If you've owned or ridden an ultra-efficient cross-country bike or raked out downhill sled, you already know that nothing beats a purpose-built machine where it's intended to be used. But if your riding intentions could best be described as "a bit of everything," you'd probably better served by a bike designed with, well, everything in mind.
And that's exactly how Norco is pitching their redesigned Fluid, an aluminum trail bike with 130mm of travel, a 140mm fork, and 29" wheels that sees a load of changes compared to the previous version.
• Intended use: trail riding
• Travel: 140mm (front) 130mm (rear)
• Wheel size: 29"
• Frame material: aluminum
• Head angle: 65°
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
• Weight: TBC
• MSRP: $2,699 - $4,449 USD
Details on those below, but some important numbers first. The Fluid has always been an entry-ish to mid-priced bike, and that hasn't changed. The least expensive model is the $2,699 A4 and it tops out at $4,449 USD for the A1. All four use the same aluminum frame, and there are now five sizes - small to double-extra-large - that should have anyone between 5'1" and 6'7" tall covered. What's New?
Norco has applied the Fluid moniker to a lot of different bikes over the years, but most of us probably think of the 2019 version when we hear the name. That bike was a popular choice, Norco says, but they also wanted to update the design for 2023 to make it more capable everywhere. That meant adding a bit more travel and some big geometry changes.
The previous Fluid had a 130mm fork and 120mm of rear-wheel-travel, while the new version gets a 10mm bump on both ends. There's also been a slight change to the anti-squat numbers, and "increased leverage curve progression" that's said to be more supportive without needing to fill the air can with spacers. The A1 and A2 come with a Float X, while the A3 and A4 come with an inline shock from X-Fusion.
I've heard more than a few Norco owners grumble about troublesome pivot and shock hardware recently, so I made sure to ask if they've made any changes. Thankfully, the Fluid is held together by much better nuts and bolts that won't get stuck or break.
More and (presumably) better suspension never hurts, but geometry makes up a lot more of the 'what matters pie chart' than whether your bike has 120 or 130mm of travel. With the all-new Fluid frame, Norco says that they wanted to bring their Ride Aligned geometry, which was a big factor in the Optic and Sight's success, to a lower price point. That includes a 65-degree head angle, and reach numbers that start at 420mm for the small and grow by 30mm for each size up to a whopping 540mm for the double-extra-large that Norco added to the lineup.
I know some tall people who will be happy to read that, but just as important is what Norco is doing at the back of the bike. Each size gets a different rear-center length, with smalls starting at 425mm and growing by 5mm for each size up to 445mm for the long boi. They do this by moving the bottom bracket in the front triangle, not by using different length chainstays, and the effective seat angle also gets steeper as you go up in frame size.
Properly short seat tubes are on the menu as well, allowing for the small to run a 150mm dropper, the medium a 170mm, and the large to double-extra-large a 200mm. It's a good time to be a mountain biker when your seat post has way more travel than the bike it's on.
How does the new Fluid perform? This could be an important bike so I'd love to have a couple thousand too many words telling you all about it... but it arrived at PB HQ only a day before I flew out to shoot the next Field Test series. That means there won't be a review tomorrow, I promise, but stay tuned for one later this summer.
@onawalk: I owned an Optic for almost 2 years til selling it recently - maybe my favorite bike ever, certainly in its category. If it was a little lighter I might still have it, but I was essentially trying to have my cake and eat it too, treating it like a light short travel bike when it really just wanted to shred all the time. If they go full carbon and drop like a pound and a half off the frame weight somehow, I'll probably pick one back up and try to get it under 30#.
Maybe even a slightly different suspension design….
I have been looking for a medium frame for a while now, if my new bike ever shows up, I’m planning to part out the current ride, and build up an Element or Optic for some proper short travel shredding.
I’m almost more excited for that, than the new big bike
I’ve lusted after that Purple first year Optic from the first time I saw it, would be a perfect trail bike for around here, assuming you have a rowdier bike to go along with it.
- A tall rider who dislikes 29” wheels.
Stumpy EVO in low runs a 332mm bb height, and a Transition Scout is 331.
