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2022 Pinkbike Awards: Value Bike of the Year Winner

Dec 8, 2022 at 12:31
by Matt Beer  
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Value Mountain Bike of the Year Winner

Four bikes made the cut for Value Mountain Bike of the Year, including one hardtail. The list includes the Canyon Spectral 125 AL 6, Specialized Status 140, Marin Team Marin 1, and the Norco Fluid FS A1. Multiple editors rode each bike and weighed in with their opinions, but the group decision was unanimous.






Norco Fluid FS A1

Great bikes aren't necessarily the most expensive or the lightest ones out there and the aluminum Norco Fluid proved its strength against much fancier bikes in our Fall Field Test. $3,999 USD is still a solid chunk of change and this is the priciest Fluid in the series, however, the package deal of capable geometry and suspension performance along with appropriate components that don't overload the weigh scale are why the Fluid takes home our Value Bike of the Year award.

To stack up our decisions on why we chose Norco's reasonably-priced trail bike, let's first take a look at the frame. A one-piece rocker link provides 130mm of travel and steers clear of a trunnion-mount style Float X shock to improve reliability. Since this is a light-duty trail bike, we concluded a 65-degree head angle was perfectly adequate for the bike's intentions and got along with the other geometry numbers. Those smoothed welds might even fool you for an expensive carbon build.

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Solid specification choices were made where it matters most. TRP's Trail EVO brakes provide solid, consistent power from a light-action lever, Shimano's XT-level shifting is already well proven, and the 140mm-travel Fox 34 Factory fork includes the high-functioning Grip2 damper.

Everything about the Fluid is perfectly normal, and we're ok with that. The performance that Norco packed into this revived model can compete against other bikes out there that are twice the price, which makes the Fluid FS A1 our Value Bike of the Year.






Author Info:
mattbeer avatar

Member since Mar 16, 2001
378 articles

116 Comments
  • 95 0
 No way! Who could've seen this coming!
  • 13 2
 Wasnt it supposed to be the 16k$ yeti???
  • 1 0
 @RedBurn: I came to see if yeti made the list
  • 4 41
flag FPi (Dec 28, 2022 at 11:44) (Below Threshold)
 Norco saw this one coming by the amount of money they gave Pinkbike to win...
  • 50 2
 Anyone looking for best value brands, it still has to be Vitus and Polygon.
  • 49 3
 Marin as well.
  • 30 5
 Polygons top specced $2700 trail bike has some shit parts on it compared to this. the extra $1300 gets better wheels, tires, cockpit, suspension, dropper, brakes, and drivetrain. I'd bet the frame rides better as well but that's not as easy to prove on paper.
I think polygon wins as the entry level riders value bike. Where a seasoned/ skilled rider would be happy spending the extra money for such an improved spec
  • 29 1
 Fezzaris are good deals too
  • 7 0
 @DCF: I think the 3k ish fluid fs A2 is better comparison with the siskiu, a few hundred more than the polygon but very solid build with TRP brakes and a float x/Z2.
  • 2 0
 @ervinb123: Yeah, I agree. I like that spec.
  • 4 1
 @Ironchefjon: idk if they still offer it but they had that dvo specced full carbon trail bike for like $3400 or close to it. Maybe the best value I've ever seen for a legit mtb.
  • 6 6
 I'd argue Canyon deserves a mention too.
  • 1 2
 @Ironchefjon: A rose by any other name...
  • 2 1
 @chaoscacca: No need to argue. Just reread the opening paragraph.
  • 1 0
 @DCF: I partially agree, but I just looked and I wouldn't really say the fluid A1 has significantly better wheels? Cheaper stans rims on bear pawls hubs still sounds like an immediate upgrade for an experienced rider. Tires, everyone has their preference so to me that's an immediate swap almost always. The transx dropper is a great dropper imo with the 3 that I've had so far. All shimano 12 speeds are solid if set up correctly so for a "value" proposition your paying ~$1000 more for better suspension, brakes, and a better frame which I can't argue with.
  • 2 0
 From what I've heard Polygon has some goofy frames. Generally heavier and build quality isn't splendid (think slightly misaligned rear triangles that require some flexing to get the rear axle in). I haven't heard of many snapping though FWIW.
  • 1 0
 @normalrat: they're overbuilt for sure. I should have weighed my siskiu t7 frame when I had it, but I bet it's a full 1.5lbs more than a similar AL frame you'd get from Trek or Giant. Nothing seemed too misaligned on mine, but they did overtighten pretty much every single pivot and fastener so you should undo everything and tighten to spec.
  • 4 0
 @chaoscacca: True, but one point to consider is the final delivered price of online only bike companies. $1000+ to Canada.

