use any of those tired old nouns when talking about the Optic's descending abilities"

Those are tired old adjectives not tired old nouns. Yes monkeys is a noun but the expression barrel of monkey's is used incorrectly. It's a sarcastic statement that is supposed to be used when describing something that isn't fun.
  • 10 0
 That's Levy's Canadian grammar - it's not fixable. But you're right about those words being adjectives and not nouns.
  • 6 0
 Psssssst... You missed the split infinitive!

Also, it's monkeys with an "s" at the end. No apostrophe.
  • 2 0
 @daugherd and @mikekazimer actually it's just the way they speak in whack-a-smack Chilliwack
  • 2 0
 @TheR: Dang. Missed that. Pedantic level up.
  • 9 4
 THIS AINT A SPELLING BEE NERDS!
  • 7 0
 @owl-X: sshhh. We're not talking about spelling, we're talking about grammar...
  • 4 0
 I support your pedantry.
  • 5 0
 @owl-X: you forgot a comma between spellling bee and nerds.
  • 2 0
 @Ian713: And the apostrophe in “ain’t,” which is not a word.
  • 4 0
 I like it! I have a Smuggler and really think this category is perfect, at least for me anyway.
  • 2 1
 How would you compare it to Evil The Following MB?
I've had it for almost 3 years now and was thinking of upgrading to Norco Optic.
Would you say its a worthy upgrade or should I stick to FMB for another season? I really like everything about FMB, but it could be the time to move on.
  • 1 0
 I demo'd a Transition Smuggler earlier this year. It was most fun I've had on a bike. If the Optic is anything similar, I'm sure it will be awesome.

From the specs, the Optic looks similar (tiny bit more rear travel, slightly slacker HTA, slightly steeper STA, tiny bit longer chainstays in size L). Like others though, I wish it had an AL option.

Has anyone ridden both, and care to comment?
  • 1 0
 So if you look at the numbers the Optic basically has the same geometry as the Sentinel. So in theory it will be a little less lively at slow speeds than the smuggler and also a littler more difficult to muscle through tight trails. It should feel more lively than the sentinel though and easier to carry speed on more mellow terrain. I'm basing this on owning a Sentinel and previous generation smuggler and also demoing a new smuggler. The optic should be more comfortable on steep terrain than the smuggler and also be more composed on fast repeated hits. In theory.
  • 1 0
 I've never heard of resin only rotors. That's a thing?

A couple years ago, I switched from resin pads to semi-metallic on my Enduro 29. I could not get any stopping power from them. Even after bedding them in several times. I also did a bleed so that wasn't the problem. If resin-only rotors are a thing then maybe that was the problem.
  • 1 0
 Shimanos low end rotors have a little disclaimer on them saying "resin only". Not sure why, maybe they are a lower grade of aluminum.
  • 1 0
 @Adamrideshisbike: they are a lower grade of stainless steel that only work well with the softer and less abrasive resin pads.
  • 3 0
 As I understand it means they skip the cost of the heat treat that would make them resist damage from metallic pads.
  • 1 0
 Field Tests are the most awesome thing ever...

Thank you

And also whey didn't you test "...", and are you crazy there's no way "..." is faster than "...", and why would you pick that trail for "...", you should have rode them here on trail "..." which is clearly better... Smile
  • 1 0
 What are the benefits of having only 125 mm travel on bikes that weigh as much as a 160-170 mm travel bike? The reviews usually state that "it doesn't climb like a xc bike" and that i performs very well "considering it only has 125mm of travel"
What are the benefits of bottoming at 125 mm versus having travel left? I seriously want to know.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer @mikelevy: so I'm 5'6 with a 30 inch inseam. Standover is a big issue for me on a lot of bikes, especially longer travel bikes. The ability to quickly put 2 feet down on failed tech moves without bagging yourself is underappreciated by those who are less vertically challenged than myself. While most reviews make a fleeting mention of "generous standover" I find most of these reviews are written but people significantly taller than myself, and SOH measurements provided by manufacturers are not really standardised nor reflect real world use standover which really can only be appreciated riding on trails in different situations and not in a parking lot. It would be nice if you guys had a shorter reviewer on staff, or some other way to address this.
As a second point having recently read reviews of the new Norco sight I wonder how this compares with the optic? They sound very similar except for more travel with the sight. Be interested in which one you would favor if you could only buy one for west coast type riding (not including bike parks). Optic? Sight as 27.5? Sight as 29?
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer @brianpark

This bike seems quite similar in geometry and intention to the SB130 that was tested in the field test last year - you seem to really like both.

