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.