Price of that Norco is likely what you'll pay at the shop, bike in hand.
  • 2 0
 @DCF: my siskui showed up with mt420s instead of the tektros and e13 stem. Not sure if all of them got the brake upgrade.

Overall I'm very happy with it. Personally as a seasoned/skilled rider it rides absolutely great. And I'll be upgrading the wheels, bars so I'd rather save money on the purchase than have slightly better components to begin with that I would upgrade anyways. Drivetrain doesn't need an upgrade imo.
  • 1 0
 @ervinb123: true. The A2 looks nice. I'm sure you'd get that couple hundred back in resale value too
  • 3 0
 @ViolaVesperlin: Oh gotta agree on this, Canyon shipping just doesn't make sense for some countries. In others, it's good value even after shipping and tax.
  • 2 1
 Yeti fox factory 150 build for $5k right now.
  • 1 0
 The best value is and will always be time.
  • 4 0
 @11six: yup, we picked that up for my son during their Holliday sale. Fezarri delano peak, slx drivetrain, DVO suspension for around 3200. I don't know that you'll find better value than that. I have their first gen LaSal Peak. If you can get over the name, their actually pretty good bikes.
  • 3 0
 @Bman7649: this is the best deal since ibis dropped the dvo Ripmo. arguably even better. It's the bike I am currently recommending to friends
  • 1 0
 @chaoscacca: not since Lebron tho.
  • 1 0
 @porkchopsandwich: the geo of the Fluid is very close to the Rift Zone.
  • 1 0
 @11six , I would add Radon to that list, at least if you're in EU.
  • 3 0
 ripmo af specced with DVO that was on sale a few months ago for 25% off. That’s the deal of the century.
  • 1 0
 @connorgsmith3: Easily the best deal going for a full suspension bike. Those who got in on that were lucky! The knolly deals lately have been pretty incredible too.
  • 1 0
 Rockrider, Radon, Cube, Rose, Canyon, YT
  • 33 6
 Did you guys put the wrong video with this article? Or did Tom spend all his money being a "Pro" in Whistler that he had to sell his Commencal to get the value bike of the year?
  • 12 1
 Autoplay of videos, on articles they know are going to get loads of clicks, increases “viewership” of said video, thereby increasing revenue generated from said video.

I’d expect to see more autoplay imbedded videos in articles that have nothing to do with the article.
  • 4 10
flag sino428 (Dec 28, 2022 at 7:39) (Below Threshold)
 @onawalk: cool story, but autoplays don’t count as views on YouTube.
  • 2 0
 @sino428: maybe it’s not always a YouTube click
  • 3 0
 @sino428: And that's why they do not use YouTube in the first place Wink
  • 1 0
 @sino428: It isn't a youtube video, it's a pinkbike video
  • 1 0
 @sino428: it’s also a subtle way to get you to click on the video…..you know, similar to how advertising works
  • 3 0
 @gnarcissist: my mistake, I thought it was a YouTube video. But do we not think that pinkbike’s video views are filtered the same way? I think that most advertisers are aware of these kind of tricks and would demand a similar natural view count. I highly doubt these autoplays are generating any revenue.
  • 4 1
 @sino428: willing to bet nearly everything that PB does is designed to generate revenue.
Are we under the impression that PB is some sort of altruistic entity that exists to entertain us…..for free?
  • 1 0
 @onawalk: my biggest grip is under settings for your profile you can turn of autoplay but IT DOESN'T WORK!
  • 1 1
 @onawalk: why would they not get to generate revenue? They are a business.

But that doesn’t mean they can or would do it by ripping of they’re advertisers.
  • 1 0
 @sino428: I’m not sure I understand your point, let me clarify my side.
-PB is a revenue generating entertainment website, I have no issue with that, they provide me entertainment that I enjoy. Full stop.
-I believe that some people believe that PB is an altruistic service, that is to believed, all the time. I am not under that impression. We all work for someone, and are under pressure, whether implicit or otherwise to perform for them, I believe PB is no different, as they are always going to be beholden to who ever pays their bills.
-I have no issue with this, as I believe they are here for entertainment purposes
-I’m not sure why or how you think, I think they are “ripping off” their advertisers. I have no access to that sort of information, and see no need to speculate otherwise.

Hope that helps clarify
  • 1 0
 @tprojosh: that is a bit strange,
However they need to pay the bills I guess.

What are the chances that we see a tiered subscription model to remove certain elements (ebike info, autoplay videos, advertising, early access to field test videos, premium content).