Would you be able to offer up a few thoughts comparing the two?
  • 3 0
 How long of a dropper post can you run? The seat tube has a kink and I always wonder how that impacts dropper length.
  • 2 0
 180 on the large. 200 on the XL is what I was told.
  • 2 0
 How tall are the testers? At just barely 6’1” I’m struggling to believe I should be on an XL, but that’s what norco says.
  • 1 0
 5’10 and 5’11 according to their article on preferred reach measurements, as I recall they liked 460 and 470 reach
  • 1 0
 @forsakenrider, I don't think that being on an XL would be unreasonable for your height, although test riding is obviously the way to go if you're in between sizes. At 5'11" I didn't find the Large to feel unwieldy at all - I certainly wouldn't consider downsizing.
  • 4 0
 Adjectives, @mikelevy! Tired old adjectives!
  • 6 4
 I like how the line "This shock does NOT have a pedal assist switch" is underlined with some pretty significant pedal bob at 1:08.
Maybe it should have that switch.
  • 4 0
 Sight Alu. That would be a test...
  • 2 2
 Now I can appreciate the click bait of doing these one at a time.....just give me the darn excel table with results for all the bikes please so I can get over it!.....videos, articles, picture can follow at your leisure. I will click on them all anyways so why make me wait.
  • 1 0
 so... I'm coming out... this will be my first 29er... where do i get to sit on one please? (I'm 5ft 7 so never "fit" a size, so I need to sit on one to decide medium vs. small) in the UK? cheers...
  • 1 0
 I am considering buying an Optic frame and migrating all my parts over, but my fork is a 51mm offset Fox 36. Any thoughts on how this might change the handling @mikekazimer, @mikelevy, anyone else?
  • 2 3
 When you say "Less expected is how slippery and active it is for just 125mm of travel, especially at the top of the stroke" are you talking about a lack of stiction in the shock (slippery feel of the shock's movement), or that the rear shock made you slip and slide on the trail?
  • 5 0
 The first one. It’s really supple off the top.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: Right on, thanks for the clarification.
  • 3 0
 Wtf is a resin only rotor
  • 5 0
 Cheap rotor that makes a horrible sound and bad braking with metal pads. Bottom end shimano rotors have it printed on them.
  • 1 0
 If you put metal pads on cheap rotors that are made for soft resin pads, they will get eaten. So if you want to ride with metallic pads you need to upgrade the rotors as well.
  • 1 0
 @i-am-lp: it's not all doom and gloom - a lbs put metallic pads on my buddies bike that was equipped with resin only rotors. He rode it for months and only when we were doing routine maintenance over beers did I notice it.

He was planning on replacing the rotors anyway, but they were far from end of the world destroyed.

That being said resin rotor only is a really stupid f*cking idea.
  • 5 2
 That moment you call 125mm of travel “short.”
  • 6 3
 Weight? If this thing is 30lbs what’s the point?
  • 2 0
 specs at 0:29. 30.9 lbs
  • 2 3
 @Woody25: Missed it. Too heavy.
  • 1 2
 @jclnv: 2.5in exo+ dh tires, gx cassette. Could be down pretty low with 2.3 exo and an xo1 cassette
  • 3 0
 It'll also be in the "Details" box above, like in every review. Keep in mind that this is the real world weight done by us, not the paper-sidewall-tires, frame-protection-removed, no-tubes-no-sealant numbers that some brands publish. A lot of claimed 27 lb trail bikes out there are pushing 30 lb once they have real tires and an upgraded piggyback shock on there.
  • 1 2
 I for one would like to thank the author for not using the term 'downcountry' in the article as either a means of definition or comparison. I was afraid I may have to prize my eyes from my skull and throw them out of the window should such a travesty have occurred.
  • 3 0
 yay for Norco sending it out with Exo+ casings
  • 2 1
 It's almost is a no brainer to go for exo+ over exo at 50g difference.
  • 3 0
 Too bad that the new Process 134 doesn’t compete in this benchmark.
  • 1 0
 Behold the most capable bike in the test so far!
Capability count: 3. The scores so far:
Norco: 3; Orbea: 1; Pole: 2; Intense: 0
  • 1 0
 Late to the party, but does anyone know the differences between men/women bikes? I checked the website and I couldn't spot any differences.
  • 1 0
 According to Norco they are the same bike with the same touch points. The only differences are the frame colours.
  • 2 0
 Apparently we need more horst link...
  • 5 4
 5% slower than the Pole is significant.

