PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Norco Torrent HT S1
Words by Mike Kazimer, photography by Anthony Smith
The Norco Torrent is a hardcore 29” hardtail aimed at riders who aren't going to let a lack of rear suspension prevent them from diving into some seriously rowdy terrain.
Other than the short, 425mm chainstays, the Torrent's geometry numbers are actually very similar to the Sight, Norco's full-suspension all-mountain machine. There's a slack 64-degree head angle, a 480mm reach on the size large, and a 76-degree seat angle.
Not surprisingly, this isn't the bike to choose if you're trying to build up the lightest hardtail possible – the steel frame and the sturdy parts selection put it on the scales at 33.7 pounds. Component highlights include a 150mm RockShox Lyrik Ultimate fork, SRAM Code R brakes, GX drivetrain, and 2.5” Maxxis Assegai EXO+ tires.
Norco Torrent Details
• Travel: 150mm fork
• Chromoly frame
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head Angle: 64° (geometry
• Seat Tube Angle: 76°
• Reach: 480mm (L)
• Chainstay length: 425mm
• Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
• Weight: 33.7 lb / 15.3 kg
• Price: $2,999 USD
The appearance of the stem was the one small nitpick we had about the spec, but the fact that that it was even mentioned is a testament to how solid the build kit is - there's really not anything that would need to be changed right off the bat.
We brought in the S1 version of the Torrent in order to see how its parts compared to what you get on full suspension bikes at a similar price point. At the time, it was priced at $2,999, just sneaking into our sub-$3,000 category. After testing was completed, that price changed, and the Torrent S1 is now $3,149. There is an S2 version available, which retails for $2,349. Climbing
What's it like to climb on a not-that-light, long and slack hardtail? Well, it all depends on where and how you're riding. On smoother fire roads it'll spin out the miles without much fuss, with a comfortable climbing position that's reminiscent of a modern enduro bike. It's a slightly different story if that dirt road happens to have sections that look like a bomb went off, full of jutting babyhead rocks – in that case, things can get a bit jarring. There's no denying that this an efficient bike, but that extra feedback from the lack of rear suspension is noticeable, and can take more out of you on a long day.
On more technical climbs the Torrent's length and slack head angle gave it more subdued handling than the Kona Honzo, the other hardtail we had on hand, but I was still able to get through several sections that have forced my to put a foot down numerous times in the past. There's plenty of stability – the Torrent is the opposite of twitchy – which means there's extra time to set up, pick a line, and then pedal right on through.
The longer front end combined with the shorter chainstays can feel a little unbalanced at first; in Levy's words, “it almost felt like it was pivoting on that short rear end, swinging over like a big cruise ship,” but overall it didn't feel like it was any more difficult to navigate it around tighter turns and up chunky steps than it was on the full suspension bikes. Descending
With excellent geometry, a great fork, and powerful brakes, the Torrent possesses all of the ingredients required for a good time on the descents. Sure, there's no rear suspension, but that excuse only goes so far – with the right technique the Torrent is capable of tackling just about any trail. When things get spicy it is nice to have that 150mm of travel up front – more than once, I wrangled my way out of an extra-sporty section by shifting my weight towards the front wheel and basically riding the fork until the chaos subsided.
Is it possible to have a ground-hugging hardtail? The Torrent sure presents a strong case. It'll get off the ground when necessary, but it really wants to stay planted and carve its way down the trail. It's a big and solid bike, and for riders that are looking for a hardtail that can handle technical trails, including laps in the bike park, this one fits the bill.
That RockShox Lyrik fork and the Code brakes were the standout components on the Torrent, and they delivered the best performances out of all of the bikes we had in for testing.
Is it worth forgoing rear suspension to get better components? That's a harder question to answer. Personally, I don't think the Torrent would be my only bike, but it could certainly fill that role for riders that want the simplicity of a hardtail frame with geometry that's not going to hold them back on the descents.