Who’s open to something like that?
  • 1 0
 @onawalk: My comments go back to your original comments suggesting that Pinkbike is using auto-play to artificially inflate the views on their videos in order to generate more revenue.

My only point was that doing so is not something that reputable sites do and most sites (like youtube) would filter those out of the counts. If they were artificially inflating the numbers that to me would be ripping off their advertisers.

My only real point in all of this is that its very doubtful that there is any nefarious reason for PB using autoplay as its not likely going to lead to any additional revenue unless it actually intices someone to actually click on it.
  • 1 0
 @sino428: I think there was some misunderstanding there.
-Autoplay, increases viewership
-viewership increases
-increased viewership increases viewership of advertising
-increased viewership of advertising increases purchasing
-increased purchasing increases revenue generated by advertising

PB uses autoplay to increase viewership, which in turn increases revenue, there’s nothing nefarious about that, but understanding both those points is important. I’m not implying PB is doing anything nefarious, that’s an implication that you might have assumed, but that’s understandable given how my post was written.
  • 1 0
 @onawalk: I’m not sure what you mean when you say autoplay increases viewership. If they are getting paid based on how many times a video is viewed then autoplay isn’t going to increase viewership because those ‘plays’ aren’t likely to be counted.

If you are saying that the autoplay is effective in getting people to actually click and watch the video then that’s different. There is really nothing wrong with doing that. If that what you meant then I apologize. Your original comments were not clear on that.
  • 26 0
 So glad I won this on the Advent Calendar...just waiting for Pinkbike to notify me.
  • 5 1
 Sorry m8, you actually got the Intense Flannel and water bottle. The Norcos mine, tough break Frown maybe next year though!
  • 2 0
 @Ironchefjon: No worries the flannel was pretty sweet. Enjoy my bike!
  • 14 1
 After seeing an ebike motor win innovation of the year, I was fully expecting the yeti sb120 to get value mountain bike honors.
  • 12 0
 this came out of nowhere!!!
  • 7 1
 This will be a much sort after bike this season. Also before people start complaining about the price, don't get good value confused with budget as they are not the same thing!
  • 6 0
 65 degree head angle “perfectly adequate”
Scroll back a couple years when 65 degree head angle was “aggressively slack” and ready to take on the rowdiest of trails like an enduro boss!
  • 7 1
 Its almost like bikes evolve! If nothing ever changed we’d still be running 12 inch stems and descending with our seats all the way up.
  • 12 1
 @MattyRides: let’s not get crazy here nobody is talking about going back to the 90’s. But if you can’t hit a rowdy trail on a bike with a 65 degree head angle the bike is not the issue. In a recent article interviewing EWS riders they all mostly chose 64.5 to 64 for enduro bikes. This is a trail bike and they are calling 65 “adequate “
  • 5 0
 @madocreg2: I was going to make a similar comment. Pinkbike now categorize 65 degrees as "adequate for a light duty trail bike". Uh, ok. Sortof a wierd statement, even in the context of "sea to sky" riding.

I think it's becoming evident that even on the most aggressive bikes, other than maybe DH bikes, slacker than about 64 is a case of diminishing returns.

I know numerous people experimenting with Anglesets on their spires to steepen the head angle a little.

That said I think almost every bike should have a head tube that allows for easy Angleset install, so a 65 degree bike gives you a 67-63 degree range. Then the stock number becomes fairly irrelevant.
  • 1 0
 Brilliant isn't it.
I look forward to the 2024 winner being a trail bike a 63% head angle (not sarcasm).
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: the Stumpy Evo won 2 years ago with a 63.5 degree HA.
  • 1 0
 @Rubberelli: I was talking about the value category though Wink
  • 7 0
 I'd have to say the VITUS MYTHIQUE 29 AMP MOUNTAIN BIKE for $2599 blew my mind for 2022 value bikes. AND you can still get a "shredable" version for only $1999.
  • 6 0
 Surprising the RSD Wildcat wasn't nominated. It deserved to be in the conversation. That said, this Fluid is just a good solid bike and a deserving winner.
  • 6 0
 IMO the best current deal is the Propain Tyee AL 29" on sale (again) for $2,639.20 with GX drivetrain, dropper, schwalbe tires, and160/170mm of rockshox travel
  • 1 0
 Absolutely. I'm saving up just for that one. Not just value, the look of it. Perfect for me
  • 1 1
 The best part of buying a Propain is getting to buy Propain accessories as well.
  • 3 0
 Even expensive items can have good value. Just because the bikes in bike of the year category have more features doesn't mean the cost benefit ratio out performs this basic aluminum bike. Norco deserves bike of the year for this. They made the competition and over all mountain bike market look as overpriced and gimmicky as it actually is. Cost/benefit is probably the most important feature for everyone that gets product info from this website and the editors seem to forget that 1 second isn't worth $8000 for their average reader.
  • 8 2
 Often forgetting brands like Radon
  • 4 7
 Commencal has some pretty good offerings too.
  • 3 1
 Exactly. Radon Slide Trail is THE best equipped trail bike in the 3000€ range by far.
36,GX,Magura,fantastic value.
  • 2 0
 For spec you get for the money Radon is the best. However good specs only don't mean good ride quality (never rode Radon). Next good specs are Rose and Canyon, and after Propain and YT. Somewhere there should be also Cube. In general German brands are good value in Europe.
  • 2 0
 @nozes: They increased the price this year no?

