For those of you who read my Commencal Supreme DH review recently
, I share many of the same feelings with this bike, and it's hard not to re-write that review as they are very similar machines. Like I have said many times, I am a big fan of high-pivot designs, especially for downhill riding and flat pedal pilots. The way these bikes simply melt away the bumps is unreal, and having your feet planted on the pedals however hard and fast you attack is hard to go back from.
I also love the way the suspension sits into the travel when braking; I prefer the bike's geometry to be preserved under braking even if it is said to be not as effective. I find you will end up with more grip on the back wheel, which helps the back wheel to slow down. If your body weight and geometry are staying in a more central position, you can then also brake harder on the front wheel, again, helping you slow down faster. If you can slow down faster, you can brake later and save time. I took a trip to the park purely to test this characteristic and found that the Norco will out-grip and out-brake the Trek Session (which has its 'Active Braking Pivot') as well as the Cube Stereo. I think that even though the suspension is inhibited, the high pivot and lack of pedal kickback gives a more active ride and grip.
The frame did feel stiffer and harsher than the Commencal Supreme DH, and I think this is could potentially be due to me being outside of the range of the 'Size Scaled Tubing.' Making the frame stiffer as the size increases is a great idea, and the opposite of what happens with alloy frames, which will generally have more flex in the larger sizes due to the longer tubing and bigger triangles. At only 75 kilograms, I think I would find a more forgiving and smoother ride by choosing a smaller frame size from Norco. Norco say they don't have recommended rider weights, and getting the right size and fit is the most important; the increased stiffness should be the icing on the cake.
The Norco's suspension system seems to have a more progressive than curve than the Commencal, meaning better performance taking on big hits, but it didn't feel like there was as much mid-stroke support, so the bike rode slightly lower in the travel when it's up to speed. The Commencal seems to generate speed slightly better when pumping than the Norco, but it is slightly easier to lift the front wheel on the Norco.
On rough off-cambers when you want maximum traction, the Norco outperforms any four-bar bike I've tested, but it doesn't quite have the grip the Commencal offers. However, the Norco is more planted in corners than the Commencal when grip isn't at as much of a premium due to the lower ride height. Switching between corners and directional changes are slightly faster on the Andorran rig due to the higher bottom bracket and ride height, but we're talking fractions at most.
The headtube angle is set at 62.5º, and I did experience some vibration from the front of the bike, this is something I've also noticed with another 29" DH bike going under the 63º mark. On fast and flat or mellow terrain with stutter bumps, a classic feature of bike parks, the fork feels as if it's bending and sticking more than sliding up and down, as it should. As a trail becomes steeper, this issue disappears. Maybe the longer 29" forks at full travel, combined with the long offset and slack headangle are over their limits?