Sounds like a more refined version of the Transition Smuggler.
  • 7 0
 I'd reckon fairly irrelevant from a statistical standpoint. After using control tyres, how do you control inputs like mental and physical energy? I think at minimum, you'd have to measure wattage output for total work across the timed course, factoring in the mean from all riders. Even then, so many other than variables than the bike!
  • 5 0
 @motard5: not to mention it was faster than the pole under kaz. We like reviews to declare a clear winner in a showdown, but for me, the most helpful reviews are those which help me determine the ride characteristics and if they're what I want. I love bikes that my buddies hate and vice-versa. But if our only point of reference was a shootout with a "winner", some of us would go home unhappy on the "winning" bike.
  • 1 0
 @wibblywobbly I have a Smuggler and upgraded it to have a DPX2 rear shock, as the stock DPS was not cutting it. So yes, I agree that this optic coming stock with a DH-style shock is more or less what the Smuggler should have been to begin with.
  • 2 0
 basically the same color scheme as my early 2000s BUZZ
  • 5 4
 I hate saying it but I would have put money on this being one of the two frames that broke. Nice that it did not.
  • 2 0
 It's not how long (the travel is); It's how you use it.
  • 2 2
 I really like this bike --- with exception for the pressfit bb. Most everyone else seems to get that people want threaded bb's
  • 1 0
 I want to hear the comparison to the SB130, not to bikes with "lesser" intentions.
  • 1 0
 Why does the bike come with an alloy rear triangle, performance reason? Or just cost saving.
  • 1 0
 I would see this as a plus personally having had the misfortune of busting a carbon seatstay from falling over at low speed and landing on rocks on a tricky tech move before. Much more likely to strike the rear triangle than the front. Aluminum will dent but still be perfectly funktional. Instead I had to spend a grand on a new rear triangle. I doubt the weight savings of having the rear be carbon outweigh (see what I did there?) the durability benefits, but that's just my opinion.
  • 3 2
 Only came here for Catastrophic frame FAIL.
  • 4 0
 Then you’re missing the good stuff.
  • 4 0
 I've heard there were 2 bikes that failed. Any guesses? I'm betting one of them rhymes with Chalky Fountain Player, idk about the other though
  • 2 2
 Mid travel horst link bikes are a dime a dozen. There are so many of them available these days.
  • 6 4
 Best design. Least downsides.
  • 1 1
 @jclnv: Tru dat
  • 1 0
 Mike Levy's face getting a good shine on! Love it.
  • 1 1
 Top tip: change ONLY the pads for metallics. They bite the rotor hard but nothing bad will happen.
  • 2 1
 Ok. I’m gonna go buy one so stop posting reviews please. I mean it.
  • 2 1
 Where’s the frame made?
  • 1 0
 Disappointing to hear how bad it climbs. Glad I ride Knolly Fugitive .
  • 3 5
 Looks like an awesome bike, but $4500 is supposed to be a budget bike? lol. It is official, mtb-ing is more expensive than golf. Haha.
  • 4 6
 Putting resin pads down as a negative is a bit poor. It’s as if you didn’t have anything bad to say about the bike.
  • 16 0
 It’s the fact that the rotors are for resin pads only that’s the bigger negative. That means you’d need new rotors if you wanted to swap to metallic pads.

But it’s true, we didn’t have many complaints at all about this bike.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: keeping the price down with those resin only discs. if someone wants other pads do you not think they would want bigger discs anyway?

you don't have to swap the rotors though
  • 4 0
 @mikekazimer: What makes a rotor specific to a resin pad only? Is the rotor a softer metal? No clue, just curious...
  • 5 0
 @matixsnow, they don't get the same heat treatment / finishing as the higher end rotors, which means they can be damaged by using metallic pads.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: lack of heat treatment means they warp very easily. really bad decision to spec these.
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: That's just an upgrade, XT rotors and metal pads. Just like the cockpit you dealt with, it works but you'd upgrade it!
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: I've used this not recommended combo many times and never antyhing bad happened. As I metioned before metal pads will bite hard on soft rotors but that's it. When you worn down factory rotors go for floating ones and you're ready to got.
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