The problem with trying to guess how a bike works from looking at grainy photos is that sometimes you miss a key detail that wasn't quite clear in the 50 pixels that made up the actual frame. We speculated last week that the new Norco long travel bike may use flex stays for its suspension system, but now that we've had a better look at it under the team riders at Kicking Horse we've changed our opinion slightly.
The key detail we missed is that there's a (now) very obvious pivot on the swing arm. It's still a pretty unconventional design though and it looks like a similar layout to the Antidote Darkmatter's
high pivot system.
Some other things we picked up are that it's a 29er front and rear and we're also no longer certain this is a new downhill bike. It's very definitely a long travel bike of sorts and the pros are running it with a dual crown fork for the rebirth of the Psychosis, but is it a full on downhill bike or an oversized enduro bike? At this point, we're not entirely sure but we think it could be a long travel bike that can be run with a single or double crown fork, a bit like the Slayer from Rocky Mountain, hence the bottle mounts. Either way, it definitely looks to be one of the most interesting bikes of the year and we look forward to learning more when Norco releases it.
We may not be getting much downhill racing this year, but you can bet that brands haven't been sitting on their hands. Instead, they'll have been using this downtime to find any mechanical advantage they can for when the World Cups get kick-started again.
One brand that we think has been doing just that is Norco, and this looks to be a brand new downhill bike underneath one of its riders spotted in British Columbia. Pinkbike user Tonkatruck went above (or should that be below) and beyond to get this spy shot from underneath a truck and then uploaded the pictures to our forums for us to pore over.
Norco's previous downhill bike used the distinctive HSP system. HSP stood for High Single Pivot, and it marked the first non-Horst Link bike that the brand had designed since 1995 (that would be the FTS-1 for any completionists). It used the same theory as classic Sunn bikes and more recent Commencal Supremes, where a high pivot provides a rearward axle path that lengthens the wheelbase as the suspension compresses. This should make it more stable through the rough stuff. Unlike the Commencal though, where the shock is compressed from below, the current HSP system uses an A.R.T pull-link to tug on a rocker that compresses the shock from above. Norco said that this allowed them to create a more progressive and tunable linkage than other similar designs.
It looks like Norco will be sticking with the high pivot design on this new frame, but there are definitely some changes going on with the linkage. Unfortunately the meat of it is obscured thanks to a handily placed leg, but we do think we've spotted something interesting about the way this bike might work. Pinkbike's tech editor and engineer, Dan Roberts, has run some numbers and believes that this bike could be using flex pivots to make the new design work.
Flex stays are fairly common in XC racing, where the low travel amounts mean that the chain stay and seat stay don't move apart very far, but we can't think of a downhill bike that has ever used them. We also think the aluminum drop outs could be used for some extra adjustability and could allow riders to tune the length of their chainstays, similar to the ones we've seen Greg Minnaar using on his V10 29 this year.
We're still just speculating at this point and reached out to Norco for more information, but at the moment all they said was, "This bike is part of Norco's Research and Development program and is purely an information-gathering exercise at this time. No details to share with you as any information about any bikes in R&D are under embargo." Hopefully we get to see more of this wild looking bike when racing restarts.