YT Capra Uncaged 9 was 2x Ohlins for 3800E
  • 1 0
 @spaced: Can't be sure,but probably yes. Still,I think it's hard to beat.
  • 1 0
 @wyric: I really like my Al Skeen and I have very good experiences with their customer service. Geo is pretty conservative but since I live in flat country I'm OK with that.
  • 1 0
 @ak-77: I was considering to buy Skeen 7 (carbon frame, slx, fox performance) two years ago for €2600. Because of bike shortage and probability not buy bike at all ended with other bike (with way cheaper spec).
  • 1 0
 What have Radon released in 2022?
  • 1 0
 Exactly.
Even coming into 2o23 , this is still a fantastic value, and the bike itself is great in terms of geo: www.radon-bikes.de/en/mountainbike/fullsuspension/swoop-al/swoop-al-80-2022
I own one since february 2o19, and don't plan on selling it anytime soon, even if I don't ride it that often, ' cause I ride a Mondraker Level e-bike most of time.
  • 2 0
 @chakaping: Skeen Trail AL 8.0. Better value than this bike:

2268euros+VAT.

RockShox Pike Ultimate RCT3, GX
  • 1 0
 @JorgeSalgueirou06: Is the Skeen frame not about four years old though?
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: No, the Skeen Trail AL was released this year (22/09/2022):

bikerumor.com/radon-slide-al-skeen-al-trail-bikes
  • 2 0
 @JorgeSalgueirou06: my bad. Mistook it for the slide.
  • 1 0
 @spaced: Also there is a Slide Trail AL that was release that date. Also a good deal Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: It is a bit confusing indeed. There is the old Al frame, which is the bike I own, the design goes back quite some time. It used to be called the Skeen Trail. Then they came out two years ago or so with a carbon version with updated geo. And since a few months there is an Al version of that carbon bike, but the old Al bike is still available as 'Skeen Al'.
  • 1 0
 @JorgeSalgueirou06: But does appear to be an older frame design with a newer component package, no? e.g. "For the Skeen Trail AL, that means a 67° head tube angle in its slackest position"
And the seat tubes are very high compared to the reaches.
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: If we are talking the same bike Skeen trail AL not the Skeen AL (that one is the old model):

size 18":