Do it, it’ll be friggin cool!
In fact I believe that the primary benefits of 29” on a mtb of “stability” and “rollover” are more to do with the extra mass and resulting angular momentum than the increased size. Oh and the increased trail on the forks.
My next shorter travel trail bike will be 27.5, unless I find a screaming deal somewhere. The Banshee spitfire is very appealing, and the price is much more palatable than a 5010.
The bb height is low on the 29wheel Optic
- After 1 season, swapped stock wheelset for DT 1700s. This made a huge difference. Feels like a different bike to be honest.
- Replaced Guide T organic pads with metallic after 1 season(?)
- Upgraded rear rotor to 180.
- Downsized from 2.6 Trailboss to a ever-changing Maxxis 2.5/2.4 combo.
- Two seasons on a 130mm Revelation before swapping for a 140mm OEM Pike RC (Charger 2.0 I think)
- Replaced NX chain after 2 seasons
- Tranzx dropper lasted 2.5 seasons before it got too wiggly. Servicing fixed it.
- SRAM NX shifter and mech work as good as the day I got it, even though I have had to replace 2 hangers due to crashes.
- Replaced shock hardware after 2.5 seasons. It don't know if I had to do this, it seems like it was clunky and I don't know if just taking everything apart, cleaning and re-torquing would have been enough.
The one complaint I have is the internal cable routing. Getting the dropper cable to stop rattling has been a pain.
Despite being an entry-level FS bike, if I had to buy a bike again the new version would definitely be at the top of my list.
- Extended fork travel to 150mm with c1 upgrade.
- Replaced rear shock with 190x51 (X-Fusion O2 RCX) bringing travel to around ~135mm.
- Offset bushing to lift rear to match front lift
- Replaced drivetrain with 11 speed SLX and XT brakes
- 190mm dropper
- Down to 2.4’s also
Didn’t really get along with the original rear shock, but absolutely love it setup this way.
Only issue I’ve had was a snappped pivot bolt (top chainstay).
Now there is A4 stock showing too (but no way I could recommend that build to anyone).
This could easily be one of the most important releases of the year.
My 2021 Mega is an XXL and borderline too long for me at 6'5!
It is cool to see it on the Norco though, if I had more money and even less sense I'd be adding it to sit next to my Mega....
Stoked Norco is coming out with xxl too although I'm more interested in the Range in that size perhaps it'll trickle over!
(2019 sight was a 2018 with 150mm fork instead of 140, in Norco's defense 150/130 was better suited for it being "all mountain")
Another subtle change - head tubes are getting longer. I can't applaud that enough. More stack and more front centre for same reach. Good to see Norco is prioritising geometry over a miniscule weight saving.
It is probably too big for me but I would love to ride an XXL just to see what it's like! Hopefully can pick up a used one or a frame at some juncture.
Norco - I will join the chorus - please sell frames of these - looks like a sure fire success as people want the latest and greatest geometry, but don't want (and certainly don't need!) another complete bike. Solves potential supply chain issues for you and theoretically a lower overall carbon footprint for all (re-using old parts and at least not replacing new bits on bikes). I would guess that your profit per unit would be higher as well.
Also the privateer runs a trunnion shock - I am not sure, but for the sake of simplicity, prefer 'standard' shock fitments.
Reminds me of a old tale, The Princes and the Pea.
Exactly, the sizes are in even increments. Honestly nothing to complain about here in terms of sizing.
That said, I feel like EVERYONE feels that they're between sizes, unless they're really really tall, or really really short. So I get the feeling. Personally, I'm 6'1" barefoot, and also feel like I'm precisely between L and XL on almost every bike out there.
There HAVE been bikes where the sizing was clearly not consistent, like the previous gen Nukeproof Mega. Where there was like a 15mm difference between Medium and Large, and like a 45mm difference between large and XL. But this is not one of those times.
And while it may be a larger share of the market between 5'9" and 5'11" I still recall m/l frame sizes being hard to stock in my couple years of shop experience as most riders weren't picky enough about their fit to notice the difference
Sincerely a grumpy 6'5er that finally found an xxl frame
100% sure this Norco will be a blast to ride too.-