Bike Check: Haley Smith's Norco Revolver - Val di Sole World Cup XC 2019

Aug 3, 2019
by Mike Levy  


The past few seasons have seen Norco's Haley Smith steadily rise up through the results sheets, a progression that earned the Canadian her first World Cup elite podium at the Nove Mesto round earlier this season. Smith and the rest of the Norco squad are on the all-new Revolver, a platform with modern geometry that can be had in either 100mm or 120mm flavors. The latter is aimed at marathon and stage racing, and it's the shorter-travel FS 100 that you're looking at here.


There's a 100mm-travel SID on the front of Haley's bike, as well as an ultra-light carbon cockpit from German brand Beast.


The old and new Revolvers look pretty similar if you're a few feet away and the sun is in your eyes, but the new bike is an entirely different animal in the geometry department. Up front, Norco's given it a 68.5-degree head angle with a 100mm-travel fork, and the large-sized bike gets a roomy 490mm reach. Smith's small measures 430mm.


Smith uses a Grip Shift lockout lever to firm up both ends of her bike at the same time.

Carbon and gold sure do look good together.


The white and red-sparkle team bikes run a SRAM 12-speed drivetrain and RockShox suspension, and Smith uses a Grip Shift lockout lever to control both ends on the fly. It wouldn't be a World Cup cross-country bike if there wasn't some exotic German lightness on it, though, and this time it comes from a company called Beast that manufactures their own stuff in Dresden. Smith's 740mm wide handlebar is said to weigh 140-grams, and the stem comes in at around 125-grams. You'll also find their 148-gram seatpost on her bike, and while there's no word on how much the entire ready-to-race package weighs, it's probably not much.

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Italy


37 Comments

  • + 18
 Thanks for the XC coverage, PB. More, please! I'd like to see 'critical specs' of a rider's bike: BB to saddle top; stem length; frame size; bar width, etc. Something like this: www.bikeradar.com/features/pro-bike/pro-bike-geoff-kabushs-scott-3rox-scott-spark-900-premium
  • + 8
 An XC world cup race bike with 520mm reach on the XL!! I so want to get my hands on one, too bad the frame kit sold out. And too bad they don't sell that team color way. Pretty interesting the whole Norco XC team has stepped it up after moving to this bike and the new hardtail (still unreleased). Not that I blame it on the bikes really, just a pleasant coincidence for Norco. Now they just need to release the new Hardtail....
  • - 4
flag clink83 (Aug 3, 2019 at 20:03) (Below Threshold)
 That will be a PITA on tight switchbacks
  • + 1
 @clink83: It's not. I'm not an XC machine but on a 150 mm 29er, but still, it's not. I mean about as much as a bike with 6 cm less on the reach. Front pivots are a must in some cases so you better learn them.
  • + 1
 @Primoz: my XC bikes have about 460mm reaches and the ones with slacker head angles are absolute boats in tight situations. At least norco makes the chainstays longer on bigger sizes though, so that may help.There's no free lunch with geometry though...
  • + 1
 @Primoz: don't get me wrong though, just because that kind of geometry would be terrible for the trails and races I do doesn't mean it won't work for someone else.
  • + 1
 @clink83: I meant more along the lines that you can manage if other factors line up. It's what i've been saying for a while now (and am constantly knocked down), reach is very useless when looked in isolation without other numbers.

As for the chainstays, the way Norco used to do it (not sure if they still do it or not) was by moving the BB shell forwards in the frame. Effectively slackening the set tube angle and leaving the seat in the same position regardless of the chainstay length. Shortening it when going down and riding standing up, but not doing anything for seated riding. So you still had a bad bike for going up the hill (too much weight over the rear axle).

All of this is an XL specific problem (problem of tall people), but we are talking about long reaches, so there is some logic in limiting to those sizes here... M and shorter L size riding people don't have much issue with geometry these days.
  • + 1
 @Primoz: yea I wish bike brands would put more thought into the geometry of each frame sizes so they have similar dynamics. I also wish they would steepen the head angle a touch in XL frames like some road bikes do.
  • + 2
 @clink83: amen. I think bikes in different sizes shouldn't look alike at all, not like we have now. Different values for geometries (seat tube angle included), different suspension layouts, maybe even different sized shocks, but definitely different tunes, etc.

I wouldn't go so far as to say steeper head angles. Not sure if that would be a good think if i'm honest.

But yes, having the same suspension layout and the same actual seat tube angle on an XL frame as on the S is just stupid (but makes sense money/production wise...).
  • + 1
 @Primoz: the felt F5 road bike has a head angle anywhere from 72-74 degrees depending on size. They also vary the seat tube angles. Slackening the small and steepening the XL sizes in most bikes would most likely improve their handling dynamics...but people are too hung up on HTA/STAs in the mountain bike world so that might freak people out too much.
  • + 1
 ^I forgot to mention I own the Z5 and it's the most impressive road bike I've ridden, even with a crazy 74* hta
  • + 6
 Showin' Haley some love! She's having a great season so far. Peter has really stepped it up as well. Nice to see more Canadians having some success on the international stage.
  • + 5
 One of the best liveries ever! Kind of reminds me of Rocky Mountain Vertex Team SC 2002 Model Wink
  • + 6
 There needs to be more non-black forks out there
  • + 2
 The only thing I wish, is that the reviews had more photos of the bike being reviewed! The close up shot of the tire/rim and a close up of the crankset are superbly short but like damn! This is a gorgeous bicycle, the rear wards shot of the cockpit is unacceptable lol we need to see this beast full frontal
  • + 2
 Red white blue and gold always seem like a good combination to me.
  • + 2
 Van der Poel!
  • + 0
 The shorter travel and steeper the bike is, the more reach it should have. These bikes still have relatively short wheelbases even with the reaches creeping up.
  • + 0
 The problem is the longer the reach the harder it becomes to get weight on the front wheel. That's why XC bikes have shorter front centers and longer stems than trail bikes.
  • + 2
 @clink83: Increase the rear centre then. Everything is a compromise.
  • + 0
 @jclnv: increasing your chainstays doesn't change the COM to front center relationship.
  • + 1
 @jclnv: yeah my focus has 445 chain stays. Still rides just fine, too.
  • + 1
 @clink83: Ahh but it reduces the mass on the rear centre. So where does that extra mass go?
  • + 1
 @jclnv: youtu.be/P18SutYYL5I
Watch part two of that series too, he gives a really good physics-based explanation of FC:rc ratios and how they affect handling.
  • + 1
 @clink83: Yss and he states in part two that front grip is dictated by the FC/RC ratio. Increase the RC and you get more FC weigh bias.
  • + 1
 That frame.. that drivetrain.. and nino’s season.. could make me love xc again.
  • + 2
 Great to see a frame that allows brakes to be run UK/AU/NZ style!
  • + 2
 Stunning colorway!
  • + 5
 Norco should produce 1000 bikes in that colorway, charge an extra $250 for them, and donate the proceeds to Canadian cycling development. A thousand people get a beautiful bike and the federation gets a quarter of a million dollars. I really can't think of a downside.
  • + 1
 It does stand out thats true
  • + 0
 the old revolver fs was terrible. rode it three times and sold it. felt like a road bike.
  • + 1
 That blue fork clashes.
  • + 3
 I like to think that it stands out in a crowd.
  • + 2
 Last year's lipstick Red fork lowers would of looked amazing on it.
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