Seat tube: 425
HA: 66.5
SA: 76.4
reach: 454

I think is number are at the ballpark of modern geometry for a "downcountry" trail bike (it was 120/130mm)
Not too modern but decent.
  • 1 0
 @JorgeSalgueirou06: I used your link to check out the radon bikes. And they look tasty. I have $3000 burning a hole in my pocket for a new bike and was going to make a purchase..but they don't ship their bikes to the United States. Any idea why? I remember I had the same problem 10 years or so ago when I wanted to buy a Cube Stereo. Couldn't get shipping to the US. Anyone know why they won't ship to America? Is it because we are all dicks in America
  • 1 0
 @Badman70: No clue. I suppose that its like Canyon, USA is a different country with different laws and to deploy your product there you need lots of investing. For instance at Europe they have agreements with local bike shops for the technical assistance
  • 2 0
 @Badman70: I think it is their contract for shipping. Radon is exclusively sold by bike-discount, since they are basically the same company. BD has super high shipping rates for US (46 euros for small packages) and they don't ship any bulky products to US. But if you are willing to pay a bit extra for shipping do try to send them an email, you might be able to convince them to send it anyway.
  • 4 1
 I’m not saying this isn’t a great bike, or that compared to the other the other bikes tested in the field test, this isn’t a screaming deal. But when we’re celebrating $4k as a value, man…
  • 5 0
 Am I the only one who's not a beginner but can only afford bikes in the 'value' category?
  • 11 1
 Get yourself an affordable steel hardtail and evolve to the ultimate level of cyclist: Curmudgeon.
  • 1 0
 I think "value" is different than cheap. This is a solidly spec'd bike that will work well for an experienced rider. It's also the sweet spot in terms of value for money. Most of us can't afford 6, 7, or 10K wunderbikes (or refuse to make the harsh tradeoffs that would be required). This is sort of Subaru or Toyota level - not a Lexus, not a BMW, but it'll be a great daily driver, be reliable, and do what you want/need it to do for a long time to come. I'd argue a mid-range bike, for an experienced rider, is better value for money than an "entry-level" bike. For a beginner rider - well, the "entry level" makes sense because for the first year of riding, those lesser brakes/hubs/shifters won't hold them back too much, and it allows them to defer the extra spending until they're sure this is something they really are getting properly addicted to.
  • 2 0
 @g-42: Yes, 'value' is not the same as 'cheap'. Yet this Norco is already a bit too loaded for a value bike IMHO. The A2 would be more in that category. To me, Fox Factory is the opposite of value. More expensive and adds no discernible difference to PE. Similarly, full XT is nice but for value Deore everything with XT shifters would be better.
  • 2 0
 Would be awesome to see you guys do a long term test of an optic c3 vs a fluid a2 as a budget vs baller. Even if you had two test riders in similar conditions switch bikes halfway thru a season. Would be really interesting to see how a highly rated budget aluminum frame (was vitals bike of the year in addition to you) holds up vs a high end carbon frame with the same spec from the same brand
  • 1 0
 When will the 40% off discounts start? February maybe? We look to be in an adjustment period, used bikes on Pro's Closet are more expensive than similarly spec'd new models elsewhere.
  • 1 0
 I just got a 2023 Zeb today for 40% off
The bikes will be as we go into the 2024 models in the latter half of next year, I'd expect.
  • 2 0
 I'd argue the 3800Euro Capra Uncaged 9 was a better deal with 2x Ohlins and no really shit parts on it.
  • 3 1
 This bike with 210x55 and a 36 with 150mm could be a perfect bike
  • 2 0
 I agree - I ride a Process 134 with a coil and a 150mm Lyrik Ultimate, and an extra degree of HTA thanks to an angleset - and it's an insanely fun setup. I think this would very much scratch that same itch. Call it a capable trail bike, or an all mountain bike - these things can cover so much different terrain and so many different kinds of rides. Nope, not enduro race bikes (although lots of people take them to their local enduros, but more for fun than to vie for podiums). Nope, not XC rockets. But you can cover tons of ground, pedal your little heart out, and have tons of fun without having to go insanely fast for the bike to even come alive. Hard to beat as a one bike quiver.
  • 1 0
 Why is a similarity specced sight A1 1700$ more? This is more of a limited time sale price.
  • 1 0
 Any reason people don’t mention Bird when it comes to value bikes? Or cool bikes in general?
  • 1 0
 When you can get a Vitus Sommet CRX for £3,399 with XT groupset, 38's and x2..... Really?
  • 6 6
 Norco has suspiciously often showed up as the winner in some category of bike of the year…
  • 14 0
 Yup. They also won Bike of the Year on the green site with the Fluid A1. They must be doing something right.
  • 12 0
 Suspiciously good bikes.
  • 3 0
 They've made some really good bikes though. It'll be interesting to see what they do with the Optic. The Sight was so good, but now is a bit overbuilt/tankish. They need something updated between the Fluid and the latest Sight. That would seem to be a new Optik.
  • 5 0
 @jspicoli: Been ecstatically riding one for a year and still suspicious. Got my eye on you
  • 1 0
 @rrolly: Agreed. I've somehow not bought an optic as yet, I feel tempted a couple times a year. Definitely interested to see the next iteration.
  • 3 0
 @rrolly: Well I love my Optic and realistically won't need a new bike for Ontario riding anytime soon but you know what they say about bikes.... n+1 is the correct amount to own.
  • 1 0
 @KennyWatson: My Sight A1 is my primary bike but I did pick up a used Optic C2 Shimano after feeling the same temptations. I was chasing the idea of a short travel Sight for mellower/XC-ish terrain and the Optic checks nearly all the boxes...if only the standover on the Optic matched the Sight.
  • 5 0
 @jspicoli: But standover on the Optic is like 3 miles.

I don't think it would be physically possible to drop that top tube any lower than they have? It's just silly low as is.
  • 1 0
 That was a good review on this bike. A worthy ride...
  • 1 1
 Isn't the Specialized Status 160 or 140 a full grand less than this with Fox suspension, and Shimano SLX build?
  • 3 0
 I would assume there's a comparatively priced Norco with less blingy bits though. This whole set of awards seems a bit limited by only including the bikes the PB team has actually tested. While that's very creditable in one way, they are not the most prolific bike testers, so...
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